Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ghosts Delivered

Ghost Tiger Beetle it is. A state special concern species.

Ghost Tiger Beetle, Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, 6July2016 
I was alerted this species was being seen in great numbers in Portage County and decided to venture to Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area in Adams County in search of Ghosts and any other tiger beetles and robberflies I could find.
Quincy Bluff and Wetlands
The habitat and landscape of Quincy Bluffs is quite amazing. It's potential for spectacularity spoke to me from my first visit. The Department of Natural Resources site reports Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle occurring at this site. However I have yet to find one at this preserve. The DNR map for Ghost Tiger Beetle doesn't show this species being documented in Adams County. Not surprising considering I doubt few go looking for this cryptic insect. It makes sense though with how sandy Adams county is that this and other tiger beetles would occur there.

I was actually thinking I would find the Ghosts at a nearby abandoned cranberry farm. I searched that area before heading to Quincy. However the sands of the cranberry farm were disappointingly, void of insects with only a few Big Sand Tiger Beetles spotted. After about a half hour of searching I moved on to exploring several areas in the vast landscape encompassed by the Quincy Bluffs and Wetlands. My hopes of Ghosts had plummeted after my failure at the cranberry "desert." Not terribly disappointed, I turned my focus to observing other critters and plants.

Edward's Hairstreak, Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, 6July2016 
American Copper, Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, 6July2016 
Flower Longhorn Beetle, Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, 6July2016 
I added Punctured and Festive Tiger Beetle to my trip list along with various robberflies and dragonflies (I'll save the flies for another post).

Festive Tiger Beetle, Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, 6July2016 

Festive Tiger Beetle, Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, 6July2016 
The day was rapidly getting away from me as often happens while exploring nature. The sweltering heat was wearing on my endurance. Though still early in July, I wanted to check the west side of the preserve for Prairie Fame-flower before I headed home. I mapped the route to my destination. While doing so I spotted a promising sand blow on my satellite map. Since it was nearby, I decided to make one last effort to find another tiger beetle species for the day despite feeling rather exhausted.

The sand blow
I made the half-mile hike to the sand blow realizing as I walked the path that I had visited this area last year. The scent of Common Milkweed was intoxicating along the passage across the wetlands to the sand blow.

Common Milkweed
Arriving at the sand blow, I found the area teeming with sand wasps of various species. Several times, the smaller sand wasps fooled me into thinking I had finally discovered a Ghost Tiger Beetle. Within a few minutes though, I spotted what certainly had to be a pale tiger beetle. I binoculared the suspect and sure enough my persistence paid off, Ghost Tiger Beetle indeed! This elusive species was finally in my sight! I spotted another, chased around for photos, but was quickly was distracted by what I presume was a rather large, strangely pale, round-bodied wolf spider hunting out of its burrow. I did not notice the burrow at first. The spider was out in plain sight, large and lovely, in hot pursuit of some wasp. I clumsily approached it not realizing it had its escape hole nearby. In lightning speed it disappeared and seemingly so had the Ghosts when I turned my attention back to them.

Intriguing spider...I marked his hole for my return

Not to worry. A walk across the sand yielded 1-2 more Ghost Tiger Beetles. I was hoping to find more, but it was late in the day, nearing 7 p.m. and activity on the sand was dying down. I also realized as I stalked these Ghosts, they too were disappearing, presumably into their burrows for the eve.

Ghost Tiger Beetle, Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, 6July2016 

Despite only finding a handful of Ghost Tiger Beetles, I was utterly pleased nonetheless. My tired, shaky hands didn't get the sharpest photos, but I'm still quite happy with this life sighting.

Not the sharpest back view of the Ghost

Perhaps an early morning return visit will yield more beetles and more opportunity to study and photograph these fascinating creatures...and yes I made it to the Prairie Fame-flower area, but could not spy any of these beauties yet in bloom.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tiger Beetle Tally 2016

In the past year or so, the Sauk-Prairie Canoe Launch near Sauk City, Sauk County has become a popular destination for tiger beetle nerds.

Historically I had associated this location with good shorebirding at certain times of the year. One of my firsts visits to this site was in August 2014 when I chased this Red Knot found by Jim Schwarz.

It was during that early August visit in 2014 that I noticed the dry sandscape leading to the river held various tiger beetle species that were taking flight along the path in front of me. The wet sand beach had tiger beetles as well. I recall Festive, Big Sand and Bronzed being present that day.

Big Sand Tiger Beetle, Nikon 1 V3, 70-300mm, 27June2016
Subsequent visits yielded impressive numbers of Bronzed Tiger Beetles and robberflies too (of course)!

Efferia albibarbis (male), Sauk-Prairie launch, 27June2016

Efferia albibarbis (female) with prey, Sauk-Prairie launch, 27June2016
I've been told eight tiger beetle species have been recorded at the Sauk-Prairie Canoe Launch in recent years.

Sandy Stream Tiger Beetle, Sauk-Prairie launch, 27June2016
Peck's Landing, near Spring Green also seems to be a good candidate for sandbar associated tiger beetle species. I visited this canoe launch earlier this spring and found several Bronzed and a probable Hairy-necked roaming the flats.

Bronzed Tiger Beetles humping, Peck's Landing, Sauk Co, 2June2016
I suspect a return visit could also yield Sandy Stream. This particular location lacks the dry sand blow habitat of the Sauk-Prairie Canoe launch. Therefore tiger beetle diversity isn't quite as impressive. However, with Spring Green Prairie State Natural Area, the seemingly pinnacle location for Wisconsin tiger beetles, just a few miles north up the road, one could round out her tiger beetle species list for the area by a visit to the prairie.

Earlier this week (June 27), I made my first voyage of 2016 to the Sauk-Prairie Canoe Launch. I finally found and photographed Hairy-necked Tiger Beetles. To my frustration, I failed to find this species in the past despite reports by others of them being in this area.

Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle, Sauk-Prairie Canoe Launch, 27June2016 
This particular tiger beetle outing yielded 5 tiger beetle species: Sandy Stream, Bronzed, Hairy-necked, Big Sand and a single Punctured near the parking lot.

Punctured Tiger Beetle, Sauk-Prairie Launch, 27June2016

 It's been a good summer for finding a nice variety of tiger beetle species here in Wisconsin.

Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle, Dunbar Barrens, 12June2016

In early June, my breeding bird surveys took me to Marinette County where I found two additional life tiger beetles, Northern Barrens Tiger Beetles and Boreal Long-lipped, at Dunbar Barrens State Natural Area. After failed searches for Northern Barrens in Adams County, I was surprised how easy this species was to locate at the Dunbar Barrens.

Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle, Dunbar Barrens, 12June2016

Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle, Dunbar Barrens, 12June2016

As of this posting, Common Claybank, Ghost and Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetles are the three remaining species I have yet to see in Wisconsin. I'll be quite lucky to even find just one of these the remainder of this year!