Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Skipper Question

So finally here is the Skipper post I've been threatening for a while. There really couldnt be much else, seeing as its been raining solidly for a week and a half until today.

There are lots and lots of skippers here, Back in the UK there are barely a handfull to have to ID. But here Butterflies of Virginia and the Carolinas lists over sixty. Now a few of these are very distinctive, others are reasonably so but majority are little orangey-brown jobs that the experts have problems telling apart even in the hand.

See..little orange brown jobbies. Im really not sure of them.

But I have got a few I'm sure of over the last couple of years.

This bright little specimen with the spots is the Fiery Skipper.

The Clouded Skipper has the three distinct dots in a line on the forewing and then has that gray to lavender 'clouding' too.

 This very pale one with the long white dash is the Salt Marsh Skipper. We're surrounded by salt marshes so it a pefect spot for them.
These Sachem Skippers are probably the commonest in the yard. But they are getting into that grey area where one looks a lot like another so perhaps they just seem to be so common.

This one isn't a visitor every year and I havent seen one at all so far this year but theres no mistaking it for any of the others. The Long Tailed Skipper Urbanus proteus
 is the only member of its genus found so far north. The rest are tropical. And it has a positivly tropical look with that iridescence on the body and the base of the wings. Theres no mistaking this one'

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mummy (or Mommy) Mantis

When I left for work Friday, this mantis was sitting on the porch. When I got back in the afternoon I thought I'd check to see if it was still around. And sure enough there at the top of the mallow...

Its getting late in the season and the Carolina Mantis has turned this more interesting blend of grey, brown and khaki.

 Its Saturday now and last thing I looked she is stil there in the same spot, despite its having rained for 24 hours. I think the reason is that shes waiting to lay eggs when the weather dries up a little.

I had another mantis do exactly the same a couple of years ago in exactly the same shrub and managed to get some shots of the event. Boy do these beasts lay a serious batch of eggs. They're encased in a hard shell and they are going to stay that way until spring.

If  we get eggs this time I'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Assassinated Assassin's Halloween Cousin

Meet assassin bug  Pselliopus barberi.  Close but more flamboyant relation to the late Pselliopus cinctus so recently seen as a snack for our argiopes.

Looking at BugGuide this one seems to be an east coast special, Maryland, Virginia and N Carolina. Its a new one to me and destined to be known from now on as the halloween bug for obvious reasons.

And yes, I know I said skippers & grasshoppers were next but thats nature for you, popping up unexpectedly.
You'd never have forgiven me for missing this one would you?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Really Rather Quiet

The weather in the week after the hurricane was marvellous. It was cool, barely making 85F, pleasantly breezy and not humid. The last week, after the Labor Day holiday it got wet and sticky, as the torn up remains of hurricane Lee crawled up the east coast dropping huge amounts of rain.

But now we are back to what passes for routine around here and things in the yard and the pond are oddly quiet. I wandered down to the pond Sunday and again I startled  what appears to be a Green Heron and again it shot off across the pond to disappear into the willow thicket on the opposite side. I'm pretty sure it has set up home over there. I just wish I'd startle it a little less and that I'd have the long lens on one of these days. When I did get the lens switched out I at least caught this, also moving like lightening hence the blur. 

The Belted Kingfisher is one of those rare american birds that isn't flashier than its european cousin. Its white, slate and russet plumage is nice but it lacks the jewelled quality of the kingfisher I'm more used to seeing. It is a bloody sight noisier mind you.

This is a less action packed but much less fuzzy picture I took on vacation at Smith Mountain Lake in 2008. Got got up early to find this one perched on the deck rail overlooking the lake and got just one shot before it was gone.

 The Monarch is an iconic american butterfly, found from Canada to Mexico and migrating in huge numbers. They seem to show up in my yard later into the summer and into the fall.

Its interesting when the autumn does come to see them moving south as I drive north in the morning, crossing the James River following the Monitor Merrimac bridge or so it seems.

And actually you can get some great views from the bridge as you cross the river....providing Mrs B is driving at the time. Its also the best place to watch pelicans.
Sunset over the James River

And finally for today here is another of those bright little assassin bug nymphs. This one posing nicely on top of a little pyramid of Beauty Berries.

Next time yet more grasshoppers and the confusing world of skippers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Swamp Is On Fire...Again

I stepped outside the door Saturday morning and there was that now familiar smell of burning.

Yes the Great Dismal Swamp has smouldered back into life. It apparently takes more than a Cat2 hurricane and the associated rain to put out a good peat fire. It was 'out' for about a week but seems it was smouldering quietly underfoot just waiting for the surface to dry out again.

I guess thats why peat was so long the fuel of choice for our ancestors.  

Goodness knows what its going to take to put this out finally. Winter probably.

UPDATE. 09/13/11

It seems that pretty much as I posted, the untidy remnants of hurricane Lee were limping up from Texas dumping another huge bucket of rain as they went. And it does seem that this might have been enough to finish off the smouldering peat. Its been a week now and no signs of any more flare-ups. But I'll keep my eyes and my nostrils open a while yet.