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.

No comments: