Thursday, August 25, 2011

Warblers and Waxwings and Wasps (and More)

When I arrived at the Naugatuck State Forest early this morning, it was extraordinarily quiet, and I started to worry that the animals were all in hiding and I wouldn't see much. As it turns out, I needn't have been concerned -- and how could I forget, there's always something to see in the woods.

It took a little while for them to warm up, but about half an hour into my walk, the birds exploded into activity. Standing in just one spot, I watched finches and warblers and woodpeckers (among other birds) all flitting around in the trees. I played hide-and-seek with this Canada Warbler (it did all the hiding), a pretty little bird I'd never seen before:

There were two of these birds hanging around in the area, and the bird in this picture is probably either a female or immature, since adult male Canada Warblers generally have dark black marks around their necks and faces. It's likely that these birds are just starting on their fall migration route (we're a little south of their normal nesting area), and so I wish them a safe journey!

I can't think of many other local birds that are as striking and sleek as Cedar Waxwings. A small flock of these birds was foraging in the trees by the water, and they sure are a pleasure to look at, with those black masks and yellow-paint-dipped tails:

A couple of the Cedar Waxwings spent some time inspecting a huge spider (some sort of Orb Weaver, I think) in its expansive web, debating whether to try to make a meal of it. This Cedar Waxwing actually went for it:

Nom! (That's a brave bird -- the spider's as big as its head!)

(I'm sorry you didn't make it, spider, but I have to thank you for putting your web right there -- you gave me quite the photo op!)

There were several interesting insects out and about as well. More and more, I'm coming to appreciate the beauty of some wasps, like this large Paper Wasp (genus Polistes) that was resting on a spray of goldenrod blooms:

And this next wasp is just plain awesome, with its black and white markings and iridescent blue wings:

It's a Four-toothed Mason Wasp (Monobia quadridens), and it's got a nice fat caterpillar in tow. This is one of those species of wasps that lays its eggs in a protective cavity (usually in wood, or in the ground), and, generously enough, it also leaves paralyzed caterpillars in the cavity for its babies to eat once they hatch. Perhaps this wasp already had a burrow staked out in this large wooden beam -- in any case, it soon disappeared underneath:

If I had been able to reach this leaf to turn it over, I think I would have found many more of these bright orange sawfly larvae -- that's some color on those little guys!

It was also a good day for really bizarre-looking fungi, none of which I can identify. These fungal growths were each as big as my hand, and looked almost velvety:

I'm used to seeing shelf-like fungi on the sides of trees, but not this melty-runny orange stuff -- it looks like something started dissolving and didn't quite wash away:

How about this large fungus? To me, it looks exactly like a puffed-up pastry. Pie, anyone?

Here's one last sight from today's walk, the dainty flowers of Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum):

Now that I've gotten a nice long woods walk in, let the rain and storms begin!


  1. Just one amazing photo after another! I can't believe that shot of the Cedar Waxwing snagging that spider. Wow!

  2. Just great! I've hopped out of bed in Bedfordshire and been for a walk in Connecticut before breakfast :-) Love Zorro the waxwing and those action shots of the spider being yoiked from his web. And the puff pastry mushroom...(that has surely got to be adopted as an official name). Mel

  3. Thanks, Mel and Jackie! I couldn't believe the Cedar Waxwing going after that huge spider, either -- or that my pictures actually came out! I'm glad that the internet lets me share such fun sights. :)

  4. Yeah, the waxwing/spider picture is one of your best! (and have you played Limbo?) :)

  5. Thanks, Peter! I have not played Limbo... it looks really cool and creative, but also scary. Is it scary? I don't do well with scary. :P

  6. Okay, yeah, it's pretty scary. (I've only played the demo and assume the rest of the game is even more intense.) But it really does look a lot like your picture!

    Sorry to be the guy who posts about video games on your nature blog! :)

  7. Ditto on the Waxwing vs Spider photo!!! As ever I so envy your shots of birds - I can rarely even find the songsters/chirpsters, never mind capture them with my little camera. Thanks for the close-ups! Since I've received my mushroom id book, I thought I'd take a crack at your fungi - could the brown bracket type be Dye Maker's Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii)? Your photo seems to have some purple, which the pix of Dye Maker's does not, but it seems the closest - also grows on conifer "ground". I thought, perhaps, your puff pastry - I thought perfectly toasted marshmallow ;-) - would be easy to find, but I had no luck in my book. Good luck. Thanks for the hike! :-)

  8. hikeagiant2: I looked at some pictures of Phaeolus schweinitzii, and you might be right about it! It was definitely growing on coniferous ground. I haven't gotten up to starting to learn fungi yet, but maybe someday. :) Thanks as ever for your comments!

  9. thank you for sharing. love all these things!