Practising for Moth Week

Moth Week is coming up (July 19-27) so I thought I’d practise a bit.  I set up a flood light inside the window, then wait.  Since the window is a bit high from outside, I set up a pair of ladders with a thick board between them so I can move across the window.  An LED ring light provides light for photography as long as the moth is not too close to the flood the pictures are OK, but this first one was a bit too close.

Virginia Ctenucha resting
Virginia Ctenucha resting

Before it settled down, it was fluttering its wings which gave me a chance to shoot its brilliant blue abdomen, though I wasn’t able to get it in focus.  I’ll need more light outside.  That’s why I need to practise.

Virginia Ctenucha vibrating wings
Virginia Ctenucha vibrating wings

Since there are lots of sugar maples and sunset maples around the house, it’s no surprise to find Rosy Maple moths and there are enough leaves around to spare for these lovely moths.

Rosy Maple Moth
Rosy Maple Moth
Waved Sphinx Moth
Waved Sphinx Moth

I’m not sure whether the one below is exactly a Fall Webworm, but if not, closely related.

Fall Webworm
Fall Webworm

OK, not moths any more, but these formidable-looking caterpillars are from a prettier butterfly, the Mourning Cloak.  (Though I like the sound of the British name better:  Camberwell Beauty).  I haven’t seen the butterflies yet this year but I must have missed them.  A set of small willows at the end of the drive were full of these last weekend but as I was away this week I missed seeing them disappear.  There were none to be seen this weekend.  Apparently they drop off and overwinter in the leaf litter.  I’m surprised it is so soon as there were lots of leaves on the willows yet.

Mourning Cloak caterpillars
Mourning Cloak caterpillars

Even further away from moths, here’s a long exposure of the fireflies in the garden.

Fireflies
Fireflies

 

Sapsucker, free to good home

I got so far behind on my blogs since I’m also short on time for even more important stuff.  I’ve posted a few pictures on Facebook and Twitter but now I’ll try to catch up if I can.  But I’ll start with today and work back as time permits, otherwise I will be perpetually behind.

I have been trying to grow a Rowan tree (aka Mountain Ash, even though it grows with or without mountains and is not an ash at all) for many years. Occasionally it flowers and has berries but this year, like many of my trees and bushes, it seems to be doing badly but in this case, not from the long, hard winter which it survived quite well.

We could see the centre of the tree dying from our living room window:

Rowan dying
Rowan dying

A closer inspection showed that the cause was a set of deep holes in the bark.

Hole pattern in dying rowan
Hole pattern in dying rowan

It didn’t take long for the culprit to arrive: a yellow-bellied sapsucker

Yellow-bellied sapsucker 1
Yellow-bellied sapsucker 1
Yellow-bellied sapsucker 2
Yellow-bellied sapsucker 2

You can see how much sap it gets: the top hole is full of it, and there are many ants and butterflies arriving to share the bounty.

 

Rowan sap collecting
Rowan sap collecting

The bird is also waking us up at 5 a.m. because our log house is still oozing a bit of sap, even though it is over 20 years old now, so it hammers on the house as well.  Now I know the culprit, I’ll try to get some clearer pictures.

Flower Spider?

All the world loves a mother with her babies

This looks to me like a flower spider that I often see on goldenrod, but it was a little large and had a nest ready to hatch its babies on an oak leaf.

Since I usually see them later, maybe this is mommy and the ones I expect to see in a month or so are the slightly grown hatchlings.

The first picture shows it wrapping a beetle it just caught.

Spider with captured beetle
Spider with captured beetle

The other two show it with its nest ball, waiting for the hatchlings to emerge.

Spider with nest
Spider with nest
Spider with nest 2
Spider with nest 2

Back home: me and the bluebirds

The bluebirds are back (again). As usual, they arrived a month ago, tried out the nesting boxes, and left when the swallows came. But again as usual, they returned and are now nesting.

Feeling extremely tired due to flu – don’t have the strength for heavy-duty gardening, so here’s a few pictures from today. Poland and earlier spring migrants can wait a day or two. It is very frustrating feeling so weak.

The bluebirds are back (again). As usual, they arrived a month ago, tried out the nesting boxes, and left when the swallows came. But again as usual, they returned and are now nesting.

Bluebird
Bluebird
Bluebird and wasp
Bluebird and wasp

I only got one clear picture today as I was working so just took a few seconds hoping to get one of the bluebird trying to render a wasp (yellow-jacket) harmless, before feeding to young. It shook and pecked this one (clear through binoculars but I didn’t get the photo quite right) for a good ten minutes.

Although these lady slipper orchids are relatively common, this is the only clump I know around here so I was very pleased to see several small outlier plants meaning it is successfully seeding, so I might risk moving one of the small ones just as insurance against vandalism as this clump can be seen from the road if you know where to look.

Yellow Lady Slipper Orchids
Yellow Lady Slipper Orchids

I posted a few pictures of this moth already, on Twitter, but here’s another one. They are the same family as the hummingbird hawk moth which I always find interesting as a case of parallel evolution – you could mistake it for a small hummingbird if you didn’t know about the moths, and it feeds in daylight whereas this Sphinx is a night flier. I don’t know what the caterpillars eat – almost afraid to ask – as those horrible tomato hornworms that can demolish a tomato crop over night are in the same family.

Blinded Sphinx Moth
Blinded Sphinx Moth