December 16, 2016 at 7:04 am (birds, botany, mammals, plant-eating insects, restoration)
Tags: black duck, Epargyreus clarus, Euonymus alatus, mallard, opossum, pintail, silver-spotted skipper, St. James Farm, white-crowned sparrow, winged euonymus
by Carl Strang
This blog has been on hiatus while I work on my annual research summary documents, but I have been paying regular visits to St. James Farm Forest Preserve, the site I monitor and where I soon will begin as volunteer steward. Today’s entry shares some photos from recent weeks.
Winged euonymus adds color to the autumn scene, but is an invasive shrub that will need to be removed at some point.
As leaves come off the trees, bird nests are revealed. This oriole nest had a significant content of synthetic fibers, including fishing line from the nearby ponds. The fuzzy white object hanging below the nest is a fishing lure, the hook not quite visible at this angle.
This silver-spotted skipper still was active on November 16.
The opossum lay dead in the center of a trail, also on November 16. Cause of death was not evident.
Late autumn migrants included this white-crowned sparrow youngster.
The most unusual stopover duck was a female pintail on the east pond.
Another duck worth noting was this male. Accompanied by a female mallard, his huge size and her identity suggest that he may be a mallard-black duck hybrid.
September 1, 2016 at 6:18 am (plant-eating insects, singing insects)
Tags: Allonemobius griseus, cottonwood borer, gray ground cricket, Illinois Beach State Park, Kiowa rangeland grasshopper, Neoconocephalus robustus, Orchelimum concinnum, Plectrodera scalator, robust conehead, stripe-faced meadow katydid, Trachyrhachys kiowa
by Carl Strang
Two targets for my friends from Ohio and West Virginia were stripe-faced meadow katydids and gray ground crickets, both of which can be found at Illinois Beach State Park. The stripe-faceds proved to be in their early-stage colors.
Even this nymph has the facial stripe, but it is brown and relatively fuzzy-edged compared to what it ultimately will become. New adults have the same brown colors, even though they are mature enough to sing and to mate.
The nymphs and new adults were all in shades of tan and brown. We saw one or two adults which were beginning to develop their green body colors, and the more distinct facial features.
Gray ground crickets have been a challenge, and prior to this year I had gotten only a couple brief glimpses of them. This time I caught one, allowing us to take photos before releasing our subject back into the dunes.
The cricket was a female, probably made vulnerable by her moving about seeking a singing male.
Gray ground crickets are well named. I especially like the head stripes and the little dark rectangular markings on the wings.
We found other critters of interest along the way, of course.
Kiowa rangeland grasshoppers occupy the same ecological zone as the gray ground cricket.
Scattered cottonwood trees among the dunes were hosts for this striking beetle, a cottonwood borer.
The loudest nighttime insect singer was the robust conehead. We saw both brown and green males.
August 28, 2016 at 4:47 pm (plant-eating insects, reptiles and amphibians, singing insects)
Tags: Amblycorypha rotundifolia, Anaxipha exigua, blinded sphinx, common true katydid, confused ground cricket, Cope's gray treefrog, Desmia funeralis, ecoblitz, Eulithis diversilineata, Eunemobius confusus, fork-tailed bush katydid, grape leaffolder, Indiana Forest Alliance, jumping bush cricket, lesser angle-winged katydid, lesser grapevine looper, Microcentrum retinerve, Nebraska conehead, Neoconocephalus nebrascensis, Neotibicen tibicen, Orocharis saltator, Paonias excaecata, Paonias myops, Pterophylla camellifolia, rattler round-winged katydid, Say's trig, Scudderia furcata, small-eyed sphinx, swamp cicada
by Carl Strang
The Indiana Forest Alliance, a non-profit conservation organization, has been sponsoring a species survey in portions of two state forests in southern Indiana. As it consists of repeated weekend sessions over a period of years, they are calling it an “ecoblitz” rather than a bioblitz, which is a one-time event limited to a 24- or 48-hour time span. I went down for a weekend last fall, and returned in early August to complete the singing insects portion of the survey.
The area is forested, except for some small areas of tall, dense herbaceous growth in stream bottoms. The singing insect fauna consequently is mainly of forest species.
Confused ground crickets were common on the forest floor.
Say’s trigs by the hundreds sang in the open herbaceous areas.
Widely scattered small groups of rattler round-winged katydids could be heard at night.
This nymph is recognizable as a male fork-tailed bush katydid by the distinctive appendages at the tip of his abdomen.
Some of the other species that sang for us were swamp cicadas, Nebraska coneheads, lesser angle-wing katydids, jumping bush crickets and common true katydids.
I also helped with photography at a night-time moth survey at illuminated sheets.
This small-eyed sphinx was one of the two hummingbird moths we attracted.
A blinded sphinx also dropped in.
A grape leaffolder
This lesser grapevine looper appears to be sending out pheromone.
A Cope’s gray treefrog hopped in, possibly sensing the smorgasbord we had created.
August 25, 2016 at 6:05 am (birds, botany, dragonflies and damselflies, plant-eating insects)
Tags: Alypia octomaculata, Athyrium filix-femina, barred owl, Dioscorea villosa, eight-spotted forester, lady fern, Lestes rectangularis, Libellula luctuosa, Lulu Lake, slender spreadwing, St. James Farm, widow skimmer, wild yam
by Carl Strang
It’s been a busy field season, and I have fallen way behind in blog posts. I’ll catch up eventually, but today will share a smorgasbord of photos from May through July.
This barred owl appeared during a walk through St. James Farm Forest Preserve. I believe I had come close to its nest tree.
Here is the first slender spreadwing I have found at St. James Farm.
Wild yam graces the understory of the St. James Farm forest.
Sporangia on the underside of a lady fern leaf at St. James Farm.
The Lulu Lake Nature Preserve in Walworth County, Wisconsin, has become a favorite site. Here a woodland graces a kame.
An eight-spotted forester provided a photo op in the nature preserve portion of the Round Lake state property in Starke County, Indiana.
This dragonfly I encountered at Houghton Lake in Marshall County, Indiana, was a bit of a puzzler. I eventually concluded it was a somewhat odd widow skimmer, but later changed the ID to slaty skimmer (see comments).
July 8, 2016 at 6:21 am (plant-eating insects, singing insects)
Tags: Arphia sulfurea, bunchgrass grasshopper, Diceroprocta vitripennis, green-winged cicada, Hesperotettix viridis, Kankakee Sands, meadow purple-striped grasshopper, mottled sand grasshopper, Pseudopomala brachyptera, Roesel's katydid, Roeseliana roesellii, short-winged toothpick grasshopper, Spharagemon collare, sulfur-winged grasshopper
by Carl Strang
The most fruitful recent singing insects search was at the Kankakee Sands preserve in Kankakee County, which has become one of my favorites for species that affiliate with sand-soil habitats. The June 28 visit yielded 3 county records, two of which were of familiar species, Roesel’s katydid and green-winged cicada.
Grasshoppers were building up their diversity at the site. Sulfur-winged grasshoppers still were going, and the season’s first mottled sand grasshopper also flashed his wings.
This was by far the earliest I have found this sand-soil specialist.
Then in the prairie beyond the savanna I started to hear the zuzz-zuzz-zuzz of stridulating grasshoppers. I had a hard time getting a look at who it might be. Eventually I saw a possible candidate.
This grasshopper has a somewhat slanted face, and color markings reminiscent of stridulating grasshoppers in genus Orphulella.
Study of the photos, however, led to an identification as the meadow purple-striped grasshopper, Hesperotettix viridis, in the non-singing spur-throated grasshopper group. As I waded through the grasses I flushed out a couple really odd grasshoppers that begged to be photographed.
The blade-like antennas, subtle striping pattern, and especially the gangly skinniness of the critter were distinctive.
They reminded me of high school basketball players whose growth spurts have given them impressive height, but whose strength and coordination have some catching up to do. Though I saw and photographed only the minute-winged females, my identification and study convinced me that these were the stridulators. The short-winged toothpick grasshopper is well named, seeming to be constructed of toothpicks. It is a member of the slant-faced stridulating subfamily, and is described as being a frequent singer. The species, also known by the more mundane name of bunchgrass grasshopper (Pseudopomala brachyptera), now is removed from my hypothetical list for my survey region.
June 30, 2016 at 6:58 am (plant-eating insects)
Tags: Asterocampa celtis, eastern comma, Goose Pond, hackberry emperor, Haploa lecontei, Hyloprepia fucosa, large lace-border, LeConte's haploa, painted lichen moth, Polygonia comma, Scopula limboundata, St. James Farm
by Carl Strang
Though singing insects are my main research focus, I enjoy studying other critters as well. Here is a gallery of recently encountered butterflies and moths.
Not all travel has been out of county. Here is the first eastern comma I have found at St. James Farm Forest Preserve.
One day I encountered several hackberry emperors at SJF. Here is the usual underwing view they provide.
Another individual spread its wings in the sun.
LeConte’s haploas are tiger moths that occur in the St. James Farm forests.
Here is another, providing a sense of this species’ variability.
The UV light at Goose Pond brought in some moths. This one was familiar, a large lace border.
A few painted lichen moths also were drawn to the light. For some reason I was unable to get a sharp photo.
Despite much poring over of references, I was unable to identify this moth.
June 10, 2016 at 6:27 am (birds, botany, dragonflies and damselflies, plant-eating insects)
Tags: Arisaema dracontium, Camassia scilloides, common goat's beard, dot-tailed whiteface, eastern bluebird, grayish fan-foot, grayish Zanclognatha, green dragon, hairy sweet cicely, Leucorrhinia intacta, Osmorhiza claytonii, Osmorhiza longistilis, smooth sweet cicely, St. James Farm, Tragopogon pratensis, wild hyacinth, Zanclognatha pedipilalis
by Carl Strang
As recent posts have shown, I am transitioning into the singing insects field season. I will be spending less time at St. James Farm over the next four months, though I won’t be ignoring that preserve completely. So here is a collection of recent photos from St. James Farm Forest Preserve.
I was pleased to find that green dragons are scattered throughout the forest.
Both the smooth sweet cicely, shown here, and the hairy sweet cicely are among the late spring forest wildflowers at SJF.
Wild hyacinths are savanna or woods border plants with only a brief blooming period.
The somewhat weedy, open-growing common goat’s beard is a personal favorite.
Earlier in the season I saw a female dot-tailed whiteface in one of the prairie plots. Here is a male on station at the catch-and-release fishing pond.
The grayish fan-foot, aka grayish Zanclognatha, has been abundant in the forest in recent days. The caterpillars live on fallen dead leaves.
This eastern bluebird nestling looks ready to get out into the world.
June 1, 2016 at 6:00 am (dragonflies and damselflies, insects (other), invertebrates (other), plant-eating insects)
Tags: American lady, bowl and doily spider, common baskettail, dot-tailed whiteface, Epalpus signifer, Epargyreus clarus, Epitheca cynosura, Frontinella communis, green-legged grasshopper, Leucorrhinia intacta, Melanoplus viridipes, silver-spotted skipper, St. James Farm, Vanessa virginiensis
by Carl Strang
As the cold spells have become fewer and weaker, insects and other invertebrates increasingly have decorated the landscape at St. James Farm Forest Preserve. None decorate better than the butterflies.
A few American lady butterflies appeared early in May.
The silver-spotted skipper attests to the presence of black locust trees on the preserve.
Very early in the season I was seeing abundant grasshopper nymphs in the forest. I had a suspicion about them, which was confirmed as they matured.
The green-legged grasshopper is an early season forest species.
Dragonflies increasingly appeared in the second half of May.
The most abundant dragonfly in recent days has been the common baskettail. Though they usually are seen on the wing, this one gave me a rare opportunity for a perched shot.
No baskettail this. It’s another early season species, a female dot-tailed whiteface.
All these insects bring out the parasites and predators.
Epalpus signifer is a tachinid fly, a parasite of caterpillars.
Morning dew highlights the abundant webs of bowl and doily spiders.
May 9, 2016 at 6:01 am (insects (other), plant-eating insects)
Tags: bumble bee flower beetle, Celastrina ladon, Cicindela sexguttata, Euphoria inda, red admiral, six-spotted tiger beetle, spring azure, St. James Farm, Vanessa atalanta
by Carl Strang
Insects began to appear during April’s warm spells. Inevitably I have been comparing my finds at St. James Farm Forest Preserve to my experience at Mayslake Forest Preserve, the site of my previous preserve monitoring. Some of the early insects at St. James Farm are shared with Mayslake.
The red admiral overwinters in the pupal stage.
Another early season butterfly is the spring azure.
Other species I never found at Mayslake.
The six-spotted tiger beetle prowls the trails at St. James Farm, as it does on many forest preserves. I was perennially surprised that I never found them at Mayslake.
One impressive insect I encountered at St. James Farm was entirely new to my experience. I first saw it flying, and I thought I was seeing a large bee fly or a fat bee. Then it landed.
It proved to be a beetle. The bumble bee flower beetle’s name reflects its impressive mimicry.
This is a member of the scarab family, and it feeds from flowers, ripe fruits, and sap-exuding tree wounds.
April 4, 2016 at 6:21 am (birds, botany, mammals, plant-eating insects, reptiles and amphibians)
Tags: Acer saccharinum, barred owl, brown-headed cowbird, bullfrog, cabbage white, Canada goose, Claytonia virginica, golden-crowned kinglet, great horned owl, green-winged teal, hooded merganser, killdeer, midland brown snake, midland painted turtle, mourning cloak, northern flicker, Nymphalis antiopa, Pelochrista, Pieris rapae, pileated woodpecker, preserve monitoring, sandhill crane, silver maple, spring beauty, St. James Farm, western chorus frog, whitetail deer, wood duck
by Carl Strang
Weather in March at St. James Farm Forest Preserve was variable, but on the whole was relatively warm with frequent rainy periods. At the beginning of the month there was a little lingering snow on the ground, and ponds were frozen, but all of this quickly was gone.
I used my old GPS unit to map my survey routes and to locate positions of previously discovered cavity trees that might harbor a great horned owl nest. One of these indeed proved to hold the nest, and the female still was present on March 25, late enough to indicate that hatched young were being brooded. Two attempts to find displaying woodcocks were unsuccessful, but during the first evening visit on March 17 I heard what I thought was a short call by a barred owl in the eastern portion of the preserve. Scott Meister reported hearing the species in the forest one evening the following week. No pileated woodpecker observations in March, but recent observations in preserves to the north along the West Branch suggest that the bird or birds seen here earlier may be wandering widely. Canada geese were down to small groups and pairs early in the month. By March 31 a nest was under incubation on the small island in the pond below the former house site.
Canada goose incubating on March 31.
Many killdeers were displaying in the restoration project area around the stream early in the month, but these were down to just a few individuals by month’s end. Bird activity generally increased as the season progressed, with the first cowbirds arriving March 8, a pair of hooded mergansers and 2 pairs of wood ducks present in the pond in the NW corner of the preserve for much of the month, sandhill crane flocks frequently passing overhead, a northern flicker and the first golden-crowned kinglets appearing on March 14, tree swallows on March 25, and two pairs of green-winged teals in the restored stream on March 26.
This hooded merganser pair may nest in one of the wood duck boxes at the northwest pond.
A shed antler found on March 17 in the forest near Winfield Road matched the buck photographed in the same area on November 1.
Someone found an old deer skull and propped it against a trailside tree.
The first snake observed on the preserve was a midland brown snake on March 29. That same day several painted turtles were sunning in the eastern pond.
Western chorus frogs began singing on March 11, and ultimately displayed in three locations. The largest number were in the fringes of the eastern pond, and many also were in two temporary ponds in the meadow north of the entrance drive. Numbers of bullfrogs, large and small, had emerged by March 21.
One of the March 21 bullfrogs.
The first butterfly of the year was a mourning cloak observed on March 21. A cabbage white appeared on March 29. The former overwinters in the adult form, the latter as a pupa. Several small brown moths were active on the forest floor on March 31. One was photographed and appears to be a tortricid, close to several similar species of Pelochrista or perhaps Eucosma.
A possible Pelochrista
Silver maples were blooming by March 11, and spring beauties by March 31.
Spring beauties were the first native herbaceous wildflowers to bloom at St. James Farm in 2016.
Restoration clearing of the forest was completed by mid-March, and a new set of stakes presumably marking the new trail route was placed in the final week.
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