Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Luna Relief

With fascism and hate closing in from seemingly every corner of our country, Nature rescues me with sweet relief.



Beautiful Luna graces my eve.


Resting upon my doorstep.



She is hope realized.



Further connecting me to this place I now call home.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bittersweet Beginnings

Phew! I've been at my new residence for about one and a half months. Life shows no signs of slowing down and I am far from settled. It's been impossible to keep up with my photos. I've catalogued a nice array of Wisconsin orchids, tiger beetles and robber flies since early summer from visits to northern Wisconsin including Town Corn Cedars SNA, Dunbar Barrens SNA and Kissick Alkaline Bog Lake SNA as well as visits closer to home including Quincy Bluff and Wetlands, and Pleasant Valley state natural areas. I've been most excited about adding some life species to my Wisconsin orchid list. Hopefully I will find time to organize these photos into a few blog posts at some later date.

Gnat Ogre, Holcocephala species (?calva), Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 20July2017
For the time being, I'm going to get another post churned out focusing on what I've been seeing more recently in my own yard. While working tirelessly to get a plethora flowers, shrubs and trees established in my yard, I've noticed plenty of whimsical insects.

Pictured-wing Fly, Delphinia picta, Bittersweet home, 30July2017
It's no wonder I have such a bounty of nature in my own backyard. My new neighborhood, Crestwood, was founded on an appreciation of green space and nature. Each residence in my new neighborhood abuts to a greenway that leads into the adjacent Owen Conservation Park or Bordner Park. While this post will focus on the insects, the bird diversity is also much more impressive than my previous more urbanized yard in Jefferson County.

Gnat Ogre, Holcocephala species (?calva), Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 1Aug2017
The most prolific bug present in my yard since my arrival has been these minute robberflies called gnat ogres of the genus Holcocephala.

Gnat Ogre, Holcocephala species (?calva), Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 1Aug2017
The ones I have seen are all likely Holcocephala calva. But I'm no expect so Holcocephala sp. will suffice.
Gnat Ogre, Holcocephala species (?calva), Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 1Aug2017
With a usual 6-10 flying around the yard on any given day, I've had many opportunities to photograph these tiny buggers even catching them in action preying on gnats of all things! Imagine that.

Gnat Ogre, Holcocephala species (?calva), Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017
Though it's difficult to ascertain from the photos, these robber flies measure less than 10 mm in length.
Gnat Ogre, Holcocephala species (?calva), Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017
Gnat Ogre, Holcocephala species (?calva), Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017
Along with some nasty invasives that I am working to remove, my yard also has several dwarf hackberry bushes growing which I am told are attractive to insects. This claim does seem to hold true. I've witnessed various hopper species and flies in and around these bushes. Here is a modest selection of the various hoppers, flies and other insects I've seen:

Citrus flatid planthopper, Bittersweet Home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017 

Coelidia olitoria, Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017 

Coelidia olitoria, Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017

Graphocephala leafhopper, Bittersweet Home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017
Acanalonia conica, Bittersweet Home, Dane Co, WI 30July2017
Ambush bug, Bittersweet Home, Dane Co, WI 1Aug2017
Condylostylus sp fly, 1Aug2017
And let's not forget the butterflies and dragonflies! They've been more sparse, but of decent quality. Just yesterday a Red-spotted Purple paid a visit to my hose nozzle.



And I managed to find a most wanted species for the Wisconsin Odonata Survey, a Great Spreadwing.

Female Great Spreadwing, Bittersweet home, Dane Co, WI 1Aug2017
With the all the activity in my yard, I have little need to leave. However occasionally I still like to mix it up and branch out to other areas. Wanderlust ya know. It keeps me moving and shaking!

Oh and let's not forget the under-appreciated mosquito! I have those too! In spades!




Saturday, July 29, 2017

Juniper Hairstreak!

Juniper Hairstreak has long been at the top of my bucket list of insects I've wished to behold. I was tipped off to their flight a few days ago and was successful in my chase to find them. These are the moments when my heart surely skips a beat. Bejeweled in colors reminiscent of verdigris, my eyes were mesmerized by the iridescent hues of this creature. I could have lingered for hours...


As their name suggests, these butterflies congregate around stands of junipers and can often be seen nectaring on various blooms at the base of these trees.



At this particular patch east of Black Earth in Dane County, WI the Juniper Hairstreaks were favoring Queen Anne's Lace.


They were also occasionally visiting the undesirable invasive White Sweet Clover (ick). Note both flower species are considered non-native invasives in Wisconsin.


I found the Juniper Hairstreaks to be a fairly cooperative species as far as butterflies are concerned. They allowed close approach while they spent long periods nectaring.


This one was not so lucky to have encountered an Ambush Bug (asshole!).




And I was not so lucky to have picked up several chigger bites walking the ditches to observe the butterflies and other insects that were bountiful along this small stretch of roadside.

Thanks to Master Dale for the intel about their current flight. This encounter just might be the crown jewel of my summer! 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Swamplovers

I exhausted all of June without a blog post and could easily go another month. But the photos are accumulating among the busyness of living and moving homes. And while the process of capturing images is in itself an engaging restorative process, I do like to organize my experiences into logs for future reference. I have quite the backlog from June and early July!

So let's jump to my most recent outing to Swamplovers preserve. July 4th I attended a butterfly/dragonfly field trip to this gem of a property that is a mostly a private conservancy. I met some new lepidoptera and odonata nerd friends as well as communed with some old acquaintances and favorite nature geeks (Dale that's you).

Hiker passing by Swamplovers
My developing interest in learning Wisconsin butterflies was the impetus for attending this trip. However with the wet conditions in Wisconsin this year, dragonflies predominated. The rare Blue-eyed Darner was recently found at Swamplovers and made fly by appearances. It never perched. Hence no photo. Below is an assortment of some of the dragonfly images I collected this outing. Of the more common species, Red Saddlebags was my favorite ode of the day.

Red Saddlebags

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (male)
Twelve-spotted skimmer (female)
Eastern Pond hawk 
This dragonfly porn was enjoyed by most on the trip who lingered capturing footage of this not so private sexual encounter.

Common Green Darner
Because this was a group field trip, I traveled with my Canon 100-400 ii zoom lens since there was likely to be little time to linger for true macro images. This new Canon lens does a decent job with near macro images. At full zoom (400 mm) it focuses at an impressive 38.4 inches. I still prefer my true macro for flowers. Therefore I spent little time capturing the blooms of the day. However I couldn't resist capturing a few images of my first of the year spiderwort.


We began the trip in the lower wetlands where butterflies were actually rather sparse. However a Meadow Frittilary was making use of the habitat causing a little stir of excitement for some. I believe this is a life butterfly for me. Monarchs were present too.

Meadow Frittilary
Swamplovers bluff
Butterfly abundance improved when we transitioned to the public access section of Swamplovers near the bluff and picnic area. We encountered several more Meadow Frittilaries along with a small diversity of other species. Trip leaders, Dorothy and Karl Legler, Todd Highsmith and Dr. Doug noted a Painted Lady was a good find at this time of year.
Painted Lady
Lead plant was among the blooms attracting insects. I just love the contrasting purple and orange of this plant.

Lead plant
Banded Hairstreaks were the most numerous butterfly of the outing found in the wooded area atop the bluff . Several other insects were also active among the understory foliage (Bee fly, Punctured Tiger Beetle, robberflies and hoppers).
Banded Hairstreak
This glorious Black Swallowtail which can be confused with the black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was seen also atop the bluff.
Black Swallowtail
Silvery Checkerspot, another life butterfly would have likely been overlooked had I not been alerted by the veteran lepidopterists (is that a word?).
Silvery Checkerspot
This rather drab butterfly, a Northern Cloudywing provided excitement for the conclusion of the trip. Apparently it is not a very common sighting, especially for July 4. I obliged this not so brilliant creature with a few photos.
Northern Cloudywing


Northern Cloudywing
Meadow Spittlebug
A fellow bug nerd called my attention to what he correctly thought was a robberfly. Its small size should be apparent. In fact it's the smallest robberfly I have seen to date. I was puzzled by its ID since I could not find it cataloged at the Wisconsin Robberfly page hosted by Mike Reese. I learned via Mike the species is Holcocephala calva.
Holcocephala calva robberfly

Holcocephala calva robberfly

Common Bee fly
And finally several in the group were enamored with this fly. The common name was tossed around but has lapsed my mind. I couldn't spend more than a few seconds capturing a few images since my ride was leaving imminently and I had to flee to other obligations that day. I was pleased to have taken time out from settling into my new home to attend this trip and look forward to the next one!

Unknown fly of interest