Friday, October 01, 2010

Problems with Bugs and Birds

Bristly Cutworm Moth (Lacinipolia renigera)

John and I have spent hours tonight trying to identify 1 bird, 1 moth and 1 bug. I began the evening after supper by opening photos from July 10. I am so behind in my editing! I remember July 10. I spent happy hours at the beach at Crystal Lake with the kids. They played while I read and photographed a duck family, a seagull and a jet skier. That night I went outside in the dark and photographed the moths and bugs on the house. And now, tonight, I had to identify these creatures.

The still unidentified seagull.

John was finishing installing the new doors in the sun porch as I was going through bird books and the Internet trying to identify the seagul above. I have never been able to identify a seagul from a book and so I was frustrated before I began my search. My mutterings lured John to the computer. He said how they will interbreed, which makes identification more difficult. And sure enough, the books have said how some individual seagulls are unidentifiable because of interbreeding. Yikes! And juvenile gulls (which I think this is because on a close zoom I see young pin feathers — but that could be meaningless) look different than adults. And first, second and third winter gulls all look different than adults and from each other! John sat at his computer and searched for over an hour. We both agreed that the bills and legs of gulls can help distinguish the species. But that didn't even help. After two hours, we gave up. If you know of a gull ID site, let me know! Please!

Firefly (Family Lampyridae, Genus Photuris)

The bug pictured above was next. I thought it was a beetle and instantly became agitated when no beetles at bugguide.net looked like mine. John looked at the photo and said, "Firefly!" And it was. But which species? According to bugguide, it could have been species Photuris or Photinus. The lighting on my photo is poor and many photos of Photinus look like mine, so identification was more complicated. But John and I counted stripes on the bug's back and I chose to identify my bug as Photuris. Photuris females are violent: "Females are noted to mimic the flash patterns of females of other genera of Lampyridae, especially Photinus. Males are lured in and consumed. They do this for nutrition, perhaps, and also to obtain chemical defenses from other Lampyridae (5) (6), (Eisner et al., 1997)." This identification only took half an hour! I was feeling lucky now — and I should have known better . . .

We came to the photograph of the moth that you see at the top of this post. By now, John was fully into this task with me. We knew the moth was a moth. So I searched for "brown moth with green spots" and for "black moth with green spots." I searched for "green moths." I figured from the silhouette that this was an owlet moth (and I was right!). But there are nearly 21 bizillion species of owlet moths and after a solid hour of viewing photos of owlet moths, I finally sent this photo to bugguide. I got a response within 10 minutes! This is a bristly cutworm moth! Total time spent on this moth: 2 hours.

We knew two other bugs and birds instantly: a caddisfly, a family of Mallards (duh) and a curved-toothed geometer moth (one of my favorite moths). The photos are below. I also found another online site to submit photos to: the North American Moth Photographers Group. They are doing some bizarre research (which I won't discuss here), and John and I spent quite a bit of time reading and looking at the photography. I may participate with that group in the future — if I have any time left over after identifying my bugs and birds!

Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)

Curved-toothed geometer moth (Eutrapela clemataria)

Caddisfly (Trichoptera)


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