Posts Tagged 'insects'

Flight Sluggish and Swift

bombusOn a blooming goldenrod, the only visible flower around, a single bumblebee. It was warm enough yesterday for invertebrates, but they have damn few places to feed. This bee did seem a little sluggish, but it was roused by the proximity of my phone camera, and buzzed a short distance away, and then returned as soon as I retreated. (But what are those running down the wire fence, eggs?) waspThis wasp, too, was moving slowly, practically crawling along the sidewalk.

But here was something moving swiftly: a small bird being chased by a Common Raven. At first, I thought it must be a Kestrel, a species I’ve seen go after much bigger birds over its territory; sometimes the tables are turned and the larger bird chases away the little falcon. But binoculars revealed the bird here to be a pigeon. And a second raven joined in the chase. (This must be the pair I’ve seen here since the beginning of the year.) I’ve never seen ravens go after prey before; generally, they are scavengers and carrion-eaters. The chase was dramatic enough to stop a soccer game as the players watched the aerial acrobatics. The pigeon shot into an open-air staircase in the old warehouse, and the ravens followed it in, as if they were all flying into tunnel. After a few minutes, no more than five, the ravens emerged. Had they caught and eaten the bird in that time? Was it squab for Thanksgiving? That didn’t seem like enough time, but then I don’t know how ravens would eat a fresh bird. Raptors pluck away feathers with their down-curved bills and then rip up pieces of flesh with same, but ravens don’t have such bills. Well, whatever happened in there, it was thrilling as always to see these huge corvids, toughing it out in a non-traditional landscape.


IMG_4881It was a bright, cool day at Great Swamp NWR on Saturday. Insect life was particularly subdued; it is almost December, after all. I saw a fly and heard a cricket. Sympetrum vicinumThere were a few Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum), though, and presumably they are eating something. Above is a male.Sympetrum vicinumHere’s a a female, not nearly as autumnally red.Sympetrum vicinumOne of her hind wings is missing a chunk. Here she perches on my pants.

The Sympetrum are late season fliers, and boy, even in this record-breakingly — every month is now record-breaking — warm month, is it late.


SympetrumInsects are becoming fewer and far between now that autumn is upon us. One of the last dragonfly species to be seen are the Sympetrum Meadowhawks, red-bodied and small.There were a few active at midday on Friday at the NYBG.Sympetrum


cricketInstars are the stages between successive molts of some arthropod species. The word is from the Latin and means likeness or form. Because arthropods are covered in a hard shell, the exoskeleton, they must shed this to grow larger. Ecdysis is the scientific term for this shedding. That cigar-chomping wag H.L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast for striptease artiste, specifically Gypsy Rose Lee. Anyway, this seems to be an instar of a cricket. It was on the pillow. Talk about those come-hither eyes!

Hopper, Cricket

IMG_4248Good sand-colored camouflage here.IMG_4256Here, not so much, but then crickets are usually tucked away someplace, heard much more often than seen. Grasshoppers and crickets (and katydids, etc.) are in the order Orthoptera, the “straight-winged.”


Danaus plexippusThe air above Fort Tilden’s narrow reach was full of Tree Swallows and, to a lesser extent, Monarch Butterflies. The Monarchs were being pushed hard towards the east in the breeze. We saw about a dozen of them. One was quite high, noticed as we watched a Peregrine on patrol way up there.Danaus plexippusDanaus plexippus. Some were still eating. This is a good reminder that, this late in the year, there’s are no milkweeds in bloom around here. But the goldenrods are ripe, tiny little suns of nectar and pollen.


bombusThe cold snap combined with the rain took the bees by storm. They were clustered to various late summer blossoms Friday and Saturday, stunned if not lost. But yesterday, the air warmed, and by afternoon the sun was out. The goldenrods at Fort Tilden were alight with a few of these hardy little beasts. Note the pollen smeared everywhere. The pollination year comes to an end, but the last of this year’s bumblebees soldier on.


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