Monday, June 17, 2013

Photos of the Week

This weekend I participated in the Union County BioBlitz, which covered a cluster of three small suburban parks: Nomahegan, Lenape and Echo Lake Parks. The parks follow the course of the Rahway River and one of its tributaries. The habitats are mostly riparian woodland, with some open fields (both mown and unmown) and freshwater ponds. Saturday was my first time attending this event, but it has been held every year since 2005 and rotates among parks in Union County. A bioblitz is similar to a big day in its duration, but all taxa are eligible and the idea is to make as complete a census as possible of the living things at a particular site. Teams cooperate and share information, and there is usually an educational component.

The bird team came up with 70 species, which is very good for Central Jersey in June. Their sightings included a lingering Magnolia Warbler (which I missed). I came up with a little more than half that, but I was primarily working on insects. I am still sorting through my insect photos to identify and post them. So far I have 27 insect species on my list, with a lot more to identify. I know the total insect list from bioblitz will run into the hundreds.

My weekend included two lepidopteran lifers. One is the Banded Hairstreak shown above; the other is the Eight-spotted Forester shown below. Banded Hairstreak uses oaks, walnuts, and hickories as larval hosts and flies in late spring and summer. Eight-spotted Forester is hosted on vines, particularly grapes and Virginia creeper. While butterflies and moths feed on plants during their larval stages, as adults they drink nectar from flowers, and in the process pollinate many plants, which is necessary for the plants to reproduce. Both of these are fairly common species, so the fact that I had not seen either yet might seem surprising. However, insect lives are very short, and few of them migrate. Many butterflies and moths only fly for a few weeks, so if you are not in the right habitat at the right time, you will probably not see them.

If you would like to learn more about the moth diversity in your area, consider participating in National Moth Week, which is coming up very soon. This year the event runs from July 20-28.  Visit the link to learn more about how to participate.