I spent over 4 hours in the woods Sunday wandering around both the stream bottoms and the hill tops. The Forget-Me-Nots are coming on strong, overtaking entire sections of the floodplain, and I noticed a few white violets that are still holding on. I even found one of my favorite wildflowers, Pointed Blue Eyed Grass, but the highlight of the hike was when I found a Black Rat snake attacking a Wood Thrush nest, which will be a separate post since the photos I took warrant their own post.
One of my favorite fungi is the Hemlock Varnish Conk (Ganoderma tsugae). This is the second year in a row that I've photographed Hemlock Varnish Conks at the base of this fallen hemlock. This Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) itself was a huge specimen, so it's sad to see it fallen, but the conks only appear on rotting hemlocks so they wouldn't be around if the tree hadn't died. Interestingly, I've read that in China they make candies out of their varnish conks and apparently they are full of antioxidants.
I am starting to see more and more butterflies on my hikes and this little beauty is a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Pterourus glaucus). Their distinctive yellow color makes them one of the most recognizable butterflies in our area and the photographing them can be pretty frustrating since they rarely stay put for long. But they are aptly named, with the very back of their wings shaped much like a swallow and the bright oranges, blues and yellows all standout well.
Last year I only found one specimen of Pointed Blue Eyed Grass in early June and I have been searching that area for the past few weeks but haven't found any. But then, on Sunday, while hiking a different section of woods and higher the valley, I found a "patch" of them along the trail. I was excited to say the least and I spent considerable time making sure I got clear photographs this year.
While this isn't the best photo I've taken, I wanted to include it because of how I happened upon this Cooper's Hawk. I was climbing out of a deep ravine when I started to hear the harassing call of Blue Jays. It's not unusual for Blue Jays to harass me while I'm in the woods and I just assumed that they were sounding the alarm about me (as they often do) to the other forest dwellers. But as I got closer, I could see the Cooper's Hawk on the ground with a baby Blue Jay in its talons and with all the commotion, I was able to get pretty close to the action. Although both the Cooper's and Blue Jays heard the beep of my camera and it was the distraction that the Cooper need to get away, since that Blue Jays were keeping him grounded from above. As I watched the Cooper's Hawk fly away, with Blue Jays pursuing, I marveled at its ability to swoop in and out of the trees and underbrush until out of sight.
Fungus Beetles deposit their eggs on the fungi on which they feed. Upon hatching, the larvae, like adults, also feed on the fruiting bodies of bracket fungi by gnawing out shallow depressions on the fruiting bodies of fungi. This adult Fungus Beetle was busy feeding on the soft underside of this Hemlock Varnish Conk.
This is the first time this year I've seen Birds-foot Trefoil and even though I only found one patch, soon enough it will be everywhere so keep an eye out for it. I've even found some patches in New York where some of the petals are orange, which I thought was a different species at first, but found that it is just a color variation that some exhibit.
I found this black and blue butterfly fluttering about on a rock bed next to the stream. At first I thought it was a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, but after getting a closer look I realized it was not. So after doing some research, I'm pretty sure it is a Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly (Limenitis astyanax), although the red spots are barely visible in my picture and I think it is more blue than purple.
The adult female Oak Apple Gall Wasp lays single eggs in developing leaf buds which over time produces a "gall." This very large gall grows up to two inches wide, but is usually golf-ball sized. Apple galls have a thin, papery shell and are spongy inside. They are green at first, turning brown later and many will have a small pin hole where the mature wasp exited.