Friday, May 13, 2011

Butterflies, Beetles and a Baskettail

On a walk earlier this week, eastward along "The Trail", my daughter and I encountered a few immature male and female Baskettails. As is often the case with a cryptically colored subject, when trying to take a picture on "Auto" the camera's electronics didn't know where to focus. We were unable to figure out the manual settings but she managed to acquire one reasonably good image before the batteries in her camera died. The picture will be posted in the near future. Throughout the week I've sighted teneral Emeralds and Frosted Whitefaces as well.

One of the first butterflies to emerge in early spring is the Spring Azure (Celastrina sp.). Although the undersides of the wings are relatively drab, the dorsal surfaces are an eye-catching sky blue. The wingpan of this tiny butterfly is about 25 mm.

Due to its size (wingspan roughly 30 mm), color, and skipper-like manner of flying, at first I mistook this butterfly for just that, a species of skipper. Not so: this is an Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon), a member of the family Lycaenidae which also includes Blues, Coppers, and Hairstreaks. This is my first encounter with an elfin ... and according to the books, there are three other species inhabiting this area.

The beautiful iridescent green insect in the following images is a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). These predacious beetles, approximately 12 mm long, are fast runners and strong fliers, extremely wary and difficult to approach. It took a no small amount of time to get these few images.

That's a pretty wicked set of jaws ...

The Bronzed Tiger Beetle (Cicindela repanda) proved to be even more alert and challenging to stalk, let alone see due to its camouflaged front wing covers (elytra). Had this specimen not suffered an injury to its wing, I doubt if I could have taken its photo. The Bronzed Tiger Beetle is also common along the shore of Stoco Lake; both species can be found in hot sandy environments.

Megan hasn't emailed me her photo of the Baskettail so here's one of my own (in case anyone is wondering what a Baskettail is) but as a stand-alone image it's unsatisfactory. Without being able to see the top of the frons or a lateral view of the claspers, this dragonfly, roughly 40 mm long, could be one of three species: the Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), Beaverpond Baskettail (Epitheca canis), or Spiny Baskettail (Epitheca spinigera).

EDIT ... after posting this image I tried zooming in for a closer look at the claspers. Although out of focus the cerci appear distinctly bent and possess a blunt dorsal tooth: this dragonfly is a male Beaverpond Baskettail (Epitheca canis).