Archive for July, 2014

A Morning Storm

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Sheeting rain from the east, 50-plus mph winds blew a lot of leaves off the trees, broke a large limb off the sweetgum tree…

and created Impressionistic artwork on the picture window.

Fluttering Motion

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Tiger swallowtails flutter more than perch when they’re feeding.

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I decided to go for pictures with movement for a change.

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They did land on the phlox flowers and flutter to hold their position.

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They “fluttered” out of sight on many pictures.

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Changing my approach proved to be fun.

Least Skipper

They’re not called a least skipper for nothing.

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The least skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) wingspan measures 7/8 to 1 1/8 inches. It only posed for one picture. This picture shows the yellowish underside of the hindwing, and the lighter outer band on the underside of the forewing. Their caterpillars feed on grasses.

Pair Summer Tanagers

Summer tanagers usually don’t find our yard interesting enough to stay here, until this summer. It seems like weeks now that I’ve listened to their “pik-i-tuk-tuk-i-tuk” calls.

Every time the calling would continue, I’d try to locate the bird, never with any luck  until this evening.

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 I stood and stood, hunted and hunted. First I spotted the male among the masses of leaves and branches. Please excuse the quality of the pictures. I know they’re far from being good. At least I finally found one and took it’s picture in the evening light.

If you look close you can see yellow around its neck and down its breast a little. The yellow indicates it’s a young one that isn’t the total red of an adult male.

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The low evening sun made the female’s deep yellow front look slightly more orange.

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It was considerate for both birds to be in my final picture.

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The next morning the male called from the catalpa tree above where I was working. Adult scarlet tanagers are bright red with black wings. Call notes easily differentiate the summer from the scarlet tanager. Summer tanagers give “pik-i-tuk-i-tuk” calls, and their song resembles a robin. The scarlet tanagers repeat “chip-burr” calls, and their song sounds like a robin with a sore throat.

Lunch Time

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I just happened to be in the right place at the right to see this widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) capture a solder beetle for a noon meal.

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I snapped twelve pictures in less than two minutes. It dropped the remains immediately and flew away after I t00k this picture,

Me and My Shadow

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If the daddy long legs only knew the artistic design it created…

Potter Wasp

June 21st, 2014

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a potter wasp before.

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Until a few afternoons ago when I let Buffy out to ….

Small activity caught my attention; a potter wasp was — I’m not sure — making its pot for laying an egg or eggs in? Laying the egg? Bringing in a paralyzed larva for food? It acted agitated with my presence.

The potter wasp look like a masked creature from outer space.

I got excited because I’ve only found completed pots.

The bad news is that I haven’t seen any activity since I found the pot. The empty pot measures a half-inch in diameter.

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July 12th

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Something prompted me to check the potter wasp nest for some reason … and the entrance was closed.  Apparently, the wasp decided to use it after all. Now I’ll need to check it more often. (That’s a small cricket squeezed in beside it.)

Tiger Swallowtail

I actually saw a butterfly today. It’s the first in 4 days. Their number’s have been the lowest I ever remember seeing, and I contribute it to the Arctic winter.

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The eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is usually a common butterfly here in southern Illinois.

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Their caterpillar host trees include: wild cherry, tulip tree, poplar, ash, cottonwood and willow.

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They have 2 broods in our area, and 3 in the southern states.

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They overwinter as a chrysalis,

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and begin flying early in March.

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This partially grown caterpillar was in a wild cherry tree  in the yard last summer.

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A fully-grown one was nearby in the same tree. Its brown color shows that it’d emptied its digestive system and was preparing to form a chrysalis.

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Female tiger swallowtails also have a dark form.

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It’s thought to mimic the pipevine swallowtail.

Catalpa Worms

Actually, they’re caterpillars. Fishermen call them “catalpa worms.” Last night I found the first signs of catalpa worms this sumer — two fallen, dried leaves with an empty eggs in a mass on each one.

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The catalpa tree stands 35 or so feet tall in our backyard.

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The catalpa sphinx moths lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves.

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The newly-hatched caterpillars feed on the underside of the leaves.

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They then travel in groups in search for their next meal.

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They always feed on the underside of the leaves, to stay more hidden from predators.

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Obviously, they change as they grow.

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The caterpillars molt five times before they’re fully grown.

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Even the full-grown caterpillars feed on the underside of the leaves.

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These are cocoons of a parasitic wasp. The earlier stages of the wasp feed inside the caterpillar.

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This predator appeared to be an immature bug of some kind.

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 Caterpillars ate almost all the leaves in August of 2008!!!! The tree grew naturally the next year.

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Then I lucked out that year and found a caterpillar under another catalpa that grew in the shrub border of our backyard. It was working its way under the plant litter on the ground.

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I placed the caterpillar with plant debris in a bug container so I could rear it out to see the chrysalis

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and the adult catalpa sphinx moth.

Unexpected Visitor

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The last thing I expected to see roaming around my backyard was a young raccoon. Mainly because I don’t remember ever seeing one in the yard.

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I took the first few pictures through the window.

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Then it moved around to where I could sneak out to the front corner of the barn for closer pictures.

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It took its time feeding  around the area and then disappeared behind the barn.