Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Camouflaged Loopers

This is a perennial favorite of mine, Camouflaged Looper, the larva stage of the Wavy-Lined Emerald Moth.  There are two caterpillars in the photo, one to each side of the central disk.  Camouflaged Loopers commonly feed on the disk flowers of species in the Aster family, so spend much time exposed to view.  In order to look less like a tasty morsel to passing predators, this caterpillar adorns its body with bits of the plant on which it is feeding.  To the casual eye, it looks just like a part of the plant.

At Blue Jay Barrens, Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida, seems to be the plant of choice for this species.  I encourage a large patch of Orange Coneflower to grow outside the front door of my house, so I can enjoy the Camouflaged Loopers through their entire season.

This looper was cleaning its mouth or doing some similar facial area grooming.  I gave it high marks for doing what I thought was a superb Godzilla impersonation.

The above video shows some typical Camouflaged Looper behavior.  If you turn your sound on, you will notice the chatter and buzz of Hummingbirds passing over my head.  My Hummingbird feeders are only about eight feet from me.  I posted a longer version of this film to YouTube which you can view by clicking HERE.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Solitary Sandpiper

Blue Jay Barrens is an excellent example of a xeric environment, meaning that the shallow, well drained soils cause the ground to be exceedingly dry.  It’s always a treat to see a visiting shorebird, since no shores occur here in a typical summer.  Solitary Sandpipers occasionally stop here, but this is the first time I’ve ever been in position to photograph one of these birds.

The flood of July 6 is responsible for a trace of the pond to still be present in early August.  It’s not much more than a large puddle, but it is the type of place a Solitary Sandpiper will go to forage for food. 

The bird seemed to be finding plenty to eat in the shallow water.  Most of what it caught was tiny, but a couple items were large enough that I could discern a dark form disappearing into the bird’s mouth.

Above is one of the videos I shot.  I spent about 20 minutes watching this bird.  Not once during that time did it give any indication that it was concerned with my presence.  About ten seconds into the video, the bird turns a quick 180 in response to a Mourning Dove winging just a few feet over its head. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Silvery Checkerspots

I usually don’t see more than a half dozen Silvery Checkerspot butterflies at Blue Jay Barrens in any one year.  This has been a constant situation for over 30 years, even though we have an abundance of Wingstem, the Silvery Checkerspot’s host plant.  For some reason, Silvery Checkerspots are everywhere this year, and I am enjoying the spectacle.

A couple of days ago, I sat beside a patch of Orange Coneflower that was being visited by about a dozen of the small black and orange butterflies.  I just watched the show for quite a while before turning on the camera.  I had never had any luck getting a good photo of this species, but I knew that was about to change.

After a few minutes, the butterflies resumed their nectaring and chasing activities as though I was just another part of the landscape.  That’s one of the neat things about many animals.  Their brains don’t interpret inanimate objects as threats, so if you can get yourself situated without scaring them away, the animal will soon continue with its normal activities.

The above video shows an interesting behavior associated with nectaring on the coneflowers.  The butterfly would pivot atop the flower head and probe each open floret as it went.  Some butterflies turned clockwise, while others turned the opposite direction.  Individual butterflies that I followed from flower to flower, each turned in the same direction as it had on the previous flower.  My sample size wasn’t large enough to make any valid statistical conclusions, but I began to wonder if butterflies could be right-handed or left-handed.