Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Birds, Beetles, and Butterflies

Spring Green Preserve

Given yesterday's absolutely gorgeous weather, Spring Green Reserve seemed an obvious destination to spend a day off. It was a little breezy, but otherwise perfect. I didn't have any specific targets, but I was hoping to photograph more of the reserve's impressive and unique insect species. The wind would make it more challenging, but I had the entire day to work with.

While still vibrant, wildflower colors were somewhat subdued compared with my last visit in June. The Prickly Pear flowers were gone. Dotted Horsemint was the most obvious wildflower at this transitional prairie, but it wasn't my intent to botanize on this particular visit.

Dotted Horsemint

Grassland/savanna birds during my visit included Lark Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Meadowlark, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, and Baltimore Oriole. I heard a distant Scarlet Tanager song near the woods on the east side of the prairie. I also saw a beautiful male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow voices were the dominant calls and songs of the prairie. This particular bird was perched on a post just a few feet from the trail. I took the hint that it didn't want to reveal the location of where it was going to deliver its juicy meal, so after taking a couple of quick photographs, I backed away so it could return to its nest and feed its young.

Punctured Tiger Beetle

Tiger beetles were present in high numbers along the entire length of the sandy trail, but I only found one species. Their abundance gave me an opportunity to capture better photographs of Punctured Tiger Beetle. Not that they're ever easy to photograph, morning is the best time. As the sun warms the sand, these aggressive predatory beetles become increasingly active and extremely skittish to approach.

Punctured Tiger Beetle

Mydas Fly (probably Mydas clavatus)

Life Bug! An abundance of robber flies biased my identification of this menacing looking insect. At first I thought it was a member of the genus ospriocerus, but a Facebook friend informed me it's actually a Midas Fly, most likely Mydas clavatus. I did notice that the shape of its antennae didn't match for a robber fly, but this was my first encounter with this particular insect, so I wasn't really certain what it was. This was the only photograph I managed to get of it. Too bad there was an obstructing prickly pear spine. I didn't see it when I was framing the shot because of the focal depth differential between the viewfinder and the actual exposure.

American Copper

American Copper butterflies were everywhere! The sand and soil still held moisture from Monday's rain. If you look closely at the next two images, you can see its probiscus tapping into the sand for nutrients.

American Copper

American Copper

An hour or so past noon, I went to Spring Green General Store for a tasty lunch. Rejuvenated, I returned to the prairie for a few more hours. When late afternoon shadows began to form, I realized my time at the prairie was drawing to a close. It was time well spent and I look forward to a return trip in August to observe how things will have changed.

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell

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