Seven Chigger Adventure at Brazos Bend
The recent cool days with brilliant sunshine might entice you to play hooky and do fun things, but those days aren't really ideal for taking bird photos. Added to the mix, a lot of my favorite places are bereft of avian subjects due to the continuing drought.
But, since I am addicted to taking photos now, I use those days for macro shots. Bugs, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies and now... caterpillars and spiders. This involves stepping off into the bush and chasing things that move. No, not in that dried up part of 40-acre Lake shown above; there are alligators out there!
This last trip to Brazos Bend, I wore long pants and my regular hiking boots. It was a serious mistake not to wear my rubber boots; hence the title "Seven Chigger Adventure". Everyone knows what chiggers are by now? I had 4 on my left leg, and 3 around my waist. Campho-Phenique helps.
OK, let's look at the bugs.
We can start off with something easy. Eastern Amberwings are fairly common and easy to identify. They are really small; only about an inch long and their bodies are short and stubby. Both male and females have those red spots on the top of both wings. Those are called pterostigma. Some 'stigmas' are black, or white or just thickened. but they are not just decorative. The pterostigma is heavier than the other cells and the position on the leading edge wing enables the insect to glide. Reduces vibrations in the wing, so I read.
I have seen green flies like this on flowers before. I don't think it is a Green Bottle Fly because they have red eyes and this one does not. This might even be a bee mimic. These critters are small; I estimate this flower is about the size of a nickel. That is 21.21 mm diameter for you folks cursed with the metric system. We prefer to stay with our easy system based on inches, feet, yards, pounds, ounces and of course, Fahrenheit.
But, it is such a pretty color. I can't resist that color. I had to do some art.
Moving along now. These are mostly found at the Wildflower/Prairie Trail at Brazos Bend State Park. It is adjacent the parking lot at 40-acre Lake and joins up with the trail to the Observation Tower. I have gotten some really good shots there of dragonflies and once, even a bunny. And this trip was very productive.
This spider is guarding her egg case. I wasn't even sure what she looked like until I got home and unloaded the camera. As near as I can tell it is a Green Lynx Spider and they are fairly common. The body of the spider is less than an inch, but those legs are really long. She was not going to leave those eggs, so I got a lot of shots. Oh, not a venomous spider, but the bite could be painful. I didn't get that close!
Now, I can tell you about the parts of the dragonfly. You already know about the pterostigmas, these are dark on this example above. The legs are brown. Some legs are black.
The head is brown with some yellow stripes. Note the position of the eyes; are they separate or joined with a seam at the top?
Then, the thorax. It also has some stripes. Some are more wedge shaped. This is where the wings are attached.
Last is the abdomen. It is all in segments: the number of segments, size and thickness help to identify which of the 178 dragonflies occurring in the south central part of the United States this could be.
You can't rely on color since males and females can be dimorphic; and often one or the other changes colors over the lifetime. The length of which I still don't know. Seems like they wouldn't live over the winter, right? I mean, they eat mosquitos and usually the cold weather kills those off. Oh, they eat each other, too. Fact. I have seen it, but alas no photographic evidence... yet.
This is not a Monarch butterfly caterpillar, they are banded and this guy is stripey. He isn't going to be a Gulf Fritillary either; those caterpillars are orange-waxy things with black tufts of hair. Could be a moth instead of a butterfly, you know.
I thought I had this identified, but it turned out wrong. Let's enjoy the nameless caterpillar, unless one of my loyal readers knows the ID? Let me know in the comments if you do.
The Roseate Skimmer is a big prize for me. I love the pink colors and those red eyes. A lot of dragonflies will return to a perch, sometimes you just have to wait for it to come back. They often have territories where they patrol from one end to the other. So, once you see one, you can follow it around it you have patience.
After photographing these dragonflies all summer, I know some of them just never land. I have told you they mate in the air; I don't even know if dragonflies need to sleep. But the largest ones don't perch very often.
The one above was patrolling an area and then perched on some bushes at the edge of the meadow. I got exactly TWO shots before he flew off; and I can focus at 3.3 feet, so I wasn't right over him. This is a Green Darner, male. The research says this is our largest dragonfly and the ones that breed in the northern states migrate south in the Fall.
Over by Creekfield Lake there were remnants of those ugly webs we see defiling our trees in late fall. They looked to be full of dried up, dead little caterpillars, but these fuzzy things were on the leaves, falling off into the water below. They can swim, or at least they wiggle on the surface tension. These are Fall Webworms, not to be confused with Tent Caterpillars which occur in the Spring.
OK, too much information? I know some of you just look at the pictures, some read every word and a few even click on the links. Something for everyone is the way I look at it.
Do you stop and look at bugs or just squash them and go on? Do you see dragonflies buzzing around in your yard? And what are your feelings about ... spiders?
Let me know in the comments. Click on the last icon below and sign in with any name you choose as a Guest. Or be brave and use your Facebook ID. Up to you.