Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dragonflies Predators and Prey

Dragonflies, like this Blue Dasher, are one of the insect world's most effective predators.  There were many when I took these pictures this morning in Springbrook's south prairie.

But dragonflies also get eaten, mostly by birds, who pluck thier wings off and then eat the nutritious bodies.  Cast off wings can be found beneath bird's perches, like this plucked wing I found this morning on this blade of grass.

Monarch and Viceroy Butterflies

 Viceroy butterflies taste good, to those that like to eat butterflies.  But they don't want to get eaten.  And time has favored those that look more like a Monarch butterfly to not get eaten as often, so today we have a Viceroy butterfly that looks more and more like a Monarch butterfly with each passing generation.  Evolution at work.

I took these photos today in Springbrook's south prairie about 100 feet apart from each other.
This Monarch tastes terrible because the caterpillar below eats milkweed leaves that are very bitter.  After trying to eat one most predators will not try to eat a second Monarch, and most are fooled into thinking the Viceroy is also a Monarch.  Mimicry works!

The Viceroy's hind wing stripe is not present on the Monarch as you can see in this picture.  This is a male Monarch, identified by the black "scent pouches" along the inside vein on the hind wing.  But the two butterflies do look a lot alike. 
The Monarch caterpillar chews a notch in the middle vein on the underside of a milkweed leaf so the leaf will fold down.  Then the caterpillar hangs from the underside and eats the leaf in relative hiding.  But the bright colors on the caterpillar tell all predators that it tastes bad and will make them sick if they eat it. 

This caterpillar was on the east end of Springbrook's south prairie this morning, shaking the raindrops off from last night's storms and eating as fast as it could.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Butterflies and Summer

I haven't had time to post anything for a few weeks as there has been no time to go out with the camera.  But yesterday this Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly was on the bergamont in front of the interpretive center and I was able to take a few photos.  They are large and beautiful butterflies that attract a lot of attention.

This Painted Lady Butterfly was on some thistle near by.  They are medium sized, quick flying butterflies with different colors on the underside of the wings than on the top side.
 This little skipper butterfly is one of the smallest around and was also on the thistle flowers.  These guys fly very fast and stay low in amongst the stems and leaves of the plants, for good reason, as I discovered.

Right after I took this picture a female Eastern Pond Hawk dragonfly swooped in and grabbed the little skipper and flew off to eat him for lunch.

So, life is not just fun in the sun for these pretty decorations in our gardens.  They are working hard to find mates and lay eggs before the needs of other critters intersect with theirs!

See dragonfly below enjoying lunch!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Green Frogs Calling

 The large male Green Frogs were getting serious about territory and mating this past week at Springbrook as they called all through the day and night. Walking on the floating boardwalk I could see dozens.  30 years ago these frogs were not present at Springbrook but now are the most common frog. 

They are attractive frogs with bright yellow throats, green colors, and jewel like big eyes.  The large circular "button" behind the eye is the tympanic membrane of its ear.

 The frogs suck in air through their nose until they fill up like a balloon.  You can see this one looks like he is holding his breath--he is.  Then he blows it out quickly, expanding his yellow throat while relaesing the air, making a sound that is compared to a banjo string being plucked.
Other male green frogs hear the sound and see the throat patch size and determine if he is too big for them to take over his territory. Female green frogs hear it and determine if he is the one for them.

Notice the reflection of the boardwalk railing in the eye of the frog below.  Lay on your stomach on the baordwalk and you can get close up pictures of the frogs too.  But only for the next week or so.