Thursday, September 25, 2014

Imperial Moth Life Cycle

  After finding an Imperial Moth back in July, I finally have a complete series of photos showing the progression of the offspring from egg to chrysalis.
  The above moth laid over 100 eggs over a 2 day period.
   The caterpillars hatched about 2 weeks later.

  The caterpillars fed on Sycamore or Maple leaves for 6 weeks

  They grew to 5" long.
  The fifth skin shedding revealed the pupa or chrysalis
Discarded skin  and resultant chrysalis

Sarcophagus-like chrysalis 

  The moth will overwinter in the chrysalis and emerge early in the summer to start a new generation.
  Of the ten eggs that I kept, only six hatched, two caterpillars died during the middle stages and one died in the pupation process, leaving three surviving chrysalises.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hawkfest and Yardbirds 9/20-9/23

   Saturday September 20, was the first day of Hawkfest at Lake Erie Metropark.   After 170,000 Broad-winged Hawks were counted earlier in the week, Saturday's count yielded more visitors than birds.   One of the attractions of the festival is the close-up views of raptors provided by members of the Michigan Hawking Club.  
     The Red-tailed Hawk in the photo below belongs to Mark Tomich.  I met Mark back in July when he and Dave Hogan returned a rehabilitated young Peregrine Falcon that had earlier fallen from its nest area at my soon-to-be-former workplace.  Turned out that I have known Mark's brother Blaze since the mid-80's, when we were both worked in an aluminum fabricating factory.  

American Kestrel
Size comparison of Bald Eagle and Broad-winged Hawk
  Since Saturday I've had quite a few good birds visit my yard.   First up, Swainson's Thrush early Saturday morning

  Sunday afternoon I spotted a Common Nighthawk  fly over.

  Saturday and Monday mornings another Blackpoll Warbler visited the yard.
   This morning the yard had its second ever Bay-Breasted Warbler.  This bird was around all morning.   I took a couple hundred photos of it as it ducked in and out of the shadows in my Sycamore trees.  Most of the photos were either over or under exposed because I kept exposing for shadows just as it would hop into the sun and vice-versa.

    In between Bay-breasted Warbler photo-ops a male Scarlet Tanager flew into one of the Sycamores.  It is only the third time I've seen one of them in the yard.  The second time was just a few weeks ago on August 31.  My initial Scarlet Tanager visit predates my daily yard surveys, but checking my notes on the first sighting I found it was 7 years ago......... to the day, 9/23/07.  Different bird same schedule.

Bay-breasted Warbler

Out of the Sycamore and into the berry patch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Downy close-up

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
  Now for the insects
Green Darner on American Boneset

Honeybee in flgiht
Bumblebee on New England Aster
Caterpillar worming its way into the photo

Friday, September 19, 2014

Broad-winged Hawks 9/18/2014 with video

    Thursday September 18, produced a third straight day of 39K+  Broadwings migrating over the lower Detroit River.  The official count at Lake Erie Metropark was in the upper 30,000's.  A similar if not greater number was observed but not counted at the Pt. Mouillee SGA Headquarters.  At Pt. Moo we enjoyed mostly high altitude but often straight over head views of this remarkable phenomenon.  The strong NNE wind gave the birds a tailwind that had them mostly streaming with any kettling limited to a couple of revolutions, then back to straightforward flight.


  Another year another pair of distant sparring Bald Eagles

  In the next photo the Broadwings are gaining altitude that is taking them into the clouds.

  The past few mornings the waning moon has been in the sky and many broadwings have been on a path that put them in the same field of view with it.  Although the hawks were flying high they weren't effectively at infinity as the 250,000 mile distant moon is.  In order to try to get them both in focus I stopped down my lens to f/20 and still didn't succeed in getting them both sharp.

  By 5:30 activity subsided at Pt. Moo, so I headed to the LEMP count area to see what the official counters came up with.   When I got there I found that they must have just left as the flow of hawks there had also stopped.   Seeing only two unfamiliar cars in the lot, I just did a quick loop and intended to continue on home.  But as I getting back on the road I gave a quick look back and thought I saw a kettle of hawks over the river.  I circled back into the parking lot, parked and grabbed my binoculars and walked out to the river's edge.  The birds that I had seen from the car had moved on behind the trees, 
    I ran into a couple of birders sitting on a bench near the counters table.  Thinking they had been there for the afternoon count, I asked them what they had seen.  Turns out, Phil and Mimi had just arrived, from Farmington Hills, five minutes before I had and thought that since the counters had stayed until 6 PM the previous day they would still be there.  Officially the count ends at 4 PM they only stay later when the migration continues through that time.  As we talked of Sandhill Cranes, warblers and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I noticed a naked-eye kettle crossing the river toward us.  Over the next half hour we got great views of 500-600 Broad-wingeds, a couple of Bald Eagles and a Northern Harrier.

  Below are the birds I watched with Mimi and Phil.

 Click on the links below for a couple of short shaky videos of the hawks from Pt. Mouillee.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Over 120,000 Broad-wingeds at Lake Erie Metropark 9/16-17

    The peak of Broad-winged Hawks migration has arrived at Lake Erie Metropark. Tuesday 68,000 were counted and today another 52,000 were added.    Tomorrow's weather will be favorable for another good day with winds with a northerly component.  So if there are still broadwings that need to move through, Thursday would be a perfect day for them to do it.

   Even if another broadwing day doesn't materialize tomorrow there should be plenty of other raptors to keep the hawk watchers busy.

Flying on their backs




American Kestrel

  Songbirds are also migrating through LEMP.
Black and White Warbler

American Redstart

Magnolia Warbler
   Warblers are also migrating through my yard.
Tennessee Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler
  Other recent yardbirds of interest are shown below
Common Nighthawk

Ruby-throated Hummingbird