On the final Saturday of summer sister and brother team, Artemis and Harold Eyster, and I got together for the first time since last year's Christmas Bird Count. I picked them up at their home and our first sighting of the morning was this baby treefrog (Hyla versicolor or H. chrysoscelis) on their sidewalk.
Our get-together was ostensibly for birding, but as it turned out we didn't find much of note at our selected sites. We traveled to Schneider Road pond where there was a single yellowlegs (probably Greater), a single Spotted Sandpiper and a Killdeer. Of the non-shorebirds we saw two Trumpeter swans and a single Great Egret. The pond along the busy road (can't recall the name of the road, but readers acquainted with this location will know) traditionally reliable for Common Gallinule had three. Also present here was a single female Green-winged Teal and several Wood Ducks. Parker Road pond held a juvenile Green Heron in addition to many Wood Ducks. Enroute to checking the two traditional sites for Red-headed Woodpecker we found a Belted Kingfisher hunting from a utility wire over a pond along Guenther Road. Alas, we did not find Red-headed Woodpeckers.
Arguably, we might have been better off on foot at the Arb or another wooded location to look for little birds. The night before it had rained heavily with thunder and lightening and this may have caused the fallout of autumn migrants. Ultimately, it didn't really matter because it was just nice to have this time with the kids. I realize that I should no longer refer to them as "the kids." They are doing such interesting and amazing things that it is fun just to listen to them, ask questions and live vicariously.
Driving around I recognized that we were close to Julie Craves and Darrin O'Brien's new home and I suggested we stop there for a visit. I thought it might be nice for Julie and Darrin to also see Harold and Artemis and vice versa. We went briefly inside to meet their new kitten, Libby (a dark tortie with an incredible life story and who can occasionally look like a long-eared owl), and to look at their flora and fauna art gallery. They now have enough room to hang some of the nice prints, drawings and paintings they have collected over the years. Then Julie narrated a tour of their large property and their plans for it.
On one of the chairs on their deck, Darrin pointed out treefrog poop. To take note of poop may seem strange but this is not so out of the ordinary when with Julie and Darrin. Julie has taken research to new levels, examining the poop of birds for the seeds of the berries they have been eating and identifying the berry. In this way, she has learned that birds often rely heavily on non-native fruiting shrubs and trees as sources for food. It was difficult for me to imagine the little baby treefrog we found earlier making a poop this large. But, when they are larger, apparently they do. Earlier Julie had found wild turkey poop with seeds on one of their paths and picked it up because it held a large seed she could not identify.
Darrin commented that earlier in the week Wood frogs (Rana sylvantica) were everywhere. On this morning we found only two. With it's black facial mask it reminded me of the common yellowthroat of frogs - pretty little thing.
Ubiquitous in gardens and fields everywhere, the Goldenrod Soldier beetle, aka Pennsylvania Leatherwing, (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus) has abundant habitat in Julie and Darrin's back field.
There is also no shortage of milkweed here, but we found only one Milkweed Tussock moth caterpillar or Milkweed Tiger moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle) where earlier they had been all over.
This Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea) moth was taking short flights around the yard and finally landed for this unobstructed photo.
Finally, this Pine Tree Spur-throat (Melanoplus punctulatus) grasshopper got our attention because we noticed the red on the underside of its hind legs when it jumped. Harold picked it up and it stayed put for the photograph above. It then hopped to his shirt where it settled for a brief stopover before jumping off again. None of us had seen this grasshopper before. Is there such a thing as a "life grasshopper?" There should be for such a unique and nice looking insect. As its interesting name suggests, it eats pine needles. The Pine Tree Spur-throat is not mentioned in the Kaufman Field Guide for Insects of North America (2), but the genus Melanoplus has at least 238 species in North America. Additionally, it is noted that some of our worst pests come from this group.
On Monday morning Harold is away to begin his second year at Harvard and Artemis will begin a busy junior year at Chelsea High with three AP classes and the myriad of other interests she has including marching band, fiddle and running. I hope we will meet again at Christmas time.
(1). Craves, Julie A. and O'Brien, Darrin S., 2013. The Odanata of Wayne County, MI: Inspiration for Renewed Monitoring of Urban Areas, Northeastern Naturalist, vol. 20, no. 2, pp 341-362.
(2). Kaufman, Kenn, et.al., 2007. Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North American, p. 74.