Gossamer Tapestry

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

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Finding Something New in a Place I Know Well

My trip to New England was several weeks ago- but I wanted to do a final post about my last day there before I forgot about it. Before going boating, Leon and I took a quick hike up to Agassiz Rock to try to see the rare red-bellied tiger beetles. No luck, but I did take GPS coordinates and some better habitat photos.

The tiger beetles run over the open expanses of bare granite. I think we may have been a bit too early to see them- the Massachusetts data sheet that I have lists flight times in July and August.

Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) along the carriage road

That evening, we planned on taking my dad out for an early Father's Day dinner. We got back from boating with plenty of time to spare, and decided to go for a walk in the woods before dressing for dinner. There are old carriage roads all over the woods next to Dad's house, and I wanted to walk there and do some insect photography.

Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea)

Way down one of the carriage roads, we saw an unfamiliar side trail into the woods. We decided to follow it for a while. I vaguely remembered it leading to a pond. It did- but not the pond I remembered. I was absolutely stunned to break out of the woods and find an absolutely gorgeous floating sphagnum bog.

Floating bogs form where sphagnum moss begins growing around the periphery of a pond. The moss forms a floating mat that thickens and begins growing towards the center of the pond. Eventually other plants, including shrubs and small trees, begin growing in the floating mat. Many floating bogs, including this one, retain open water at the center. They can be treacherous to walk on- it's possible to break through the floating mat and become trapped under it.

Sundew! (Drosera rotundifolia)

Sphagnum bogs are home to an amazing array of specialized plants, including orchids and carniverous plants like this sundew. We weren't dressed for slogging our way out into the soggy center (boots, or even hip waders are needed for that sort of thing), so we had to be content with looking in from the edges. I would have loved to have known this was there when I was growing up. I'll definitely have to go back. We were too early in the season to see if the rare bog copper butterfly can be found in this bog.

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At 22:38, Blogger Up Welng said...

great find, doug... jealous all over again!

i remember calling these "quaking bogs" when i lived in maine...

At 22:42, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a shame you didn't see hentzii, but the habitat photos are outstanding.

At 00:52, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I have not thought of sundews in ages. I thought they were extinct !

At 06:01, Blogger cedrorum said...

Awesome! I encountered these while doing my field work in the southern section of the carolina bay I worked at in South Carolina. We walked across one, very carefully, that had red maple saplings growing on it. It reminded me of walking on a giant waterbed. Something I won't soon forget.

At 10:38, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Rick- Thanks. Yes, they are also called quaking bogs.

Ted- Thanks. I'm sure that hentzii is still there- just a timing issue. I'm glad you liked the habitat pictures- I did them in part in response to your earlier request.

Spo- No, there are a whole bunch of species, many of which remain fairly common. I grew some for years in a terrarium filled with sterile sand.

cedrorum- Great analogy- the water bed image is spot on. I'm used to more northern bogs where the trees growing on the floating mat are often larches.

At 11:10, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

I agreee - it would be nice to revisit old places with new knowledge. I regret not spending more "quality time" exploring Southern Illinois when I was a student there. BTW, I finally got my first tiger beetle - check my blog!

At 12:17, Blogger SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

WOW!! What a fantastic place Doug!! It is definitely a place worth going back too time after time. I love that sundew.

At 13:42, Blogger Will said...

I never knew such floating bogs existed but your description and pictures make me want to visit one.

As our environment around the house becomes ever more settled, we're getting our insects and little critters back in encouraging numbers And it's nature raw and real--as we were gardening the other day, something made a kill in the woods that sounded pretty grisly.

At 09:30, Blogger robin andrea said...

That's a very cool find, doug. How nice that it's in your old neighborhood, so you know you'll be visiting there again.


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