Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Few Yard Amphibians and Insects

I still haven't had a chance to explore any of the parks near our new home, but I also haven't really felt the need to, because there are already so many things to see right here. We're getting used to seeing adorable little American Toads hopping out from underfoot whenever we walk through the yard:
 

And I was super happy the other day when one tiny fleeing amphibian turned out to be a Spring Peeper:
 

Hello wonderful creature! Sorry about the flash for this next picture, but I needed to admire the lovely pattern on your back:


The insect life around here is wonderfully varied, with lots of cool creatures to meet. I already shared pictures of the big Northern Walkingstick and Luna Moth that showed up in past weeks, and the big bugs keep coming! This large ornate dragonfly (possibly a Shadow Darner, Aeshna umbrosa, or another darner species) was hanging out at the end of a recent day (yes, we have blueberries in our yard):
 

This dragonfly was either injured or just really tired, because it let me pick it up for a closer look (and to admire its size) before it flew away:
 

Smaller brilliant red dragonflies (a meadowhawk species, I think) cruise around our house, staking out posts mostly at the tops of flower stalks:
 

Although my car's antenna apparently serves this purpose just as well:
 

Cicadas frequently call from the trees, and we spotted this one handing out under a wooden sign:
 

A stand of milkweed near the road is currently feeding a horde of Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars, fuzzy little things that will eventually grow into moths:
 

A Painted Lady butterfly let me take its picture the other day as it visited the flowers around the house. These wings are so bright and pretty on top:
 

But I absolutely love the intricate patterns on their undersides:
 

I'm definitely learning to bring my camera along whenever I'm outside, because you never know what might show up next!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Northern Walkingstick

I checked our porch light the other night to meet some nocturnal inhabitants of our new yard, and I was totally surprised to find this amazing creature:
 

A Northern Walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata)! I swear I've never seen a walkingstick (or as I usually call it, a stick insect) outside of zoos and nature centers, so this was an exciting visitor indeed! This creature was big, too, about the size of my hand. When I went to pick it up, it demonstrated a great defense mechanism and dropped immediately all the way to the ground and out of sight. (I could practically hear it saying "I'm just a stick, really!") Our Ohio yard just gets more fantastical every day!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Friendly Neighborhood Phoebe

The Eastern Phoebes in our yard are remarkably calm around people. Perhaps they fledged here and are used to human activity; all I know is I've been closer to these birds than any phoebe I've met before. On Friday morning, I was out walking in the yard and I ended up just feet away from a young phoebe before I even noticed it was there. The little guy kept an eye on me but basically went on with business as usual. Hello, beautiful bird:


I love this flycatcher's broad beak and those whiskers on its face -- all the better for catching insects on the wing, I imagine:


See anything good up there?


The phoebe took the time for some nice big stretches; it really just didn't seem to care at all that I was standing nearby. Look at those amazing wing feathers!


Stretchy bird, I didn't know you had pale yellow armpits:


I took a brief video of this obliging bird as well. I think the constant tail wagging -- an Eastern Phoebe trait -- is super endearing, and I love the hunter's instinct that takes over when an insect flies by a few seconds into the video:



Phoebe's are such fun little birds, and I'm very grateful to this creature for letting me observe its morning activities up close!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blue Sky Birds

The past couple of days have been cool and sunny, perfect weather for hanging around in the yard and watching various birds cruise by overhead. I'm having great fun figuring out who regularly uses these airways. Turkey Vultures make dark slouching shapes as they soar by:
 

These birds are so big and imposing, and their silhouettes look so cool against the clouds:
 

Here's another big dark bird, but it's not a vulture.... Yes, Bald Eagles are apparently fairly common here (so awesome), and I've seen immature birds like this one over our yard a couple of times already:
 

This morning, a young Cooper's Hawk swept into the yard, scattering the smaller birds. It didn't manage to catch a meal, and the Barn Swallows promptly chased it away again:
 

Barn Swallows are pretty much always swooping around over the yard, which makes me really happy. Swallows and swifts are definitely becoming some of my favorite birds; these guys are just so much fun to watch as they zip and swerve all over, and Barn Swallows especially are super fancy in flight:
 

Hooray for beautiful days and aerial activity!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Welcome to Ohio!

Whew. The move is over! I have now left the east coast behind (goodbye Connecticut) and arrived in northern Ohio, where we'll be living until June. And now that we're here, I feel like I can gush a bit about our new (temporary) home. This place is amazing, and I anticipate many, many interesting sightings here in the months to come. Just wandering across the few acres of this property, there's woods, fields, a creek (and a bigger river off the property but still in walking distance), plus fruit bushes and trees. I'm sure I'll be driving to check out some parks and other areas while I'm living here, but mostly I plan to take huge advantage of the nature right outside my door. What a change from our tiny yard in Connecticut!

And the creatures are already proving just how different this place is. On our very first day here, a bedraggled Luna Moth showed up on our back door. I've mentioned recently how much I love huge moths, and I don't think I've ever seen a Luna Moth alive in the wild before. So even tattered as this creature was (it's missing entire chunks of its hindwings) it was an incredibly special sight indeed (photo courtesy of Paul):


When I found this same moth sitting on the ground later, I took the opportunity to get a little closer. Such an amazing and gorgeous creature! (It flew off soon after I took this next picture.)


The birds around this house are similarly fantastical. Baltimore Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers are downright common here (at least right now), along with the more familiar Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Northern Cardinals. Eastern Phoebes are pretty much always perched on one fence post or another:


A bold House Wren hopped through a nearby tree and shook itself while I was exploring the field on a recent damp afternoon:


And how about these dramatic storm clouds today:


Oh yes, I am going to enjoy this place immensely. Welcome to Ohio!