Saturday, August 23, 2014

Millipedes and Efts

Spending a few days in the Champlain Valley with family, which always includes a hike up Mt. Philo in Charlotte, VT. Although not quite 1000' in elevation, the mountain offers great views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains beyond. Although yesterday morning when we hiked it was misting and socked in. This kept our attention on small things, up close. Two favorite sightings: red efts and millipedes, both favor damp days to move about and forage.

This common North American millipede is 3-4 inches long with a lovely pattern of reddish bands on its body and many legs.




We helped several red efts across the road that the serves as a hiking trail. One eft in particular caught our attention. Its belly was bulging and part of a caterpillar was sticking out of its mouth. This one caught a good meal. I rarely catch them eating their prey.
Always a lovely day on Mt. Philo, rain or shine.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Luscious Peaches

My grandmother (Gram) liked the word luscious. I think she used it when eating a lamb chop that she bought once a month when she got her social security check. Or maybe it related to a hot cup of tea. Two of her favorite foods.

I'm reminded of her this week as we are enjoying luscious peaches from our Red Haven tree.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Big Black Horse Fly

Last week seems serene now in retrospect. Afternoon and nighttime rains brought out many adorable, tiny spring peepers. I saw four in one day sitting quietly on leaves in our yard.
Equally delightful small red efts dotted moist woodland trails.
This week it was more about the insects. We often have insects flying or crawling about the inside of our house--bugs, flies, spiders, moths, and other smallish things that sneak in an open door or on the dogs or in a basket of harvested vegetables. They don't bother me. This week we found a lovely moth, with markings similar to a religious cloak -- I identified it as a clymene moth (Haploa clymene), a type of tiger moth. Cool, right?

Today was a little darker. After I finished some field work around midday, got into my car and rolled down the windows, I heard a low buzz. It sounded at first like a bee but then I saw this really HUGE fly (more than one inch long) on the hatch window. Well, I wasn't about to drive off with that buzzing about. I got out and took a few snaps through the window. This fly was all black and reminded me immediately of Darth Vader. Except, when I looked it up on the Internet after getting home (and after I allowed it to escape my car) I learned that it was a female black horse fly (Tabanus atratus). The males feed on nectar, while the females require mammalian blood. She was looking for a meal, but I escaped. Although, when she finally flew out of the car she zoomed around the car and me a few times; she could smell the CO2 in my breath. So, I jumped back in the car and zoomed off the other way.

Here she is....I was a little intimidated! 
I read online that they don't bite humans often, but when they do it is a memorable experience. I prefer the cute little peepers and efts.