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It’s aster and goldenrod season!  This time of year is one of my favorites as the natural landscape lights up with hues of yellow and purple.  Head out to a local prairie near you and you’ll see firsthand just how complimentary these colors are.  They make me think of apple picking, the beginning of crunchy leaves on the sidewalk, and of course the end of summer.  In fact, this Saturday marks the autumnal equinox, so put on a flannel, grab that spiced warm drink you’ve been thinking about, and let’s get outside!

A bee perched on an aster

For those not quite ready for fall (I’m one of them, so no pumpkin spice latte for me), here’s a little reminder that some bird species are still nesting!  Most think of spring as the time for baby birds, but some species like the American goldfinch don’t begin nesting until mid-late summer.

While it may seem like they are procrastinating just a tad, goldfinches have actually adapted quite well to late-season nesting.  During this time, milkweed and thistle fluff are plentiful and can be found lining their nests.  By the time goldfinch fledglings are ready to leave the nest, most plants have already gone to seed which just so happens to be the sole diet of goldfinches. Convenient!  See the photo below of the active goldfinch nest that is in the maple in my front yard RIGHT NOW!

American goldfinch fledglings

This time of year, insects are also still very active.  Go take a look at those goldenrods and asters currently in bloom and you’ll likely find a sleepy bee absolutely covered in pollen.  Last week while out with my monthly outdoor volunteers, we came across a very large yellow garden spider (pictured below) trying to catch insects in its web.  The pattern on the abdomen of this particular spider made it look like it had several large eyeballs staring back at me.  Creepy!

Yellow garden spider

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this picture of a cedar beetle perched on a wild columbine seed pod.  My son was the one who discovered this odd-looking insect the other day and said that it looked like antlers on its head.  I had to agree with him!  Having never seen one before, I immediately looked up what it was.  Turns out, it’s a cedar beetle which is confusing because it has no relationship with cedars.

What they’re known for is the parasitic relationship they have with cicadas.  In fact, they’re also called ‘parasitic cicada beetles’.  Apparently, they lay their eggs on trees and once the larvae hatch, they crawl down the tree and burrow into the ground in search of cicada nymphs for a meal.  If that’s not creepy, then I’m not sure what is!

Cedar beetle (parasitic cicada beetle)

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour and I’ll see you next time!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

We’re officially halfway through summer and as each new day passes, the amount of sunlight we have is gradually shrinking.  While I intentionally try not to think about a 5 pm sunset in the winter, it is a good reminder to get outside, soak up that sun, and enjoy these wonderfully long days while they still last.  In case you need some extra motivation to get outside, follow me on this month’s virtual nature tour to see what’s happening out there right now!

Young praying mantis

Take a quick trip outside and you’ll notice an abundance of insects.  Everywhere you look, they seem to be buzzing, flapping, or crawling about.  This little mantis (pictured above) was spotted at an outdoor volunteer event at Westport Prairie.

They are extremely efficient hunters that not only have great camouflage; they are also able to rotate their heads 180 degrees to help them spot and catch prey.  While being an efficient hunter is a great skill to have, unfortunately, they are indiscriminate feeders that will eat native insects, and most mantises that you find here in Wisconsin are actually invasive.  That being said, they are incredible insects and so darn cool to look at.

American robin feeding its young

While out on a hike with my wife Carolyn, we noticed a fledgling robin that was begging for food up in a tree.  This mostly consisted of a lot of feather shaking with its mouth wide open, similar to what they would do inside of the nest.  Sure enough, not even a few seconds later the momma robin flew in and provided a plump berry as a nice mid-morning snack.  We watched her do this about 4-5 times before they both flew away.  Come this time next year, if the fledgling is able to survive, it will be feeding a baby of its own (so hopefully it’s taking notes)!

Dog-day cicada

This Dog-day cicada was actually spotted in my front yard earlier this week.  My son and I quickly ran inside to grab our cameras since I guess that’s a thing that we do when we see cool bugs.  We both started snapping photos and comparing to see what sort of good shots we got.  While reviewing the photos on our cameras, I heard a loud scream that went on for at least 4 seconds.  I look over towards the scream and see that there’s another cicada that had crawled up my son’s leg and (very) slowly approached his knee.

He was so invested in reviewing his photos that he hadn’t noticed this rather large insect crawling up his leg.  I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes (while removing the insect for him).  He laughed about it afterwards and although only slightly traumatized, I’m sure he’ll keep that memory with him for a long time.

Gray treefrog

Finally, I’ll leave you with this extremely cozy gray treefrog that I spotted at a friend’s house this week.  The milkweed that it was perched on really helped the frog camouflage into its surroundings.  In fact, I was actually on the hunt for monarch caterpillars at the time, and I definitely would have passed right by him if I wasn’t actively scanning the milkweed.  As if we didn’t need another reason to plant more milkweed!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour and I’ll see you next time!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

Happy summer!  I’m not quite sure how spring has already come and gone, but here we are at the beginning of summer and there’s quite a bit going on outside right now.  In fact, there’s more going on outside than usual if you include the wildfire smoke that’s kept us indoors this week.  As much as I encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature, I hope you’re paying attention to the air quality reports and staying inside when necessary.  While you’re inside, let’s take a virtual tour to see what’s going on out there despite the smoke!

Red-winged blackbird nest with eggs

If you were to head outside right now, you may discover that birds are nesting.  While some birds are discreet nesters, others like red-winged blackbirds are more than happy to tell you all about how their nesting is going.  While it’s never happened to me, I’ve heard stories of bicyclists and walkers getting dive-bombed by nesting red-winged blackbirds and chased down the street.  They can be pretty territorial when it comes to their nests, so be sure to give them some space unless you want knocking off your hat.

Baby painted turtle

While out at Patrick Marsh, we discovered a baby painted turtle on the side of the trail.  I picked it up and moved it further off of the trail so that it wouldn’t get stepped on, but had to take a quick photo before releasing it.  They’re one of my favorite types of turtle because of how colorful and plentiful they are.  I’ve stumbled across many baby turtles in the past and I always forget just how small they are when they’ve just hatched.

Turtles love nesting on trails and in gravel parking lots because the dirt/sand is the ideal substrate for them to dig in.  So if you see a little golf-ball sized hole (sometimes much bigger) on a trail, there’s a good chance a turtle deposited some eggs in there.

Monarch caterpillar munching away

Now is the time to start checking the milkweed in your yard for monarchs!  Simply look for leaves that have been chewed up and there’s a good chance that there is a monarch caterpillar not far away.  I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but if you find one, make sure you don’t eat it (I know, it’s tough).  Because monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed which contains a toxic sap inside, the caterpillars themselves are actually toxic.  In addition to being toxic, they’re also brightly colored with lots of stripes.  This combination tells predators that they should stay away unless they want to get sick.  Mushrooms are similar in that the extra colorful and bright red ones are usually the ones to stay away from.

White-tailed fawn

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a photo of this white-tailed deer that I spotted while out with my family on a hike.  Its knobby knees and wobbly legs made it look like it was straight out of a Disney movie.  It was pretty darn adorable and I was extremely pleased with how cooperative it was for a photograph, which is not usually the case with wildlife photography.

Have you ever wondered why fawns have little white spots all over them?  It’s to help camouflage them with their surroundings.  When a predator is nearby, fawns (usually) have an instinct to lay down and stay still.  The white spots on their back break up their silhouette and help mimic the dappled sunlight that would hit the forest floor.  Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour and I’ll see you next time!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

Spring is finally here!  It didn’t seem like it would ever actually happen, but here we are.  The birds are singing, the chorus frogs are chirping, and plants are starting to emerge from the soil.  It’s a great time of year for many reasons, but I especially like it because it seems so much easier to notice the little changes in nature.  While you’re here, let’s take a quick virtual tour of some of those changes that are happening right now!

Woolly bear

Woolly bears are back!  Well, I guess they never really went anywhere to begin with, but now they’re active.  Did you know that wooly bear caterpillars produce a chemical in their body similar to anti-freeze which allows them to almost freeze completely solid over the winter?  Once the temperatures begin to warm up, these fuzzy little caterpillars thaw out and become active (and very hungry).  After a few days of eating, they build a cocoon and eventually emerge as an Isabella tiger moth!

Turkey roosting

While out on a hike with my family, we went to a local green space in search of woodcock.  This time of year is when they typically do their sky dance and can be heard ‘peenting‘ at dusk.  We were lucky enough to both hear and see this wonderful springtime display from such an odd bird.

As we continued our hike, we headed towards a group of pines where we have seen roosting turkeys in the past.  Sure enough, after briefly scanning the tops of the trees we saw four of them sitting motionless on some limbs.  Even though I have known for many years that turkeys sleep in trees, it’s still one of the strangest sights to see and it always brings me joy.

Pussy willow buds emerging (with gall)

If you have been out to some wetter areas lately, you may have noticed that the willows are looking quite a bit fluffier than they did a month or two ago.  From a distance, the stems all look as if they’ve been lightly touched by snow, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the buds are actually preparing to flower.  Since these willows are some of the first to bloom, the light-colored fuzz helps protect the flower buds from the cool spring air.

On this particular branch, I found what looked like a pinecone.  There were actually a bunch of these all over and it turns out that these pinecone-looking structures are actually insect galls.  Tiny insects called gall midges lay their eggs in the stems of willows.  As a defense mechanism, the willow produces these ‘cones’ which ends up providing shelter for the insect.  In the summer, these insects will emerge from the galls.

Pasque flowers getting ready to bloom

Speaking of fuzzy plants, pasque flowers are beginning to bloom!  This has got to be one of my favorite flowers of all time.  Similar to the pussy willow, pasque flowers are very early bloomers, as well as fuzzy.  This fuzz acts as insulation against the cold weather and is very effective. In no time at all these flowers will be outstretched and soaking up the spring sunlight.

I hope you enjoyed my virtual nature tour and happy almost spring!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

It’s almost spring!  According to the calendar, we’ve got less than two weeks until winter officially ends and spring begins.  There are lots of subtle (and not so subtle) clues that spring is just around the corner and I love discovering them one by one.

The temperature is starting to warm up a little, the days are lighter for longer periods of time, the birds seem to be a bit more chatty, and the tulips and daffodils have started to peak out of the ground in my yard!  Note that I’m intentionally ignoring the 4-8″ of snow that’s predicted for today…

Canada Geese in flight

Look no further than just above your head and you’ll likely see or hear birds in migration.  While it’s still a little early for most migrating birds to make their way back to Wisconsin and beyond, I’m beginning to notice more geese, sandhill cranes, and even turkey vultures flying overhead.  On particularly sunny days, robins can be heard barking up a storm while chickadees belt out their classic “deee-deee” call.  It’s a wonderful cacophony of sounds that will only get better as the days get warmer!

American Bladdernut seed pod

If you’re out on a hike and you happen to be near a wooded slope, riverbank, or mesic woodland, you may stumble upon these odd papery seed pods that contain a few seeds that resemble popcorn kernels (they are roughly the same size as well).  The seed pods are usually in a cluster and connected to a short-growing shrub.

The plant is called American bladdernut and it’s a native understory shrub in Wisconsin.  The seed pods manage to hang onto the shrub well into winter and can be found rattling in the wind.

Cooper’s hawk perched in a tree

This time of year is great for watching birds of prey since there is very little foliage for them to hide in.  It seems that lately I’ve seen more hawks being chased by crows than hawks chasing their own prey, and part of that is due to their inability to remain undetected by crows while hunting for sparrows and small rodents.

In fact, one of the easiest ways to spot a bird of prey is to search for a noisy group of crows (a ‘murder’ of crows).  There’s a good chance that the crows aren’t simply making a ruckus for no reason.  Most of the time they’re actively harassing a larger bird until it leaves the area.

I hope you enjoyed my virtual nature tour and happy almost spring!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

Well, it’s the first week of February and up until this point, it hasn’t really felt like a true Wisconsin winter.  Overall, the days have been relatively warm and the snow has been seriously lacking.  This week there is predicted to be above-freezing temperatures mixed with some rain (fingers crossed it changes to snow).  This is a nice reminder to get outside while winter is still here and enjoy it before it’s gone!

Pileated woodpecker holes

While it may not seem like it at first glance, the forest is alive with activity this time of year!  A week or so ago, I went on a hike in Madison with some friends and family in search of owls.  We headed out just before sunset and in a matter of minutes we both saw and heard Great-horned owls overheard.  We also watched two yearling deer walk right across the trail we were on that were less than 25 yards away.

While that was very exciting, you certainly don’t need to see wildlife to appreciate them.  Sometimes, just knowing that they were there not too long ago is just as rewarding.  One of my favorite activities this time of year is searching for tracks and sign of wildlife.   Just the other day we found these enormous pileated woodpecker holes that were drilled in perfect line (see photo above).

Can you guess who made these tracks?

Finding fresh tracks in the snow is another way of knowing that some sort of creature was here not too long ago.  Although, if you have a child around the age of five, it’s possible the tracks you’re looking at were created by them.  For example, my son loves drawing bird tracks in the snow along the sidewalk on our morning walk to school.  They aren’t entirely convincing, but you still have to watch out.

The tracks above are from a crow that was casually walking down the sidewalk.  When the tracks are this fresh, you can even see the little pads on the bottom of the bird’s feet and the nails cutting through the snow.  It’s not hard to picture what this scene looked like in real time.

Red-tailed hawk talons

Speaking of bird feet, I was out the other day and stumbled upon a dead red-tailed hawk that was likely hit by a car.  I felt bad for the poor bird and decided to move it from the side of the road to the edge of the woods.  The last thing I’d want is for another animal to get hit by a car while trying to get to the hawk.

It was sad to see but also educational.  It’s not every day that you get to see a hawk up close.  It was so neat seeing the little scales on the bottom of the foot that act like sandpaper for extra grip when catching prey.  It was also cool to see just how large and sharp the talons are.  This was the foot of a hunter.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your month and drive safe out there!

See you next month!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

Happy holidays!  With the days officially getting longer and the New Year waiting for us just around the corner, there is a lot to celebrate and look forward to.  Regardless of what you choose to celebrate this time of year, I think it’s safe to say that nature ranks pretty high up there.  For the last week, I spent the holidays in Buffalo, NY with family and was able to witness just how beautiful (and terrifying) nature can be.

A chickadee gets a free lunch

There’s this special place in Buffalo that my wife Carolyn has gone to since she was a kid to feed local birds by hand.  At any moment, you could be up close and personal with a black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, or a white-breasted nuthatch.  It’s truly magical and every time we take a trip out east, we make it a priority to visit.  This year was the first time my son was able to experience it and we’re already looking forward to our next visit.

It’s these special connections with nature that make me feel especially thankful.  Public green spaces like this exist all over the place, and you don’t need to feed a bird by hand to experience the wonder.

Shoveling a path to get out of the house mid-blizzard

The day after we visited the chickadee park, Buffalo was hit with one of its worst blizzards recorded (I felt a little extra happy that we fattened up a few of those birds before the storm!)  The blizzard was incredible to watch from the safety of a house, but it was terrifying to see just how powerful nature can be.  There were 30-40mph sustained winds with gusts 70mph+ and near zero visibility.  By the end of the storm, Buffalo had about 43″ of snow with drifts topping over 10′.

Tucker deciding if going out back is worth it or not

As I watched my black lab Tucker leap out of the house and over the snow mound that had piled up against the back door, I immediately thought of the wildlife that were enduring the blizzard outside.  From the voles and mice buried several feet under the snow to the great-horned owls hunkered down in a cavity of a tree, it’s amazing to think about how well-adapted our local critters are to the environment.

Seeing what sort of conditions they have to deal with reminded me of how lucky I am to work for an organization that protects local habitat for wildlife.  They have a difficult enough time surviving out there.  Protecting land for them is the least we can do!

What 10 minutes in a blizzard looks like

We were lucky enough to have power throughout the entire blizzard and only suffered sore backs from endless shoveling.  All in all, it was a pretty great trip that helped me realize there’s a lot to be thankful for.

While you’re celebrating the holidays and ringing in the New Year, don’t forget to keep nature in mind.  Get outside, breathe in the fresh air, and think about all of the possibilities that the New Year will bring.  Cheers!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!

We’re in the midst of the holiday season and I couldn’t think of a better reason to get out and explore nature.  Whether you’re finally finishing up the turkey leftovers in the fridge or getting ready to start decorating your yard with lights and snowmen, you should take a short break and go for a hike.  You probably won’t see any flowers blooming or warblers singing, but there’s still a world of beauty waiting for you out there, so let’s check it out!

Thimbleweed has gone to seed

One of the more peculiar flowers to set seed in the fall is thimbleweed.  Its cotton or cloud-like fluff contains dozens of seeds nestled within.  If you hold the fluff up to the sun, you can even see the individual seeds inside.  It’s one of my favorite plant species to collect seed from in the fall because of how soft it is and it can remain on the plant all winter!

Red Squirrel out and about

If you have spent just about any amount of time outside lately, you probably have noticed the chatty squirrels.  Red squirrels in particular can be very vocal and are often seen chasing off other species of squirrel that are twice their size.  They are extremely territorial which makes sense if you think about how much of their time is spent storing nuts and seeds so they have a food source to survive the winter.

American Bittersweet

Most of the colors that you experience towards the end of fall tend to be a little less vibrant than when fall is just beginning, so when you come across a patch of plants that are clementine orange and cherry red, your jaw just drops.  That’s what happened to me last week while out on a hike with my family.  I actually stopped in my tracks to investigate what was going on.

It turns out, the plant is a twining vine called American bittersweet and it is in fact sweet!  I have a bad habit of tasting things that I find in nature and after tasting these sweet berries my wife Carolyn informed me that they are in fact poisonous.  That’s why I keep her around!  So if you find some American bittersweet on your next hike, it’s best to simply admire the colors rather than the taste.

Students help plant prairie at Westport Prairie

Lastly, I’ll leave you with something to look forward to when spring rolls around.  Did you know that now is one of the best times of year to plant a prairie?  In fact, we just planted 5.5 acres out at Westport Prairie this week.  Many prairie plant species require a process called stratification.  Simply put, this process involves sowing seeds in the late fall or winter so that they are exposed to the cold for several months.  Once the seeds have gone through this cold period, they are ready to germinate come spring.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!

Happy almost Halloween!  As I walk around my neighborhood admiring all of the scary decorations and thinking about what I should dress up with my son as, it’s hard not to notice how colorful everything is right now.  Some of the trees are so intensely orange and red that they look like they’re on fire.  Nature’s palette is on full display right now so get outside and enjoy it!  Here’s a little sample of some of the things I have discovered in the last few days.

Sumac is as red as ever

I have a love-hate relationship with smooth sumac.  It’s easy to see what makes it so pleasant this time of year.  The vibrant red color of the foliage is breathtaking and is very easy to spot from a distance out in nature.  While it is native to Wisconsin and provides food sources for many types of wildlife, it often gets very aggressive and can take over more sensitive habitat types like prairie and oak savanna.

Blue wood aster in full bloom

Despite the chilly nights and early morning frosts, there are still quite a few flower species that are blooming.  Asters are one of my favorite types of flowers because of how late in the season they hang on.  Their color seems to pop a little extra because most of the plants they are surrounded by have died back for the year and have turned brown.  These gorgeous whites, pinks, purples, and blues get to take center stage and I hope they stick around for just a little bit longer!

Goldenrod seed fluff

While the flowers of most species of goldenrod have come and gone, what’s arguably just as appealing to the eye is what comes after the flower.  If you were to go for a hike at just about any natural area this time of year, you would likely find many different species of plants that look like they’re covered in snow.

This fluff is is responsible for allowing certain types of plants to travel.  At the bottom of each piece of fluff is a tiny seed that gets carried off in the wind when the conditions are just right.  Most people probably picture themselves as a kid blowing dandelions into the wind, but there are actually a ton of different plants that use this method of reproduction (think of milkweed or cottonwood).

White snakeroot is in full bloom

Lastly, I’ll leave you with one more controversial plant (which seems fitting since it’s one of the last flowers to bloom depending on where you live).  It’s called white snakeroot and it got it’s name because of an old belief that the root of this plant cured snakebites.  It’s another plant that’s native to Wisconsin but can be very aggressive.  I have some growing in my own yard and as long as you don’t let it spread too much, it’s not that bad!

What is bad, is how toxic this plant is.  Back in colonial times, snakeroot was responsible for contaminating quite a bit of milk produced by cattle that consumed this plant while grazing.  I think I’ll just enjoy snakeroot for it’s beauty and will skip eating it as an afternoon snack.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!

Happy fall!  Is it me or does it seem like summer flew by faster than ever this year? I’ve been intentionally ignoring all of the early signs of fall in hopes that summer will last just a little bit longer. I casually ignored the few trees in my neighborhood that started changing colors.  I refused to acknowledge the occasional Halloween decoration set out in my neighborhood.  I even made the conscious decision to be uncomfortable by wearing shorts on a day where pants would have been much smarter.

This past weekend I gave up and decided to fully embrace fall, flannel and all!  To celebrate the changing of seasons I watched football, went apple picking, and even set out a few of my own Halloween decorations.  It was a fantastic weekend.  While we’re all settling into fall, let’s see what’s going on in nature right now!

Hail in my backyard from a recent storm.

While out on a neighborhood jog the other day, I was struck (literally) by hail falling from the sky.  When I started my roughly 20-minute jog it was 75F, blue skies, and not a cloud to be seen.  It ended with dark skies, pouring rain (which eventually turned to hail), and me sprinting from tree to tree all the way home in an attempt to avoid getting pelted by some fairly decent-sized hail.  What a great way to ring in the new season!

Black and yellow garden spider

While collecting prairie seed out at Patrick Marsh with my monthly outdoor volunteers, we discovered a large black and yellow garden spider with what appeared to be an angry face painted on its back.  It was startling to say the least.  I’ve seen several of these spiders throughout the years but have never looked into them.

Later that day, I searched for the species online and discovered that females will often bounce the web up and down very quickly if people or other creatures get too close.  It’s a way of being seen so that the web doesn’t get destroyed.  I also learned that the females will eat their entire web at the end of each day and will construct a new one the next day!

Any guesses?

While at the same outdoor volunteer event, I stumbled upon this horrendous-looking thing sprouting up from the ground.  My initial response was laughter.  I’ve seen a lot of interesting things in nature, but this one had me simultaneously disgusted and cracking up.  I figured it was some sort of fungus, but had no idea which kind.  Without hesitation, I immediately did some research.

This unfortunate fungus is commonly referred to as elegant stinkhorn or devil’s dipstick.  While both names are hilarious, what’s not hilarious is the foul smell this fungus emits through the brown slime near the top.  The smell is often compared to rotting meat and is filled with spores.  The slime attracts insects which land on the spores and then carry them off.  Better them than me!

Check out this very photogenic praying mantis!

Finally, I’ll leave you with this wonderful praying mantis I found the other day.  If you’re anything like me, you may have gone most of your life without ever seeing one of these large insects.  This year has been different.  For some reason, I have found three of these over the last two weeks and all three have been exceptionally friendly as well as photogenic.  I also learned that a praying mantis will wobble back and forth to help blend in with surrounding vegetation blowing in the breeze.  Check out THIS video I took of the mantis in action!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!