I came...I saw...I got out of the water when the storms came through.
There were a bunch of people speaking latin in the creek yesterday, words like Cyprinella galactura, one of which had me thinking we were seeing an Erimonax monachus. It was in the right place and looked like a little shark swimming in the riffle of clear water running over the rock shelf. We wanted it to be a spotfin chub but J R, the biologist staring through the swim mask, set everybody straight. It was a male whitetail shiner all colored up for mating season...Of course...Obviously.
We ran up on the largest soft shelled turtle I've seen in Tennessee, doomed to die from a bullet wound in his neck that will cause him, eventually, to starve to death. Whoever did this should have to swap fates with this animal...A senseless brutality on a beautiful harmless creature.
We saw lots of fish, some more common than others. Gar are fairly common, but a five footer in a small pool in a creek are not.
The eagles stayed hidden in the nest in the white pine tree on the cliff above us but they screeched at us anyway. Other birds put in an appearance, with a secretive but noisy tanager causing lots of discussion. The song sounded like a summer tanager and I had thought so too, until I got a glimpse of it. The black wings identified it as a Scarlet tanager.
The butterflies at least held still for folks to see their first ever Diana Fritillary. This is a great spangled fritillary on the left and a Diana male on the right. The males have been around for well over a month, but we saw the first female yesterday. The males will mate and die off, leaving the food supply to the females. They'll hang around until October, in some cases.
The weather went from absolutely beautiful, to dark and stormy, messing up the itinerary a bit, and wetting down our city folks pretty well. If you aren't used to wandering around in the woods during a summer storm, it can be unsettling. We all stayed soaked and most of us loved it.
We had a shortage of pictures on my part so I'm hoping some of the other folks who took them will post some somewhere.
Update: Pat noticed this member of the skullcap family, and after doing a bit of research, thinks it may be something new...
Whites Creek skullcap, most like Scutellaria sp. cf. incana, downy skullcap. But I think it's something different... especially given the dark purple stem and nearly black leaf outlines... I have hyssopleaf skullcap in my garden. There's also a mad-dog skullcap! TN has 16 species, including federally listed large-flowered skullcap, S. montana.