Photos May-July

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.

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.

Here is the first slender spreadwing I have found at St. James Farm.

Wild yam graces the understory of the St. James Farm forest.

Wild yam graces the understory of the St. James Farm forest.

Sporangia on the underside of a lady fern leaf at St. James Farm.

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.

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.

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.

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).

 

Mayslake Insects Update

by Carl Strang

We’re at the edge of summer, and bees and butterflies and Odonata are center stage. Skippers have been appearing at flowers.

Earlier in the season there were wild indigo dusky wings. This is one of the skippers that typically rest with wings open.

Earlier in the season there were wild indigo dusky wings. This is one of the skippers that typically rest with wings open.

This week a new skipper appeared in Mayslake’s main prairie. This is one that closes the wings at least part way, and had practically no detail beneath.

This week a new skipper appeared in Mayslake’s main prairie. This is one that closes the wings at least part way, and had practically no detail beneath.

With the wings partly open there clearly is some color on the leading edge of the forewing, and small groups of dots. It appears to be a tawny-edged skipper.

With the wings partly open there clearly is some color on the leading edge of the forewing, and small groups of dots. It appears to be a tawny-edged skipper.

Carolina saddlebags have been one of our more consistent early season dragonflies.

The violet forehead is just visible in this back-lit individual.

The violet forehead is just visible in this back-lit individual.

So far the only spreadwing damselflies I have seen have been slender spreadwings.

Slender spreadwings continue to be common this week.

Slender spreadwings continue to be common this week.

In the past few days a number of dragonflies have made their first appearances of the season.

One of the recent species is the eastern amberwing. I like the way the light projects a distorted image of this male’s wings onto the rock.

One of the recent species is the eastern amberwing. I like the way the light projects a distorted image of this male’s wings onto the rock.

Early bumblebee colonies have begun sending out workers.

This bee was diving into the foxglove beard tongue flowers so quickly upon landing that flight photos were needed to show sufficient detail for identification. The black basal abdominal segment followed by two yellow ones is one clue. The trace of yellow on the back half of the dorsal thorax is another.

This bee was diving into the foxglove beard tongue flowers so quickly upon landing that flight photos were needed to show sufficient detail for identification. The black basal abdominal segment followed by two yellow ones is one clue. The trace of yellow on the back half of the dorsal thorax is another.

The other details are consistent with an identification of Bombus auricomus.

The other details are consistent with an identification of Bombus auricomus.

New insects will be emerging frequently for the next couple of months.

Odonata Appearances

by Carl Strang

Additional insect species continue to make their first appearances of the year at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Last week brought the first widow skimmer.

This is a teneral, or newly emerged, individual. Note the faint undeveloped dark wing areas.

I remember learning to recognize these years ago, finally releasing my focus on wing pattern as I discovered the suspenders-like yellow body striping.

I still haven’t internalized the differences among spreadwing damselflies, and try to photograph every one I see.

Females like this slender spreadwing I find particularly challenging. The pale wingtip veins are a big help here.

One fun photographic challenge is to get pictures of dragonflies in flight.

Some, like the prince baskettail, never seem to land, so flight photos are the only choice most of the time.

Though insects continue to appear early, there are plenty still to emerge as the season is yet young.

Added Insects

by Carl Strang

It’s fun to discover new things, and at Mayslake Forest Preserve I continue to add new species of insects or plants almost daily in the summer. This week the most recent added insect was the question mark butterfly.

This species is named for the tiny silvery markings on the hind wings.

Last week this moth appeared, and I’ve seen another since.

The yellow-collared scape moth is a smaller relative of the similar looking Virginia ctenucha.

An abundant visitor of flowers in the stream corridor prairie this summer has been the great black wasp.

This solitary species digs tunnels, where it places katydids and grasshoppers for its young to eat.

A final new species remains to be identified.

One of the biggest weevils I’ve ever seen, this interesting looking insect turned up in one of the kids’ sweep nets on Take Your Kids to Work Day.

Of course, it’s also enjoyable to see familiar insects.

The wild indigo dusky wing is one of our more common skippers. I have seen them hanging around wild indigo plants at Mayslake, but their caterpillars also feed on other legumes.

Lately I’ve been seeing scattered slender spreadwings.

The pale vein at the tip of the wing, as well as the dark abdomen tip on this male, are distinguishing features.

Two bluets appeared to be large enough, and matching the correct color pattern, to identify as familiar bluets. First was a male.

The violet color seemed odd.

Later a female appeared.

She was feeding on another damselfly, which appeared to be a newly emerged forktail.

I owe thanks to Linda Padera, who accompanied me on a lunch break walk and spotted some of these insects.

Early Odonata

by Carl Strang

We’re barely into June, and already there has been some remarkable dragonfly and damselfly action at Mayslake Forest Preserve. In a previous post I showed early reproductive activity by common spreadwings. Two more spreadwing species appeared before the end of May: slender spreadwing, which I had found on the preserve before, and a new one, the swamp spreadwing.

Many individuals of all three species have emerged from the stream corridor marsh.

Back on May 4 I saw this four-spotted skimmer.

I’m pretty sure I have never seen one so early in the season. I’ll finish with a UFO shot (unidentified flying Odonata). On May 26 I saw two tandem pairs and a single, all saddlebags of one of the red-bodied species, over the stream corridor marsh. One of the pairs I saw laying eggs. They were staying too far out for me to see clearly, so I resorted to the UFO technique.

I am leaning toward Carolina saddlebags rather than red saddlebags. The insects’ bodies were bright red rather than dull red, it still is fairly early in the season when Carolinas are more common, and there appears to be a lot of black on the abdomen tip in the photo. There was no chance of seeing the definitive forehead color, however, so I’m not willing to call the identification certain.

Mayslake Odonata Update

by Carl Strang

The weather has been rainy, gloomy and cool on many recent days, but when the sun appeared so did the insects. At Mayslake Forest Preserve I have been able to add new species and observations that provide a foundation for future study. Eastern forktail damselflies already have been busy laying eggs in May’s Lake.

Eastern forktails laying eggs b

Meanwhile, other damselflies are emerging. The next two photos are, I believe, of common spreadwings, a male

Common spreadwing b

and a female.

Common spreadwing female 3b

Having newly emerged, they are holding their wings together more than usual. Another spreadwing species is the slender spreadwing.

Slender spreadwing 1b

Note the contrasting pale veins of the wingtips. Another, blurry photo established that the abdomen has the characteristic length, twice that of the wings. I have seen orange bluets at both of the preserve’s lakes.

Orange bluet b

Familiar bluets also have begun to appear.

Familiar bluet b

The year’s first blue-fronted dancer was a female.

Blue-fronted dancer female b

Its abdomen is dark, including the sides of the tip, and has only a very narrow pale line down the top. Shifting now to dragonflies, I’ll start with a 12-spotted skimmer that began patrolling the stream corridor marsh in June. I expect the species to be common there. This one I photographed elsewhere in 2004.

12-spotted skimmer b

Blue dashers have been active out in the fields, and soon will be appearing at lakes and marshes.

Blue dasher female 1b

A jade clubtail has staked out a piece of the May’s Lake shore.

Jade clubtail b

Cruising farther out are the prince baskettails. Here is a UFO-ish shot of one.

Prince baskettail UFO b

And here is a common baskettail  showing the basal wingspots that are visible on some, but not all individuals.

Common baskettail spot b

A final, cautionary photo:

Eastern forktail new female b

This is not an orange bluet, but a newly emerged female eastern forktail. Note the absence of the orange at the abdomen tip plus the expanded orange area at the base of the abdomen.

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