#216 Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)

30 September

  • This is the fall plumage – in breeding season they are stronlgy black and white but not to be confused with the Black and White Warbler who is a bird of quite a different feather. There is a summer plumage image below this text – borrowed from the Cornell website.

These birds breed so far north that the best times for most people to see them are in spring and fall, as they migrate through North America. Spring is arguably the best time—males’ colors and patterns are crisp and sharp, and the birds will be traveling overland and singing as they move north. Despite their affinity for evergreen trees on the breeding grounds they tend to forage in deciduous trees and shrubs during migration. Listen intently for their high-pitched song, as it is sometimes easy to overlook. You can also spot Blackpoll Warblers during fall migration, but they take a different route than in spring and are unlikely to be seen south of North Carolina. They look much different in fall and rarely sing—but they are much more numerous since all the young of the year are on their way south in addition to the adults. Look for them in mixed flocks of migrating warblers.

#215 Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cissops fulvicollis)

29 September

I almost overlooked this magnificent creature which superfiacially looks very like the Virginia Ctenutha Moth which I shared here as species number 143 (http://1000species.sparroworks.ca/143-virginia-ctenutha-moth/) but then I realised this one was aorund half the size and so I looked closer. Good thing that I did.

It is widespread in North America, including the southeastern US, where the Virginia ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) is absent.The caterpillar is yellow, brown or black with sparse long, soft, pale setae. It has dark stripes on its back and sides surrounded by yellow or orange stripes. Active during late spring and summer in fields and forest edges when they take nectar from goldenrod, etc

Apart from the size the main visual difference between the two species (it seems to me) is a blue marking on C. virginica just behind the yellow collar that is absent on this species.

#214 Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

28 September

More likely to be heard than seen, Swainson’s Thrushes enliven summer mornings and evenings with their upward-spiraling, flutelike songs. During fall and spring migration, their soft, bell-like overhead “peeps” may be mistaken for the calls of frogs. These largely arboreal foragers pluck berries, glean bugs from leaves, or perch on branches and stumps. They also bound across the forest floor to catch insect prey. They breed in the north and the mountainous West, but they become very widespread during migration.

The Swainson’s Thrush’s whirling song has a ventriloqual quality that can make it difficult to track. This may happen as the singer moves quickly from one perch to another between songs. It may also have to do with the sounds’ reverberation in dense foliage. Swainson’s Thrushes also sometimes sing quiet songs that create the illusion that its song emanates from a more distant location.

#213 Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

27 September

A species of natricine snake, which is indigenous to North America and found widely across the continent. Most common garter snakes have a pattern of yellow stripes on a black, brown or green background, and their average total length (including tail) is about 55 cm (22 in), with a maximum total length of about 137 cm (54 in).

The saliva of a common garter snake may be toxic to amphibians and other small animals. Garter snakes have a mild venom in their saliva.[10] For humans, a bite is not dangerous, though it may cause slight itching, burning, and/or swelling. Most common garter snakes also secrete a foul-smelling fluid from postanal glands when handled or harmed.

Common garter snakes are resistant to naturally found poisons such as that of the American toad and rough-skinned newt, the latter of which can kill a human if ingested. They have the ability to absorb the toxin from the newts into their bodies, making them poisonous, which can deter potential predators.

#212 Oil Beetle (Meloe sp.)

26 September

A type of Blister beetle. When threatened or squeezed under pressure, they emit a chemical called cantharidin that creates blisters and irritates human skin. These wounds will heal, but they are painful. This chemical defense can ward off predators and give the beetle time to escape.

American Oil Beetles have a soft, yet stout abdomen with a shell covering that looks like a series of overlapping plates. The insect can appear as a dull black or, in some cases, a shiny black or dark blue. The surface texture is slightly bumpy, not slick and smooth. Antennae are visible on the head.

These particular beetles do not fly and are slow movers. Adults can be found gingerly walking around plants they eat, such as buttercups, and in grass. They are active all year, but more so in the spring, when they are more likely to be seen. The larvae are somewhat devious. One will sit on flowers, waiting for a bee to land. It will latch onto the bee for a free ride back to the hive. Once there, the beetle larva feeds on the same food as the bee larvae. It will pupate safely inside and emerge in the spring.

#210 “Snake” Millipede (Cylindroiulus sp.)

28 September

A member of the Julida order of millipedes. Members are mostly small and cylindrical, typically ranging from 10–120 millimetres (0.39–4.72 in) in length. Eyes may be present or absent, and in mature males of many species, the first pair of legs is modified into hook-like structures. Additionally, both pairs of legs on the 7th body segment of males are modified into gonopods

#208 + #209 Dark Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus ) parasitized by Strepsipteran X. pecki

23 September

Two for the price of one today. #208 which rather dominates the photograph is the golden or northern paper wasp, is widely found throughout southern Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America. It often nests around human development as it greatly prefers areas in which wood is readily available for use as nest material, therefore they are also found near and in woodlands and savannas. P. fuscatus is a social wasp that is part of a complex society based around a single dominant queen along with other cofoundresses and a dominance hierarchy.

BUT – and this is the good bit – #209 is Strepsipteran X. pecki (this was pointed out to me by a specialist in rather an abstruse corner of taxonomy who saw the photograph). You can see bulges in the wasp’s abdomen with little heads poking out – those are the parasitic larvae. The Strepsiptera are an endopterygote order of insects with nine extant families that include about 600 described species. They are endoparasites in other insects, such as bees, wasps, leafhoppers, silverfish, and cockroaches. Females of most species never emerge from the host after entering its body, finally dying inside it. The early-stage larvae do emerge because they must find an unoccupied living host, and the short-lived males must emerge to seek a receptive female in her host. They are believed to be most closely related to beetles, from which they diverged 300-350 million years ago, but do not appear in the fossil record until the Mid-Cretaceous around 100 million years ago

#207 Common Water Strider (Aquarius remigis)

22 September

Normally continue to move to avoid being eaten by predators. It has good vision, and can row quickly over the surface of the water. It uses its front legs to seize its prey. Feeds on mosquito larvae living under the surface, and dead insects on the surface, and other insects that accidentally land on the water

During breeding season, this species can communicate with potential mates by sending ripples over on the surface of the water. Adult females normally lay their eggs on plant stems at the water’s edge

#206 Thick Headed Fly (Family Conopidae)

21 September

A family of flies within the Brachycera suborder of Diptera, and the sole member of the superfamily Conopoidea. Flies of the family Conopidae are distributed worldwide in all the ecozones except for the poles and many of the Pacific islands. About 800 species in 47 genera are described worldwide, about 70 of which are found in North America. The majority of conopids are black and yellow, or black and white, and often strikingly resemble wasps, bees, or flies of the family Syrphidae, themselves notable bee mimics. A conopid is most frequently found at flowers, feeding on nectar with its proboscis, which is often long.

The larvae of all conopids are internal parasites, most of aculeate (stinging) Hymenoptera. Adult females aggressively intercept their hosts in flight to deposit eggs. Accordingly, in the species Bombus terrestris, it has been shown that vulnerable foraging bees are likely the most susceptible to parasitism by conopids. The female’s abdomen is modified to form what amounts to a “can opener” to pry open the segments of the host’s abdomen as the egg is inserted