Christine’s FWG Walks: Late August

by Christine Hanrahan

Christine is one of FWG’s volunteer naturalists who writes in great detail about her visits to FWG. A great way to visit with us virtually and keep on top of what you might see when here in person!

Hi all,

There is always something interesting to see at the FWG, and today was no exception. While walking through the garden with a couple of visitors from England, we were astonished to see an American Bittern take off from just west of the old field, about 4 feet away from us. It had been standing in the midst of sow-thistles, and it landed in the middle of the buckwheat field.

While looking across the buckwheat field, before we saw the bittern, we could see at least 50 monarchs!! It was quite the sight, believe me. There were more in the BYG, and elsewhere.

Hummingbirds (2 or 3, perhaps more) were also very, very much in evidence today. First sightings were on the jewelweed in the ravine below the bridge (sadly the jewelweed near the bridge is really suffering from lack of moisture). Later, we saw one nectaring on, variously, butterfly bush, obedient plant, cardinal flower, phlox, monarda, and monkey flower!

Two praying mantis were also seen, a green form first (the more common colour) and a brown form later in the butterfly meadow.

Praying Mantis. Photo by C Hanrahan

We’ve added several new species to the insect list in the last week, including a large brilliantly green leafhopper with a red head, Gyponana octolineata. Diane, Connie and I saw it while mothing last Thursday. It remained at the sheets the entire time we did! Diane’s photo of it is gorgeous. Yesterday, I found a very beautiful bee wolf wasp… a confusing name, I know. It is a wasp (Philanthus sp.), that has the name bee wolf, because of its habit of chasing down bees, and sometimes other wasps, to stock its nest with. A very handsome creature, I think.

Bee Wolf Wasp. Photo by C Hanrahan

Another new species in the last week is the parasitic wasp, Leucospis affinis, a tiny black and yellow creature. The female, which is all I’ve seen, folds her ovipositor along her back when not in use, which is, I think, ingenious! She is a parasite on leafcutter bees. And speaking of these, one whizzed past me yesterday, with a lovely circle of green leaf held under her abdomen as she went straight into one of the bee boxes.

Leucospis affinis. Photo by C Hanrahan

Also found in the last week, new to the list, Eremnophila aureonotata, a sphecid wasp, and a parasitic fly (Tachinidae), Hemydra aurata.

Back to birds… Apart from the excitement of the bittern and the hummingbirds, it was fairly quiet yesterday and today, although catbirds and goldfinches were so frequently heard and seen that they made it appear as if there were more birds in the garden. A black-and-white warbler was around near the pond, and in the Arboretum, both a great blue heron and a green heron were fishing.

More photos on the blog: http://www.pbase.com/fwg/fwg_blog_aug_2012

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