Mayslake Update

by Carl Strang

Photos from Mayslake Forest Preserve have been accumulating, so today’s post covers a miscellany. Two of the subjects were additions to the preserve’s species list. I have been there for more than 5 years, so this testifies to the dynamism of that ecosystem.

The two-striped grasshopper is distinctive enough that I should have noticed it before if it were any kind of significant presence.

The two-striped grasshopper is distinctive enough that I should have noticed it before if it were any kind of significant presence.

This view shows how the grasshopper got its name. Notice the bright red tibias.

This view shows how the grasshopper got its name. Notice the bright red tibias.

The other new species was a turtle.

Though this large map turtle was sunning at Mays’ Lake, it’s a short crawl from Trinity Lake, which is much more extensive and would account for my not having observed this critter before.

Though this large map turtle was sunning at Mays’ Lake, it’s a short crawl from Trinity Lake, which is much more extensive and would account for my not having observed this critter before.

The remaining photos are of organisms I have seen before at the preserve, but are uncommon.

Swamp rose mallow is hard to miss.

Swamp rose mallow is hard to miss.

The tiny skimming bluet always is a delight.

The tiny skimming bluet always is a delight.

The spotted spreadwing, a relatively late-season species, signals that summer is on the wane.

The spotted spreadwing, a relatively late-season species, signals that summer is on the wane.

 

Autumn Organisms

by Carl Strang

Today I just want to empty out the bin of accumulated photos from Mayslake Forest Preserve. These are late season animals and a plant, sightings of which give walks around the preserve a fall flavor. In that regard, what could be more iconic than a woolly bear caterpillar?

This one still was feeding on panicled aster leaves on September 30, packing on the last nutrients before finding a wintering spot.

It has been a good year for spreadwing damselflies at Mayslake. I added at least two new species to the preserve list. This female spotted spreadwing, a late season species, provided a fitting cap to that story.

The spots referenced in the English name are on the underside of the thorax.

Another iconic autumn portrait pairs a locust borer with its adult food of goldenrod flowers.

The larvae live inside black locust trees.

The final photo is of a turtlehead in bloom, the welcome introduction of another plant species by Mayslake’s restoration team.

The flowers look like bumblebee flowers, but I have no observations of pollinator visits to back up that guess.

Autumn is my favorite season, but it’s always tempered by the realization that winter is coming.

Some Late Season Odonata

by Carl Strang

October is not a month that comes first to mind when thinking of insects, but its first week this year has brought some new species of dragonflies and damselflies into view at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Having said that, though, I’m sure that shadow darners have been around for a while.

This one simply was the first that landed where I could get a good look at it. Those who know dragonflies associate the late part of the season with the meadowhawks (genus Sympetrum). For some reason Mayslake’s marshes don’t produce a lot of meadowhawks. I have found over the past three autumns that I can expect to see, at best, a dozen altogether. These include common species like ruby, autumn, and white-faced meadowhawks like this one.

On the other hand, for the third year in a row I have seen at least one saffron-winged meadowhawk there.

This is an uncommon species in our area, not one I would expect to see so consistently at a site. I’ll close with a species that was new not only to the Mayslake list, but new to my experience.

Spotted spreadwings are not a rare species, but I have been slow to learn about the spreadwing damselflies as a group. The spotted spreadwing is the one we are most likely to encounter in October in our area. The two black dashes on the underside of the thorax are just visible in this male and female in wheel position.

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