Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hyla versicolor: the eastern gray treefrog

During the spring and summer this year I was conducting frog call surveys as a part of my graduate research. I found this little juvenile gray tree frog at a mitigation wetland in Whiteside County around 11:00 pm at the end of July. Gray treefrogs have a very distinct call, check it out here. There are actually two species of gray treefrogs in Illinois- the eastern gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) and Cope's gray treefrog. However, they are morphologically identical, and can be very difficult to distinguish in the field. Read more about the two species here.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The beautiful cicada!

A few days ago I was laying on the hammock reading, and I found this cicada in the process of molting and   emerging from its nymph stage. About a meter from the hammock I have a stake in the ground with some cord attached to it, which we use to swing on the hammock. My dog, Kermit, usually stares up into the trees watching the squirrels (perhaps waiting for one to fall?) but he was instead staring at the stake in the ground, indeed, he noticed the odd protrusion near the top of the stake before I did. 

The cicada didn't appear to be moving at all, leading me to believe that it was actually dead. I was a little saddened but this, but also glad that I was at least fortunate enough to see part of this amazing process. However, the next morning when I went to mow the backyard, I immediately noticed the cicada was no longer on the stake. This didn't surprise me, I thought it was likely that something would find it and eat it during the night. But to my shock, I found it alive and well on the ground, a few feet away from the stake. Its wings were fully out and it was moving. I snapped a few photos and carefully placed it on one of the large silver maples in our yard, before cutting the grass. 

Day two:

I am not completely sure what species it is, so if you have some ideas please comment below. I think it might be a Tibicen tibicen,but I am not positive.  
We live in an older neighborhood in Champaign, so there are more cicadas around than in the newer subdivisions, where the top soil has been disturbed and removed. When we first arrived at the end of July in 2011, one of the 13 year broods had just emerged, and the cacophony of cicada singing was deafening, but beautiful. From what I have read online, different broods from various 3-5 year cicada species emerge each summer in Illinois. I enjoy and welcome the sound of the cicada song at night, it makes me feel less like I live in the middle of an urban area, and strangely enough, but perhaps for that reason, it reminds me of New Hampshire. As far as I know, there are no cicada species in NH. In rural New Hampshire, the primary sound from my bedroom window was the wind passing through the forest, rustling the leaves and causing trees to creak. 
Listening to the cicadas as I type this post, while I reminisce about NH, I am reminded of one my favorite poems: 

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Feels like Winter! Finally!

Homer Lake with Louie yesterday.
It has finally started to feel like winter outside, the weather reminds me of New Hampshire. We received about an inch and a half of snow on Thursday, which has actually remained on the ground because temperatures have been low enough. Louie is a tough little guy, he loves the winter weather, freezing gusts of wind, snow, and sleet do not even faze him.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I am still around!

I have neglected this blog for some time now, since I moved to Illinois in August of 2011 (with Jacqui! Who moved out here with me, and I am very grateful to her for doing so!) for graduate school at the University of Illinois. I have a great deal of back-photos and things to share and explore about life in the Midwest and central Illinois (the pancake-flat corn desert!), so check back again very soon! Thanks!

On a transect at a wetland mitigation site in Ogle County Illinois along the Rock River.
Check out the huge amaranth! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

cloud front

click on the image to expand
On our way back from Springfield a few days ago, driving on highway 72 (visited Lincoln's home) there was a cloud front moving east, I pulled over and jumped out of the car to snap a few shots. It actually felt like winter that day, about 15 degrees F, with strong wind gusts. The wide open sky of Illinois can sometimes be quite impressive, the only time out east I would see such an open sky, is in the alpine areas on the top of a mountain.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vintage Stamps

Me and Jacqui visited The Idea Store in Champaign yesterday. It is a store full of a wide assortment of random and interesting items, things that for the most part would likely otherwise be in a landfill. Here people can find a second use for them, for arts and crafts etc. Jacqui found a bunch of ziploc bags full of old/used stamps, from all over world within the last hundred years. Each one is an interesting piece of art in its own right, it is fascinating to consider where they were sent from, to whom, and why, and how they ended up being sold in ziploc bags in east-central Illinois at a thrift store. She started using them for some creative crafts today (so far she has made some really awesome coasters).
  Here is a very small sample from the hundreds of stamps. 

Apparently Belgium had control over Congo for a while, and it was known as the Belgian Congo (wikipedia).

From Japan

I think this is one of the "federal duck stamps," the program, which was started in the 1930s (I think) raised money that was used to protect wetlands around the country
"Family Planning", the "perfect nuclear family." This website discusses the family planning stamps, "...virtually every other Family Planning stamp is from the third world, none are from Europe, and the U.S. would later (under President Reagan) pull out of all international family planing programs."


I think this is from Hungary

the city-state of Monaco


Spain 1979. I think translated this reads, "running, a sport for everyone"

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Here are a few random macroshots form a walk I took a few months back.

McDaniels Marsh, Springfield, NH, [from July]

Since I moved to Illinois for grad school, I've been too busy to keep up with the blog. Below is a blog post from my last trip home to Springfield, NH. My twin brother, me, his girlfriend and one of my best friends from home went paddling at McDaniels Marsh, in Springfield New Hampshire. The McDaniels Marsh Wildlife Management Area covers roughly 600 acres, located off of route 4A, quite close to Gile State Forest (~6600acres). A beautiful wetland system stretches far back around the bend in the pond, around which there are hundreds (thousands?) of acres of forest.

lily pads

old beaver lodge

pickerel weed

looking northeast

Thursday, October 13, 2011

one of my favorite poems

-The Peace of Wild Things-

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stissing Mountain

Looking east from the top of the old 90-foot fire tower on Stissing Mtn.
I went back up Stissing Mountain in Pine Plains NY with several friends this past Saturday. We also jumped in Stissing Lake, at the base of the mountain. It was a perfect day for a hike and swim. 


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 4th Weekend

I was in NH over the holiday weekend. It was one of my last weekends in NH before I leave for grad school in a few weeks. Above are a few shots of the fireworks display at Sunapee Harbor. The fireworks were launched from the water, with dozens of boaters nearby in the water. It was impressive.

I had the chance to go kayaking twice, to Little Lake Sunapee and also to Coniston Lake on Sunday evening.

Ripples and bubbles from a loon diving below while hunting

 It was after 8:30pm when I took most of these photos on Lake Coniston. It was a calm and beautiful evening, and I was the only person on the water. Although campers could be heard from the only development on the lake, a YMCA camp which has a  beach and several lodges along part of the shore, it was a quiet and peaceful paddle.

Two loons were hunting on the lake. I stopped paddling at one point so I wouldn't disturb them and they swam within 40 feet of my kayak. It was already getting dark, so I took these photos with a very high ISO, causing them to be quite noisy.

I paddled into a small cove because there was a small amount of fog beginning to form and it struck my eye. I also enjoy explore vegetated areas along lakes, plenty of plants and animal life to see. Once I was in the cove I noticed a great blue heron perched on a fallen log, hunting for frogs and fish I assume. I let my kayak drift so I could take a few photos but it got spooked and fly off (see photo below). A few minutes later I spotted it again along the shore, below some over-hanging hemlock branches. At this point it was around 9pm and very dark, difficult to get any decent photos. There is a blue heron rookery in a wetland a mile down the road from my house, and about two miles from this lake, I wonder if this heron lives there and this is part of its hunting territory.

I tried to get a panning shot of the heron flying off.
 One of my favorite parts of getting home- the dogs!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Northern Water Snake

On a recent visit to the Fern Glen I spotted a medium-sized northern water snake basking in the sun on a log near the shore of the pond.

 According to the UMass natural resource website, "Water snakes can almost always be counted on to bite, defecate and spray a particularly foul-smelling musk when handled."
It was really tough to get close enough to get a decent photo without spooking the snake away,  so I had to make do with the 60mm I was using at the time. I startled it several times, causing it to shoot into the water, I had to crouch and wait for a while before he was comfortable enough to get back on the log where I could take a photo.

 They have a very dark pattern of red-brown and black cross-bands and "blotches" down the body, making for a subtle beauty, but excellent camouflage for living along the edges of water bodies.

On a much different note...... Two months ago I had the interesting chance to taste northern water snake. A friend was told of a water snake that was just hit on a nearby road, and instead of letting it rot on the road, he  picked it up, skinned it and cooked it (see photo below before it was prepared).

 As you might be able to tell, it was much larger than the individual I photographed in the Fern Glen. If you are wondering, it had a chewy texture with a very mellow taste, difficult to describe or compare with any other meat I've had. They are a protected species in NY, and are illegal to hunt. I hope you get the chance to see a living northern water snake, they are beautiful!