Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pretty Seeds

Leave your dead flowers and dried seeds all winter long!  They're beautiful, they provide shelter for wildlife, and they feed the birds!



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Riding on the York Rail Trail

November 23
22 mile bike ride starting at Hanover Junction Train Station, York County, PA.

Hanover Junction Train Station has a museum, restrooms, parking lot, picnic tables and Penn State Extension Master Gardener's garden. 

Trail runs next to the train tracks heading south towards Maryland.  The trail winds past streams; wetlands; a wildlife sanctuary; houses; an ice cream shop and antique store; farms with horses, sheep and chickens; and forest.  Some areas are overrun with Japanese Honeysuckle, Norway Maples, and Mile-a-Minute.  Some areas have beautiful rock cliffs with ferns and Virginia pines.  

Maryland line complete with a map of the trail going both directions and picnic tables. 

At the Mason Dixon Line! 

From Hanover Junction it's 11 miles to the Mason Dixon Line and 11 miles back to the truck!

Bird sightings:
Bald Eagle, Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures, Red-tailed Hawk, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinals, Great Blue Heron, Carolina Wren, Dark-eyed Juncos, Eastern Bluebirds, and Bluejays. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Bat flying in circles at the park at dusk.  

Out of the nine bats that are found in PA, the six smallest bats hibernate in caves over the winter including the most common Little Brown Bat and the endangered Indiana Bat.  The three larger sized bats migrate south (Eastern Red Bat, Hoary Bat, Silver-haired Bat).  

I wonder what this ones up to.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November Morning

One of the first frosts.  (Nov 20)

Sweetgum still holding its leaves.

Can you ID those frosty leaves?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Guess that milkweed!

Can you tell which species of milkweed this is just by the seedpods?  
A. Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa
B. Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca
C. Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coral Honeysuckle

Last remaining flowers dangling from the native Coral Honeysuckle vine.
Larval host plant for Snowberry Clearwing and Spring Azure.
Nectar source for hummingbirds and bumble bees.

Leaves fused at the base and evergreen.
The fruits have developed, but not yet been snatched up by birds.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Oriental Bittersweet in Fall

Red berries commonly used to make beautiful wreaths in fall.  Not recommended.  Instead, if you see these berries on your property, remove them, bag them, and put them in the trash.  Cut the vines anywhere you can reach it and consider a poison application on cuts with Roundup.  Making wreaths or other outdoor decorations allows them to be eaten and spread by birds. 

Oriental Bittersweet vine wrapping around a native tree.  The weight of the whitish-grey vines can cause trees to fall over during storm events.  Here, some of the green leaves are still lingering in November, and will likely be one of the first buds to grow new leaves in the early spring.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Japanese Barberry

Japanese Barberry is an invasive plant that looks like this in fall.  Its red berries dangle from this medium sized, spiny bush as its simple leaves turn yellow and fall off.  Don't accidentally grab ahold of its branches or walk through an invaded understory in shorts, or you'll be sorry! 

This plant alters natural habitats by changing soil pH, nitrogen levels, and biological activity in soil.  It replaces beneficial native plants and reduces wildlife habitat and forage.  Japanese Barberry is still propagated and sold in nurseries for landscaping, but should be avoided.  It is considered invasive in 20 states throughout the northeast and midwest US! 

Introduced to the US in 1875 and still planted in new garden landscapes today.  Can the damage be undone?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seed Elegance

Goldenrod, Solidago

Native perennial with clusters of yellow flowers in late summer.
State flower of Alabama, Kentucky and Nebraska.
Scientific name, Solidago, means to make whole or heal.
Goldenrod has many medicinal uses as a tea including soothing a sore throat, treating urinary tract infections, and reducing allergies.
Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not trigger hay fever.  Its heavy pollen is carried by insect pollinators, not blown in the wind, like the real culprits, ragweed and many tree flowers.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Cladonia Bellidiflora?

Flavoparmelia caperata?

What is a lichen?  From experts, the Sharnoffs, at www.lichen.com:

Lichens are composite, symbiotic organisms made up from members of as many as three kingdoms.

The dominant partner is a fungus. Fungi are incapable of making their own food. They usually provide for themselves as parasites or decomposers.

"Lichens are fungi that have discovered agriculture"-- lichenologist Trevor Goward.

The lichen fungi (kingdom Fungi) cultivate partners that manufacture food by photosynthesis. Sometimes the partners are algae (kingdom Protista), other times cyanobacteria (kingdom Monera), formerly called blue-green algae. Some enterprising fungi exploit both at once.

Monday, November 12, 2012


White-tailed Deer
York, PA

Thursday, November 8, 2012

American Toad

Anaxyrus americanus
Spotted on November 2nd hopping across a hiking trail in slow motion!
Poor little thing must have been freezing!
York, PA

 J. Torpor (Hibernation).  During cold winter weather, American toads hibernate terrestrially (Miller, 1909b).  They dig backwards into the soil where they reside or find another hibernation site that permits them to burrow below the frostline (Wright and Wright, 1949; Tester et al., 1965; Ewert, 1969).  American toads are not freeze tolerant (Miller, 1909b; Storey and Storey, 1986) and evidently have no mechanism for freeze tolerance (Holzwart and Hall, 1984).  Hibernation begins as the temperature falls below their normal activity minimum of about 9 ˚C, which is usually October in northern U.S. populations (Oldfield and Moriarty, 1994). 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


As these mushrooms die and deteriorate they are turning black.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mushroom Underside

Some kind of young shelf fungi.  This is the bottom- showing the gills. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Giant Leaves!

Oak- Scarlet?


Young trees can grow gigantic leaves that are not characteristic of a mature tree. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nature's Silty Leaf Prints

Oak leaf blows away after being stuck to the sidewalk by rain and light flooding.  A fine collection of silt collected in the nooks and crannies under the leaf as water escaped leaving behind a neat leaf print.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sandy Artwork

Floodwater Artwork

Decorated with sweet gum stars.

Debris left behind by the edge of the floodwaters on the lawn of the nature center.
York, PA

Friday, November 2, 2012


Liriodendron tulipifera
Magnolia Family. 
Tulip-like flowers high in the treetops. 
Straight tall trunks.

Thursday, November 1, 2012