Nelson's Sparrow

Nelson's Sparrow

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Rondeau nightlife

The park is fairly quiet these days. However with the continuation of mid-summer temperatures insect activity is still in full swing. It is a great opportunity to set up the black light in an otherwise dark environment to see what comes in. It is a bit late in the season for any type of large silkmoths, such as Luna or Cecropia....that will have to wait until next June or early July. But there are myriad other moths as well as beetles, bugs, flies etc.

A few days ago, I went out and found an out-of-the-way location to set up in the early evening (Park staff were aware of my interests, and were most interested and supportive.) Once my equipment was in place, I settled down to wait until it was fully dark. I didn't want the light on any longer than necessary, as it was not in the ideal location for a car battery to die!

I heard the occasional Wood Thrush in the forest, and there were a few warbler type chips as well. Right at dusk, a Great Horned Owl was hooting up a storm, but quite distant. I decided to try whistling for Eastern Screech Owls, and after a little encouragement, one responded not too far away. A little later it, or another one, came in quite close all on its own. There were probably at least three screech owls calling while I was there.

Just at dusk, I heard one of the resident coyotes howling. It was probably at least half a kilometre down the Harrison Trail. A little later, I heard another one howling, and this one was probably no more than 200 metres away, if that. A couple of coyotes farther south were conversing with this closer one. I even howled a couple of times myself.....it would have been interesting to know what the coyotes thought of that stranger in close proximity!

Other flying things arrived as the dusk settled in.

Mosquitoes weren't a huge problem, but they made their presence felt. I was hoping that after dark they would become less of a problem, and that is indeed the way it turned out.

(Note: I have various excellent reference books which are invaluable in determining what I am able to capture digitially. However I also rely on an online database called BugGuide to discover or confirm these insects, and most of the ones I take end up being added to that database.)

A brown stinkbug was an early arrival.
Banasa calva
A surprise guest was this backswimmer! I wasn't anywhere near water, and in fact even most of the sloughs are quite dry, so I'm not sure what this critter was doing.
Notonecta sp
Moths did arrive. A relatively large and distinct one was this Large Tolype.....
Tolype velleda
 ...a much smaller and less patterned one was this Gold-striped Leaftier.
Some are as yet unnamed.

A medium sized moth that varies considerably in its colour is this Large Maple Spanworm.

 On one occasion a Large Maple Spanworm decided to settle on the stick I was using to suspend the black light. Since I took all of the photos with a flash, I didn't notice what seemed to be a pair of eyes lurking in the background until I was processing them on the computer. Was it some kind of night creature with glowing eyes watching me curiously?
 A closer, highly cropped look shows them to be two very tiny yellowish-green leafhoppers! Unfortunately they are slightly beyond the narrow field of focus, so don't show up really clearly. They are very tiny.....probably no more than about 2-3 mm in length.
This next image shows a 'large' leafhopper of the Gyponana genus. There are more than 22,000 described species of leafhopper worldwide, and it is believed that there are more than 100,000 species, many of which have not been described or likely even discovered. There are 'only' about 3000 in North America......

Leafhoppers are never large.....but they may seem to be when compared to their smaller relatives. It is about 6 mm in length so it is a comparative large species
 But on this next photo, one can see both of these species showing the relative size.

Another leafhopper, possibly a member of the Scaphoideus genus and also distinctly patterned also decided the black light was worth checking out.....
 ....as was this Syrphid Fly.
Toxomerus geminatus
I didn't want to press my luck with the car battery, so after about an hour and a half I decided to call it a night. The number of new insect arrivals were slowing down.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first set up. But the night life of calling Great Horned and Eastern Screech Owls, along with the periodic coyote chorus, all the while under a brightly lit starry sky, was very much worthwhile and totally enjoyable. And the insects didn't disappoint either. In fact, I am quite sure I will take advantage of the continuing warm nights and try it again real soon!





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