Friday, March 21, 2008

Water Strider (Aquarius sp.)
March 21, 2008

A mix today of winter and spring sightings. While watching my first water striders of 2008, a White-throated Sparrow foraged on the ground nearby.

I have a new pet -- "Maggie" -- I collected one of the maggots I photographed yesterday. I have it in a plastic container with about 1" of dirt. I think it's a crane fly (Tipulidae), and will try to raise it to an adult to see what it looks like then.
March 20, 2008

A great first day of spring – sunny and mid-60s. But while last week in Louisiana we were in the midst of spring with butterflies, dragonflies and other cool stuff, today I resorted to maggot photos and a photo of henbit which should soon be turning parts of the landscape purple. (Take a look at Daniel Spurgeon's Nature at Close Range blog entry on henbit.)

We did experience my favorite part of spring – extremely loud spring peepers. As we rode our bikes past flooded woods at 2 pm, we heard mostly chorus frogs with a few peepers. The return ride at 5:15 pm was mostly peepers with a few chorus frogs. I like both, but really prefer to hear the peepers. Kind of weird that someone who admits (yes, I'm embarrassed) to being creeped out by frogs, lizards, skinks . . . . thinks listening to them is the best part of spring.

And switching to birds -- my first Eastern Phoebe in Missouri this year.
Southeast Louisiana
March 9 - 13, 2008

It was really nice to get an extra week of spring by driving out of winter. Some highlights of the trip were dragonflies and damselflies at Tickfaw State Park, including a Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa) and lots of Fragile Forktails (Ischnura posita). The forktails were common everyplace we went – even in my parents' yard. Butterflies at Tickfaw included quite a few Southern Pearly-eyes (Enodia portlandia).

Everywhere we went – but especially Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge – had way more lizards than I cared to see. We also had to turn around on the Mandalay trail midway one day when we couldn't get around a water moccasin. We had lunch, and returned to the trail and then made it to the end since the snake had left the bridge it was sunning itself on. From the wharf at the end, we saw the biggest alligator I've ever seen while out hiking – I'd guess about 15' long.

The best sighting at Mandalay was a bee mimic robber fly (Laphria sp.). Unfortunately, I had to be satisfied with using a doubler on my lens, shooting from 8' away at an insect higher than my head and cropping the photos. But since it was the only one in the genus I'd ever seen, I was still glad to get the shot. We also saw a few skippers, including this Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) nectaring at a flower in the pea family.

My parents' yard also had several really cool assassin bugs in the genus Zelus.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 4, 2008

Sunny and almost 40. I saw a tiny (probably 3-4 mm wingspan) tan moth flying over a creek at about 3:30 in the afternoon. It landed in the water, swam a few inches and managed to climb out of the water onto a protruding rock. Given the water temperature and the way I was dressed, I opted not to jump into the creek for a closer look.
Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria)
March 2, 2008

When went back outside just before lunch, I noticed a small gray insect almost completely blending into the concrete. Fortunately, I'm constantly looking for insects because I'd have been really upset with myself if I had stepped on an antlion larva and then noticed it smashed on the pavement. I had been wondering if the warm weather would get a few of the antlions in our nesting area moving around, but this was the first time I'd seen one leave the loose dirt and crawl up a 4 inch vertical slab of concrete.

In the afternoon, we headed out to Henry Domke's reception for his photo exhibit at Runge Nature Center. As always, Henry's photos were brilliant, stunning. . . . While out on the trail (on this 77 degree day), we saw our first butterfly of the year – a female Goatweed Leafwing.

I left the deck light on in the evening to watch for moths, but the only visitors were two ichneumonid wasps similar to this one photographed in March 2007.
March 1, 2008

A warm (69 F), sunny day. I wasn't seeing much on our bike ride, so in desperation I started lifting pieces of bark on the ground below a tree and found an overwintering beetle larva. I also had a fly buzz my bright green and white helmet, but since I was still wearing my helmet, I didn't get a good look at it.

Chorus frogs were calling this afternoon.