Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More Mothing

In the Mothing post I discussed the relative sizes of of the moths, but images of individual moths aren't very useful for doing comparisons. Here are a couple of images which show multiple moths at the same time.

Hopefully you've identified the moth at the top left as a Luna Moth. The large moth below the clothespin is a Cecropia Moth. These two where the largest of our visitors. Also in the image are three Hebrew Moths. Can you find them?

This image has the moths labeled with numbers for your increased viewing enjoyment (click on the image to bigafy it).

1 - Luna Moth
2 - Cecropia Moth
3 - Azalea Sphinx
4 - Rosy Maple Moth (the left point of the four is pointing to the moth)
5 - Hebrew Moth (the top opening of the five is facing the moth)

One more image, a Cecropia Moth on my shirt, again to give an idea of the size of this creature.

Image Courtesy Terry Schmidt


Our basic mothing setup, as shown in the first two images, is a white cotton sheet (cotton reflects UV radiation, which attracts moths) and a very bright light. The light attracts moths, and other bugs, from all around. Many of which, as you can see, land on the sheet. Sharp eyed readers may have also noticed the black light behind the sheet in the first image. Both of these lights belong to our friend Bernie, who graciously let us use them. Our light has a shield on it, and it seems an unshielded light brings in more bugs.

Image Courtesy Terry Schmidt

Thanks Bernie!

Monday, May 30, 2016

House Guest

The morning after our Mothing event Patty was out working in the garden when she spotted this.

A Cecropia Moth, inside the house.

After taking a few pictures I gently removed it from the screen while Patty retrieved a small aquarium, where we kept it out of reach of our cat for the day. Once the sun had set we took it outside and set it free.


Sunday, May 29, 2016


There are some 12,000 moth species found in the United States. Last night we set out to see some of them. And we invited some friends over to join us. In all there were eleven of us eating and drinking and chatting and having fun.

And looking at moths. We have interesting friends.

Some we could identify, like this Luna Moth, one of the Giant Silkworm Moths with a wingspan of up to 4.5 inches (alas, the big beetle it is resting on is plastic). We had at least four of these visit this night.

Luna Moth

And several I could not, like this one.

Or this one.

But this one I was able to ID.

One Spot Variant

These three seem like variations on a theme, which leads me to believe they are all Geometers, in the Family Geometridae. But I could not find nor recognize them in the field guide.

Delicate Cycnia

But with so many species there are many themes. And many sizes.

The Hebrew

From small moths like The Hebrew moth.

And even smaller moths like the one above, species unknown. But the above three all have a similar delta shape and way of resting on a surface.

Cecropia Moth

To the very large, like the Cecropia Moth, with its six inch wingspan. It was the hit of the night. And it rests with its wings open, as does the Luna Moth.

The "little" moth above it in the image is a Rosy Maple Moth.

Rosy Maple Moth

The Cecropia and Rosy Maple, along with the Luna, are in the Family Saturniidae, more variations on a theme. The family members tend to be on the larger side for moths. But note that the Rosy Maple rests with its wings closed, the Luna and Cecropia with wings spread.

Another family that tends to have larger moths are the Sphinx Moths, Family Sphinidae.

Azalea Sphinx

This Azalea Sphinx is a "small sphinx moth". And bigger than most of the moths we saw this night.

Robin's Carpenterworm

Robin's Carpenterworm is an "exceptionally large micromoth", as per the Peterson Field Guide to Moths. Most micromoths are less than ten millimeters in length. Whereas Robin's Carpenterworm can be up to forty-five mm long. This one wasn't quite that large. Still, it is a big moth.

Pale Beauty

The Pale Beauty is another Geometer. Note the way the wings are held and the lines across them. Not diagnostic, but definitely a family characteristic.

You would think this next moth would be easy to identify, just look at that nose!

Alas, I was not up to the task and for now it is 'species unknown'.

I was able to figure out the next two, the Pistachio Emerald with some help from Patty.

White-headed Grape Leaffolder 

Pistachio Emerald

These are just some of the moths we saw. It was a very good night. For both for mothing and for sitting outside with friends.


If you can identify any of these, or correct any mistaken IDs, 
leave a comment or send me an email. Thanks.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Window Frog

Seeking revenge?

Or just trying to beat the heat (it's forecast to hit 90° F today)?

(In either case, the window still needs a bit of washing ...)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Weekend at the Villas

Friends of ours have a second home in The Villas, a small town in Cape May County, New Jersey.

And Cape May is prime birding territory.

And May is prime birding time. Warbler migration time.

So when they asked if we wanted to come down for the weekend Patty said yes before they finished the question.

The weekend started in disappointing fashion. A DVOC bird banding trip to Rushton Farm in Pennsylvania, with Patty as leader, was rained out at the last minute. Fortunately we had spent the night at my sister's place, eleven minutes from Ruston Farm, rather than the two hours from our place. And thus we didn't need to wake up at o'dark-thirty to bethere on time. So after a cup of coffee we bid my sister and family adieu and headed off to rainy Cape May.

Carolina Wren

There were reports of a Snow Bunting at the Cape May Hawk Watch. A bird that breeds in the high arctic and has no business being in New Jersey in May. We went to look for it.

When we arrived it was still raining. So we stood under the hawk watch platform, along with a few other folks, in an attempt to stay dry. We did not see the snow bunting. Nor stay dry.

We did see a bunch of Mute Swans. And some swallows. And a few ducks and egrets.

After the rain let up and we had walked the trails at Cape May Point State Park, we headed over to the Villas. To an old golf course, Ponderlodge, which has been converted into a wildlife management area.

Red-bellied Turtle
Cox Hall Creek WMA to be specific.

Solitary Sandpiper
It is located just a few blocks from our friends' place.

Lessor Yellowlegs
There we ran into a group of birders from outside of Boston, down for a long birding weekend in Cape May and vicinity. It was their first visit to Cox Hall Creek and we were able to help get them oriented. And they in turn helped get us a nice variety of warblers.

Black and White Warbler
Later, after helping a fellow from Kansas lost on the trails unable to find his way back to his car, we looked for the reported Red-headed Woodpeckers. Again no luck. So we headed off for some pizza. After which a nightcap back at the house. And then off to dreamland.

The next morning we headed off to Higbee Beach WMA in Cape May. Hoping for more warblers.

Blue Grosbeak
We would be disappointed. Even the Bostonians couldn't help. It seems we were at the wrong end of the state. Sandy Hook National Recreation Area was the place to be that morning.

We did see Patty's favorite mammal, after cats that is.

Virginia Opossum 
We spent of few hours at Higbee, and saw some stuff. But nowhere near what we had hoped.

We then went back to the house and had a nice breakfast. And then a walk on the beach. It was a nice weekend despite the rain and the missed birds.

So until next time.

Laughing Gull

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Home Wrecker

That would be me.

For this guy. A Northern Gray Tree Frog.

We had a weeping cherry tree, a non-native, that we decided to replace with a native elderberry tree. So I spent part of Saturday morning chopping it down. And in the process displaced this fine fellow. (Bigafy the image to check out the suction pads on his feet.)

We've seen, and more often heard, many of these in our yard. They like to cling to the siding of our house, right outside our back door. They also like this evergreen tree, Which is where I released my unwitting landscaping companion. I'm sure he'll do fine.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pure Evil

No, this is not a poorly drawn map of North America.

It's pollen. Evil pollen. Billions and billions of grains of that yellow powder from hell.

It is the stuff of headaches and congestion and coughs and sneezes and dizziness and drowsiness that have been plaguing me for the last month or so.

Why did I move to house surrounded by trees?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sun Beams

This time in the form of a solar pillar.

Taken at sunrise at Lakehurst Naval Air Station.

Where I was much too early Saturday morning, doing grassland bird surveys.

Sadly, the grasslands had been destroyed by excessive mowing. And I saw or heard very few birds of the survey target species. Very sad and unnecessary. There is no need to waste time or money mowing these fields and destroying prime habitat. It makes no sense at all.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Migration Time

The "Bad Bird Photo of the Week" was taken at Palmyra Cove Nature Park.

We went there last Sunday. We saw sixty-one different species of birds.

I managed to photograph four of them.

For those keeping score at home that's 6.6%.

It was one of those days.

This is the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher just before it took flight.

There were plenty of Canada Geese, new and old.

We found a nesting pair of Indigo Buntings. Always nice to see. And hear.

This Black and White was one of the ten species of warblers we saw.

Non-avian wildlife included this Eastern Box Turtle.

No rescue required.

And way too many White-tailed Deer.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a morning.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bad Bird Photo of the Week

Most of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

I hate when this happens.

Monday, May 16, 2016


On our first evening in the Mara.

The Masai Mara, Kenya.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

... And Imagined ...

As a gift, Patty got us tickets to Cirque Du Soleil's "Ovo", playing this week in Philadelphia.

(I texted the above shot out and my sister-in-law Kim texted back, "you better hope whatever laid that egg doesn't come back ...")

The show was quite fun. The theme was "insects" and the performers were all insects: ants, grasshoppers, bees, spiders, etc.

Here the ants are jugging with their feet.

They even juggled each other. Very impressive.

This couple were spectacular and perhaps my favorites.

They performed hand holding each other and without a net.

They all must be incredibly strong, but this guy:

On a moving tightrope was to me the strongest. I did gymnastics in high school and know what it takes to do a hand stand on a stationary bar. Doing it on a flexible rope? Wow. Just wow.

And then it was over.

The performance lasted about two hours, not counting a twenty minute intermission.

I've seen Cirque several times in Las Vegas, and the productions there seemed more lavish. No doubt due to the larger spaces and not having to move the entire set from city to city.

But as I said it was quite fun and we both enjoyed the show. Had I known photography was permitted (no flash or video) I would have brought something other than my phone. And I might have gotten some action shots. Next time ...