Here are some of our treasures from our long days at Diamond Lake.....
This surprise came early. I hopped out and spotted what I thought might me an odd wasp. I called to Dale but he didn’t get there soon enough. Fortunately I had taken several shots. After we got home I pawed through our insect books... not a wasp ... not a fly. Finally I realized it is a clear-winged moth. Hummingbird moths are a classic examples of a clear-winged moth, but I’d never seen anything like this one. Most clear-winged moths live in the tropics. This one is quite likely a ‘fireweed clear-wing moth’ (Albuna pyrdamidalis). On day three we both briefly spotted it again, this time near the fireweed patch.
It was combination of the seeing the clear-winged moth and wanting more time watching aphids that took us back to the parking lot for two more days. Large carpenter-like ants had several little aphid colonies on a lone thistle plant. Dale spent hours just concentrating on their activity.
There was a lot of traditional behavior, i.e. ants protect the aphids and in return they eat the sweet juice the aphids excrete. The ants also appeared to keep the area tidy by removing exoskeletons the aphids shed as they grow. The ants tolerated some ants, probably members of their own colony, and violently attacked others.
On the second day I was excited to see that lots of damselflies were emerging. Very new bluets are tan and initially their flight is weak. I soon found a damselfly nymph that had just walked out of the lake. It was still wet and looking for a place to settle onto, where it would let its exoskeleton crack open and then the damsel would emerge. I thought to my self, “Oh goodie, I get to finally see a damselfly emerge.’ I’ve watched dragonflies, but not damselflies. But then I realized ants were playing havoc on the damsels that were emerging at this time of day. My little damsel was soon attacked too. Bummer.
This big, black long horned beetle is probably a pine sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus). He inadvertently gave us a good laugh. We had our good friend Eleanor with us on our second day at Diamond Lake. During our lunch-break the beetle landed on the car next to us. I quickly put down my nice tuna fish sandwich and grabbed my camera. Eleanor grabbed her camera too. Once he flew off I went back to my lunch ... I pawed through the back seat where I’d been sitting .... looked under ever shirt, hat, sketchbook, ...... No sandwich. Finally I looked farther afield. There was Eleanor leaning against a sunny boulder and munching on something that looked suspiciously like my sandwich! She had inadvertently picked it up. Unfortunately she had eaten most of her own sandwich too! Hummus, nuts and chips for me.
Dragonflies and damsel flies have an unusual posture when breeding. This Great Basin snaketail (dragonfly) is a good example. First the male transfers his sperm to a little pocket on the underside of his thorax. He then grabs the neck of a female with the tip of his abdomen and she swings the tip of her abdomen around to receive the sperm now stored in the sperm pocket. This posture is called a ‘copulation wheel.’ Our parking lot is the best place I know to find Great Basin snaketails.
It wasn’t bugs all the time. The first day I looked and listened for spotted sandpipers near the shoreline and was disappointed. All was quiet. But the second day I heard the tell-tale calls of an adult and caught glimpses of tiny, fuzzy ‘teeter-bobs’ scurrying along the shoreline. Both adults and chicks teeter frequently.
Spotted sandpipers are one of those unusual birds where the male is usually the primary caregiver. According to Cornell Lab’s Birds of North American Online, some females mate with up to 4 males, each of which cares for a clutch. In other areas some pairs are more traditional with both adults caring for the young. I looked carefully for a second adult, but suspect this is a clutch were Papa is in charge.