Saturday, August 30, 2014

Another Newbie!

The butterfly bush is starting to wind down, having more dead blossoms on it now than blooming flowers.  The number of butterflies and bees have decreased, even the number of skippers that show up.  However, I had one other new visitor to the yard the other day and had a grand time taking photos and identifying it as a Red-Spotted Purple.  Just gorgeous!  The light wasn't great and the photos with its wings spread are kind of back lit, but was thrilled to have a new butterfly to add to the list.

According to the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, seeing this butterfly is uncommon in Rhode Island. I live near the Massachusetts border - I guess this one didn't get the memo about not crossing the state line!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Small Brown Snake

The other day on my way to the store I was walking to my car when I noticed a small snake sunning itself on my sidewalk.  I watched it for a few minutes; it was testing the air with its tongue - typical snake behavior.  I leaned over and just stroked it gently.  It slithered into the bushes and lily of the valley area of my garden.  It was not even a foot long – very cute. 

Source:  Wikipedia

I had never seen any snakes around before and was curious as to what it was.  I checked what species of snakes are found in Rhode Island, and decided it was a Northern Brown snake.

There are only 12 species of snake that are native to Rhode Island and all are perfectly harmless.  In Connecticut and Massachusetts, however, one species of rattlesnake can be found – the Timber Rattler.  And Copperheads are also found in southern New England, but none have ever been reported here either.  Good to know!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fortuitous Fritillary

I happened glance out the window the other day only to see a new butterfly to my butterfly bush!  I ran out with my camera and got a few shots.

I know it's a Fritillary of some type and first identified it as a Meadow Fritillary, but now I think it might be a Great Spangled Fritillary.  I saw one also on a butterfly bush at Skylands Botanical Gardens when visiting friends in New Jersey.   Whatever it is, what a wonderful orange surprise to see in my yard!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Meticulous Mom

I spent 10 or 15 minutes watching the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter the other afternoon.  I had seen it several times scurrying around hunting for crickets.  It stings the cricket, paralyzing it, then carries it to a hole or burrow and then lays one egg on top of the still living cricket.  It takes only one day for the egg to hatch and the larva then eats the cricket.  In a previous post I showed the cricket hunter with one of its victims.  I then saw the wasp pick up the cricket and fly away with it.

This past week I saw the cricket hunter evidently after the deed had been accomplished and watched the meticulous mom covering up the hole where she presumably had already laid her egg.  I watched her carry pieces of grass and 'rocks' (actually debris from a newly laid sidewalk) covering up a small hole between the sidewalk and the edging stones.

She worked diligently for many minutes until she was finally satisfied with her work and then flew over toward my butterfly bushes and began another cricket search. 

Here's a video showing another cricket hunter also covering up an 'egg hole'.  Maybe you can see why I was so fascinated watching MY cricket hunter doing the same thing.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Butterfly Bush Update '14

There haven't been nearly as many butterflies around my butterfly bush this year as in years past.  I haven't seen a single Monarch butterfly.  There have been a few Painted Ladies, but again not as many as last year.  There have been quite a few skippers though, too many to try to identify. 

But one regular has been the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - the female, unlike many bird species, is flashier and larger...

than the male.

Actually the female is a dimorph and can either be yellow or black.  This black butterfly showed up this year...

but is it the dimorph or a Pipevine Swallowtail...

a Spicebush Swallowtail...

or a female Black Swallowtail???

Pretty sure it's a female Black Swallowtail.  Here are a couple of pictures of the female black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail courtesy of

I've also seen photos where the female was half black and half yellow.

FYI here is a photo of the male Black Swallowtail.

Another visitor was this beautiful little green dragonfly.

And the ever present snowberry clearwing.  Lots of those this year.  You can really see where it gets its name in these photos.

So that's the report from the butterfly bush.  More on the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter in the next post.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

And Then There Were Three

We lost another one of our stray/feral kitties today.  Here's the whole gang sharing dinner just a few weeks ago - from left to right Van Gogh, Romeo, Spot and Tabby.

But lately Van Gogh hasn't been looking too good - losing weight, sometimes not eating and just being generally listless. This afternoon when I went out to feed everybody I found Van Gogh lying out under my tree, covered with flies and barely breathing.  He managed to move a few feet at a time several times, but he was unsteady on his feet, and would immediately lie down again.  I debated about taking him to a vet.  In all the time I've known him and he's hung around my house I've never been able to pet him. That changed today probably because he was just too weak to try to avoid me.  He let me pet him several times and swat the flies off of him.  Taking him to a vet among all those strangers and unknown animals might stress him even further, besides the fact that it was Sunday and the only vets open were the emergency vets in Swansea.. But I couldn't stand not doing anything.  Finally I decided to see what would happen if I tried to pick him up and put him in the carrier. He was too far gone to do anything and I got him in the carrier very easily - needless to say something that never would have happened if he was well.

The vet confirmed that he was in critical condition and she agreed that the decision to put him to sleep and out of his misery was probably the best for him.  So Van Gogh is resting peacefully in kitty heaven tonight.  I know his buddies will miss him as will I.

Van Gogh with his best buddy Romeo

 He's been a fixture in the neighborhood for quite a while. It will be strange not seeing him around any more.