Thursday, October 6, 2011

End of Season Death and Drama at Meadowside

 Ok, just a quick post today. I'm sorry I haven't been posting very often lately, I'm taking a writing class this semester so a lot of my writing time and energy is going toward assignments. But I did find a few hours lately to get out and look around.

I spent a few brief hours at Meadowside Nature Center this week.  Again I planned to search for late-season butterflies.  I did find some, including my first-ever American Lady. Although not as well known for migrating as Monarchs, American Ladies also survive cold northern winters by fleeing south.

This could have been a migrant from north of our area, or could have hatched locally. It's gorgeous either way!

I also saw more Buckeyes and a Common Checkered-Skipper. Their summer ranges include my area, but I've only ever seen both species at the very end of the season. So for me they mean fall.

Such an unblemished individual makes me think this Buckeye originated locally. But who knows, maybe it's just a very lucky traveler-- Buckeyes migrate too, like Monarchs and American Ladies.

The only other Common Checkered-Skippers I've seen were all nectaring on aster type flowers like this. I don't think they're migrants though.

But the real drama at the pond wasn't the long journeys of the butterflies, but something much fiercer. I found several praying mantids hiding in the goldenrod all around the pond. Two females, one male, and a couple others of unidentified gender. The male even flew onto the grass in front of me for a moment.  I shooed it to safety though as some kids on a field trip approached. Then on the other side of the pond, I spent about half an hour watching and photographing one large mantis as she caught and devoured bug after bug after bug. Yikes!

When I started photographing, the mantis glared at me as if to say, "What are you lookin at?"

But then she spotted a small green bee that looked mighty tasty. She froze, waiting for the right moment...

...and bam! Almost too fast to see, she snatched the bee and sank her mandibles into the poor bug's abdomen.

She caught several more bugs as I watched. Even as the mantis devoured her prey, other bees continued to buzz nearby, including this hovering one with an apparent deathwish.

It's a rough life, being a bug. They have to escape bonechilling temperatures, bloodthirsty predators, and even survive hundred-mile-long journeys. I'm glad I have the chance to observe it all though.

This entry's site: Meadowside Nature Center, Rockville, MD

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