Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meeting Cobban and Ray

L-R: Cobban, Doug, Ray

I had wanted to post this earlier, but left my camera at work over the weekend. On Friday, I met another blogging friend and his partner. Cobban writes the Lopaka Lounge blog. He and Ray live between Bisbee and Sierra Vista, Arizona, one of my favorite places on the planet. Cobban and I have been corresponding for about a year and a half. He and Ray are great guys. It was fun showing them around the museum. We went for lunch at North Pond afterwards. We're going to try to get together when I'm out in southeast Arizona in a few weeks.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Skywatch - Prairie Thunderstorm with Butterflies

My field season began yesterday- on the hottest day of the year so far. The goal was to collect breeding stock for this year's conservation activities. Vincent, Robin, Jay and I headed out to Grundy County. As we left town, we drove beneath some cumulus clouds that had a strong vertical aspect. By the time we got out to Gardner Prairie, they had grown to an impressive thunderstorm that soaked the city. In contrast, we had sun the entire time.

Gardner Prairie

Gardner Prairie is where we got our gorgone checkerspots for breeding last year. It's also reputed to be home to a population of leadplant flower moths. We found neither this time around. We will keep trying!

Commonwealth Edison Prairie

If Gardner Prairie was a bust, Commonwealth Edison Prairie was a near bust. We went there seeking Silver-bordered Fritillaries. We got three ragged females. Apparently we're at the very end of this year's first brood and the second has not yet begun. We saw lots of other butterflies, however, and I got a few photos in.

Two-spot Dkipper (Euphyes bimacula) -

Crossline Skipper (Polites origines) - An uncommon priaire species

Peck's Skipper - A common species that I didn't have a good digital image of.
I still don't.

See more Skywatch here.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Fun with Chilmark Girl

The end of my New England trip was all about family. I've already blogged about going to the Sox game with my dad on Wednesday night. Thursday, Chilmark Girl (my little sister, for those who don't know) and the BIL got together for lunch with Leon and I. Friday night they had us over for dinner.

I brought a round of Camembert with me and a bread called Ami de Fromage from a Chicago bakery. I was very eager to have CG try my cheese, because this is her first time tasting some that I have made with raw Guernsey milk. She seemed reasonably impressed.

Chilmark Girl has been one of my primary cooking inspirations in life (along, of course with Mom- however my cooking style is much more like CG's than it is like Mom's was). It was the kind of meal that I'd expect from CG- succulent pork tenderloin, amazing salad, fresh asparagus (perfectly steamed) Parmesan biscuits, and a wild mushroom risotto that I couldn't believe. Dessert was the orange-ricotta tart with blackberries that you can see us holding in the top photo.

The CG household gets on very well with Leon and I in part because they are fellow geeks. The BIL and the nephew spend lots of time building electronic gadgets from parts that they scrounge from old electronics that they find online, at yard sales, and in the trash. Sample invention: a zapper that discourages squirrel raids to the bird feeder. It was only natural that the group would spend the evening blacklighting in the back yard.

Still working on an ID for this tiny guy

Harris's Three-spot (Harrisimemna trisignata)

The blacklighting was notable only for the good company. Most of the latter half of the trip was cloudy and rainy. We did get a few good moths, however, including Harris's Three-spot, a lifer for me.

The weather improved on Saturday, which was beautifully warm and sunny. We had lunch in downtown Manchester and time in the park with my brother, SIL, and two nieces. The CG family arrived by boat, and took Leon and I out for some time in Manchester Harbor and out by Misery Island.

The outer harbor, looking back towards Manchester

I spent a lot of time on the water off of Cape Ann when I was growing up. It's been many years since I've been out there. I had a great time, and was surprised at how enthusiastic Leon was about being out on the water.

Me, the nephew (who's nearly 14) and Leon. The last time I say the nephew at Christmas, I was still able to look him in the eye. Now I'm definitely looking up at him. Yeeps!

It was a wonderful weekend. Thanks, Chilmark Girl!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Skywatch - Misty Maine

The Camden Hills as seen from the breakwater at Rockport, Maine. This signals the end of the good weather for several days on my recent trip. A light rain was falling here.

For the rest of Skywatch, go here.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Acadia National Park (a post in which I briefly pretend to be one of the ocean science bloggers)

Penobscot Bay seen from the summit of Cadillac Mountain

After departing Colby, and before heading south to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Leon and I headed over for a couple of days on the coast of Maine. We got to Acadia on Sunday afternoon and headed over to a hike called Wonderland that led through the woods to the ocean.

Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense)

Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata)

I really enjoyed getting to see the flora of northern New England. In low spots the last of the rhodora was still in bloom. I can recall seeing pink drifts of it in the woods along Route 95 when I would drive home from college for the summer. Acadia has a huge populattion of three-toothed cinquefoil. This plant grows in rocky areas, either on mountain tops or right along the coast. I have seen in in Manchester before, however it's quite rare as far south as coastal Massachusetts.

Sponge? Tunicate? Something else?

At the shore, we admired the view and poked around in tide pools. There were lots of snails and limpets, and a really cool green creature. I'm not sure whether it's a sponge or a tunicate. If it's the latter, I'm reluctant to even call it an invertebrate. Perhaps one of my marine bio friends can help me out here. Rick? Jim? Kevin?

Pitch pine (Pinus rigida) on the summit of Dorr Mountain

Monday morning, we drove up Cadillac Mountain and hiked a half mile over to the summit of nearby Dorr Mountain. Lots of rock scrambling was involved, and I regretted not changing into my sneakers. The summit of Dorr Mountain is dotted with stunted pitch pines. There just isn't enough soil here for the trees to establish any height.

Tiny robberfly

Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus)

The weather was beautiful, so we saw lots of insects. I was excited to see a tiny brown elfin butterfly. I've only ever seen that species once before.

Surf at Thunder Hole

After lunch we drove the loop road for more tide pool exploration. The tide was not quite right for good wave action at at Thunder Hole, but we did get to see a Black Guillemot jst off shore.

Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle)

Further down the road, we found more invertebrates in the tide pools, including some really cool anemones.

Anemones in tide pool

Smaller anemone with mussel

Stripey snails

This would be our last day of nice weather until Saturday. It was hard to leave the beauty of Maine, but the difficulty was made easier by knowing that our next stop would be with Will and Fritz.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Take Me Out

Woohoo, I got to go to Fenway last night. The Red Sox were even playing the Yankees. It was a chilly evening (fortunately I was dressed appropriately), but the cold didn't prevent me from enjoying a Sports Bar early in the game.

Youk during the pre-game warmup.
I include this picture especially for Jimbo.

The beginning and end of the game were exciting (the middle dragged a bit). Most of the scoring was done by the fourth inning.

Mike Lowell moments before hitting a solo homer in the third inning.

The ending was very exciting. The lead at one point had been 6-3. Back to back Yankee homers in the seventh narrowed the lead to 6-5. Jonathon Papelbon closed the game for victory with a very exciting ninth inning. Final score: Boston wins 6-5.

Top of the ninth. Papelbon takes the mound to bring us home.

Just in: The Sox sweep the Yankees by winning tonight's game 4-3. Chilmark Girl was at this one.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hail, Colby, Hail

I'm in Maine. I've come east to participate in my 30th college reunion. My alma mater, Colby, is a small liberal arts college in central Maine. The winters were long and cold, and I was a long way from finding myself and my personal peace. And yet, I have overwhelmingly fond memories of the place.

This was Leon's first visit to Colby. After giving him the obligatory campus tour, I showed him some of the other places that mean a lot to me. I was a biology major (yes, I know, you're all totally SHOCKED), but more importantly I was already very much a biology geek. I spend a lot of time in the woods and fields around campus. Colby sits near the summit of Mayflower Hill. In addition to mayflowers (long past blooming), there are a whole bunch of spring wildflowers in the woods.

Bunchberry - Cornus canadensis

Bunchberries are abundant and were in full bloom. They are not typical wildflowers. They are dogwoods, and despite their diminutive size are shrubs rather than herbacious plant. The stems really are woody. The flowers will be followed by clusters of berries that turn bright red in the fall.

Pink Ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule)

We were fortunate to find about a dozen of the obscenely scrotal blooms of pink ladyslippers. This has been a ladyslipper spring for me. I have seen and photographed three species of Cypripedium in as many weeks.

Starflower - Trientalis borealis

Starflower is a plant that I remember from where I grew up in Massachusetts. They also thrive in this part of Maine. I really miss them- they don't grow in the Chicago area.

Barrens with no tiger beetles

At the summet of Mayflower Hill is a barren area with exposed bedrock and lots of lichen. I was really eager to get back to this spot. I was sure that I'd find tiger beetles- maybe even Cicindela longilabrus. That spot just screams tiger beetle to me, but I did not see a single one there.


Friday night, we met up with classmate Kathy and her husband Greg (who was a year ahead of my class). Kathy and I had been very close at Colby, and she was eager to meet Leon after all these years. We had a delightful evening together. After dinner, we met up with more classmates and had good conversation long into the evening.

Lining up for the Parade of Classes

Saturday is always the main event at class reunions. The first order of the day is the parade of classes. Everyone lines up by class an we troop from the alumni center to the academic building. There are speeches and awards in the gym, then everyone troops into the field house for lobster and hamburgers. Leon had gone to the art building during the parade. Kathy, both Gregs (Kathy's husband and my former roommate) and I decided to cut the lecture (bringing back lots of old memories in the process) and caught up some more while walking around the duck pond. The class dinner was in the evening. Leon and I sat with Bruce and his wife Teri, roommate Greg, Kathy and husband Greg. It was everyone's first time meeting Leon, and I was pleased though not particularly surprised at how easily he blended in with the group.

Lorimer Chapel from on high

This morning, we got a guided tour of the library tower. The tour does not take you all the way to the top (though I have been all the way up in an illicit, late-night visit while still a student). Still, the view is splendid and everyone took many photos.

Looking north and west towards the mountains. On clear, cold winter days, a snow-covered Mt. Katahdin is visible on the horizon.

Goodbyes always come too soon at these things, and promises to be better at keeping in touch come too easily. Still, things have a way of working out. I've been marginally better at keeping in contact with Kathy since the last reunion (thanks, Facebook), and Bruce wants to bring his son out bug collecting with me sometime while I'm out in Arizona. Who knows? It was fun.

Bruce, Greg, and I. Can we really be on the far side of 50?

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

2009 Biology Department Field Trip

Vermillion River, LaSalle County, IL

Can it really be time for our annual department field trip again? On Sunday, my department headed down to Illinois River country for some departmental bonding and collecting live animals for display at the museum. We were able to do some fishing in the Vermillion River this trip. Last year at this time it was in full flood, and we couldn't get anywhere near it.

A Helgrammite that we dredged up with the seine net

Ichneumon wasp from the banks of the mighty Vermillion.
Please don't scream like a girl.

After fishing and bug watching along the Vermillion, we headed off to Starved Rock State Park where we set up camp for the evening. Vincent made Cajun chicken breasts and jambalaya for dinner. Can you tell that Vincent is from New Orleans? After dinner, some of the crowd headed off for amphibian watching. Others stayed in camp while I fired up the blacklinght. The sheet was reasonably active this year, with lots of geometrid moths and sexton beetles.

Oak Beauty (Nacophora quernaria)

Pretty moth, not yet identified
Update: Orange Wing (Mellilla xanthometata)

Fishfly (Chauliodes) Caddisfly Thanks Seabroke!

Dobsonfly (Corydalus) - This is what helgrammites turn into
Fishfly (Chauliodes) thanks, again, Seabrooke
Sorry for the terrible editing on the captions for this post.

Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus orbicollis)
One of our prettier carrion beetles

After we all went to bed, it started raining, fairly hard. The next morning, the forecast was for the weather to ease a bit, and then to get very bad with thunderstorms, hail, and high winds. We decided to hang out for the day and to head home rather than camping for a second night.

Illinois River seen from Starved Rock

One of the many canyons at Starved Rock State Park

We started with a hike at Starved Rock. We climbed up on the bluffs for great views of the Illinois River, then descended into one of the many canyons that dissect the park. After a couple of hours of hiking, the sun poked out. We decided to take advvantage of the situation and do a bit more fishing. We visited a small creek that runs through and adjacent to agricultural land. Last year we had quite a bit of success getting minnows for aquarium displays at the Museum.

Steve and Jamie work the seine net in a small creek

Checking ouit the net contents. The crew gathers minnows from the net and puts them in a bucket

This year was much the same. We got a great assortment of fish for our aquarius: red bellied dace, rainbow and orange-throat darters, and creek chubs. Our aquariums are going to look great when we add these guys

The minnow bucket. What a haul!

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