Sunday, September 19, 2010

Last Summer Posting??!!

 Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) on Stiff Goldenrod
(click on image for a larger view)

OK...where'd it go???  The summer I mean!  Geeze I hate that...losing time so easily I mean.  Although not gone, it is only days till the equinox, but that's not all bad either I guess.  Soon the black flies and mosquitoes will get the axe from old Jack Frost and it'll be pleasant sailing on the tallgrass for a few more weeks!  Except the Asian Lady Bird Beetles...have you noticed how impervious they seem to be to a hard frost?  Must have anti freeze in their little cells!

This is the time of asters and goldenrod here on the tallgrass and there are a few invertebrates I enjoy this time of year.  As I've said in past postings, invertebrates are such an important key in the entire web that holds a prairie environment's not just plants...which of course are the most obvious to the observer's eye!

I see lots of different types of Wasps on the prairie once the goldenrods come on.  Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) seems to be the most common and prolific here, although we do have quite of bit of the S. canadensis or Canada Goldenrod too.  Earlier in the mid summer I can also find various wasps taking advantage of the Whorled milkweed  (Asclepias verticillata) here.  Why I seem to find more activity on the A. verticillata, than the other milkweeds I'm note sure, but it's something I've observed here for several years and kind of think it's displaying a "preference". 

The one wasp I look forward to watching each year is the Great Golden Digger. This is a curious and fairly friendly wasp with a neat habit of digging nests or burrows with the tenacity of a badger!  I'm still awaiting my first photographic opportunity to photograph this wasp digging.  I watched one in amazement once several years ago here and regretted not having my camera with me at the moment!  I know most people aren't real keen on stinging insects...especially larger ones...any wasp will sting if bothered and some may not be as tolerant as others, but we're fortunate to not have that issue here...the wasps on our prairie remnant are actually amazingly tolerant...but I'll admit I'm very careful around them any way!
We've been enjoying the sounds of the season here very much.  Each night has been bringing the late summer insect serenades, the neighborhood Great Horned Owl has been hooting from the yard by the house around 3-4 a.m. each morning and the Coyotes in the valley have "sung" numerous times for us this month!

I'm going to share our Great Horned Owl, serenading insects and one lone (distant) Coyote calling for it's friends, with you.  I posted this audio snippet with friends on Face Book and my Prairie Hill Farm Studio Blog as well, and I'll share it here on the "A Tallgrass Journal" blog too.

"Night Noise" audio video © Bruce A. Morrison

Since Google's blogspot doesn't have a really easy way to post simple audio files, I'll share it as a video file.  The image used on the video is a small "detail" of the image posted I shared about 3 years back on this journal.  It is of the pasture across the road from us, depicted at night in late summer - a moon lit landscape with a Great Horned Owl passing through in flight...maybe (?) on it's way up to Prairie Hill Farm to spook a rabbit or skunk out of cover for it's dinner!

 "Night Pasture - Great Horned Owl"
8X24" color pencil rendering - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for larger view)

This artwork original sold at the Artisans Road Trip back in 2008 but I do have signed open edition prints of this work for sale at the 2010 A.R.T. event this year.  I also have many new works (photographs, drawings and paintings) this year and would love to share them with you at the 2010 Artisans Road Trip coming up in just 2 weeks!  We'll share a lot of mouth watering treats from Georgie's kitchen as well!

Why not go on a early autumn road trip the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of October and stop by the studio here at Prairie Hill Farm?!!!  Even take a walk through the late Tallgrass Prairie here too and enjoy some of those invertebrates we've admired from short distances all summer!

Enjoy the "Night Sounds" audio video and stop in for some day time memories if you're in the neighborhood!!!

See you on the tallgrass!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall Migration!

 Monarch Butterflies roosting in the west grove here just before sunset

I haven't meant to be delinquent with the blog!  I've actually been snowed under in related endeavors here at Prairie Hill Farm.  But sometimes things come up that require you to "sneak in" some time regardless.

It's the fall migration...or roosting that happens each year here at this time...not necessarily birds in this instance...although we've had many warblers passing through as well as Flycatchers and other songbirds the past 2-3 weeks.  It's the Monarchs!

Monarchs settle in for the night here after sunset

Each year we've been here we've had some roosting in the fall.  A couple years back was our largest roosting of upwards of a thousand butterflies...possibly slightly less, they're hard to count when they fill branches from 15-25 feet up!  This year we're seeing around 300-400 "countable" butterflies.  One thing I've found is when you go out in the morning to investigate - you often find more because they flutter their wings exposing the bright upper side when the sun begins to warm them.  This morning was no exception, I found many more roost covered branches than the evening before!

I send reports of sightings and roosts each year to the Journey North site; they have a Monarch migration tracking project that is followed by school  children all over the country.  It may sound small or unimportant but I feel kids are no longer in touch with their "natural" world like they were decades back.  Our natural heritage is more important than we can understand and to expose our kids of all ages to facets of this is extremely important!

The sun stirs the Monarchs to flutter as the sun warms them,
then they'll leave for the neighboring prairie pasture here to nectar through the day.

It was a bad winter for Monarchs this past year.  Their mountain winter roosts have significantly decreased and what roosting areas they still cling to are in bad shape.  This past winter in Mexico there were heavy rains which turned to freezing rain, causing high mortalities for the North American Monarch population.  

The Monarchs we have here now are that one unique part of the puzzle - they will be the ones to make the journey back to Mexico, winter over, and start the journey back next March!  Amazing!  They are the last generation for this year!

Get out and watch this amazing event if you can!