Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Beaver Kits and More at the Beaver Pond

We have at least 3 new beaver kits at the pond this summer. They were initially seen about 2 weeks ago when they first began venturing out of the lodge. Well before that I knew it was likely that kits were in residence since both Julia and Tippy, her 2-year old daughter, had swollen mammary glands. This is a somewhat unusual since normally there is only one female (the matriarch) that reproduces in a colony. Another atypical aspect of this colony is the fact that there is no obvious patriarch.  Since Julia's mate, May Apple disappeared 2 years ago, there has been no sign of anyone new coming in to take his place. With 2 apparent mothers at the pond, there may in fact be other kits that have yet to emerge. Time will tell. 
Julia retrieves an aspen branch from shore
2 of the new kits come alongside Julia
Trying desperately to get a bite of Julia's apple

Tippy tries to hold her apple up high and out of reach
Seems to be working for now
One of the kits swims alongside Julia
Security is feeding between the 2 mothers
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Not a milk mustache, but an "apple beard"
Julia and Tippy drag Aspen branches past the resident Canada Goose family
Possible confrontation in the works
The resident Great Blue Heron comes in for a landing
Fishing at the beaver pond
A young Green Heron has also been showing up lately
Lots of wildlife action at this small pond
Mallard ducklings investigate the beaver dam

A young female Belted Kingfisher
A Woodchuck crosses the dam
One of the resident Minks hunts alongside the dam

2 Muskrats beneath the dam are noticeably smaller than the beaver kit (foreground)
A muskrat kit feeds on some of the Aspen leaves

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Baltimore Checkerspot's Finest Year

Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly
Baltimore Checkerspot Butterflies are having a great season. We have 2 really good habitat areas at the nature preserve and in both places the checkerspot's main food plant (turtlehead) grows in abundance. I honestly can't remember the last time I had 50 checkerspots flying around me in a meadow, but that's what has been happening over the last few days. Lots of interesting behavior was going on too; territorial males were swirling around each and ascending up to 40 feet before breaking off and returning to the ground. Females were seen fluttering their wings in place and fanning males with pheromones. A few pairs were also seen mating. It doesn't get any better than this, folks!
The female (top) was fanning her wings at the male
Two Baltimores on Swamp Milkweed - a most colorful scene
Most male Checkerspots are noticeably smaller than females
I strongly suspect that this female's swollen abdomen is full of eggs
Checkerspots were spilling out of the wetlands and into the upland fields
Common Milkweed is a real draw for nectaring butterflies
All around there were still plenty of Checkerspot Caterpillars 
This Baltimore Checkrspot larva had attached itself to a branch and was starting to shed its skin
The Baltimore Checkerspot Chrysalis is a real jewel  - we found over a dozen of them in one small area
 Each individual Checkerspot Butterfly has a unique patterns of spots
Other Butterflies around include the Striped Hairstreak, which is only as large as a nickle
The Common Wood Nymph  is common in our fields right now