August 27, 2010

You'll Never Walk Alone - Caterpillar Encounters at Great Meadows

Thanks to Sam Jaffe's guiding eye on our August 21st walk at Great Meadows, we discovered many caterpillars munching away at the foliage all around us.  Humbling to realize how much life teams around us as we take each step.  Here are some highlights...

Harvester butterfly caterpillars (Feniseca tarquinius) dining on wooly aphids (white) on alder branches
American dagger moth (Acronicta americana) feeding on maple in the GM parking lot
Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) eating showy tick-trefoil leaves in parking lotion
Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) caterpillar wrapped in a sassafras leaf
Spicebush swallowtail, large 4th instar, bird dropping mimic
Yellow-shouldered slug caterpillar (Lithacodes fasciola)
Four-horned sphinx (Ceratomia amyntor) on elm
Waved sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa) on ash
Sam Jaffe, with a Spicebush swallowtail caterpillar, telling us stories about these marvelously transformational creatures.

August 11, 2010

Great Meadows Walk: Aug 21 from 8-10 am

Pandora sphinx caterpillar


Join Cherrie Corey and Sam Jaffe to commune with late summer flora and the caterpillars that dine on this buffet. And bring your binoculars for both bird and caterpillar watching.

A $5/person voluntary donation would be gratefully accepted.   Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment and Friends of Assabet River NWR

Led by Cherrie Corey, local field naturalist and photographer and Sam Jaffe, local expert on Mass. caterpillars

Meet at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, MA (Monsen Road, off Rte. 62, driveway on left where road curves right)

For questions, email or call 978-760-1933

Omniscience in a Lotus Field

Imagine a Buddha sitting atop each lotus blossom at Great Meadows!  A closer encounter with these magnificent plants gives a palpable sense of their symbolic importance in Buddhist stories and beliefs.

Potential (bud)

Creative expression (blossom)

Omniscience (ripened pod)
Wisdom (seasoned leaf)

August 7, 2010

Great Meadows Sunset Walk on Aug. 7

Saturday, Aug 7 from 7-8:30 pm

One of my favorite summer sounds is the "qwack qwacking" of black-crowned night herons as they make their sunset flight before settling in to roost.  Their appearance this week at Great Meadows has inspired me to offer an impromptu sunset walk tomorrow evening.  Tonight, on my pre-amble, I encountered the night herons swooping up into their dusky flight as the sky blazed its last colors.  They were followed by clouds of swallows and waves of blackbirds, various shorebirds descending, geese stirring, and the crickets and katydids stirring up a mighty chorus.  I can promise some of that magic tomorrow.

Meet in the GMNWR parking lot a bit before 7.  We'll head out onto the dike trail promptly so not to miss the precision timing of this late day choreography.  Co-sponsored with Friends of the Assabet River NWR and Musketaquid Arts and Environment Program.  As always, a $5 voluntary donation will be gratefully accepted.  See tonight's sunset photos,

Black-crowned night heron

August 3, 2010

Watch the sky, Aurora Borealis Predicted

A huge eruption in the sun's northern hemisphere on Sunday blasted plasma into space in the direction of Earth.  A rare ocurrance of northern lights is predicted over the norther US and Canada around the hours of 3 am, 1 pm, and 8 pm on Wednesday 8/4 and around 2 am on Thursday.  Look for wavering curtains or waves of white, pink, or green light that pulse with intensity.  For more information see

For those wanting more info see the NOAA POES website of auroral activity in the northern hemisphere,

Dragonflies and Other Photo Additions - Great Meadows NWR 2010 album

Halloween pennant (Celithemus eponina)
Midsummer dragonflies, wildflowers, and landscapes have just been added to the Great Meadows NWR 2010 photo album,  You can use the photo albums as seasonal field guides to Great Meadows.  The years vary a bit, so be sure to check them all if you have an ID question.

Great Meadows Caterpillar Revelations

Sam Jaffe shows us a Hog Sphinx caterpillar munching on fox grape leaves.

On July 25th, we had a wonderful evening of up close and personal caterpillar encounters led by our informative and inspiring guide, Sam Jaffe. Some thirty participants turned out as a brief shower was clearing, punctuated by the flash of a rainbow and brilliant long rays of the evening sun.  The evening began and ended with some very special finds and was bathed throughout in moonlight and the distant glow of lotuses, laid out like snowy fields.

Caterpillar introductions included:
Harvester Butterfly (Feniseca tarquinius), as many as six caterpillars feeding on wooly aphids on speckled alder.  A sought after species in the butterfly world!

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), a single second instar caterpillar feeding on a black cherry.  The caterpillar eats away the flesh of the leaf blade at its apex and rests exposed on the remaining mid-vein.

Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), a single early instar on a nettle plant.

Silver Spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), a few early instar caterpillars in their folded leaf
enclosures.  There are many of these caterpillars at Great Meadows, worth searching for them in a week or two after they grow up a bit.
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), one large final instar caterpillar rolled up in a sassafras leaf and a few early instar caterpillars on nearby plants.

Blinded Sphinx (Paonias excaecatus), a single fourth instar on birch 

Hog Sphinx (Darapsa myron), a single pale green early fifth instar caterpillar on grape

Elm or Four-horned Sphinx (Ceratomia amyntor), a fourth instar green morph on elm near the river.  A remarkable caterpillar!

Double-toothed Prominent (Nerice bidentata), three or four third instars on scrubby looking elm at near river.  Would be fully grown in ten more days!

Maple Looper (Parallelia bistriaris) - We found very early instars of these on red maple bordering the parking lot.

An autumn caterpillar foray will be scheduled for this fall and the date posted soon.  For great caterpillar photos and ID guide, see Sam Jaffe's website (also under links on this blog).