White Admiral Butterfly: Yahoo! We finally have a different species of butterfly pollinating our flowers besides the Great Spangled Fritillary! This White Admiral Butterfly was thoroughly enjoying the Joe Pye Weed that has just begun to bloom in the backyard. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Great Spangled Fritillary: I enjoy these butterflies so much, and this one spent a lot of time on the hyssop and the swamp milkweed flowers today. (Click on a photo for a larger view.)

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth: I was so excited to see a hummingbird moth flying around the yard today. I tracked him from the butterfly bush in one garden to the phlox in another. My favorite feature of this moth is its lobster-like tail! (Click on a photo for a larger view.)

Bees of the garden: The most prolific bees at the moment are the bald-faced hornets, yellow jacket wasps, and mining bees. You see them here on a variety of flowers in the gardens. The bald-faced hornets are enjoying the goldenrod and swamp milkweed. The yellow jacket wasps are enjoying the goldenrod, and the mining bees are all over the sedum.

Garden Update: I have fallen in love with Hyssop this year. We went to Landscape world and saw bumblebees and hummingbird moths galore all over the hyssop. I bought two plants and before they were in the ground, the bees were happily buzzing and sipping nectar from the flowers. In fact, it is “used by beekeepers to produce a rich, aromatic honey.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyssopus_officinalis

By the way, Hyssop is a medicinal herb and has been used for digestive, intestinal, and respiratory problems as well as for treating skin irritations, burns, bruises, and frostbite.

We also bought three huge, yellow mum plants to put on our stumps. And, the helenium flowers are in full bloom as well. Fun, fun, fun… (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Tags: Hyssop

Autumn-like weather: Summer feels like it is nearing it’s end, in our neck of the woods, with autumn-like temperatures and dry air. Yesterday was picture perfect with a high of around 68F and a light breeze. Today, looks to be almost the same, although the temperature will rise somewhat. At the moment (6:30 am), the outdoor temp. is a chilly, yet refreshing 51.6F.

Garden and Insect Update: There are just a few more daylily blossoms to open this week. The Helenium is coming into bloom along with Goldenrod. The Swamp Milkweed is in full bloom, as is the Lobelia. In this set of photos, you see purple lobelia, a Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar (who feeds on dogbanes and milkweeds), Swamp Milkweed flower, and a Viceroy butterfly on the butterfly bush. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

We had just returned from a walk with the dogs, when I saw a butterfly feeding on the butterfly bush. I was too far away to identify the species, and called to Drew to grab whatever camera was closest as I thought we might have a Monarch butterfly in the yard. The butterfly was extremely skittish, so I only got in a couple of out-of-focus shots before it flew away. Upon examining the photo, I have identified it as a Viceroy butterfly. The Monarchs do not have the horizontal black line on their hindwings like the Viceroys do. As bummed as I am that it wasn’t a Monarch, I am still glad to see this beauty feeding on our flowers. We have only had a small number of butterflies all summer long.

We have very few butterflies, very few dragonflies add even lower numbers of damselfies, and very few bees around our yard. The bumblebee is the most abundant bee, and the Japanese Beetle is also highly successful (unfortunately.) And, that’s about it…depressing…

Erosion from the storm (a 50 year rain event): Drew took Lady Flame and Toby for a walk through the woods, to try and cross the West Cathance Stream, so as to reach Hix Small Cemetery Road where it always washes out after big rain events.

Unfortunately, one end of the bridge that Drew had constructed and secured with rods of rebar, came free from the surge of water, and Drew and the pups were not able to cross the stream. I put a X on the part of the bank that used to secure the near side of the bridge. There has been so much erosion over the past several years, that Drew’s bridge may have to be lengthened in order to find a spot to secure it again.

So, they returned home and we all hopped into the car and drove over to Hix Small Cemetery Rd., and accessed another branch of the stream from the other side of the forest. Indeed, the road had washed out. In fact, we were surprised at how much the hard packed road had eroded leading up to the earthen bridge over the stream. We’ve never seen that much damage from a rain even before. (Click on any photo for a larger view and commentary.)

A gully washer of a night: We got 5 ” of rain overnight. That has got to be a record rainfall since we moved here 14 years ago. The rain was steady, with heavy downpours all night long…I think we may have gotten between 2 to 3 inches of rain per hour.

Today, we are under a flood advisory until the swell of the rivers recedes. Many roads have been washed out, so we’ll have to be careful on our outings. Downtown Portland is under at least 3 feet of water.

The outdoor temperature will only rise to 72F today, which will be lovely.

Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) in the wood pile: Neighbor Ernie has been telling me for years that he finds snakes and snake skins in his wood piles, but I’ve never seen one in our pile until today.

Garter snakes are the most abundant reptile in our neck of the woods, and this one seems very healthy and quite large. Most garter snakes range in size from 18-26”. The largest Maine specimen measured 43.7”.

Garter snakes eat a variety of foods such as earthworms, amphibians, fish, leeches, insects, small birds, and rodents. They are also variable in color, and ours seems to be dark with very little dorsal patterning. (Hunter, Malcolm. Maine Ampibians and Reptiles. Orono, Maine: The University Of Maine Press, 1999.)  (Click on a photo for a larger view.)