Friday, August 1, 2014

Things to Look For in August

There's still plenty to see outside, if you're in town and you're willing to put up with a little sweat. Links are to previous LOOK FOR posts:

Photo credit: Rongem Boyo
The Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak August 11-12. The moon will be just past full, so it's not a great year to catch them, but keep an eye out.
ruby-throated hummingbird on cardinal flower
hummingbird on cardinal flower in our yard
In August we often see hummingbirds in our yard nearly every day. What a treat to watch them go from hovering in mid-air, to zipping away, fast as lightning.

Greater Anglewing by Jerry Oldnettel
Even more common are the katydids, who chirp just about everywhere in the evening. Even when we lived in Dupont Circle, there was one in the tree outside our apartment building. In the woods you'll hear them by the thousands...and in this post, you can learn to tell apart the calls of the five different species.

monarch caterpillar
Monarch larva by The Natural Capital
Monarch butterflies are laying their eggs, and if you look closely on milkweed, you may see some stripey caterpillars. Every year, we bring a few inside and raise them. It's a pretty amazing process. (This post on raising monarchs has been one of the all-time most popular posts on the Natural Capital.)

joe pye weed
Joe Pye weed by Garden Beth
Joe Pye Weed is another butterfly magnet at this time of year -- not so much for the monarchs as for the swallowtails. Keep an eye out for Joe Pye weed in wetland areas and then watch for the butterflies...look closely and you'll find lots of other pollinators, too.

Passion Flower Close-Up
Passionflower by Texas Eagle
Joe Pye is one of our tallest flowers; passionflower is surely one of the most exotic-looking. The tropical look of this flower may lead you to think of steamy nights of passion, but the 17th century missionaries who named it claimed to have religion in mind.
duck potato
Sagittaria by Tom Brandt
Katniss, namesake of the character from the Hunger Games, blooms in August. You won't find enough to subsist on as she did, but if you're a fan of the book it's fun to know the plant.

Halloween pennant dragonfly
Dragonfly by afagen
Dragonflies are common sight this time of year. They hang out around water, because they lay their eggs there and spend their nymph stage as aquatic creatures. In our post we highlighted 6 common species, and shared a video of a dragonfly shedding its aquatic skin to become an adult.

Sumac berries by billmiky
Sumac has extremely distinctive clusters of dark red, hairy berries in the late summer. They're great for making pink lemonade! Check out our post to find out how.
We really enjoyed watching a sphinx moth nectar on jimson weed by the Potomac River a couple of years ago, and may head back to try again. If we end up just watching the sunset by the river, that's not so bad either.

Polyphemous moth by Jason Sturner
Also out this time of year are the giant silkworm moths, and their large green caterpillars. So beautiful.

What have you been seeing lately? Leave a comment and let us know!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One hour, 15 mushrooms

Yesterday when we were walking I challenged myself to take pictures of as many species of mushroom as I could. I didn't gather enough information to carefully ID most of them; I just enjoy the diversity of the world of fungi. So many colors, so many shapes and textures. How many different kinds can you find in an hour? It's fun to look even if you don't know what they're called.

mushrooms july 16
Some kind of russula. I love the colors in this group: green, red, sometimes even purple.

mushrooms july 16
Chanterelles! We found a new patch.

mushrooms july 16
This one had a lot of white stuff coming off of it. I think it might be Leucocoprinus cepaestipes.

mushrooms july 16
Pink cap and skirt...could be a blusher -- Amanita rubescens?

mushrooms july 16
There's a group of mushrooms called waxcaps (genus Hygrocybe) that get sticky-slimy on top when they're wet. This is one of those.

mushrooms july 16
This rubbery mushroom releases a cloud of spores from its top surface a few seconds after you push on it. Galiella rufa - hairy/rufous rubber cup.

mushrooms july 16
Violet toothed polypore (Trichaptum biforme)- I couldn't get a good shot from below, but the underside is purple like the edges seen here.

mushrooms july 16
Some kind of bolete, which is the group of stalked mushrooms that have pores on the bottom of their caps instead of gills. Probably one of the scaberstalks, named for that rough surface on the stalk.


Another bolete, this one with red cap and red underside. I don't see a good match in any of my books.

mushrooms july 16
This mushroom exudes white latex when you break it -- some kind of Lactarius.

mushrooms july 16
This tiny mushroom had a cap that was nearly transluscent.

mushrooms july 16
These were even tinier.

mushrooms july 16
And this was one of the biggest.

mushrooms july 16
LBM (little brown mushroom)

mushrooms july 16
More LBMs...

Want to really find a lot of mushrooms in an hour, and have someone tell you what they all are? Go out on a foray with the Mycological Association of Washington. There are mushrooms almost all year round, but late summer is a great time for colorful boletes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Things to Look for in July

Better late than never, our monthly roundup of things to look for this month:

A Clean Getaway
Photo credit: InspiredinDesMoines
I originally wrote about bald eagles for the 4th of July, but they're around all summer -- and some stay over the winter. Still, it's a great time of year to get out on the water and look for them. Matt once had the pleasure of watching an eagle fight an osprey for the fish it had just caught -- evidence of the theiving behavior that made Ben Franklin prefer the wild turkey for national bird.

Photo credit: The Natural Capital
While you're hanging out in wet places, keep an eye out for moisture-loving jewelweed. It's a pretty flower, a sparkly wonder, a trailside snack, and a soothing skin treatment. What's not to love?

hummingbird and cardinal flower
Photo credit: The Natural Capital
Another moisture-lover is cardinal flower. I used to love cardinal flower just because it's a gorgeous flower. It took a few years before I realized that if you sit quietly for long enough by a large patch, a hummingbird will come by. And that takes it to another level.

rose mallow (hibiscus)
Photo credit: The Natural Capital
I always thought of hibiscus as a tropical flower. It's the kind of thing you expect to see printed on Hawaiian shirts, or tucked behind a hula dancer's ear. But we've got native hibiscus right here in DC. It blooms in July, also in wet areas. (I guess I spend a lot of time on the water in July!)

Photo credit: brocktopia
Also out in July: Chantarelles. They are a choice culinary mushroom prized by chefs around the world. And they grow in Washington, DC. Matt has found several patches already this year.

Photo credit: Teague O'Mara
Five-lined skinks might be scurrying about as you go looking for these other things -- look for their blue tails!

In July we also find several other wild edibles, including milkweed, black locust beans, and sassafras.
Finally, check out our other posts on great things to do in the summer:
Natural places to go swimming
Public campgrounds
Places to rent a canoe or kayak