Saturday, August 29, 2015

Late August Moths

Dingy Cutworm Moth - Feltia jaculifera

A few of these moths were flying around the light of the cabin we stayed in at St. Croix State Park this week. I've also seen them at our porch light in NE Minneapolis. The next two moths were photographed at Westwood Hills Nature Center.
Dark-banded Owlet - Phalaenophana pyramusalis
Deceptive Bomolocha - Hypena deceptalis


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mushroom Log - Mid August 2015

Cross-veined Troop Mushroom - Xeromphalina kauffmanni

Unknown Cort - Cortinasius sp.
Maybe C. olearioides.
Purple-toothed Polypore - Trichaptum biforme
Dryad's Saddle - Polyporus squamosus
I'm a bit hesitant to put the name P. squamosus to this mushroom without a question mark behind it. It has almost all the features of P. squamosus: growth on stumps, large size, irregular outline, faint cucumbery smell, but is missing the "squamosus" part; the dark scales that are usually found on the surface. I read up on few other species of Polyporus, but none quite matched up. Then I re-read the description of P. squamosus at Mushroom Expert and learned that dark scales can wear off as the mushroom ages.
Mossy Maze Polypore - Cerrana unicolor











Thursday, August 20, 2015

Flies That Aren't Flies: Scorpionfly

Or The Scorpionfly That Ate A Doughnut

I came across this snout heavy insect earlier in the week while looking for Clavate Tortoisebugs (another post) with a couple of my esteemed colleagues. We turned up a number of interesting insects including this Scorpionfly, (Panorpa sp).
Scorpionflies are in the order Mecoptera which includes an assortment of oddish fly-like insects that also includes the Hangingflies and Snow Scorpionflies. Despite the resemblance to flies they are not, taxonomically speaking, flies. Flies, along with mosquitoes, gnats and assorted others are in the order Diptera.
Some differences for the casual observer between the two groups:
  • Mecopterans have four wings, while Dipterans have two wings.
  • Mecopterans have chewing mouth parts, Dipterans have sponging mouthparts.
Given the unusual head shape I thought there might be something interesting to learn about their feeding habitats, but I couldn't discover anything specific to explain the elongated snout. As mentioned, they have chewing mouthparts with small appendages at the end of the snout, or rostrum, for holding and chewing their food. They are omnivores, but according to most descriptions, feed primarily on dead and dying insects. The scorpionfly I photographed escaped while I was examine it inside and found a doughnut crumb to feed on, which you can see in photo one and three. It seems to me that such a distinctly shaped head would have some significance in how they feed, but I could find nothing to specific. Most descriptions of scorpionfly focus more on the stinger-like abdomen of the males, which is harmless and used during mating, and which gives them the common name scorpionfly. And their behavior during mating which often includes a gift of dead insects for the female - or a glob of edible spit. Or maybe a doughnut crumb.




Monday, August 17, 2015

iPhone Moths

Darling Underwing - Catocala cara

My brother-in-law, Jan Lasar (co-publisher of MN Trails Magazine) sent this picture from Morrison County. He often texts me photos of mushroom, insects, and other interesting finds. Many underwing moths have relationship-themed names, so "Darling" isn't all that odd of a bane for a Catocala moth
Bomolocha Moth - Hypena sp.
My co-worker Becky graciously lent me her phone to photograph this moth. The odd name, Bomolocha, is an old genus name for this moth. It comes from the name of buffoon type of character in Greek comedy, a Bomolochus. There are a handful of very similar Hypena moths found in Minnesota.




Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Parliament of Imaginary Owls

"I'm going to make owls!" So declared my 9 year old daughter Naomi. Soon the whole family was practicing their strigography.

Great Green Owl - Strix chlorosa

Adele's owl reminded me of a Great Grey Owl, with it's large head and long tail. She used Sharpie markers on white scratch paper (office paper with printing only on one side, our paper of choice). I added in the dark blue background to give it a more nocturnal feel. After this owl she switched to cats and made a family of crescent moon cats which were really cool, but imaginary cats are beyond the scope of this blog.
Northern Pris-matic Owl - Aegolius iridosis
Naomi described this owl as being able to shine light around, like a prism. When she was around four years old, we practically ran into a perched Saw-whet Owl while on a winter walk. She used water colors on white scratch paper. I added in the dark blue background.
Medium-eared Owl - Asio meso

Sara has been in many, many owling expeditions with me. Though not a birder herself, she brings an angle of appreciation to the searching and the owls themselves that I enjoy very much. She has been on many various trips to find two of Minnesota's rarer owls, the Short-eared Owl and Long-eared Owl hence the name Medium-eared Owl. She used Sharpie markers on white scratch paper. I applied an moderate filter to the picture with the Glaze app, mostly to give the white areas of the owl and the blue background a bit more texture.
Northeast Screech Owl - Megascops otus
Obviously some sort of Screech Owl . . . While looking at owl scientific names for this post, I noticed that Eastern Screech Owls were formerly placed in the genus Otus, which meant they and Long-eared Owls had flip-flopped genus and species names, O. asio for the former and A. otus for the later. I wonder how unique this is (was) in the world of binomial nomenclature?
For my owl, I used Sharpie markers on white scratch paper, and then applied a some filtering with the Glaze app.








Saturday, August 8, 2015

Shovel Point Macro Photo Tour

If I had to pick a favorite place in Minnesota, I would probably pick Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park.

Presented below, a brief macro photo tour of Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park.

Pixie Cup - Cladonia sp.

Unknown crustose lichen
Orange Rock Posy - Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca
"Blue" Darner - Aeshna sp.
There are a number of very similar dragonflies in the genus Aeshna.
Orange Hawkweed - Hieracium aurantiacum

An invasive plant found along the north shore. I'm to say I didn't see any at Shovel Point.

Harebell - Campanula rotundifolia
Strawberry - Fragaria sp.
Cowwheat - Melampyrum lineare
I think they resemble little floral gargoyles; there's so much expression packed into such a small flower.
Although not vibrantly colored, Cowwheat shows a nice variety. I like how the colors of the upper leaves and flowers blend together, while the ends of some of the flowers show a purple similar to the stem. Plus I really like the fact that the name Cowwheat has double Ws.
Blueberry - Vaccinium sp.
Bunchberry - Cornus canadensis














Sunday, August 2, 2015

Illustrated Life List: Cedar Waxwings

I spent some time along the north shore of Lake Superior this past weekend with my family. The flies were terrible along the lake shore; they chased us away from Gooseberry Falls State Park. Park Rangers we talked to said they were the worst they had ever seen this year.

The next stop was Split Rock State Park. When we arrived it was rainy and there was a strong breeze which kept the flies down to tolerable levels along Pebble Beach at the park. I noticed quite a few birds sallying forth from the shore and from the rocks emerging from water. They were appeared to be catching insects in the air. The light was poor and I had to get closer before I could determine what they were. Before the breeze died down and the flies returned I got some good looks and was surprised to see that the birds were Cedar Waxwings, acting as if they were some cross between a flycatcher and a swallow.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, I've seen enough other birds behave in surprising ways (a flock of minnow ice-fishing American Robins comes to mind). At Cornell's All About Birds entry for Cedar Waxing it mentions that "They also course over water for insects, flying like tubby, slightly clumsy swallows." and "In summer you're as likely to find them flitting about over rivers in pursuit of flying insects, where they show off dazzling aeronautics for a forest bird." Neither of these two descriptions quite fit my image of Cedar Waxwings; I might describe them as birds with a unique and sleek plumage that gather together in moderately busy and chatty flocks in the winter to feed on berries.

And it wasn't just the flycatching behavior that surprised me. I was also surprised to see so many of them perched rocks out in the water. So un-Cedar Waxwing like in my mind. . .

But really the behavior wasn't odd at all, just an example of an animal taking advantage of an abundantly available food source.