urbpan: (dandelion)
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Urban Nature Walks happen on the last Sunday of the month--this shouldn't surprise me, but it often does. I sent out the call: is anyone else planning to walk somewhere? Fortunately my friend TeĆ” said she was heading to Stonybrook Reservation to look for caterpillars! We ended up circumambulating Turtle Pond at a leisurely pace looking for all kinds of living things! This pair of bullfrogs is a good first sighting.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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This guy lives up to the name--it's the most frequently seen dragonfly in the yard. This is a male, with his bluish white abdomen; females are the same shape but have brown "tails" marked with light diagonal dashes. (As seen here.) All dragonflies are predators that catch other insects in flight, including biting flies. You should always be happy to have dragonflies around.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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New England's biggest dragonfly is also one of the most common. This female green darner Anax junius* rested briefly in our yard--later we went to the beach and we saw many of them flying around the shore. They are famously migratory, hunting as they go, covering 30 miles a day. Because the ones that appear in spring have little to no wing damage, it is thought that each year a new crop migrates each year. Slightly more battered darners head south when insects become scarce in the fall.

* "King of June"
urbpan: (dandelion)

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Alexis is my go-to dragonfly identifier. She's studied the book, and has a good grasp of where to look on these things to tell them apart from one another. She was able to tell at a glance that this was probably a young male meadowhawk. Meadowhawks (genus Sympetrum*) are smallish dragons that are often found in fields (and suburban yards) far from water. Adult males are bright red, but females and young males are less colorful.

She was able to determine very quickly that this was one of the meadowhawks that represents a trio of species that are nearly impossible to tell apart, without a dissecting microscope aimed at their ... abdominal appendages. There is some thought that at least two of the three species are only one species previously described as two. We will content ourselves by saying that this is either Sympetrum internum**, S. obtrusa***, or S. rubicundulum****.

* "With rock" possibly referring to being found in habitats far from water
** "Interior" -- an anatomical descriptor?
*** "Sticking out" probably a reference to the white face of the adult male of this species
**** "Miniature ruby"


Jul. 12th, 2014 08:08 pm
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Stone Zoo has an American alligator exhibit open for the summer! There are three medium sized gators in there; keepers go in teams to clean it, with one zookeeper in charge of making sure the animals keep their distance.

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I was at Stone Zoo to (among other things) set up stable fly traps. This dragonfly unwisely landed on my pile of sticky sleeves--fortunately the backings are still on them, so the odonate was not trapped.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Meadowhawk Sympetrum sp.

Meadowhawks are small dragonflies that often hunt far from water. In many species the males are red. Determining species often can only be accomplished by closely examining the terminal appendages of the male--not yet a hobby of mine. This one was perched on a plantain flower/fruit stalk long enough for Alexis to suggest I go get my insect net and catch it. This is the way to hold a dragonfly (in zookeeper talk: manually restrain) so that you don't hurt it and it doesn't get away.

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I've noticed that after some manual restraint many insects are tired, and rest a while in place before flying away.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Our July Urban Nature Walk took place in the small city of Quincy, where there was some known habitat of a particular very special species of wasp. My friend Jenn, an invasive species expert with the State Department of Agriculture led a small group of us behind a big indoor skating rink to a barely maintained little league field called Curry Field

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urbpan: (Default)

It looks like I'm pulling Charlie by the collar here to talk to him like a mean gangster, but I was just trying to get him into frame for the snapshot.

We had just come from Ward's Pond, where we hadn't been for months. It was Charlie's first time swimming this season! I took some pictures and found a fun monster.

come see )
urbpan: (Default)

Common whitetail Plathemis lydia

The common whitetail is named for the male's pale bluish-white abdomen. The female looks very different, with a dark brown abdomen marked with light colored diagonal dashes. The male of this dragonfly species are unmistakable, but at least one guide warns that the female's dark wing markings make her resemble the 12 spotted skimmer. The 12 spot has a much longer abdomen with a more slender overall appearance. The whitetail also has a habit of perching on the ground, a behavior less likely in the other dragonfly. Alexis and I photographed these female whitetails on two consecutive days, perching horizontally on the stone footbridge in the Riverway. When disturbed they would fly a short distance away, landing horizontally again, or vertically as shown above, on a nearby tree. We took these animals to be resting at the end of their life spans, but they may live on for a few more months, feeding on mosquitoes, midges, and other flying insects by the river.

Alexis' photograph: http://cottonmanifesto.livejournal.com/1270580.html
urbpan: (Default)

A dragonfly rests on the rim of a trash can.

Ants again, this time with sugary work.

A chicory blossom stays open in the rain.
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An orange lichen (probably Xanthoria parietina) growing on a rubbish bin in Runnymede.

Runnymede is a meadow along the Thames where many historical events are commemorated, most notably the sealing of the Magna Carta. When we visited there were hundreds of people enjoying the park in the nice weather. There were lots of exotic and native water birds, and lots of interesting insects.

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urbpan: (Default)

Japanese knotweed erupts through the asphalt at Dane Park.

Damselfly and exuviae at Ward's Pond.
urbpan: (Default)

Alexis identified this as an eastern amberwing Perithemis tenera.

runners up )
urbpan: (Default)

I went to my dad's house Friday, because my brother was coming to spend the night before he and my dad go to Germany together. Here are some pictures of the town where I grew up. This is a tobacco barn under construction.

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urbpan: (wading)

Photo by [livejournal.com profile] cottonmanifesto Location: Muddy River, near Longwood Station.

Urban species # 204: Blue dasher Pachydiplax longipennis

Dragonflies exist with a very curious mixed public image. Happily, the great majority of enlightened people recognize them as important predators, waging an aerial assault on the mosquito hordes that plague us. A significant minority of people are still alarmed by their appearance, mistaking them for stinging wasps or worse. Dragonflies are unable, as well as disinclined, to attack humans. They do not suck blood but instead catch whole prey in midair. Their young are even more misunderstood. Covered with muck, wingless and drab, a dragonfly nymph is a frightening ogre. Yet in its element, it's as important as its adult form, if not more so. Dragonfly larvae are the prey of sunfish, frogs, turtles. and herons. In this way they form an important link between the smallest and largest animals in an urban pond environment.

The blue dasher is a common, medium-sized dragonfly, found throughout most of populated North America. Any still water, from a canal, to a pond, to any number of industrial sites, can harbor enough prey to sustain some amount of dragonflies. Their pale blue body color and huge, shining green eyes make the blue dashers an exciting species to encounter. Hobbyists, similar to (and often drawn from the ranks of) birders, perch on the banks of marsh water, binoculars in hand, watching the territorial behaviors of these attractive insects. Conservation organizations have begun including "odonates" (dragonflies and damselflies) as a top taxonomic group in their biodiversity surveys.


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