Monday, August 9, 2010

Yet another mystery...

I drove out to that land in Kansas on Saturday because I was curious to see if anyone had come by to continue working on their excavation. Nope. I think that will be a mystery that will forever go unexplained.

I was met by the Mueller dogs but sigh, no Aussie. We set off to test the depth of the creek. You can tell it's not that deep because otherwise Elvis would be walking on water.

Elvis, the dog with the ermine front side, is not my favorite dog. He has squinty eyes, a suspicious mind, and usually spends his time barking until he feels like he's made his point twice and then runs away. If he were human, he'd have a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth while he scrutinized you and you would not want to know what he was thinking. I really don't like that dog.

But on Saturday, for the first time ever, he had manners. He walked beside me, let me scratch his head, and didn't try to take my arm off when I gave him a biscuit (I normally throw one in the air for him to catch, but only if Aussie is around, because I just don't trust him).

We walked down the middle of the creek to where the the banks got high and rocky. I noticed that Bella had let herself go. I know I haven't seen her and Aussie in a long time but was it really that long since I had seen her? It was obvious that Bella had had puppies since our last visit because her figure was a mess. However, motherhood must agree with her because she seemed to be a lot more confident.

And Sassy? She's exactly that. Does as she pleases. Her behavior was completely unchanged.

I left the three dogs to play in the part of the creek that still had enough water to play in and started looking at the plants that were growing on the banks. It's an area I usually can't get that close to but since the water was so low, it was easy to get up close and see what was growing.

This is Ludwigia alternifolia, also known as seedbox or rattle-box because the seedpods, which are square cubes, rattle when you shake them. The yellow petals of the flowers are very fragile and don't last long, maybe a day before a slight breeze will knock them off. I didn't see any flowers, just the sepals that remained.

One set was in red for some reason. Doesn't matter. What remained after those transient petals dropped off was still very pretty. I'm looking forward to seeing the seedpods form which I'll be able to do if the water level continues to stay low.

The arrowhead I discovered last week was in bloom.

I didn't know this but there are male and female flowers on this plant. The males flowers are the ones with the yellow stamens and the female flowers are the ones with the round green ball centers.

And that was that for discovering new plants I could identify. And although I've run into blue damselflies before, it's always nice to see one of those cutie pies again.

This digger wasp (Scolia bicincta) was pretty too but I'm glad he was too occupied with the nommage of that flower to notice me.

Anyway, it was getting hot, time for one last biscuit to the dogs, and then time to drive home.

Once I got back, I decided to compare the photos I took of Bella that day and photos I had taken of Bella in the past because I just could not believe the transformation of that dog. Well, that dog was not Bella. That dog might have been wearing a yellow collar like Bella and looked similar to Bella, and was very comfortable interacting with me like Bella, but she was not Bella. Bella has a bit of grey on her face and chest and this dog didn't. How weird. I have never met that dog before. Why was she the first one to run over and greet me? Whoever she is, she got Elvis to behave like a gentleman. I salute her for that. But where the heck is the real Bella? And where the heck is Aussie? Are they together? The whole experience was so darn weird. :-/

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Last Sunday I drove to that land in Kansas and discovered Surprise lilies (Lycoris squamigera) in full bloom. I think if you could time it right, you could make popcorn and then eat it while all the Surprise lilies popped out of the ground with just as much speed. They sure are fast at doing what every other flower does at a much more sensible time of year.

I found them blooming by the creek too...that spot near the raccoon latrine. I had a suspicion that the crazy big leaves that were in that area this spring were not daffodils. I completely forgot about Surprise lilies. It's been a long time since I've grown any. Turtles, you know.

The jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) was still in bloom. Nothing new there.

Nearby were the Mimulus alatus (sharpwing monkeyflower). This is the first time I've ever seen it and it was blooming in all sorts of places...even in the creek.

Two weeks ago when I visited the land, I was anxious to get out there because it had been raining so much. I thought that the day after Saturday's really big deluge, I would be able to witness something amazing. When I saw the creek the next day on Sunday, it was the driest I had ever seen it. When I was out there this past Sunday, the creek was even drier.

A little frog (he's right in the middle there) that should have been hiding in or near water...

...was out on a big flat rock giving me a staredown.

I'm not sure what it is about some frogs, but if you look at them and then blink, they turn 90 degrees before you open your eyes again. They don't want you to know that you were the subject of their staredown.

Sometimes they do a 180 before you open your eyes.

But give them a few blinks, and they're back to where they started.

That water level was low.

Low enough to uncover some arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) which I had never seen growing along the creek before.

And then there was this unfortunate little guy. There isn't as much water in the creek but this poor little caterpillar managed to find a spot where it was deep enough for him to drown. He's an Ellida caniplaga caterpillar who would have grown up to become a Linden Prominent moth (thanks BugGuide) if he hadn't pulled an Ophelia. These caterpillars are not photographed often because they spend their lives at the tops of linden trees and don't climb down until it's time for them to pupate, probably what this guy was doing when he took a wrong step. Or maybe something more dramatic was going on because that is one Millais worthy pose.

Anyway, there were other pretty butterflies in the area to be discovered, such as this Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly...

...and Little Wood Satyr.

The orb weavers have started to build their eye level webs again. This was the first web I walked through this year and of course, this guy jumped on my head and didn't want to get off. Eeeeugh. Spined Micrathena spiders are the freakiest looking things.

From then on I was onto them. I ducked and walked around any slight shimmer of a web and I think they were disappointed that I didn't walk through any of them because apparently they consider me a good catch and did not want me to get away. Some of them were bold about their intentions...

And some of them tried to make themselves really inconspicuous, thinking I could never see such an invisible, well-hidden spider hanging in mid-air....right in front of my face.

But I was onto them and their various strategies. Nobody caught me after that first spider.

There are always a lot of stink bugs in the area but this is the first time I ever met a dusky stink bug (Euschistus tristigmus). He's situated himself on a seedpod of some prairie mimosa.

His underside was a brilliant bright yellow and for a stinkbug, I thought he was very pretty.

Close by was one of his young relatives.

My biggest discovery of the day was this.......chanterelle mushrooms. At least I think they're chanterelles. I'm not going to eat any until an expert confirms this and even then.....but at least I know they're there if that's what they turn out to be. That was my best discovery of the day.

And then there was my weirdest discovery to date......

At one time there used to be a house on the land until it burned down. After everything was cleared, all that was left was the foundation. And in the middle of that foundation was a small square where the old fireplace used to be. Last week, some mysterious person visited my land for who knows what reason, to spend some time excavating that spot. The beer cans or the one lost shoe, those things I can understand when I find them. Country teens tend to lose things, but someone to spend so much time in the hot sun when it's been around 100 degrees every day? Just mystifying. I kind of want to know... what were they looking for? What was buried there? Did they find it? And....will they be back?

Rie suggests it's the work of satanists and to be on alert for pentagrams. Rie thinks there are gold bars hidden under the foundation. I'm thinking it's probably connected with the volunteer water department but even then....what a curious thing to discover.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

So ugly he's cute, so cute she's...well, you'll find out

Last night I was bringing Violet in the for the night when I saw something move very slowly along the deck railing, almost obscured by the shadow. Creep........creep.......creep.

I watched while he made his way forward and kept watching while he tentatively made an upward turn. I kind of knew what he was but was curious as to why he was moving sooooooooo slow. When his head finally appeared over the rail, he stopped moving and gave me a good long staredown. I was probably the first living thing he had ever seen in his newly hatched life and I know that little baby face of his was hiding true panic. What to do? What to do? He couldn't fly yet because he was still fresh from climbing out of his shell.

So what did he end up doing? He decided to stay put. What did I do? I ran in the house and got the camera. That little bug (for being so ugly) was too cute not to photograph.

And besides, he reminded me of somebody.......

Stella, the bird who apparently is part cicada.