After I discovered the shrubby fields at the North-Western end of Naugatuck State Forest last week, and had such an awesome time there, I decided yesterday morning that I couldn't stay away any longer. So off I went, bright and early! Once again, it was an exciting visit, with lots of new things to see.
The birds were out in abundance again, although I didn't have any super-close encounters this time. Even at a distance, though, this male Indigo Bunting was nothing short of spectacular:
He was cheeping loudly and keeping a watchful eye on a nearby female. The girls of this species are so dull compared to the guys -- basically brown without any clearly distinguishing features that I could see. The only way I could tell that these birds were a pair was because they were sharing the same trees and making the same sounds.
This is certainly the land of the towhee -- everywhere I went, these birds were flying around, calling, and scratching in the undergrowth -- and their nests must have recently emptied. This scruffy youngster flew over for a few seconds to check me out:
House Wrens are certainly not uncommon, but I'd never seen one of these birds before, so I was happy to spot a small group of them (presumably another recently-fledged family) in a tree.
House Wrens are rather plain-looking birds, but I think there's something quite attractive about the subtle patterns on its wings and tail.
As always, there were insects aplenty. Several of these large dragonflies -- Twelve-spotted Skimmers -- patrolled the area. This one is a young male, with beautiful white spots in addition to the black on its wings, but not yet old enough to develop the white tail that males of this species usually have:
This Little Wood Satyr was showing off its impressive eye-spots (here's a picture of the less-dramatic tops of this butterfly's wings):
I just love the little orange tips on this butterfly's antennae, and is that a horn on its head? "Satyr", indeed.
A plant stem was the stage for this interesting animal behavior:
These ants are tending their herd of aphids. As the aphids suck juices from the plant, they secrete a sweet sticky liquid, called "honeydew," which the ants then eat. So both species benefit from this relationship: the ants get a source of food, and the aphids get watchful protectors. The plants don't really get anything out of the deal, however.
There were all sorts of flowers in bloom, including the brilliantly orange Butterfly Weed that I noticed last week. Here's a closer picture of these blooms, actually even brighter in real life than they look here:
This large Bull Thistle -- introduced from Europe -- was a several-feet-tall mass of sprawling thorns, although its flowers were quite pretty:
The goldenrods were just starting to open their sprays of delicate flowers. I think this might be Early Goldenrod, although I'll be happy if someone corrects me:
Finally, I was entranced by this beautiful yellow flower, but I'm a bit stumped. It looks similar to Black-eyed Susan, but its center isn't particularly dark, and the petals don't look quite right. Does anyone reading this have any ideas as to what it might be?
I'm finding it harder to go for walks with all the intense heat we've been having, and even the early mornings are just barely temperate now. Here's hoping for a break in the weather, and soon!