June 9 Bugs

I took today off to do some atlas work at my block in Dunstable, so of course I have a pile of insect photos and almost no birds.

Salmon Brook was loaded with odes, including tons of Lancet Clubtails and tons of River Jewelwings.

River Jewelwing

Although those were good (first time I’ve seen them in numbers), the single Sparkling Jewelwing was better.

Sparkling Jewelwing

After mucking around there for an hour or so, getting soaked and coated in pollen in the process, I moved on to the pond in the center of town. Not much for birds, but more clubtails and a few darners flying around. I spent awhile working on getting a shot of one of the darners and didn’t really succeed.


Watching with binoculars, I think I got enough to say it’s a Cyrano Darner. It had big green stripes on the thorax, which would be either Cyrano or Swamp and I think they were too thick for Swamp. I also didn’t notice any rings on the abdomen, which should have been noticeable if it were a Swamp.

After giving up on that, I drove around a bit and finally found some conservation land way up on High St. almost at the New Hampshire border. Walking in, a spiketail immediately flew by. Fortunately, it landed. Unfortunately it was way high up and I could only see the lower side. I took a quick shot then tried to back up but it took off again and disappeared.


Not sure which one it is, although from the little I can make out, Twin-spotted seems most probable. 20081231: After going through every photo I could find, I believe it to be an Arrowhead Spiketail.

The area was quite interesting with a good variety of habitat. In an open area, I found another scutellaris Tiger Beetle.


Further on, this moth flew by. It appears to be one of the Chytolita species, but I don’t know which one yet.


On my way back, I heard a Pileated Woodpecker and had a couple American Ladies and Eastern Pine Elfins. Back at the spiketail spot, no luck finding that, but 2 young hawks were nice (now to figure out broad-wing versus red-shoulder and what that means for the atlas).


Back at the car, I cranked up the ac and sat for a couple minutes. Of course, not 10 seconds after I turned the car on did the spiketail buzz past. Oh well, back to Salmon Brook to chase some of the bugs around.

Back at Salmon Brook, I was quite surprised to find a Meadowhawk immediately. Seems rather early.


I mucked around for probably 45 minutes, not really finding much new. Lots of Turquoise Bluets with a few Stream thrown in and a few Violet Dancers as well. The jewelwings were putting on all sorts of displays hovering and flopping in the water. My first Viceroy of the year was good as well. Back at the car, I noticed a pair of mating tiger moths.

Mating Moths


Now to figure out which ones.

Considering the heat, not a bad day at all.

June 1st Bugs

Out and about today. The plan was to start at Dunback hoping for late migrants and then go look for odes and stuff. Turns out there weren’t any late migrants but the butterflies at Dunback were good, so the whole day was for bugs.

Starting at Dunback, lots of Pearl Crescents, a few Little Wood Satyrs, and a baskettail or two. Looking for birds, I did hear a cuckoo but never found it. Finally double-checked the songs just now and it’s a FOY Yellow-billed (which appears to be my first in Lexington(?!). Down to the left, Willow Flycatchers were calling, also new for the year. Otherwise, there wasn’t much.

Way down at Blossomcrest, I found a neat bee mimic. It appears to be Merodon equestris:


Back at the intersection, a small skipper attracted my attention. It was dark and didn’t ring any bells. Unfortunately, it would land and instantly spread its wings, so I never got a good look at the underside. I snapped a few photos and with those was able to ID it as a Pepper-and-salt (looks better with the -‘s to me). Interestingly, reviewing my pile of unknown skipper photos, I found another one from Dunback from 2005.




So I sort of did get a bit of underside there, but not quite.

After a stop at home, I headed out to the Littleton Rookery. I was hoping for similar results to last year, but no such luck. Along the tracks was very little. One sprite (probably Sedge but it got away), a few forktails, a few baskettails, and a Pine Elfin was about it. At the rookery, I enjoyed watching several nests for a couple minutes, noting how grown the young were. Turning my attention to the bugs, it started slow. A teneral whiteface popped up and then a Common Green Darner. The sun was going in and out, but once it came out for a few minutes, it picked up a bit. Lots of Four-spotted Skimmers, including several ovipositing, a few Dot-tailed Whitefaces, and a few damsels. One was a very teneral spreadwing, that I called Swamp on size. There were a couple female bluets, I’d guess Marsh but can’t say for sure. And one of the things I wanted, a tandem pair of Aurora Damsels. Just yesterday, Nick Donnelly posted a request for high quality pictures of pairs in order to understand how all the appendages fit together. High quality may not be what I got, but it’s a start (I did put the close-focus filter on but they flew off before I could work in closer).

Tandem Damsels

Heading back out, I started to check the wet spot on the opposite side of the tracks, but it clouded up. Back in the open, it looked really dark and potentially stormy, so I moved faster. Being cloudy, there wasn’t much out. Bluebirds at the car were nice. I sat around eating for a few minutes and it became clear that the clouds were moving through. I headed to Fort Pond Brook and decided to find the south entrance as that would take a little longer and get me further from the clouds.

It was pretty much clear by the time I arrived and bugs were back out. In the shaded section, lots of Ebony Jewelwings and a few Little Wood Satyrs were buzzing back and forth. Out in the open, I found my first Lancet Clubtails and a nice Tiger Beetle, which turned out to be Cicindela scutellaris lecontei, which I’d only seen once before.


Also in the area was an interesting moth. It appears to be in genus Drasteria but I haven’t gotten a firm ID yet. It’s clearly an underwing relative, whatever it is.



Still in the sandy section, I started seeing a few elfins. Once one finally landed, I could see it was a Frosted and not the Henry’s I had seen here last month. They turned out to be more distinct than the books made them look. With last weekend’s Hessel’s, 32 regulars to go or so.


In the more wooded area, the clubtails were all over, including several mating pairs.

Mating Lancets

Lots of other odes including many baskettails, a couple bluets that appear to be female Turquoise, several dancers (presuming Variable), and lots of Jewelwings including my first River of the year. Butterflies included a bunch of duskywings (all large, so assuming Juvenal’s), a Spicebush Swallowtail, and a couple Azures. And another Pepper-and-salt!

Pepper-and-salt #2

That one showed the underside nicely. All the way down by route 2, I didn’t find much and it started clouding up again so I started back instead of working my way along the brook. On the way up, I found my first Hobomok and Dusted Skippers of the year. Further on, I enjoyed a Mourning Cloak chasing a Spicebush Swallowtail, especially when the patrolling baskettail joined the chase. The open area wasn’t terribly exciting, although Brown Thrasher was nice.

I decided to make one more stop at the St. Anne’s Fields in Lincoln. Starting across the street, I spent a bit of time chasing Pearl Crescents trying to make them into something better. No luck with that, but a Snowberry Clearwing posed perfectly.


Crossing over to the St. Anne’s Fields, I found lots of Common Ringlets, more crescents, and not much else. A Cooper’s Hawk being chased off by 15 grackles was nice, especially after seeing similar with a Red-tail at Horn Pond last weekend. The sun was mostly in, so rather than push my luck, I headed home.

Quiz 9 Answer

This week we have a bird that’s clearly on the small side. It’s mostly gray but has a reddish patch on the wings and some streaking. With the streaking, sparrows are about the only things that come to mind. Of the larks and pipits and other possibilities, they’re all a little thinner, so a sparrow it is.

With the reddish patch and overall gray color, there aren’t many sparrows that are possible. In fact, the only one is Swamp Sparrow, which is what this bird is. In Waltham, Swamp Sparrows appear to breed at the marsh in Met State and possibly at a couple other marshes. They’re also fairly common migrants, especially in fields, but occasionally elsewhere. This was one of the elsewhere ones, as it was in the wooded section of Beaver Brook.

May Azures

In addition to all the other highlights at Met State, I had a bunch of Azures (Celastrina sp.). Most appeared to be the recently described Cherry Gall (C. serotina) but one looked a little different. The best part was one basking with its wings open, something they almost never do. I missed my first chance to get some shots and lost track of it as it flew down the path. Luckily, after photographing the questionable one, the other returned and again opened his wings, allowing me several shots!

Here’s a couple shots of that guy:




Open-winged Azure

And the odd one:


Note that the wing is slightly damaged, so you can see a bit of the upperside. Is this one a late ladon or another serotina? It seems a bit dirtier than the others.

As a reminder that you can click on any photo and then click the “All Sizes” button to get a slightly larger view.

May Highlights

Absolutely spectacular weekend.

After the Cerulean Thursday and lots of good stuff not refinding it Friday, Saturday started out cloudy. Between it being dark and with a chance of rain still, I left the camera at home. I headed to the Arlington Reservoir, hoping for good swallows and other migrants. Lots of birds around, but not necessarily what I had hoped for. Two Scarlet Tanagers were nice, as were the boatload of sandpipers, including 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, several Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, and about 20 Least Sandpipers. I did find my first Bank Swallows of the year but couldn’t find any Cliff and numbers were on the low side. Warblers were limited with a few singing near the bridge but nothing too exciting.

After the res, I decided to walk along the Mystic Lakes. Almost immediately upon arrival, I found more warblers in the small wood lot than there were all along the res. Lots of Yellow-rumps, Yellow, Black-and-white, Parulas, and others. I spent a few minutes tracking down an odd song and got a quick look at what I thought was a Cape May. I moved for an angle with better light but lost the bird. Backtracking, I did get a nice male Black-throated Blue but still couldn’t find the singer. I circled around a bit and suddenly there was a male Cape May Warbler hopping around right at eye level! I was able to study it for a few minutes before it moved back up to the treetops.

There was another odd song in the area that I started to track down. Unfortunately I only saw it as it was chased away by another warbler. I started wandering down the path and quickly saw my first Black-crowned Night-Heron of the year. There were more warblers and a Blue-headed Vireo by the boat club but nothing unusual. Down at Sandy Beach, I added gnatcatchers, a Solitary Sandpiper, and Savannah Sparrows but couldn’t find a Pine Warbler. Continuing along the path that ends near Wellington Station, I added an American Redstart (a very nice adult male) and a first-year male Orchard Oriole. There were also lots of Yellow Warblers, some singing slightly odd songs.

It was a quick walk back, only stopping for Cedar Waxwings and an Osprey. I checked for the screech-owls that had been reported along the way, but didn’t remember the directions correctly and didn’t find the spot. Back at the wood lot, I finally tracked down the oddball. I had thought it sounded vaguely like a Prairie, but it turned out to just be a Northern Parula. That proved handy to know Sunday.

So on Sunday morning, I headed to Met State to bump up the Field Sparrow to probable breeder (the one that I skipped on Thursday and found the Cerulean instead). I started going straight up the hill. Lots of song including Ovenbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and 3 species of woodpeckers. The warblers were loud but not cooperating at first.

At the top of the hill, I immediately found a singing Nashville and then a very nice Rose-breasted Grosbeak:


I heard the Field Sparrow pretty quickly, so that’s now probable with code S (singing for more than 7 days). However, today it was joined by a Blue-winged Warbler and two Indigo Buntings!


The warblers cooperated as I worked my way town the trail. I’m not quite sure how many as some seemed to be following me but I had Magnolia, Black-and-white, Parula, Black-throated Green, lots of Yellow-rumps, and a late Palm along the way.


BT Green

There was also a pheasant calling and when I poked along a side trail, I did hear a Prairie. A new bird for Waltham and another likely breeder at the spot. Guess I wasn’t thorough last year.

Eventually, I reached the base of the hill where a Wood Thrush dropped onto the trail to feed. It was fairly distant, but I lucked into getting a good shot as it flew off:

Flying Wood Thrush

I checked the spot just to the right with the downed utility poles. More of the same warblers with the addition of a first-year male Redstart. But the big surprise was a Purple Finch. It was female-plumaged but after seeing it I realized I may have been hearing one sing, so it could have still been a first year male (they’re not easily separable until their 2nd October according to Pyle).

Back along the cemetery, one tree was loaded with Yellow-rumps, a Parula, and a Black-and-white or two. Just before the wet spot was my first American Lady of the year.


In the wet spot I found the expected Solitary Sandpiper but there wasn’t anything above. I wandered in the direction of Rock Meadow.

Crossing the bridge, I quickly added Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler and then had an Eastern Towhee. Tree Swallows were all over, often landing on piles of wood chips. Circling the garden, I had a Brown Thrasher singing and then one carrying a large stick. An Eastern Bluebird was hanging around the furthest two boxes. At first, I thought it was likely nesting in the right one, but when two Tree Swallows came towards the left, it hopped over there, so I’m not sure now.

Circling the rest of Rock Meadow didn’t add much, so back to Met State to look for owls. On the way I ran into the Bakers, who had another pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. I sent them in the direction of all the warblers and then worked my way towards the presumed owl nesting area. No luck with that, but more grosbeaks, ovenbirds, another wood thrush, and similar. A couple Juvenal’s Duskywings were out as well.

After wandering down to the field and back up I heard a Brown Thrasher and spent a few minutes trying to find him without any luck. Several Azures were flying around here, including one that was basking with wings open (post upcoming on these).

I worked my way back, adding even more Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and not much else. A quick stop at Beaver Brook didn’t come up with a Cerulean Warbler or White-eyed Vireo (or anything new on the day) but it was an excellent morning.

Quiz 8 Answer

Quiz 8

So we have some interesting looking insect. It’s got a very round body with some black on light brown, long legs, and wings with lots of black along the front. It’s on an oak leaf, so we can see that it’s fairly small but not a tiny insect.

Although there’s quite a few insects that look somewhat like this, I’m not about to go through them all. This is a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae. With about 800 species in North America, there’s a lot to filter through. Fortunately this one has a very distinct wing pattern. It’s the Greater Bee Fly (Bombylius major).

These happen to be extremely common in early spring around here. For more information, see bugguide.


I headed out at lunchtime today planning on going to Met State and bumping Field Sparrow up to probable breeder (7 days singing) but as I started down the Access Road I remembered the work being done on Trapelo right at the end of Forest St. yesterday. It was enough of a pain that I decided to head to Beaver Brook instead. That turned out to be a very good decision.

I had a sandwich for lunch, so after parking I assembled it and got out to walk around as I ate. Almost immediately, I heard an unfamiliar warbler song. I walked a little closer and began looking for the bird. It wasn’t easy as there were a lot of birds around. I must have sifted through 10 yellow-rumps before I thought I had it located. The bird then turned slightly I saw the spectacles of a Blue-headed Vireo, so apparently not. A Northern Parula was another false alarm, but the Indigo Bunting wasn’t.

Finally, I got on another warbler. White belly with a few streaks, white throat with a very little bit of a necklace. And the song clicked. Cerulean! Although among my most-wanted birds for the county and one I was hoping to find this spring, this wasn’t when and where I expected it.

The bird moved a little and even with it singing constantly, it was not easy to see. Eventually it moved down the path into the woods a bit. I followed, almost gave up and moved on, but then waited a bit and finally got some views of the head and back. Seeing that the only other Cerulean I’ve seen was at the top of a tree at Skinner State Park, this was the first chance I’ve had to really study the bird. The light was very poor, but I won’t complain.

The bird eventually returned to the tree it started in, at which point a noisy dogwalker came through and I headed back to work. I quickly sent out a post about it and got a very nice reply from Marj in just over 3 minutes:


That said it all.

After work, I ran back over to show it off to my parents. It wasn’t cooperating, staying silent (although others had it before and after we were there). We did have some consolation with a gnatcatcher, Red-breasted Nuthatch(!), a few other warblers, and more orioles than we could keep track of.

So I’ve finally gotten all the regular warblers in Middlesex County. Without figuring out an exact count, I’d also say it’s now less than 20 birds that occur yearly that I have yet to find. Come on goshawk!