Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Thursday: 29 July 2010

Midsummer  -  @ 07:47:52
Nothing good can come of this.

Poor Squit, there in back, was sacking out in the 100+ degree heat of the day, trying to stay a little cooler on the front porch. Leona seems to have decided that there is nothing better than a good cuddle, and maybe a bath. This won't last long - there will be harsh words and a couple of slaps.

We're right about the time of humpday, that magic time of summer when the average temperatures (purple line) are in the middle of their peak, and will soon be trending downward. Our average high temperatures, against which you must compare the blue and red lines and dots, are normally 90 degF during all the month of July, and a little into August.

The blue (2010) and red (2009) dots are the actual temperature measurements throughout the day and night.

The blue (and red) lines are 25-point moving averages, and should be compared with the purple line. The moving averages give us a good indication of warm and cold periods, compared to normal. It's pretty clear that we're having a VERY warm summer, and that last year was just a little above normal. We've already exceeded 100 degF on four days, and are likely to experience 100+ temperatures today through Sunday.

That will put this July at about the 6th or 7th hottest since 1900, with high temperatures averaging 5 degF above the normal high average.

Tuesday: 27 July 2010

Jumper  -  @ 07:10:36

Yesterday we did officially break a 101 degF record set for Athens in 1925, when temperatures went over 103 in the mid afternoon. Around 3pm, though, a storm southeast of us expanded to cover our little area, and temperatures dropped 30 degrees in an hour. There was a lot of lightning and thunder, but the heaviest part of the storm was south and east, so we only got 0.20 inches in all. No complaints here!

Sometimes I can go for a long walk and run across nothing significant enough to photograph. Other times I can sit on the front stoop reading and significance finds me.

That proved to be the case yesterday afternoon when this very furry jumping spider acrobatted across the chair and onto the wall. It looks to be a Phidippus putnami, and there are some very fine images at that Bugguide link. That's a new one, for me.

Like just about all the salticids I've run across, this one was fearless and bold. I could tell that it was gauging the distance from where it was sitting to the lens of the camera, and half expected it to jump onto the camera.

The extra-furry front pair of legs were in constant flagging motion. There is a lot of variation in the species, with some of the photos not very closely resembling this individual, but some do, like this one. I'm guessing, but it looks like at least some of those differences are due to a dimorphism between male and female, and that this one is likely a male.

Looks like I missed, once again, Niches' anniversary - this year, the sixth!

Saturday: 24 July 2010

Lace Bug, and It's Very Very Hot  -  @ 08:28:13

Yesterday's high was 102 degF, and similar predictions are made for each day through Thursday, at least. Taking a look at the record highs during this period, we stand a pretty good chance of matching or breaking them each day.

Here's a pretty bug.

I should write a book on all the arthropods that have landed on my books as I read them outside. That's where this one was. It was easy to identify - it's a lace bug, and it's a true Hemipteran, family Tingidae.

From the general shape of the "helmet," the covering plate, and the patterning, it looks like it might be a cherry lace bug, Corythucha associata. All that elaborately lacy top plate is a facade - fairly regular looking bug hides beneath it. So skillfully that none of my photographs revealed it, but this one does.

Those who garden probably already know this insect, or one like it. They're plant suckers, but not, apparently, in a passive way like aphids. More like in a spider way, injecting digestive enzymes in their saliva pumped into the plant's interstitial space, and then sucking out what gets digested.

In doing so, they probably also transmit viruses, which cause leaf yellowing and spotting.

Friday: 23 July 2010

The Problem with Mushrooms  -  @ 05:54:43

Whatever the problem with mushrooms, one thing's for sure - people love photographing them. Who wouldn't, with such fantastic architecture begging to be immortalized?

Most amazing is how a largely amorphous, permanent and unseen body of tiny filaments can, within a day, mobilize and assemble nutrients and structures, and then construct them into a distinctive and complex fruiting body.

So there are many, many (too many!) photos available to sift through, if you're trying to match up to a particular species, without having done the grunt work of spore prints, chemical tests, or microscopic examination. And maybe your particular specimen is not so representative of its species.

Surely this one would be easy. Several were emerging from the floodplain, deeply shaded by hardwood oak and beech, just above Goulding Creek last Saturday. The free gills, the ring just below the halfway point, the fine scaling of stipe and cap, and (below) the terminal bulb would surely be sufficient for identification. This mushroom isn't huge, but it isn't tiny either - perhaps two inches across and four or five inches tall.

Rogers Mushrooms website has a nice visual key, that gets you into the major groups of mushrooms, which in turn lead you to a selection of photos within those major groups.

The presence of a ring and bulb suggested either the Amanita group, or the Lepiota. The alarming amanita group, though, has not a bulb like this, exactly, but a cup or a bulb with a rim that is evidence of previous attachment to parts above.

The Lepiota/Macrolepiota group, on the other hand, tends to have the ring higher up on the stem, more robust and fleshy cap and stem, and scales on the cap.

While I went through many photos, the only ones to match were some I took, just about four years ago, of Lepiota leutea (aka Leucocoprinus birnbaumii). These are the entertaining mushrooms that also pop up out of potted plants, very yellow when just emerging, and then lightening to an off-white color. The dusty scales coat all parts of the mushroom.

A search on "lepiota lutea" yielded quite a few clear matches, such as these, which probably peg the species. My specimens here are simply older, with the umbrella caps turned gradually outward into a slightly concave flat surface, and with the yellow color faded almost to white.

Wednesday: 21 July 2010

Blast from the Past  -  @ 09:27:53
(Continued unexpectedly from mid April, because flowers come back to haunt you.)

On Saturday, I encountered a small tree overhanging the creek, and these pretty fruits, several inches long, were hanging from the branches (some clearly already being chewed on by arthropods). I looked at the bark, and sure enough, they are the fruits of the flowering of silverbells, Halesia tetraptera. The fruits reflect the specific epithet - tetraptera - four wings.

Oddly, this was the only individual I could find, out of dozens coming close to hundreds, that was making fruits. I'll have to check more carefully on that, but the pendulous fruits are pretty obvious.

I collected a short branch, and later that hot afternoon we happily dissected the fruits, on the front stoop. The seed is shown in the bottom of the composite, from one of the fruits (shown atop). The two panels are not to scale - the green fruit is around three inches long and the lovely spindle-shaped seed is about an inch long. You can see the form of the seed inside the green fruit. The seed, by the way, has already achieved its very hard texture, characteristic of the stony seed of a fruit that is a drupe.

In the above composite, the fruit is indeed fleshy, though quite tough, and the inner tissues are very firmly affixed to the seed inside. We had to really scrape to get the fruit layers off the seed.

Is this seed mature? Since the fruit is still green and not ready to drop off, it's a good bet that the tiny embryo inside isn't ready to go into the cold cruel world, either.

Fast forward four days - the branch, left alone, displays the fruits now looking like this. The green fruit layers have browned and dried - they're not crispy, but rather, still pliable. The fruit on top is intact, and I've scraped away enough of the one on the bottom to begin to expose the seed inside.

Even so browned and dried, the fruit tissues are still very firmly attached to the seed. Now what has transpired here is not natural, since normally you don't have to cut off branches to mature the fruit. And it's quite possible that there were weeks left to go before the fruits still on the tree, with their baby plants inside the seeds, begin to senesce and dehisce and drop off on their own. I had thought that maybe the fruit would become papery and the now mature seed might separate from its enclosing fruit and rattle around in its little cage.

But maybe not. The whole business may go throughout the next few weeks, maturing madly with the fruit still firmly attached. Apparently squirrels will go after the fruits, presumably chewing away the fleshy green delicious outsides. Whether they care about the seeds or not is unclear, or maybe they are most interested in the seeds. Eat some, bury some, and from some of those come new silverbells.

Whichever. I'll take these half-dozen seeds and bury them in a planter and see what happens in the spring. And take another look at the tree in a few days.

Tuesday: 20 July 2010

Housekeeping Note  -  @ 07:53:44
If you don't do blogging and routinely mess around with html, you might not understand the jargon, but if you use Microsoft Internet Explorer you might have seen large numbers of posts with lines drawn through the text. You don't have to blog to notice that!

My sister pointed out that all the posts below the computer joke on the 18th have the text struck out, following the point at which I had introduced a strike markup in the header. It looked just fine to me, but I'm using Firefox.

She's using Internet Explorer as a browser. Apparently it doesn't recognize or maybe her version doesn't handle well (MSIE Fail ; - )  ) the established markup strike language. It looks like all the other browsers have no trouble with this.

I don't use the strike markup very much, but it's an interesting thing to know about MSIE.

UPDATE - I believe I've fixed the problem - it doesn't let MSIE off the hook. Before I did anything I checked through Glenn's Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and MSIE8 (thank you, Glenn, for maintaining all these browsers for checking to make sure) and it was only MSIE8 that showed the strikeouts through the entire page. I confirmed Susan's observation.

Then, I took a look at the offending post, and there was a double ending markup added at the end of the strikeout in the header. That's probably the fault of the b2 blogging software - it tends to wander aimlessly about inserting markups in some incomprehensible manner if there's anything wrong in the post.

Still, the aforementioned three browsers managed to ignore it, and IE did not. I'll forgive my blogging software for its silly mistakes - it doesn't make billions of dollars a year. It doesn't surprise me that MSIE8 (that's version *8*) can make billions of dollars a year while not being very intelligent.

Anyway, it's fixed now, and hopefully it will look normal to everyone.

Stripped Down Plant  -  @ 07:35:17

Here's a tiny plant for your xeriscaping - pineweed, or orangegrass, Hypericum gentianoides. You'll find it from Texas north through Ontario, and eastward to the Atlantic. It likes it dry and sunny, as you might have guessed from what's left of its leaves. They're just little scales on a herbaceous green stem, and that's the way they like it.

How tiny is it? This tiny. The overexposed flowers (I suspect unanticipated reflectivity - nothing else is overexposed) are what you'd expect from this family - lots of anthers, and a spindle-shaped pistil that will develop into a capsule filled with extremely tiny seeds.

I've mentioned a number of Hypericum species since 2004. Our signature plant is Hypericum hypericoides, St. Andrew's cross. Its range is only slightly smaller, excluding some of the northern territory of its small sibling.

Hypericum is a large genus, with around 370 species (USDA Plants lists 76 for the US and Canada), and according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny website, always greedy for more.

I'm using the family name Hypericaceae, but there is some contention as to whether the group should be included in the related family Clusiaceae (USDA Plants uses the latter; Weakley, as far as I can tell, the former). The aforementioned Angiosperm Phylogeny website continues to use Hypericaceae. Phylogenetic analysis does not refute the close relationship between the two families - at least at my level of expertise it depends on where you draw the line. Something similar to the argument about whether or not to include the milkweeds in the dogbane family (Apocynaceae), or more traditionally as their own family (Asclepiadaceae).

All that is of little interest to most, but reflects the extent of my interest - take a look from time to time to see what, if anything, has been decided ; - )  .

I started out this post suggesting that this little plant might be good for xeriscaping, especially in drier parts of the east and southeast. I'm not sure we have (or at least don't yet have) what you'd call xeriscaping needs, but at least maybe conditions of moisture frequently beyond minimal in the hot months. As long as you give this plant plenty of sun, and discourage competition by maintaining a blasted eroded soil profile, it would probably reward you with many tiny flowers during the hot season. It is an annual, and not a perennial, but as such it does tend to grow readily and enthusiastically from seed.

Monday: 19 July 2010

Trash of the Week  -  @ 05:36:28

On Saturday I was walking down Goulding Creek (literally - it's now quite low). I spied a bit of red poking up out of the sand. I pulled it out - turned out to be bigger than I thought.

It's not antique - it's modern plastic. Glenn and I identified the locking clamp above, the functional hole, and the cradle that the hole faces.

Now what could it be, and how did it get here?

The only identifier, "LUBING," tells us what we need to know, and compels you to solve the mystery!

And yes, there is.

Sunday: 18 July 2010

Connected circa 1950 1970?  -  @ 14:49:04
This elicited an immediate burst of laughter, the kind that comes from encountering the simple, silly unexpected. I'd love to be able to give it the appropriate attribution, but it seems to have attained anonymous internet immortality. Bravo, whoever.

The thing is, of course, that I know people who I'm *sure* have this kind of setup.

Opening Day  -  @ 06:12:46
Every year it seems that one plant or another catches my attention in a more focused fashion. This year it seems to have been the Ruellia caroliniensis, wild petunia. For five or six years individuals have been wandering around, but last year they discovered the front deck and seem to like it there.

It's not particularly related to petunia at all, though you can see why the connection gets made. It's a member of the Acanthaceae, which tends in most of its members toward the tropical. We're just lucky to have the tougher Ruellia species as natives.

These plants began flowering in early June, and each day have put out a half dozen flowers each, without fail. They're very enthusiastic about reproduction.

The flowers only last a day. They open well before dawn, although this is not considered to be a night-flowering species per se. The plant seems to attract a lot of different arthropods, each with its own agenda.

I decided to do a little time series to see if I could catch the pre-dawn opening.

8:30pm. The buds are well elongated, something they'd already done earlier during the course of the day, but now they're starting to blush with accumulating pigment.

12:30am, just after midnight: The same buds are much deeper in color. Very little, if any, further elongation.

5:30am, an hour before significant light in the sky: I missed the time of actual opening activity. I think it's likely that they accomplish this very quickly, so I probably didn't miss it by more than an hour or two.

6:30am, just an hour after the previous photo, and about as much light in the sky as there was at 8:30pm of the first photo. Once they get going they get there fast.

By 3:30pm, the flowers are senescing or have already dropped off.

At that same time, mid-afternoon, the buds that will accumulate pigment and open during the night for the next day are already well elongated. And receiving visitors, I see.

Saturday: 10 July 2010

Cuckoo Wasp  -  @ 07:48:58

Here's a very transient visitor to the computer nook last night, a cuckoo wasp of the family Chrysididae. I'm not sure which species it is - there are many, and a browse through genera of the most likely subfamily nets many possibilities that I don't see the distinction between.

There is one species, Chrisis angolensis, with an image that duplicates the bright blue abdomen and the sculpted metallic green outer exoskeleton that we see here. Perhaps that's it.

This isn't the first time we've seen a cuckoo wasp, but the one Jun 6 2006 did not have the bright blue lower abdomen. However there are comments from photographers that this is a very difficult specimen to get accurate color images from. The resulting images differed considerably from the memory of the individuals taking the photos; in my case this image does reflect what I recall.

Still, you can see from the abundance of photos that some images of the cuckoo wasps of a given species turn out a bright blue, while others an equally distinct and brilliant green.

Cuckoo wasps are parasitoid on, or kleptoparasitic on the food provided for, the developing eggs and larvae of other bees and wasps (usually). We saw this earlier in the spring, with Nomada, kleptos on the mining bee community I observed in late April.

It must be a very successful reproductive strategy, for again, cuckoo wasps are found worldwide.

Friday: 9 July 2010

Male Velvet Ant?  -  @ 08:36:59
An interesting, brief encounter with a brightly colored flying insect a few days ago. Where else but on the Ruellia?

Short story: one of the many velvet ants, Dasymutilla, maybe Dasymutilla creon?

Long story:

This one was somewhere around a centimeter long. The contrast between the red-orange head, thorax, and upper abdomen, the black-banded lower abdomen and black legs, and the black wings is very nice. Notice the tiny eyes, the long antennae, and the great big abdomen. At least the first two tell us that this can't be a fly. Without the wings you might think it an ant, because of the eyes at least, but the antennae are curved smoothly, and most (all?) ants have elbowed antennae, bending sharply at some point.

Here are a couple of other views - it was pretty active, and seeking to avoid me at all times. It had no problem taking flight to some other part of the Ruellia.

With that tiny waist and the generally elongated shape (and of course the wings), most people would see this as a wasp. The eyes are red herrings, it seems.

The antennae were quite long, and kept close to the substrate. 11 or 12, maybe 13 segments? It put me in mind of an ichneumon wasp, but there's no long ovipositor, and the antennae don't have the white tips that act as flags when the wasp flicks them around, as this one did not.

There must be some other possiblities hidden among the lesser known or seen hymenopterans, but I have pretty much decided it must be a velvet ant, probably a Dasymutilla. That's a big genus with a lot of variable species. But it must also be a male, since females don't have wings (or lose them, actually). It isn't very velvety, but not all velvet ants are. I'm used to Dasymutilla occidentalis, cow killer, have photographed females scurrying around many times, and there are bookoos of photos up at Bugguide for that species. This one is sparse of plush fur, although distinctly bristled.

These two photos were quite dark, as the candidate chose to scamper around and hide himself within the plant from me. I've brightened them up and heightened the contrast a *lot*, so they're pretty grainy, but the views are too good not to put up, and may provide some additional information that I haven't caught.

They both can be enlarged on a new page by clicking the image.

This one provides some wing venation details, as well as a nice view of the waist and the black collar about the front of the abdomen.

This one is very close to a photo of a male Dasymutilla creon found at Bugguide. The antennae are the only thing that still gives me pause. There are other possible species in this genus, and not all of them have photographs of males.

Thursday: 8 July 2010

Pawpaws  -  @ 07:58:15

The high temperatures in the east and northeast have reached us - highs today and tomorrow around 99 degF predicted. Very dry, though, and the humidity should be relatively low, though not reaching red flag levels, so it shouldn't be too bad.

We did have another sighting of Jezebel the snapping turtle. Glenn yelled "turtle" from the kitchen and I grabbed the camera and ran out. She was sauntering down the path between the Bufo and Hyla ponds, but when I appeared she scooted down the path and over the edge into the latter before I could raise the camera up. Man, she's fast!

I discovered two pawpaw fruits developing the other day.

Our pawpaws are, I think, small-flowered pawpaws, (Asimina parviflora), and not the cultivated species (A. triloba). We have a large colony of clones down to Goulding Creek just as the floodplain begins its rise, and then there is this small tree - a shrub really - that is by itself in the mature oak-beech forest way up SBS creek.

The colony of clones has never made a fruit on its own, that I've noticed, except once toward the end of April 2005 when I did some cross pollination between those plants and the one up SBS Creek. Three small fruits had begun to develop seventeen days later, but these did not persist.

Well, there's some indication that pollination doesn't happen very efficiently anyway (growers tend to hand pollinate), and that outcrossing is necessary and that clones will not self fertilize. So that brings up the question - how did this particular plant with its two fruits reasonably well developed get pollinated? As far as I know it's isolated from anything within a thousand feet, minimum.

Tuesday: 6 July 2010

Emerging Fungi  -  @ 05:57:41
Things are rapidly drying up now, and after a few days of pleasant temperatures it's beginning to get hot again. Nonetheless, there were some fungi out and about.

Masses of these tiny (5mm) mushrooms were growing out of the fallen shagbark hickory. Best I can do here is that they may be one of the coprinoids, or inky caps - perhaps Coprinellus disseminatus (aka Coprinus disseminatus). Assuming it's a coprinoid, that identification would be based on the fact that it didn't deliquesce into a black fluid upon picking and bruising (left thumbnail below).

There were hundreds of these mushrooms popping up (right thumbnail), growing directly out of the log at the soil juncture, and growing out of soil nearby (probably out of buried fragments of rotting wood. Michael Kuo at MushroomExpert has a nice piece on the species here, as well as a good read on coprinoids in general.

Two things about the coprinoids, or some of them, stand out. The first is the deliquescence that occurs from the edges of the cap inward as the spores mature (although not in the species above). Makes it a little hard to get a spore print! It's a dispersal mechanism for the spores and is a form of programmed cell death. Again from MushroomExpert, here's a page for shaggy manes and a nice photo of a deliquescing mushroom.

The other thing is that some coprinoids make coprine. Coprine is metabolized to a product that inhibits aldehyde dehydrogenase, the enzyme that degrades acetaldehyde. So what, you say. Well, when you drink alcohol, your body metabolizes the alcohol to acetaldehyde, which is what actually gives you a hangover. It's much worse if you can't get rid of the acetaldehyde, which the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase does for you. The coprine byproduct inhibits that enzyme, though, and so you're not supposed to drink alcohol for a couple of days after eating the coprinoids that produce coprine, or you'll experience alarming reactions. It's the same effect as Antabuse gives - drink alcohol after eating coprinoids that contain coprine, and you're going to get sick.

I had just about given up on identifying this white fungus emerging in clusters and streaks on an old hardwood treefall a few feet about SBS Creek. Then I ran across one of the remarkable photos here (really worth looking at the slimes, btw).

That led me to coral slime, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, which looks to be pretty close.

It still doesn't look like much in this closer photo, although I like the concentric growths, but there's a hint of something more than just a white blob. (Note that there are a couple of other probable slimes in the photo - three yellow and several red.)

Looking much more closely, we can see that the blobs are really lovely intricate masses of white tubes. These are the spore-bearing parts of the fungus. Apparently there's another form to this emergence - a porous spongy one, and you can see this at the aforementioned page of slime molds.

Monday: 5 July 2010

Box Turtles from the Neighbors  -  @ 07:31:59
I've been saving these up and must present them before I lose track, for they're a remarkable log of turtle observations and nest building, made by our neighbors over the past month. I've gone through the emails and the previous post, and I think I have everything straight.

But first, I really should introduce our neighbors to the north, Tom and Gisela. I have mentioned their names before, with permission, as in the Great Flood of 1989. Though we'd had the property since 1985, we were still two years away from living here at that time, and they'd been here for a decade by then. They provided us with those photos, and have contributed quite a lot to this blog through correspondence: bits of Oglethorpe County history, beaver observations, and turtles! I'd rather refer to them by name, rather than simply as "our neighbors."

A month ago, Gisela sent me photos of three box turtles discovered one evening along their drive, and one of them was laying eggs. The big surprise was that another was one of my discoveries, made in October 2008. Gisela suggested the name "Maggie," since that is our tradition - to give each turtle a formal name after a rediscovery - and so Maggie she certainly is.

Gisela reported on June 22 that she had found Maggie yet again, this time in their back yard. Actually, Oscar the dachshund was the discoverer and alerted Gisela. (And all these photos were taken by Gisela or Tom, except a couple of historical ones I had taken, at the bottom.) Maggie is quite a beauty. One thing that impresses me is how Gisela manages to get photos of the turtles without alarming them.

During the past few weeks Tom and Gisela have observed three additional turtles in preparation for laying eggs along their driveway. Gisela has called it their maternity ward, and that's what it seems to be. We all remarked how odd it was - it just doesn't seem like it would be a good place - compacted and travelled by car - but the single incident of egg laying I observed last year also took place on the edge of our parking area at the end of our driveway.

Here is the next turtle mom, found in the upper part of the drive on June 9. I did not recognize this one in the archive of photos - she's a new one and with all the others that Tom and Gisela have photographed have popped them onto a special page.

(The usual documentary thumbnails. I especially like the second one.)

The morning of June 30 brought two new turtles, both of whom were preparing nests along their driveway. I'll save the big surprise for the end.

This pretty girl is unusual for her sparse markings in the lower half of the carapace. I was pretty sure I'd never seen a box turtle lacking (or nearly lacking) markings on the lower carapace, and indeed she is not in the archive. She's "boxtgr2100630," if you're keeping track. She also has a distinct reddish tinge to her lower carapace that I've not seen before. Yellow, yes, red, no.

And a little thumbnail.

It was the second box turtle on June 30 that was the big surprise.

This is Ernest, originally discovered more than two years ago on May 9 2008, down by SBS Creek, and then rediscovered a a week later a hundred yards away. Tradition required a name, and his rambunctious nature and disinclination to retreat into his shell earned him that name.

You can compare Gisela's discovery with the first thumbnail of the photo of Ernest taken two years ago. The second thumbnail shows his plastron, which has what I must have thought at the time was a sufficient concavity to determine he was male. (Note that he didn't retreat into his shell even when held upside down.) However "he" was in the process of digging a nest when Gisela found "him" last week, and so we must presume "him" to be female.

Do we change Ernest's name? Tradition does not inform us! I think we'll continue with Ernest the female. The reason I find this interesting is that occasionally I do find the turtle with such a slight concavity that I can't be sure if it's male or female. Ernest has provided us with a little information that a female can have a slight concavity to the plastron.

I've now found a total of two turtles this year, a male and a female within a few feet of each other in the western new portion of the property, May 16. For me, that's a new low - by this time last year I'd found at least eight turtles.

Tom and Gisela have reported six turtles, four of whom were laying eggs or digging nests, and two of those rediscoveries from two years ago, more than 1000 feet from their original locations. Pretty remarkable, and all welcome additions to the archive, which now numbers nearly 40 turtles.

Friday: 2 July 2010

Apparition Without Proof  -  @ 08:51:59
Jezebel, the snapping turtle, made an appearance early this morning. Glenn spotted her - we're sure she's a she, heading south rapidly from the Bufo Pond where she makes her home in the winter. I was in disarray, but surely no more than a minute or two had passed before I was able to grab the camera and try to cut her off at the pass. I headed out the back door toward the Rana Pond, where I suspect she makes her summer home.

Either she got there very quickly, or headed off into the woods to lay eggs and will presumably return at some point. At any rate, Glenn said, with his arms outstretched outrageously, she's *this* big. And, I might add, she really is - this is her fifth year here.

So no photos as yet, but I will offer this one. I wish I could say that it was I who had the monumentally good taste to discover such a fine blanket, because if I had such a fine blanket I certainly would be lying on it too. It arrived along with the unfortunate Sophie, last October, from our neighbors, who talked us with virtually no resistance into taking Sophie on.

As for who tracked all over it, I don't know, but Gene is perpetually charmed by it.

Thursday: 1 July 2010

The Month of June  -  @ 08:05:17

It's The Month of June, Number 53 in a series. The word here, for June, was hot, as it was in May too. As it was in April. As in hotter than usual for the third month in a row, with high temperatures above 90 degF for 20 straight days, until yesterday.

This time, they're hiding the usual temperature anomalies product here, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Below is the difference in the average temperature for this June above or below the average for June over many years, plotted in colors.

As in April and May, the eastern half of the US experienced hotter than usual temperatures in June, while the western portions enjoyed (?) cooler than normal temperatures. However, hot weather seems to be making inroads into the southwest and central US.

We find the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center's precipitation plots here these days.

The southeast US was a patchwork of slightly above and slightly below normal rainfall. New England largely continued its drier than normal conditions, while points south along the Atlantic seaboard states got some relief from a dry April. Dry conditions continued in the southwest US, with odd little patches of above-normal rainfall. The northwestern quarter continued to get normal, or wetter than normal rainfall. Looks like there was a superabundance of rainfall in the midwest!

For Athens:

For Athens, we continued for the third month in a row a warmer than usual trend. While nighttime lows were higher than usual, this month highs were higher than normal. We experienced 21 days with temperatures above 90 degF. Once again, rainfall was extremely heterogeneous in June.

Here is my plot of high temperatures for the month of June in Athens. (It seemed appropriate to present high temperatures this time.) As usual, the black dots are for the 1920 years 1990-2009 (black dots), 2010 (green line), and 2009 (red line).

We broke no high records in June (although our high of 98 Jun 15 came within a degree. Both daytime and nighttime temperatures ran 4-5 degrees warmer than normal.

We had 7 days of high temperatures that were at least one standard deviation higher than average, and the usual number of such days is 4.6. That's pretty significant. We had ZERO nights below the standard deviation for our usual lows, compared to 5.3 such nights, and that's probably significant in the other direction. This was a pattern almost identical to that in April and May.

The figure below shows the Athens rainfall data which are official for our area. As usual the green line shows our actual rainfall, the red shows the average accumulation expected. The black dots are rainfall over the last 20 years, the vast river of peach shows the standard deviation.

While this figure shows rainfall close to average for the month, it's for Athens, which got 4.55" of rain (3.94" normal for June). Yet 10 miles away, we in Wolfskin got 3.59", a clear deficit, and that repeats the pattern of May. Looking at the CoCoRaHS data, reliable Oglethorpe County stations got anywhere from 2.1 to 4.5 inches total, indicating a lot of variation over a 15-mile radius. We always get scattered rainfall in the summer, but this degree of difference over small areas seems much greater than usual, and I'm not the only one to notice it.

I'll continue to link to this neat prognosticator in which you can get variously timed precipitation and temperature outlooks. For us, the long term (three months) continues to suggest warmer than usual temperatures, and average rainfall. Our summer will be a perhaps more than a little warmer than usual, with perhaps average rainfall, and that's because....


NOAA's weekly ENSO update tells us that we're now experiencing neutral ENSO conditions. Indications are that we'll be entering La Niña conditions within the next month or two. The last time we were in a significant La Niña was from Aug 2007 to May 2008. Might be a good time to take a look at what that was like.

Relive your favorite weather events, courtesy of NOAA. NOAA has a neat State of the Climate product.

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