Insects And Some Other Cool September Stuff

I was out searching for wild mushrooms everyday this past week. It has been a cool and rainy Summer which has resulted in an abundance of wild mushrooms. I have found many hen of the woods, or, as they are called in my area, rams head mushrooms. hen of the woods mushroom

I have found many other species too and have been including  them in   some of my favorite dishes, such as shrimp, scallops, wild mushrooms sauteed with onions and garlic served over whole wheat pasta.dinner meal of shrimp, scallops, hen of woods mushrooms over pasta

I took my macro lens on some of my hikes and, in addition to wild mushrooms, uncovered some more of the beauty of nature up close. 

One of the most unique was this creature. I found it sitting on a milkweed pod.  heel bug insect on milkweed pod

It kept facing me, in this defensive pose,  as I approached from all sides. I have learned it is a wheel bug  ,  a member of the assassin bug family, and is know for it’s painful sting. Here is a link to some more photographs of the wheel bug.close up wheel bug on milkweed pod

There were many signs of the coming of  Fall on my walk. Many of the leaves are now changing color, especially members of the heath family, including the blueberry bushes. bright red bluebery leaves

And some of the red maples.bright red maple leaves

The woods are a lot quieter now, many of the song birds have already begun their migration south. And many of the insects, dragonflies and butterflies  are now gone. I still saw a few wasps and bees and this butterfly. moth or butterfly on tree

And some other insects I haven’t seen before.unidentified insect on leaf

I found this caterpillar suspended from a silk thread as it dangled it’s way to the ground in search of food before the cold weather sets in. caterpillar dangling from silk thread

Even though I only had my macro lens I was still able to get a photograph of this deer watch me walk by,deer in woods

and a photograph of this interesting reflection of the sun in the clouds. 

I don’t believe I have ever taken a walk in the forest  and woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania without seeing something new, beautiful or interesting.

I enjoy every one of my walks, and even more so during mushroom season, since I can take some of nature home with me and  add it to a delicious  meal. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hikes. 

All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. Marie Curielady bug beetle on white flower

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Insects, Mushrooms And A Frog, A Mid Summer Hike With My Macro Lens

It’s mushroom season here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and I’ve been spending most of my free  time searching for the many edible species I like to eat. Today, I wanted to get home early to watch the Eagles football game so I decided to take a quick hike out nearby Community Park and scenic Lake Irene with my macro lens. Lake Irene and clouds

It’s mid summer now the many insects that are found in our area are at their peak.  Dragonflies were darting along the lake and perched on the rocks, branches and plants on the shores. dragonfly perched on branch

There are not many flowers in bloom now, but the ones that are blooming attract a wide variety of insects, including a lot of bees, bee on flower

and beetles.beetle on flower

Most of the butterflies are now gone but I did find one of their offspring this caterpillar on ground

And there were many types of grasshoppers and crickets jumping through the brush. grasshopper on ground

I walked around the lake, sampling some of the many, now ripe, blackberries. close up of blackberry

And found the tea berries in bloom. There bright red berries will be found throughout the fall and winter. tea berry flowers

And the jewel weed or touch me not  was still in bloom jewel weed flower

as well as some other flowers I was unfamiliar with. flower in bloom

I didn’t see any turtles today but did find the leopard frog sitting near on of the many puddles and ponds along the trail. 

And I did find some mushrooms, which have been growing everywhere because of the plentiful rain we have had in Northeastern Pennsylvania, 

including this unusual one, an old man of the woods, 

and this milker mushroom. 

I wasn’t out long but, as I always do, I enjoyed exploring the trails along lake Irene , especially in the Summer. There is always something to see if you keep your eyes peeled. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike

Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing.
~Christina Georgina Rossetti



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Mushroom Hunting With My Macro Lens

It’s August, and we have had plenty of rain this past month, and that means mushrooms,  here,  in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  king bolete mushroom

My dad taught me and my bothers how to pick two species of bolete mushrooms from an early age. I was about three when he first took me searching for red tops and cozie mushrooms.  Some of my most cherished childhood memories were on these mushroom yellow or bi color bolete mushroom

I  have continued the tradition,  and hope to write more about it in a future blogs, check the archives search for past blogs about mushrooms. Today I will just quickly share some photographs of mushrooms I found, on my hike last weekend.  Some of which like this old man of the woods bolete mushroom I can identify. old man of the woods mushroom

I now eat over 50 species of wild mushrooms but will not identify which are edible and which are not here on my blog since many mushrooms are poisonous and can make you very sick or even kill you. These jack ‘ o ‘ lantern mushrooms are very poisonous.jack o lantern mushrooms

I would advise you not to eat any wild mushroom unless you are 100% it is edible.  Having provided that warning I not only enjoy eating them, I love the many colors, shapes and sizes that are found here in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. This is a milker or milky mushroom,milker mushrooms

so named because of the white latex like substance that oozes from the mushroom when cut or broken. milker mushroom

Some, like these coral mushrooms are shaped differently then the common mushroom.coral mushroom

The color range from bright reds like this species of russula mushrooms rusulla mushrooms

to the bright yellow chanterelle mushroom chanterelle mushroom

or the black trumpets. black trumpet mushrrom

I also came across some jewel weed or touch me not flowers and, as always is the case the insects found them too. bee in jewel weed flower

I again spent more time that I had planned photographing the many colorful insects attracted to the flowers.  beetle on jewel weed leaf

Like mushrooms, I am always amazed by the many  species, and their different sizes and color. macro of fly on jewel weed leaf

I also came across this tiny toad,young toad

this newt or red eft newt or red eft in leaves

and found this late season recently hatched egg shell but I am not familiar with the  birds that would best this late in the season. 

I gathered a nice variety of wild mushrooms , and enjoyed them for dinner. I love the summer and my hikes searching for wild mushrooms. Here is a link to some more photographs of mushrooms, insects and some other stuff I observed on my hike. Sorry but I am not going to tell you where I hiked, mushroom hunters don’t share that information. lol

Falling in love is like eating mushrooms, you never know if it’s the real thing until it’s too late.– Bill Balance

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Some June Walks, And A Sunrise In Greenridge.

Spring is coming to an end here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In only a few day  the sun will be  at it’s farthest north and we have our longest day here in the Northern Hemisphere.

We had some summer like weather at the beginning of this past week and I had the chance to take a few walks with my camera and macro lens. 

The warmer weather has brought out more insects but I am still disappointed in the number of bees, wasps and yellow jackets I have seen. To some folks this may be a good thing, but, for all of us, in the long run,  it is not. I suspect the overuse of pesticides is the problem. 

I was able to still find a lot of flies and other insects on my walks. I am always awed by how this common insects, considered pests, look so complex up close. 

As do the commons weeds and leaves on the trees we walk by and take for granted. 

I was hoping to see more dragonflies or a frog, turtle or snake but it was very hot early in  the week and there was not a lot of activity in the heat. I  did find evidence that there still are snakes when I found this snake skin shed by what I believe to be a black snake.

The intricate scales are amazing up close.

And, you do not have to walk far to find  cool stuff in the natural world.  As I returned from one of my walks I found this mass of ants in my front yard. Here is a link to a video I uploaded to my YouTube channel .   And here is a link to  some more photographs from my walk with me macro lens.

 And as  is often the case in June, I was awakened early on Tuesday morning, before 5 a.m., by the singing of the birds outside my window. I usually have a cup of coffee and walk through my neighborhood and cemetery to visit my dad. On Tuesday I decided to walk out the railroad tracks near my house to watch the sunrise. 

I walked on what remains of the “black road” an old road that lead to the deep mines in the area. The area was later strip mined and we spent many days as children exploring those strip mines and slate and culm banks. The area has recently been reclaimed. 

I walked to the railroad tracks and hiked up to what used to be a large slate bank the local called “flat top” and we named “killer” because of the difficulty we had climbing it for the first time. The waning moon was still visible in the west. 

I enjoyed watching the sunrise over West Hazleton, only a few days from when it will reach it northernmost point on the horizon. 

It has been a long time since I was on this ridge this early in the morning, possibly the last time was when I was in elementary school and I was happy to  find a tract of old trees that were not destroyed in the reclamation project. 

I walked a path I had walked so many times as a child, searching for mushrooms, fossils, crystals or just playing games with my friends and our favorite toy, our imagination. We were soldiers, cowboys, superheroes and astronauts in these woods.  Many pleasant memories on this ridge. 

I had to get to work or I could have walked, and reflected all day. I took a slow walk back home enjoying the singing of the birds,

and observing the spiderwebs covered  in the dew

and so many other wonders of the early morning. One thing I learned, there are a lot of snail on the cattail fronds in the morning. Hundreds of them. Should I ever find myself on an episode of Naked and Afraid in Pennsylvania I know a good source of nourishment, escargot.

Of course there were a few red-winged blackbirds in the wetlands near the reclamation area, watching carefully for intruders into their nesting areas. They are very territorial and squawk persistently should you approach, here is a male I saw

and nearby was a female

When I arrived home I found a few deer in my yard enjoying the new day too.  I truly enjoyed my early morning walk and hope to get out in the woods at dawn more often this Summer. It is a wonderful place to be. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike.

“Dawn is ever the hope of men.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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Some Spring Hikes Near Home.

It felt more like Summer than Spring these past few days here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  I took advantage of the beautiful weather, taking a few short hikes near my home to enjoy the many things occurring in the natural world this  month. The trees, including the  birch, have  leaves still showing that refreshing early Spring color. railroad hike -7

On Thursday  I walked to the reclamation area again yesterday and was surprised to find these mushrooms. I am not sure of the species but they reminded me to  look for the oyster mushrooms which should be growing soon. railroad hike -1

I spotted this pretty bird, I think an olive sided flycatcher and spent a few minutes watching it sitting on a branch. railroad hike -4

I also saw this turkey vulture flying quickly over the tree tops, railroad hike -15

and soon discovered the reason for it’s haste. It was being chased by a crow. Although more than half  it’s size the crow looks like it was winning this encounter. railroad hike -16

I am not sure if it was the heat, or the strong breeze but there were few song birds in the wetlands or woods  surrounding them, except  the many black-winged blackbirds who have settled into their  territories for the season. railroad hike -12

I didn’t have a lot of time, but it was nice to get out in the late afternoon heat, temperatures were near 90 degrees and the blue skies strewn with cumulus clouds. railroad hike -10

On my way home I saw a few year long residents, some black-capped chickadees,railroad hike -27

and this squirrels feeding in the shade of the new leaves. railroad hike -25

On Friday I  first took a quick walk with my macro lens and again uncovered the wonderful world of nature up close.macro -13

I photographed some of the things we see everyday, such as the common dandelion.macro 031

Or  some blueberry flowers with tiny newly formed blueberries. They won’t be ripe until July. macro -6

I also found these pests, the tent caterpillars. They can quickly defoliate a tree. macro -3

I, again, only had a short time, I only walked about a mile and couldn’t find many insects like I had hoped. Here is a link to some more photograph my short hike with my macro lens. 036

On Friday I again stayed near home and walked out through the reclamation areas out to the railroad tracks. railroad hike -3

And once again I did not find much wildlife, just the usual robins and red winged blackbirds and this solitary crow. railroad hike -12

I did see one of my favorite sights  on the railroad tracks, a train. I have been excited by passing trains on these tracks since I was a young child, and still am today. railroad hike -9

I was disappointed not seeing more wildlife on my hike, but i always have the birds at the feeders in my backyard and I found this turkey making himself at home on my lawn. railroad hike -14

I am looking forward to some nice weather this weekend to again explore the great outdoors of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hikes.,19-2017-

railroad hike -2

“Home is everything you can walk to.”
Jerry Spinelli


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Late Summer: Mushrooms, Spiders, Toads And Other Cool Stuff In Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Sorry I have been neglecting my blog lately . There are two reasons, the first, I have been busy at the office and with some other matters and the second, it is mushroom season here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.muchroom-hike-14

When it’s mushroom season I am out in the forests and woodlands looking for wild mushrooms. And, as anyone who has searched for edible wild mushrooms would tell you, we don’t share our secret spots. So I don’t take  landscape photographs which may give them away.mushrooms-30

I was fortunate to have had a Polish  father who knew a few edible species and who loved taking my brothers and I into the wooded strip mining areas and teaching us how to identify them.  I took the skills I was taught  and continued to learn and identify many species of edible mushrooms. I will not attempt to identify them  in this blog since an improper identification can lead to sickness and even death. Yes, many species are deadly, so please don’t try to identify any wild mushroom without the help of an expert. The mushrooms here are shared for their beauty only and please do not think the are edible. some, like this destroying angel will kill you.muchroom-hike-12

I did take my camera and macro lens on  a few of my mushrooms hikes , although it is hard to look for the wild mushrooms and take  photographs at the same time.  It has been a hot and  very dry Summer here, and the mushrooms are not as plentiful as they are some years, when we get plenty of rain,  but I still found many species on my hikes.  And I am proud to say with the help of my nephew Mikey, we have enough to keep alive my dad’s tradition of  drying some “red tops”, a species of bolete mushroom for  soup on Holy Supper on Christmas Eve, This is an old Polish tradition which brought so much joy to our family over the years.  Here is a link to some more  of the many species of mushrooms I found on my hikes these past few weeks.

And here is another link to some more photographs of wild mushrooms I found this Summer

In addition to mushrooms I also find so many other things on my hikes. I feel like a child every time I leave my house, not knowing exactly what I will find. Yesterday, was a good day to be in the woods. It was hot again, it may be our last hot weekend of the year, and I first noticed the increasing number of acorns on the ground. A sure sign the seasons will soon change. macro-walk-22

The leaves on the trees are now showing their age and some are already donning their Fall colors. macro-walk-23

Since it was a dry Summer, there were not a lot of mosquitoes and other flying insects, and not nearly as many spider webs as there are some years, but I did run into a few. Spiders and their webs have always intrigued me, and as a child I would spend hours watching them, as I threw unfortunate ants onto their webs. Yesterday I was more kind and tossed some plant seeds but it sure fooled this orb spider, who thought it was a meal.  spiders-8

I also saw a few of these spiders, daddy long legs, we called them, on my hike. Here is a link to some more photographs of the spiders I encountered on my hike.

There are not many flowers in bloom now, but the ones that are, including this late blooming thistle, still attract bees and other insects. macro-walk-8

I also saw quite a few toads on my hike. I have seen many of this species  of toads before. macro-walk-14

But I have never seen one of these fellows, who was smaller and had a more reddish color. They sure can jump faster than their larger cousins. This one was actually about one third of the size of the one above. macro-walk-18

I found very few mushrooms growing yesterday, it is just too dry this year. macro-walk-16

But, I did spot this unusual creature sitting atop a log. At first I thought it was a leaf but, after taking a closer look, I noticed it moved! I had no idea what  it was at first but, after watching it for awhile, I decided it had to be some type of caterpillar. monkey-slug-caterpillar-3

I  learned, when I got home that it is a monkey slug caterpillar, and develops into a hag moth. I have never seen one before. Here is a link to a youtube video I uploaded of this  strange creature

After spending some time watching the exotic caterpillar I headed back to my car. I didn’t find any edible mushrooms yesterday, but I was, once again, happy to enjoy some of the many wonders of nature found in the  woodlands of Northeastern pennsylvania, including one I never saw before. Well, it’s  time to take another hike today, and, hopefully, I will find something new again. But, even if I don’t I  will be happy seeing  some of the  ‘old’ and familiar  critters, plants and mushrooms I have come to know and love. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike yesterday.



“Nature is my manifestation of God.
I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work.”
Frank Lloyd Wrightmuchroom hike -26




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Some Hikes With My Macro Lens: An Insects View Of Summer

It was a beautiful Fourth of July weekend here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, cooler and less humid, with a refreshing breeze and plenty of sunshine.  Perfect for the picnics and fireworks.  Also great weather for hiking and checking the wild mushrooms and blueberries or, as we call them ‘huckleberries”. macro dragonfly-27

I decided to take my  macro lens on my hikes, hoping to find some insects and dragonflies, during my search for the berries and mushrooms. .  I think the cool Spring hurt the low bush blueberry crop. There were not too many to be found.  The high bush blueberries or ‘swampers’ were plentiful and  were just beginning to ripen. They should be abundant  in a few weeks.macro dragonfly-5

The ‘swamper’ blueberries get there  name since they grow in or near water and where there is water, there are insects, especially dragonflies. They are now darting just about everywhere there is even the smallest pond or  swamp. macro -18

I love watching these  most ancient  insects. They  predated the dinosaurs.  They are very territorial and are constantly chasing other dragonflies, and even humans, from their territory. macro dragonfly-30

There were many other insects visiting the flowering thistle, milkweed and other wildflowers. Some were as common as the wasps, yellow jackets and bees. macro -3

Others were far more exotic ones I have never seen before, like this beatle. . macro -28

it is amazing the variety of life that exit in our area which we never notice unless we take the time to look. macro -12

And when you find insects there are spider like this one that I lured out on it’s web by dropping some bits of leaf. macro -12

On one of my hikes I heard the shrill cry of a kill deer. It’s amazing how the blend into the background. Try and find it in this photograph . It isn’t easy. macro dragonfly-7

These birds often lay their eggs in the open ground and when you near their nest the pretend to have a broken wing and try to lead you away from the nest. This one, thinking I was a predator, pulled this deception on me. Here is a link to a you tube video.  Her nest must have been in the area I was walking so, after taking the video, I left her alone. Here is a link to some more photographs of the killdeer. dragonfly-12

We had some rain last week and I was hoping to find some of the early miler mushrooms. No luck but I did find a number of different species starting to pop up. Hopefully, with the rain we are expecting tonight there will be a lot more growing, including some of the edible species I pick. Here is a link to some more of the mushrooms I found on my hike. -3

Besides the blueberries I also saw some other plants setting fruit which we will enjoy over the next few months, such as these blackberries .macro -15

And these grapes.  Here is a link to some more of the plants and young fruits i saw on my hike. -14

On one of my walks, I came upon some tiny newly hatched fish darting about. I never seen  them this small beforemacro -34

And, unfortunately, I also encountered way too many of these pest. I must have pulled five ticks off me on my hikes. But they must have a purpose too. macro -32

And as beautiful as the world looked up close on my hikes, the scenery of the July woods on these clear and cool days was just as spectacular.  There is just so much to see and do  this time of year. I love  the Summer.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. -7


~ The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE. – Ernst Haasmacro -31


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Looking At Things A Little Differently: A Walk With My Macro Lens.

As you may have noticed, I have been devoting a lot of my hikes, and blogs,  to looking for  the many of birds  that live in our area and which I have discovered.  with my 400mm lens.  I love this new hobby  but today I decided to take a walk with my macro lens.  I also love to see how beautiful the natural world is close up. And, once again, I wasn’t disappointed. macro walk -5

I walked through my neighborhood first, looking at everyday flowers and weeds then I took the same walk through the ponds and wetlands I have been taking every evening after work. This time, however, I got a much closer look, and it was just as beautiful. macro walk -22

It is still very early in the growing season and many plants are just beginning to put forth their first leaves, such as the oaks. macro walk -28

Others, like the birch and the  ginkgo tree growing in my front yard  already have developed their leaves. And their intricate designs sure look pretty through the macro lens. macro walk -2

I also found it interesting to see the young fruits on some of the trees and plants. These small buds will develop into raspberries by early summer. macro walk -18

And these buds will  grow into grapes by summer’s end. macro walk -11

It is hard to believe these tiny and delicate buds will form black walnuts in the fall. macro walk -10

I was hoping to find a lot more insects, especially bees pollinating the flowers but I actually only saw this one. I hope it is because of the cold weather and not a result of the insecticides so widely used these days. macro walk -14

I also only saw this one spider, a close up, of the critter on the leaf above. macro walk -8

I headed into the woods and turned over a few logs and rocks hoping to find some interesting bugs and insects.  I didn’t find many except these ants and their eggs which,once exposed were quickly carried underground by the worker ants. macro walk -35

I also made this interesting discovery when I turned over a log, a nest of some small mammal, I believe to be a mouse. I didn’t want to try and find out since I didn’t want to disturb it. You never know what you will find if you keep looking. macro walk -31

I found a few blueberry or, as we call them here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, huckleberries. It is amazing to see how the young berries develop. macro walk -26

I headed back home and noticed the ants on my mom’s peony buds. macro walk -41

They are attracted to these buds for some reason and I was able to get  some close ups photos of these  busy creaturesmacro walk -42

some folks may not find these close ups photographs to be as pleasing to the eye as a beautiful cardinal or warbler, but they certainly are beautiful, in their own way, and I sure enjoy this perspective too, Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk today.

macro walk -20

~ Photography is the power of observation, not the application of technology. – Ken Rockwellmacro walk -19




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Close To Home And Up Close With Some May Flowers

As you may have guessed from my posts these past few weeks, I love this time of year.  There is something new, exciting and beautiful occurring  everyday in the natural world.  Macro flowers -16

I have been focusing my attention on the many species of birds arriving everyday  here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Today, not having much time, I decided to take my macro lens and  focus on an easier, but just as beautiful,  subject the many varieties of flowers  blooming everyday. Macro flowers -18

It was overcast when I left for a short walk for a few blocks near my house.  I  wasn’t disappointed. Macro flowers -33

Violets, growing wild,  were scattered everywhere on the ground, in the woods near my  house, along the sidewalks and  in many of my neighbors yards. Macro flowers -1

The apple trees were almost in full bloom now. Macro flowers -40

As were the crabapple trees.Macro flowers -4

Most of the Spring bulb  flowers were done blooming except for the tulips which were just coming into their peak season. Macro flowers -25

And the lilacs, one of my favorites. were just coming into bloom now. The air will be filled with their fragrance in a few days. Macro flowers -23

Even the lowly dandelion looked beautiful up close.Macro flowers -7

As were its seeds after it had finished blooming. Macro flowers -22

I have always enjoyed the wonders of nature, trees, birds,  mushrooms,  flowers and bugs  and I  find them even more beautiful through the lenses of my camera, both zoom and macro. Macro flowers -36

And, as these photos can confirm you don’t have to go far to find them. Here is a link to some more photographs I took on my walk this afternoon. flowers -31

The first wild-flower of the year is like land after sea. ~Thomas Wentworth Macro flowers -14Higginson


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