Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Monarch butterfly’

Fall is rapidly approaching, but sadly the Coronavirus is not retreating.  Many people are still social-distancing and staying near home.  So, what does that mean?  It means that the amazing Matt Smith has brought back the Yard Squad Challenge for a Fall Edition.  It’s similar to the spring competition in that we have teams of players from around the globe – seven teams of ten players each.  But instead of limiting each player to their neighborhood patch, each of us were allowed to define a circle with a radius up to five miles.  Instead of the snake draft, Matt queried eBird data and threw it all in the Magic Hat which created teams each having the same number of potential species (470).  Bonus points will be earned with iNaturalist observations of everything except birds.

Butterflies provided some easy iNat bonus points. Great Spangled Fritillary on Ironweed.

Butterflies provided some easy iNat bonus points. Great Spangled Fritillary on Ironweed.

I am on Joost Brandsma’s team again, Yardbirds Remastered.  We have two players in England, one in Alaska, and seven of us scattered around the lower 48 states.  I choose the smallest possible circle with only a one-mile radius, but it includes my two favorite birding hotspots in addition to my neighborhood.  I figured that a larger circle would simply increase my “par” list without significantly increasing my chances of finding additional birds.  My list of potential birds has 86 species, which seems achievable since I found 83 species in the spring competition without even leaving my neighborhood.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Even though my circle is rather small, it doesn’t have the patch feel of the spring competition.  As much fun as that was, I’m happy to have a little more variety.  We started on August 24 and this first stretch (of three total) ended on September 13.  I have birded every day, sometimes more than once.  I also created my brand new iNaturalist account a couple of days before the start of the Yard Squad Challenge.  I had been resisting the urge to “moth” again this year because of the time suck, but now I had to do it for the iNat bonus points.  I enjoyed it as much as ever and was pleasantly surprised that I found several new species of moths.  In my post Summer Nights a few years ago, I described the wonderful peaceful feeling of nighttime on my deck.

A lovely Showy Urola moth with wings that look like satin.

A lovely Showy Urola moth with wings that look like satin.

I haven’t seen a single rare or unexpected bird yet, but with close observation, I find that I am always learning something new.  I was pleased to get a clear image of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but didn’t realize how patchy her feathers were until I looked at the photo.  I mistakenly assumed that it was either a juvenile or sick bird, so I posted the photo to my state birding group on Facebook to learn more.  An expert hummingbird bander told me that it was an adult female in molt and that most of the females they band at this time of year look like this!  I hope she grows new feathers quickly to be in peak condition for her migration south in a few weeks.

Adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

I’d like to think that I always pay attention to flora and fauna, but iNat certainly heightened my alertness.  An interesting find was this lichen in the woods near my house.

How had I never noticed this before? Tentatively identified as Gray Reindeer Lichen.

How had I never noticed this before? Tentatively identified as Gray Reindeer Lichen.

And, just as in this post, my attention quickly shifted between plants, birds, butterflies, and other insects as interesting things constantly caught my eye during  my outings.  Birding has been a bit slower than usual this fall, but I never got bored and always came home with a new iNat observation even when I didn’t find a new avian species for the Yard Squad Challenge.  Here are a few of my sightings.

A beautiful Monarch is always nice to see.

A beautiful Monarch is always nice to see.

 

This Dun Skipper was a "lifer" for me.

This Dun Skipper was a “lifer” for me.

 

Eastern Towhees are common birds in my circle.  This female was accommodating and came to my pishing for a photo.

Eastern Towhees are common birds in my circle.  This female was accommodating and came to my pishing for a photo.

 

White-eyed Vireos have been more numerous than ever this year.  And, they are still singing which makes them easy to find them.

White-eyed Vireos have been more numerous than ever this year.  And, they are still singing which makes them easy to find them.

 

Widow Skimmers are a common dragonfly in my area.

Widow Skimmers are a common dragonfly in my area.

 

As a young girl, I played with grasshoppers and I still like them. This one is a Differential Grasshopper, identified by the black chevrons on its "thighs."

As a young girl, I played with grasshoppers and I still like them. This one is a Differential Grasshopper, identified by the black chevrons on its “thighs.”

 

Cicadas, however, are on the short list of insects that I do not like.  I’ve been told that they don’t bite or sting, but they still look evil and freak me out.  

Cicadas, however, are on the short list of insects that I do not like.  I’ve been told that they don’t bite or sting, but they still look evil and freak me out.

 

I'll end with this sweet little fawn that I saw on a misty gray day. White-tailed Deer.

I’ll end with this sweet little fawn that I saw on a misty gray day. White-tailed Deer.

I found 70 species of birds in the first three-week stretch of the Yard Squad Challenge.  The height of migration for my area will be the next three weeks, so I should find new species.  There are several large clumps of Devil’s Walking Stick berries in my backyard that are nearly ripe.  They are always a favorite of tanagers and warblers.  Who will make is easy by just appearing on my deck?

Read Full Post »

In July I made a quick trip to Florida to see my step-daughters in Gainesville with the usual stops at Savannah NWR and Harris Neck NWR.  I enjoyed seeing dragonflies, bugs, toads, and wildflowers in addition to birds and butterflies.  I especially liked the beautiful Gulf Fritillaries.

Gulf Fritillary at Harris Neck NWR

Gulf Fritillary at Harris Neck NWR

In Gainesville, the animal highlight was Debbie’s new horse, Charlie, who is just as sweet as she said.

Liz watches Casey and Debbie take Charlie for a walk

Liz watches Casey and Debbie take Charlie for a walk

After a few days with the girls and their families, it was time to head back home.  At Savannah NWR, I was able to snap a shot of this Purple Gallinule as it was running away from me.  This is one of the birds that I remember from the early 1980’s in South Florida and it’s still one of my favorites.

Purple Gallinule at Savannah NWR

Purple Gallinule at Savannah NWR

Back home, it was time to leave the deck light on at night again.  I was quickly rewarded with The Hebrew (moth).  I love the simple, elegant black and white pattern.

The Hebrew

The Hebrew

A week later, I saw my first Monarch of the year – in my own yard.  I don’t have milkweed as a host plant (too much shade), so I felt bad that I didn’t have a place for her to lay eggs.  I don’t have many flowers for nectaring either, so I was surprised and very happy to see this butterfly, especially during a year in which they have been rather scarce.

Monarch (female) on Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia

Monarch (female) on Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia

All things lepidoptera heated up in August.  I photographed this Common Buckeye (which really is common) in a friend’s yard.

Common Buckeye in the Schepker/Schneider yard

Common Buckeye in the Schepker/Schneider yard

My favorite photo of the summer is probably this Little Glassywing.  Gene tries to get me to photograph skippers from the side to get all the field marks, but I love the face shots.

Little Glassywing

Little Glassywing

August 15 was a very exciting day for moths.  First, I discovered this gorgeous Imperial Moth outside my front door.  You can see how big he was – almost as “tall” as a brick and he appeared to be in perfect condition.

Imperial Moth (male)

Imperial Moth (male)

Later that same day, my friend Cynthia called to say that she was watching a Luna in the weeds at one of our local birding spots.  Of course, I ran right over to get my “lifer” Luna Moth.  He was missing an entire hindwing, but he was still beautiful to me.

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

The next day, August 16, I participated in the Iredell County NABA count in Statesville, NC, led by Gene Schepker.  We were at Allison Woods when Gene spotted a Harvester.  Before anyone else could see the butterfly, a truck came driving up the gravel road.  Gene’s immediate response was, “I’m going to stop those guys.”  I have no idea what Gene said, but the truck stopped and three men got out, two of them in National Guard uniforms.  In the meantime, the rest of us had lost track of the butterfly.  One of the men pointed to a branch on a nearby tree and there it was!  They patiently waited 10-15 minutes while we admired and photographed the butterfly.

Harvester at Allison Woods

Harvester at Allison Woods

The Harvester flew to the road and began puddling.  Gene explained that he was collecting nutrients to include with his sperm in a special package (a spermatophore) that he would deliver to the female when they mated.  The nutrients in this special “gift” enable the female to produce and lay eggs.  Gene also shared the fascinating fact that Harvesters are America’s only carnivorous butterfly (in the caterpillar stage).  The only food source for Harvester caterpillars is wooly aphids.  Thus, they grow quickly and have only four instar stages instead of the typical five stages for most butterflies.  The men from the truck listened attentively as did the rest of us.  This was more education that one usually gets on a butterfly count and it added to the fun of the day.

Harvester

Harvester

Later in August, Gene joined Cynthia and me to look for butterflies at the little wetland where Cynthia had found the Luna Moth.  Gene found Least Skippers, a new species for me, in grasses by the water’s edge.  They were tiny and liked to hide, so I didn’t get a very good look at them.  The next day I went back to try for a photograph, but I couldn’t even find the skippers.  Fortunately for me, Cynthia stopped to help when she drove by and saw me.  She found the skippers and I was able to get this photo, one of the most challenging of the summer.

Least Skipper

Least Skipper

Summer isn’t officially over yet and neither is moth or butterfly season, but it’s fall migration, so birds have priority now.  In addition to watching birds near home, a trip to India is coming up soon and a trip to Alaska is in the works for summer 2015.

More of my moth photos can be seen on Flickr in the Moths of Forsyth County, NC album.  My butterfly photos are in the Butterflies album.

Read Full Post »