Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dragonfly Days -- Common Whitetail

Whitetails love to hang out at the edges of ponds or hang out on bridges over streams.

They are relatively easy to photograph. They aren't shy like some dragonflies. 

This Whitetail was patrolling a bridge at Coffee Creek for mosquitoes.    

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dragonfly Days -- Saddlebags...ahem...courtship

The female Black Saddlebags Dragonfly will soon be laying eggs in a nearby pond. This couple was photographed in their room with a view at the Indiana Dunes.

Dragonflies can take up to two years to develop from aquatic nymphs to flying adults. The little ones will spend time in the pond eating tadpoles, mosquitoes and other tasty aquatic insects.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dragonfly Days -- Parts of Dragonfly

Dragonflies can sometimes be frustrating to identify especially when you are comparing similiar colored dragonflies. Knowing what to look for in examining different species will assist you in identification. This picture shows the names of the different parts of a dragonfly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dragonfly Days -- Halloween Pennant

This dragonfly is all dressed up for Halloween with its orange tinted wings with black spots.

Click on the picture to view a bigger picture where you will be able to see the bright red-orange stigma at the top edge of each wing tip.

I found this guy hanging out in a field after an Indiana rain shower.   

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dragonfly Days -- Blue Dasher

Some dragonflies just beg to be photographed. This little guy sat and posed and waited and posed some more. At one point I think he was waving his little leg at me; telling me to take the photo already!

Blue Dashers are easier to photograph than a lot of dragonflies because, besides being hams, they have assigned perches. If you disturb them by walking past them on the path, they generally go right back to the same branch and perch.

That branch he's sitting on....that's his branch.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dragonfly Days -- Widow Skimmer

Dragonflies are wondrous creatures. Starting out in ponds and wetlands as aquatic beings, they look like little tanks hunting for mosquito larva, beetles, or an occasional tadpole.

They may take a couple of years to metamorphosis into an adult; leaving their childhood skin hanging on a blade of grass at pond's edge.

As adults they also hunt those pesky mosquitoes; sometimes the dragonfly will follow a human down a trail, grabbing and munching the critters the human scares up.

The dragonfly in the picture is a Widow Skimmer. The yellow and brown color of the body means that it has just metamorphosed; later its body will turn a blueish, chalky, white. The white spots on its wings indicated that this is a male; females lack the spots.

Sources and more info: Wikipedia;

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Daisy Fleabane

Nature's cycle has made 2010 another daisy fleabane year in this corner of Indiana. Fields are white with the tiny flowers of this member of the Aster family.

These photo's were taken during my Kankakee fishing expedition.

The last "Daisy Fleabane year" was 2006 which seemed to be a hot and drier year than we have had of late.

Blue Herons appear around every bend of the trail this year too. The drier conditions mean that backwaters are drying up and tadpoles and frogs are plentiful food.

On a hot and humid day in 2006 I walked up to a pool that was drying up; stranding hundreds of big bullfrog tadpoles in various stages of development. With nothing but my hands to use as a container I carried as many as I could to the nearest water; probably robbing the herons of some easy dinner.

Each time I returned to the pool to get more tadpoles there would be more tadpoles crawling onto my blue fishing rod case; I think they knew I was their only chance; or maybe they just liked the case's blue color.

Daisy Fleabane was once thought to repel fleas; thus the name.      

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fishing report--it's hot but the fishing's great!

Went down to the Kankakee River this week for a little fishing; the first I've done since Memorial Day Weekend. I know some day I will regret that I took so many days off from fishing to work; but oh well.

It was hot out there; even the birds were panting in the shade. The water in the fishing hole was very warm; I'm really surprised that the fish were as active as they were. I caught and released a couple of good sized large mouth bass, a few bullheads and an assortment of bluegill and crappie, in between feeding the turtles.

I climbed right into the warm water with the fish to stay cool myself. By climbing I mean I shimmied down a five foot bank with fishing rod. At one point I had a seventeen inch large mouth on as I stood in the water;  the fish swam up to my legs and looked up at me in shock. I don't know what he expected but I wasn't it. I looked kind of silly climbing back up that bank with fishing rod and 17 inch bass in tow so that I could remove the hook without losing my pole. The fish looked thankful when I returned him to the water. I hope to see him another day.      

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chowing Skeeters

Mosquitoes seem to be particularly numerous and vicious this year.

This little guy was sitting on a big slab of rock near Coffee Creek yesterday morning chowing some of those skeeters.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...well almost

Today, since it seems to be a blog tradition, I decided to offer up an almost wordless Wednesday. Just one thing; what's with the deer (below) with the beard?  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Pickerelweed is a swamp and wetland plant. They are just beginning their bloom at Coffee Creek.

The name comes from a fish that likes to hang out in the water around the plants; pickerel. I've never caught a Pickerel; nor even met one in my fishing adventures. In fact, Pickerel are listed only once in the Indiana DNR fishing facts and regulations pamphlet, in a reference to fish that might be caught in Ohio River in Southern Indiana.

The Pickerelweed provides food and/or shelter for aquatic invertebrates,  muskrats, deer, and ducks. It also produces a nut-like seed that is edible for humans.  The leaves are also edible.        

Monday, July 19, 2010

Queen Anne's Lace

OK. I dare you to tell me that, as a kid,  this flower did not inspire a sense of wonder.

It starts out as a little green basket and then overnight you have big, lacy white flowers. You find its name truly fits the flower. But what is that black spot?

Myth says that it is a drop of Queen Anne's blood; that she pricked her finger on a needle while making the lace.

The black spot is simply a black floret. Queen Anne's Lace is an import from Europe. It is a member of the carrot family, in fact, our carrots are direct decendants of this plant.

Queen Anne's Lace is important to the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly and other insects; and thousands of childhood memories.      

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Deptford Pink

With a flower that is smaller than a fingernail and a stalk that can be three feet tall, the deptford pink is flower that is delicate yet difficult to overlook when blooming.

The first time I spotted a Deptford I was troubled by two things; how difficult it is to photograph due to its small size and what kind of name is Deptford?

Today I finally had time to research my puzzlement over the name. Apparently it was mistaken for another flower and was named after a place in London where it has never grown. Botanical names rarely, if ever, get corrected so it will remain Deptford Pink forevermore.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Enchanter's nightshade

Sparkling like a string of pearls in the sun dappled shade of the forest, Enchanter's Nightshade certainly enchanted me.

The ever so tiny flowers are one of the only two petaled flowers in the world. The plant fruits into the sticker type seed shown and so is easily dispersed.

The name comes from Circe of Greek mythology and the Odyssey. Circe was a lesser Goddess who used a potion to drug Odysseus' men and turn them all into pigs. Odysseus fought back with a potion of his own, the men were turned back into men, and  everyone spent a year eating and drinking to celebrate. They don't make potions like that anymore!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Daisy in the Wildflowers

The wildflowers at Coffee Creek are reaching their prime; if you are in the neighborhood stop by and enjoy a walk.

The other morning my faithful companion in Hoosier Safari got her head in the picture. She's a Westie named Daisy and she enjoys the early morning hikes as much as I do. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wild Bergamot

The best thing about Wild Bergamot is that it starts out as a tiny green package sitting on top of a tall stalk of green. You would miss it among all the green of early July if you weren't paying attention.

A few days later, as the packages expand and open into flowers, it becomes impossible to miss.

Wild Bergamot is in full bloom now and is very plentiful in Indiana; especially at Coffee Creek. It's a member of the mint family and makes a wonderful tea that is great when you have the flu or a cold.

This plant also goes by the name of Bee Balm. Due to its antiseptic properties it has been used to treat minor skin conditions and gingivitis.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Lilies of Sunset Farm

Sunset Hill County Park in Porter county includes some lovely garden areas. A variety of lilies are currently putting on a show.

Lilies always start me thinking of the movie and song "Lili" with Leslie Caron.

The song begins..."A song of love is a sad song...."

Monday, July 12, 2010


Touch-me-nots are blooming in the shade at many area parks.

These plants are said to be good for treating a myriad of skin ailments; rashes, poison ivy, athletes foot. 

They blow seed out of their seed pods when you touch or brush up against them; thus the name touch-me-not. They also shine like tiny little jewels in the shade. Which reminds me of another name for them; Jewelweed.    

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pearly Crescentspot

Some butterflies are easier than others to photograph. They seem to enjoy posing for pictures, patiently opening and closing their wings.

The Pearly Crescentspot is a ham. They are numerous this time of year and like to lay their eggs on Asters.

This little guy was fluttering over the fields of wildflowers at Coffee Creek one sweltering morning this week but stopped to investigate me and the dogs. He posed patiently for this photo.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Wild Sarsaparilla

Wild Sarsaparilla flowers glow in the darker areas underneath the trees at Coffee Creek. They appear like hundreds of bright little snow balls hanging near the ground.

Wild Sarsaparilla flowers appear on a single stalk and most are without leaves near or around them. The leaves apparently fall from the plant just before the flowers appear, making identification with leaves and flower impossible in most cases.

Because they appear with just the naked flower on a stalk they are also called the Devil's Walkingstick.

The rhizomes are said to have a multitude of medicinal purposes.     

Source: Audubon Wildflower Fieldguide

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Here is the cornflower blue of poets.

Grind the roots and make a decaf coffee substitute as they did in American Civil War days.

Throw some in a salad and call it French endive.

Chicory makes a great plant to feed pasture animals.

It is hinted that it would make a great medicinal plant, although this is not proven.

Chicory was imported from Europe into America. No wonder; it's so easy to grow and so versatile.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Blue-eyed Grass

This flower is very small...smaller than your pinkie finger nail.  Blue-eyed grass is not really a grass at all, it belongs in the Iris family.

This specimen was photographed at the Indiana Dunes, where it is not abundant.

Its delicate blue blossoms belong in a long lost prairie where, I can only imagine, a carpet of tiny blue stretches all the way to the horizon.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bottlebrush Grass

Looking at a sample of Bottlebrush Grass will leave you with no question about how it got its name.

The grass was used by pioneers to clean bottles and the hard to reach places that we use bottlebrushes for today.

Why is this grass even worth blogging about? Even though it is not a showy wildflower, at least three species of moth and butterfly larva depend on this grass for food.

Even the most mundane looking plants have a place in the general scheme of things.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A damsel in distress

See that tiny speck of blue in the picture to the left? If it weren't for the brilliant blue of this damselfly I might have missed it as I hiked down a path at the Indiana Dunes last week.

How the damsel fell into the sandy path is a mystery. Since it is so brilliantly blue, it appears to be newly metamorphosed but since the path is far water it must have been carried by a bird or human and dropped accidentally into the sand.

I rescued it from the sand and placed it onto the foliage along the path. When last seen it looked as if it might live to eat a few mosquitoes that have been hatching in the same wetland area where it grew up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Story of Tiny Tads becoming Tiny Frogs

At the end of the Calumet Bike Trail near the Indiana Dunes there is a service road that is often flooded in the spring and early summer as the bog creeps in.

During this period of flooding tiny frogs move in, lay eggs and miniature tad poles turn into more tiny frogs. The process takes as long as it needs to...the tadpoles take their time turning into frogs as long as the puddles don't dry up.

In years when the weather is hot and dry the tadpoles may turn to frogs within 2 weeks. In other, wetter years the tads take their time and could take a month or longer to become miniature frogs. Here's a photo album of this year's youngsters:

A tadpole on June 17th

In various stages of development on June 26 (compare the size of the frogs and tads to the newsprint and cell phone in the background)

Becoming a frog on June 26th

Tiny Frogs on July 1st

Friday, July 2, 2010

Indiana Dunes Lakeshore

The Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore offers miles of sandy beaches. Where in the world can you find a beach as lovely as this one on a hot summer day with not a person in sight?

The water is cold, clean, and clear for wading or a quick swim. The sky is blue and on clear days you can see the Chicago skyline in the distance; a busy work-a-day world across an expanse of crystal blue water.

If you come for a visit, this is a "leave no trace" area. Carry your garbage out and keep the park clean to protect the wildlife and delicate ecosystems, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

During a recent visit beachcombing yielded some brightly colored pebbles sifted from the sky blue waters and the whispering water soothed my soul.        

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Culver's Root

Culver's Root is blooming at Coffee Creek. Culver's Root is one of the rarer indigenous wildflowers and appear often in greatly disturbed areas so we're lucky to have it in Coffee Creek.

The plant is named after a physician that used the plant for medicinal purposes. It's said that its bitter root will clean you out.

Source:; Audubo Fieldguide to Wildflowers Eastern Region