Oct 222014
 

On a sunny, blue-sky Wednesday afternoon, I returned to one of my favorite subjects along Piney Woods Church Road — strands of horsehair in a barbed wire fence.  Here, they catch the light (and breeze) to become flowing, cosmic forms.

 

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Oct 122014
 

On my journey back toward home down Piney Woods Church Road, an unexpected brown and white horse trotted over to the barbed wire fence in a pasture that had previously been empty.  The horse seemed enthused about receiving attention, perhaps because he or she (I did not bother to investigate which) was all alone in the field.  I suspect I will visit with him to provide head and neck scritchings on many future walks.

 

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Oct 112014
 

Number Thirteen, a cow born sometime in 2012, stares watchfully at the photographer as he makes his evening rounds along Piney Woods Church Road.

 

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Sep 182014
 

On my morning Piney Woods Church walk today, I wandered to the edge of a patch of weeds in search of a flower, and ended up discovering a roadside zoo.  I walked from one end of the road to the other, the intersection with Hutcheson Ferry Road.  Looking down the road, I saw a brilliant red trumpet-shaped flower vining up a sweetgum sampling in the road bank.  I waked down the road to examine it; then, turning to look back, I noticed the same flower scattered throughout the patch of weeds.  I strolled into the grass-lined gully beside Piney Woods Church Road, to get a couple of close-ups of the lovely blooms.  They turned out to belong to the Small Red Morning Glory (Ipomoea coccinea), a native of tropical America that has become naturalized to moist soil and waste places throughout the Southeast.

 

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I had just finished a series of photographs when I felt something on my leg.  I glanced down, and saw a black beetle, about an inch in length.  I am proud to say that I did not react right away to flick it away, but instead started taking pictures.  It seemed quite inquisitive and almost “cute”, in a beetle-ish sort of way.  After half a dozen pictures, I gently flicked the top of my sock to send him (or her) onto the grass.  There, I took another few photographs.  This quite charming beetle turned out to be none other than the Margined Blister Beetle (Epicauta funebris).  Evidently I was wise not to perturb it; as Bill Bixby used to remark on the 1980s TV show, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  In this case, the blister beetle evidently secretes a caustic chemical that, not surprisingly, can cause skin irritation and blisters. The substance is even more toxic to horses.  A handful of crushed beetles, mixed in with a meal of alfalfa hay, can be fatal.  Still, I find this beetle quite endearing.

 

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Glancing through the weeds along the roadbank, I noticed a thin katydid perched on a stem.  It was most likely the Slender Meadow Katydid (Conocephalus fasciatus).  

 

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A nearby stem held an even more impressive specimen — a large Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis).  How stunning!

 

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Nearby was yet another singing insect of late summer:  a Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia furcata).

 

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As I left this site of so many new discoveries, I glanced back and took a photograph.  This roadside zoo might not have a neon sign, gift shop, or parking lot, but it is well worth the visit!

 

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Sep 062014
 

On Day 249, for Blog Post #499, here is this evening’s photograph of a white calf in a pasture along Piney Woods Church Road.  He watched me for a minute or so as I beckoned him to approach. His caution eventually overrode his curiosity, and he hurried off to join the rest of his herd grading placidly beside the road.

 

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Aug 292014
 

I glimpsed three diners enjoying supper along and near Piney Woods Church Road today. In the top photograph, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) feeds on nectar from a Lantana, growing in the front garden of a neighbor’s house just off the road.  In the middle image, a cow in a Piney Woods Church Road pasture stares at me as I approach the fence, so rudely interrupting her grazing.  In the last photograph, a Robber Fly (possibly Diogmites sp.) rests on a grass stalk and feeds on a wasp it had recently captured.

 

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Aug 252014
 

I do not usually like flies, and I have largely avoided photographing them along Piney Woods Church Road. For one who espouses an appreciation for the commonplace, though, flies seem about as everyday as one might imagine.  Still, there are so many unpleasant flies out there:  deer flies, black flies, house flies, to name a few.  For some reason, though, I was able to put aside my distaste long enough to take this close-up of a fly on Hoary Mountainmint today.  Its visit offers a first lesson in fly appreciation.  It turns out that this fly is among the “good guys” of family Tachinidae, also known as Tachinid Flies.  They are predators, feeding on myriad garden pests, including caterpillars, beetles, sawflies, and borers.  Their larval stage is a bit grisly, though.  Host insects consume Tachinid Fly eggs laid on plants, and then the eggs hatch inside the insects and slowly feed on them.  Still, I will try to remember these flies with gratitude the next time I enjoy something fresh from the garden.

 

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Aug 152014
 

This morning, my peripatetic brother sent me a slide show of alpine and subalpine wildflowers he saw on a series of hikes high in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Across my screen flashed showy flower heads in a dazzling array of colors, from violet and magenta to brilliant blues and yellows, bearing bold names like Elephant’s Head and Sky Pilot.

There is nothing like that blooming along Piney Woods Church Road right now, and I can’t help from feeling a bit envious.  There are still a few bedraggled Daisy Fleabanes, and a scattering of tired Horse Nettles.  And then there is the lowly Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), a plant with leaves evocative of the Mimosa tree that bears tiny yellow flowers a few millimeters across, which blossom out of its axils (the angle where the leaf meets the main stem) — roughly akin to humans sprouting flowers out of their armpits. The tiny flower hides itself well, and I had to get down on the dirt and gravel just to photograph one.  What this plant loses in showiness, though, I suppose it makes up in sheer variety of common names:  sleeping plant, prairie partridge pea, showy partridge pea, prairie senna, large-flowered sensitive-pea, dwarf cassia, partridge pea senna, locust weed, and golden cassia.  Plus, according to the USDA, it bears a seed crop that is eaten by many wild animals, from bobwhites to mallard ducks.  The plant also provides nectar (from glands at the base of each leaf, not from the flower) that provides a food source for bees in places where other flowering plants may be scarce.  And the Common Sulfur Butterfly lays its eggs on the Partridge Pea’s leaves, so that the caterpillar larvae can feed on them.  Partridge Pea is often planted for erosion control or as an ornamental.  And since the plant is a legume, it also helps improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen that other plants need.

Maybe it isn’t so lowly, after all.

 

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