Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) in Hardwick on 6/22. Adults rarely descend from high treetops except during the breeding season. According to Wikipedia, mating calls and chorusing are most frequent at night, but individuals often call during daytime in response to thunder or other loud noises.
Northern Paper Wasps (Polistes fuscatus), which build their nests in June, are interesting creatures that conjure up misplaced fears. This placid queen, which will die by fall, has built a nest from wood fibers and laid eggs that will develop into new queens. Color patterns of P. fuscatus are highly variable and strongly influenced by geography. Wasps can even recognize each other's individual faces due to the great amount of variability.
On 6/8, Linda Leehy spotted this Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), a species more common in southerly locations, in her Gilbertville yard. The early date suggests that the butterfly, rare- to-uncommon in central MA, probably successfully overwintered as a chrysalis. The Butterflies of Massachusetts web-site states: "Giant Swallowtail faces difficult conditions in over-wintering in Massachusetts, but some have been surviving in warmer winters in suitable locations. Climate warming will probably lead to an increase in Massachusetts of this southern-based species both through over-wintering and increased immigration each spring. "
A Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok) and a potter wasp (Ancistrocerus adiabatus) search for nectar on Purple Vetch (Vicia cracca), a non-native plant brought to North America as a forage plant and for its ability to fix large quantities of nitrogen. It is a favorite of nectaring insect species. Unless it is aggressively crowding out native species, a small amount of this vetch can be tolerated in the landscape.
Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) laying eggs on 6/8 in Hardwick. The sex of the young is determined by the temperature of the nest; cooler temperatures favor males, warmer temperatures favor females. This nest was protected from predators with wire, so in August or early September, we hope to see young emerge. Temperatures were up and down this summer, so who knows which sex will prevail. After emerging, the young will instinctively seek out the security of the nearby pond.
A Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) suns itself on a shrub in Rutland. Photo by Ted Purcell.
CAN YOU GUESS THE SPECIES OF THIS BIRD? Jim Morelly sent us this puzzling image of a bird seen in the distance. He was able to grab this shot and described the bird as being about the size of a Scarlet Tanager. For the answer, go to our HOME page.
Our FROM THE FIELD post wouldn't be complete without one of Jim Morelly's stunning mammal photographs, this one of a White-tailed Deer in the Quabbin region.
A photographer who was focused on another subject inadvertently captured this image of a Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) feeding a fledgling. Cuckoos of both species were abundant this year, albeit extremely camera-shy. They feasted on Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) caterpillars, one of their preferred foods. Indigestible hairs of the caterpillars hairs accumulate in the stomach until the bird sheds the stomach lining and disgorges a pellet.
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) in Hardwick on 6/29. According to butterfliesofmassachusetts.net, this species is a regular temporary colonist, arriving in Massachusetts from its year-round range further south. It seems to be appearing earlier in the last 25 years than it did historically. Photo by Bette Robo.