21 July 2016

Flies (like butter and dragons)

I was a bit surprised to see that my previous post here on SYAS was more than a week ago.  Augh, what have I been doing?!  I better get back to it.

This post will be a bit of a monster though (don't worry, it'll be mostly photos.... spoken like a true 10 year old).  Let's start with birds.

Ever feel like you're being watched?  Both this RED-TAILED HAWK and I had that sensation the other day.  It heard my camera firing off shots and gave me some stink-eye before flying overhead:
Keeping in the raptor theme, this lanky bird of prey is a MISSISSIPPI KITE.  I've never actually lived where they were somewhat findable (a few in Iowa, I suppose).  However, northeast Missouri has a fair few of them and Ashley and I spotted this one during an afternoon hike here in Hannibal:
It turns out this MIKI was the first eBird record ever for Marion County, Missouri.  But remember, that doesn't really mean much in a place where no one uses it.  :-(

These two dudes aren't raptors... but it kinda looks like they're looking at one!  Actually, these are young EASTERN KINGBIRDS that hatched this summer and they were actively begging from a nearby parent:
There are a ton of PURPLE MARTINS along the river (yeah, the big one) in Hannibal.  Just walk up to any martin house down there along the Mississippi and you'll be face-to-face with the biggest swallow species in North America.  Ever notice how it's hard to really capture the deep shade of purple?
Back on "the ranch", so to speak, we've had HENSLOW'S SPARROWS singing from a field on the property.  Although it doesn't look like much in this photo, this uncommon sparrow has endured massive declines due to a loss in grassland habitat through much of its range.  Here's one that was singing not too far from the driveway:
Moving on to dragonflies, it's a great season to be out looking for these (but best get an early start before it gets too hot!).  Here are a few species I've photographed lately.  It starts out with a female EASTERN PONDHAWK, a pretty common species around here:
Even more common is the COMMON WHITETAIL.  Here's a male:
However, the highlight in the dragonfly world came the other day when I photographed this female EASTERN RINGTAIL in the front yard.  It belongs in a fun family of odes (Gomphidae) usually referred to as clubtails.  This particular species was a lifer so imagine my satisfaction of bumping into it and grabbing some decent photos with the evening light:
I've tricked you... I didn't mention anything in the title about MOTHS.  But get a load of this thing.. it's a unique moth species that's been frequenting the property.  It's a Hummingbird Clearwing.  Yes, check out the wings... they have clear patches!  And yes, it hovers around like a hummingbird:

And then just yesterday, I was at the SAME patch of flowers when lo-and-behold... it was BACK:
Wait... or was it?  See the differences in the patterning on the abdomen?  I wonder if this is a different species, the Snowberry Clearwing?  Or maybe these show sexual dimorphism?  I'm no expert with these things but I'm finding them really interesting!

Yay, this post has finally gotten around to butterflies!  Again, summer has a lot more going on than you might think.  Although it's not very large yet, I've started keeping a detailed list of all the butterflies I've seen here on the property.  We've only reached 40 species so far but I'll continue to work on it.  Here are some photos of a few from this past week... I'll progress in taxonomic order.

First up, the swallowtails.  Here's a sharp PIPEVINE SWALLOWTAIL.  Although they aren't abundant here on the property, I've seen a couple lately:
Next up we have the Great Eastern Yellow Blob.  Kidding.  This is called a SLEEPY ORANGE and I've only seen this species once on the prop so far:
This sharp butterfly being photobombed by some grass is a GRAY HAIRSTREAK:
This is by far the most common and familiar hairstreak in the US.  The thing is... today was the first day I had actually seen one here.

I was surprised to see this comma on the driveway the other morning.  I actually expected it to be an Eastern Comma but after I got indoors and started looking at photos, I realized it was the less common GRAY COMMA, a species I had seen before only a handful of times.
 The underside of commas are way cool.  Do you think it looks like bark?  They hope you do.
We've been seeing a bunch of HACKBERRY EMPERORS lately (they like to perch up high on the house, windows, and things like that).  They're a pretty sharp looking species especially when you note the eyespots below:
Here are a couple of AMERICAN SNOUTS; note the drastic variation in patterning on the hindwing below:

I guess there has to be an end to all this butterfly madness and, well, it may as well be with the skippers.  Although I'm guessing many of you are not generally interested in these tiny butterflies, I find them fun to chase around and ID.

I'll start things out with a spread-wing type of skipper, a HORACE'S DUSKYWING:
But after that, we're moving on to skippers that DON'T land with wings open flat.  First up is a fairly common species in the yard, the PECK'S SKIPPER:
Compare the subtleties of the yellow/brown patterning on the wings to this following skipper; do they look the same to you?
Hopefully you see some differences because, yes, they're different species completely.  The latter is a ZABULON SKIPPER, a species that was described by French naturalists Jean Baptiste Boisduval and John Eatton Le Conte.

A bit less flashy is this SACHEM, another type of grass skipper.  It may be somewhat plain but it was still a new species for the yard:
I just found this yesterday, another first for the yard.  Even though they're abundant other places, I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to find LEAST SKIPPER for the yard:
Ok, a confession... here's the dullest skipper you'll find on my blog today.  Sorry bud.  NORTHERN BROKEN-DASH:
Let's move on from that to perhaps the brightest skipper!  I just snagged a pic or two of this DELAWARE SKIPPER yesterday:
It so happens that this was only my second one ever, my first being in Virginia 6 years ago!  It's a pretty plain, bright orange skipper but note the black veining in the following pic, a good field mark:
One of my favorite parts of summer in the Midwest are the thunderstorms.  If you've never lived somewhere lacking these, you'd probably wonder what the heck I'm talking about.  However, these storms, sometimes with crazy winds, can do a number on your garden crops!  Here is some corn in the garden showing pretty clearly the wind direction:
But, thankfully, that didn't stop the garden from producing some pretty alarmingly large vegetables!
But seriously, the summer evenings can be a beautiful time to be out and about.  The heat finally diminishes a little, the light gets low, fireflies come out, Eastern Whip-poor-wills start singing, and there are plenty of colorful sunsets:
Here's another view at dusk to close out the post.  Enjoy: