Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Summer dragons

Every summer, we look forward to seeing our favorite flying insects: dragonflies. Many species can be found in and around NYC. Below are a few of our favorites from this past summer.

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer:  This one was seen on Governors Island and indulged us by posing for a few minutes.
Yellow-Sided Skimmer:  Also seen on Governors Island.
The ubiquitous Blue Dasher:  This one is a male, identifiable by his blue eyes.
This is a female:
These two were observed at Jamaica Bay performing their mating ritual. In the photo below, the male is flying in front, while he hangs on to the females neck with a "clamp" on the end of his body. She hangs on to him with her forelegs.
The male flies the female low over the water so she can dip her abdomen into the water and deposit her eggs. This takes half a second, then the male lets go of her and the female must pull herself up and not be dragged down into the water. In the photo below, the male has just released the female.

Check out this fascinating video which shows the entire life cycle of a dragonfly. The macro photography is incredible.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Summer butterflies

As summer comes to a close, so does the season of butterflies. Below are some of our favorites seen in and around NYC this last summer.

This is the caterpillar one of the most well-known butterflies. One clue to its identify is that it's resting on the leaf of a milkweed plant.
This colorful caterpillar will eventually transform into something much different...
This Woolly Bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth. It's said that the color bands of the caterpillar are indications of weather, specifically winter. True or false? You decide.
We saw more Skippers this summer than any other butterfly, and they were relatively easy to photograph, so here are a few of our favorites.
We didn't see as many Red Admirals this season as we have in the past for some reason.
Many thanks to the contributors at iNaturalist who helped with some of our identifications. The site is a great citizen science resource for learning about plants, animals and insects.
Next up, dragonflies...

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Summertime cicadas

At the peak of summer, when there are no interesting birds or hawks to be found, we like to turn our focus to insects. And nothing says Dog Days of Summer than the cacophony of cicadas in the treetops. You can listen to the cicada song and learn everything there is to know about these extraordinary insects at the aptly named website, Cicada Mania.

Last week, we lucked out and found a cicada in full view on the ground. Thanks to information on the Cicada Mania site, we determined this is a female.
She has a beautiful green and black pattern on her head and back.
A few years ago, we came across this cicada in the Orchard Alley Community Garden on E 4th Street. It's a male and he caught our attention when he landed in our hair.
Earlier in the summer, when the cicadas emerged from underground, they left their husks attached to tree trunks. Most of these dried skins either fell off, or were knocked off by squirrels. However, we found one tree covered in sticky sap, which apparently kept the squirrels from climbing the bark. As a result, the cicada husks remained attached to the tree.
Not only were the cicada husks stuck well to the trunk, they were being coated by the dripping sap, transforming them into glistening little figurines.
They almost look like candy...maple-glazed cicada?
Meanwhile, the live cicadas in the tree tops become food for birds such as kestrels. We found this female feasting on the bounty of cicadas in a single tree.
Even this red-tailed hawk fledgling in Tompkins Square Park in 2018 snacked on a cicada it found in the underbrush.
We'll leave you with this fun video from BBC Earth, which shows cicadas emerging from the ground and climbing the trees where they shed their skin. Enjoy the narration by our hero, David Attenborough: