Posts Tagged Wildlife

Turkey Vultures on a Rainy Day

These vultures decided to hang out high atop our neighbor’s tree during a recent day-long rainstorm:

Turkey Vultures - rainy day

Turkey Vultures – rainy day

There may be a third vulture on the branch behind the big clump of pine cones near the trunk.

This seems about as disgusted as a vulture can appear:

Turkey Vultures - rainy day - detail

Turkey Vultures – rainy day – detail

I think that’s a young vulture, without the red face of more mature specimens.

They spent most of the day there, then flew off about their business. We’re sure they spent most of the next day drying out.

Taken with the (new-to-me) DSC-H5 and 1.7× teleadapter; no extra charge for the purple fringes.



Mystery Caterpillar Revealed: Spilosoma virginica

The Mystery Caterpillars emerged from their cocoons over the course of several days, whereupon we finally identified them as Yellow Bear caterpillars who became Virginia Tiger Moths.

Moth 1, with wonderful antenna fringes identifying him as a male:

Spilosoma virginica 1 - right

Spilosoma virginica 1 – right

Moth 2, a female with smaller antenna:

Spilosoma virginica 2 - right

Spilosoma virginica 2 – right

Moth 3, another male:

Spilosoma virginica 3 - dorsal

Spilosoma virginica 3 – dorsal

The underside is diagnostic (ignore the crud on the aquarium glass):

Spilosoma virginica 3 - ventral

Spilosoma virginica 3 – ventral

We set each one on the goldenrod plant inside the garden gate, whereupon they charged up in the sun for an hour or so, then flew off about their business. They may eat a few leaves in the garden, but they’re not particularly harmful to anything and entitled to a peaceful life.

I must organize all their pictures into a life history.


Buck Season

This eight-pointer was one of two browsing in the back-yard grove:

Eight point buck deer in velvet

Eight point buck deer in velvet

The other was a mere four-pointer. In a few weeks they’ll get all feisty and browse the grove in shifts.

The notion of a “suburban hunting license”, perhaps with crossbows, may eventually gain traction.

A few days later, Mary awoke to a great clattering caused by a buck fighting free of the slot between the garden’s mesh “deer fence” and the neighbor’s wood fence, flattening the corner post in the process. A similar encounter a few years ago ended poorly.



Each of the three Mystery Caterpillars wandered around the aquarium for a few minutes, found a spot surrounded by leaves, and tucked themselves into their cocoons.

The smallest one went first and probably got the best site:

Mystery Caterpillar - Cocoon 1

Mystery Caterpillar – Cocoon 1

The medium one:

Mystery Caterpillar - Cocoon 2

Mystery Caterpillar – Cocoon 2

The largest caterpillar munched the leaf around the new cocoon and removed some of the silk (?) wrapper. It looks like the caterpillar’s fur falls off and becomes insulation inside the wrapper.

The large one with mostly black fur managed to bind two leaves together:

Mystery Caterpillar - Cocoon 3

Mystery Caterpillar – Cocoon 3

The Monarch remained calm, well above the scramble:

Monarch Chrysalis - with skin

Monarch Chrysalis – with skin

The caterpillar’s skin (or whatever it is) remained loosely attached to the outside.

All of which puts me in mind of Della Lu:


I wonder what they’re thinking after they type Y E S …


Praying Mantis

It’s the season for large insects, but this Praying Mantis came as a surprise:

Praying Mantis on screen

Praying Mantis on screen

Mary spotted it on the outside of the window screen in the front bathroom. We watched it for ten minutes as it strolled around the screen, all the while keeping at least one compound eye aimed at us.

If humans were half as tall, those things would be terrifying!

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Mystery Caterpillars

This being caterpillar season, we put a mystery egg mass on a Swiss Chard leaf into a small container:

Mystery Caterpillar - eggs on Swiss Chard

Mystery Caterpillar – eggs on Swiss Chard

I think the darker egg was a dud, because two days later they all hatched and ate their egg cases, leaving that one behind:

Mystery Caterpillar - hatched

Mystery Caterpillar – hatched

Mary deported them to the trash, put two on a leaf in an aquarium on the kitchen table, and, eight days later:

Mystery Caterpillar - 8 days

Mystery Caterpillar – 8 days

They’ve been chowing down on spare garden greenery; unlike Monarchs, they eat what’s set before them.

One has dark “fur”:

Mystery Caterpillar - black morph

Mystery Caterpillar – black morph

The second is lighter:

Mystery Caterpillar - brown morph

Mystery Caterpillar – brown morph

A third caterpillar escaped the trash can apocalypse and also resides in the aquarium, albeit stunted by its ordeal:

Mystery Caterpillar - pale morph

Mystery Caterpillar – pale morph

They’re too bristly to be Wooly Bears. I’m sure they’ll turn into nondescript brown moths.


Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars By The Handful

Monarch butterfly eggs occur in onesie-twosies on each milkweed plant, but Tussock Moths carpet-bomb the leaves with eggs that hatch pretty much all at once:

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars - detail

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars – detail

With a population density like that, the plant doesn’t stand a chance:

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

A few hours later, they were gone and so were the leaves! Presumably, they’re traveling across the ground to the adjacent milkweed plants; one or two may find our patio.

Despite all the egg-laying we saw, we haven’t seen any Monarch caterpillars out there.