Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tiger Rag

A copy of a post I sent to the Texas lepidoptera List-serv:

I was absolutely thrilled and blown away with a slightly worn adult female D. howardi "Northern Giant Flag Moth." Do Arctiini get any larger up here than this species?! She wasn't too cooperative, but I do have photos. You know those moments when you are in the mid-afternoon of a day job not really prepared for anything outside of work-a-day doldrums? I think I had a moment.

I guess it was Arctiid Day at the Ballpark because I observed the widespread yet lovely Estigmene acrea "Saltmarsh Moth" earlier this morning.

Moth diversity is has really spiked, as have numbers. I observed hundreds of Datana spp today. Everywhere, not just stucco & adobe walls; leaves, doorsteps, everywhere.

I've found wings of Sphingicampa/Syssphinx hubbardi " Hubbard's Small Silk Moth" yesterday and today in two different Marathon Basin locations. We are working on rearing that species presently.

Between drought and current national affairs, that flag moth was just what I needed.
Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.

-Matt York
Brewster Co.


Dysschema howardi (Northern Giant Flag Moth)

This species belongs to a genus found through much of the New World tropics. This is our largest North American tiger moth. (Powell & Opler, Moths of Western North America. 2009.)

Subfamily Arctiinae are the tiger and lichen moths of the family EREBIDAE.

This particularly spectacular species is sexually dimorphic. The female has orange hindwings. The male, white. We can barely make out the left orange hindwing peeking out from the black forewing.

Each forewing of this species is nearly 2 inches long!
This species is another example of a "single-flight" species. Meaning one full life-cycle, generally, per year. The adult stage flies. What I just wrote ain't exactly scientific.. ha!

"Single flight" species.

I am glad I didn't miss her this year. Perhaps we can find another before we have to wait for next year.

Per "This is the only species of Dysschema that occurs in our region. There are some 90 (!) species of Dysschema, mostly in South America."

Yet another reason to visit the tropics..

There was another Arctiid species hanging out today around the Gage Hotel. This species quite is attractive in its on right.

Arctiinae is full of beautiful moths. I should share photos of others I've stumbled about in my past.

Anyhow, this morning among throngs of other moths was a single:

Estigmene acrea or E. albida ??

I never got a look at its abdomen, sadly. Due to how few black spots E. albida has when generally compared to E. acrea. I'm led to think it may be albida. I'll defer to a higher plane for help on this species.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baby Hubbard

Last we saw of Hubbard's Small Silkmoth, Mother Hubbard was laying eggs on our wall. Not the best location we can think of.

These were the eggs on the stucco: teeny green jellybeans! In the previous link, the eggs were actually at day 4 and forming the dark center with pale green 'donut' around the sides. So this is their clear, fresh state on the first day they were laid. 

Syssphinx/Sphingicampa hubbardi eggs look the day before they hatch:

Six days after finding them, all 33 eggs hatched. We're now at Day 5 of hatching, and only 17 little ones have survived our learning curve so far. I can't stress this enough: full spectrum light is important. VERY important.

Here's egg-day 6 for your scale-comparing pleasure:

Freshly hatched caterpillars are darn cute, here's one hatchling with some eggs:

And little ones next to the empty eggs:

Skipping forward to day 3, the size differences are growing:

Here's day 5, with the last survivor of the full-spectrum-lighting disaster and one of the 6(!!!) second-instar caterpillars. Note the difference in facial color and size, wish I'd gotten the little fellow busting out of the chestnut face-mask and going all-out Hulk while writhing and flailing... so small. Sooo cute.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Species Pygarctia murina

PM of 18 August 2011

This beauty of the Arctiinae arose as its wonderful adult self:

Yet another adult "Five-spotted Hawkmoth" (Manduca quinquemaculata) arose from the ground during the evening's session.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Everytime you hear a bell, ....

per Wikipedia:

"A seraph is a celestial being in both Judaism and Christianity."

... get's its wings."

I came across a very interesting moth on the adobe/stucco wall that faces first street at the Gage Hotel here in Marathon.

It was curious in its overall shape, wing fringe, body segments, and leg structure.

I just couldn't place it in a Family in which my feeble brain was familiar with.

Family Bombycidae

Subfamily Apatelodinae

Olceclostera seraphica

"Seraph" moth

"This species is also known from Big Bend National Park and southern Arizona (Pima and Santa Cruz counties). There is a single flight from mid-July to early August. The life history is unreported." - Powell and Opler, Moths of Western North America. 2009. pg 236.

As you may recall in the above text quoting, this species has only one flight/one brood/one life cycle a season.

Miss it this year, you will have to wait another.

I'm glad it showed itself to us.

Mother Hubbard

Over the weekend, instead of recovering from 2 solid months of a maddening schedule, we blacklighted. Blacklit just doesn't sound right. Anyway, along with a slew of the usual suspects, we were joined by Hubbard's Small Silkmoth, Syssphinx/Sphingicampa hubbardi.

She was down in the patch of festering black widow webbing that traps unsuspecting leaf litter from the neighbor's forest - and she left us a little glob of teeeny green jellybeans on the wall. Upon clearing the webbing, she fluttered around and gave us some cooperative, if novel views. The colors may be muted but the creature is quite elegant (if poorly coordinated, when thumping into faces and shoulders).

In the last few weeks I'd become aware that these delightful moths were flying - a classmate from SRSU had the mangled remains of one under a windshield wiper blade and another procured a much-more-intact specimen as part of her collection for Entomology. With the eggs in such a poor location, we made the decision to remove them from the wall and back step in hopes of giving the eggs more of a chance. The photo below shows just how diminutive they are! That's about 30 eggs, total. We'll make sure that as they near a hatching stage (5-6 days according to our sources) there will be plenty of tender mesquite or acacia vegetation for them to feed on. Inadvertent parenting adventure? Definitely!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Louisiana Waterthrush at Post Park

Matt's Texbirds post:

This morning during our Sunday Morning Birdwalk we enjoyed some early Fall Migrants at Post Park.

The best bird by far was LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH. I got good looks at this individual, an excellent species out here.
There were ~ 6 Yellow Warblers, 2 Warbling Vireos, a continuing female Black-and-White, a Willow Flycatcher. A single possible Solitary SP seen as flyover by Heidi.

We observed 20+ Upland Sandpipers fly overhead. Heard several more, as usual.

We have had 3 days of rain. Finally. A couple have been continuous soakers from mid-afternoon through the night.

The water at Post Park has enjoyed hectares worth of accumulating "nitrates" wash down the watershed it would seem. Low oxygen levels and fish-kill happening at the moment.

So, its starting to mix up bird-wise in the area. Still many Western Tanagers in town, with Scott's and Orchard Orioles. Haven't seen the Bullock's Oriole family in awhile. But, they may be feeding out back as I type.

Regionally the hummingbirds have been loverly. We've had Rufous in the yard, and several green-backed. A report of a Ruby-throat in Alpine a week ago. Calliope in Alpine and CDRI, a few miles before Ft. Davis. Certainly Broad-tailed HB's in the area. I may be forgetting something here and there.


X Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
1 American Coot Fulica americana
20 Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda
5 White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
4 Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
1 Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus
1 Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis
2 hummingbird sp. Trochilidae sp.
10 Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons
2 Ladder-backed Woodpecker Picoides scalaris
1 Willow Flycatcher Empidonax traillii
6 Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
4 Bell's Vireo Vireo bellii
2 Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
10 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
3 Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
3 Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
2 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura
3 Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre
3 European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
1 Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla
1 Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
3 Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia
1 Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens
7 Canyon Towhee Melozone fusca
5 Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata
2 Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
6 Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea
7 Painted Bunting Passerina ciris
5 Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater
3 Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius
1 House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday, Aug 12 on Marfa Public Radio

Check out Marfa NPR's live streaming from 10 am until 11 (we'll be the first segment) and then from 6:30 to 7 pm when it is replayed. We're pretty excited - we'll get to talk about the impact of the drought in spite of having rain recently!

Marfa Public Radio -

In case folks find our blog via Marfa NPR, here are a few species we may be referencing, in no particular order:
Yellow-billed Cuckoo - low numbers (high count of 1 for Post Park all summer)
Cassin's Sparrow - conspicuous by their absence; all over the rest of the state
Summer Tanager - delayed arrival
Say's Phoebe - emaciation
Lincoln's Sparrows - delayed migration, high cat predation numbers
Bell's Vireo - emaciation, on-time arrival
Vermilion Flycatcher - on-time arrival, an exception
Yellow-breasted Chat - emaciation, on-time arrival, high cat predation
Orchard Oriole - present in good numbers, but not singing
Black-chinned Hummingbird - emaciation
Lark Sparrow - emaciation
Western Wood-Pewee - emaciation and abnormal behaviors
Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler - emaciation and modified behaviors, late migration
Barn Swallow - emaciation, late nesting, observed nest failures, high cat predation
Lark Bunting - very late migration

...the above fall into the context of species whose numbers and/or emaciation were highly apparent to us and comprise the bulk of our observations.

Between fires and drought, this should be an interesting conversation - we'll try to fill in more details after the show!

Photo/permalink via Marfa Public Radio:

Handy links from previous posts:
the drying, the drought (a bit heavy, but eye-opening)
in the meantime, pictures
freezer catch-up
and an optimistic final note: drought?

...and we will edit this post to let y'all know when the full segment is available online!