Saturday, July 9, 2011

Friday Field Notes-- Out and About

 An Ajisai as big as my head!  The biggest one this year--I put my hand on it for perspective:-))

I didn't get a chance to take an actual walk last week or this.  When I sat down to look through photos taken willy-nilly over the last two weeks, I was surprised at how many things I'd stumbled across without particularly looking-- just out and about.  On my way here or there (usually to or from school or Kumon).

 Gardening on the Porch
Don't you just love running across something that proves you were right?

The last two summers we've spent at my parents', and so haven't done any gardening on the porch.  But the summer before we had quite a little kitchen garden going out there-- basil, mini-tomatoes, green peppers... and an eggplant.  That's Yochien Cici there, with her eggplant:-))

Thing is, one day I went out to water plants... and the eggplant had sprouted a bizarre branch.  With white (instead of purple) flowers and *thorns*.  Thorns all over the stems and even down the middle rib of the leaves.   It was slightly Jekyll-and-Hyde scary.  The only thing I could figure was that edible eggplant must be grafted onto wild stock, and that this one branch was a throw-back to the wild variety.  Ka na?

 Solanum torvum... Wild Eggplant
So on the way home from school last week, I came to a screeching halt (my bike brakes really need oiling or something) when a casual glance left at the so-called weeds coming up under the cherry trees presented this.

Have you seen this before?  I never had--but I knew immediately what it was.  Wild Eggplant-- the exact same thing that sprouted off the main stem of Cici's eggplant, only these were whole plants (I counted 24 of them coming up around the stump of a cherry tree removed last year).

 Pretty white flowers-- "Prickly Nightshade" is another name
"Hah!" I shouted exultantly, "Ah Ha!" to no one at all.  It needed saying, though.  I have no idea why it was suddenly coming up all around that stump, but as I sat taking photos, it struck me that the flowers were similar to nightshade.  A trip to Wiki revealed, among a number of common names, "Prickly Nightshade" and "Devil's Fig"-- the first one being a reference to the fact that not only do the flowers *look* like nightshade... they are nightshade.  Eggplant, along with tomatoes and potatoes, is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), and was therefore thought to be poisonous.

 Hey, you cows!  Don't eat my leaves!
Click on those photos up there so you can see the thorns-- this is a plant that *seriously* does not want to be eaten!  I don't think I've ever seen thorns down the center vein of a leaf before...

Those center-vein thorns confirmed, though, that this was indeed what I'd seen growing off the main stem of Cici's eggplant, and a visit to Wiki proved my "wild eggplant" theory right.  Hah!  *crosses arms triumphantly*  Also, eggplants are botanically classified as berries.  Got that?  Quiz next week;-)

 Lycaena phlaeas
I've been seeing little Benishijimi everywhere, too, on a variety of flowers.

On small, white daisies that look like weeds until they are sat upon by a lovely butterfly... (he sat obligingly still while I took his photo, intent on drinking nectar as he was)

 The Small Copper

...and I saw him again on bright yellow daisies (or coreopsis), where he turned all the way around getting nectar...

 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21.... or?

...on a flower whose whorled center made me think of Fibonacci numbers...

$F_n = F_{n-1} + F_{n-2},\!\,$

 Kanokoga...Amata fortunae

On my way down the river to go home, I noticed a moth I'd never seen before.  A pair of them, in fact, copulating with their bottoms stuck together so that they looked like a single, double-headed creature.

 The White-spotted Mot

Then I saw them again.  And again...  I must've seen five pairs of this moth mating, though what exactly was so special about the 28th of June that they must all needs copulate on that date, I'm sure I've no idea.  Everybody was having June weddings?

 Ardea cinera

The following day (Tuesday) was Kumon day, and Cici forgot her homework... necessitating a trip on the bike up to the Kumon classroom to drop it off.

Thank *goodness* I had the camera with me!

Aosagi (the Grey Heron), who doesn't visit our little branch of the river too often, was right there!  In the river behind the bus depot!  I dearly love watching Aosagi-- gawky and elegant, all at the same time--and this time he didn't fly off at my approach (they tend to be rather shyer than the Little Egret, Kosagi).

As I watched, I noticed him open his mouth and shake (or vibrate) the skin beneath his long bill (his wattle, maybe).  I wondered why.  When he did it again, I was ready for it and hit 'record'... and got lucky enough to record him catching and eating a fish!  Have a look:-))

 Hagurotombo... Calopteryx atranta
I'll have you know that I kept my wits about me, and actually remembered that I was on my way to Kumon.  I did, in fact, drop off Cici's homework, in spite of all the excitement about the Heron;-)

I was nearly back home when I looked over and saw that the pair of black damselflies I'd seen several times over several days were still in the same place...

 Black-toothed Damselfly

...sitting on the same leaves I'd seen them on the day before.

I think they sat on those leaves, over the drainage river, for a week.  They occasionally changed spots to a neighboring leaf, but otherwise remained in roughly the same place.  Very mysterious behavior, I thought, for which I still have no explanation....

 Yabukarashi...Cayratia japonica
I found the early beginnings of Yabukarashi vines here and there--the vine that butterflies seem to love.  And ants, as I discovered taking this close-up of the flowers.  Click on that so you can see the liquid clinging to it that the ant was drinking.  I got a better photo of the tiny flowers this time--good enough to see that they're not all pink, but pink and orange, like tiny cups of sherbet...

 Nothing to see here... or is there?

Of course, I've saved the best for last:-))

I was just in a hurry to get home before the predicted drizzle started in-- I had laundry out drying that needed to come in.

Hopped on the bike at school... pedaled past the temple... took the left fork at the machinist's shop behind the bus depot... and looked at the fence.

Do you see it?  No?  Have a closer look:

 Shima-Hebi
I did not fall off my bike.

He sat there-- I would say still as a stone, but it would have to be a very flexible stone to be woven in and out of those small spaces in the fence like that.

I walked right up to him and took several pictures, and he never moved.  I took the camera out of the bag, thinking to catch him and take him home to Koshi so we could look him up online.  As soon as my fingers grasped the longest part of his midsection protruding from the fence, though, he instantly slithered quickly forward.  I let go, afraid that if I held him tightly, he would struggle and scratch or hurt himself in the metal fence.  He wove his way further down the fence, like a shuttlecock in and out of the weft... then disappeared into the vegetation behind the fence.

Stop and stare whenever you're out and about-- 'cause you just never know... ;-)

 Japanese Four-Lined Snake... Elaphe quadrivirgata

1. A great field notes! It reminds us how far selective breeding has taken plants from their wild ancestors.

The video of the fishing heron was awesome. I was interested in how the bird manages to get a wriggling fish from the tip of its beak into its gullet without losing it. Two quick jerks!

2. Fantastic nature observation as usual! I am tired from the noisy wildlife all night - sadly human as I am stuck in London this weekend.

3. Caught some news about another quake and tsunami. The BBC are still treating the NOTW and Wills & Kate's Canadian jaunt as top stories, so I'm guessing all's okay...?

4. love the black damselfly! And i've actually never seen a snake in a chain link fence before - i love that he wove himself in and out of the laticework

5. I continue to be amazed by your nature photos. I never tire of looking at them. I feel like you are providing windows on your world. Thank you.

6. Jerry--so glad you enjoyed this one:-)) I wasn't sure whether it would be interesting or not, or whether I'd have enough to write about since I hadn't really gone on a proper walk. And, honestly, I don't see how anyone can look at wild species and cultivated species and still be anti-GMO...

Dominic-- hope the photos were soothing:-))

Daz-- we got shook a little here, but nothing too big. The tsunami didn't really do any damage, I don't think.

Sarah-- I couldn't believe that that snake had even gotten himself *into* that chainlink fence like that! Or that he could slither away so smoothly and swiftly...

Cary-- I take pictures of things I would look at with my mom if she could come, and I'm really happy to find that others seem to like looking at my photos-of-things-I-saw-when-I-was-out as well. Thanks!