Thursday, October 16, 2014

A new logo! and some old ones

I am a member of at least 5 different Amateur Societies/Clubs which all reflects my hobbies.

Here are some of their logos, the first one is brand new, designed by me . The bug is a stinkbug, Graphosoma lineatum, which is called strimlus in Swedish. Our old logo looked like something copied on a blue-ink copiator in the basement, rather outdated.

The society Sörmlandsentomologerna. 

  The Swedish Garden Amateur Society, with linneas of course.

 The embroidery society, started in Täcklebo but now has members from all Sweden.

Södertälje ridklubb
My dear Horse Riding Club which is organizing competitions for the Swedish Horse Jumping Elit this weekend, the logo looks like this (below). I will be there all Friday and Sunday.

The Canoeing Club in Södertälje, I keep my canoes in their house.

And at last, not my club anymore, but in my heart since 1980 when I joined Fältbiologerna. We had two logos during my years in the club. I read on their web site they are discussing a name change. The first name of this old club was SFU. The club slogan is Youth Nature Environment.

This is the present logo, LS, did you vote for it back in the days??

The old logo, the scythe is added to the original image. The slogan was more down to earth then,
in the 1970´s. "Keep your boots muddy"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tågresa (Train travel)

Jag tar tåget från Eskilstuna station, en modern version av de gamla motorvagnarna tar mig över broarna vid Kvicksund, till Kolbäck och vidare över slätterna till Västerås. Spåret letar sig in i obefolkade skogar på väg mot Sala. Ett snabbt tågbyte i Sala, jag saknar höjd över havet på nya stationsskylten. Huset är detsamma som förr. Undrar hur många stationshus som fanns under tågens stortid? Intercitytåget mot Uppsala ser ut som vanligt, men är nästan folktomt. Borde man inte kunna sälja lite fler biljetter om det var billigare? Det borde gå jämnt ut. Vi är 10 pers i en vagn på minst 80 platser. Konduktören har bytt den traditionella mössan mot en svart SJ-keps. Modernt, men jag hajar till. Ännu visslar han på perrongen vid avgång, i klassisk visselpipa. Min ungdoms resor, alla dessa visslingar, alla tågresor jag gjort. På väg till, på väg bort, på väg hem, på väg till älsklingen, på väg mot okända marker.

Ibland när jag står och väntar på pendeltåget i Stockholm så står det ett fjärrtåg på perrongen bredvid. Mot Kiruna, Narvik, Malmö, Berlin, Hamburg....

 Lusten att kliva på finns där, alltid. Jag reser genom ett landskap av lövskogar, nyslagna stubbåkrar i senapsgult, gröna höstsådder och granplanteringar. Just nu är vi mitt emellan sommar och höst, svala nätter men ännu är det varmt när solen skiner. Blommorna går i frö, bara några enstaka ettårigar blommar vidare. Nypon, rönnbär och havtorn har röda bär i stor mängd. Snart är höstens flammande färger här, det saknas bara några frostnätter.

Min resa tar slut i Uppsala, idag var det hit jag skulle. Domkyrkans spiror sticker hål på dimmolnens gråmulna himmel, snart tittar nog solen fram. Slottet ligger bastant och tryggt på bergets topp. Uppsala, min studiestad, min glädjetid.

(A note for English speaking readers, I describe a train ride through the Swedish landscape from Eskilstuna to Uppsala. A lot of memories from train rides in my youth too.)

Translation by LS:

I take the train from Eskilstuna station, a modern version of the old rail buses take me over the bridges at Kvicksund, to Kolbäck and then over the plains to Västerås. The track finds its way into uninhabited forests towards Sala.  A quick train change in Sala, I miss the sea elevation on the new train station sign. The station house is the same as before.  I wonder how many stations there were during the trains great times? The Intercity train towards Uppsala looks like usual, but it nearly empty.   Wouldn't they sell a lot more tickets if they were cheaper?  It would be about the same cost.  We are 10 people in a car with at least 80 seats.  The conductor has changed the traditional hat to a black SJ-baseball hat. Modern, but I are taken aback.  Still he whistles on the platform when the train is about to leave, in a classic whistle.  My youth's travels, all these whistles, all the train trips I have taken.  On the way to things, away from things, on the way home, on the way to the sweetheart, on the way to unknown destinations. 

Sometimes when I stand and wait for the commuter train in Stockholm there is a long-distance train on the neighboring platform. Destination Kiruna, Narvik, Malmö, Berlin, Hamburg...

The desire to get on is there all the time, always.  I travel through a landscape of deciduous forests, newly cut mustard-yellow fields, green freshly fall sown areas, and spruce plantations. Right now we are between summer and fall, cool nights but still warm when the sun is up.  The flowers are setting seeds; only a few annuals continue flowering.  Rose hips, mountain ash, and sea buckthorn have red berries in large masses.  Soon the flaming colors of the fall is here; we are just waiting for a few frost nights.

My trip ends in Uppsala, it was here I was going.  The cathedrals spires cut their holes into the foggy grey-clouded sky; soon the sun will probably show its face.  The castle is mounted on the hill as a heavy and secure thing.  Uppsala, my college years, my happy times.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy birthday, EH!

I hope you have a gorgeous happy birthday!  I am also sure all the moths and butterflies, mushrooms, birds, and flowers wish you a great day!

Giant Leopard Moth, Ecpantheria scribonia Giant Leopard Moth, seen in New Jersey

Friday, August 22, 2014

Six-legged abundance, and how to discover it

margined leatherwings (Chauliognathus marginatus_beetle_P6220530

Despite growing up in an entomological family, and I mean that literally, and later been surrounded by people that know and care about insects, insects, and insects, it is not until this spring and summer where I suddenly felt a real urge knowing the insects in my backyard.  I cared about the plants, the birds, the mammals, the clouds, the rocks... but the insects had just been there and been cool and fun, but I didn't bother so much with the science of them.

But, then I was part of a Bioblitz and everything counted.  I had to beat my sister in the species count on the long-term Bioblitz, so insects became important.  (She won.) A good digital camera made the observations permanent (thanks for the loan, PP).  But the most important help and driver was actually the internet.  The amazing and helpful people on that help me identify everything (from a photo), be it a common stinkbug or a rare beetle.  My Dad, who sends encouraging, insightful notes full of anecdotes via e-mail.  My Mom and sister, keeping up with the butterflies on their end over on the other side of the ocean.  Suddenly, insects have become attainable.

Also, and I have to admit it, Facebook is a great resource for species expertise.  If you just stay away from the entertainment news and junk on Facebook, it can actually be a useful thing.  I have gotten so much help with strange insects from internet people, many of which I have never met, never talked to in person, and have no clue where they live or how they look like.  I reciprocate, of course, telling people on iNaturalist and plant ID groups on Facebook what their unknown plants are when I can.

This is true citizen science, the broadening of biodiversity knowledge to the backyards and driveways of our homes, to people that are just interested and not professionally involved in the science of bugs, plants, and so on.  And all this knowledge is freely shared, no money, no accounts, no subscriptions, and certainly no expectation of accounted returns.  We are just all in this biodiversity knowledge curiosity together...  like a kiddie pool!  Except the whole world's nature is our pool.

So, here are some recent finds from our garden, and some I figured out myself, and others I got a lot of help with. Click on the photos and you can see larger versions of the photos and what the species are on Flickr.  This is just a gallery of insect beauty and biological diversity in a regular backyard in New Jersey, USA.

Redbanded hairstreak P8180860cropped Monobia quadridens - Four-toothed Mason WaspP8180863cropped Robberfly with caught bumblebee P8180810 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail P8170772 red aphids P8170638 Zabulon skipper male P8170596.cropped Toxomerus geminatus P8170614cropped Chinavia hilaris (green stink bug) Hemiptera IMG_6664 Clymene moth Haploa clymene IMG_2798 Harmonia axyridis (Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle)  IMG_6591

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fieldtrip to Payette River, Idaho

Last week I was on a day trip to look at mosses and lichens in the Rocky Mountains in Idaho, USA.  We drove up along Payette River, a clear-watered small river with many rapids that is beloved by kayakers and rafters (in inflated rubber rafts).  The river is surrounded by tree-less, browned grass mountains, but in the past there was a lot of trees around here.  Extensive logging in the last 200 years took down giant ponderosa pines, and cattle grazing by the settlers and onwards changed the vegetation to dry grasslands. 

We saw many, many lichens, and here is one of the most common one.  A striking yellow makes this one easy to identify, it is wolf lichen (Letharia vulpina).  It loves to grow on the ponderosa pine twigs and it toxic.  It is called wolf lichen because it was used as a poison to treat bait that was used to kill wolves.

Ponderosa pines against the clear blue Idaho-sky.  These pines are adapted to fire and survive it unless they are small seedlings.  Their bark insulate against hot raging forest fires that regularly comes through.

Wildfires were raging about 15 miles away, but didn't affect us.  Fires are common in these landscapes and part of the natural renewal cycle. 

This moss is an amazing little thing.  The left and right is from the same tuft of moss, and is the same species.  The left got a little water sprayed on it, and came back to life in a few minutes.  It is used to study cell biology, since it literally shuts down its metabolism in its dry state, and then can resurrect itself incredibly fast.

The rapids are very treacherous, and each year several people die here.  Rivers for kayaking are divided into categories 1-5 based on difficulty.  The North Fork of the Payette River (on this picture), is a number 4 I think.  We saw lots of kayakers including one that tipped under and then came back up.

And further down the river, where the ponderosa pine forest is gone, you could see the old logging and mining railroad from the late 1800s.  It is still in use but now it transports tourists. 

A little further down from the last picture is the little town of Horseshoe Bend, population 707. You know you are in a different part of the country when there is a plea for support to help a family's baby that was born with a heart defect, and the lottery prizes in the raffle they set up to help them financially with health care bills include three things: a chain saw, a new rifle with a spotting scope, and a large box of ammunition.  That would not happen in New Jersey.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Insect Biodiversity - small and big, in and out, up and down...

Since March I have focused a lot of attention on local biodiversity, both dead and alive, and both inedible and edible.  When you least expect it, you can see something intricate, interesting or gorgeous.  Here are some of the things I have seen in the last 6 months, as a small sample...

Clymene moth Haploa clymene IMG_2798
Clymene moth, seen one evening in July from our porch
Harmonia axyridis (Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle) IMG_6593
An Asian lady beetle (not a nice ladybug) is hiding inside a flower umbel of Queen Anne's lace.

Photinus _firefly P6220560
Firefly showing off its bottom end, the one that blinks at night. Fireflies are beetles, not flies. 
Tetraopes tetrophthalmus (Red Milkweed Beetle)red beetleP6220536
This unreal-looking long-horned beetle is called red mikweed beetle - I love the dots and the bent antennas.

margined leatherwings (Chauliognathus marginatus_beetle_P6220529_cropped
These mating beetles have to be careful so they don't get stuck with their snouts in the milkweeds' intricate pollination systems.

All of these are from my backyard and I didn't have to look very hard to find them.  Living things are amazing, indeed.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I know it's a weed but...

Isn't it pretty? A bit unusual with the pink eye. Åkervinda is the swedish name and the scientific name is Convolvulus arvensis L.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What is out there? Bioblitzing's amazingness...

A week ago I participated in a Bioblitz, a biodiversity inventory, at the old Doris Duke estate Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey (USA).  Her large working farm, park, and mansion has now been transformed into a sustainable natural area with large untouched forests, giant wildflower meadows, and bike trails and a science activity center.  It is a great place to visit.

A bioblitz is a concentrated biodiversity inventory by a group of people, experts and the public usually together, that takes place usually during one day or 24 hours. We were out for 6-7 hours during a hot and sunny June day, but spent the most time in the shady forest.

My group was going to look for plants that not yet had been found.  That might sound strange, but since there already was a long list of plants, we were going to look for the missing things, the gaps, and also go to some of the special areas that are inaccessible to the public to look for new species.  Of course, if we saw other cool non-plant things, then we should take note of those too.  So, what did we find?  Lets look!

Bioblitzing in wetlands P6280555

We walked into a floodplain forest that often gets flooded during heavy rains.  The grasses and other plants reached our shoulders, and it was moist like the tropics.  Not many new plants, but a lot of animal life.

katydid nymphP6280571

A katydid nymph, very colorful and tiny.  I saw it first because its long antennae sparkled like thin metal wires in the sun. It is some kind of meadow katydid, but too early to tell what species it will become when it grows up.

Carex cf grayi P6280545

This is a sedge, probably Carex grayi or a closely related species.  The inflated 'bottles' contain the fruit inside.  They look like green stars in the vegetation, and each sedge head is about 2 cm in diameter.

Amber snail maybe, P6280551

Lots and lots of snails were eating the skunk cabbage, and this one had a translucent shell.  I think it might be an amber snail, but I can't find any good book on land snails for northeastern USA.  Too bad, because that would be fun to learn more about.

Appalachian Brown Satyrodes appalachia

This butterfly has an appropriate name - Appalachian brown (Satyrodes appalachia).  It was sitting on the same plant as the katydid nymph.  I have just started to look at butterflies and they are so different from the Swedish ones.  The names are weird too - like 'brown', 'comma', and 'question mark'.  Very descriptive, but unexpected. Or maybe not :).

Eastern comma Polygonia comma P6280594

And here, this is an Eastern comma (Polygonia comma), a butterfly.  On its underside of its wings (which you can't see here) it has a white mark that looks like a comma, thereby its name.

Rattlesnake weed, Hieracium venosum_P6280543

Didn't we see any plants?  Yes we did, but they were less fun to photograph!  Here is one that you can identify by its leaves only, which is always nice... no need to look for hairs on fruits or count petals!  This is rattlesnake weed (Hieracium venosum - those veins sure look like filled with blood!).  It is in the sunflower family and related to dandelions and such. And it is a wildflower, not a weed.

Exomala orientalis (Oriental Beetle) P6280540

Some species are not native to this area but are very common exotic newcomers.  This is oriental beetle (Anomala orientalis or Exomala orientalis) has its ancestor in Asia, but now is common in this area.  I have seen it on our porch several times, attracted to the porch light in the evenings.  It loves garden plants!

Vanessa virginiensis - American Lady P6280528

This ferocious-looking butterfly caterpillar will grow up and become an American painted lady (Vanessa virginiensis). It is eating a pussy toe plant (Antennaria) we found in a small area on sandy soil near huckleberry bushes.  I found one ripe huckleberry to taste, and they are very similar to American blueberries in looks and taste.

hardwood forest with storm damage

Here is the forest, which after the hurricanes we have had are more open with light gaps from fallen trees, and the invasive Japanese stiltgrass is thriving.  Forests around here have a lot of oaks, maples, and hickories.  Sometimes also tuliptrees.

Lonh-horn beetle, Graphisurus fasciatus P6280515

Long-horn beetles are always fun!  This is a female Graphisurus fasciatus, with a egg-laying tube at the back.  In the hand it sat very still, but as soon as we put it back on the tree trunk it scurried off very quickly.

Lucanus capreolus P6280470

This was probably the coolest animal we saw!  A 4 cm long stag beetle (Lucanus capreolus).  They are said to be very common, but I have never seen one before. 

Hickory gall midge Caryomyia P6280519_closeup

Weird fuzzy golf balls?  No, tiny galls on the underside of a shagbark hickory leaf.  Inside each gall is a tiny developing larvae of a fly or wasp, in this case a small fly.

Winged Euonymus P6280504

Some invasive plants are really cool, but people don't like them even if they have fascinating characters.  This is burning bush, also called winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus). Look at those cork lists along the stem!  How can you not love that!?

Aralia spinosa P6280500

Spiny aralia (Aralia spinosa) has a suitable name.  These spines are on the leaves.  I wonder who it is trying to scare off? 

baby wood frog P6280492

One of several wood frog babies we saw.  Don't worry, it is not getting crushed.

skullcap, Scutellaria integrifolia P6280482

A new species for me, a skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia).  Look at the flowers, the top part looks like a cap you can put on your head.

Elderflower collecting P6280582
Towards the end of the bioblitz we saw a big flowering elderflower bush (Sambucus nigra/americana), and I was allowed to pick some of the fragrant flowers in the only thing I had with me, my hat.  The flowers ended up in a jar with lemon peels and vodka and now we have Swedish-style elderflower akvavit in our freezer! Yummy!