The oddities continue…

What a nice change in the weather yesterday evening’s thunderstorm ushered in, right? Once again everything looked fresh and clean, the pond was full, and the river was high.

As I’ve been seeing a lot lately, a flight of Canada geese flew over with great fanfare, and a youngish-looking great blue heron visited the pond. It was nice to catch the heron on the west side of the pond for a change.

A doe and fawn were on the soccer fields again, but I let them be.

The fun, new, and surprising guest this morning is this sharp-looking, even if a little beat up, Hermia underwing (Catocala hermia) that was out and about a little after its bedtime, i.e. dawn. In the first image (top/left), it is in its daytime/hiding configuration. In the second image (bottom/right), it has just landed and is still showing a little bit of its orange and black striped hindwing or underwing. Click here for an image that better shows the striking underwing.

The Pedia of Wik exhaustively explains that “it is believed that the bright colors, arranged in usually roughly concentric markings, at a casual glance resemble the eyes of a predatory animal, such as a cat. An underwing moth, well camouflaged in its daytime resting spot on a tree trunk or branch, will suddenly flash open the hindwings when disturbed. A bird or other small predator that is not used to this display is likely to be frightened, allowing the moth to escape. However, unlike some other bright-colored moths which are bad-tasting or even poisonous to predators, underwing moths are well palatable at least to some birds (e.g. the blue jayCyanocitta cristata). To assist in avoiding nocturnal predators such as bats, these moths also possess (like many of their relatives) fairly well-developed hearing organs.”

There are dozens and dozens of species of these underwing moths that all look amazingly similar. For a brief peek at the rabbit hole I’ve been down this morning trying to ID this particular one, click here, here, or here. I’ve sequentially thought it was a bride underwing, a youthful underwing, and a once-married underwing, but finally settled on hermia underwing based on this photo by Jim Moore. Note the distinct circular shape with a dark outline halfway along the leading edge of each wing. I think it is a good match.

Finally, in case you were wondering, the Pedia of Wik also explains that “Hermia is a fictional character from Shakespeare‘s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She is a girl of ancient Athens named for Hermes, the Greek god of trade.”

Phew! Time for one more? This one is a lot easier. The crazy looking contraption pictured below is a raceme of doll’s-eyes or white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) berries growing in the woods just north of the maintenance yard, east of the middle parking lot.

As tasty as they look, DO NOT EAT THEM! As always, the Pedia of Wik helpfully explains, “both the berries and the entire plant are considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which can have an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue, and are the most poisonous part of the plant. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest and death.”

“The berries are harmless to birds”, however, who are “the plant’s primary seed dispersers.”

Okay, that’s enough for today, eh? I’ll save the rest for tomorrow in case I come up dry after my walk.

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 “The oddities continue…

  1. I’m fascinated by the “raceme of doll’s-eyes or white baneberry”!! It would make for a delightful pattern for wallpaper, or maybe a bedspread. Anyway, that’s what came to mind when I first saw it. No eating allowed!


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