My first book, The Travel Edition, is now published and ready to be experienced by all ages.
It’s an adult coloring book.
It’s a children’s storybook.
It’s a writer’s and artist’s prompt book.
It’s an adventure book.
Threaded within the spread of creatures big and small in one’s backyard, a sticky-toed amphibian may be quite eye-catching. Or maybe not.
When you first see a gray tree frog (Hyla spp.) working its way up your picture window or resting on the side of your swimming pool, its patches of green, gray, and black coloration may seem striking, complex, and beautiful. These frogs may also be various shades of gray and brown, depending on environmental conditions.
The reason for this coloration becomes apparent when the tree frog is among the lichen and bark of trees. In this case it takes a careful eye to spot these camouflaged herpetofauna.
Another, perhaps easier, way to identify the gray tree frog in its natural habitat is to listen for its call, a trill, which can be heard after sunset during their spring mating season.
A few of these photographed individuals were found around a backyard swimming pool at a country farm; others were spotted in the trees while conducting butterfly surveys.
Among the young oaks, sassafras, and sedges of Michigan’s oak-pine barrens lies a mix of butterfly milkweed, flowering spurge, and horsemint. Of spotted knapweed, sunflowers, and a variety of other nectar sources that create an all-you-can-eat buffet from 9:00 to 6:00 daily (if you’re an insect and into that sort of thing).
With careful steps and keen eyes, it is possible to observe an array of wildlife in these oak-pine barrens, from wild turkeys and their flock of poults to gray tree frogs and mound-building ants. And perhaps most noticeably, butterflies!
For the past week, I have worked with a small team to survey these habitats for the endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), which relies on wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) for larval development. For more information on this species, visit this page from the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
After completing a survey, I sometimes take the opportunity to photograph the butterfly diversity present, including these striking species:
This stunningly photogenic individual provides us with an opportunity to see the characteristics that make the poweshiek skipperling stand apart from other skippers, including and especially the white-scaled veins on the underside of the wings. We also see the characteristics that this skipperling shares with other skippers, including the wing angles at rest, compound eyes, and stocky body with modified scales.
More importantly, we have the opportunity to see an individual that is only found in a specific, rare habitat. An individual that is one of only a few remaining on small, disconnected sunny plots of prairie fen in a single county in southern Michigan. We see the slightest sliver of our natural history at risk of extinction, and a reminder of why we keep such wild places wild.
It has been said that if you do not like the weather in Michigan, wait five minutes. No more aware of the ever-changing weather have I been than while waiting for windows of weather suitable for butterfly activity. It seems that this has been an unusually damp and cool early summer, with clouds ever-present and the temperature hanging just below that dictated by survey protocol. Regardless, we have managed to get out into the field whenever possible, and continue to see additional butterfly species.
Our focal species hasn’t made its debut yet, but this banded hairstreak offered to pose for the camera today.