Monday, June 29, 2009

Bay Tree Lake State Preserve Rare Dragonfly

I had read about these three large natural bay lakes having a rare dragonfly Belle's Sanddragon along their sandy shores last year. We did a trip to Jones and Singletary lakes last year on June 15th, unfortunately the water was high and there was little sandy banks and we missed finding the Belle's Sanddragon.

Still determined this year I asked Meg if she wanted to go find these dragonflies, she said she would. So we left at 9am on Sunday and drove the 3 hours out there to Bay Tree lake the one lake we had not seen before. Many years ago White Lake was taken over by developers and became a private lake essentially so it was off our list. Once there we realized that developers had gained about 1/4 of Bay Tree's shoreline. Thanks to our North Carolina State Parks the east side of the lake is protected and we visited there. The sand track in was awful sketchy to drive in my Scion XB, we managed to drive in about a half mile and walked the rest in blazing heat.

The very first opening we found at the lake was just about 12 foot of sand and there was the Belle's Sanddragon, Progomphus bellei waiting for my camera. Lucky that there was only this bit of sandy shore as it got used to me then allowed many photos.

Belle's Sanddragon, Progomphus bellei

Above another Belle's Sanddragon, Progomphus bellei that perched in the shrubs along the shore of Bay Tree Lake. These are about 2.5 inches long and were only found along the shore line.

Here is a quote from the State Parks about the Belle's Sanddragon: This is clearly one of the rarer dragonflies in the southeastern part of the country, with a global rank of G3 and a status of Federal Species of Concern. Of note is that the species is not known at all from intervening SC or GA.

Above and below is a Common Sanddragon, Progomphus obscurus these are fairly common and are around 2 inches long. They can be found along the waters edge and in fields away from the water. The one was found along the South River at the boat launch not far from Bay Tree Lake.

Above is a female Faded Pennant (now called Ornate Pennant) Celithemis ornata when these are fresher the beautiful mantling on the wings is very ornate, but as you can see this one the mantling is almost gone or faded.

Here is a teneral male Amanda's Pennant, Celithemis amanda once it matures it will be red. Right now it looks like a mature female. This pose is called obelisking, they do this to cool off, it was very hot, just ask Meg.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Yosemite Natural History

We miss being in California, but enjoy being home again. There is so much we have here in North Carolina that California does not have. An example dragonflies I have more right here in our pond than all of what we saw in California, the ponds were fenced, rivers to swift or damed and the lakes were not very odonate freindly. Guess I enjoy sweating also.

California Sister (Adelpha bredowii) One of my favorite butterflies from this trip. I only saw them on this California Buckeye, Aesculus californica which seemed to be blooming everywhere!

Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon on Purple Milkweed Asclepias cordifolia

Jeffrey Shooting Star, Dodecatheon jeffreyi we saw lots of these in wet meadows inside Yosemite National Park. This is the larger of the shooting stars.

Narrow-leaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis we found this in very dry canyons and hairstreak butterflies were found on it several places along with Monarchs flying about in the areas at each milkweed grouping.

Female Acmon Blue, Plebejus acmon laying eggs on this plant in a dry canyon.

Grappletail, Octogomphus specularis we found our first two of these on an old back road that had a tiny mostly dry creek, surprised to see any odes with so little water. There was an yellow marked one but it did not like me. These can be marked gray, gray or yellow, pretty cool huh? Then later in the day we stumbled into Anderson Creek and found maybe a dozen of these in the campground creek there. I loved that creek except for brushing into stinging nettles there.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Butterfly Explosion on June 18th in Yosemite!

These are California Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis californica) a butterfly I'd never seen until the evening before. The next day we revisited the South Tuolumne River then the Middle Tuolumne River. We found puddle parties of 300-600 butterflies about every 30-50 along the river. We estimated we saw between 5000- 10,000 California Tortoiseshells on June the 18th! In the 12 years of butterfly watching I have never seen so many butterflies in a single day. To walk along the river with swarms of 300-600 butterflies flying around you was pretty amazing!

California Tortoiseshells can be rare some years as they explode some years in certain spots we were lucky to be at the right spot. The host plant is Ceanothus which we saw everywhere in bloom, likely three species of it during our trip. I never did find any sign of caterpillars.

Just a small number of butterflies in a puddle party. Males are usually the ones in the puddles. These butterflies do not visit flowers, as we never saw a single one on flowers. I revisited the same site two days later and found only about 100 butterflies left, the rest must have moved on.

Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini) another new butterfly for me! I've seen the Weidemeyer's Admiral (L. weidemeyerii) before, but not this one. We saw good numbers of them, likely several hundred during our trip in the Yosemite area.

These look a lot like the California Sister, but smaller you see some of them on another post soon.

One of the Mariposa Lilies we found in a meadow along Evergreen Road.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Strange Things Going On?

Last week Meg and I were sitting at the back of the pond enjoying the evening. Meg had noticed some johnson grass falling over before I sat down. Johnson grass is a 3-4 ft tall invasive grass that is in our pond. While I sat there more johnson grass just fell over one blade at a time. We concluded that turtles must be biting it off, we have a Snapping Turtle and lots of Eastern Painted Turtles in the pond.

Last evening we were sitting in the screened in porch watching the pond and some of the johnson grass was moving and jerking around wildly. We went down the stairs to see what it was, I'm thinking a Black Racer nabbed a Bullfrog. Once up close we see two huge Bullfrogs mating shaking up the grass.

Tonight we are about to take the dogs for a walk and Meg spots a Box Turtle on our porch! The turtle found our handicap ramp and proceeded to wander 50 foot onto our porch. I saw a Box Turtle the same size along the gravel road 1/4 mile up the street yesterday morning.

This Yellow-bellied Slider was showing off by sticking out his feet on the Eno River last weekend. Everyone that walked by got a good laugh!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Todays Harvest !


This has been a on and off cool/hot season thus far this year. Most of our tomatoes are still doing bad, yet a few baby tomatoes are on the vine. I think the horse manure that we got free might have caused some weird wilting along with the strange weather.

I weeded and mulched the potatoes today and found a few strays on the top as I went, we ate our first potatoes over the weekend. In the photo above you can see the New Red Potatoes and one fingerling potato. The Sugar Snap Peas, Meg has carried some for lunch about everyday for more than a month, we did very well with them harvesting likely several gallons of them. We have been eating the Nelson Carrots for sometime, these were the last of the first row planted. Those beets are the second batch harvested, we will also cook the greens as well.

Here is some kind of mini hollyhock with blooms about one inch.

This day lily I moved from my last place. I bought $20 worth at the Raleigh Farmers Market about 12 years ago. Two years later when I was getting ready to move I dug up a few and brought with me. I rescued a dark form female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail yesterday as it seemed stuck inside a day lily bloom. it flew away unharmed I thought a spider might have had it.

Who ever brought Japanese Bamboo Grass into this country really messed up. We have it everywhere, very hard to control.

Monday, June 08, 2009

DSA Trip Looking for Clubtails


I've been chasing dragonflies for 8-10 years now and damselflies for 5-6 I guess. Anyway finding new ones locally is already a pretty rare thing to happen now days. The Dragonfly Society of the Americas had their Eastern US spring trip two weeks ago and just 3 hours from here in Galax Virginia. So my friends and I headed out there to join them for a Saturday field trip.

Here is the first dragonfly I found it was a lifer for me and the camera.

Stygian Shadowdragon, Neurocordulia yamaskanensis
This species is pretty rare or very hard to find. It usually flies after dusk as during the day it resting under tree limbs in the shade. With a large crowd kicking around in the damp grass we were lucky to find it.

While everyone was checking out the Stygian Shadowdragon I started looking for more goodies and found this Splendid Clubtail, Gomphus lineatifrons a fairly common clubtail in Virginia along the New River several were found during the morning field trip. In North Carolina this clubtail is considered significantly rare. I found this species about 100 miles out of its range in both Durham and Orange Counties back in 2002 and this past weekend as well on the Eno River in Durham, County.

Male Splendid Clubtail perched on a log along the New River.

Female Splendid Clubtail found in North Carolina the next day inside the New River State Park.

Male Brook Snaketail, Ophiogomphus aspersus this was found in a Virginia Golf Course and it took several walks along and in this brook until we found one that would stay put. It was another lifer for me and the camera. A very rare bug in North Carolina.

Male Cobra Clubtail, Gomphus vastus found in North Carolina at the New River State Park. I'd only found this clubtail once and that was in Cincinnati, Ohio along the Ohio River.

Above and below are a teneral female Rusty Snaketail, Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis This snaketail, I'd only seen once a male near the New River in Radford Virginia. We found at least three of these all females in North Carolina at the New River State Park. When I found the one in Radford VA at the time there were no records of the species in North Carolina, it was discovered in NC back in 2006 likely near where we found it. Only known to one county in NC.

Now some damselflies from the Virginia Golf Course ponds. This one below is a male Orange Bluet, Enallagma signatum.

And below is a female Eastern Red Damsel, Amphiagrion saucium it is supposed to be fairly widespread in NC and even in the county I live in but I can't recall ever finding it in North Carolina.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

It is snowing & we have sheep in the pond

Well not really on both accounts. The snow is falling from our Black Willows it has been going on for nearly a month. Yesterday it was real heavy and looked like snow.

The sheep in the pond are actually Narrow-mouthed Toads calling, they started yesterday afternoon and are calling right now. The call sounds exactly like sheep calling. Have I ever seen one? Not in the 10+ years I've known their call, they are impossible to find in the deep grass.

Been chasing clubtail dragonflies the past two weekends. Anyone want to see some photos?

The reason I've not been posting anything is we have been so busy and sleep deprived as well. Our mini farm neighbor has peacocks, if you have ever had a neighbor with peacocks enough said already. If not let me tell you what they sound like from a mere 200 yards away. Picture a crazy drunken woman standing outside under your window and screaming stuff like HELP ME about every 30 minutes every night ALL NIGHT.

I read something that gives me hope, male peacocks call for 6 weeks a year during breeding season, we have been hearing them for well over a month maybe it'll be over soon. I have though about placing a peacock recipe in our neighbors mailbox to give them a hint.