Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

April 25, 2015

One Pic Post: A Bat at the Back Door

Filed under: Animals,BlogsMonroe — wykes @ 7:48 pm

Big Brown Bat photo Big Brown Bat_zpsvhuqoakw.jpg

After a chilly spring night dipping into the low 30’s, a Big Brown Bat was the last thing I expected to see in the morning (for that matter, I wouldn’t have expected to see a Little Brown Bat either or a Little Big Brown…whatever). The creature was perched gargoyle-like over the back door to the Monroe County Historical Museum – well above the keystone where the wall meets the overhang. The place was well out of the morning sun and not a very “secretive” location in terms of bat realty. I can only assume that the fellow was caught out late (or very early) attempting to gather in a few frozen midge-flies before deciding to seek temporary refuge. There were no droppings on the ground beneath his perch to indicate that this was a habitual hangout.
The museum staff had mixed reactions to the creature, but the overall impression was one of fascination. There were, of course, many stories generated and an excuse for a few minutes for some favorite bat tales. For the rest of the morning the little Big Brown was “our bat.” It ceased to be “my bat” upon leaving at noon and I’m sure it was left in good hands.

April 16, 2015

Delightful Divers

Filed under: Animals,BlogsMonroe — wykes @ 8:33 pm

Predaceous Diving Beetle photo Predaceous Diving Beetle 3_zps2ofggzir.jpg

We officially “opened” our tiny cabin for the season and I un-officially opened my lake eyes last week. Only a few weeks earlier the water was still frozen solid, but on this bright April morning Dollar Lake was coming to life.  Save for some pale Spatterdock leaves pushing up from the bottom there was very little flora visible in the dockside water. Only a sparse faunal assemblage greeted the eye. Small schools of Spot-tailed Shiners swam the shallows and a couple of water beetles cavorted among them. The beetles proved to be Predaceous Diving Beetles and, true to form, these critters were predating and diving.

One of the beetles grabbed onto an injured minnow and carried it under the cover of some floating debris. It’s not clear that it caused the original injury to the thing but obvious that it was intent on finishing it off. Adult Predaceous divers are, despite their name, more scavenger than killer.Predaceous Diving Beetle - Getting Air photo Predaceous Diving Beetle getting Air Re-charge_zpsarqelp4y.jpg

Another individual backed its hind end out of the water in order to take in a supply of oxygen into the bubble under its wing covers (see above). Although it should be no surprise, given that Predaceous Diving Beetles are air breathers, it was a bit surprising to see two of them eventually crawl out of the water to warm themselves in the mid-day sun. It was a bit like the “Predaceous Diving Beetle Show” and they were performing every trick in the little live book of water beetles.

Predaceous Diving Beetle photo Predaceous Diving Beetle 4_zpsyqf3racl.jpg

This particular species apparently has no common name to speak of, but is known as Acilius mediatus in the big book of Water Beetles.  The species name means something like “being halved or in the middle” in Latin and the genus name refers to a Roman proper name, so I guess we have to say the whole name means “Half a Roman.”  That is, of course, ridiculous but then again I never claimed to be an etymologist or even a trained entomologist.  Why not just call it “Simpson’s Bohemian Water Beetle” and leave it at that. Personally I think the “Mediator” would do the trick (it sounds sort of like the “Terminator” without the copyright infringement).

As for lifestyle there is little in the literature that is specific to this beetle. Like all members of the predaceous diving clan their larvae are voracious aquatic predators. This species prefers small forest pools with bare peaty bottoms. Dollar Lake is certainly nothing more than a glorified woodland pool, or half a lake, and would fit the habitat definition for this half beetle.

Whatever the real name, the Mediators are attractive little insects. The shelled portion of the body is very smooth and the brown elytra nicely marked with a wiggly tranverse design. Clearly displayed on the sunning individuals the back set of legs are equipped with an oar-like fringe for swimming. Short front legs are used for grasping prey (or simply holding onto half-dead prey).

I spent a half hour and took a half a dozen pictures of these beetles before the beetle show ended. A cold gust of wind rippled the surface and sent the beetles back into their element and I back into the warmth of my “half a house” to dream up a possible back story for justifying a glorious name like Simpson’s Bohemian Water Beetle.

Predaceous Diving Beetle photo Predaceous Diving Beetle_zpspfzhkg7u.jpg

April 4, 2015

One Pic Post: A Portrait in Black & Red

Filed under: Animals,BlogsMonroe — wykes @ 4:45 pm

Turkey Vulture in the Barn Window photo IMG_8447_zps8al6jcrw.jpg

The Turkey Vultures are back and seeking out their old haunts. Once again, the old barn pair have returned to nest. I can’t say I know them well (can one ever truly know a Vulture?) but I’ve seen them hanging about a derelict barn in the vicinity of Somerset Twp., Mi. over the past few years. My observations are always fleeting because I pass them when in the process of coming and going elsewhere.

Let me say that I assume these vultures are nesting within the barn because they are paired, it is an old barn, and well….vultures have been known to take up housekeeping in old barns.  Turkey Vultures really don’t build nests, per se, but merely scrape together some scraps of debris or wood to function as a “this is my nest” perimeter. They defend their nest site with projectile shots of vomit and therefore don’t really need an elaborate nest. Nuff said on that.

These Somerset birds have a knack for being photogenic which is why I have been prompted on multiple occasions over multiple years to turn around and snatch multiple pictures. Sometimes they are both perched high upon the peak of the barn roof or singly upon the viney top of the nearby power pole or silo. On this latest sighting one of the birds was framed within the inky blackness of the loft opening. The late afternoon sun highlighted the brownish nature of the bird’s black feathering and ignited that wonderfully wrinkled red head.

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