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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Catching Up on Birds and Insects

Just because most of my recent posts have been about fantastic whale sightings, it doesn't mean I've stopped paying attention to birds or the rest of the natural world! Here I'll play catch-up by posting some bird and insect sightings from the last month.

When we had family in town a couple weeks ago, we went to see the place they were staying up on Cady Mountain. It was a spectacular sunset that night.

While we were outside enjoying it, I saw and heard three common nighthawks flying around high up above.

The same evening, a band-tailed pigeon (186) called and then flew by, helping the year list slowly trudge along towards my goal of 200 species. I also went out birding yesterday after reading some reports of migrating shorebirds starting to show up. Out at False Bay I found 2 killdeer, a flock of 20 western sandpipers, and 2 semipalmated plovers (187) - nice! That leaves me behind but within reach of Dave, who sits at 192 :)

Also yesterday I went to Fourth of July beach to do a COASST survey. No beached birds, but the highlight was this barn swallow nest with three chicks that must be close to fledging. They won't have any choice but to leave the nest if they get much bigger! This one was basically sitting on top of the other two:

Now on to the insects!

Western sheep moth, Hemileuca eglanterina, larva - about the size of an index finger!
Garden silphid, Heterosilpha ramosa, a beetle that feeds on decaying organic material
Rose leaf gall wasp, Diplolepis polita, found on Nootka rose
A tattered swallowtail butterfly, probably the pale tiger swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon

Finally, we came across an ant hill the other day, and it was pretty amazing to watch these guys at work. I accidentally disturbed their structure before I realized what it was, and they immediately poured out of the holes and set to work rebuilding it. These part-red, part-black ants are western thatching ants (Formica obscuripes) and build large nests out of dead plant material. It was impressive to see the size of the pine needles and twigs they were carrying and maneuvering as they climbed across the ant hill and the rocks it was built up against. It was worth kneeling down and watching all the drama play out in their little world, and after a while I had to pull out my macro lens, too.

Western thatching ant picking up a pine needle


Phil said...

Glad to see you've come to your senses and started writing again about the really good stuff. :-)

My question is, do you really remember/know all this stuff or just have an incredible reference library.

I miss seeing you and the WP crowd Thursday evenings!

Vera said...

So cool that you got close and entered the ant world for a while. Such industrious little creatures!

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Excelent ant pic there Monika!

192 plays 187 at the end of July - gonna be a close run thing - think I'll get to 200 but will struggle to get another 10.

A purple patch means a period of notable success or good luck.See here the last paragraph re usage beginning in 1900 would explain why you didn't recognise the expression.