Sunday, May 24, 2015

rat snakes mating

Yesterday evening, on a walk around Lake Kittamaqundi in that gorgeous weather, I came across a pair of black rat snakes mating. This drew a small crowd of other walkers, and we watched and photographed from not so far away. The serpentine lovers were still entwined with each other when I finally decided to move on.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's a Viceroy, not a Monarch.

Another walk around Lake Kittamaqundi yesterday for the fourth consecutive evening turned up only one butterfly, but an interesting one. The experts confirmed that this is a Viceroy, not a Monarch. It is a little bit smaller than a Monarch, and the black bar or stripe running across the hind wing also distinguishes it from the Monarch. (I can see some differences in the configuration of veins in the fore wing, when I compare photos of the species, but that marking in the hind wing stands out most.) The Viceroy is in the Admiral group of butterflies.

I couldn't get a good dorsal view of this specimen before it flew away, but I'm including cropped versions of the two best snapshots.

I'm afraid that Monday night's freak heavy rains and storms broke up some goose families on the lake...


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lepidoptera and Odonata -- Two Evening Walks around the Lake

I'm keeping an eye out to see what butterflies could be out when the sun is lowering.Yesterday, about 5 to 6:00pm. Lake Kittamaqundi.Very hot and humid, before that night's torrential rains. Damselflies are also in abundance now. I don't know their names, but various species were in evidence at each patch of wild flowers and grasses along the path.

Obligatory photo of the ubiquitous cabbage white.

A grass skipper? Hobomok or tawny-edged? [Peck's Skipper.] Photos show wings open and closed. In grasses along the path on the Route 29 side of the lake.

This evening, about 6 to 7:00pm. A little cooler than yesterday. Clearer and more sun.

Another Tiger Swallowtail showed up, this time over the grasses and flower beds on the Route 29 side, southern end. With not significant blooms for it to feed on, it was impossible for me to get a photo of it with my compact camera. Second one this season at the lake, that I've seen. (First one last Sunday morning.)

No small butterflies this time, but still many damselflies.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lepidoptera, etcetera....

Butterflies and other insects seen today.

Around Lake Kittamaqundi, a Tiger Swallowtail came into view on the path around 11:45am near the Sheraton then went out over the peninsula (just like a Mourning Cloak I saw in the same spot a few weeks ago). No photo possible, but this is a good sign for the summer, offering hope for more swallowtails to be seen this year.

Photos of habitat and other butterflies at the lake follow. Some identifications pending. Between 11:30am and 2:30pm, with a quick lunch stop at Whole Foods on the lake. Very humid, variably cloudy and sunny with threat of storm like yesterday. Temperature in lower 80's. Little breeze.

[Identifications by experts leading the survey have been added in brackets.]

Probable grass-skipper species. [Zabulon Skipper, female.]

Fritillary / Brushfoot species. [Pearl Crescent, a type of Brushfoot.]

Red Admiral.

Wildlife management area near the lake. There were also many azure of undetermined species which I was unable to photograph. One probable sulphur (but several seen in the same area earlier); quite yellow when compared to the numerous cabbage whites of similar size active in the same area.

[I also saw numerous "azures" here, but they were more likely Eastern Tailed-Blue.]

The flower here is an Erigeron species, probably fleabane (or could it be Robin's plantain?). [From a separate source on Facebook, an insect expert identified the pollinator here as Varied Carpet Beetle.]

Another Fritillary or Brushfoot. There were a few of these, including two groups of three seen in different spots. [Pearl Crescent.]

Duskywing / Sootywing?  [Wild Indigo Duskywing.]

I also checked the grounds of Oakland Manor. A couple of cabbage whites, but summer flower beds here promise more butterflies later.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Annual Howard County Butterfly Survey

Through the Howard County Bird Club, I learned that the county conducts a butterfly survey every year. I volunteered to cover Lake Kittamaqundi and its vicinity this year. That will include a wildlife management area adjacent to the lake and possibly the grounds of Oakland Manor and the former stable across the street from it (now the Kittamaqundi Church, which has been developing a garden). Normally, the colonies of Joe Pye weed on parts of the lake, such as pictured above, would attract swarms of the larger butterflies like swallowtails and monarchs, but these species have been noticed in decline in recent years. Last summer on my walks around the lake, I spotted only two or three tiger swallowtails all summer.

To begin a log of my own sightings for the survey, I'm sharing some photos taken last summer. Identifications were provided by experts who are managing the survey. I'm including habitat and location photos, and other insects may find their way into these posts.

Here's a page for  Howard County nature conservation volunteer programs , including the butterfly survey, which is a PDF download.

And this is the Howard County Bird Club's butterfly photo gallery, which has helped me to identify some local species. (The club takes a lot more than birds into its scope.)

Black Swallowtail, female, on ironweed. September 12, 2014.

Sachem, male. A type of Skipper. On boneset, Eupatorium species? September 12, 2014.

Monarchs. September 21, 2014.