Last week, before the edge of Hurricane Sandy abruptly made the weather miserable, there were a few warm, sunny days—a last chance to enjoy fall as the end of summer rather than the onset of winter. The trees were looking much less leafy; only the green understory and a few bright yellow mulberries still had foliage at all. But as the trees are stripped bare, you start to see things you missed before. Like bird nests, which now stand out starkly without leaves to hide them. This one, just barely low enough for me to take a picture of it, incorporates some bits of garbage into its woven rim.
Another sign of hidden life clings to a plant’s stem among the tall grasses at the edge of the forest. It’s a praying mantis egg case, which will hatch, if all goes well, next spring.
And finally, on a still-blooming aster, a spectacular yellow-green beetle. At first I thought it must be a yellow variant of the common spotted ladybug, Coleomegilla maculata, but a closer look at the pictures showed that the pattern of spots is different and that this beetle has long antennae, which ladybugs don’t. So I turned to my entomologist friends on Facebook, who came through with Diabrotica undecimpunctata, the spotted cucumber beetle. See how those top petals look like they’ve been gnawed down? The beetle probably did that. (‘Undecimpunctata’ means ‘eleven-spotted’, and if you zoom in you can indeed count eleven spots.)