Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Long (Not Lost) Weekend

I took last Friday off work, originally because Banished Jrs summer daycare was closed that day and I was staying home with him. In the end his big sister decided as she wasnt working that day anyway she would take him to the Virginia Children's Museum. So theres me, at a loose end.

Another storm blew through on the previous evening. Short and not so sweet with 30 minutes of 60 -70 mile an hour winds followed by a couple of hours of heavy rain. That really dropped the temperature come Friday morning and it was cool and overcast when I headed down to Hoffler Creek for my first unaccompanied visit of the year. It was so cool, breezy and overcast that for the first half hour there wasnt much moving at all. I was considering heading home when  the wind dropped, the clouds cleared and the temperature headed for the upper 70s. One of the true delights of the trip was that the 70mph winds seemed to have blown every mosquito in Portsmouth out into the Atlantic. I didnt see a single one, hear any irritating whine or get even one bite. Miraculous when you consider that the place  had been turning into a bloodsucking hell-hole through Wednesday. 

Hoffler was full of Great Blue Skimmers on Friday, most of them looking like this, newly hatched teneral specimens. There were hundreds of them. The immature males and the females all look pretty much alike the males turning great and blue as they mature. But these were all pristine with glassy wings hatched that morning.

There were plenty of other dragonflies too once the sun came out. Lots of Halloween Pennants.

Plus this teneral male Widow Skimmer, another that will turn blue as it ages. Not just the body but a large area of the wind too, between the black base area and the largely clear tip. You can actually see a hint of that already in the picture.
 There were many many Needhams Skimmers, large Darners likely Common Blue and Swamp both of which turn up here and can be easily identified if they ever stop flying for long enough. And as ever a couple of Carolina saddlebags doing their impressions of weather-vanes, perched atop the tree thats just low enough to get a good ID but just high enough to make a decent picture unobtainable.

There were surprisingly few butterflies about but I suspect that might have been the fault of that wind again. There werent many to be seen all weekend those that were about mostly looked a little worse for the weather.

I did get pictures of an American Snout that were rather better than the ones I took here in the spring.

This is a Firefly and it is black but its not Pyropyga nigricans. I was informed of this, forcefully, at BugGuide when I posted it as such. Its actually Lucidota atra. Silly me apparently.

I saved Friday's best for last though. I started my walkabout with a wander down the Salt marsh trail down to the deck. It was pretty bleak out there first thing and so I decided to give it another shot before I went home now the sun was shining. I was rewarded with lots more Great Blues and with this;
I knew right away it wasn't one I knew and sure enough when I got close enough it turned out to be a Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata) and a new species on my list.

It reminds me a lot of the 4 Spotted (L. quadrimaculata) that occurs both here and in the UK. Its a little smaller from what I recall of UK specimens and this species really better merits the name in actually having 4 obvious spots.

Saturday I took Jr. out to First Landing State park again. But this was just for a birthday party so didnt have all the right lenses as I wasnt going to be wandering to far from the food and the beach. But there were huge numbers of dragonflies out there on the dunes. Mostly large Darners again but also lots more Great Blue Skimmers. A lot more of them out here were a few days older and were fully coloured.

I wish I'd had more time to stalk some more of these and there must have been a good chance of finding roosting Darners out here just because of the sheer numbers. But, I was there for Jr. and besides the Dunes are a 'sensitive area' and out of bounds to my big feet.

Ballocks as Sam Beckett would have said.

To my UK readers I have to say, only in America do you make a 55 mile round trip to go to a kids school chums birthday party. But then gas still costs less per gallon than bottled water and 30 mpg is regarded as excellent mileage!

And Sunday, Father day there is no rest for the wicked as we headed to Norfolk and the Botanical Gardens again. But this was Fathers Day, so Father got to take all the lenses and take all the pictures he wanted. Again though the wind was blowing, though the sun was shining and this meant fewer butterflies than usual for this time of year in the butterfly garden. The butterfly house opened friday and so we got to wander through lots of our local native species in there. Even then, many specimens looked a bit worn. Again I suspect the gale force winds that blew through on friday battered the inhabitants of the mesh tunnel that makes up the butterfly house. Lots of Zebra Swallowtails looking tattered and lacking a swallow tail or two as were the Black Swallowtails.

What looked best on Sunday were these:
Now I did forget to note what they were so bear with me and I'll update shortly.
 It's the Gulf Fritillary
Agraulis vanillae

Also shot some nice caterpillars in there. This is the caterpillar of the Luna Moth that turns up reasonably often in my yard. It seems that one of their favourite food plants is the Sweet Gum of which we have 2 and the thousands of 'gumballs' that go with them.
And finally for this marathon post is the caterpillar of a moth I havent found yet in the wild. Hyalophora cecropia is a large silk moth commonly known as the Robin Moth. its caterpillar is just about the wildest looking thing I've ever seen. It really doesnt look real does it?

Oh yes and at full size its over 2 inches long and as fat around as your finger. Just look at those nodules!

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