Photo of the Month 2

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!


Phallus, That’s right I said Phallus.

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.

Firey Fiery

Fiery Skipper

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.

Common Buckeye

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. 🙂

Fiery Skipper

Testing the Sticky Post

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.

No it’s not a golf ball!

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.

Purple-spored puffball

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.

Purple-spored puffball- bottle for size comparison

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.

puffball showing young edible flesh- Yum!

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.

old puffball- notice the purple spores

One little dragonfly

Black Saddlebag (Tramea lacerata)

I thought I would post a quick photo of a dragonfly that I took today while out on break. This species is widespread throughout much of North America, some portions of the population migrate south for the winter and head north again to breed in the spring.

Here’s a few extra pictures I took the next day with a few more details.

Black Saddlebag

Saddlebag- some photoshopping

D-n-D without the Caffeine

Female: Pachydiplax longipennis - Blue Dasher

Being stuck inside all day mostly without even windows to gaze longingly, I force myself at lunch to take a quick walk around the building. Up until a couple of months ago I would have had binoculars in hand at all times and gone walking farther in search of more birds. Luckily, I’ve been slowing down and finding that an assortment of creatures call this place home. Today, while I was already out with only a cell phone in hand, I decided to try taking a couple of pictures of the dragonflies and damselflies that are migrating through right now. Not the greatest pictures I’ve ever taken but not to shabby for a cell phone.

Ischnura verticalis - Eastern Forktail

Interesting thing about the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)… they are aquatic as juveniles. Most of the group lay eggs in stagnant (read pond) water on submerged vegetation or dropped in while skimming by. The little larvae hatch out and spend the fall and winter tucked into the leafy gunk on the bottom catching and eating other insects. When the water warms up the immature dragonflies crawl out of the water on some nearby plant and molt into adult dragonflies.

Perithemis tenera - Eastern Amberwing

Ever wonder about their legs? Well, if you haven’t, take a look at the pictures, they aren’t quite set-up like other insect legs. Dragonfly legs are all oriented to form a basket, that allows these predators to fly around and catch smaller insects into the leg basket for their next meal. Don’t worry, there will be better pictures and more information to come in another post some day! I am definitely not an expert on this group so please let me know if I made a bad identification.