Monday, August 13, 2018

Foggy Morning!

"You can walk in a dream while you are awake: Just walk in the misty morning of a forest!"

― Mehmet Murat ildan

Spring Green Preserve

Dense fog obscured Spring Green Preserve's superb bluffs for part of the morning, but the sun's energy was working to burn it off. Naturally, it's the process of evaporation as the air temperature rises above the dew point temperature. Yeah, it doesn't really burn water. Even after the fog evaporated, skies were still hazy due to the terrible wildfires rampaging out west. We've been experiencing a hot summer. Thankfully there's been enough precipitation to stave off drought conditions. I do so dislike droughts turning the landscape crispy and brown. Thus, the prairies and forests have been pretty lush this season.

Sunday's mission was an excursion for tiger beetles, specifically Splendid (Cicindela splendida), but it's a species I generally don't expect to find until September. I thought there might be some early bugs. But I also recalled that someone had recently spotted a Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle (Tetracha virginica) at the preserve. Past the main entrance, I noticed freshly emerged Punctured Tiger Beetles were a little lethargic and having difficulty escaping from being crushed by my feet, but I was watching for them and other tiny creatures on the sandy trail. They needed the sun's warmth to elevate their body temperature for maximum physical output.

Fog lifting! But no Lark Sparrows.

And then everything was covered with dew droplets ...

Prairie Cottonweed was the dominant wildflower ...

Prairie Cottonweed Froelichia floridana 

Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle Tetracha virginica

The most impressive discovery came right away as I spotted a Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle scurrying down the trail; a species I’ve not observed at the preserve since 2014. In fact, there were three individuals found along the main trail, the most I've ever encountered. Other tiger beetles included Big Sand, Festive, and Punctured.

Big Sand Tiger Beetle Cicindela formosa

Big Sand Tiger Beetles are often a bit banged up by this time, but the above beetle appears to be in pretty good condition yet. It's interesting to note how time, habitat, and temperature shifts change tiger beetle presence in terms of species and abundance. Spring Green Preserve offers the ferocious insects a variety of conditions for an array of diversity. Not present with the first wave of Punctured Tiger Beetles, Festive Tiger Beetles abruptly appeared around 10:00AM. Here's one Festive dismantling an ant for breakfast:

Festive Tiger Beetle Cicindela scutellaris

Detecting my presence, a lone Dung Beetle pauses during its journey across the sandy trail:

Dung Beetle Melanocanthon bispinatus

An uncooperative jumping spider ... please look up!

Jumping Spider Phidippus purpuratus

Nothing doing!

Cylindrical Blazingstar Liatris cylindracea

Grooved Yellow Flax Linum sulcatum

Gray Tree Frog Hyla sp.

Spring Green Preserve from atop the bluff.

Alas, no Splendid Tiger Beetles on this day, but it's still a fantastic view of the prairie.

I spent a few hours exploring the trail around Deer Creek near my apartment and found a few hopper insects. Walking and searching for tiny macro-photography subjects is an enormously mindful and zen-like thing to do. To me it's as fun and interesting as birding, but it renders a view into an unfamiliar world of peculiar lifeforms. I'm rewarded with natural gratification for my efforts and I hope all of you reading this appreciate the time and care I put into my blog's content. I might make it look easy, but it's a lot of work.

Wide-footed Treehopper Campylenchia latipes

Two-striped Planthopper Acanalonia bivittata

Black Locust Treehopper Vanduzea arquata

Buffalo Treehopper Ceresa taurina

Red-banded Leafhopper Graphocephala coccinea

All images © 2018 Mike McDowell


  1. Just beautiful scenes. I have not been able to get to the reserve yet this year but hope to next week. I love to paint out there. The fog effect is captured so well in your photos. The first time I came across the Red-Banded Leafhopper while gardening I was amazed at the colors. It was hard to believe it was real. But it found me more than I found it. Much harder to spot when really trying to find them. Your photos inspire me to get out my magnifying glass and look a little closer and more slowly for the tiny creatures in my garden.