Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tired November Butterflies

It's now the beginning of November and still the rains have not come to Fresno with any sort of confidence. Our days are very pleasant in the 70's and the nights hardly get into the 40's. This is not unusual. Very often the first rains don't come until around Thanksgiving time, or even later. What this means for many of the late summer and fall insects is that they continue their lives without finding a place to over-winter, or of succumbing to the elements.  They linger and they get worn out by their long lives.

Here is a gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) that Kathy and I ran into along the path by Cottonwood Park yesterday while we were out enjoying the warm weather. It has lost much of its delicate wing "tail" and many of its cloudy gray scales - still a beautiful butterfly but clearly tired out.

The common buckeye (Junonia coenia) was also out along the narrow stream bank in the patches of flowering mint. I was amazed that such a worn-out creature could still fly.

There is also a catchment basin by the park with a gathering of waterfowl. A snowy egret (Egretta thula) was kind enough to fly close enough for a picture. I was impressed by the striking yellow markings on the face and legs when seen up close.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bagrada Bug in Fresno

The bagrada bug (Bagrada hilaris) has finally made it to Fresno. Michael Yang announced last week that he found it among Hmong farms in Fresno County. Two days ago, I found it in Fresno proper - on my own mizuna lettuce plants no less.

The large bug is the female and the smaller one (pictured twice) is the male. They are only about the size of a plant bug - maybe a bit bigger - but quite a bit smaller than other stink bugs (of the family Pentatomidae) which the bagrada bug is a member of.

I have a pretty small garden in the middle of suburban Fresno and it must have been a very lucky pair of bugs that found my lettuce plants. That, or maybe mizuna lettuce is just irresistible to the critters. You have to admit, they're pretty colorful.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oso Flaco Lake

Earlier this month while traveling in San Luis Obispo County (along coastal California) I noticed an interesting state park with ample coastal dune habitat. I decided to stop and have a look.

I'm glad I did, it was a beautiful day (as most summer days are along the coast) and the lake was alive with waterfowl. A nice boardwalk bridge extends from the main path over the lake and a well-maintained trail continues on to the beach through rich coastal dune habitat.

I came across this Boisduval's blue (Icaricia icarioides) feeding on California aster (Lessingia filaginifolia) and a little further along I was able to catch a picture of a California thrasher

With a beautiful yellow ice-plant (the marigold ice-plant, Conicosia pugioniformis) in bloom nearby.

 On the way back I caught a young phalarope swimming in the lake.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Alpine Butterflies near Disappointment Lake

Earlier this month a handful of us from Fresno took a 35 mile hike just east of Courtright Reservoir (in Fresno County) in the Sierra Nevada of California. Along the way we saw several beautiful butterflies – some of which I was lucky enough to get pictures of.

These first two pictures are at Post Coral Creek where this lovely greenish blue (Plebejus saepiolus) was enjoying the sun and white daisy.

Further up the trail toward Disappointment Lake (the name of which is a clear misnomer) I found one of the butterflies in the arctic blue complex (Agriades franklinii) feeding on Western bistort (Polygonum bistortoides).

And then even further up the trail (actually on boulders where there was no trail) just below the LeConte Divide we spotted a handful of checkerspots (in the Edith’s checkerspot complex – Occidryas editha). This is an amzing place for butterflies – at 11,000 feet on a windswept ridge where trees don’t even grow. What a beautiful place.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Butterflies on Desert Catalpa

Last month, Jon and I took a detour on a dirt road several miles SE of Baker, California. It lead to a dry wash filled with desert catalpa (Chilopsis linearis) in full bloom. 

We found sphecid wasps (one just visible in the upper right corner in the picture above), a few species of bees and several butterflies all competing with each other in a feeding frenzy. The sleepy oranges (Eurema nicippe) disregarded any sense of caution and plunged much of their bodies inside to get at the nectar (making it easy to snap pictures). 

The lovely great purple hairstreak (Atlides halesus) with metallic blue and red scales was a bit more wary. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kelso Dunes In Mid May

Earlier this month we took a detour to check out the Kelso Dunes (SE of Baker, California).

We got there as the sun was going down and found several interesting insects. Jon spotted this impressive blister beetle (Cysteodemus armatus) walking around in the sand among the vegetation along with several other beetles. 

I was a bit surprised to find a June beetle feeding (and probably pollinating?) a primrose. I’ve never seen this before. Here's a shot of a Western banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus) that we found out hunting as soon as the stars came out. It's a bit blanched from the flash.

It was a fun evening (although I did get stung in the lip by a tiphiid wasp). In the morning as we were driving away, we spotted a kit fox pup (Vulpes macrotis - the "big-eared fox") emerging from its den to enjoy the early sun. It sure was a cute thing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Black-Chinned Hummingbird at Arroyo Seco

Late April is a great time to visit Arroyo Seco in Monterey, County, California (just a few miles west of Greenfield). There is a dirt road that winds up past the parking area but this is gated and you have to walk in to enjoy the canyon and the pretty emerald green stream that runs at the bottom.

The hills here are covered in wildflowers. And for me the most impressive were the many pale orange monkey flowers.

I watched several carpenter bees try and get at the nectar from the outside with their strong mandibles without success. Apparently the long flowers are too difficult for them to enter otherwise.

I also noticed several black-chinned hummingbirds flying about - and managed to catch this one juvenile on film feeding from a horse-mint flower.

I snapped a shot of the adult male the following morning not far from the trail (road) head.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kodiosoma fulvum

Here's a fascinating tiger moth that Jon, Michael and I found last week along the Merced River just south of Yosemite (in California). I didn't realize that it was a tiger moth at first. Jon snagged it in his net thinking it was an unusual bee - yes it was flying in the middle of the day. This is obviously not typical tiger moth behavior.

According to Powell and Opler (in Moths of Western North America) this small species (not much more than a centimeter long) has various color forms. It is also fairly uncommon. I have to admit that I have never seen a day-flying arctiid before - and certainly not in the month of March. It was a fun find.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Central American Squirrel Monkey

The Central American squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii) is designated a vulnerable New World monkey. It doesn't seem to be so uncommon in the places it lives. It's just that there aren't many places where it does, actually, live.

Steve, Michael and I ran into a small machination of the monkeys on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica a couple of years ago. They were jumping through the trees right along the single dirt road that winds through the peninsula.

The monkey-crossing sign was actually photographed at the Wilson botanical area closer to the Panamanian border. You have to love a place that troubles itself about such things.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Laughing Kookaburra

Here are a couple of handsome birds (laughing kookaburras) that I found in the Memphis Zoo a few months ago. They're from eastern Australia. They are known for singing regularly just before sunrise and just after sunset. They eat mostly insects but are also know to eat rodents snakes and even other bird eggs.