Archive for December, 2013

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem and in wheel)

December 30, 2013

The following photograph shows Mike Powell shooting a mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) resting in tandem on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem)

The pair of dragonflies went into wheel minutes later, as shown in the following time-series of photos.

Don’t you just love the look the male dragonfly is giving me in the last photo? I imagine he’s thinking, “Hey buddy, have you seen enough? Take a picture — it will last longer!”

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Southern Leopard Frog

December 28, 2013

Imagine my surprise when I saw a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on the December Solstice, 21 December 2013!

Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)

Southern Leopard Frog is one of several species of animals targeted to benefit from the wetland restoration project at Huntley Meadows Park, scheduled to be completed by early 2014.

Related Resource: Wetland Restoration Project Starts to Sing! by Kevin Munroe, Park Manager, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County Park Authority

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Green Treefrog, redux

December 26, 2013

Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)

The preceding photo shows a Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 04 October 2013. Contrast the appearance of this specimen with the Green Treefrog featured in my last post: This individual has a darker green body and the cream stripes along its sides and legs are outlined in blackish-gray.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Green Treefrog

December 24, 2013

The following photos show a Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 16 October 2013.

Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)

Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)

I saw the treefrog while I was searching for dragonflies. The little frog seemed to be intent on crawling into a crack in the boardwalk, as shown in the following gallery. I watched with amusement until I noticed a large group of people walking toward our location, so I nudged the frog in the direction of the cattails alongside the boardwalk. The frog resisted my prodding at first; suddenly it jumped at least six feet onto the rushes! I was happy to show the frog to the people after it had moved to a safer spot (shown above).

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Wolf spider

December 22, 2013

Unknown spider

These photos show a Wolf spider (Family Lycosidae), possibly Tigrosa helluo, spotted along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

The eye arrangement gives away that it is a Wolf spider (Lycosidae). The yellow stripe and lack of markings on the abdomen are consistent with Tigrosa helluo. (Formerly Hogna.) Source Credit: Sarah Rose, BugGuide group on Facebook.

Related Resource: Spider Eye Arrangements

Unknown spider

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Saddleback Caterpillar Moth

December 20, 2013

Saddleback Caterpillar Moth (Acharia stimulea)

The preceding photograph shows a Saddleback Caterpillar Moth (Acharia stimulea), a.k.a. “slug caterpillar,” spotted along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 27 September 2013.

The saddleback caterpillar, Acharia stimulea (formerly Sibene stimulea), is the larva of a species of moth native to eastern North America. The species belongs to the family of slug caterpillars, Limacodidae. Source Credit: BugGuide.

Saddleback caterpillars remind me of Ewoks! More conventional thinkers see them differently.

The brown spot [dorsal side] looks like a saddle, and the green area looks like a saddle blanket; hence, the common name. Source Credit: Stinging and Venomous Caterpillars.

Special thanks to Dr. Edward Eder, a gifted amateur naturalist and photographer, for introducing the caterpillar to me and for answering my follow-up question months later, “Which end is up?” The head is at the top (relative to the photo), according to Ed.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Gartersnake (pre-molting/shedding)

December 18, 2013

Eastern Gartersnake (pre-molting) and fly (Family Muscidae)

The preceding photo shows an Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 27 September 2013. Did you notice the fly perching on the snake’s head? When I saw the fly through the camera viewfinder my first thought was, “Either pre-molting snakes are vision-impaired/blind or this fly has a death wish!” Turns out I was partly correct.

Blue-to-gray eyes are usually a sign that the snake is about a day away from molting/shedding its skin. When the eyes are blue-gray their vision is impaired — they can still see some movement and light versus dark, but not much detail. Source Credit: Kevin Munroe, Park Manager, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County Park Authority.

I consulted the BugGuide group on Facebook for help in identifying the fly. Michael Butler identified the fly as a member of the Family Muscidae. Jeff Beane told me the fly was not in danger because garter snakes don’t eat flies! Aaron Belulz and several other folk kindly suggested I had misidentified the snake as a Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus); after some research and a second-look at my photo set, I realized they were right!

Eastern Gartersnakes can be differentiated from Common Ribbonsnakes by the presence of “dark vertical lines on the supralabial scales.” This key characteristic is shown more clearly in the following photos.

Eastern Gartersnake (pre-molting)

Eastern Gartersnake (pre-molting)

Special thanks to Kevin Munroe as well as all the BugGuide group citizen scientists who helped me with this spotting!

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Viceroy butterflies

December 16, 2013

The following photographs show two Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) spotted during photowalks through Huntley Meadows Park.

Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus)

17 September 2013

A week later, near the same spot …

24 September 2013

24 September 2013

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Viceroy butterflies (mating pair)

December 14, 2013

The following gallery shows a mating pair of Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) perching on a willow tree, one of the host plants for Viceroy caterpillars. This pair was spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 26 September 2013.

Viceroy butterflies look similar to Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).

It can be distinguished from the Monarch by its smaller size and the post-median black line that runs across the veins on the hindwing. Source Credit: Viceroy (butterfly), Wikipedia.

The following photograph shows a Monarch butterfly feeding on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) at Huntley Meadows Park on 17 August 2012. Contrast the Viceroy butterflies (shown above) with the Monarch (shown below): the Viceroy butterflies have a post-median black line across their hindwings; the Monarch does not.

Monarch butterfly feeding on Swamp Milkweed

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Squash Bug

December 12, 2013

Unknown insect

The preceding photograph shows a Squash Bug (Family Coreidae), a.k.a. “Leaf-footed Bug,” spotted along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. Special thanks to Mark Jette for showing the bug to me and to Kim Phillips, Small Wonders, for confirming Mark’s field identification!

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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