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

Wednesday: 25 April 2007

Blogger Bioblitz, Day 4  -  @ 09:40:06
Laura, Somewhereinnj gave me a good laugh last night by quoting and reminding me of the Ultimate Curmudgeoness, Dorothy Parker, when she said of spring:"Every year back spring comes, with nasty little birds, yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants." - Dorothy Parker
To which I might add, heard somewhere, but appreciated in the same twisted sense:"You know spring is here 'cause the saps are running." - unknown, but not me. I merely promulgate.
I've had quite a bit of help from Bev of Burning Silo and her friend David Shorthouse of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in the matter of identification of spiders. This has been quite a nice interaction and many thanks to both. I will be shortly making some corrections and attributions in the posts of the last few days.

Tuesday was Day 4 of the Blogger Bioblitz. I've been guided a fair amount by what I see in the blog posts of others during the Bioblitz period. While I'm keeping my records of various things seen and heard, not all of it (by far) makes it into my own blog posts. And I've chosen, for my own selfish reasons, to zero in on small areas in this relatively small piece of property, as much to do a survey of a small area as anything else. I'm considering making a trip to the UGA State Botanical Gardens and taking a hike through the various trails to get a look at something else in the area. It's not that we're impoverished, by any means, but what we see here is only the teeny tiniest part of what's really out there, even in the small region around Athens, GA.

Yesterday was more or less a hike up Sparkleberrysprings Creek, but as it turns out most of my observations and photos were centered in the rectangle designated Bioblitz Day 4 on the following map:

Since the stream flows to the upper left on the map, this is obviously somewhat uphill from the Goulding Creek and Mayapple Forest sites of the last three days, but it isn't much higher in elevation. However the area around the creek is wetter than Mayapple Forest, and the entire site, with a few exceptions, is more closed in by a canopy than Goulding Creek, and therefore much shadier. Here's what the site looked like last December when I took a panoramic view of this area:

It's far more closed in now than it was in December, even with the unfortunate dropping of the White Oak leaves earlier in the month.

Now - birds. I haven't done much photography of birds and need to take a day to concentrate on that. I've been listening, but my listening skills are hit and miss. I'm enjoying the Barred Owls, which I'm *finally* hearing now, thank goodness. And the Great Crested Flycatchers have arrived in the last few days, so I've been enjoying their "phweep! phweep!" calls as they sing their fool heads off. Our Eastern Phoebes are all over the place, and of course there's the Red-tailed Hawks that are a permanent fixture here. One of the problems is that except for the nutty Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, and Cardinals, birds in a rural environment, if I may generalize, are far shyer than when they're in generous urban surroundings. Thus I see Bluejays, of all things, only at a distance, and they flee when they catch sight of me. Mourning Doves are calling, and I hear Pileated Woodpeckers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers all the time. Turkey Vultures are a common sight way above, as are Crows moving through the area. Whippoorwills have been calling in the early morning and late evening, but no Chuck-will's Widows as yet - they will come later. I've seen American Goldfinches, already in their bright yellow garb, and the occasional warbler, but what it may be eludes me.

Yesterday's Plantae:

The canopy in this area is defined by several species of large trees. Most dramatic are the six large and old American Beeches (Fagus grandifolia) that I've written about before. This is also part of the upper half of SBS Creek where the odd shaggy White Oaks (Quercus alba) are situated, and there are some large and old Tulip Polars (Liriodendron tulipifera) as well. Quite a few Northern Red Oaks (Quercus rubra) complete the upper canopy, and when all are in full leaf it is a very shady, moist area indeed.

Lower canopy consists of shrubs a few feet to 10-20 feet high: Painted Buckeyes (Aesculus sylvatica), which I've mentioned before, abound all along this stretch of hollow. Pink Azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides) is abundant along the creek itself. Flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) and Eastern Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are frequent lower canopy trees. And then we have the occasional Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and there is another small patch of Smallflower Pawpaw (Asimina parviflora).

Some examples of understory forbs that I ran across yesterday, and I must augment this collection in a more detailed survey. From left to right, row 1:
First two thumbnails: When Glenn saw this, he said "What are shamrocks doing here?". Well, ok. They're Violet Woodsorrel (Oxalis violacea), and they're in flower though declining now. Unlike a lot of oxalis, they have purple flowers and relatively broad trifoliate leaves (there might be a tetrafoliate lucky leaf somewhere in there, I suppose). They are particularly happy along the banks of the stream, but also can be found in drier, upper sites. This was a patch of several hundred. The leaves can be bright green like this, but they can also be a darker green shot through with gray highlights. They'll disappear in a few weeks, and so they are a real spring ephemeral. I've transplanted some - they have wonderful tuberous roots that make this ideal - and they do well for a year or so, but they seem to be very picky about where they live and if they don't like it, they're gone after that.

The third panel is a thumbnail of Uvularia sessilifolia, or Sessileleaf Bellflower. Yesterday I presented a photograph of a related plant, Uvularia perfoliata, Perfoliate Bellflower. The way the leaves are simply attached without a petiole, or clasp around the stem, respectively, tells you what they are. And that's the value of meaningful specific epithets: "sessilifolia - attached to the stem directly, without a petiole; and "perfoliata" - clasping around the stem.

These three panels here are of Prenanthes, or, generally Rattlesnakeroot. I noticed these many years ago, and it took quite a few years until I figured out what they are. I think these are probably all Prenanthes trifoliata, or Gall of the Earth. But Georgia does hold 5-8 of the 18 US natives, so one or more could be something else. They dot the landscape with their emergent two or three leaves that never get any more abundant. They're one of those curious examples of plants that I've never seen in flower at this site. I've transplanted some around the house and they produce rather nice sprays of brown-greenish flowers there, very late in the summer, but never where I find them. Deer? Too shady? Who knows.

The leaves are extremely variable, and so that's why I present three thumbnails, to show that variability.


The event of the day was what is probably Twinflagged Jumping Spider, or a near relation, Anasaitis canosa. Thanks to Bev and to David Shorthouse for their input to this identification.

I found the above individual high above the creek cavorting about the leaf litter, and we had a merry time playing hide and seek. But a little later, 500 feet away, I found a second individual of the same species right at the creek bank. A couple of extra thumbnails here:

Another merry wanderer was what I think is close to Forest Wolf Spider (Gladicosa gulosa), which I chased around the leaf litter near the creek. These were the best photos I could get:

Wandering about the upper slope above the creek was this easily recognized true bug, Largus succintus, sometimes called Red Bug, or Largus Bug.

And just above the creek, and certainly NOT in an orchard, was a web spun by what I'm calling Orchard Webweaver, Leucauge venusta. Quite a medley of colors, this is a "large-jawed spider", and is in the same general group as the tiny translucent spiders I found under the buckeye leaves at the Mayapple Forest yesterday.

Last but not least, or at least not insignificantly, and not at this site at all but crawling on the front deck, was this Forest Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma disstria. Now we have lots of Eastern Tent Caterpillars, the related M. americanum, but this is the first time I've seen this one. They're both native, but bad citizens, thugs, and do cause a lot of damage to plants. One interesting thing I learned is that the population of Sarcophage Flies explodes during the time these make their appearance. Flesh-eating Flies of this family deposit their eggs in insects, and apparently some like Tent Caterpillars. After scanning some of the Bugguide photos and info on sarcophage flies, I need to re-evaluate the "first Tachinid fly" I found down to Goulding Creek a few days ago - it looks like (eyes wide apart) it may be a Sarcophaga.

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