urbpan: (dandelion)
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The day before Halloween we had an Urban Nature Walk at good old Mount Auburn. Among other things, we saw North America's most massive bird species.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Black and yellow are the universal warning colors among animals able to see them. It looks like someone forgot the black on this bumblebee. This turns out to be one of the varied colorations of Bombus perplexus*, the "perplexing bumblebee." It's one of the least perplexing, since all-yellow bumblebees are not the norm. A bugguide contributor pointed out that it's also a male--unable to sting--and not anything to warn anyone about anyway.

* "Perplexing buzzer"
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This was, I decided, the handsomest of all our sunflowers. We have a small group of them, some of which have collapsed at the base and are yet crawling along the grass. This one is pretty spectacular.

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Besides the delicious pollen and nectar, the sunflowers provide a needed resting place for the bumblebees.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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It's the waning days of the cosmos. They still wave in the breeze, tricking me that a person is walking by the window when I'm in the kitchen internetting.

more flowers, some animals )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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The point-and-shoot camera I bought earlier this year does not provide the sharpest images I've ever captured, but I consider that an exchange for the fact that the camera is waterproof and shock resistant. I'm a world-class klutz, and tend to drop and spill things. But the camera isn't too bad. Now that I've figured out how to adjest the ASA and manual focus, I can get some halfway decent macros. Here's a bumblebee pollinating a raspberry flower, late in the season.

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urbpan: (Default)

While doing yard work in the sun (in between week long bursts of rain) we encountered many interesting animals! Here's one of two American toads we found.

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urbpan: (Default)


We've had a lot of partially rainy days this summer. It's been good for plant and mushroom growth. I wish these mushrooms were in my yard, but they won't be. This is "Old man of the woods," Strobilomyces sp., a mushroom whose parent fungus grows in association with hardwood trees. These were at the base of an oak. Our yard has Norway maple (which, as a non-native weed tree probably won't form mycorrhizae with native mushrooms--we'll see, I guess) and shagbark hickory, so I doubt we'll have this mushroom species.

Our yard does have lots of insects, and the rain can make them easier to photograph:
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Bumblebee on Japanese knotweed.


An exceptionally handsome pigeon visits my neighbor's new fence.
urbpan: (stick insect)

Photo by [livejournal.com profile] cottonmanifesto. Location: Olmsted Park, Boston.
Urban species #258: Bumblebee Bombus pennsylvanicus

Until this year, I assumed I was seeing bumblebees almost every warm day of every year, and then I discovered I was actually seeing carpenter bees. One easy way to tell the difference is that the bumblebees have furry abdomens while carpenter bees have shiny black hairless abdomen. Bumblebees are familiar, almost friendly-seeming, with their thick fur and clumsy way about them. Their yellow and black markings, like those of many other stinging insects, are meant to warn predators. Stinging hymenopterans (that is, members of the order of insects that includes bees, wasps, ants, and others) are armed with venom-injecting weapon derived from their ovipositor. This means that only females can sting. Bumblebees are considered unaggressive and unlikely to sting. Like their close relatives, the honeybees, bumblebees are social, a hive of up to 300 individuals and their mother, the queen, working cooperatively to raise the next generation. Unlike honeybees, bumblebee colonies do not overwinter; only the queen (or her successor) survives. Bumblebees are highly valued as pollinators, with some plant nurseries and farms purchasing hives for this purpose; their small untidy combs not producing enough honey to make collecting it very rewarding.


Photo by [livejournal.com profile] cottonmanifesto. Location: our front step.

Urban species #259: White-faced hornet Dolichovespula maculata

Even this entomophile shudders a little bit at the sight of a swarm of white-faced hornets (also called "bald-faced hornets"). These wasps are very aggressive, and deliver a painful sting. Their large gray paper nests are often attached to buildings, although they also can be found in trees. Each nest, which can be a foot in diameter or more, is made of several layers of chewed wood, and contains between dozens and hundreds of individuals. The larva are fed flower nectar, and the bodies of other insects that the adults have killed and chewed into bits. White-faced hornets are ambitious predators, even attacking large and dangerous prey like their close relatives, the yellowjackets. Despite the danger of their sting, these insects are beneficial, preying on pests, and acting as pollinators. White-faced hornets are found across North America, except for the dry interior plains, and are common in urban parks and suburban neighborhoods.
urbpan: (hawkeats)
My employers treated us to an "outing" at the Boston Nature Center.

4 photos, snails and bees )

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