Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Killdeer Plains--August 15, 2010

On another humid, overcast morning, Steve and I set out for Killdeer Plains. The 9000 acres are managed for wildlife and hunting by the ODNR. It occupies an area that was formerly prairie and some remnant spots are managed for prairie vegetation. Even though it is only 1/3rd the size of the original prairie, the open vistas are startling to see in Ohio.

We usually come here to see the birds. The raptors are spectacular--there are nesting bald eagles here and in winter, scores of harriers and rough-legged hawks, and once we got a good look at a merlin. Owls too--it’s a well-known winter roosting spot for long-eared and northern saw-whet owls, and short-eared owls hunt the fields. In winter, flocks of horned larks, snow buntings, and longspurs are common. We nearly always see trumpeter swans, and once we saw American white pelicans on the marsh.

Although we did startle a great blue heron, today belonged to the insects. Mixed groups of puddling butterflies were everywhere. Male butterflies do this to ingest minerals which are then transferred to the females in sperm to help improve egg viability.

Buckeye (Junonia coenia) and pearly crescentspots (Phyciodes tharos).

Red-spotted Purples (Basilarchia astyanax) and Little Yellows (Eurema lisa).


Viceroy (Basilarchia archippus), which famously mimics the toxic Monarch butterfly.

We missed the peak of the prairie flowers, but there were still some in bloom:

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), with Pearly Crescentspot,

Hairy Sunflower (Helianthus mollis),

Partridge-pea (Chamaechrista fasciculata).

Other insects were abundant too. Each time we stopped the car, horseflies swarmed around in alarming numbers.

Ailanthus webworm moths (Atteva punctella) flocked to the common milkweed.

Steve got this picture of a damselfly near the marsh.

I found a robber fly out among the prairie flowers. This one appears to be a bee killer (Promachus fitchii) which does just that, scouting its prey from exposed vegetation.

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