April 30, 2023

Martha O'Kennon

I don't know why I have to remark each week about temperature trends. There is always going to be some trending up or down, and this just happens to be the season in which there is more of that. This week is just more of the same. Today (Friday the 28th of April), for instance, woke up at about 40 F, and has settled down at about 50 F. There are a few trends to look out for: for instance, the Winter Ants and their nest remodeling progress; and Raccoons who have returned to disturb the peace of the pond. We'll be encountering these and other stories as the weekends progresses and I get some kind of pattern going with this Blog! Meanwhile, these Plants were tokens of the Week in our tiny Backyard: Celandine Poppies, by far the most numerous Flowers this week; the Virginia Bluebells, so lovely and so Blue! About as blue as the Forget-me-nots, which have rapidly opened this week.

Remember that there is information in the name of the file for each image. You can see it by mousing over the image - look at the lower left of the screen. Or you can click again on the image to get to the (usually) larger image. Then the info is displayed in the address line above. Sometimes the second click will actually display a different view of the original image.

An American Winter Ant (or what I usually shorten to just Winter Ant). And another. And another. You'll see more about them soon.

Here is some possible Nearctic Ants. I always look for the reddish thorax since without that signal they tend to look like other Carpenters.

The ID app on iNat suggested a number of members of the Tribe Crematogastrini, and finally @stevenw12339 ID'ed it as an Immigrant Pavement Ant (Tetramorium immigrans). There is a patch under Seelys' sidewalk where I used to see Ants swarming out!

Here's another in the same tribe but not species. @mettcollsuss of iNat ID'd it "probably" as Crematogaster cerasi.

Let's go back to the Winter Ants for a bit. The other day I found a nest with Winter Ants running about on it. I sat for many hours with my camera down almost touching the entrance hole, taking a few videos of the action. It turned out that the ants were actually running in and out of the entrance, and the ones running out were carrying large (for their size) clods of mud and dirt, supposedly cleaning out the entrance, MAYBE preparing for a swarm a bit later. That's my old weathered chair, sitting right at the north-west corner of the Wall. If a cat or human walks just right he or she can destroy the Ants' home. They really picked a terrible place for a nest. In other videos, you could critique the incoming Ants' manners, as they made it very hard for the outgoing to carry its heavy load out. This is an mp4 video so you have to click on the empty right-hand square to start the action. You'll also hear the birds calling in the background! Sadly the overnight and most-of-all-day's rain has now obscured the entrance to the nest. Who knows what's next for this little group that I have grown quite attached to! Make sure to click the left-arrow at the top to get back to this blog. Wait - yesterday evening I checked the nest again and it seems to have been re-opened!

The Celandine Poppies have really brought out the Common Eastern Bumblebees.

I don't think I saw a single Beetle this week. But there were a few Bugs, mostly Leafhoppers. Here's a generic Eratoneura, one of of Erasmoneura vulnerata, and one of the variations on Eratoneura ligata. Yesterday I found another picture hiding in my camera - it seems to show a variation on Eratoneura ardens, but with a very small "burnt" region.

No new action among the Barklice. So let's see the Flies. There are just so many Flies of common species that it is very difficult to get to a complete ID. There was once again a week of these little Fungus Gnats. Today I was fortunate enough to see a pair of these mating!

Two more kinds of Fungus Gnats... And one of the March Flies, Bibio femoratus.

The ID app suggested Scaptomyza pallida for this Fly, and it was right - that happens sometimes.

First here is a tiny black Fly. Then come two different WIP-bearing Flies.

Here are a very tiny Fly; one that appeared everywhere, again very tiny; and a fairly tiny one that I only snapped twice. Forgive me for all this vagueness.

We did have a better class of Midges if you can imagine that. The Tribe Tanytarsini contains quite a few kinds of GREEN Midges!

If you remember, last week we saw this beautiful Crane Fly, Tipula dorsimacula. It persisted for several days into this week as well. At least it resembled it and was seen in the same place as the first one.

Surprise! Here is a new Moth Fly, in genus Psychoda.

There was at least one Looper (caterpillar of a Geometer Moth). Here you see the same Looper on two consecutive days.

I haven't seen any Leaf-miner Moths for a long time, but this weekend I have seen TWO of them. They seem to be Blotch Leaf Miner Moths. This is their usual stance. First is one kind, and then the next day I saw a different one (pictures 2 and 3).

And this brings us to the beginning of our Flower Walk of the Week. We start with a photo taken from the upstairs window.

Wasn't that sweet? Now down to earth. Starting in the Front Yard, here is first the Epimedium with even more flowers and now LEAVES! The Grape Hyacinths are still blooming. Third, we see the Honesty (which I still call money plant due to its coin-like seed pods) blooming for the first time.

The Columbine is still slowly putting out its leaves, first in the front yard and then on the path next to the Garlic Mustard. Then back to the front yard, where the Red Primrose finished blooming but other ones are preparing to flower.

Back down the path, the Garlic Mustard is doing well. I would pull it up but I do like the little Phyllotreta ocripes Beetles that eat it. We pass the Japonica. By the way, I haven't seen them since the first time, but their orangey flowers attract Baltimore Orioles. Trouble is, I can't see the Japonica from indoors. Moving through the gate, we find ourselves in the back yard, and one of the first things we see is the Peony plant, getting bigger every day.

In the little patch just outside the deck, the Pulmonaria is still doing its multi-colored thing. The big Spring Flower mix right now comprises Virginia Bluebells and Celandine Poppies.

Back from our walk, we notice that the Spiders have sort of slumped into the woodwork. All those chilly days seem to have discouraged them. But that little male Humped Trashline Spider goes on and on. Here he is today.

This Cobweb Spider MAY be the Lyric Cobweaver, but I'm not sure. The Common House Spider is still Common. This one has been sitting on the North Wall, down near the ground, for several days. The third one is so bland I have no idea what it is! It seems to be a very generic Cobweb Spider.

This little fellow seems to be an eight-legged Arachnid, but a Mite, not a Spider.

Well, it finally happened. Last night I went out before twilight to unplug the pump from the Pond, which I do every evening so that the playful Raccoons don't play with the hose and direct the one that is supposed to spill into the Pond onto the ground, hence emptying the Pond and potentially killing all the fishes. Well, I was headed for the plug but suddenly saw the biggest Raccoon in the world just admiring the hose, and thinking what fun it would be to pull it away from the water. I yelled at him, and he walked away into the trees and climbed a tall Maple, from which he looked at me. After a while, he decided to come back down, which he did very adroitly. Then he spent the next few minutes searching the ground for delicious bugs or plants. Picture 3 shows him shinnying down the tree.

My beloved Frogs had a kind of rough week with all that cold and rain. I saw five of them at once yesterday. First here is the largest one of the lot. Picture 2 shows the huge difference in the sizes of our Frogs.

Usually I think of the fishes as looking closely at the frogs, but this time the bigger frog in the middle of the picture (there is another at the right side) seems to be watching the antics of the fishes.

That old song about the April Showers bringing the Flowers that bloom in May seems to be true. The flowers are already blooming and we are promised many more showers - but tomorrow will be May! It is so fascinating to watch the ebb and flow of the seasons. Week by week we can see little changes. Someone ought to write a Haiku about that!

Love, Martha

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