Nature Hike 2: Attack of the Mosquitoes!
My friend Ai Ling (http://blog.lingfoto.com/) and I went on another photography nature hike. It was a seemingly perfect late summer night. The sun was getting low and the leaves were revealing the first hint of their autumn beauty. What we didn’t expect were the mosquitoes!
I have been in ponds in the middle of the night, tropical rainforests on two continents, the BWCA in May, but the mosquitoes we encountered that night were among the worst I have ever experienced! I only mentioned this because what most people see in a pictures is the moment through the camera. What you don’t see is the horde of mosquitoes slowing draining blood while the photographer is trying to steady their hand for the shot, or trying to adjust to changing light conditions.
Next time you flip through a National Geographic think about what the photographer was doing or experiencing during that one awesome shot!
This American Toad was hopping through the grass on the side of the trail. Judging by its size it started this spring as an jelly-like egg mass on the surface of a pond. It is now about and inch and a half long and stocking up on energy for its hibernation this winter. If it doesn’t get enough it will freeze and return to the earth, if it does it might very well be making those egg masses next spring!
This is Jewel Weed, also called Yellow Forget-Me-Not, and it is your answer for poison ivy or any other type of itchy skin….say a dozen mosquito bites to get this shot…
To get to it’s itch relieving qualities all you have to do is crush up some leaves and rub it on the affected area… the jewel weed was flowing that night.
Looking at Jewel Weed as a flower, notice the position of the pistils, the pollen holding organs, and how they are positioned to deposit that pollen on the back of any pollinator that crawls into the flower to retrieve the nectar. I watched several Bumble Bees crawl deep into the flower to retrieve their reward and ensure a thick patch of Jewel Weed next spring.
This is one of those plants that might make you find some Jewel Weed, this is Stinging Nettle. This plant does just as it’s name suggests…IT STINGS! Small delicate hairs cover the plant like thousands of tiny hypodermic needles. One brush with bare skin breaks those needles releasing a chemical cocktail that results in itching, swelling and pain.
The plant is not just something to watch out for its negative qualities, Stinging Nettles has dozens of other more useful qualities. I have eaten neetles (tastes like spinach), drank neetles tea (great with a little sugar), made cordage (fancy name for rope) from the stems, just to name a few. I was once told that a good naturalist should be able to name at least 100 uses for Stinging Nettles alone!
While we are talking about plants with spines there is a Thistle flower. This flower will go to seed and provide Goldfinches a supply of food throughout the winter. Goldfinches are able to navigate around the crown of thorns and retrieve the protein packed seeds from within.
The Sunflowers were taking in the last warm nights of summer. Fall is in the air and plants and animals alike are rushing to prepare for winter.
Flocks of birds follow their ancestral routes, tree begin to drop their burden of leaves, insects call a little slower, the gets a little crisp, the days get shorter. This is the natural cycle that reminds us to appreciate the warm days of summer and the bountiful times that it brings. Fall is upon us and everything is grasping on to what remains of summer.
Up Next: More Nature Hike