Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

July 28, 2011

They Don’t Call ‘em Deer Flies For Nothing!

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:06 pm

I was going to call this entry something like “this and that” or “tying up loose ends” but obviously didn’t. I opted for a flashy title as a way to headline an assortment of thoughts. My time up here at Dollar Lake has been brief, but – as usual – it resulted in many snippets of natural observation. No one sight or scene prompted anything like a complete topic (or maybe I wasn’t really trying to think this time). Others have no photos to back them up and still others were continuations of previous posts. Call it a Potpourri of basically unrelated things.

In the category of a single shot worth showing, I present the White-tailed Deer shown above.  Summer deer are so much “prettier” than winter deer, but deer are always ugly and whiskery no matter the season. As you may know, I rarely waste time on deer shots. Summer deer do have that rich orangish coat to show off, so they sometimes catch my eye. Unfortunately, that warm season fur is very short and easily penetrated by biting flies. Thus the reason I am showing you this picture (see above).

I stopped along a back road to look at some Cardinal Flowers (see here) and noticed that I was noticed by a nearby doe in the shady woods about 50 feet in. It was mid-day and the creature was apparently seeking some sun relief. I noticed that the noticing deer, apart from flaring her nostrils in angst, was covered with flies. Actually the flies were clustered about two spots on the snout. Ah yes, it’s good to be reminded that deer flies are called deer flies for a good reason. These pesky critters are not designed to make our lives miserable but are primarily meant to pester deer.  There is justice in the world.

There was another sight which I wish I could have recorded with a decent shot (I do offer this view as verification of what follows). Among the dangling grape vines and elm branches over a bubbling creek, an immature Rose-breasted Grosbeak foraged for food. I’m not sure what he was going after but what ever it was he was pursuing it with a vengeance. The agile brown and white bird leapt at a hanging elm leaf. At first he hovered in place next to it but then latched onto the leaf (and presumably whatever was on it), folded back his wings, and hung on like a circus performer. He swung back and forth with his feet sticking out in the air before finally dropping and resuming dignified behavior. Perhaps Grosbeaks do this sort of thing all the time or perhaps this one had aspirations of being a trained parrot.

While the deer was gratifying and the Grosbeak surprising, the behavior of a clutch of turkey chicks along the road was only interesting because of my lack of turkey knowledge.  I can only assume that the hen brought her chicks to the roadside in order to pick gravel. The passing cars brought no alarm to her or the clutch. My stopping to observe them, however, did cause a slight panic. The hen, head held high and neck stretched to the limit, strutted up the bank and chortled out a low cluck to her charges. All seven of the kids immediately took heed and, rather than running away through the underbrush as expected, they took flight.

Turkeys don’t fly too often. They are good fliers, but are long-legged walking/running birds by habit. These young birds launched into a short flight of about 10 feet – enough to bury themselves into a row of dense spruces.  One small fellow opted to land on a bare limb long enough to give me a clear view of a gangly young’n on an unsure perch. It too, resumed flight and dropped into the thicket. So, there you have it, a small bit of turkey ignorance (mine) remedied.

Now onto much smaller concerns. A short while ago I brought the aquatic China Mark Moth to your attention. Just in case you don’t remember, this was an aquatic species of moth in which the larvae wrap themselves up in a sandwich of pre-cut lily pad leaves. One caterpillar presented itself clearly as it journeyed across the upper surface of a pad. You couldn’t ask for a better image of the sandwich moth larva, so let’s pretend this picture (see above) accompanied the China mark post (as well as this one showing the effect of multiple China-marks carving up a leaf).

I neglected to show you a picture of the adult moth last time because there were none to be had. Well, there were plenty little white moths showing up in late July and I thought I was looking at adults of the China mark. No two looked exactly alike but all were spending lots of time around the spatterdock & lily beds. It turns out that I was wrong about the adult moths. This would be only the first time I was actually wrong about something – well, maybe the second. They weren’t China marks but Polymorphic Pondweed Moths (say that three times). Apparently these over-named moths feed on pondweed and, like I noted, no two look exactly alike (see above and here). At least I was right about that last fact before I even knew it (what?).

Finally, I thought it prudent to bring you a shot of my small friend the screen door spider. This tiny gray beast patrolled the lakeside screen door looking for prey and was a constant companion. There is nothing threatening about small jumping spiders – even to a nervous spider observer such as I. When viewed close up, I think you’ll agree that they are rather appealing. I am somehow reminded of the final scene in the old “Incredible Shrinking Man” by the resulting photo. In a world of circus grosbeaks, fly-blown deer, taco caterpillars, and turkeys in a tree (not the straw) this little fellow can be given his full due.

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