What’s Eating You?

Viburnum - DefoliatedOh my gosh…  The viburnum all look dead.  Indeed, I wonder if some of them are.  I know it’s hard to see in this photo at the right; the shrubs are totally defoliated.  There are a few brown skeletons of leaves clinging to the branches.

It’s the result of a non-native insect: the Viburnum Leaf Beetle.  Apparently this guy came to North America (Canada) from Europe in 1947 and started spreading, slowly at first.  It was first reported in New York State in 1996 at Fair Haven Beach State Park on Lake Ontario.  By 1999 it was reported in Chautauqua County.  We’ve been seeing it at our nature center for the last few years.

Viburnum Leaf Beetle Larva CloseupLarvae emerge from eggs in spring, eat like crazy, then pupate.  The adult beetle emerges in summer and continues to eat.  Females lay eggs in fall which overwinter, and the whole thing starts again in spring…

You can learn more about this pest from Cornell:


We did a display in one of our previous exhibits at Audubon that featured opinion pages from a variety of folks – a couple of biology professors, the director of the Watershed Conservancy, and others.  There is no agreement on what to do about non-native invasives.  Some folks believe we should do whatever we can to fight them.  Others feel we are observing evolution in action and should enjoy the show.

I’m a rather wishy washy person on these big issues.  I can often see many sides of the story, and so I don’t take a firm stand on any of it.  We have so many invasives at the center now.  Garlic Mustard.  Frogbit.  Water Chestnut.  Viburnum Leaf Beetles.  Honeysuckle.

What’s your opinion?  Fight it?  Attempt to control it?  Or just watch the show?

Identifying Wildflowers

Star-of-Bethlehem in VaseMostly, I have found field guides to be frustrating for beginners.  At least for this beginner.  I bought my first wildflower guide at the recommendation of a biology professor many, many years ago – the Audubon one with photographs arranged by color and shape of flower.  I had some success with it, and many of the photos are very nice.  It did not, however, fuel me with confidence that I could identify any flower.

A few years back, I was introduced by a colleague to Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb, illustrated by Gordon Morrison.  I love it.  It has a very systematic way of leading you to the right page in the guide – increasing the likelihood that you will find your flower.  Newcomb's Wildflower Guide CoverAll those years as a computer programmer, drawing flowcharts… the process is ingrained in my very cells.  This guide is like following a flowchart.  I still can’t identify every flower… but my accuracy is improving!

Newcomb's - inside front coverOver the weekend, I was sitting on my mom’s back patio, surveying the yard, wondering when the thunderstorm that was brewing was going to let loose.  Along the fence some white flowers were poking their heads up.  Oh no!  Another flower for which I had no name…  and my flower guide was at home.  So I picked one.  I don’t usually pick flowers… I usually remember where it is and plan to come back with my guide.  Since this one was in danger of predation by the lawn mower, I picked one.

When I got home, I turned to the inside front cover of my Newcomb’s guide:  6 regular flower parts, basal leaves only (code 2), and the leaves were entire, not toothed or divided (code 2).  This gave me my 3-digit group number:  622.

Newcomb's Locator KeyNow, I turned to the number 622 in the Locator Key for my next set of clues:  Leaves narrow, with white flowers… looks like my flower will be on page 334.

On page 334 I read, “flowers over 3/4 inches wide”… There it is!  The first flower on the page:  Star of Bethlehem.  I think… Let me read the description…  “Backs of the petals green with white margins.”  Sure enough.  I’ve found my flower.  The asterisk means it’s an alien.
Newcomb's Page 334
If you are a wildflower junkie and a beginner you gotta own this guide.  It takes a little practice making it work, but it is well worth it…  In the long run, it saves me lots of time and frustration.

Star-of-Bethlehem behind the Petals

Of course, the easiest way to identify a flower is still to take a photograph to an expert and say, “What’s this?”  But sometimes that just isn’t possible.

Getting Dumber

I think it might be a SedgeYou’ve heard the saying before:  “The more I learn, the less I know.”  After my walk at Bergman Park yesterday, I’m relating quite well to that sentiment.  First of all, it had been a whole week since I walked that park and it was unbelievable how much had changed.  A few of the spring ephemerals were hanging on, but the woods had a definite feeling of summer to it.  What struck me most were the grasses, sedges, and rushes… a whole set of plants that I haven’t even begun to try to identify.  A whole host of reasons to say “I don’t know” when asked “What’s this?”

Here’s a nice little introduction to the differences between grasses, sedges, and rushes: http://www.countrysideinfo.co.uk/grass_id/intro2.htm.  I spent enough time at that site to determine that I managed to (unknowingly) photograph one of each yesterday:  a grass, a sedge, and a rush.  At least I think I did.  At least I learned enough to know what to look for when I go back.  Which I will.  Because I’m insatiable when it comes to learning about nature.

Grass Two Rushes

I’m not sure I have it in me to become an expert in these guys…  I must say, though, I was pretty amazed at the variety I saw… and the photography challenges they provide are enormous.  They are a good subject for really learning about depth of field, I think…

There were some flowers out, too…  (Now, now… watch what you say!  Grasses, sedges, and rushes have flowers, too.)  I’ll only post one here, today… my favorite: Forget-me-not.  I love how the tight little buds go from green and white, to pink… then the flower opens out to this deep, wonderful blue.


Fun with the Closeup “Filter”

Dame's Rocket BudsIn addition to finding my Yellow Clintonia, and learning a couple of new flowers, I also had quite a bit of fun yesterday with my new 10X Closeup “Filter” – a lens that screws on to the end of my 18-55mm lens like a filter does.  It was pretty easy to remove it and slip it into my shirt pocket when I didn’t want a closeup, then reattach quickly when I did.

Closeup shots are not usually good for flower ID.  But they make for some interesting textures and colors, I think.

Red Osier DogwoodMost of the time, I left the lens at 55mm, but for a couple of shots, I went down to 18.  When using the shorter focal length, the inside of the tube becomes part of the picture… giving you a round framing for your shot… kinda cool.

It was another one of those amazing, full-sensory days.  The sights I can attempt to capture for you with my camera.  The sounds and the smells are more difficult to convey!  The birds were going crazy. Yellow Warbler: “Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet! I’m so sweet!”  Chestnut-sided Warbler: “Pleased, pleased, pleased to meet you!”  Common Yellowthroat: “Witchity witchity witchity!” And then there were the Crow, Blue Jay, Catbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and others.

Honeysuckle - PinkIt seemed like the Autumn Olive and the Honeysuckle were having a competition to see who could have the stronger perfume.  I think the Autumn Olive won in the scent department.  The picture of the Honeysuckle came out better, though, so that’s what you see here.  (I wonder if these pink honeysuckles are the ones that made the orange berries I photographed last fall… Hmmm… I’ll have to keep an eye on that.)

The little Common Fleabane is only half an inch in diameter.  I love the way the closeup lens allows me to fill up my screen with a fairly sharp image of this small beauty.  You have to be patient, though.  The slightest breeze and you are out of focus!  (I tried getting a closeup of the Saxifage blooms which are one-quarter of an inch wide and either the breeze foiled me, or the too-many-cups-of-coffee made my hands too unsteady.)Fleabane

I am particularly pleased with the depth of field and the smooth backgrounds I can get using this lens.  And is it possible that the colors are more intense?  I wouldn’t think so… but being new to photography, I have a lot to learn.

Once upon a time, I attended a marketing class for artists.  The presenter talked at length about something she called “mature style”.  When an artist has it, you can recognize her work from that style.  For example, when I say Monet – you get a picture in your head of a particular impressionist style.  Or if I say Georgia O’Keefe – you might get two separate styles in your head – because she has her New Mexico work and her floral work that suggest two separate styles.

Wild GeraniumI don’t have a mature style yet.  I don’t know what my mature style will look like.  I know this:  I love macro photography…  I love revealing things to you that you might not notice as you walk by…  I’ll keep working on it.

Someday, I hope you will be able to look at my pictures and say:  “That’s a Jennifer Schlick… no doubt about it.”  And you’ll be able to say, “Gosh… I used to read her blog when she was first getting started…”

Swamp Buttercup

I can dream, can’t I?…

Reasons to Love Flickr

Thunderstorms today.  Power out in some parts of town.  Limbs down.  Basement full of water.  Still, I managed to find 2 rain-free hours to walk with the dog at College Park.  I had only one goal:  Yellow Clintonia.  I heard it was blooming and that I could find it in the Park.  I found it:
Yellow Clintonia - Closeup
and in the process managed to shoot 137 other photos, too.

Several of those photos were of a plant that was new to me.  When I got home, I attempted to find it in my Peterson guide… but to no avail.  I thought I might try my Newcomb’s guide…  But first, since I was sitting at the computer anyway…  why not try that weird and wonderful grid that some clever person posted on Flickr?

Virginia WaterleafIf you are a wildflower nut, you should check this out:

The grid helps you find flowers by color and number of petals.  I used it today to search for white, 5-petalled flowers and very quickly found a posting for my plant!  Virginia Waterleaf.  Don’t get too excited, though… sometimes it’s not quite so easy.

Another feature I love about Flickr is the “ID Please” group pool.  If you can’t figure out what something is, you can post it to this pool, and experts from all over the country will look to see if they can help you.

Last summer, we had a new plant show up in one of our ponds.  We could NOT find it in any field guide.  Later, we realized why:  it’s a relatively new arrival in the area – a non-native that is slowly spreading south.  I posted a photo of it on Flickr and had my answer in 20 minutes.

What is This?After trying without success to ID this plant, I’m trying the ID Please pool.  If you are curious to see if I got my answer, you can click on the picture to go to Flickr where I’ll change the name from “What is this?” to the actual plant name, once I know for sure.

Watch Your Thoughts

I have a tendency to be critical.  That often comes off as complaining, whining, grinching… call it what you may.  Most of the time, I hold the thoughts, keep them to myself, because I don’t want to be perceived as a negative person.  Am I a negative person?

There’s a poster at one of the schools I visit with a quote, apparently by Rabbi Hillel:

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny…

Moccasin Flower Taken With Kit LensWow.  That’s pretty powerful stuff.  I’ve been pondering this quote for a couple of years now and it haunts me sometimes… Especially on days when I’m feeling grinchy…  like yesterday, for example.

I had a perfectly marvelous morning.  In fact, my entire work day went very well.  At the end of the day, I decided to walk out to the spot where a Moccasin-flower grows.  I had time.  I didn’t have to go fast, which was good, because by this time of day, the temperature was in the high 80s.  I’m not complaining!  It’s just an obvervation.  (There is, however, a reason I accepted the name WinterWoman when it was given to me.  Sweat generated through hard work is acceptable to me.  Sweat that drips down your back just because you stepped outside…  oops… am I grinching?  No!  ‘Cuz if I were grinching, I’d mention all the mosquitoes and black flies I had to battle.)

Moccasin Flower taken with Closeup LensI did get a couple of nice shots with my new macro lens, though.  The Moccasin-flower, or Pink Lady’s Slipper, is protected in New York State, as are all wild orchids.

Far more common is the little Canada Mayflower.  I’ve taken plenty of shots of it, but here’s my first with the lens attachment:

Canada Mayflower Taken with Closeup Lens

Fiddlehead UnfurlingAs you know from a previous post, I’m a big fan of ferns.  I couldn’t resist taking a few shots of the fronds, fiddleheads, and spore cases up close.  I didn’t post them all, but here’s a pretty cool one.

I probably would have taken a lot more shots with my new lens yesterday, if hadn’t been for the heat… and the bugs…

And yes, I probably AM complaining… I think it’s in my blood:  Get a load of this shot of me as a kid:  everyone else was happy, but I was grumpy.  Hmm…. what was THAT all about? Seems to be a habit of mine to be grumpy.  I had better watch my thoughts!  I don’t want grumpy to become my destiny.


I must embrace the heat…  It’s only going to be in the high 70s today.  I think I’ll go hunt dragonflies after work…  Must have heat (and bugs) for dragonfly research…  OK… I can do this…  No grinching…

Lenses and Lawns

Gill-Over-the-GroundEventually, I will buy a 300mm lens (or longer?)  Oh the butterflies and dragons I could have shot today, if only…  For now, I spent less than $50 (including shipping) for an attachment that I can screw onto the front of my 18-55mm kit lens.  I’ve only taken a few shots in the backyard, and I am hooked!  Can’t wait to experiment some more!

My first attempts with this lens were in the backyard – taken during the time between arriving home from work to find that the lens had come in the mail, and “Are you ever going to make dinner, Mom?”  (Dinner???  Who could be hungry at a time like this???)

Common DandelionThere are so many beautiful things that (could) grow in your yard (if you resist the urge to use pesticides to kill them).  (Seriously, if you don’t know how bad lawn pesticides are, please read this… and download it… and print a million copies and give them to your friends:)


Not only do we not spray, we also are very lax about mowing, especially in the spring when everything wants to bloom.  Sure, dandelions and gill-over-the-ground and bugle are all aliens, but they have been a part of the backyard habitat for so long, they seem all-American!

BugleThe patch that contains this bugle is quite large, and getting larger every year.  Bugle is so stunningly gorgeous…  How could you mow it?

I took a couple of shots of flowers that I had actually planted in my garden – not just lawn volunteers.  Here’s one of them:

Bleeding HeartsThere are more at my Flickr site.

Oh my gosh… I can hardly wait to get out into the woods with this lens!

Is life supposed to be this fun?