Archive for July, 2012

Crespuscular Rays

I actually got to weed in the garden tonight because of an inch of rain 2 days ago. The waxing moon appeared right before I headed toward the house.

The moon always excites me. This one was 3 days from full. Our backyard faces east. I walked around the corner of the house and couldn’t believe what I saw!

A sunset with crepuscular rays. Crepuscular rays in a fan. I crossed the highway so there wouldn’t be any powerlines in the pictures. The rays were relatively faint. They had a slight greenish tint at times.  The rays would shift slightly and their width vary.

“Color therapy for the Earth” came to mind.

The experience didn’t last long … and then it had no time.

When I turned to go back across the highway, I realized a cloud being had joined me to watch one of the wonders of nature.

Spiders — Who Knew?

Imagine my surprise — shock — disbelief — when I woke one morning last summer to find this garden spider in its web …  a web that stretched from the headboard of my bed to the window frame! At first I thought it was outside, until I changed my angle. It had built its web while I slept.

These black and yellow garden spiders aren’t small, they’re BIG, especially when they’re right over your head. After taking pictures, I successfully caught it and released it outside. I never did figure out how it got inside in the first place, much less into my bedroom (I keep the door closed to keep the cats out).

Flash showed the spider’s markings

Garden spider in it’s normal habitat

The reason for this spider blog is to pass on some information my youngest son learned the hard way.  He and a friend left to shoot a national archery tournament last July in Ohio. Davis thought he was getting a cold the day they left. His throat and sinuses started hurting. That evening his lower lip felt like the skin had been ripped off. His sore throat got worse, and it felt like something was stuck on top of his windpipe.

While shooting the next day, he had cold chills like he was running a fever. His throat went from just hurting to where felt like the flesh was being ripped off. Then that night it got cold. (They were camping in a pop-up.) His sinuses and throat hurt so bad he couldn’t sleep. Davis (31 years old) has an exceptionally high pain tolerance. He’s disabled with a bad back and takes medications for pain and associated problems.

The third day (Sunday) he wasn’t able to eat, because when he swallowed, it felt like the food went down so far and got stuck. He couldn’t drink and had problems taking his meds. They both shot their archery course early and left in the morning for home. That’s when his throat’s closing got worse and became claustrophobic for him.(Why he didn’t go to the ER then, I’ll never know. Plus, the person with him was a nurse.) He took a day’s worth of a dose pak and several Benadryl.

His throat stayed the same. He got home at 10 p.m. The meds started wearing off and little puss pockets started popping up on his lips, inside his cheeks and on his tongue. His bottom lip swole up so much it cracked and his throat split and he coughed up a little blood.  My husband took his straight to the emergency room.

They did a strep test and looked in his ears. They gave him a steroid shot and said he had strep throat. Later they came back and said it wasn’t strep, that is was an allergic reaction, and gave him a shot with enough steroid “to last for a whole year.” It was actually a 2-3 month amount. They waited. It didn’t work. They gave him something for pain. Nothing helped, so they gave him another steroid shot with the same amount. Then they sent him home!

His condition hadn’t improved the next morning, and he went to see our family doctor. Before he left, he had a coughing spell where he coughed so hard it busted a puss pocket near his windpipe. He coughed up … I won’t go into those gory details. Then he could breathe normally and food/drink went down normally. The doctor couldn’t give him any more steroids because of the amount he received the night before. Davis was given antibiotics and had an x-ray.

Now for the reason for this story set-up. The doctor told him that the average person swallows 7-8 spiders during their life, and that he sees 5-6 people a year who have swallowed one. This happens when the person’s asleep. Apparently, they go for the moisture in the mouth. It tickles when the spider gets to the back of the throat, and naturally the person swallows. Davis said, “That’s when they get ya.” A lot depends on the size and kind of spider too. It just so happened that Davis was allergic to the one that bit him.

The doctor called the emergency room and “yelled and cussed” the ER because they ARE NOT to release a person that has breathing problems like Davis did.

My intention with this blog isn’t to scare anyone. It’s just to make them aware that this can happen.

Giant Swallowtail

I stood looking out the picture window in my computer room. A large brown and yellow butterfly flitted around the backyard, relatively close to the house. Almost nothing blooms because of the drought, offering no nectar sources to catch its attention. It continued on south.

Obviously, I didn’t get a good look at the hurrying butterfly. These pictures refreshed memories of past sightings.

Giant swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) are one of my favorite butterflies. Their large size (wingspan to 5.5 inches) and dramatic coloring make each sighting an experience. They usually flutter their wings as they feed.

They are 1 of the 6 species of swallowtail butterflies in Illinois. The others include: pipevine swallowtail, zebra swallowtail, black swallowtail, tiger swallowtail and spicebush swallowtail. The giant swallowtail caterpillars feed on hop trees in our area, on prickly ash in the northern part of its range, and on orange trees in the south. Here they can be a pest.

My mother has 2 fraxinella plants growing in her garden. The giant swallowtails also lay eggs on them. It poses a problem: the plants are small and are a family heirloom. The caterpillars grow to impressive proportions. The brown and white caterpillars mimic bird droppings (and quite effectively, I might add).

I hope I’m at in the right place at the right time to see any others that visit my yard.

A Walk on the COOL Side

I don’t know about you all, but I’m ready for reprieve from the HOT weather  this summer.

So, join me on a walk back through winters past. (I have an endless fascination with ice.)

Through the woods. Along the creeks.

An Orchid Encounter


If you hadn’t seen the eagles on the nest last night, I wouldn’t have left early this morning to see them too. They weren’t there. I decided to drive the loop I used to go back to Carrier Mills on the spring bird counts and the butterfly counts I did way back when.

On the drive I remembered that this is the middle of July and immediately remembered what blooms on this loop the middle of July. And I found 2 growing together — purple fringeless orchids!

If I’d come in from the opposite direction, I would’ve never seen these because of the height of plants between them and the road. The arrow points to them; they just aren’t showy enough to show well in the picture. I was wearing sandals and was not about to wade through the thick of things to get a closer picture. I wouldn’t have, even if I had shoes or boots on.

At a glance they resemble the pink phlox that commonly blooms at the same time and in same areas. Purple fringeless orchids are slightly darker and have different shaped infloresence.

Purple fringeless orchids (Platanthera peramoena) grow in southeast Illinois. They bloom in July, maybe into August and are found in a variety of open moist habitats. They are considered uncommon. Another place where I know they grow is at the bottom of a steep bank, on a curve of a highway. This place is much easier to access.

The following are some of the plants that commonly grow with the orchid at this location.

Partridge pea

Monkey flower

Mountain mint

Common milkweeds


Finally! I Found One

I can’t believe I finally found a green lacewing. I’ve been looking for one since I found an egg 3 weeks ago.

The green lacewing’s body was all of a 1/2 inch long. The green-on-green didn’t advertise the lacewing’s presence. Only parts of its long antennae show in the picture.

The only reason I spotted this egg was with it being in the sunlight and the area behind it shaded. Green lacewings usually lay their eggs in a line. For some reason, there was only one on the leaf.

Green lacewings are found in meadows, gardens and forest edges throughout North America. The adults and larvae feed on small insects, especially aphids and nymphs of scale insects.

Around The Mailbox

I had quite a surprise when I went to put an envelope in the mailbox at 7 o’clock this morning. Flowers bloomed on Queen Anne’s lace, chicory and evening primrose. The chicory and evening primrose flowers are usually closed for the day when I make my afternoon trip to the mailbox.

Chicory commonly grows along the highways

Evening primrose flowers open late afternoon and close when the sun hits them in the morning.

Queen Anne’s lace blooms into October

Our heat’s averaging 95-99 degrees every day with high humidity. We have brown yards: only 11 1/2 inches of rain have fallen this year, and we’re now almost 14 inches behind in rainfall. Very few flowers bloom. Insects are scarce. Perennials are drying, and leaves curling on some trees.

The usual aspects of summer become less every day as the heat and drought continue. So, I take time and enjoy whatever I find.

Wandering Glider, a Dragonfly

My oldest son called me after supper. “You need to see this? Hundreds and hundreds of dragonflies. Swarms of dragonflies. Never seen anything like it!

I grabbed my purse and camera, hurried south on the highway and then east on a gravel road. The road passed a few houses and then went down a short hill. That was where the action began.

Swarm after swarm of low-flying dragonflies. None were landing. All the dark spots in the picture below are dragonflies! The ones flying in and over the plants don’t show in the picture.

The dark spots are dragonflies — I counted 33

I took pictures of them toward the setting sun and toward the east. Keith met up with me. All we could see was that the dragonflies had a slight orangish color and no pattern on their wings. Keith drove my truck further along the road. The swarms continued for a mile!

When we stopped at the corner, Keith took my camera and got pictures from a stooped position, lying on his stomach and  then on his knees in the ditch. He drove us back to his truck. At one point he sped up to 40-mph,  trying to get dragonflies caught on the grill of the truck. It worked: he got 3 specimens.

I counted 17 in this picture

Identification of these dragonflies would’ve been impossible without the specimen.

Wandering glider (Pantala flavescens)

Also called globe skimmer

This turned out to be an quite exciting and educational experience for me.

Wandering glider is the world’s most widely distributed dragonfly and is found on every continent except Europe. They’re the most evolved of all the dragonflies and feed on aerial plankton. I’d never heard of aerial plankton. It’s tiny life forms that float and drift in the air. It includes viruses, bacteria, fungi, pollen, spores, and wind scattered seeds. It also includes some aphids and ballooning spiders.

These dragonflies can fly up to 5m per second. Their long wide hindwings allow them to fly over the oceans, day and night for thousands of miles. This just seems impossible.

Storms can push aerial plankton toward the ground. Dragonflies are thought to take advantage of this … and we had a strong storm just east of us late this afternoon. The wandering glider flies high too. None were that we saw.

Now, if I could just find my flashlight, I’d do like one website suggested and go outside at night, shine the  light up and look for aerial plankton in the beam.

Ice Age Fossils

Aaron, my grandson, just finished a blog of the rocks he found in the river gravel I have in my gardens. It reminded me of 3 items I found a few years ago. My mother, my best friend and I were at Shawneetown, climbing around on a large pile of river gravel dredged from the Ohio River. The place sold the rock. We’d rock hunt, then picnic at the river and finish the trip off with hunting for driftwood. This one particular trip I found an arrowhead, a partially fossilized bone and a piece of mammoth tooth.

That’s how you know you’re having a good day!

The arrowhead is almost 3 inches long

The bone is 3 inches long. The few people that have seen it says it’s human. I have no idea.

I knew this had to be a piece of mammoth tooth.  It may only be 1 1/4 inch long, but it’s a” big thing” for me.

 Last summer I took the river gravel up from beside my moon garden and put new landscaping cloth down. I found this arrowhead in the process. It’s made from fine sandstone, instead of flint. I think it might have been one made by a young person that was learning to make arrowheads. It’s 2 1/2 inches long.

Several years ago, my oldest son took me up the Ohio River, north of Shawneetown, to the mouth of the Wabash River. The river level was overly low, and this made for sandbar after sandbar. Keith hunted for ice age fossils. I’d get sidetracked with rocks and not cover anywhere near as much territory as he did.

I found the bone on the right. He found the rest. The middle bone and the jaw are from bison. He even found the lower jaw of a young beaver … with the teeth still in it. He has the knack!

There has to be a gene that compels a person to collect rocks. My Mother has it. I have it. Keith has it, and now my grandson Aaron has it too.

It’s a fun thing to have!

River Gravel Rocks

Aaron, my  8-year-old, rock-hound, grandson stayed all night and searched for rocks in my various rocky areas in the house and in the yard. This is his blog.

I found all these rocks in river gravel (dredged from the Ohio River).

This is agate.

This is coral.

I don’t know the name of this rock. I do know it has a lot of iron in it.

This is a geode and it has chalcedony on the outside.

This is a different kind of coral.

This has a geode in the coral.

This is the inside of a geode, and none of the outside is on it.

It’s a fish.

I have no idea what kind of rock this is.

I found it in small river gravel, and it has a face on it.