Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Dragonfly - A Stealthful Hunter

A Twelve Spotted Skimmer alights on a Spiraea twig.
Fascinated with nature at an early age, I spent a great deal of time in my formative years inspecting insects. Those most readily available and easy to catch were crickets, grasshoppers and sow bugs. Among those not so easy to catch were dragonflies and back in those days, nobody I knew wanted to catch one anyway. There was a reason for that.
None of the other kids from my neighborhood called them dragonflies. They called them “darning needles” or “sewing needles” because it was rumored that they had the ability to sew your eyes, ears or mouth shut. While I may not have fully believed that story as a lad there was probably a time or two when, if I did happen to see a dragonfly while outdoors, I kept a wary eye on it until it flew out of sight. Over the years, as my outdoor horizons expanded, my interest in dragonflies also grew and I discovered that, like all creatures of the wild, the Good Lord saw to it they came equipped to take care of themselves.  For example, they do have incredibly sharp mandibles, but use them only for capturing prey, not to sew little boys eyes and ears shut.

Truth be told, all dragonflies, like the Whitetail seen here, are no threat to humans.

A sighting of the Bluet Damselfly often harkens one back to summer days gone by.

The Bluet as seen above, was a frequent “visitor” in my early years, especially if I was fishing. It seems like whenever I was wetting a line, they would land on the tip of my fishing pole and be content to stay a while if left undisturbed.    
The Jagged-Edge Saddlebag is so named due to the
tell-tell markings along its thorax.
Despite the delicate look of a dragonfly's gossamer-like wings, they provide it with maneuverability unequaled in the insect world. They possess two pairs of wings, and can operate each wing independently of the others. They can fly forward, backward and even sideways and hover in one spot for an indeterminate amount of time.  This unique trait in the flying insect kingdom is one of the primary reasons they are such skillful and stealthy aerial hunters.   
The dragonfly's bulbous eyes give it outstanding vision.
A dragonfly's field of vision is nearly 360 degrees, with its only blind spot directly behind them.  Their compound eyes consist of 30,000 facets – or “smaller eyes” each of which provides information regarding the dragonfly’s surroundings. Combine their extraordinary vision with their flight skills, and you have a predator that can either intercept or ambush its intended prey in mid-air without slowing down and, thanks to those sharp mandibles, consume it while still on the fly.  

In this instance, the hunter became the prey.
Despite their being skilled predators, likewise the dragonfly is preyed upon by a number creatures including but not limited to fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and spiders. Pictured above is a Black-and-yellow Argiope spider wrapping a Red Skimmer in a silk cocoon for a later meal. Bon Appetit!       

Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia                                                                               

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fluttering Gems of Late Summer

Often mistaken for a Monarch, this is the Viceroy.
It is distinguishable by the arched black line that crosses the hind wing.
It's late summer and fallow fields and meadows are awash with the color of wildflowers. Likewise, roadsides and hedgerows are speckled with the brilliant hues of goldenrod, purple asters, and chicory to name a few.  

While this landscape is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and enjoyed by many, perhaps nothing appreciates those colorful wild blooms more than butterflies. The weather has been nothing short of spectacular and it stands to reason that this is perhaps the greatest time of year for watching a wide variety of butterflies as they flit and flutter from flower to flower, drawing nectar from bloom after colorful bloom. With that in mind, we thought it a great time to share with you some of our favorite butterfly photos.
This is a Pear Crescent, one of the more common smaller
 butterflies, seen here alighting on some goldenrod.
A Question Mark touches down by the side of the road at Genesee County Park and Forest. This species is so named for the silver marking along the base of its rear wings.
A Mourning Cloak absorbs some mid-morning sunshine. Some believe
 its named for its somber color, much like a funeral shawl worn by widows. 
Flower gardens are equally attractive to butterflies this time of year.  We especially enjoy gazing upon our butterfly bush while it's in bloom to see the variety of visitors it attracts.  

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is busy at work pollinating the tiny
individual blossoms of our butterfly bush.
A White Admiral also enjoys visiting our yard.
While butterflies might not be as fast or efficient as bees when it comes to pollinating, they certainly are a pleasing sight to behold.  Plus, when was the last time anyone got stung by one?

Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia