Myth-taken

Moss only grows on the north side of trees. Do survival texts still tell us to look for moss if we want to know which way is north?

It used to be standard rhetoric for Boy Scouts (and presumably any Girl Guide who chose to wander into the woods on her own, unaccompanied by an aforementioned Boy Scout).

Another good story debunked by Mother Nature. This grove of aspens is facing south; each tree sports a dark green collar of moss around its base.

Northside-only moss is on par with leaving a trail of breadcrumbs — best for fairy tales. A compass or GPS makes for a safer travelling companion. 🙂

 

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Commonly Uncommon

This common alpine butterfly is anything but, at least in my experience. I can’t remember seeing one before yet in the space of three days I’ve seen several of them in separate places.

I found the first one on our gravel road, one of its hind wings so badly damaged it couldn’t fly. Unlike many butterflies its distinctive markings made it easy to identify.

Common alpine

The one in the featured photo on this post was a lucky shot—it paused to feed just long enough for me to snap the shutter then it was off. The others I’ve seen have been on the wing, fluttering and flitting and seldom pausing.

Common? Perhaps. Uncommonly beautiful? For sure. 🙂


Common alpine   Erebia episodea

 

Moose on the Loose

For several evenings we’ve been treated to a visit by two young bull moose. They are possibly last year’s calves, out on their own. Or maybe they’re just a couple of teenagers, hanging out together.

They were curious about our deck. One nibbled the edge but decided it wasn’t worth the bite.  Then it was back to what they came for—tender willow leaves.

The bumps on their foreheads? This year’s antlers in the making. The skin, known as velvet, provides blood and nutrients to the growing bone beneath.

Young bull moose dining on willows

Pollen-ated

‘Tis the season! The time when a gazillion grains of pollen float, sift and drift through the air. (And allergy sufferers go into high gear buying Kleenex and antihistamines.)

The small red male cones in the featured photo are the source of this wonder (or misery, depending on your body’s reaction).

The spruce trees in our woods have unleashed a bumper crop of pollen this year. On one tree near the house there were so many red cones it looked like a Christmas tree on steroids.

Everything is covered with a fine yellow film. And I do mean everything. Check out the tiny whitish dots on this bearberry. Pollen.

Bearberry with pollen

Ditto on this wolf spider.

Wolf spider with pollen

Note the pollen trapped on the deer hair snagged in barbwire.

Pollen on animal hair

And on this tiny wild plant.

Leaves and buds with pollen (blueberry?)

And of course, when you turn on the windshield washer you can really see those pollen grains. 🙂

Truck hood with pollen


White spruce   Picea glauca

Remains of the Day

Despite our best efforts to camouflage our windows, a few birds continue to hit the glass. Reflections of the surrounding trees make it look like just part of the forest.

If the birds are lucky it’s only a glancing blow. Others succumb to the impact and die — which is what happened to this ruffed grouse.

We placed her body a few feet into the bush. Within hours all that remained was the feathers.

Who benefitted from her untimely end? Foxes live nearby so perhaps their hunt for a meal was easier today.

Ruffed grouse feathers

Ruffed grouse feathers


Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

 

Laundry Day

One of the pluses of hanging laundry outside — besides that lovely clean small — is the surprises you find when you reel in your clothes.

Yesterday it was this wee jumping spider. She (he?) was sitting in the sun on top of a sheet. As I tried to gather her to safety she spun herself down on a delicate silk thread and landed on the deck.

These little guys personify cuteness. Even some folks who hate spiders grudgingly admit an interest in them.

Get up close to one (how could anything this small hurt the monster that is you?) and you’ll find them curious, turning to look at you and watching your movements.

Jumping spider

The spider I found is not colourful — beige, blonde and black easily blend in with the wooded area where I found her.

If you want colour, check out peacock jumping spiders.

Australian Jurgen Otto has earned a wide following for his study of these psychedelically coloured arachnids — especially since he started adding music to their “dances”.

Take a peek at “YMCA” or “Stayin’ Alive” — bet you’re gonna fall in love with these guys. 🙂


Jumping spider   Pelegrina flavipes ?

Caught in Time

The fluttering of many wings caught my eye as a breeze ruffled through the trees.

It wasn’t a swarm of butterflies, however. Instead I’d found a graveyard of sorts.

Nearly two dozen moths died here and despite months of record snowfalls, they were still more or less intact.

The trap, such as it was, had been made unintentionally by a moose or an elk.

Over the summer male members of the deer family grow antlers. The bony formations are protected and nourished by blood-rich velvet.

Although people have posited that males rub off the velvet because it’s itchy, some scientists say it has more to do with increasing levels of testosterone prior to the rut.

When fall arrives the males search for a young tree to use as a scratching post. The damage to trees and shrubs can be considerable.

The males run their antlers up and down the trunk to rid themselves of the velvet, shredding the bark in long strips and exposing the unprotected wood. The tree’s wounds begin to ooze.

Moths trapped in pitch

What drew the moths here? Did they mistake the sap for water drops? Or was it the sweet taste of sap?

“Sugaring” for moths — painting a sugar solution on trees — is one way to attract and collect moths, butterflies and other insects. Perhaps that’s the answer.

Moth trapped in pitch

I managed not to get any sap on me or my camera. The moths weren’t so lucky. They got stuck, literally and figuratively.