Archive for May, 2012

Last of the Fox Chronicles

I’m sad to say the fox family is no longer living under our barn. I knew this was coming, because they only use dens for raising their young. Here are a few pictures from the few times I saw them last week. I didn’t see them every day, and some times it was so dark, I couldn’t tell how many were out. I start the pictures with one taken before last week, one with good light. It was taken when I was seeing them daily.

A morning romp with mom

She had to hold her hind leg up to nurse the 2

They were active this evening

Like I said, they were ACTIVE that night. Three in the picture.

Look at the size of her tail!

Not wound up yet

Notice the white tip on the one’s tail. One morning 3 of them were tumbling around together. Their tails were wagging all over the place. I kept finding myself watching the white tail tips. They showed more in the low light than they would in brighter. I figured there must be a reason for the white tail tip, like distracting prey while the “business” end gets ready.

Shows size comparison between adult and young.

Another stare

The last picture I took

I knew they would be leaving anytime. I had a repeating image of the whole family together, walking out of our yard with me watching. It didn’t happen. The last time we saw one was when we could barely see a head sticking out from under the barn. Since we’re obviously in their territory, and since they successfully raised young here, I hope they return next year to raise young under our barn.

And I SO enjoyed sharing my fox experience.

Crab Spider

I’m proud of this picture!  This is the tiniest crab spider I’ve ever seen! From the lack of color, I suspect it’s recently-hatched. The bud it’s on is a 1/4 inch long.

The crab spider is on butterflyweed, a milkweed. Milkweeds are one of the best butterfly magnets, but that’s for another blog.

Crab spiders can turn the color of the flower they’re on, the better to “hide” themselves when waiting for prey to come close. They don’t weave a web to capture their prey; they use their front legs. They bite their prey to kill it and then suck it dry.  With legs spread, it shows how they got their name. The males grow to 1/8 inch long, and the females from 1/4 to 3/8 inch long.

Liesegang Bands

Liesegang banding results from iron being in the rock. When sandstone was underground a long time ago, it was saturated with ground water mixed with iron. Chemical changes then caused the iron to solidify as rust between the rock particles. The softer sandstone eroded away. The dark bands resisted weathering and  created the banded patterns in the rock. These are not fossils.

All these pictures were taken while hiking the Observation Trail at the Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois. (see earlier blog on the site.)

These were a drop in the bucket of photographic possibilities of liesegang banding. I could have emmersed myself for hours and hours of searching for and photographing these if I hadn’t had Buffy along.

Silvery Checkerspot

Interruptions are always welcome when I’m working in the yard or gardens. This morning’s interruption was 3 newly-emerged silvery checkerspot butterflies. Their 2 caterpillar host plants grow in my yard.

Silvery checkerspot butterfly on white-lace orlaya

Silvery checkerspots have 2 broods. The spring brood  flies from the middle of May though June in southern Illinois, and the fall brood flies late July through September. The spring brood lays their eggs on winged crownbeard (Verbenesina helianthoides) and wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia). The fall brood lays theirs on wingstem, because the winged crownbeard isn’t to appetizing that late. Winged crownbeard grows to 3 feet tall and wingstem to 5 feet and more. Both are perennials.

Silvery checkerspots  butterflies have 1 1/4 – 2 inch wingspan, and they overwinter as caterpillars.

Winged crownbeard

No-Name Mushrooms

The variety of mushrooms fascinates me. The one in the first picture is on wood in our yard that’s covered with black plastic. I’ve never seen any mushroom remotely like it. It’s hard like wood. The shiny surface is dry, which I didn’t expect, and it’s 4 inches tall.

What an unusual mushroom!!

I found this second mushroom  on a hike yesterday. It was in the woods, near the base of a tree. It too was hard and had a wide base.  I liked the affects of  the grass growing through the mushroom. It would be interesting to know how that happened.

Another nature mystery

I didn’t find the mushrooms in either of my 2 mushroom books. A name isn’t required for my enjoyment.

A Fox Stare

I take most of my fox pictures through the picture window by my computer. With them staying so close to the barn for some reason now, I also take a few from a window in my husband’s bow room.

My son-in-law suggested I put a blind where I could get closer for my pictures.  That would never work. The mother sees me by the window. I have to wear drab clothes and move slowly. My husband even said last night that he’s thought about making a hole in the back of our old concrete block garage. It would put me much closer. That wouldn’t fool her.

I’ve taken 7 pictures with her staring straight at me. I can feel her stare, and I’m sure she feels mine. We must have an understanding of some sort. Here are 2 of the pictures.

Her stare from the water garden at 29 yards

This stare is from 58 yards. I stepped them both off.

She’s aware of our routine daily activities. I get used to their routine, and then it changes. It has changed since hot weather has returned. She knows we have a big dog, and Buffy’s never had anything like them in her territory.

I’m satisfied observing from this distance, and they seem comfortable with it.

Fox Family Pictures

The foxes have changed their habits slightly and are making picture-taking more challenging. They come out most mornings for a short time between 7 and 9 a.m. Then they stay close to the barn and in the shade. My picture window faces east, and  window glare can be a problem.

Our weather’s turned hot again and that limits their time out in the afternoon to almost none. My husband has an archery target at the back edge of our property. He usually shoots until it’s too dark to shoot. Since the foxes have been here, he and I both come in early to give them time to come out and play … and us a chance to watch. They didn’t come out last night. The night before they came out when there was just enough light to see them. So, here are pictures from this and yesterday morning.

These are from yesterday (Saturday) morning.

Nursing for breakfast

She stays alert at all times

This is an every morning activity

Play is their middle name

I took the rest of these pictures this morning, starting at 8:15.

Looked like ear cleaning. This was the second she did this to.

Has hold of Mom’s tail

Notice that both feet are off the ground

Garden Of The Gods

Buffy and I took advantage of a day with spring-like weather to hike at Garden of the Gods. It’s part of the Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area, which is part of Shawnee National Forest and covers 3,300 acres. Apparently it’s the most-visited place in Illinois. Anyone wanting specific information on Garden of the Gods can find plenty online.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

All the stone is sandstone

Tall cliffs are common and can be dangerous

Stone paths make walking easier

Views go for miles across the hills

Does the word “dramatic” come to mind?

Camel rock is the most known formation

Liesegang banding resulted from layers of iron

The view to the left is dramatic too

Talk about harsh growing conditions

Liesegang banding!!

View back across the bridge

Almost back where we started

I knew lots of people came to Garden of the Gods from Kentucky and Indiana. We went during the week, and there weren’t many people there. I checked license plates — 5 from Illinois, 4 from Indiana and 1 from Maryland. Then we passed a car from West Virginia on the way out. During the peak of fall colors, you “couldn’t stir them with a stick” there’s so many visitors.

Variegated Fritillary

I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see this variegated fritillary butterfly. If I’d started cooking supper, instead of taking a few minutes to walk around the yard, I would have missed seeing it.

Its appearance shows it’s not a newly-emerged butterfly. Then add its behavior of flitting low, stopping often to check for host plants to lay eggs on, tells me it’s a female making her way north and laying eggs as she goes. So, she wouldn’t have stayed in the yard for long. Usually this species doesn’t arrive in southern Illinois until later in the summer.

Some butterfly species, like this variegated fritillary, do what’s called emigrate, meaning they have a northward movement during the year. Their year round range covers southern states and down into Mexico. They lay eggs as they go north and establish new populations. The emigration ends up populating most of the U.S. All these butterflies from the northern movement don’t survive the winter, unless it’s a warm one. The ones emigrating next summer will populate the areas again.

Variegated fritillary nectaring on daisy fleabane

Variegated fritillary is a species of open disturbed habitats like fields, pastures and roadsides. They lay their eggs on violets, pansies, passion flower, purslane (Portulaca) and stonecrop (Sedum). They have a 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 inch wingspan.

I didn’t see her laying any eggs, but she might have found some of my violets. So it will be interesting to see if I see any more of them in my yard. It is a species I rarely see.

And More Fox Pictures

Yesterday, Tuesday, was a slow-fox day. She and 3 little ones were out for a short time midmorning. They had a squirrel for breakfast. I obviously didn’t see all the fox activity during the day, because I went out later and found remnants of a fast-food bag. They’d eaten the scraps. Then this morning she had an empty chili can.

She had ? for breakfast

I worked in the garden last night. Buffy didn’t move while I worked. She had high hopes.

The family didn’t come out last night until it was to dark to take pictures. This morning they were out from 8 – 8:45. She appeared to be eating something. It ended up a young one that she was maybe grooming.The most I saw of them at one time was 4. There are 5 in all. They played, they ate, one nursed a little, and there was a lot of pouncing going on. She was always on the watch and trotted off 5 or 6 times.

Whatever breadfast was, it had long bones

The food is always brought in for feeding and then taken away from the den so it won’t attract predators.

Always on alert

Whole lot of playing going on

One winner?

They always appear to have lots of fun

Sure do wish I could pet them

One is nursing

Back toward the barn