CIHA Fen (or is it Chia?)

The Iowa Native Plant Society had a wildflower walk at CIHA fen in Johnson County today.  The first thing we had to figure out was how to pronounce the name.  I am not sure we got the definitive answer, but the consensus seemed to be that it was pronounced in the same way the little terracotta animals that were sold on TV (chia pets) were pronounced.

This is a very unique area.  As usual, my focus was mostly on butterflies, including this first of the year for me Peck’s skipper.

Meadow fritillaries were very common, including five on a some scat that was on the trail.  I took photos, but instead I will show a single individual on a flower.

There were some damselflies and dragonflies as well, including this azure bluet.

Have you ever eaten wild strawberries?  They are a special treat.  They are sweeter than the domestic ones, and have a little bit of tartness (although they are still less tart that most other fruits).  I have run across them in other locations, and have been lucky enough to eat some.  But the wild strawberries were thick here, and probably at their peak ripeness.

Great spangle fritillaries were also common here, and fresh enough to have very bright colors.

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Searching for Something

I went to Christiansen Forest Preserve with my camera today.  It was humid and cloudy, and seemed ready to rain.  It seemed a little too cloudy for butterflies, but I was hoping that I find something that inspired me a little.

This harvestman was walking along a leaf.  It was kind of cute, but it wandered off rapidly before I could get many photos.

I also did not get a good look at this tiny beetle.

There were some unusual looking mushrooms along the trail.


I did see one butterfly–this red admiral landed along the trail and allowed me to get close enough to get a picture.

I wasn’t out long–less than an hour.  It was starting to sprinkle by the time I quit.  I am not sure what I was looking for, and I don’t think I found it.  But I might have been close.

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Critters from Yesterday and Today

I have been lucky enough to get out and chase butterflies and other critters this weekend.  Yesterday I went to Big Creek State Park in Polk County, Iowa and today I went to Medora Prairie in Warren County, Iowa.

This summer azure was in the sand near the lake at Big Creek.

Chasing butterflies often involves crawling on my elbows and belly on the mud and the sand.  I took a photo of one of the road hazards, probably left by a goose.  My better judgement has taken over, so I will spare you the photo.

While walking in the weeds near the lake, I almost stepped on a turtle which seemed to be depositing her eggs.

Northern painted turtle, I think.  There was too much grass for me to get a good shot without disturbing her more, so I left.

Nearby were a number of holes.  This seems to be an old nest, and the white things seem to be the remains of egg shells.  My guess is that a small mammal found and preyed on the nest contents.  But I am no expert.

I took a path in the woods and found this fly.  I think it is Chrysopilus ornatus, the ornate snipe fly.

Today was great for butterflies at Medora Prairie.

There were several great spangled frittilaries around, flying along the roadway and feeding on the dogwoods.

Little wood satyrs fly low along the weeds near the access road.  When they land they move in rapid little jerks if they are in the open.  Otherwise they land deep in the midst of weeds where they are difficult to photograph.

This gray comma flew out and landed on my legs a couple of times.  It proved to be somewhat difficult to photograph, even though it was not shy at all.

I saw a nice dragonfly, which I have not identified yet.

This Delaware skipper is in the jet fighter basking pose that is typical of grass skippers.

The butterflies sort of refreshed my soul today.


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Spring Awakening

I went to a “Spring Awakening Bioblitz” event in Cordova Park, Marion County Iowa today.  With a three-hour timeframe, it was more of a wildflower walk than a formal bioblitz.  Still, it was quite pleasant to get together with a few like-minded people to wander around in the woodlands.

As I usually do, I walked around with my camera and got off task.  Mostly I found myself taking pictures of insects and spiders, like this unidentified bug.

 A little farther down the trail I came across a small spider on a leaf.

I don’t take photos of the flowers so much anymore because I don’t take the tripod when I am chasing bugs, but I could not resist taking a picture of this wild ginger flower.

After about two and a half hours, I was tired and thirsty, so I went back to the shelter and finished off some coffee I had brought.  A small jumping spider found its way to the picnic table where I was sitting, and explored the coffee cup.

It even found its way up the straw.

I had a fairly pleasant morning.



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Today’s New Friend

Yesterday I made friends with a toad.  Today I made friends with a frog.

The northern cricket frog looks a lot like a toad, being kind of gray and having warts.  But it is a frog, a tree frog that does not climb in trees.   They remain fairly small, only a couple of inches long at the most.

Since I have moved, I no longer get to hear the songs of the frogs that I used to.  That is something I miss more than most people would.

But I still hear them occasionally.

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Making Friends with a Toad

I found a little county park near where I live and wandered around with my camera.

Kind of a nice area.

I found a toad and made friends with him.

Sometimes girls will kiss a frog, thinking he will turn into a prince.  I don’t think they kiss toads so much.

We had an interesting conversation then he hopped away.

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In a week when we have seen a man shot by his dog and a boy killed in an accidental shooting, we get an ad for a second amendment sale.

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

What part of this seems “well regulated?”  What part of this makes you more secure?  What part of this contributes to freedom, particularly if you wish to voice an opinion that differs from someone who has one of these evil things?

Guns are not toys.

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A Modest Success

Last week I went to Waubonsie State Park and photographed butterflies.  I saw a lot of Henry’s elfin, and got some pretty good photos of them.  I also saw a lot of zebra swallowtails and took a lot of terrible photos of that species.  They did not sit down for me.

So yesterday I thought I would try again with the zebras.  The butterfly fauna on the wing has changed in just a week.  Unlike last week, I saw several flying while I was driving.  I never know for sure, but I think they were red admirals.  Henry’s elfins did not seem to be out.  I did see a couple of small black butterflies chasing each other, and I assumed they were Henry’s.  One sat down briefly and I took its picture, but did not look at it closely.  It flew off before I could get another shot.  When I looked at my pictures after I got back home, I saw that it clearly was not an elfin–it was a skipper.  I think it was a northern cloudy-wing, but I am not sure I can say that for sure from this angle.

I watched the zebra swallowtails again this time.  I did see them nectaring this time, and also sitting on the ground.  I was able to get a somewhat better picture this time.

This is a lot better photo than I got last week.  It is still not a drop the mic, do a little dance, quality picture.  But maybe I will get that later.

Success is not easy, and sometimes it is measured in small increments.  This is not what I was shooting for, but I will take it.

A small success is still a success.

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Redbud Strangeness

Henry’s elfin is a small butterfly that I have searched for often.  In Iowa the only identified caterpillar host plant for this butterfly is redbud.  As a result, I have spent a lot of time looking for and at redbud trees.

One unique characteristic of this plant is where the flowers can come from.  Like most flowering trees, the branches and twigs have flowers.  Unlike most trees, buds often come out from the bark of the trunk or thick branches.

On the tree I was inspecting today the flowers are not quite out yet, making an interesting and attractive mass along with the wet lichens.

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A Bandage for my Bleeding Heart

I moved into my new apartment in the middle of winter.  I saw that there were flower beds, but I could not tell what was in them.

Right outside my bedroom window, there is a bleeding heart plant.

Just what I needed.

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