Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mountain Trails Lodge, round two!

July has been a remarkably busy month for us: schedule changes, additional side projects (in a small town, you work while the working is good!) and plenty of distractions away from birds and bugs, unfortunately. But, as with most birding - when we have been in the field, the birds certainly have not disappointed. And we may have snuck a quick ~60 hour trip to New Mexico into the schedule to see the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. That is another post for another blog, but it was amazing!

So, back to the Mountain Trails Lodge - we've posted about them briefly before (here and here), but this time we didn't get rained on while set up, nor rained out! We modified the setup from before (there's a sideways sandwich board along with three sheets) and added another set of lights - instead of four UV bulbs, we had four UV bulbs and added two normal CFLs. The difference was pretty dramatic. Waist-high setups are definitely my new favorite!

Twenty-two middle school aged (ish) students from San Antonio asked a ton of really excellent questions (unfortunately I have no idea how scorpions communicate with each other) and most of them even made it up at 6 am to see what all was lured to the lights -- it's hard to get adults up at 6 to watch bugs, so we were thrilled with the human turnout!

The moth turnout was spectacular. Big, cooperative, showy moths were around in single digits, but small, intricate, well camouflaged moths were quite abundant. Far too many to even reasonably cover in a blog post of this nature (plenty of fodder for future posts!) so we'll have to limit our coverage here...

As is true with many things in life, Forrest Gump nailed it with the 'box of chocolates' quote - blacklighting is like a box of chocolates; you NEVER know what you're going to get! Last time we set up at MTL, the evening started with a flight of termites and by morning we had an abundance of purslane moths. This time we started with gnats and ended with cucumber beetles.

The gorgeous beast to the left is Davis' Tussock Moth, Halysidota davisii. We are quite fond of these, having only seen a few prior. The colors are not quite accurate here - the turquoise stripes are buffered by tangerine edging, and those colors repeat in the stencil patterns down the wings. With the cream colored background and near translucence of the wings, every sighting involves a lot of photos and murmurs of appreciation. We'll gladly overlook the wear on the wings!

Turnout at the lights included, but certainly was NOT limited to:
Hubbard's Small Silkmoth (Sphingicampa hubbardi)
Purslane Moth (Euscirrhopterus gloveri)
Five-spotted Hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata)
Clouded Crimson (Schinia gaurae)
Seraph (Olceclostera seraphica)
Apotolype brevicrista
Palpita quadristigmalis
Tripudia luxuriosa
Catabenoides vitrina
Melipotis spp. (multiple) 
Ponometia spp. (multiple)

Abundance award of the evening would have to go to the always sharp-looking Genista Broom Moth (Uresiphita reversalis).

And a quick teaser..... no, not the gnat on the antenna, the moth!

Next up: more photos!

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