Correctly identify the species and win a free pass! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answers.
Current Photo of the Month
This perky little flower is nicknamed “harbinger of spring” because it is one of the earliest blooming flowers in our region, even punching through the snow in February. But if you see one, don’t pick it! Even though it is a member of the common carrot family, it is on the threatened species list in Pennsylvania and the endangered list in New York. What species is it? Photo: Chris Packard
Correct answer must include scientific name. Winner will be emailed a pass for one adult admission. Members and ESU students are admitted free; these winners may give the pass to family or friends.
Black-capped (Poecile atricapillus, left) and Carolina (Poecile carolinensis, right) Chickadees
These little guys frequent bird feeders in the winter, but their identification can be confusing. They usually remain separated into two distinct geographic regions, only overlapping where their ranges meet. In recent decades, however, that range of overlap has gradually moved north, and it now includes the Pocono Mountains. You might see both species at the same feeder, and even some hybrids! Photos: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Hamamelis virginiana: American Witchhazel
This lovely resident of the uplands is sometimes called “winterbloom” thanks to its hardy flowers that appear in late fall and continue through the coldest days of the season. Witchhazel has long been known as a natural remedy for sunburn, scrapes, and other minor ailments. In folklore, it is also used as a divining rod to find water sources!
Ceratomia undulosa: Waved Sphinx Moth
The waved sphinx is a large moth with striking patterns that makes an impression when resting near porch lights and in gardens. It is common throughout the eastern US and westward to the plains states. Sphinx moths as a group are known for their ability to fly quickly – even up to 12 mph (19 kph). Some sphinx moths have developed the ability to hover and are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds!
Parhelia: Sun dogs
What you see here is a parhelion grouping (from the Greek para=beside, and helios=sun), a phenomenon commonly known as sun dogs or mock suns. These bright spots occur when the sun’s rays shine through ice crystals in the upper atmosphere, refracting the light at specific angles. Circles and arcs can also occur. Sun dogs most frequently appear on either side of the sun, but spectacular variations can occur with more spots and arcs.
Arilus cristatus: Wheel bug
This insect is a species of assassin bug, which is an extremely important friend of gardeners. The wheel bug is named for its impressive armor, which resembles a saw-toothed blade. The wheel bug preys on common pests such as Japanese beetles, tent caterpillars, and cabbage worms. Its uses its fearsome proboscis to pierce other insects…so you should try to avoid picking one up, as you could get a nasty poke!
Stemonitis splendens: Chocolate tube slime mold
Amazingly, this organism begins its life cycle as white blobs of slime spreading across rotting wood. Only a few hours later, it transforms into a completely different form by sprouting tiny tubes covered with chocolate-colored spores. Slime molds, like their distant fungi cousins, are crucial links in the chain of decomposition, breaking down dead organisms to create nutrients and new habitat in the ecosystem.