Finds Along the Way

by Carl Strang

It has been a full and busy field season, so full that I have neglected the blog, for which I apologize. Today I begin to catch up. There will be a series of posts on this year’s singing insects research, but for now I will share a few side observations made along the way. The best of these was my first jumping mouse.

Meadow jumping mouse

This little rodent is widely distributed in the region but seldom seen. I went well into my 69th year before I finally saw this, my first one. It was smaller than they are supposed to get, so I assume it was a youngster whose naivete made it possible for me to watch him. Still, he was shy enough that the above photo was the best I could get. If you enlarge it for a better look, note the very long tail which trails off the right margin. Also, look beneath his (I say his, don’t know the gender) belly at the very large hind foot sticking out. I admired his beautiful golden coat as he hopped among the plants on those hind feet, nibbling here and there.

I fit some monitoring walks at St. James Farm into my summer. On one of them I ran across a perched wandering glider.

Wandering gliders usually are seen only in flight, distinctive in being large yellow dragonflies with chestnut brown heads.

This species has a worldwide distribution, and routinely crosses oceans. I remember seeing one in Australia.

Earlier in the season at St. James Farm I saw a queen bumble bee with a striking color pattern.

The black-and-gold bumble bee has yellow hairs on top of its head, which allow separation from the similar Bombus pensylvanicus.

Even more special was a summer sighting of a rusty-patched bumble bee.

This one is distinguished by a reddish area surrounded by yellow at the base of the abdomen.

The full pollen baskets and wild bergamot host speak to the bee’s focus that day, as well as the time of the season.

This was special, because the rusty-patched bumble bee is a federally endangered species. Fortunately, it was on protected public land, and of course I reported it to the owning agency.

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Mayslake Update

by Carl Strang

Today I want to share some miscellaneous notes on what has been happening at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Most of these are reflective of the season. For instance, thousands of migrating dragonflies have been passing through in recent weeks. Most of these have been green darners, with some black saddlebags and wandering gliders. I also saw the preserve’s first swamp darners (but was frustrated in my attempt to photograph them as they patrolled the stream). Some of the green darners paused to mate and lay eggs.

Birds also have been migrating. A good mix of warblers and others, including this scarlet tanager, have been refueling on Mayslake’s insects and berries.

Some insects appear late in the season. An example is this adult locust borer, the preserve’s first record of the species.

Of course, our year-round residents continued their activities, with signs of preparation for winter. For example, I have been seeing more skunk tracks than usual, in one case accompanied by scats.

The season’s progress makes this a time of daily change, and time spent outdoors inevitably brings its rewards.

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