NABA Butterfly Count 2022

mitigationBack to the area around the Clifton Institute for my first NABA Butterfly Count. We visited an extensive pollinator garden on private property (thanks to Shane’s Signs), a gravelled patch of Thoroughfare Road adjacent to a wetland mitigation project (photo), and a private horse farm. In the pollinator garden I made my first acquaintance of one of our hummingbird moth species (Hemaris thysbe) who were going gangbusters—not on our checklist, but still. I found the first of a few Sleepy Oranges (Abaeis nicippe) and Juniper Hairstreaks (Callophrys gryneus) that we tallied, and was finally able to twitch Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius). Stephanie Mason pointed out this critter to me ages ago (“Peck’s have checks”) but that was before I started listing butterflies. But dang, skippers burn me out fast. We saw so many Sachems (Atalopedes campestris) in all their variability that the mental key began, “Is this skipper not a Sachem?”

No lie, it was hot. We started at 08:00 and I began to flag at 11:00. I am finding that a few hours of heat tends to make my feet swell in the waterproof light hikers that I usually wear. I was grateful for the jug of lemonade at the tally rally back at Clifton.

Clifton Institute dragonfly/damselfly count 2022

Dragonfy watchers at Leopold's Preserve by Marie Pinto (White House Farm Foundation)As usual, that’s me in the back, the last one to get on whatever we’re looking at. (Thanks to photographer Marie!) But well equipped.

No luck getting good images of the two common saddlebags species, but I did snap some reasonable images of Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) and what turned out to be Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata). Dang, those pond damsels are tricky. The best spot in our sector for pond damsels was again the pond behind The Farm Brewery at Broad Run. You know, the place with the axe-throwing barn.

Last Sunday was plenty hot, and we pooped out by 15:00 except for leader Larry. His pro tip for finding Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) is to check the parking lot: the critter has a tendency to mistake a car roof for a puddle.

Problem solved

When I’m puzzling out the ID of a hairstreak or swallowtail, I depend on Cech and Tudor’s essential Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer’s Guide (2005). The book has one significant flaw, however: to look up a species, the index doesn’t indicate the page where the main entry appears. No boldface or italics. The index for Monarch cites 24 different pages.

So, I fixed it, in part: Index to Cech and Tudor, Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer’s Guide, main entry, by common name.

100 dB

What to do when cicadas crash your outdoor wedding? Embrace the buzz:

And remember: At the very least, cicadas make for a memorable wedding. “It was actually quite fun to lean into the cicada theme,” [Lauren] Migaki said. “My little brother wore a cicada bolo tie; our favors were cicada-shaped chocolates with caramel pop rocks; and I donned a pair of gold cicada earrings for the reception in our backyard.”

“I loved hearing the noise of them in the trees above us,” she added, “feeling like we had hundreds of wedding guests.”

One or two weeks

Brood X has peaked, the little red-eyed guys have done what they set out to do, and they are passing away.

“When animals die they have a pretty distinct BAD smell,” wrote Paula Shrewsbury, also a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, in an email. “As part of the decay process there are a number of interactions between enzymes and microbes that result in the ‘smell of death.’ Cicadas are no different than other animals; when they die they smell bad.”

Some links: 70

A roundup of conservation and natural history links:

  • A team at Towson University has launched a microsite and apps (for Android and iOS) for tracking the spread of the highly invasive Wavy-leaf Basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus ssp. undulatifolius).
  • Janet Fang summarizes a paper by Railsback and Johnson: simulations of coffee plantation activity indicate that 5% land coverage in trees maximizes coffee yields. The overstory of trees reduces the amount of space for coffee shrubs, but it invites birds, who forage on destructive borer beetles.
  • Nancy L. Brill describes the survey that a team of entomologists made of invertebrate life in 50 ordinary Raleigh, N.C. homes. The typical house was host to 100 different species of arthropod.

    Several families were found in more than 90 percent of homes: gall midges (Cecidomyiidae), ants (Formicidae) and carpet beetles (Dermestidae), along with cobweb spiders (Theridiidae), dark-winged fungus gnats (Sciaridae), cellar spiders (Pholcidae), scuttle flies (Phoridae) and book lice (Liposcelididae). Most houses also had dust mites (Pyroglyphidae).

    Pics and interpretation at Arthropods of Our Homes.

  • Tovar Cerulli argues that hunters and non-hunters have more in common than they might think.

    When clashes occur, it is all too easy to fall back on reductive notions about liberal, elite environmentalists and conservative, redneck hunters—the “greens” versus “the hook-and-bullet crowd.” With partisans on both sides invoking stereotypes and the media portraying hunters and environmentalists as opponents, it is tempting to imagine stark lines between the two.

    But such divisions are too simplistic.

  • An American Bird Conservancy post makes the connection between coffee farming… and hummingbirds!
  • The Birding Wire picked up my profile (for Friends of the Migratory Bird [Duck] Stamp) of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
  • A leader in Nature highlights a paper by Joshua J. Tewksbury et al., which calls for a revival in the practice of natural history. (I have the Tewksbury paper bookmarked but haven’t read it yet.)

    As natural history has been de-emphasized, molecular biology, genetics, experimental biology and ecological modelling have flourished. But here is the problem: many of those fields ultimately rely on data and specimens from natural history….

    No biology student should get a diploma without at least a single course in identifying organisms and learning basic techniques for observing and recording data about them.

Leta