Wednesday, June 29, 2016

An Affectionate and Intelligent Look at the Cuckoo

For those who do not subscribe to the ABA blog there is an interesting review by Donna Schulman of a new book release titled Cuckoo:  Cheating by Nature by Nick Davies, Bloomsbury 2015.  I recommend reading this well-written review.

The reviewer has only heard, in France, but has never seen a cuckoo.  She is, however, a birder and a reader who has written a good book review.  I've taken a stab a writing a few "bird book" reviews and it's hard.  It may also lead you to purchase and read the book.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

More dragonflies and damselflies

I had a very rare thing happen today; that is, no pre-planned events or other things to do.  I managed to get all of my errands done yesterday and even had time to visit a friend's cottage in Washtenaw County.  I asked Julie Craves for some nearby places to take photographs of odes. She suggested two, Crosswinds Marsh and the hockey ponds at Lower Huron Metropark.  I visited both this morning.

I used to go to Crosswinds Marsh all the time, but it's been years since my last visit.  I'm glad I went.  It was super hot and breezy, but still seemed good to see dragonflies.

First I was distracted by a huge garter snake sunning at the start of the Bald Eagle trail and I regretted being unprepared with my camera. Then I was distracted by two birds. Try sneaking up on a kingfisher. Impossible! and you'll get an earful when they fly off.

Female and male belted kingfishers

Eastern kingbird

Above and below:  Male blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Water lily

Michigan Rose flower

Male slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta)

Male common green darner (Anax junius)

Common milkweed

As nice as it was to walk around Crosswinds again after so long away, I didn't really see many dragons or damsels.  Widow and twelve-spotted skimmers and black saddlebacks flew by but clearly had no intention of perching so I gave up on them.  As for my photos, I worked hardest on the blue dasher but I guess I like the green darner photo best. Crosswinds Marsh has certainly grown up.  The boardwalks are a little aged and in need of repair in spots, but the vegetation is all grown up and is thick and full. I was reminded how, which some exceptions, it was never very good for bird migration.  But now it's easy to see and hear how good it has become for nesting birds.

From Crosswinds Marsh it's an easy and straight shot to Lower Huron Metropark.  It took me a bit of map studying to find the hockey ponds but more than well worth it.

This female Eastern pondhawk was flying around a large patch of green pond scum and tapping her abdominal appendage into the scum to lay eggs.  Though the video below is not great, and she is being chased by another dragonfly, you can still see a few seconds of the action.

Male widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Female Eastern forktail (Ischunura verticalis)

Male Eastern forktail

Male common whitetail (Libellula lydia)

Video of the completely different action of a female common whitetail laying eggs.

Of note, there were small fish in the hockey ponds.  I saw small catfish and I think I also saw striped bass (is this possible)?  Some of the fish were even trying to lay eggs (and being bothered by other fish). Nevertheless, clearly some of the ode eggs must hatch.


Twelve spotted skipper (Libellula pulchella).

Female Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Male Eastern pondhawk  

Another view of male blue dasher that shows wing shadowing or increased pigmentation at the tips.  I had read somewhere - unfortunately cannot recall source now when I need it - that this might be related to the age of the dragonfly.  I have since read an another article where this may be aberrant wing coloration.  

Another blue dasher

For the photo above and the four below, my first and best guess was female common spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus).  The habitat and color are right, but the abdominal appendage and the closed wings bother me a bit.  Also, in reviewing Nikula, and Paulson, females are very difficult to identify out of hand.  However, it is not a common spreading.  The possibility of a teneral bluet was suggested.  Likely to remain unidentified.

I was surprised that I did not see any female widow skimmers.  Widow skimmer males were chasing each other around as were male common whitetails.  I saw only one female common whitetail.  The egg laying [in video above] occurred immediately after a very brief copulation.  This was such a fun place to visit.  With a holiday weekend coming up I hope I can get back. And, I came away with only one tick!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies and one beetle

Some of my identifications below should have I think or at least a question mark included in the naming.  Happy to have any corrections or disagreements.  

Male Familiar bluet (Enallagma civile), Rouge River channel, Dearborn

Female Eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis), Rouge River channel

Fragile forktail (Ischnura posita), Rouge River channel

Immature heteromorph** female Eastern forktail, Rouge River channel

Above and below:  Male Eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis), Rouge River channel

Little wood-satyr (Megisto cymela), Rouge River channel

Northern crescent (Phyciodes cocyta), Rouge River channel

Female common whitetail (Libellula lydia), Hickory Glen Park, Commerce Township

 Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus), Hickory Glen Park

Ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata), Hickory Glen Park

Female chalk-fronted corporal (Libellula julia), Hickory Glen Park

Six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata), Hickory Glen Park

Immature male common whitetail (Libellula lydia), Hickory Glen Park

Female common whitetail, Hickory Glen Park

* Andromorph:  An organism with male physical characteristics; male mimic.

** Heteromorphic:  Having different forms at different periods of the life cycle, as in stages of insect metamorphosis.