This male sachem skipper was erroneously identified as a Peck’s by myself in a post on the CT butterfly list serve. I was informed that is infact Atalopedes campestri (sachem). This species is known as a more southernly species but in recent years there have been numerous sightings in the state. Last year I saw a good sized population at work and then this year there were even more. The previous late dates listed for the state were 10/27/2007 and 10/31/2009. I took this cellphone picture on 11/6/2012 making for a NEW STATE RECORD. wahoo. Records are kept by the Connecticut Buttlerfly Association. Check them out!
I know it sounds like this should be a blog about flowers, but it’s not. It’s about butterflies. This week has brought an onslaught of butterflies moving across Yale West Campus. The listserv has been alive with reports of bird watchers on the shore amazed at the number of ‘angelwing’ butterlies moving onshore. On campus we are just over 1 mile away from the West Haven beach (as the crow or butterfly flies) and the butterflies are moving North.
Thanks to a great book called the Connecticut Butterfly Atlas I have recently discovered that a couple of butterflies in the ‘angelwing’ group don’t overwinter in CT but actually move north in the spring. With the amazingly warm weather this week it seems like this has begun.
The cabbage white butteflies have been around on campus since March 8th (the first sighting of the year). A few of weeks after that we had sulphur butterflies and on April 4th we had our first skipper of the year, Juvenal’s duskywing.
I finally grabbed my camera today and got a couple pictures of some of the butterflies moving through campus. Most of the time they are not stopping but just heading straight through making it difficult to photograph. But I managed to find a little patch of flowers that slowed a couple down.
Three species have been seen this week to add to our list. Eastern comma, red admiral, Eastern tiger swallowtail and question mark butterflies have all been seen on campus and are all first of the year. The first two listed are actually new to our total list that we started midsummer last year. It’s a fun time to be outside!
I took a quick walk around campus on a warm day this week. On an old gravel path that’s starting to succumb to nature, a very small plant caught my eye. In between the clouds drifting by and Red-tailed Hawks distracting my attention, I managed a few shots in the sun.
Notice the small white bi-lobed petals and yellow centers to the flowers. The name is Draba verna, or Whitlow Grass, a native of Europe and West Asia and in the mustard family. The listed flowering time is March to May, so it seems to be a couple weeks ahead with this mild winter.
I also stumbled across this yellow Composite on one of the islands in the middle of a parking lot. Composites, is a familiar name used to describe plant that have flowers that actually have two types of flowers in a single inflorescence. If you think of a sunflower, the dark center is actually composed of small disk flowers and the yellow ‘petals’ are separate ray flowers.
I’m still working on identifying this one. It looks like it’s blooming although the flowers don’t look completely open. I would guess that it’s not native. A lot of these scrubby flowers that grow in disturbed areas don’t originate in Connecticut or even in North America. It just illustrates how important undisturbed mature habitat is to protect native species.
We had a full moon the other day and I happened to have my camera with me. Since I don’t have any filters I tried to NOT look through the camera and still get a decent picture. Not too bad in my opinion.
Todays blog comes to you from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. I have officially started to blog about some of the things that I do at work. Historic Scientific Instruments (HSI) is one of the 11 division in the museum and where I currently spend some of my time. We are in the middle of emptying out the space where the HSI collection was being housed and moving it to a temporary space. Why you ask? Let’s back up.
The HSI collection has been housed in boxes, mostly cardboard boxes for a number of years and the museum hasn’t had the staff or resources to unpack it and make it accessible. In steps IMLS and gives us some money (thanks to a grant) and now we can afford beautiful sparkly new cabinets for all the funky wonderful things in the collection. Now all we have to do is move everything out, unpack it, and then when the cabinets come in, move it back in to its new home. Believe me it’s much harder than it sounds although it’s more FUN than it sounds too.
I am not a historian, nor do I know much about scientific instruments (apart from those I use). So, it’s a whole new experience to see what we pull out of every box. Will it be a craniometer, a galvanometer, or a scale? Could it be a microscope, an engine, or a lightbulb? Most of the time the ‘scientific instruments’ look more like pieces of artwork than an object used to demonstrate pullies and gear for a college engineering class.
There have been many, many objects that I’ve lamented about not blogging about so far in our unpacking phase but what has triggered the blog…. a gun.
This is a short-ranged air rifle probably from the early 1800′s produced by G. Wallis as etched on the gun. This gun was donated from the Physics department and was used for demonstrations in classrooms (doing what, I don’t know). The little bit of info I’ve been able to glean from the web indicates that George Wallis was a gunsmith from Hull England and died around 1803 although his gunsmith shop seems to have been sold after his death. Being a bit of a gadgety person I needed to find out how exactly these guns operated.
A small canister is pumped full of compressed air by a manual pump. This particular gun has a ball reservoir that attached to the bottom of the gun (it’s in the collection but we haven’t unpacked it yet.) This air rifle is a muzzle loaded air rifle meaning that only a single bullet could be loaded into the barrel of the gun. You can see the rod attached under the barrel that is used to push the bullet in. Pull the trigger, compressed air releases and the bullet comes flying back out, with close to the same amount of force as a modern 9mm pistol.
I can’t wait to see what’s packed away in the next box. Oh right the title, in case you haven’t figured out why I have titled the blog as I have, try typing HSI into word or excel and see what it does.
Go ahead and giggle, laugh, chuckle, behave like a 7th grader again! Scientists get a stuffy wrap, those that work on anything as icky as taxonomy (naming of organisms) are the worst of all. No sense of humor, caught up in their own little world of something as strange as mycology or whatever it is. Finally, an example that yes… yes we do know how to laugh.
Say Hello to Phallus impudicus, a stinkhorn, a strange group of fungi that go out of their way to be gross and excel at it. I’m not sure anyone has a clue as to why they look the way they do but they certainly do look different. Stinkhorns start out as eggs that develop at the soil level, most often visible and then the egg ‘hatches’ and in a matter of hours the stinkhorn grows to its full triumph.
And they stink, they are called stink horns for a reason. The dark portion of this stinkhorn is covered in gelatinous sticky, stinky, concoction that resembles the odor of dead animal with a mix of poop, different stinkhorns have different smells. Some smell incredibly strong and others are a bit less potent but either way the flies love the smell.
The flies fly to the stinkhorn and quickly devour the deliciously spore filled goe that they then fly to some new area and leave behind. The spores go and continue on their way to become new stinkhorns and the cycle continues.
If you are in the mood for an additional laugh or two go ahead and pick your favorite search engine and search for other stinkhorns. Try Mutinus caninus (think canine… aka. dog) and my favorite is Clathrus columnatus because it was the first stinkhorn I ever found.
While some may be complaining about the weather and how bad it has been for migration in general, the weather has been nice for getting outside. There has continued to be a trickle of migrants moving through the area over the past couple of weeks even if there hasn’t been a major push.
Out here at West Campus, this has meant that every day we get a new look at some warblers or hawks that are making their way south. This year has been a good one for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on campus as opposed to last year when we hardly saw any.
I’ve been keeping my eyes open for some other interesting non-birdy things and I will blog about a really nifty fungus I saw out the front door the other day. In the meanwhile, here is a mix of random photos I’ve taken in the past to keep things interesting.
During a monarch tagging session at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven this morning a couple other species made an impressive showing. Common buckeye butterflies were in huge numbers at the park this morning. Almost anywhere you went there was a buckeye. Walking across the field I stirred up another one almost every 5 feet.
The other species that was unique was the fiery skipper, a vagrant southern species that has been consistently seen at Lighthouse the past week. I’m not quite certain of the total number of individuals but I did see up to 4 at one time. A beautiful bright orange skipper, this was the first time I had ever seen it since I started IDing butterflies 2 months ago.
I’m trying a new layout and I decided to rock the sticky post. This little mushroom was out front at work in August sometime. It’s Laccaria amethystina. What you want to know the common name??? I have no clue. Common mushrooms have multiple common names which confuses things and then most don’t have any. So, if you really get into learning fungi, your best bet is to learn Latin… or for fungi even some Greek. Many scientific names of fungi are derivatives of Greek words.
They are puffballs! As a kid I think we all have done this at one point. You see a small white ball in the yard and run up to it, the leg pulls back and then swings forward, expecting to see a golf ball roll across the yard at amazing speeds and instead a huge dark cloud erupts causing you to run away and leaving your shoes distinctively dirty. You have just liberated thousands of fungal spores into the atmosphere.
The culprit is a puffball, a type of fungi in the same group (Basidiomycetes) as the normal mushrooms we are used to. This family of that group (Lycoperdaceae) instead forms a ball-shaped fruiting body that’s filled with spores at maturity. There are a few different species of puffballs in the Northeastern U.S. and even a few of those are edible. The trick is to gather them when the time is right and as with most fungi, that’s early.
There are pictures online of the giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) which grows as big as a Thanksgiving Turkey. The species I found growing at work the other day however is Calvatia cyathiformis, the purple-spored puffball. When fresh the flesh of the mushroom is a nice clean white color and as they age, the flesh matures into spores that are purple-ish in color.
So, I mentioned eating puffballs and I guess I should comment specifically on this species. It is in fact edible and if you want to try eating some wild fungi this is a group that is fairly easy to identify. (insert my usual legal disclaimer about eating fungi- aka. dont if you dont know what you are doing). So here are the steps, 1. identify the mushroom, 2. make sure it’s still young and fresh, 3. cut open each one to verify it isn’t an ‘egg’ of the deadly Amanita genus, and 4. cook thoroughly.