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Backyard BioBlitz: Week of July 16

Backyard BioBlitzThis is probably the most jam-packed Backyard BioBlitz so far, so let’s get right to it!

For the better part of the week, I was chasing this still-unknown-to-me dragonfly around the yard, but could never get particularly close.  I wound up settling for a photo of myself getting stymied in shadow.  I remember being fascinated by its sporadic yellow markings.  I now know that this is one of the easier dragonflies to misidentify–it’s a female common whitetail (Plathemis lydia).  When I first identified it, I assumed it was the female twelve-spotted skimmer (because look! twelve spots on the wings!), but it turns out those are often mixed up with female whitetails.  The yellow spots on the whitetail’s abdomen don’t form a continuous stripe–they break up midway through each segment.  A female twelve-spotted skimmer has yellow markings, but they’re an unbroken stripe.  So now you know–just counting the spots won’t quite get you there.

Twelve-spotted skimmer

This week we also had some eastern pondhawks venture into the yard, and this female hung around for several days and consented to posing at length.  I also captured my one-and-only wandering glider in Tennessee (bottom left) during a terrible rainstorm that forced it to perch to escape the brunt of the raindrops.  I knew I’d never seen one at rest before, so I pulled out the umbrella and the 70-200mm lens and tried to get as close as I could without disturbing it.  I managed only a few shots before I got too close and it decided it would rather contend with the elements than with me.  Eastern pondhawk and wandering glider

This cute little grasshopper is almost all grown up.  You can see its wings beginning to emerge, especially in the back.  This is a Chortophaga, or green-striped grasshopper.  As I’ve mentioned before, I find grasshoppers tough to identify, but I remembered seeing one before whose antennae appeared to pass right through its eyes, so I looked that up and this one immediately appeared in Google Image Search.  I like when writing this blog gets easier because of previous posts!Grasshopper

I grouped all the creepy-crawlies into one image this time.  The left is a lynx spider (probably Oxyopes salticus, the striped lynx spider); then a toad hiding among our lemon basil leaves; then a wasp perching among the cosmos.  I think it’s a paper wasp of some kind.  It certainly has interesting markings.
Creepy crawlies

I had my first sighting of the ambush bug (Phymata sp.) this week as well.  I saw a tiny skipper on the underside of a zinnia, but when I got closer I realized it was dead.  I pulled back the petal of the flower to reveal what looked like a tiny triceratops dining on the skipper.  These bugs, which hide on the undersides of flowers and surprise their prey when they land in the wrong place, are pointy and intricate.  I find it hard to distinguish the features, although I’m pretty sure those little red dots are its eyes!Ambush bug

Some butterflies that escaped the ambush: a sleepy-looking cloudless sulphur enjoying a zinnia; and a skipper enjoying a cosmo.Sulphur and skipper

Finally, this is a skipper that I photographed right after I discovered the ambush bug–this one looked just like the one that the ambush bug had attacked, but I guess it picked a flower with less hiding space for predators.  I think this is a female fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus), which seem to be the most common ones in our yard.Skipper


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