The Naturalist’s Notebook | Mid-September

Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita)

Changes in foliage are becoming quite evident, especially in the reds of Virginia Creepers and Sumacs and the yellows, oranges, and reds of Maples. Some flowers have generally reached the end of their growing season (Compass Plants, for example), while others are now just coming into their glory, most notably in the blues of gentians.   

Garter Snakes have been seen crossing the northern section of Norman C. Huth Trail. Mystery Lake sightings include muskrats, American Bullfrogs, and Common Snapping Turtles of various sizes sunning and hunting. Hikers at Mystery Lake caught a glimpse of a large Common Snapping Turtle emerging from the water just long enough to grab a frog lunch from a lily pad.

Birds have been active, including flyovers by Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, and a Great Blue Heron hunting frogs at Mystery Lake. Groups of Chickadees are in several locations, Robins have been spotted near the Eagle’s Nest, and vocal Blue Jays are spending time near the east end of the Mystery Lake Boardwalk. 

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Monarch Butterfly numbers continue to increase, but this will quickly change as they will leave for Mexico in the upcoming days. Although the vast majority of Monarchs will soon be gone, a few will continue to emerge in the upcoming weeks, as will Viceroy Butterflies. 

Unlike Monarchs, Viceroy Butterflies overwinter as small caterpillars in tiny hibernacula that they construct out of partially eaten leaves. These can easily be found after the foliage drops, as they remain held in place by the caterpillar’s silk, typically on small willows and aspens.   

Various species of hoverflies (Syrphidae) that can frequently be seen on flowers. These critters are fun to watch because of their amazing ability of hover in one spot, appearing as though they were attached to some invisible stationary object. Find them in the wooded portion of the trail between the prairie and eagle’s nest and near the observation tower. 

 

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If you’d like to participate in a Naturalist-led hike, they are scheduled for 11:00am and 2:00pm on Sunday. Free with membership or admission, no registration necessary.

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