13 April 2010

Yellow Jacket Queen

IIII ) lllllllllllllllllllllllll Yellow Jacket Queen (11Apr10)

1256 Sspopiikimi - considerably colder than yesterday, there's a constant, chilly wind coming from the north

1257 Walking the length of the pond, all four regular aapsspini couples are in their respective territories, tending to their nests. The new, fifth couple has returned again as well, grazing on the neighboring golf course. The gander from this new pair is disheveled from battles, trying to gain access to the pond. Several large feathers on his wings are askew

1300 There's no sign of the midpond mi'ksikatsi, or the drake that lives north of them. In the south pond, we find the usual three mallard pairs, plus four lone drakes. Also, the male redwing who came in yesterday is still here, and at least for the time being has complete run of the cattails below the subpond. Nobody to flash his bars at though

1316 Even in the chilly wind, there's a male house finch singing to attract some ladies toward his haunt in the bulberry brush above the peninsula

1318 As we start to round the south pool, we notice the peninsula mi'ksikatsi are in their area below us, at the edge of the cattails. We decide to sit down on the bank of the levee and watch them a bit

1343 For twenty-five minutes we observe as the mallard couple drifts around in their shallow pool, dipping their heads underwater to feed. While we sit with them, a flicker repeatedly gives its laughing call from the trees behind us, the redwing male sings to himself in the cattails, a robin stops near to hunt worms and another gives a repeated, high-pitched tweet from the forest

1356 After another fifteen minutes of watching the couple feed, we're ready to move on. We can return and repeat this exercise on our next visit

1404 As we pass by the always-open shallows near the blind, we see that there are actually three mi'ksikatsi couples in this area today, when we thought there was only one. There is also a lone drake

1449 For the next while, we poke around in the forest, turning logs and lifting bark from poplar snags, looking for insects and spiders. For the most part, the little critters seem tucked away. We find lots of thatching refuse, and just a few of the pale lasius ants themselves. One log turns-up a harvestman spider. And a small, dark-colored, elegant crab spider emerges on the bark of a tree, completely camouflaged. We also find an odd insect when we strip off some rotten bark. It looks almost like a stone centipede, same orange color, same size, but its body is flat, and it has only six legs up front. Perhaps it’s the cucujus larva

1511 We sit down for a break in the forest, then turn a few more logs, finding more lasius ants. Just when we reach the slope that will take us out of the trees, Mahoney turns a relatively small branch from the ground, and there beneath it is our find of the day: a yellow jacket queen, still hibernating

1552 We could have left after seeing the queen, but we aren't ready yet. Instead, we briefly look out over the river island, then return to south-pond, where we have lunch. As we eat, a pair of magpies fly in for a quick sip. There no longer seem to be as many mallards here. We see only one couple, sleeping beside a tuft of bulrush

1608 Finishing our sandwiches, now we feel ready to go home. We walk to the north side of the pond once again, past the hibernating yellow jacket branch. The midpond mallard couple and lone drake have returned, they must have been among those gathered at south-pond earlier. Beside the trail, we see a seven-spot ladybug clinging to the base of a new absinthe stem. Soon we are back at the truck

IIII ) llllllllllllllllllllllllll Chrysalis Hatching (12Apr10)

0841 Wow! Two of the chrysalii I collected at the pond a month ago and put in jars have hatched. And to my total surprise, no moths or butterflies emerged. Instead, a big black wasp and a bumblebee-ish pollinator (probably a fly in mimic). I will have to research their identification

0937 Redhead ducks by Bingo Bridge, golden eagle beside Thunderchief, plenty of new arrivals on this morning's drive to work

1902 Okay, letting the bumblebee-ish critter (who's probably a harmless fly) out of the jar, in my basement, for a photo session, was not a good idea. It used its legs to clean of its wings, then came right after me. Imagine a grown man running circles around his basement, wide-eyed, screaming like a girl