Clifton Excursion 6/6/2011


Went out on a little after work excursion in my neighborhood to look around for critters and any unusual plants.  Didnt see anything I have not seen before but was able to stumble onto an animal I hadnt seen in about two years. The Red Eft si one of my favorite animals.  The eft is a type of salamander and is also known as a red spotted newt. The eft stage is the middle immature terrestial stage of the red spotted newt.  Red Spotted Newts begin as aquatic gilled larvae hatched from eggs. At some point the aquatic larva then metamorphose (much like tadpoles change into frogs) into a the red spotted brightly colrored terrestial eft stage.  After as much as 7 years in this satge the eft will return back to the water and transform into green aquatic form retainings its red spots.

Also saw the ghostly looking Indian Pipe plants.

Popes Head Creek 8 Acre Park Excursion


On my way out from the creek today noticed several very large, mature milkweed plants.  On them were a number of catepillars and they appeared to be feeding on them. I hadn’t really noticed them on other milkweed plants befreo usually see the monoarch larva and not hese guys. As it turns out they are not butterfly larva but instead moths known as milkweed tussock moth caterpillars

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 Queen snake and what I believe may be a juvenile three lined or possibly a longtail salamander-Eurycea genus. The snake was found under a rock along shaded stream bank. The salamander was under a rock but in a  shaded tributary of Popes Head Creek.

Queen snakes prefer eating molting crayfish are a very sensitive species to change in their environment.  I have sen an abundance of crayfish in Popes Head but don’t often encounter these gentle snakes as much as I did in the past.

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Close up of the queen snake.

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Profile shot of same Salamander

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top view of the Salamander

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Clifton 8 Acre Park Plant Excursion


On our way out from the park I spotted this Spicebush Yellow Swallowtail Catepillar.  Photo courtest by Virginia Naturalist Clif Fairweather 

Leaves from a HopHornbeam.

Hornbeam leaves

Here I show two ferns togther. The fern to the left is a called a Sensitive fern which was farily abundant and the one to the right, not so abundant, is a Rattle Snake or sometimes called a Grape fern. The sensitve fern is probably the third most abundant fern I observed in the park.

 Many of the Sensitive ferns were noticeably yellowing as if suffering from the extremes in weather lately .  

What is not clearly evident is the sporophyte on the RS fern protruding form the center of the plant. The sporophyte only appears as a single yellowish stalk.

Sensitive and Rattle Snake fern

The second most abundant fern in the park is the Christmas Tree fern. Note the shape of the pinna on the frond blade resembles a Christmas Tree stocking (see just below my thumb) 

Christmas fern

New York fern. Note the tapering of the frond. New Yorkers “burn the candle at both ends”  Probably the dominant fern found in the park

New York  fern

Indian Ghost Pipe

Indian Ghost Pipe

Went out for a short visit to the park today just to see what might be popping out of the ground after all this rain we had the night before.

Took some photos of some plants as I walked though. Positive identification, as with all my doucmented organisms is yet another project but for now the pics will give some idea as to what one can expect to see (flora and fauna)  in our park.

Imperial Moth 8 Acre Park Clifton, VA

Was out looking for snakes this afternoon when I happened across this large Imperial Moth.  This guy was spotted attached to a hanging twig dangling in an undercut along Popes Head Creek.  I thought it was dead but when I went to detach it from the twig it dropped to the base of the cut then exuded some sort of musk out its vent. The substance looked something like reptile musk but didn’t have the smell.  Maybe taste bad but I was not tempted to perform that test.

 Didn’t see any reptiles today.


Ventral View