Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Critter Hunt: Gimme a Sign!

On our hike on Sunday, there were few animals about. We heard chickadees and phoebes and a woodpecker. We saw a pair of what I think were ruby crowned kinglets. But that was it for the birds. There was a turtle in one of the sinks.

This grasshopper was well-hidden from any predator.


I believe this one I photographed last January is the same kind: a Rusty Grasshopper, Schistocerca alutacea


In the picture below there is evidence of three different animals. 


The orb-weaver spider is a gimme. On the left side of center, you can make out the ant lions' inverted cones. Below, the ant lion itself:


The last is probably impossible to see in the picture, but trust us, it was there. There were deer tracks in the soft sand. That pure white sand reminds us that we were south of the Cody Scarp and sitting atop old sand dunes from when the shoreline was a little closer than it is today.

One of the more interesting animal signs we saw was left behind by the twig girdler. This is a common wood boring beetle (about .5 inch long) that can use many different kinds of trees, but in our area they seem particularly partial to hickories. In the picture below is the evidence where the female has girdled the twig. It looks as smoothly cut as though it had been done with a sharp saw, but she used her mouth. You can see the branch has died but has not yet fallen. The beetle laid her single egg in a hole she bores in the bark of the twig.


The egg may be above or below the cut. Either way, it hatches quickly into a larva and feeds on the twig pulp. The larva may fall to the ground with the dead branch (or it may remain on the tree) where it continues to eat and grow for the better part of a year. It will later pupate for about two weeks and then become the adult beetle. There were many, many branches just like this and others on the ground in these woods.


Sometimes, you have to look a little more closely to see the critters.


R.Powers said...

Nice shots and how true your last statement.

h said...

What FC said.