Jef led three of us on an urban nature walk around a very urban beach. Savin Hill Beach in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston is bordered by Interstate 93 and William Morrissey Boulevard. We were surprised at the diversity of water birds we found, including a few I hadn’t previously seen in the Boston area.
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On Wednesday, I heard something rustling in the grass near the Arboretum’s hickory collection. Turned out to be this garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), a skinny fellow who was quite afraid of me.
As I left the Arboretum’s visitor center on Sunday, I noticed a crowd gathered around a shrub. It took me a second to see the shockingly large Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia) that was the subject of everyone’s attention.
This praying mantis was larger than my hand. It had landed on someone’s leg and she had the peace of mind to place it on the shrub, where it stood still for many minutes.
The Chinese mantid is the largest of our praying mantises. Introduced from China in 1896 to control pests, they eat both harmful and beneficial insects, and sometimes each other. They are so large that they are able to attack hummingbirds.
Take a look at this face. It means business.
I didn’t let summer’s final gasp of heat and humidity deter me from a walk in the Arboretum on Wednesday, although, after a month-long break in 90-degree heat, I felt like I was experiencing the first hot day of the season. I spotted a nursery web spider (Pisaurina mira) biding its time under a leaf. Note how it rests with its two front legs touching each other.
This spider has a dark stripe running down the middle that is bordered by a white margin, which undulates along its abdomen. Also note the white hairs along its body and the black spines on its legs.
Aside from the aphids, I spotted a number of other creatures in the Arboretum last week. An American bullfrog was spread out lazily in the marsh waters.
I found this white-dotted prominent caterpillar (Nadata gibbosa) crawling across Meadow Road yesterday. A green caterpillar with an opaque, lighter green face, it is covered with white dots. This one had two brown patches on it, perhaps some sort of infection?
Exploring in the meadow of the Arnold Arboretum last weekend, I came upon this giant water bug (Belostoma sp.). This large insect — they named it “giant” for a reason — preys on creatures as large as small fish. It can inflict a very painful bite, and so is also called toe biter. Thanks to John Epler for the ID.
Can Southern magnolia trees survive in Boston? I thought not. Even the Arboretum’s own Bulletin of Popular Information, didn’t think so, saying in May of 1911 that Magnolia grandiflora is “not hardy at the north.” That changed in 1983, when a tree was planted behind the Visitor Center. More accessible, however, is a tree just off Meadow Road behind a red maple. Planted in 1998, this cultivar — Bracken’s Brown Beauty — is doing very well.
On Sunday, Jef led a small group of us on an urban nature walk. We started at the Bussey Brook Meadow and moved on to the Arnold Arboretum, ending at the Forest Hills gate. Mosquitoes hounded us, especially in the Meadow.
Jef called the meadow a European wildflower garden. We saw some periwinkle-colored chicory flowers (Cichorium intybus) and bird’s-foot trefoil flowers (Lotus corniculatus) with orange streaks on bright yellow. These were among the many wildflowers native to Europe.
June heralds the blooming of lupines in New Hampshire, and we headed up to Sugar Hill for the 20th Annual Fields of Lupine Festival. The two-week-long festival features parades, open houses, markets, and concerts, but none of these events were scheduled on the day of our visit.
We first stopped at Polly’s Pancake Parlor for a delicious brunch. I, of course, marvelled at the red oak just outside the restaurant that had been planted by Lucy Hildreth and Wilfred Dexter on their wedding day, the 24th of May, 1899. Over a hundred years old, this oak still stands strong.