February 27, 2017 at 7:52 am (birds, geology, mammals)
Tags: Berberis thunbergii, great horned owl, hooded warbler, Japanese honeysuckle, kame, St. James Farm, tree cavity, whitetail deer
by Carl Strang
This has been a relatively slow winter at St. James Farm Forest Preserve. There has been little snow, so my tracking has been limited. Coyotes have been covering the preserve, and the relatively few deer tracks have not revealed a consistent pattern. That in itself suggests buck group, and eventually in January I saw them: a huge buck, a good-sized but clearly subordinate forkhorn, and a newly minted buck fawn. Since that first sighting, I have spotted them twice more in widely separated parts of the preserve.
The boss buck
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the great horned owls’ nest tree of last winter was a casualty of the autumn’s controlled burn. My practice is to wait until mid-February to do the annual nest search. I had my inventory of candidate cavities, made last winter, but it didn’t take long to find the incubating female on last year’s red-tailed hawk nest. In a related note, I spotted a newly available candidate cavity along one of my monitoring routes. The top of an old oak recently broke off, leaving an open top of sufficient diameter that great horneds might consider it. A forest this old probably has some equilibrium of candidate cavities as old ones are lost and new ones form.
The new candidate nesting cavity
With that task out of the way, I decided to see if I could find a little nest in the area where the hooded warbler had his territory last summer. He has been a regular there in recent years, but as far as I know, no one has seen a female or young. I found that his territory has scattered bush honeysuckles and lots of Japanese barberries, bad for forest quality but probably good from the warbler’s viewpoint. Descriptions of hooded warbler nesting suggest that barberry would be an ideal platform. I didn’t find a nest, and ended the search when I found a dense thicket of barberries, with a few multiflora roses mixed in, at least 100 feet in diameter, worthy of Brer Rabbit.
Part of the thorny tangle
As I circumnavigated this patch, which is in a part of the forest with relatively dramatic surface relief, I noticed a few tipped trees whose fall had turned up rounded stones in the soil.
Rounded stones exposed by a tipped tree’s root tangle
This suggests that the preserve’s forested hills may in fact be kames, places within the melting continental glacier where the meltwater piled its flow-rounded stones into mounds. St. James Farm is very close to the western edge of the Valparaiso Moraine.
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.
October 27, 2016 at 5:47 am (singing insects)
Tags: Allonemobius maculatus, Arphia xanthoptera, autumn yellow-winged grasshopper, Gar Creek, Illinois Beach State Park, Neonemobius variegatus, Orchelimum concinnum, spotted ground cricket, St. James Farm, stripe-faced meadow katydid, variegated ground cricket
by Carl Strang
October’s cold gradually is silencing another year’s array of singing insects. In recent weeks I have made some final trips to squeeze just a little more data out of the season.
In early September I succeeded in catching an Autumn yellow-winged grasshopper with actual yellow wings (most of them in the region have had red-orange hind wings).
On October 5 I made a final trip up to Illinois Beach State Park, and found some stripe-faced meadow katydids still singing.
By then, of course, they had developed their full color.
I was able to complete a photo series on the species with some cerci shots.
On October 11 I returned to Gar Creek Forest Preserve in Kankakee County and made more recordings. I did not find any more Cuban ground crickets crossing the trail, but was surprised by several variegated ground crickets doing so.
I had never before seen a variegated ground cricket, like this male, wandering in the open.
This female has an interesting pattern of pale dashes on her wings.
It’s reasonable to assume that they walk about at night for most of the season, but like many singing insects extend their usual nighttime activity into the day as temperatures cool. I was glad to get the visual confirmation that this species is at the site along with the (probable) Cubans.
Probably my last singing insect photo series for 2016 was of this spotted ground cricket at St. James Farm on October 18.
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).
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 25, 2016 at 6:01 am (birds, restoration)
Tags: bald eagle, blue-gray gnatcatcher, Canada goose, double-crested cormorant, eastern bluebird, hooded warbler, least sandpiper, red-headed woodpecker, sharp-shinned hawk, St. James Farm
by Carl Strang
Birds poured into St. James Farm Forest Preserve in mid-May as the wave crest of neotropical migrants pushed through northern Illinois. On some days, sorting through the many songs to note visiting species was a challenge.
Not all were singing, though, for example this bald eagle that stopped in the restored stream corridor.
Blue-gray gnatcatchers are common on the preserve, and are among the earliest nesters.
I am hoping this hooded warbler, singing among the thicketed portions of the central forest, will find a mate and nest there.
I took that photo from a distance on a foggy day, not wanting to get too close and create a disturbance.
This sharp-shinned hawk was very vocal, its calls to my ear less like those of its relative the Cooper’s hawk and more like those of a shorebird.
At one point, heavy rains flooded the stream well beyond its banks.
The engineered restoration corridor held up well to the challenge.
Among the water-loving birds that took advantage of this temporary habitat expansion was a double-crested cormorant, here taking a break between swims.
After the water receded, the deposited mud interested a few late shorebird migrants, including this least sandpiper.
For other birds, the breeding season is well under way.
I am not sure where this goose brood came from, but they have found the restored stream corridor to their liking.
Among my happiest observations in the second half of May has been the discovery of two eastern bluebird nests in natural cavities.
Here the male stuffs food into unseen nestlings in a bur oak cavity.
Mom takes her turn. In just a few minutes I saw each parent make 3 such feeding trips.
The same story was repeated in a dead tree near the stream. I am relieved that not all bluebirds are dependent upon human-provided nest boxes.
A little earlier in their own cycle, a pair of red-headed woodpeckers has been setting up shop in another dead tree.
They have settled upon the lower of the two holes beside the foreground bird. (Clicking on any photo will blow it up for better viewing).
This pair energetically repelled another pair which expressed interest in their tree. I hope the other pair also will nest at St. James Farm.
May 16, 2016 at 6:03 am (botany)
Tags: black haw, bulbous cress, butterweed, Cardamine bulbosa, declined trillium, Jacob's ladder, Polemonium reptans, Senecio glabellus, St. James Farm, Trillium flexipes, Viburnum prunifolium
by Carl Strang
Spring flowers continue to open at St. James Farm Forest Preserve. Today’s post is a gallery of highlights. On the large scale, I have been delighted to find that black haw is a dominant understory shrub in the central forest.
Black haw is a native Viburnum.
Blooming black haws are prominent in the forest area cleared of invasive shrubs this past winter.
Diverse herbaceous plants are blooming at the ground level.
Jacob’s ladders are common in parts of the forest.
A few declined trilliums also have appeared. The white trilliums have become rarer in DuPage County thanks to people picking them, which kills them. All plants are legally protected on the preserves.
Butterweed is an uncommon and short-lived member of the ragwort group.
This bulbous cress plant is benefitting from last year’s restoration of the stream and its corridor area.
I look forward to many more botanical discoveries as the season progresses.
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.
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