World’s biggest mosquito!

Insect crane fly 1

Everyone is scared of this insect, commonly thought to be the world’s biggest mosquito. But it isn’t a mosquito.  It’s a crane fly.  And it doesn’t bite or sting or cause any harm. Most don’t even eat, except for a bit of nectar. Some people call them mosquito hawks and skeeter eaters. I saw my first crane fly of 2017 on March 25th in my bathroom.  They are really fun to look at. Since their major activity is mating, watch for that pairing. They are so big that a mating pair is quite obvious on your screen door or window.

Insect crane fly wings

Their wings remind me of stained glass.

Insect crane fly antennae

This close up gives you a chance to see their antennae.

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Helicopters, earrings or parrot beaks?

Tree Swamp maple

These are Swamp Maple seed pods. We have all watched maple trees drop seed pods in pairs that twirl like tiny helicopter blades as they spin toward the ground.  Now most young girls have pierced ears. But when I was a kid and we wanted earrings, we split open the seed part of the maple helicopters and carefully stuck them on our ear lobes. My neighbor who is 96 said when she was a kid they stuck them on top of their noses and called them parrot noses.  I had never heard of that! I wonder how many kids today have even heard of making maple pod earrings, much less parrot noses!

Creeping Charlie gets the last laugh!

Flower ground ivy teeth

Careful examination of Creeping Charlie, aka.ground ivy and Gill over the Ground, reveals a flower with an impressive mouthful of teeth and baleen (a tough material that hangs down from the upper jaw of whales without teeth and is used by the whale to filter small ocean animals out of seawater).  What else would you call it? Instead of filtering small ocean animals, my guess is this baleen’s function is to tickle insect wings and backs.

Flower henbit 3

Here is the promised Henbit photo in better focus. And finally a new spring flower:

flower speedwell

Meet the hairy Speedwell! I think it’s called Creeping Speedwell, Threadstalk Speedwell and Whetzel weed. I don’t think it is Persian Speedwell, Veronica persica, Veronica Speedwell, Common field Speedwell or Bird’s-eye Speedwell. Invasives from the lower slopes of Asia’s rainy mountains, they are all members of the Plantain Family. You’ll be introduced to more Plantain as it gets warmer. Since Speedwell usually flowers from June through September, my bet is this is the Winter Speedwell. The flowers are very small. What you’ll see from a standing position is a tiny, obviously blue dot on the ground. After you bend over for a better look, check out the kidney-shaped leaves.

 

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Does sand get stuck between a raccoon’s toes?

 

sand 2

It definitely gets stuck between my toes… Mine may not be as furry but I suspect they are as leathery…

Sand 1

When was the last time you really looked at sand? This came out of the toe of my shoe…

Sand 3

Do you think Canada geese ever get particles of sand stuck between their webbed toes?

 

fire

In closing, warm thoughts to all who are feeling the chill today!

 

Meadowlark Lemon is a color!

bird-meadowlark-1

Have you ever seen a more wonderful lemon color? Shouldn’t it be called Meadowlark Lemon? 3/1/17 a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks stalked through our lawn, probing the ground for insects with their long, sharp bills.

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On the ground, their brown and black dappled upper parts camouflage the birds in the dry grasses. This was my first view, so hard to see I got out my spotter scope. That allowed me to try to take some photos through the scope with my iPhone.  Hard to do but worth trying.

bird-meadowlark-2

This is the mate. They are chunky, medium-sized songbirds with short tails and a sweet, lazy, repertory of flute-like whistles. The Eastern male meadowlark sings 50-100 songs. Sounds like we should compare the Eastern Meadowlark with the Northern Mockingbird! Both like to sing from exposed perches.

bird-meadowlark-pair

Male and female look alike. We rarely see them.I keep records in our Sibley. Prior sightings were 3/31/05, 3/18/10, and 3/22/14.

 

Welcome to the Spring Flower Show of Southern Maryland!

flowers-spring-pussywillow

Pussy willows are my weakness so I had to start my Spring Flower Show of Southern MD with them! These were cut from a bush I am trying hard to protect from local beavers.

Then come the camellias. These are the only two varieties that have survived a string of harsh winters and they only bloom if the winter is mild. One cold snap at the wrong moment and all the buds freeze, leaving us to dream about what could have been if only…

flowers-spring-winter-jasmine

Cora’s winter jasmine are a reliable special treat. Somehow they always bloom, no matter what the weather does.

flower-spring-swamp-maple

Not many people are  happy to see swamp maples in full bloom. It means tree allergy season has arrived. But they are amazingly beautiful, sparkling gold against red.

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And for all you wild edibles lovers, the tiny white blossoms covering the ground are a reminder to collect and enjoy winter cress right now, before it goes to seed.

flower-spring-cabbage

Last but not least is a cabbage left over from the Winter Flower Show! Who could resist that color?! Please sign up for my blog so you don’t miss a day!

That couldn’t possibly be an eagle!

Who ever heard of a bald eagle with a brown head and a white belly? Eagles have white heads and dark brown bellies, don’t they? Adult eagles do. But eagles don’t reach adulthood until they are about 5 years old. Baby eagles and juvenile eagles go through many stages of color combinations as they molt their way to maturity. Those two birds above are not ospreys or peculiar vultures. They are juvenile eagles. Check the pair out as they enjoy the view from a sycamore tree!

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Looks like an eagle in reverse…

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Check out the bent-over neck and head of this one. The first eagle has a brown head but this eagle’s feathers are mixed brown and white. Remind yourself when bird-watching, if the body is as big as an eagle’s, it probably is an eagle! Then try to figure out whether it is one, two, three or four years old or if it is a mature adult.