Friday, August 7, 2015

Things to look for in August

What a lovely break in the heat we're having. Here are some things to keep an eye out for in August. Links are to previous LOOK FOR posts:

meteor
Photo credit: Rongem Boyo
The Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak August 11-14. The moon will be a waning crescent that comes up just before sunrise, so there should be dark skies. We just have to fight the haze and clouds of August humidity. The best time to look is in the wee hours of the morning, but you could see meteors at any time after about 9 PM.
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 in serious decline. But this is the time of year that they are laying their eggs, and if you look closely on milkweed, you may see some stripey caterpillars. Until a few years ago, we brought a few inside every year and raised them. (This post on raising monarchs has been one of the all-time most popular posts on the Natural Capital.) Lately, we've seen so few that I actually choked up a little when I saw a monarch on the milkweed in our backyard.

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 30, 2015

What's going on at Jug Bay?

We've gone to Jug Bay three times in the last three weeks. The place is teeming with life at this time of year: ospreys calling, dragonflies zipping by, warblers bringing food to their fledglings, and flowers everywhere. Most of these pictures were taken on the short loop trail from the parking lot by the boat dock at Patuxent River Park.

jug bay
DSC01630
Spatterdock and rose mallow
DSC01643
Rose mallow
DSC01651
Meadowhawk?
DSC_0212
Wild grapes
DSC_0107
Boletus frostii
DSC_0094
Trumpet vine -- we saw hummingbirds and orioles drinking the nectar
DSC_0084
Southern leopard frog
DSC01681
Red Admiral
DSC01674
Prothonotary warbler eating insects on the spatterdock leaves
DSC01656
Great blue skimmer
DSC01637
Moths on Clethra alnifolia
DSC01634
Cinnamon fern

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Things to look for in July

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.

jewelweed
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. With all this rain, it's been a good year for them already.

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

Enjoy!