Archive Page 2


Of all the creepy-crawlies, spiders might be the hardest to photograph. They’re small and the slightest breeze moves their webs. Autofocus pretty much refuses to recognize them.
Manual focus is tricky, too.
This preposterous creature is in fact a Spined Micrathena. The spiny adomen may deter predators; the un-spider-like shape may do something similar. To the naked eye, I first wondered if this was a moth stuck in a web.
I’ve been poking about the common milkweed. It’s a good place to build a web, what with all the creatures that hang around that plant.
Underneath a leaf, a very small one lurks in anticipation. That white dot below her?
A Monarch egg. I’d just seen the butterfly deposit this.
A “Trashline Orbweaver” of the genus Cyclosa. How descriptive. I spotted two of these in a patch of buddleia (pollinator crack).
And there, lurking in the center — do you see the death’s head? — she waits for some unwary prey to ensticken to the web. From the invaluable (and not inexpensive) Tracks and Signs of Insects & Other Invertebrates by Eisenman and Charney,

“The trashline orbweavers (Cyclosa) […] also make vertical stabilimentum, but not a zigzag. They usually decorate it with prey remains, their own shed skins, other debris, and eventually their egg sacs. The spider is well camouflaged resting in the middle of the this ‘trashline,” and it has been demonstrated that decorated webs trap significantly more insects than do undecorated webs.”

FYI: Margaret B. Gargiullo has passed. She was a botanist/plant ecologist who was a big influence on the community of native plant enthusiasts here. Among other things, she was model of a second career person: she began her professional life as a nurse. Her books, including a field guide to the plants of Costa Rica, were published when she was in her sixties. Her Guide to the Native Plants of the New City Region is a must. Her An Ecological Manual of NYC Plants in Natural Areas can be read on-line.

Bird of Many Feathers

Doing some quick internet searching, I see that songbirds can have from 1500-3000 individual feathers. Swans can have as many as 25,000.

Sunday Sermon

“Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They’re allowed to take only a knapsack and a little cash with them, and even then, they’re robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women, and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.” ~ Anne Frank, January 13, 1943.

And Mississippi, August 2019.

Robber Flies & Dragonflies

A Holcocephala genus gnat ogre. Hey, I don’t make these names up, I just report them. Like the examples below, these are robber flies. Ommatius genus. Robber flies hunt and kill “insects of many orders” according to In this case, a fly victim.Genus Efferia. Another captive fly.Here, the prey looks like a tiny wasp.

And now for some dragonflies. These are Great Blue Skimmers mating.Female Great Blue Skimmer.One of the meadowhawks.Female Carolina Saddlebags.Spot-winged Glider. It’s rare to find these perched. They seem tireless when flying, patrolling meadows and lawns for prey. This is one of the migratory species: the late summer generation will head south. Like with its Pantala genus-mate, the Wandering Glider, their hindwings are wider than other species of dragonfly, better adapted for frequent flying.

The Republican assault on America comes in many blows. Trump’s environment-rapists are attempting to undercut public control of public lands. The Forest Service wants to revise its rules to bypass environmental impact studies for the benefit of loggers and miners. They are, of course, bullshitting about the intent of their sneak attack. Comments on this proposed rule change are due by Monday.

I excerpted this from a recent comment because I thought it was so spot on: “I am opposed to the U.S. Forest Services proposal to cut out public participation from the vast majority of its decisions. I want to have the ability to comment on decisions affecting places I care about in the future. The current proposal would fundamentally change the relationship between the U.S. Forest Service and the public, cutting our voices entirely out of how to manage these special places.”

Wasps II

These are roughly in size order:Great Black Wasp. These pictures do not convey the sheer giganticness of this species. They are big and fast, really moving between flowers. They hunt katydids, crickets, and grasshoppers for their young.The Great Golden Digger Wasp. Crickets, katydids, grasshoppers, beware.European Paper Wasp. Know them by their red/orange antenna. I’ve seen them take down Monarch caterpillars and feast on the adult butterflies, too. Black and Yellow Mud-dauber. Also known as Yellow-legged Mud-dauber. Spider-hunter.Two different individuals in separate places. Blue Mud-dauber or Steel-blue Cricket Hunter? There sure are a lot of these things… still working on figuring out this one.

Wasp Ascendency

Cicada-killer, whose name speaks for itself. A husky wasp that provisions its young with paralyzed cicadas, so really it’s the larva who kill the cicadas…Unknown. Possibly one of the Grass-carrying wasps of the genus Isodontia.Another Isodontia, possibly. Members of this genus use grass in the construction of their nests and prey on crickets and other Orthoptera.Humped Beewolf (Philanthus gibbosus), a bee predator.Unknown.Four-banded Stink Bug Hunter Wasp (Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus). I didn’t know there were stink bug hunter wasps.One of the Ichneumonn wasps. Says “Ichneumonids are notoriously hard to identify: aside from the sheer number of species, there are numerous cases of distant relatives that appear almost identical. Any identification based solely on comparing images should be treated as suspect unless an expert has said there are no lookalikes for the species or group in question.” Note those leaf galls. Is this wasp an inquiline, a species that takes over other species’ galls for itself? By the way, the parasites themselves may be parasitized by other species.Ah, the old Four-toothed Mason Wasp (Monobia quadridens), with Carpenter Bee for scale. This big one hunts caterpillars for its young.

All the wasps on the blog. But wait! Tomorrow there will be a whole series of other wasps lately seen…

Raptor Wednesday

This is a young male American Kestrel. He brought some bird prey to this balustrade recently, and left it on the right hand corner. You can just see the lump. It was there for more than an hour as he flew here and here, perching here and there as well. Now, this building has been used as larder for two breeding seasons, but the falcons usually leave prey on the roof, under, I presume, the solar panels. The parapet prevents me from seeing the exact locations, but I suspect they know not to leave meat exposed. Too many sharp-eyed corvids about for that. Junior here probably has to learn the hard way.Another brightly spotty male. He zoomed past the Gothick entrance to Green-Wood, causing the parakeets to holler in fury. Perched atop a tree, he was the target of a Northern Mockingbird, who made several passes at him. Then he circled in ever widening circles overhead, moving off towards the northeast and actually chasing after a Chimney Swift, twice. Now, Falco cousins, the Hobbys, are supposed to be able to catch Common Swifts (Apus apus), which are bigger than our Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica), but I think it would pretty unusual for an American Ks to catch a healthy CS. Another reason I think this was a young kestrel. Trying things out.

The last five mornings I’ve awoken to a Kestrel calling. The earliest was 5:30 a.m. Haven’t seen one, but the call is unmistakable.

“The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary.”

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence.”

~ Toni Morrison, RIP.


Bookmark and Share

Join 587 other followers


Nature Blog Network