21 April 2010

April 18-20, Grand Chenier, LA

James Beck is a birding demi-god! He was the “guide,” Zack Lemann the host, and three other folks came along as well. The idea was to show some Yankees (nice ones, actually) what quality bird watching is all about. We hit the spring migration at its peak and catalogued well over 100 species. This is not the best forum in which to detail all the particulars, but I’ll say this: terrific birding, near-perfect weather, no mosquitoes, great company!

Along the way, there was some bug hunting (surprise!) initiated by Zack. We found black widows in the field in large numbers at Johnson Bayou. All were residing in dead trees. We collected three nice females.

Butterflies were in short supply, but Phaon crescents and giant swallowtails to the tune of about 5 each were spotted along with a couple of sleepy oranges and two other swallowtails that I think were blacks. (Serious drought is in effect in SW Louisiana.) Plenty of damselflies if you looked for them in low vegetation along the cheniers, but almost no dragonflies. Carpenter bees in good number concentrated at certain trees, no other flighted hymenoptera of note. Got one eyed click beetle from a rotten log! I’ve not had time to look at Wagner’s caterpillar guide yet, but the hackberry trees were absolutely littered with a geometrid larva of some sort.

Back in Grand Chenier, we set up a 150-watt MV light and a 15-watt UV 2 nights in a row. Very similar insects both nights, but substantially more on the first evening. I’m not sure the weather or moon were different enough to account for this disparity, but I don’t have a good explanation. Gobs of water boatmen and substantial numbers of several other types of beetles: smaller hydrophilids and dytiscids, rice and sugar cane beetles (both scarabs), rove beetles, and a pretty good carabid mix, including bombardiers, false bombardiers, and quite a few others. Moths were mostly small, but some tiger moths and a couple of carpenter moths came in, along with about three fishflies (all female) over the course of our two evenings.

The most exciting find among the bugs was…a large payload of pleasing fungus beetles (Megalodacne sp.)! This is a beautiful beetle, but they are not often collected. If it’s been wet, they are spread far and wide over rotting wood that has their host fungus on it or nearby. But in winter or times of drought (did I mention it was dry?), they cluster under bark. Well, we found some bark, and we found some beetles! I am waiting on a hard count, but I believe it’ll
come in above 50! They are now at the Insect Rearing Facility of Audubon Insectarium.

- Zack