Raptor Wednesday


I didn’t see a single Monarch caterpillar or pupa in June and July.
But then, on August 4th…
Five individual larvae on the same Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata) plant.

Start Off Your Monday With Kingbirds

About a week ago, I found most of the tail feathers of Eastern Kingbird. With that bit of spine showing. Something untoward happened here, that’s for sure.
But there are still others flying.
At least three young were at Sylvan Water.
Lots of Blue Dashers to eat.
The sun is shining right through their young throats.

Insect Books

Princeton Nature is going strong these days. Eaton‘s book is a slim compendium of insect lore. Just a few of the entries: Amber, Delusory Parasitosis, Killer Bees, Seed Dispersal, Snow Insects, Xerces Society. I could, frankly, handle a lot more of it. Two things really jumped out at me. On the subject of insect decline, there is much anecdote and debate, but one hard piece of evidence is a study of Whip-poor-wills that shows they are eating smaller insects than they used to; there just aren’t enough big ones any more. And how high do insects fly (or get wafted along)? Specimens have been found at 19,685 feet (6000m).

Piper’s book, as its cover suggests, is much more pictorial. “Richly illustrated” is a worthy description here. A lot of ground is covered, but the category “insects” is mind-blowingly vast, so, like the Eaton, this volume also leaves you wanting more. Here’s a taste: venom has independently evolved at least 14 times in insects; memories formed by the larva are retained in the adult; the dung of introduced cattle in Australia was of no interest to native dung beetles, who evolved with marsupials. The result was a continent plagued with furies of flies breeding in the cow pats until the introduction, starting in the 1960s, of numerous species of dung beetles.

And this, practically just off the printing presses, is a massive field guide to hundreds of species of spiders. I’ve literally just started looking at it…

Wasp of the Weekend

Wait a minute, who’s this running over the dirt spoil piles of Eastern Cicada-killer Wasp burrows?
There’s more than one big blue-black wasp species out there, and they can be difficult to ID at a glance. But this one scurrying around the Cicada-killers was giving a clue just by her actions. That and the long “neck.” The Steel-blue Cricket-hunter Wasp (Chlorion aerarium) is evidently darker in the east than in the west. According to a note on bugguide.net, they sometimes dig their nests next to Cicada-killers. As the name suggests, Steel-blues hunt crickets for their larvae, so these two wasp species are not competing with each other.

Giant Wasp Summer Time

The Cicada-killer Wasps are out and about. They’ll take whole grassy knolls as their right and privilege. They’re so big you can easily see the variations of patterning and coloring on them. Insects are often taxed with looking exactly alike, but not if you look carefully.
The females, notably larger than the males, excavate tunnels for their nests. These they pack with paralyzed cicadas as food for their larvae.
Here’s one backing out, kicking back dirt as she goes.
A wider view of one patch, with about seven nests. But not all these are necessarily Eastern Cicada-killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosu); buzz back tomorrow to see who else likes to nest in such surroundings.

The other night

And Chimney Swifts

Raptor Wednesday

An adult Red-tailed Hawk atop the oversized bust of Horace Greeley at the family plot in Green-Wood Cemetery.
This would be in the shadow, if the sun ever rises from the north, of the Red-tail nest that gave us the single nestling/fledgling we’ve been following all spring and summer. This may be one of the parents.


One of the Coelioxys genus sharptailed cuckoo bees.
And another. Coelioxys coturnix, probably. These are both males, by the way, with the spiky tails.
Squash Longhorn-Cuckoo (Triepeolus remigatus), first time this species has made an iNaturalist appearance in NYC.
Lunate Longhorn-Cuckoo (Triepeolus lunatus). Haven’t seen one of these in ten years.

Brood Parasitism

Yup, it’s a Brown-headed Cowbird, being raised by Song Sparrows.


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