Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall walk along the river finding caterpillars

By the time I get home from work it is usually dark this time of year so I have not seen much of the fall colors and was surprised at how everything had changed in just one week. Not wanting to waste time in the car, I went to the closest place to my home which is the Shenandoah River. I took the path that runs along the river so I could have the best of both worlds, the river and the forest.

Be sure to click on all the photos for a better view.
The water is low so I was able to walk out into the river onto an island and there I found several wild flowers still in bloom. I have no idea what they are. I think one is a fall aster.
Update: Woodswalker says that they are Knapweek, a Aster and a Mustard.

Surprisingly I found about ten Wooly Bear caterpillars, all with different band widths. Kind of blows all theories out the window but it is still fun to speculate.

I watched the whirly gig beetles for awhile. Every time I would get close they would scatter and then slowly come back toward the shore. They are unusual because they have eyes that are split with part on top and part on the bottom so they can see both in the water and out of the water.

Back on the shore I slowly walked down the trail inspecting leaves and the ground for anything unusual. First off was a nice Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus) mushroom next to one of the big Sycamore trees that line the water way. The mushroom made a pretty picture but I don’t think it is edible, at least not by me.
Update: Woodswalker wrote that Shaggy Mane is very good to eat when it is young. Hummm, I think I will let her pick and cook up a bunch for me.  I'm still timid about eating them.

On down the trail I spotted another caterpillar as large as my index finger. It was a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar (Hypercompe scribonia). I think it is one of the more interesting moths that come to my porch light in the summer. It was hanging upside down and not eating which makes me think it might be getting ready to pupate. It didn’t move at all while I was taking photos.

This trail goes along the river and then into a meadow and I was inspecting flowers and galls on “wing stem” all along the way. It had already taken me about an hour and half to take the normal fifteen minute walk.

Then I saw the most unusual thing. A stink bug had stabbed a green caterpillar and seemed to be stuck. I wonder if the bug thought the caterpillar was a fat leaf.

Near that battle was a male spider on wing stem. I could tell he was a male because he had large boxing glove like palps. I moved in to take a photo and he charged at the camera making me jump back for my very life. Usually spiders drop down onto the ground or run back into their holes and hiding places. Enough of Mr. Spider, I was outta there.

I moved to the other side of the trail to see if it was more normal. Inside a bent Paw Paw leaf I found a Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tesselaris) that is very common around here this time of year. But this one had been parasitized and had three eggs attached to it. I thought the caterpillar did look a little sickly.

It seems to be caterpillar season because my next find was very tiny and something I had never seen before. I think it is a Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) caterpillar but I am not certain. It was so small and was attended by three ants.

By now it was way past lunch and I could have used a couple of ants to attend to my needs so I turned and walked back down to trail. My last parting shot was this photo of a walnut shell stuck in the mud. Doesn’t it look like the face of an owl?

Be sure to visit other great places at My World Tuesday


Sylvia K said...

Oh, I think you did indeed have the best of both worlds! What a beautiful place and your photos are breathtaking! Thanks so much for sharing!

Have a great week!


Tabib said...

Great and beautiful collection.
Thanks for showing your world.

J Bar said...

Great scenery. Interesting post.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Woodswalker said...

So many finds on what you called a "fast walk"! You did indeed find asters (which kind, it's hard to tell from a photo), also knapweed and some kind of mustard (yellow). And yes, Shaggy Manes are edible and tasty, if you pick them young and cook them long enough to evaporate all the water they release. Great shots of that stuck stink bug! Poor things!

Thanks for the wonderful ramble.

Coffeedoff said...

Beautiful photos, love the walnut owl!

Trillium said...

A cornucopia of delights! You have a magical eye! I could wander for hours at your side!

Di said...

Found your wonderful blog via Skywatch via another blogger who said I should join. Full circles are indeed wonderful. Beautiful photography!

Squirrel said...

Wonderful collection of photos!

Happily Retired Gal said...

Thanks so much for sharing your walk with us virtually through your marvelous photographs.
Hugs and blessings,

Erin said...

these were fab photographs...enjoyed your post so very much.

Trillium said...

Whhooooo Whooooo Whooooo-hoo you think yooooou are? A nature writer?
Yes indeed!

Jackie Callahan said...

Great Post! I loved the caterpillar photos but my favorite was the whirlygig looks like a beautiful abstract painting..and I was fascinating info about whirlygig eyes, fascinating!