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  • a journey through nature, starting in the backyard

    Welcome to ::crickets::, a space devoted to exploring the natural world through photography. Since sometimes it seems like blogging is just throwing words out into space and hearing the sounds of crickets chirp as you wait for a response, I decided to combine that notion with one of the primary subjects of this blog: insects. And so, ::crickets:: was born.

    Oh, this blog won't be all bugs, all the time: there'll be gardening tips, visits to botanical gardens, and plenty of pretty photos of things with nary an antenna. But yes...there will also be lots of bugs. Because bugs are awesome.

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Girls’ Day Out

Another year, another quick attempt to catch up on blog posts before the bug-watching season cranks up again…

Back in October, I made my annual visit to the Fort Lauderdale area to see my friend Silvia and her girls Izzy and Bela.  This is always one of my favorite weekends of the year, but this time was particularly perfect: the weather was warm but not humid, the girls were totally enthusiastic to go explore nature, and our dragonfly season at home had ended several weeks earlier, so this was a fine way to extend it.  And fittingly for a girls’ outing, every single dragonfly or damselfly I spotted was a female.

One of the best things about Florida is that you’re never far from a nature preserve of some kind.  We started off at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (a mouthful!) in Boynton Beach, which had a beautiful boardwalk trail.

Loxahatchie National Wildlife Refuge

There were lots of beautiful wildflowers, and a small garden in front of the visitor’s center.  The girls had fun inside exploring the exhibits, and I hung out in the garden seeing what I could find.  I’d say the snake was probably the most notable sighting, and it actually had to be pointed out to me by a passerby because I was engrossed in a butterfly.  Kinda hard to miss considering it was blocking the entrance to the boardwalk.Loxahatchie National Wildlife Refuge

By far the most abundant species here was the band-winged dragonlet (all four photos on the left).  I didn’t spot any other dragonflies except along the sidewalk outside the visitor center, but those two were both willing to pose prettily.  The one on the top right is a female roseate skimmer (a.k.a. “the pink one”).  This took me quite a while to key out because of the splotchy brown pattern on the thorax.  I looked at a lot of female skimmers, but none of them were quite right.  It didn’t occur to me for a while to even look at the roseate skimmer, because this couldn’t be more different than “small pink and purple dragonfly.”  But I was delighted to discover I’d secretly seen a pink one without knowing it.  The two below are female Halloween pennants, and the one where she’s turning her head to the side coquettishly is one of my favorite dragonfly photos that I’ve taken so far.  The damselfly on the bottom is a Rambur’s forktail, which we actually found in a fountain outside the Panera where we ate lunch.  Izzy caught it right after I took this shot and then released it by hanging it on her nose.  The kid is a tiny Dennis Paulson.  I love it.Loxahatchie National Wildlife Refuge dragonflies

The refuge has a butterfly garden that was teeming with fun things to watch.  Bela became absorbed in inspecting a caterpillar tent, and Izzy found a tortoise shell.  Meanwhile, I wandered around checking out the butterflies.  Left to right, top to bottom:
1. A long-tailed skipper.
2. A ruddy daggerwing, which is a common South Florida find.
3.This tiny little speck is a Cassius blue with some of its identifying field marks ripped off.  See how jagged its bottom wing is?
4. The tropical checkered-skipper I was watching when someone noticed the snake.
5. A palamedes swallowtail, one of the largest butterflies in the southeastern United States.
6. You know I have a blind spot about sulphurs–they all look so similar to me.  This one’s lack of pattern on the outer wing makes me think cloudless sulphur, but the color is off; and the bands of orange you can distinguish through the wing make me think this might be an orange-barred sulphur, which is most frequently seen in south Florida.
7. A white peacock, which I don’t remember having ever seen before but recognized instantly.
8. & 9. If sulphurs are hard, skippers are harder.  I’m going to guess three-spotted skipper here.  It was between that and eufala skipper, but three-spotted has longer antennae and more pronounced spots.
10. I think this is probably also a palamedes swallowtail in flight.
Loxahatchie National Wildlife Refuge butterflies

After we stopped for lunch, we decided to drop by Daggerwing Nature Center in Boca Raton, and it too was super-cool.  We started off by walking the boardwalk trail, which had an observation deck that Izzy remembered climbing once during a field trip.Daggerwing Nature Center boardwalk

1. We started at the pond, inspecting probably the darkest forktail damselfly I’ve ever seen (top two photos).  Hard to really identify it when it’s so pruinose.
2. Before heading down the trail, I saw a dark dragonfly perching on some trees, which turned out to be a pin-tailed pondhawk.
3. Just a general picture of a perfect day.
4. This colorfully-billed bird is a common gallinule.  Sometimes this bird walks on water atop vegetation, which I wish we’d seen!
5. After our walk, the girls wanted to check out the exhibits in the nature center, which included a baby alligator and a rescued screech owl.  I walked back to a different pond for a moment, where I was careful to observe the don’t-bother-the-alligators signs.  A park ranger drove by and checked in with me just to make sure I wasn’t going to wade into any tall grasses, which I assured him was not my intention.  We had a nice chat about all the local parks, and then I headed back over to photograph this four-spotted pennant.  I love her intimidating facial markings!
6. I believe this is a female Needham’s skimmer.  We saw swarms of dragonflies overhead while on the boardwalk, and when the light hit them the right way, we could tell they were orange.  I have a feeling that’s where all the male Needham’s skimmers were.
7. Another ruddy daggerwing, for whom this park is named.
8. A monarch just outside the visitor center.
Daggerwing Nature Center insects

We finished up the day with a bathroom visit, and while we were inside, we heard the staff leave for the night…locking the door to the bathroom as they left.  We pounded on the door and yelled, to no avail.  It was getting tense in there, and then Silvia remembered that there was a second door that opened to the outside, which thankfully was not locked.  But there were a few moments there when we genuinely thought we were spending the night in a bathroom, and I was mentally inventorying my backpack for crackers and water.  But in the end, our girls’ day out ended comfortably at home rather than on a tile floor, which is probably the only thing that could have made it less than wonderful.  I can’t wait to go back and do it again!

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The birds help.

Into the WoodsMy family has had some hard winters over the past several years.  As someone who has never been fond of the cold, it’s strange to say that the harsher-than-usual winters of the last two years haven’t been the problem, but the travails of the season have been peripheral at best.  No, we’ve been fighting things like cancer and near-fatal car accidents, and this year has been the hardest of all.  After beating breast cancer in 2012, my mom got a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in November 2013.  Since then, life has been an often-nauseating roller coaster of surgery, chemotherapy, hospital visits, sleepless nights, dark thoughts, and trying to keep our heads above a place of sadness and hopelessness.  Some days are better than others, but always, always, there is a cloud of uncertainty that says, “You can’t plan too far into the future.  Things could change forever any day.”

Had this all happened in the summertime, my solace would have been found in a swamp somewhere.  Nothing in my life, or my plans, has remained constant over the last three months except that I find my peace outside.  The last two winters, since I’ve been more earnestly pursuing my fascination with dragonflies, I’ve felt their absence like a loss.  From mid-October to mid-April last year, I dreamed in dragonflies because I couldn’t see them for myself.  In those first few weeks after my mom’s diagnosis, I felt more helpless than at any other time in my life, and I wanted so badly to go stand by a pond and have the blue dashers and baskettails zoom around my head.  They remind me that if nothing else, I can always count on the world to be full of treasures.  There will always be a swamp to run to somewhere.

So it’s fitting that this is the year that it finally occurred to me to watch the birds.  To keep going to my favorite places even though I wouldn’t see dragonflies or butterflies.  That I work at a place where there are easily more than 100 different types of birds taking up residence or passing through.  That there are treasures everywhere, all the time–we just have to look for them.

So we started to maintain our backyard bird feeder.  We got one for seeds, and one for suet.   We watched for weeks and have counted 15 interested species so far.  I started walking through the Old Forest at Overton Park during the afternoons, even if it was freezing and gloomy.  My friend Naomi gave me the Stokes Guide to Birds, and we all know my interest level in something skyrockets when I have a field guide I like.  I’ve been studying eagerly, and this weekend felt knowledgeable enough to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count for the first time.  (My amateur status was served up to me nicely when I realized that the Tennessee Ornithological Society had identified 100+ birds in the Old Forest to my ten.  But in fairness, there were many of them, there was one of me, I was chased out prematurely by rain, and I do not speak the language of birds AT ALL and am thus unable to identify anything by sound.  Except maybe the Carolina wren because it’s a loudmouth.)

And you know what?  It turns out that the birds help a lot.  I don’t think I’ll ever love them like I love dragonflies in all their delicate ferocity, but they are fascinating in their own right.  I look forward to learning much more about them as time goes on.

Here are a few glimpses into my winter of birdwatching.

First, the backyard feeders.  Most of these were taken through a window, so apologies for the fuzziness and the lack of compositional variety.  Left to right, top to bottom:
1. Surprisingly, we’ve had very few European starlings.  I shoo them when there are too many, but I let this one hang around for a minute since it was alone.
2. A female downy woodpecker shares the suet with a much smaller chickadee.
3. The carolina wren perches rather than eats.
4. Tiny dark-eyed juncos are so adorable.
5. This mockingbird was singing its heart out.
6. The cardinals and house sparrows like to snipe at each other, but they’re the most frequent visitors to the feeder, so they make it work.
7. The finches: a goldfinch on the left and house finch on the right.
8. Little chickadee, big sunflower seed.

Backyard bird feeder

These are birds I found in the Old Forest at Overton Park.  There’s no better break from a desk job than a walk in the woods.
1. I love kinglets.  They’re tiny and bouncy, and not terribly wary.  This golden-crowned kinglet stayed within a few feet of me for about 10 minutes.  The challenge is that they’re constantly flitting from branch to branch, so having time to focus is more a matter of luck than anything else.
2. Red-bellied woodpeckers are one of the few species that I’m starting to be able to recognize by their calls.  We saw one of these in the backyard, and the contrast between its size and the smaller downy woodpecker was fun to observe.
3. Speaking of the downy woodpecker
4. When I first saw this little golf ball of a winter wren, I exclaimed aloud, “Tiny!”  I was on my way out of the forest to head home when I saw it hop into a tree cavity.  Like the kinglet, it wasn’t terribly bothered by my presence, even when I loudly tromped over leaves to get closer.  It was much harder to photograph, though, because it likes to bury itself in leaf piles and holes in the ground to forage.  This was the best I could do, so I apologize to the little guy for photographing its bum.
5. Here’s a hairy woodpecker, which looks a lot like the downy woodpecker except for the little black spur on its chest.
6. A carolina wren that plopped down right in front of me (hence why this photo is the best of the bunch).
7. A yellow-rumped warbler, displaying its…yellow rump.
8. I’m going to refrain from assigning a species to this hawk, because I know it will be wrong.
9 & 10. Two photos of a tufted titmouse.  I had never seen these until yesterday, and suddenly they were everywhere.
11. Spotting an enormous pileated woodpecker never gets old.
12. I see a lot of hermit thrushes, and they’re good at posing and singing beautiful tunes.
13 & 14. Both of these are ruby-crowned kinglets.  The one on the left even showed me its crown at one point, which as someone who struggles to ID every single one of these, was something I appreciated very much.

Birds in the Overton Park Old Forest

If you squint, you can see a robin in this photo, but mostly I took this one because I always love looking through this enormous vine.

Overton Park Old Forest

On Saturday morning, I started out early to the Shelby Farms Beaver Pond, which to my surprise was partially frozen over.  There were several red-winged blackbirds making their presence known via their very loud singing, but they cloaked themselves in the foliage too well to get a photo.  Here’s what I did shoot:
1. Lots and lots of Canada geese.  My least favorite bird, probably?
2. Prior to this morning, the only sparrows I’d ever felt comfortable identifying were house and white-throated, which are the ones in our yard.  This one was obviously different, though, and it turned out to be a chipping sparrow.
3. Another carolina wren.
4. Until I got home and identified this as a brown thrasher, my description for it was “the giant scary thrush thing.”
5. The song sparrows were chippier than the chipping sparrows, which is why everything confuses me.

Shelby Farms birds

Finally, on Sunday I visited the Lucius Burch State Natural Area in search of some wading birds.
1 & 2. I found 40 or so ring-billed gulls in the flooded cornfields.  They were not super excited about my presence.
3. I was so confounded by this bird while looking through my guide.  In the field, I assumed it was a song sparrow, but when I got home, I didn’t see any white markings on its neck, and its chest was much more heavily streaked than it should have been.  Figuring out that it was a female red-winged blackbird was an “I’ll be damned” moment.
4. There were a few killdeer flying around and screeching, which set them apart enough that I eventually realized they weren’t part of the gull faction.
5. Mallards and gadwalls flew away from me all day.  Like, way far away.
6. An actual song sparrow in a blooming maple tree.

Lucius Burch birds

More birds to come, as my recent escape-to-Florida weekend, which I booked back in October when Southwest was running $94 round-trip sales (!!!), quickly turned into a birding excursion.  Get ready for lots and lots of herons.

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[...] my least favorite part of the year.  (There are lots more bird photos, and more goopy meditations, over on ::crickets::.)  The birds led me on a quick trip [...]

Thank You For Visiting the Real Florida (Part 2)

Into the Woods(Here’s Part 1.)

Although Sunday was a pleasant day, and culminated in an incredible Marshall Tucker Band-soundtracked meal at The Gulf, I wasn’t super-impressed with my dragonfly-spotting.  I spent some time reading Ed Lam’s wonderful Dragonfly Road series to see if there was a place within reasonable driving distance where I might have better luck.  He wasn’t 100% specific as to where he’d been looking, but eventually I found that a Sweetwater Creek ran through the Blackwater River State Forest northeast of Pensacola.  This was about an hour and a half away, but the surroundings were so different (it was inland, in/around a forest, and fresh water instead of salt water) that I figured it would shake things up enough to make it interesting.

I started my walk at the Krul Lake Recreation Area, where the Sweetwater hiking trail begins.  It runs just over a mile to Bear Lake, and is just a terrific mix of environments.  After spooking (and educating) myself by reading the “What to Do if You See a Bear” sign at the trailhead, I passed a grist mill and quickly started spotting tiny damselflies at my feet.

From the top:
1. A female blue-tipped dancer.
2. A female powdered dancer, who promptly flew into a tree after I got this one very distant photo.
3. A male seepage dancer.
4. The large photo on the right is a male powdered dancer.  I initially thought it was just a really pruinose blue-fronted dancer because of that slim median stripe, but I took a couple of side views where its wider black humeral stripes are evident.Damselflies at Blackwater River State Park, Florida

Then I crossed the suspension bridge, and it became obvious why the place is called “Blackwater.”  Just lovely.

Suspension bridge near Krul Lake Recreation Area

The first dragonfly I spotted was this female slaty skimmer (top two photos), who was in great shape.  (Often, the females I see at home are quite worn.)  At some point, the boardwalk gave way to a trail that bisected a huge hilly meadow, which was alive with butterflies, dragonflies, birds, and other insects.  Without the shade of the trees, though, I started wondering why I thought it was a good idea to leave so much of my water back in the car.  I pushed on just the same, and saw this tiny, bright yellow dragonfly.  Since dragonflies are often named for the appearance of the males of the species, this female burst of yellow is called a little blue dragonlet.

The bottom two photos are of the Florida subspecies of the variable dancer damselfly, Argia fumipennis atra.  They have the charming habit of flicking open their wings when they land, and then rapidly snapping them shut again.  That behavior is a good way to distinguish them from jewelwings, which is initially what I thought these were because of their dark wings.

Slaty skimmer, little blue dragonlet, variable dancer

Once I reached Bear Lake, I started seeing Halloween pennants everywhere (including in the jaws of other dragonflies).Halloween pennants

Among the Halloween pennants I did manage to find one female calico pennant, which flitted around my feet before zooming off over the water.

Calico pennantUp to this point, I’d recognized all the dragonflies I’d seen (most of the damselflies were new to me, though).  Once I came upon this one (top photo and left beneath it), I knew it was a first: a female yellow-sided skimmer.  For ease of identification, they have yellow on the sides of their thorax, abdomen, AND wings.  The male little blue dragonlet, who DOES match his name, was also prevalent at this site.  And finally, I saw an Atlantic bluet, which was another first for me.
Yellow-sided skimmer, little blue dragonlet, Atlantic bluet

After I sat down on the grass and ate the lunch I’d brought, I decided that I needed to start back to the car, given my low water supply and the punishing heat.  I had really been hoping to see a golden-winged skimmer, because I’d been reading about the purple skimmer (a very closely related species) and its probable extinction.  It lives in only one or two places in eastern Florida (too far for me to drive in a day on the off chance that I might find one).  A golden-winged skimmer would be the next best thing, and it was possible that I’d find one here.  Before heading back, I walked over to some high brush at the edge of the lake and peered over.  I didn’t even consider wading into the brush, because as you’ll see in the top photo, there was something large, dark, and speckled lying at the water’s edge.  It could easily have been a log, but in alligator country I don’t take my chances.

Nonetheless, I did scan the area pretty thoroughly, and lo and behold–a male golden-winged skimmer was perched in the middle of some swamp plants!  It killed me not to be able to move closer and get a better look, but I got a couple of sharp, if far away, photos.  Mission accomplished!

When I did start back, my eye was caught by a large, bizarre-looking dragonfly that flew onto a low branch.  I had to chase it down for a while before getting a photo, but luckily it’s so unlike any other dragonfly that it was easy to peg as a two-striped forceptail.Golden-winged skimmer, two-striped forceptail

Back at Krul Lake, moments before I jumped into my car and destroyed my icy-cold water bottle in about 20 seconds.Krul Lake Recreation Area, Blackwater River State Forest

So I headed back to Orange Beach, thoroughly sweaty and disgusting but so pleased with my road trip.  It’s so nice to know that such a perfect escape is a half-day’s drive from home.  I’ll be back again soon.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

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Thank You For Visiting the Real Florida (Part 1)

Into the WoodsI’ve been going to Florida my whole life.  Just like my friends from up north who have memories of visiting the Jersey Shore every summer, significant parts of my childhood take place with the ocean as a backdrop.  I spent my first birthday in Fort Myers, I visit a friend in Fort Lauderdale at least once every year, and I’ve sailed past the legendary Flora-Bama lounge on many a family trip to Perdido Key and/or Gulf Shores, Alabama.  So I always related to the beach in a certain way, a way that heavily involved beach chairs, books, and a carefully curated selection of tunes on my Walkman.  (It should surprise no one that I rode both my cassette and CD players until they croaked their last breaths.)

Starting last summer, though, I started to explore Florida differently.  I looked up the many state parks and nature preserves and started spending my days there instead of in a beach chair.  It’s not as relaxing a way to spend a few days at the shore, but for me it’s been really enriching.  At many of the parks, there are signs that say “Thank you for visiting the real Florida,” to which I always say “you’re welcome” before feeling a twinge of guilt that it took me 30 years and countless visits before doing so.  (Aside from one painful airboat ride in the Everglades, that is.  I’m not sure screaming engines are the way I want to experience much of anything.)

In August I needed a respite from scheduling and obligations, so I decided to make my first completely solo trip to Florida.  It was a bit bizarre at first, being back in the old haunts where I have so many memories with my family.  There’s something depressing about those hermit crabs at Souvenir City painted to look like superheroes, and that sadness was highlighted by having no one to commiserate with about it.  But after an evening of wandering the patch of sand outside my hotel and visiting the shops, I decided to spend the rest of my vacation in the real Florida.  The beach chair stayed in the corner of my hotel room, neglected.

When I first arrived at Orange Beach (which is technically in Alabama, but only by about 3 minutes), I took a walk beside the sand dunes to look for dragonflies.   I saw a wandering glider here and there, but nothing much else.

Wandering glider

After dinner my first night, I went to Gulf State Park and walked some of the trails as the sun set.  The spooky trees set a nice atmosphere, but it was too late in the day for good bug-spotting.Gulf State Park

I did find a bella moth, which looks like it’s wearing a Halloween costume, as well as many wandering gliders putting themselves to bed for the night.Bella moth and wandering glider

My own little moonrise kingdom.Moonrise over Orange Beach

The next morning, the sunrise was quickly supplanted by storm clouds.

Orange Beach, Alabama

It didn’t actively rain, though, until I had pulled into Big Lagoon State Park in Perdido Key and paid my admission fee.  Luckily, it was just a popup storm, although it left behind an incredibly gusty wind that ensured I was the only person silly enough to be walking around.  I drove all the way to the end of the park road and got out of the car, where these two birds were hanging out in the trees.  They followed each other into the water eventually, and I watched them as I walked down the boardwalk to the shore.  Eventually the egret flew away, but I didn’t see what had happened to the great blue heron.  As I walked back down the boardwalk to my car, I focused my eyes to the distant left, where I’d last seen it.  Aaaaaaaand I practically ran into it.  It was sitting on the top of the boardwalk, and when I got within five feet of it, it flew directly in front of me and off to the right.  I had no idea what was going on, because I heard it before I saw it.  That was the first of two seriously close heron encounters that day that I totally blew.  D- on herons for me.

Big Lagoon State Park

Since my initial stop was actually the very end of the park, I looped around and found another parking lot.  There was a nice boardwalk trail with a terrifying interpretive sign about how you would get ticks if you strayed from it.  I say terrifying because I quickly realized, “Oh, THAT’S what I was pulling out of the car this morning! And what was crawling on my bathroom floor last night.”  Ticks.  I will never be okay with you.

The warning was enough to keep me firmly planted on the boardwalk when I started seeing bar-winged skimmers. The pretty blue male was perched pretty far from the trail, so this is a leaning-over-the-rail shot. I saw no other males, but came across several females, all of whom kept their distance until I had returned to my car. As I was getting in, I saw one perched on a stick in the parking lot. She didn’t mind my approach whatsoever, so I got to see close-up the distinguishing feature of female bar-wings: the black splotches on the middle of their faces.  It made her very easy to identify in the field guide later.

Bar-winged skimmer dragonflies

Also while on the boardwalk, I repeatedly encountered an older gentleman on a bicycle, who eventually told me that he’d seen a gator thrashing around there a few weeks before.  I was spared this experience.  The most I saw was this tiny lizard.  I also saw a couple of eastern pondhawk dragonflies and a red saddlebags of some sort.  They never hold still long enough for me to be able to distinguish between the red and Carolina varieties, so I still haven’t put them on my life list.  One day!

Boardwalk Trail, Big Lagoon State Park

Aside from the bar-winged skimmers, I hadn’t seen anything notable at Big Lagoon.  So I stopped for pizza at Lillian’s and then headed over to Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, which also has a lovely boardwalk trail.  I only saw a couple of dragonflies there, but the walk was very pleasant.  There are many different varieties of carnivorous pitcher plants there, and I did see a few spiders who were dangerously close to becoming lunch.

Tarkiln Bayou Preserve

That’s it for part one.  The next day I went a little further afield and was richly rewarded.

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Variegated

Crickets: Parks and GardensAuthor’s Note: I wrote this post four months ago in the peak of summer, on one of the rare days when I had a few hours to crank out posts.  I reasoned, “There will be long stretches when you can’t write, so store up some content and post it periodically!”  And then I…er, forgot to post it.  So here you go.  Pretend it’s still summer, I guess?

Time for another visit to the Lucius Burch Natural Area, which is hot, overgrown, and gorgeous this time of year.

Everywhere you look in the pond, there’s bound to be a blue dasher (or 10) in your line of sight.  They blend in fairly well, but I bet you can spot the one in this photo.

Lucius Burch Natural Area pond and blue dasher

The wildflowers are in full bloom right now.  Don’t ask me to identify them, though–I’d love to know what that berry is for sure (to see whether it’s good to eat!) and what the pretty purple flowers are.  I know the white ones are obviously daisies, and the bright yellow-and-red ones at the bottom are tickseed sunflowers.  It was finding these in a field one summer that inspired me to plant them in my own garden, where they have been excellent for pollinators.
Lucius Burch wildflowers

On this visit, I had to hang around for a very long time before I saw anything of note.  I was startled by a snake underfoot on the side of the pond I usually explore, and for some reason it especially freaked me out this time.  I think it’s because there’s nowhere in that area without tall grass, so it wasn’t like I could immediately see how to jump to safety.  So instead I walked across the road to the smaller pond, where there wasn’t much going on.  I did see some butterflies out in the field, though, and after watching them for awhile, I found a few who were more concerned with sunning themselves than with evading me.  When I looked them up in my field guide later, I realized they were variegated fritillaries–a new species for me.  Yay!Variegated fritillary

Pretty damsels: on the top left, some fragile forktails mating; on the top right, the first (and actually only…which is very odd) familiar bluet I’ve seen this year; on the bottom, a pretty female Rambur’s forktail.Damselflies

Here are some random bugs.  I was very happy to see this green lacewing, because they’re so unusual-looking.  They’re kind of part damselfly, part grasshopper.  Speaking of “part” grasshopper, this katydid is missing one of its antennae.  I believe the cute, coy-looking moth on the right is the snowy urola moth, known for its silky white wings.  It’s a kind of snout moth, which makes sense if you look at the shape of its face.

Green lacewing

Aaaaaand now we have deer.  This is the first time I’ve seen one here, and between that and the snakes, my paranoia is at an all-time high.  No, I don’t expect to be gored by a deer or anything (although apparently that’s not unheard of), but I do expect to pick up ticks on occasion.  In fact, driving home from this visit, I became convinced I had a tick on the back of my knee, making me drive a little faster than the fuzz would probably appreciate.  Happily, when I got home, I realized it was merely one of my chigger scabs from the previous week (see…so much nicer of an explanation!…?…).  The occupational hazards of hanging out in swamps are really making themselves apparent this summer!Deer at Lucius Burch Natural Area

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