Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Giant Water Bug

I waded into a pond the other day while fishing and this critter came swimming up to me. He was over an inch long with giant pinchers on the front

He swam right to me so I caught him in a bait cup for a photo shoot.

Giant Water Bugs are quite facinating. They eat anything they can catch in those giant pinchers; even baby ducklings.

They can dive underwater for extended periods of time by capturing a bubble of air under their wings. Although they spend most of their time out of the water hanging on to nearby vegetation, they can fly short periods. They winter in the mud in the bottom of the pond.

Giant Water Bugs take in air to survive through air straps on their rear end. They are stress tolerant. They are known toe pinchers, so take care when wading or swimming in a pond near you.

Source: Freshwater Invertebrates of North America by J. Reese Voshell, Jr   

Monday, August 30, 2010

Silver-spotted Skipper

This Silver-spotted Skipper was intent on burying himself in the thistle, wanting to get every last drop of goodness. He paid little attention to me.

I caught him in the last glow of a late summer day. Hard to believe the summer is nearly over. It went so fast.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bambi---all grown up

I love Venison. Hunting is a good thing when it comes to deer. Man and hunger are the only predators left to the Bambi's of this world; hunger is a cold, long, cruel death.

But when I catch a look at a magnificent creature like this whitetail that I saw the other day by the Kankakee River where hunting season opens soon; well, I kind of hope that this guy does what he did to me the other day....

Good Luck Guy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Obedient Plant -- A Motel for Bugs

The Obedient plant is a stunning native wildflower that is currently blooming in Indiana. Its tall spikes of flowers look somewhat like snapdragons, as a result it also goes by the name of False Snapdragon.

The Obedient Plant's square stem places it in the mint family.

The other morning while at Coffee Creek marveling at these plants, I also discovered that the Obedient Plant also makes a good hotel for bugs.      

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's tough being a butterfly

This tiny butterfly was flitting around a field yesterday. It is amazing it could fly at all, given the shape of its wings.

But it flew away before I could get a more definitive  photograph to identify it. It is a survivor; poor, tiny thing.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fishing report

Fields full of flowers and butterflies and fishing so great that I had to pull my line out of the water just to eat a bite of lunch; that's how my fishing day went at the Kankakee River.

My first cast yielded a 13 1/2 inch large mouth. A large mouth slightly smaller appeared on my second cast and so went the morning until about 12:30 when the fish suddenly and abruptly quit biting.

So I hiked up the path and found a shady spot where I could dip my toes in the water and keep cool while I casted my line among some small pan fish. After a while a group of small mouth bass moved in. The biggest was around 12 inches. And so this is how I wiled away the afternoon in heaven.

This is how fishing is this week down the river from the site where they plan to build the trash to ethanol plant; the plant that they plan to build right there in the flood plain of the river.

How long will heaven be here? Where will future fisherpersons cast lines to catch large mouth and small mouth bass all afternoon?    

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Freshwater Mussels

When I was a kid these large, freshwater mussels were abundant. I've been told they were good to eat and I recall seeing the empty shells left over from riverside dinners, although I never ate one.

Today most clams and mussels in Indiana are on the endangered list for many reasons; pollution, nutrients caused by over-fertilization and pet feces; and possible over-harvesting in the past.

The best thing to do if you're lucky enough to see a mussel is to observe and let it be. This mussel was laying flat on the bed of a pond when I found him. He was soon upright as in the picture and was scooting along the bottom of the pond in search of a better bed.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Buckeye Butterfly

Buckeyes seem particularly numerous this year.

Buckeyes don't winter well in the north so they migrate just like monarchs. They aren't picky about host plants; figwort, plantain, stonecrop, and vervain are a few plants they lay eggs on.

I had one little guy hanging onto my fishing arm the other day. I don't know exactly why he liked my arm so well but he held on even as I casted my line out. He did bring me luck, making him the best kind of fishing buddy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Loco Weed

The first time I found this flower it was in my garden and I was entranced. I hadn't planted it and it had seemingly  sprouted up and bloomed in one night. Its beautiful cream and violet blooms had a spicy scent. I thought it had been sent from heaven.

This plant is known by Jimson Weed, Loco Weed, and the devil's trumpet. It is poisonous to humans, pets and livestock.
If it doesn't kill, it makes you mad for a few days.
The plant was used to drug British soldiers in one of the first American rebellions against the British. Several British soldiers were made mad for a few days. They recovered and didn't even remember the event.

The plant should be destroyed, if you find it living with you. Under no circumstances should it be added to stew (a family of six is said to have been hospitalized after eating said stew.)  Too bad it is so poisonous; it is really beautiful.  

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fishing report

I was off to the Kankakee Marsh this week for a little fishing. It was one of the cooler days; still well over eighty degrees.

I wasn't able to get to the river until around noon. My first few casts yielded a nice bullhead; just right for a supper or two.

I fed the turtles for the next two hours and received not a bite from a fish. The turtles and I watched as the fish tantalizingly jumped out of the water every so often; 2-3 lb bass jumping out of the water but not biting. Then, about the time I had to leave, the fish started biting and I caught one after another.

The lesson I received was to come early, plan to stay late, or count on feeding turtles all afternoon in the dog days of summer.

But, the turtles and I sure had a great day!     

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Purple Gerardia

Purple Gerardias are the rare pink blooms among the predominant gold colored wildflowers of this time of year.

This plant is currently flowering at the Indiana Dunes. The lovely blooms were attracting butterflies.   

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A trip to Michigan City

A trip to Michigan City took the heat off one day last week. The lighthouse beckoned from out in the brilliant blue Lake Michigan.

I walked out to the lighthouse and photographed the dunes from a vantage point that is unfamiliar to me; I'm usually climbing the dunes; not looking at them. 


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Royalty of the Dunes

A break in the steamy weather yesterday meant a great day for a hike at the Indiana Dunes.

Monarch butterflies were flitting around all over and I searched the woods and found a caterpillar munching on milkweed.

I love this caterpillar; it reminds me of striped pajamas. When I walked up to take the photos the caterpillar raised its tail at me. I'm always respectful of my subjects and try not to disturb while photographing. He was just finishing up a leaf and kept on munching.  


Monday, August 16, 2010

Bee -- Hind

It's Monday so we're starting off the week as busy as the bees collecting pollen among the flowers at Coffee Creek.

The pollinators are hard at work first thing every morning. There is hardly a flower that doesn't have some insect buzzing around or hiding within its petals.

Click on the picture for a larger view of the pollen laden bee legs.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fishing report--it's hot but the fish are still hungry

Fish were biting inspite of the heat this week.

I was able to get a little fishing in after a job interview; so I stopped in at LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area and made a few casts.

The small panfish were biting even though the mercury was near 100 and I was on melt down.

The sun was beating down on the flowers along the bank of the Kankakee but that didn't seem to bother the butterflies, turtles, or the last of the summer swallows.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Coffee Creek...where the deer play

Early yesterday morning the deer were grazing along the front paths of Coffee Creek Park.

The deer are so used to people that they seldom run and this doe didn't seem disturbed until she saw my two dogs, Rosie and Daisy.

The doe clopped away looking quite annoyed by the early morning intruders.  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marsh Mallow

Early colonists made marshmellows out of Marsh Mallow roots.

The Marsh Mallows can be found blooming here in Indiana anywhere there is marshy, wetland areas. They will bloom through a good part of August. Most are bright pink and stand over three feet high.

If you are out on the trail and get stung by an insect, a Marsh Mallow leaf may provide some relief from the sting.      

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The bug of Milkweed

Hundreds of Milkweed Bugs are munching on milkweed plants now in Indiana. The bugs are really fascinating and easily collected and studied.

The Milkweed Bugs obtain the same bitter taste from the milkweed plant that makes Monarch Butterflies unpalatable to birds and other possible predators. They raise their young right on the plant, chowing all the while.

Up close Milkweed Bugs are really quite beautiful.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mulberry Skipper

This tiny butterfly posed on this leaf for quite some time for me.

The Mulberry Skipper needs wetlands, just like the reconstructed wetland at Coffee Creek, in order to survive. Wetlands are being filled in and are disappearing due to over development of land; endangering the creatures like the Mulberry Skipper that depend on them.

The Mulberry Skipper larvae feed on wetland grasses and sedges. 

source: National Audubon Society North American Butterflies | Blue Heron Moon Photography 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Longlegged Fly in Touch-Me-Not

Yeats' Longlegged Fly could not have been more beautiful than this shiny emerald specimen found hanging out inside a touch-me-not flower recently.

The fly was very still inside the flower and it left me to wonder about its behavior. Was it resting inside? Hunting for prey? Sometimes in nature you don't receive the immediate answers but you do enjoy the beauty.

Click on the picture for a larger view of the tiny fly inside the flower.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Ironweed is a true North American wildflower and is rare in some areas. Ironweed is so named because of its tough stems. It can stand nearly four feet high.

The beautiful purple flowers attract bees and butterflies. Ironweed is currently blooming at Coffee Creek, Willow Slough, and in limited areas by the Kankakee River.   

Friday, August 6, 2010

Woodland Sunflower

The Indiana Dunes is all gold and purple. The gold comes from the new crop of woodland sunflowers shining on the forested dunes.

This sunflower was one that I enjoyed in particular because it was such a good likeness of the sun.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The recent rain we have had has left us with several new mushrooms and lichens popping up in the parks.

This part of Indiana grows some interesting and magical looking fungus.

I enjoy looking at fungus but identification is difficult and dangerous if you make an error. Some fungus is very irritating to even touch. So it is pretty to look at and, unless you are an expert, just looking is best.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dragonfly Days--Dragonfly homes

There wouldn't be any dragonflies without wetlands. Dragonflies depend on wetlands as a place to lay eggs. Wetlands provide the places where dragonfly nymphs grow up. Wetlands also produce most of the food that dragonflies eat.

Wetlands are endangered areas. Not only does pollution affect dragonfly nurseries but land development fills in wetland areas that dragonflies depend on for food.

If you like dragonflies as much as I do, get involved in a wetland conservation program. A good resource and place to learn more about wetlands and how you can help is the Indiana DNR.            

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dragonfly Days Red-Tailed Pennant

When the Red-Tailed Pennant starts making its appearance the last day of summer are upon us.

They are one of the last dragonflies to appear; like a grand finale.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dragonfly days-- Common or Eastern Pond Hawk

This Common Pond Hawk is male. Pond hawks are one of the most plentiful dragonflies you'll observe.

This male is not looking for a blue mate, however. His taste is for a lady in green.

Female Common Pond Hawks are beautiful bright green. The brilliance of the green does fade with age, though. You can always tell a newly metamorphosed dragonfly by the brilliance of its colors.