Monday, August 12, 2013

About That Ditch...

It's Been Such a Long Time

So it's been months now since I've been out and crawling around in the ditches and it felt this morning like it was time to get back to it. I left a little too late, on a day that was a little too hot, and was disappointed to see that the County had mowed.
There's Still Hope After the Mowing
But no matter! There was a little breeze and some merciful cloud cover, and the County kindly left an un-mowed swath close to the fence line. Ahhh! Being out there again was perfect! With sweat dripping down my cheeks and mosquitoes swarming, I squatted down close to the Green Lynx Spiders and Little Metalmark Butterflies.
Green Lynx Spider on Carolina Yellow Eyed Grass (Xyris caroliniana)

Little Metalmark Butterfly on Orange Milkwort (Polygala lutea)

The breeze made it challenging to get good shots of the Yellow Eyed Grass, but I was in no hurry. Some of the old familiars from spring were still in bloom--Polygala, St. John's Wort, and the Pitcher Plants. But there were some new ones. 3 types of Rhexia, a couple of new St. John's Worts,  Barbara's Buttons, and a few others that I need to identify. The fall wildflowers are getting ready to put on a spectacular show, with Deer Tongue shoots leading the charge on the roadside and other Carphephorus species in the flat woods.
Hooded Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia minor)

Hooded Pitcher Plant Flower

St. Peters's Wort (Hypericum crux-andreae)

Pale Meadowbeauty (Rhexia mariana)

Handsome Harry (Rhexia virginica)

Barbara's Buttons (Marshallia tenuifolia)

St. Andrew's Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)

Unidentified flower with green hitchhiker
(Now identified at Carolina Redroot, or Lachnanthes caroliana--Thanks, Rex!)

I found some large and busy caterpillars eating Fetterbush leaves. They took an interesting offensive pose whenever I got close, rearing up like snakes. One even lay back and showed its legs, as if they were claws or fangs. Reading up on these caterpillars, I learned their food plants are oak and members of the rose family, but that they also feed on blueberry, birch, willow and other nearby shrubs. Fetterbush is is the blueberry family (ericaceae), so it would make sense that the caterpillars were feeding on it.  Grasshoppers popped out of the grass like popcorn pieces. I heard some frogs and a few Towhees in the trees. I didn't see as many swallowtail butterflies as I'd hoped, but it may have been too hot, or too early. They might be more abundant when the fall wildflowers bloom.
Yellow Necked Caterpillars (Datana ministra)

Grasshopper Waiting to Pop

It was so satisfying to be back, but I was a little rusty. Being away so long I got spooked by the idea of Cottonmouth Snakes and avoided walking into the tall grass around the swampy areas and the culvert. And I should have brought a long sleeved shirt to help protect from the mosquitoes. But I was still enjoying myself so much that I decided to stop in the Longleaf Pine Flatwoods for just a short visit before I left. The Winged Sumac is in bloom and every bunch had its own personal bumblebee.
Carpenter Bee on Winged Sumac (Rhus copallina)

I didn't see many other flowers along the first part of the path, but I did find a Green Milkweed and a little Black Senna.
Savannah Milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata_

 I found one snake--a black racer that was climbing a palmetto on its way into a bush. When it saw me it froze and I was able to snap off a few good shots. I resisted the urge to reach in and try to grab it. My photo sharing friend, Lloyd, posted a picture of the bite marks on his hand that he received after bothering a rat snake. I was bitten by a snake once (a ball python) and though I know now that a non-venomous snake bite isn't a big deal, I didn't like the surprise. I'll leave the snakes alone.
Black Racer Staring Me Down

After about 10 minutes of being swarmed by mosquitoes on the path, I gave up and went home. I could hear the Bachman's Sparrow and Eastern Towhee calling from the pines and I know I'll need to get back soon.
Dewy Spiderweb in the Grass

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