Pick your poison…

It was another gorgeous morning in the park with cool air, calm winds, and sunny skies. Most of the critters were laying low, it seems, and I didn’t see a single duck. There were at least 3 belted kingfishers, however, on the same branch as yesterday, but the pictures aren’t even as good, so I’ll spare you.

Instead, here’s yet another monarch butterfly, a female based on her lack of dark spots males have, on the northern parking lot soaking in a little morning sun to warm her bones. Ha ha. Just kidding. Butterflies are insects, and so have exoskeletons, not bones. They do, however, have muscles, which they need to warm up after a cool night for optimal performance. Monarchs also happen to be “foul tasting and poisonous due to the presence of cardenolides in their bodies, which the caterpillars ingest as they feed on milkweed.”

Okay, onto our first new arrival of the day. Say hello to spotted water hemlock, spotted parsley, spotted cowbane, or what the Iroquois call suicide root (Cicuta maculata), “a highly poisonous species of flowering plant in the carrot family” growing down by the river.

Next up is the relatively nondescript common nettle or stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), also growing by the river, which I only noticed after I rubbed up against it. The Pedia of Wik reports that it has “many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation upon contact (“contact urticaria”, a form of contact dermatitis).” A couple hours later and after a shower, I can still feel the sting along my left arm and leg. Yowza!

In keeping with the poison theme, the bald-faced hornets are adding to their nest by the pond, a bumblebee is feasting on a bee balm blossom, and a great black wasp is feasting on some Virginia or common mountain-mint. According to John Bartram, (March 23, 1699 – September 22, 1777) an early American botanisthorticulturist and explorer, “the sting of this wasp is painful.” Thanks, John, good to know.

Less poisonous, but equally striking are a grasshopper, perhaps an adjutant wainscot moth (Leucania adjuta) feeding on a purple coneflower, and a pile of lethargic millipedes, “characterized by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments.”

One more new plant growing along the river, which is also non-poisonous, is the joe-pyeweed, either spotted (Eutrochium maculatum) or hollow (Eutrochium fistulosum), both of which are a “larval host to the Clymene motheupatorium borer mothruby tiger moth, and the three-lined flower moth.”

Finally, I spotted another school of catfish, this time in the river.

Oh, before I forget, Anne and I went out for what might be our last look at comet Neowise last evening, and on the way were thrilled to see the aerial acrobatics of several bats for the first time this year. With the binoculars, we did see the comet, although it has dimmed, and also picked out a couple of Jupiter’s moons. All-in-all, it was a great night for observations.

Till next time…

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

One thought on “Pick your poison…

  1. An avid fisherman friend of mine verified that although that school of tiny fish you keep seeing are technically a type of catfish, they are actually baby bullheads.

    And darn cute bullheads they are. Much cuter now than when they grow up.

    Gary Halvorsen ghalvorhead@icloud.com



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