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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day!

Chincoteague wild ponies. Click to enlarge. 
"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature."

                               -- Antoine-François Prévost

Sunday, June 10, 2018

June

A cabbage white butterfly on vetch flowers. Click to enlarge. 
I am appreciating June right now -- the hot sun, cool shade, little breezes, and scents of honeysuckle and privet. This butterfly reminded me of this line from Pablo Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets:

Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month 
of June trembled like a butterfly. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sharpshooter!

Meet the Broad-headed Sharpshooter, Oncometopia orbona. Click to enlarge.
This large leaf hopper is called broad-headed for obvious reasons. There are a couple of competing stories about why it is called a sharpshooter. Maybe it is because it can defend itself by spitting a liquid stream of waste at an adversary, causing a diversion while making its getaway. Then again, it might be named for the magnificence of its accurate bullet-like long distance leaping powers. OR it just might be its stealthy way of disappearing like a military sharpshooter, tiptoeing to hide behind a tree to avoid detection when approached. 

I played a game of hide and seek with this one while trying to photograph her from behind or above. Every time I moved, she moved deftly to the opposite side of the stem and then froze, giving the impression she was tiptoeing -- or should I say tip-tarsus-ing? 

I say her, because what I noticed first about this bug was the bright white wings patches. Female sharpshooters of some species produce this stuff and then store it on their wings until they lay eggs. Then they scrape it off their wings to apply a protective coating to the eggs.


Well met, Ms. Sharpshooter!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Happy Memorial Day!

Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey. Click to enlarge.
Soldier rest! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking. 

from Soldier, Rest! Thy Warfare o'er
by Sir Walter Scott 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Feisty Egrets

Here's a lovely snowy egret with gold feet on display and plumes blowing in the wind.  It's  in a great fishing spot near the outflow from a water gate at one of the ponds at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville, New Jersey. 
It's a spot worth defending, apparently, and any unwary egret that gets too close gets chased.  The  one on the right looks cowed, doesn't it? "OK OK -- I'm going already!"
But egret #2 did not move fast enough and ended up getting a kwok-yelling, wing-beating, flying jump directed at him. 
Then a couple of others showed up and got the same treatment. "Go on, get out of here!"
Ok. Alone at last. Back to fishing. 
Until the next interloper arrived! 
There were interludes of unexpected synchronized flying. Very nice! 
Then finally alone again. This bird looks to me like it would grumble if it could. I'll bet  more challengers showed up after I left. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Blueberry Robber

I learned something interesting about the eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica. I was walking in the woods in south Jersey in a place near blueberry farms where lots of blueberry bushes grow wild in the understory. There were also lots of carpenter bees hovering around every wooden structure I passed that day; no doubt recently emerged from their overwintering chambers. Some of the bees were visiting blueberry flowers. No surprise there -- who wouldn't want some delicious blueberry flower nectar?                                Click to enlarge.  
Looking closer, you can see the famous white face of a male eastern carpenter bee. Click on this sentence to go to an earlier blog of mine that describes the carpenter bee's life cycle.  Carpenter bees are coming out of their winter homes right now, just as the blueberry bushes are flowering. Great timing! 
I found later that carpenter bees are famous for “robbing" blueberry flowers of nectar. They call it robbing because instead of sticking their heads in and getting covered with pollen, carpenter bees make slits in the sides of the flowers and go straight to the nectar at the base. In the picture above you can see some of these vertical slits on the flowers. Signs of bee robbery! And it doesn’t stop there. Honeybees come to the slits and take nectar. It’s not a total loss for flowers, though, because some pollen gets transferred.

You can click on this sentence to read the abstract of a paper in which it was experimentally demonstrated that the pollen transferred in about three robbery style visits equals that transferred by a blueberry pollinator doing it the conventional way. The study also found that carpenter bee robbery might actually be beneficial because of the large number of honeybees it attracts to the flowers.