Sunday, June 12, 2011

Catepillars and More

The weather forecast for Sunday was wet and rainy, but everything I was interested in was being held "rain or shine". So I was up before dawn to get to the Assabet Riverfest workshop on photography from your kayak. Then I quickly packed up my kayak, changed, and raced to Great Meadows to join Cherrie Corey's, Sense of Place walk in progress. Today she had a special guest Sam Jaffe who is an expert on caterpillars and butterflies. He is also a spectacular photographer. Check out his on-line gallery or visit his upcoming show and live caterpillar exhibit at the Boston Children's Museum this summer.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;


Most of the caterpillars I've seen at Great Meadows have been in the beaks of Chickadees and Wood Thrushes. Walking with Sam, it seemed like every few feet he would stop and identify another caterpillar. In fact when I joined the group, they still hadn't left the parking lot/ There was so much to see right there!

Caterpillars can be found many ways. You may see the caterpillar. Since many frequent the bottom side of leaves, you can turn them over and find more. Other ways of identifying that caterpillars are in the vicinity include
  • finding curled leaves that they've sealed shut (balloons) for shelter,
  • look for partially eaten leaves (if they aren't burnt brown around the edges they are fresh and caterpillars may be nearby)
  • notice their droppings "fras" on the leaves below wher they are located.
During the course of the walk we encountered Fine-line Sallows. At the time of the walk they were a mystery, but identification by a botanist that the host plant was Verbena and not False Nettle helped Sam make the identification. This caterpillar is rare for this area.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
More mature version of the same caterpillar

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
Red Admiral Butterfly feeding on False nettle stying put within their leaf shelters on a cold and rainy day


All along the Dike Trail on smaller trail-side elms were Question Mark caterpillars. They take their name from the shape they form.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
From left to right fifth, fourth and second instar Question Marks

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
Close-up of fifth instar

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
This year is a banner year for Question marks



We also saw a Pearly Woodnymph resting on some foliage. It's protective defense is that it resembles bird splat while resting on the plant.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;



Here a Double-toothed Prominent has eaten the tip off the elm leaf. It's back develops the saw toothed shape of the elm which it eats. The zig-zagged shape makes it more difficult for predators to realize that something is amiss.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;

Sam also spotted this Grasshopper nymph nestled down in the leaves of the plant.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;


It was hard to not let the mind wander while walking. Several things caught my photographic eye. The included:

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
Water drops on Deer Tongue Grass

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
Spectacular purple and yellow of False Indigo

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
Meadowsweet

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;
Red Milkweed Beetle


On the way back to the parking lot Cherrie gave us a lesson on Cattail Reeds. They actually have a male and female parts. In the photos that follow the male portion is on top, just emerging from a leafy sheath. After is pollinates the female portion it shrivels up to the small narrow spiky on the top of the reed. The female portion is the large brown portion of the reed you see. As the year progresses it releases its seeds to the environment.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;


I was the last one to return to the parking lot because while we were learning about the cattails I spotted this leaf. I loved the way the drops of water circle the edges. This is about the best I could do without my tripod.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110612 &emdash;