Friday, April 16, 2010

Frozen Head check-out hike

Since I am leading 2 wildflower hikes at Frozen Head State Park tomorrow, I decided to go up yesterday and do a check-out hike. This has been such a weird spring-blooming season, I wanted to see what was in bloom. The 10 AM hike is going to be for photographers only. I hope we don't get rain so we'll have a good turnout! The park is famous for its wildflowers. This will be the 22nd year that I have led hikes for the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. The only year I missed was in 1995 when I had to have my appendix removed at the end of March, what a bummer it was to not be able to get out during spring wildflower season! :(

There were hundreds of Juvenal's Duskywing Skippers (a type of butterfly with hooked antennae) "puddling" on the roadside and along the hiking trails. Often male butterflies will land on manure or where animals (or people!) have urinated to take up salts. When they mate with a female, they pass the salts on to her.

As I was photographing several skippers on a pile of dog droppings, I noticed 2 strange-looking insects. They looked like a cross between an earwig and a firefly with a yellow "tail." I didn't know what they were, but I figured I could figure out their identity from one of my many books when I got home. It turns out they are a dung-loving Spotted Rove Beetle (Platydracus maculosus). There were a lot of tiny black flies (right) that didn't bite, but they were quite irritating when they landed on any exposed flesh! As much as I love Frozen Head, I don't like the flies, gnats and Yellow Jacket wasps that bug (pun intended) the heck out of people in the warm months.
One of my goals of the hike was to find some Bishop's Cap plants in bloom. It look some hard looking, but I finally found a few. I have been wanting to get a really good close-up of an individual flower. They look like tiny 5-pointed snowflakes on a stalk. I had to get into some pretty awkward positions on the ground to get this shot, but it was worth some discomfort to get it! Frozen Head is famous for its beautiful Great White Trillium, I was happy to find a few of them in bloom too.

I always enjoy looking at the Wood Betony (a.k.a. Lousewort) flowers from the top, they look like a pinwheel! (left)

I sure hope the weather cooperates tomorrow! It has been quite windy here today, that usually means a big change in weather. Considering it has been very warm and dry here lately, that must mean rain and cooler temperatures. I wish it would pour rain all night and get it over with before 10 AM tomorrow!

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