Monday, September 23, 2013

Night walks

Night Walks...

 Ripper and I walked our trail the other night as we do occasionally.  Pleasant way to walk in the warmer weather.   I use an LED headlamp I acquired at Wally World for less than $10.  I chose one that used AAA batteries, not button batteries.

What we saw was brilliant little points of light shimmering like diamonds scattered everywhere, in the woods, in the lawn.  I learned about these in Belize, though I forget who shared.  They are spiders.

Mostly wolf spiders.  There are 100 genera and approximately 2,300 species according to Wikipedia.  They are mostly nocturnal. They are sight hunters. They have two eyes that are more prominent than the other four facing forward, suggesting binocular vision.  Most of the nocturnal spiders are quite small.  The larger are revealed by being able to distinguish their pair of primary eyes.  In our walks we have seen densities of up to 1 per square foot, so they are a major component of many ecosystems.

Typical Wolf Spider family Lycosidae

Photo by Patrick Edwin Moran who shared this on Wikipedia

One other creature we encountered on a night walk was a Marbled Salamander.  Normally I see these guys when I turn over logs or rocks.  They come out at night during the breeding season, Sept-Nov. to search for mates.  Males have white bands while females have grey. The photo below is one I found under a rock and posed on some moss. 

Marbled Salamander, Ambystoma opacum

Linda and I went on a nightwalk in Costa Rica once looking for Fer-de-lance snakes.  Our guides found several small snakes along a stream bed. Fer-de-lance, Bothrops asper, means  iron spear head.  They and their kin are commonly referred to as Lance Heads.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The cycle of life...

Ripper and I were walking when he ran up a power line right of way where we don't usually go.  I followed and noticed a distinctly disagreeable odor along the way.  Above me the sound of the ponderous beating of wings.  I poked around and, sure enough, found the remains of a deer.  

A Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus.  In Central America Black Vultures hang around town, much as crows do here.  I'm not sure why the difference in behavior.  Less persecution?  

Perched in a tree, nervously.

A few of the several dozens that were hanging about and, no doubt, feeding on the carcass.  The white wing tips of Black vultures is especially visible on one bird on the left.  

In their haste to withdraw a few feathers lost.

Not for the squeamish.  A young deer under the forest canopy.It was probably found by Turkey Vultures., one of the few bird species that use their sense of smell to locate carrion.  Black Vultures will follow them to
a hidden meal.  The population of vultures and Common Crows probably benefit by the advent of the automobile which leaves in its wake a treasure of gastronomical delights in the form of road kill.  The birds do us a service by removing the offal from the roadside.  

 Speaking of bad odors, here in one of my favorite native plants, Little Brown Jugs, hexastylis arifolia.  
An attractive evergreen plant that hides its jug shaped flowers in the leaf litter.  The flowers exude an odor similar to rotting flesh to the attract flies as pollinators.  (I have not noticed the odor, neither have I put a flower to my nose)

This mushroom was about 8" across.

Someones been nibbling.

An Eastern Box Turtle, Terrepene carolina.  This common terrestrial turtle has been known to live 138 years.  The Box Turtles are remarkable in that using their hinged lower shell plate (plastron) they can completely close their shell about themselves.  They grow to 5"-8" and have a territory of 2.5 to 12.5 acres.  They are omnivores and eat fruit, mushrooms, insects, worms.  If removed from their territory they reportedly will cast about trying to find their way home.  As attractive and mild mannered as they are, please do not try to keep one as a pet.  It is misery for the animal.  Better to make your yard friendly to wildlife, and avoid running over them with your car.  I move turtles off the road in the direction they were headed.

Lady's Tresses

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mushrooms, Amphibians...

Fall is in the air...

 Ruby-throated HummingbirdsArchilochus colubris, are still using the sugar water I put out.   However, the birds we saw all summer  have likely already left.  The birds I am seeing now are birds from further North working their way south.   I will post when I no longer see any hummingbirds.

While Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only species that breeds here, or for that matter, east of the Mississippi, we do get the occassional western species spending the winter.  Every year Ruphous Hummingbirds are reported in the Atlanta metro area.  They make use of nectar feeders left up in hopes of attracting Ruphous and other western species.

This photo was taken by Ryan Bushby(HighInBC) Wikipedia

I get information from this site: and

Eastern Screech Owls, Megascops asio, have been whinnying and using the tremolo call.  Two were singing a duet last night. They have been calling from the same direction for a week or so. Since they are considered "solitary" except for the breeding season I am puzzled by their apparent pairing right now.  Maybe it's two birds competing for the same territory.

More Mushrooms: 

 These looks like the Golden Chanterelle on the UGA Natural History site:

They popped up in the lawn.  The website text says this is a choice mushroom for eating.  I am not confident enough to try them.  (Nor would I recommend that anyone eat a mushroom they are not certain about)

Golden Chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius

Powdery Southern Bolete,  Pulveroboletus ravenelii 
False Yellow BoleteBoletus pseudosulphureus

Ripper, my boon hiking companion on the trail.  He occasionally helps me find stuff.  Today I saw him looking up.  I followed his gaze to see a Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura cruising just above the treetops above us.

Southern Toad, Anaxyrus terrestris.  I have been seeing far more of these this year than in any previous year.
  I'm guessing that the very rainy and mild late Spring and Summer weather is responsible for a bumper crop of these little fellows.  The woods across our little branch lies some forested wetland. (mesic forest).  The almost daily showers kept the temporal (temporary) ponds full long enough for great breeding success.  Southern Toads vary in hue from brick read to grey.

Another view:

I found this Four-toed Salamander, Hemidactylium scutatum, under a rock.  I was unsure about it's identity so I submitted a this picture to the Savannah Regional Environmental Lab.  They identified it and said asked for location and date.  Apparently an interesting species.

I recommend this site for GA, N.C. and  S.C. herp identfication:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Black Rat Snake and More

Black Rat Snake, and more 9/11/13

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds...

I didn't notice any hummingbirds today.  Will monitor tomorrow to see if they have left us.  Here is a migration map.  Our Hummingbirds migrated across the Gulf of Mexico, about 400 miles or so.  This is quite an ordeal for them.  According to "before departing on their northern migration each bird will  have nearly doubled its weight from 3,25 to over 6 grams; when it reaches the U.S. gulf coast, it may weigh only 2.5 grams."  And God forbid they encounter any head winds.


The map is from Wikipedia, courtesy of Ken  Thomas:    Also he has a website:

Basilica Orb Weaver (again)  Pretty little fellow know for weaving horizontal or near horizontal webs.

 Something in the Pea family

Ripper, the dog,  getting yelled at for approaching this snake.  This is a Black Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta.  Harmless, of course, but we are hoping to train Ripper to avoid snakes.  We hike a lot and sooner or later we may together encounter a Copperhead.  (We actually did once, but someone had killed it and left it on the trail)

Close up shot.  Black Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta

A great reference site for North GA and nearby is

For a week or so our fields have been swarming with these Carolina Satyr butterflies.

Carolina Satyr, Hermeuptychia sosybius

A Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis L. as they are often seen perched on a stream bank.

This appears to be a Spiderwort species, possibly Tradescantia subaspera, it seems more diminutive and compact than the common species, Tradescantia viginiana

Old Man of the Woods, Strobilomyces confusus  Common and distinctive.  Late Summer through early fall.  I was able to identify this by searching this University of Georgia site:  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Into September...

Happy to report we've been hearing screech owls again.  Always the "whinny" call.  

A neighbor reported seeing a White-tailed Deer with two tiny fawns this past week which is near the end of the foaling season.  Always, cute but we have too many here and it is affecting the plant diversity in the woods.  Blood root and Wild Azaleas are among the wild plants hit hard.

Mushrooms. again.

Great Lobelia with Skipper butterfly species.

Mushroom nibbled on by unknown creature, a rodent?  Teeth marks visable.

Basilica Orb Weaver, Mycenogea Lemniscata 
Range: Southeast to West including Colorado
This little fellow was very agile and active when we viewed him.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Spider Lilies    

First a couple of pictures of Spider Lillies,Hymenocallis occidentalis, late bloomers in shady spots.  They grow along our stream and in the wetter areas.  They like some sun.  A member of the Amarylis family

Another mushroom.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More mushrooms, cicada...

Unidentified Cicada  9/02/13 on our farm

Residue of the slime mold shown in the 8/31 post.  There were several tiny snails feeding on the remains.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

More mushrooms... 8/31/2013

A walk in the woods this morning produced these mushrooms. :

A better view of a cluster of Smooth Chanterelle

I have no idea.  Keep thinking I should come across a slime mold, maybe this is it. Will watch over next few days.

One of the most unusual mushrooms I've come across.  Will research.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A few pictures.  

First, a small Spotted Salamander.Ambystoma maculatum, I found under a rock on our property in late July.  Posed it on a rock, but left the dirt intact.  These widespread salamanders can grow to over 9" long.  More info at or wikipedia.

Thirsty?   This is Yahoola Creek next to the old water plant.  I took this picture while checking out a construction site for inadequate erosion controls, July 29,2013. This is Dahlonega's main source of water.

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)  thoughtfully posing by Yahoola Creek.  They are sexually dimorphic  (different markings on male and female)  This is a male.  For a comprehensive page on the Dragonflies and Damsel Flies (Odenates) in Georgia, or nearby southeast the go-to website is Giff Beaton's Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast:

Caridnal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.  I luckily recognized it when small so I didn't mow it.  Popular with hummingbirds.

Bluish tinged mushroom.  8/30/13  on our property.

Large bright orange mushrooms popped up in our lawn.  Possibly a Smooth Chanterelle, Cantharellus lateritius.  Supposed to be edible, but without using a biological key consumption may be hazardous.  
August 30,2013