Friday, June 20, 2014

Almost time for National Moth Week!

And boy, is the mothing heating up around here! Just in time for NMW2014, I'm starting to get some real moths out in the yard. Temperatures have warmed into the 70s and sometimes 80s in the day, and it's as warm as the 60s at night--which has brought out the moths!

The last two nights I've gone out, I've been putting my sheet on the front of the house (perpendicular to the street) instead of on the shed out back, and WOW--moth city! Who knows if the location is contributing, but the warm temps have definitely helped.

A few examples, including my first giant silkmoth!
Callosamia promethea (Promethea Moth)

 One that really stumped me:
 
Macaria transitaria (Blurry Chocolate Angle Moth)
There was a lot of back and forth on mothy facebook page I belong to, but that's the consensus on the species. Moths are sooooo much more variable than birds, and with four wings to work with, the field marks are still harder to figure out. I'll think, "okay, reddish head, three spots on the leading edges of the wings, some stripes barring across the wings..." and then come up empty after staring at my Peterson's moth guide and the Moth Photographers Group website for like an hour and a half. Thank goodness bird IDs are not this hard! This blog might've been titled "forget those stupid birds!" But somehow I find the patience.

The other day, AB asked me how long I'd had this desire to classify and identify; did it start with birds, or was it always there? I remember separating out my Skittles by color on a sheet of paper, and then drawing a circle around the groupings of each color, and then labeling each color. 

That was in college.

I guess it was always there. I always liked butterflies, though I wasn't as concerned with their names as I was with seeing as many as I could, up close--observing their colors and shapes, comparing them to each other. Way back when, my big brother had to put together a collection when he was in junior high, so he recruited my little sister Mary and me to get the required "specimens." I enjoyed that, though not so much the killing of them.

I know I tend to be quite meticulous and ultra-focused when I like doing something; I can do one thing for hours at a time without looking up. (AB also marvels at my ability and desire to play game after game of Rumikub or SkipBo.)

So I guess it was just natural that I'd see a bird that sparked my desire to see more and more birds, or I'd see a moth that sparked my desire to see more and more moths. And then the little anal retentive part of me that needs to have names for things just kicked in, and I began to search for names for each of those birds or those moths.

And I am now starting to compile a lifemoth LIST. AB just sighs and says, "I guess I'll be going to bed alone again tonight...."

But enough of this introspection! Back to the moths! There was this little powdery-soft beauty:
Antaeotricha schlaegeri Schlaeger's Fuitworm Moth

And for the first time since waaaaay back in July 2008, I got a Luna Moth!
Actias luna
When that big moth flew in, I thought it was a bird! He was so huge and so fluttery, whipping around in the hostas and bumping into everything. He never landed, but he did pause just long enough for me to snap this picture before he fluttered off again. Most of the pics were just blurry shots of the grass or the house. In the three or four years I've been mothing, this Luna and the Promethea are the first two big moths I've ever gotten at the light. Pretty exciting!

An interesting thing about mothing here is that I'm seeing very few of the moths I saw back in Maine. Most of the moths I've seen up here have been new to me; I never saw them in PA. I guess I'm really a lot farther north, and I'm no longer near the mountains. Lots more trees in the vicinity of my light rig here too. I do miss seeing my PA regulars--things like Hypoprepia fucosa Painted Lichen Moth or Xanthotype urticaria False Crocus Geometer Moth. I saw those all the time back in PA.

Here, though, I get a lot of these:
Caripeta piniata Northern Pine Looper

and these:
Rheumaptera prunivorata Cherry Scallop Shell

I also get about 20 moth species that I can't identify. I have folders of literally hundreds of unidentified moths (similar to Mitt's binders full of women? You decide.), and it takes hours and hours of looking online at moth pics, looking at my Peterson's, etc. to figure them out. That's IF I figure them out.

It's only viable to moth in the summer up here, though--so at least AB will have me back in the fall, when the nights get chilly again and the winter begins its inevitable return.

Until then--MOTHS!





Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Return to Moth Mania, Maine-style!

It's been an entirely different experience mothing here in Maine, as opposed to the salad days of mothing in Central PA. For some reason, I just haven't had the success here that I had in PA, but I keep trying!

A couple of weeks ago I went to Lowe's to buy a mercury vapor bulb, but I found out you need a special ballast (insert electrician mumbo jumbo here), and of course they didn't sell that. I went home with a 175-watt flood lamp, completely forgetting about how I needed the UV light that only the MV bulb can produce. Results with the admittedly blindingly bright flood lamp? NADA.

I then did a little more reading online and found a mention of "self-ballasting MV bulbs"--NOW they tell me! So I ordered one online, knowing that spending $45 on a moth lamp wasn't going to go over too well with AB, but she was cool, of course.

I've tried the new lamp three times. Here's the sheet on the first night:
That's right: ZERO moths. Still, you can see my little light standard I made, as well as the white cloth hanging on the shed out back.

In the next few nights (lots of rain and cold temps have foiled me), the results did get better, though it's still pretty slow. Nights have remained quite cool here; even when day temps climb into the 70s, night temps can be in the 30s. Not exactly conducive to moth success.

Still, I have had a few moments:
 Caenurgina erechtea, Forage Looper


a new favorite, Diacme adipaloides, Dark Diacme

 Argyrotaenia mariana, Gray-banded Leafroller

Of course, there were another couple that I couldn't ID, but that's pretty much par for the course. I got these three! (with help from the Mothing and Moth-watching Group on facebook)

A couple more beauties from other nights:
 Cladara limitaria, Mottled Gray Carpet (I think)

Morrisonia confusa, Confused Woodgrain Moth (what a great name!) 


Not even a tiny clue. Help?


So of course, now that I have my long-cherished bulb, I feel like my camera is now the weak link! (It's always SOMETHING.) The macro just isn't that good! I got the camera waaaaaaayyy back in 2010, so it's a good 4 years old. Isn't that like 30 in human years? It's like an antique! I'm surprised it's even digital!

The sell job on AB will begin soon.... (rubs hands together) Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Trying again... Success!

I DID IT! I posted a photo! This crazy Blogger. This time, I obsessively clicked the "Upload" option on the left and then hit the okay button. This seems to help, though it's still taking a few times of doing it to make it work. Sheesh. But hey--here are some pics from my trip to Texas!

Anyway, this is a photo of my Golden-cheeked Warbler! I went to San Antonio to visit my parents for a while, but I resolved I was only going to bird locally so I could spend more time with them. (Usually, my sister Mary and I head down to the Rio Grande Valley for a few days to get some crazy lifers.) Dad's had some health issues of late, and I just wanted to be with him and my mom. Got to see all my siblings except for my baby sis who lives in Ohio. A great trip!

Still, Mary and I did get out a few times, and we scored the Golden-cheeked. We went to Friedrich Wilderness Area near town. We'd gone there a few years ago but had no luck. This time, we nailed it! I was also hoping for Black-capped Vireo, but no such luck on that one. Still, it was pretty exciting.

Saw some other western birds:
A nice Lesser Goldfinch, almost in full breeding plumage. His back isn't quite all there. His cousins the American Goldfinches were still a ways from their spring coats:
 I love how they're in midair there, but I think someone else was a little annoyed:

Get off my lawn!

We also saw some nice sparrows:
A bad pic of a Lincoln's Sparrow! This was at Crescent Bend Nature Park in Schertz, near San Antonio.

And a good pic of a Savannah Sparrow, taken at Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory near Austin. (I flew into Austin and then we drove to SA.)

Also seen at Hornsby, my FOY peeps:
A bunch of Least Sandpipers and the obviously bigger Pectoral Sandpiper. He's a giant among the little guys.

Also saw this Funereal Duskywing:

and this Red Admiral:
Up in Maine, I haven't seen any butterflies and only one moth. And it's been rainy and cold today. But spring is here, because it hasn't snowed in two whole weeks! (holding breath)

Here's an Eared Grebe. One of these days, I'll see a male in breeding plumage...

This day was cool and overcast, so the lighting was terrible. But we found a great new spot to bird, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center in south San Antonio. What a great place! A lot of ponds, some elevated paths (better looks into the treetops!) and great birds.

Black-chinned Hummingbird--this is the best pic I could get:


Great looks at a Verdin, though the photo is awful:
I was so proud of myself for recognizing the song. After I obsessed over them last year at Big Bend National Park, I guess that song stuck with me.

Also had some Ruddy Ducks, but no one with a blue bill:

These Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were everywhere:
But can you ever get enough of such a bird?

Sadly, this is as close as we got to seeing my nemesis bird, the Painted Bunting:
Grrr. Just a little too early. But I didn't see one when we went in June last year either!

Some Northern Shovelers at Hornsby:

These guys were feeding nonstop. I never saw their bills!

Well, this has taken about two hours, and it's time to go to Reny's (a Maine advenchah!). I couldn't find one with a Mainah accent, but you MUST click on this link to see what life in Maine is all about!

A picture of a framed photo of my wonderful parents, on their wedding day!