17 9 / 2014

Here’s a large, bizarre giant swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio cresphontes). This species was once highly rare in the northeast, but is now a regular fixture due to climate change. I found my first one yesterday! I’d heard that these caterpillars mimic bird poop to avoid being eaten, but their true pattern is complex and gorgeous. Plus, if startled, they splorp out a pair of red “horns” called osmeteria. The last picture shows the mature butterfly in all its glory.

15 9 / 2014

This is the underside of a very special glowing mushroom, the luminescent panellus (Panellus stipticus). For reasons that aren’t clear, this mushroom glows green in the dark. Not all populations grow, and the luminescence is a dominant trait, so brighter individuals may make brighter babies. Clever photographers have managed to capture the glow.

This is the underside of a very special glowing mushroom, the luminescent panellus (Panellus stipticus). For reasons that aren’t clear, this mushroom glows green in the dark. Not all populations grow, and the luminescence is a dominant trait, so brighter individuals may make brighter babies. Clever photographers have managed to capture the glow.

05 9 / 2014

I was swimming today and this big-eyed friend kept landing on me. This is a male dusky dancer (Argia translata). The species inhabits rivers and lakes all the way south to Argentina. Incessant patrolling for food and females is hard work, so if you provide a still platform in the water (like your hand), you may find yourself eye to eye with a little dragon.

I was swimming today and this big-eyed friend kept landing on me. This is a male dusky dancer (Argia translata). The species inhabits rivers and lakes all the way south to Argentina. Incessant patrolling for food and females is hard work, so if you provide a still platform in the water (like your hand), you may find yourself eye to eye with a little dragon.

01 9 / 2014

The bedstraw hawk-moth (Hyles gallii) is a member of the sphinx moth family, whose members are capable of speedy, skillful flying and sustained hovering. This species has spectacularly patterned wings, but when it hovers all you see is an adorably fuzzy body and a huuuuge tongue.

The bedstraw hawk-moth (Hyles gallii) is a member of the sphinx moth family, whose members are capable of speedy, skillful flying and sustained hovering. This species has spectacularly patterned wings, but when it hovers all you see is an adorably fuzzy body and a huuuuge tongue.

31 8 / 2014

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) is one of the most striking ferns in the northeast. You’ll find it in very special shady places where limestone bedrock helps keep the soil nutrient-rich. When you see this pretty fern, thank the tiny ancient sea creatures that built their shells with calcium and left a limestone legacy. Thanks, little guys!

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) is one of the most striking ferns in the northeast. You’ll find it in very special shady places where limestone bedrock helps keep the soil nutrient-rich. When you see this pretty fern, thank the tiny ancient sea creatures that built their shells with calcium and left a limestone legacy. Thanks, little guys!

27 8 / 2014

This northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) was basking on a trail beside a pond. A common, nonvenomous species, it has a reputation for being aggressive, but it’ll only bite if cornered or picked up. Rather than laying eggs, females give live birth to one litter of young every year. If you’re wondering what a baby watersnake looks like, well, it’s just about as cute as you’d imagine.

This northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) was basking on a trail beside a pond. A common, nonvenomous species, it has a reputation for being aggressive, but it’ll only bite if cornered or picked up. Rather than laying eggs, females give live birth to one litter of young every year. If you’re wondering what a baby watersnake looks like, well, it’s just about as cute as you’d imagine.

22 8 / 2014

These gorgeous little damselflies are called sphagnum sprites (Nehalennia gracilis), and I found them earlier in the summer in a colorful sphagnum bog. The two damselflies at right are in an awkward pre-mating pose, with the male (at left) grasping the female’s midsection (thorax) with the tip of his tail (abdomen). The third damselfly is having none of this.

These gorgeous little damselflies are called sphagnum sprites (Nehalennia gracilis), and I found them earlier in the summer in a colorful sphagnum bog. The two damselflies at right are in an awkward pre-mating pose, with the male (at left) grasping the female’s midsection (thorax) with the tip of his tail (abdomen). The third damselfly is having none of this.

18 8 / 2014

This broad-winged skipper butterfly (Poanes viator) is perched at the intersection of nature and human culture. Native to eastern North America, its caterpillars thrive on common reed, a notorious introduced wetland plant that obliterates cattail marshes. In this photo it’s nectaring on purple loosestrife, another wetland invader. This delicate little fuzz-face has a lot of stories to tell.

This broad-winged skipper butterfly (Poanes viator) is perched at the intersection of nature and human culture. Native to eastern North America, its caterpillars thrive on common reed, a notorious introduced wetland plant that obliterates cattail marshes. In this photo it’s nectaring on purple loosestrife, another wetland invader. This delicate little fuzz-face has a lot of stories to tell.

16 8 / 2014

Young raptors like this Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) are out in full force, and since their parents are still feeding them, they’re spending most of their time demanding food with piercing, plaintive wails. Cooper’s hawks originally lived in forests, but have spread into cities, where they especially like dining on pigeons and doves.

10 8 / 2014

Just by looking for two quick clues, you can tell that this is a green frog (Lithobates clamitans), and a female. Do you see those two long ridges running along its back? Green frogs have them, and bullfrogs don’t. To sex this frog, check out the circle behind its eye. In males, this hearing organ, called a tympanum, is huge, but in females it’s only about as large as the bulging eye itself.

Just by looking for two quick clues, you can tell that this is a green frog (Lithobates clamitans), and a female. Do you see those two long ridges running along its back? Green frogs have them, and bullfrogs don’t. To sex this frog, check out the circle behind its eye. In males, this hearing organ, called a tympanum, is huge, but in females it’s only about as large as the bulging eye itself.