Sunday, August 06, 2017

Summer Signs

"And there, next to me, as the east wind blows in early fall, a season open to great migrations, are those lives, threading the air and waters of the sea, that come out of an incomparable darkness, which is also my own."

― John Hay, The Way to the Salt Marsh

Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla

Though it's still astronomical and meteorological summer, subtle phenological cues of seasonal change are beginning to occur. As is often the case, a Least Sandpiper was my first southbound bird species of the migration that's underway. Amazingly, the little peep may have already flown a thousand miles or more, making its way to Texas, Mexico, or perhaps South America. They stopover at appropriate habitat for a day or two, allowing us a brief opportunity into their lives. I have also started to notice the dispersal of swallows; they're presently forming large flocks in preparation for their journey south.

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Precipitation levels have been unusually high this summer, so the woods and prairies are lush and bursting with wildflowers. Naturally, there's a downside to all the water. Although the prairie appears rather inviting in these photographs, it's absolutely loaded with mosquitos. Thus, insect and wildflower photography just isn't quite as enjoyable as it normally is. I don't like to use insect repellant, but my ThermaCELL unit just wasn't cutting it.

Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata

Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis

Eastern Gray Treefrog Hyla sp.

While photographing wildflowers, I found this adorable Eastern Gray Treefrog nestled below a milkweed seed pod. Such fantastic camouflage ― I'm not sure how I didn't miss it! I often hear them while birding along the creek corridor, but so seldom get to see them. What a treat! To capture a photograph of it, I slowly and carefully leaned in with my camera, doing my best not to disturb it. The stealthy treefrog remained completely motionless while I snapped a few pictures.

And now for this week's insects!

Viceroy Limenitis archippus

This beautiful Viceroy kept returning to the same perch, but that's where any notion of cooperativeness ended. It took quite a bit of effort to get this shot, as the butterfly was fairly skittish whenever I approached. Persistence and patience won the match!

Northern Flatid Planthopper Flatormenis proxima

Turning my macro lens to the jungle of vegetation below my knees, I was pleased to find an interesting variety of hopper insects. Both planthoppers and leafhoppers are in the order Hemiptera. The infraorder Cicadomorpha (planthoppers) has over 20,000 described species while Fulgoromorpha (leafhoppers) exceeds 12,500 species worldwide. The Northern Flatid and Two-stripped Planthoppers were both new species for me. I also saw a few Buffalo Treehoppers, but they were too quick today.

Two-stripped Planthopper Acanalonia bivittata

Sharpshooter Leafhopper Draeculacephala zeae

Leafhopper Gyponana sp.

Leafhopper Gyponana sp.

In addition to the hoppers, there were other fascinating creepy-crawlies...

Ambush Bug Phymata sp.

Crab Spider Misumessus oblongus

Damselfly Ischnura verticalis

Robber Fly Holcocephala abdominalis

I came across the Gnat Ogres once again. This time I tried to get photographs that highlight their freakishly cool compound eyes. Like my last encounter with this species, I did not see any of them catch and eat any prey items. One day I hope to see one take a gnat!

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell


  1. Thank you for showing, so beautifully, the amazing things that are around me. That Gnat made me laugh out loud!

  2. Laughing is good for the soul!



  3. Thank you for sharing. I love the macro photography.