January 31, 2023

Insects on South Padre Island, Texas

I made observations of a few insects on SPI and nearby. There were very few butterflies out and about, as it was rather cold and quite windy. Here is a partial list of what insects I saw:

Pyramid ants

Spotless Ladybeetle

Ochrimnus carnosulus

Genus Cochliomyia

Genus Pentacora

Marmara opuntiella, leafminer on prickly pear.

Red Harvester Ant

Toxomerus marginatus

Queen butterfly

Fiery Skipper

Sarcophaga sp.

Lepidoptera (moth)

Ochrimnus lineoloides

American Cockroach

Red Imported Fire Ant

Southwestern Dusky Grasshopper

Little Yellow

Umbrella Paper Wasp

Anastrepha sp.

Coenagrionidae

American Dog Tick

Lema pubipes

Winged and once-winged insects

Leafminer on Physalis

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Posted on January 31, 2023 08:55 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Dune vegetation on South Padre Island, Texas

I photographed many of the plants that had grown well on the dunes in South Padre Island, Texas. Here is a list of some of them:

Sea Oats

Spoonleaf Groundcherry

Beach Croton

Erect Pricklypear

Beach Morning Glory

Seaside Bluestem

American Snoutbean

Texas Palafox

Scarlet Pea

Partridge Pea

Beach Evening Primrose

Wild Cowpea

Largeleaf Pennywort

Southern Seaside Goldenrod

Parietaria sp.

Southern Goldenrod

Brazilian Pepper
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Posted on January 31, 2023 08:35 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Weeds by the roadsides in South Padre Island, Texas

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I was interested in the weeds that grow on SPI, most of which were new to me. Here is a list of some local weeds that were growing on the roadsides near where we were staying. A few were familiar to me, but not most of them:

Tridax Daisy

Straggler Daisy

Amaranths

Bur Clover

Black Medick

Camphor Daisy

Braced Fanpetal

Texas Palafox

Whitemouth Dayflower

Eastern Black Nightshade

Bermuda Grass

Coastal Sandbur (or some other closely related sp or app)

More species of weedy plants all growing in a vacant grassy lot next to Padre Blvd and further north than the previous list:

Southern Goldenrod

Whitetop Sedge

Silverhead --Blutaparon vermiculare

Saltgrass

Parralena -- Thymophylla pentachaeta

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Posted on January 31, 2023 08:09 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Wild plants in Port Isabel, Texas, 4th Street, north side of Route 100, at edge of Laguna Madre

I took particular interest in the wild plants that were growing on the salty flat area up above the beach on Port Isabel, 20th January 2022. here is a list:

American Century Plant

Spanish Dagger

Sea Ox Eye

Sea Purslane

Alkali Heliotrope

Annual seep weed

Shore grass

Shell Mound Pricklypear

Virginia Glasswort

Tornillo

Carolina Sea Lavender

Camphor Daisy

Honey Mesquite

Christmas Berry

Closer to the parking space that was near the road and near a house:

Common Sow Thistle

Bur Clover

London Rocket

Common Lambsquarters

Saltmarsh Sand Spurry

Dwarf Verbena

Bladderpods

A few of these plants were familiar to me from other places I have visited, but the majority of these were new species to me.
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Posted on January 31, 2023 06:02 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Crabs seen during our southwestern Texas trip

I found several crab species in Texas, some live, a few dead and some only their burrows:

  1. Thin-striped Hermit Crab, many live ones, inside gastropod shells. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/147133172
  2. Atlantic Ghost Crab, many active burrows
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/146929064

  3. Blue Land Crab (only some active burrows)
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/146994121

  4. Mud fiddler crab, one live one
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/146958234

  5. Mud crab, small one live
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/147134066

  6. The Western Gulf Stone Crab, an adult, dead (Similar appearance to the Stone Crab on Sanibel)
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/147061504

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Posted on January 31, 2023 05:49 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 3 comments | Leave a comment

January 30, 2023

More about our Texas trip -- non-marine gastropods

Next to one of the Pintail Lakes in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Preserve in south west Texas not far from the Rio Grande River, there was a large area of flood debris with a lot of shells of non-marine gastropod mollusks in it, shells of species both from the scrubby woodland areas and from the lakes themselves.

There were two different species of planorbids, one species of Pleuroceridae, one Melania, as well as an amber snail, some shells of the Globular Drop, shells of a Scrubsnail species Praticolella, and many shells of what I think was the Whitewashed Rabdotus, and also many shells of Linisia texasiana.

If I had been less tired at that point, I might have been able to find other species in the flood debris.

Steve Rosenthal found a few shells of the endemic glossy wolfsnail, Euglandina texasiana. But I did not find any. I hope maybe he will give me one of his.

Posted on January 30, 2023 06:18 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 27, 2023

Texas: my first visit to South Padre Island and the Rio Grande Valley

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I just got back from my first ever iNatting trip to Texas. It was supposed to be 8 days, but we lost half of the first 24 hours because we were unable to land at Brownsville due to severe fog, and so we had to return to the Dallas / Fort Worth Airport and spend the night there, awake and uncomfortable. We were a group of five people, headed up by Steve Rosenthal, who is a very keen sheller from Long Island in New York State. During the Texas trip, all five of us stayed on South Padre Island (SPI). My husband and I stayed in a two-bedroom condo vacation rental which was directly on the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The rental was quite expensive, but the unit was spacious and luxurious, decorated lushly with a beach theme, and the views from the 3rd floor unit, which overlooked the dunes, beach, and water, were absolutely fantastic, like a free iMax movie running all of the daylight hours through the big windows of the living room and master bedroom. That same glorious view was also somewhat visible from the side window in the second bedroom.

The nature in that part of Texas was amazing to me. For example, I could hardly believe that almost every one of the numerous common weed species in the city of SPI was entirely unfamiliar to me. Such a learning experience! And the flat areas on the mainland to the south of SPI were almost completely covered in huge expanses of Opuntia and Yucca. The extensive dunes on SPI supported an entire interesting community of plants that are tolerant of salt, sand, wind and dryness. And on a Groundcherry plant on the dunes next to the condo building, I found a Chrysomelid beetle species that was a completely new addition to the iNat database: Lema pubipes. That was a nice surprise.

As for the marine mollusk species, I could recognize almost all of those species from my numerous visits to Sanibel on the Gulf Coast of Florida. But a few Western Gulf species were brand new to me, including the Western Banded Tulip, the Texas Lightning Whelk, the Cancellate Cantharus, and a few others. On the Gulf beaches I was happy to see quite a few Cannonball Jellies, which I had long admired in other people's GOM observations, but which were new to me.

However, a lot of the shell searching we carried out was done on mud flats on the shores of the huge hyper-saline lagoon, Laguna Madre. That was true both on Port Isabel, and on the southern tip of South Padre Island itself. The mud flats were quite rich in marine gastropod species, and in hermit-crabbed shells, but the mudflats were unpleasantly mucky. Steve Rosenthal lost one of his favorite shelling sneakers when he was walking back, having been far out on the mudflats; one leg had sunk so far down into the glutinous mud that Steve came back to the car with only a sock on that foot.

We did also check the nice clean sandy Gulf beaches, and in some cases there were quite a lot of shells there, although nothing really compared to the extraordinary numbers of shells on Sanibel. But I found the Hooked Mussel, the Brown Rangia, and countless examples of the Chemnitz Triangular Ark; and all of those were species that were new to me.

One day we drove out to two of the many fine nature preserves that are situated in the lower Rio Grande Valley. We saw the Border Wall/Border Fence frequently, and even crossed it back and forth a few times where the fence runs a short distance south of the actual border. The part of Cameron County which is near the border there is flat and agricultural, and in human terms it mostly seems impoverished. We saw one small house flying the Confederate flag. In the Santa Ana National Wildlife Preserve, at the bird feeder near the Nature Center, I got to see a Fox Squirrel, the Altamira Oriole and the Audubon's Oriole. By one of the Pintail Lakes I saw a Greater Kiscadee. And in both that preserve and the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, I saw Green Jays, which are very spectacular in the coloring of their plumage.

The weather was mostly a bit cold and windy almost all week, so because of that there were not many butterflies flying.

Near the end of the trip I went on an early-morning bird walk at the Birding, Nature Center, and Alligator Refuge on SPI. I saw a lot of water bird species, including the new-to-me duck species Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Northern Pintail, Mottled Duck, Redhead Duck, and Blue-winged Teal.

All in all, our Texas trip was a very rich iNatting opportunity! In just barely over a week I found over 151 species that were new to me!
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Posted on January 27, 2023 03:21 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 32 observations | 8 comments | Leave a comment

November 11, 2022

Flying insects on the Korean Chrysanthemums in Central Park

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By November in NYC, most flying insects have started to disappear as winter begins to approach our city, and it is usually quite hard now to find more than a very few, rather boring flying insects.

However, in the Conservatory Garden within Central Park, entering on 5th Ave at 106th Street, there is the "French Garden". Every year in summer they plant an enormous number of young Korean Chrysanthemum plants, in every possible color and variety.

The Korean Chrysanthemums plants are large by fall, and they come into flower quite late, in October, reaching their peak flowering in early November. The flowers are quite fragrant, and the smell of the nectar broadcasts their presence over a large area, attracting every kind of insect that is interested in nectar or pollen, as well as some predatory insects who are hoping to capture and eat a few of the pollinating insects.

I try to visit the French Garden numerous times during the flowering weeks of the Korean Chrysanthemums, whenever the weather is sunny and warmish. While I am there, I walk around the oval-shaped flower beds, photographing almost every insect I see, although I confess that I ignore most of the zillion Western Honey Bees that visit the flowers.

Because I take so many photographs, I end up with numerous observations of the most common bees and flower flies, but because of my scattershot approach, I also usually end up with photos of a few uncommon or rare critters. For example, this year I photographed a Scatophaga species which I thought might be Scatophaga furcata. If that is the correct ID, that would be a new record for NYC: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/141655549

I really enjoy making images of insects on the Korean Chrysanthemums, because the colorful flowers are such a lovely backdrop for the insects, which are also often quite beautiful in themselves. I see honeybees, bumblebees, small bees of other various kinds, flower flies, numerous other kinds of flies, beetles, true bugs, butterflies (e.g. this Monarch: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/141651027), moths too, and sometimes one or more dragonflies.

In the French Garden at this wonderful time of year, I also often run into Ken Chaya and/or Mike Freeman, two terrific naturalists and iNatters who both specialize in Syrphids (flower flies).

This whole Korean Chrysanthemum outburst is really a kind of flower and insect festival, and it serves me as a highly colorful and entertaining goodbye to summer/fall each year.

I love it!
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Posted on November 11, 2022 05:36 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 45 observations | 6 comments | Leave a comment

October 18, 2022

Rare seashells from Turner Beach, Captiva, Florida

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Sad to say, I am currently not packing for a trip in six weeks time. Because of the recent severe damage in SW Florida that was inflicted by Hurricane Ian, I will not be visiting the Florida Gulf Coast islands of Sanibel and Captiva on the first of December 2022 for three weeks, as has been the case for me each year since 2011.

I will very much miss all the shelling that I usually do, and I will miss giving the rarer shells that I find to Dr. José H. Leal, who is the Science Director and Curator of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel. José is a very nice person and a friend of mine. I have given numerous batches of shells to the museum research collection since 2011, when I first started visiting Sanibel and Captiva.

In order to commemorate how well I usually do with shells, particularly on Turner Beach, which is the beach at the southern tip of the island of Captiva, I decided to make a list of all of the rare shells I have found there.

Some of the shells on this list are certainly not rare everywhere in their range. Some, for example, are common in parts of the Caribbean, and yet they are rare in the shallow water of SW Florida, or at least they only rarely wash up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Some of the locally rarer species tend to show up after beach replenishment projects, and that is because they are more common in deeper water.

So, this list mainly consists of species that are genuinely only very uncommonly found on the beaches of Lee County. But the list also includes a number of species that are not uncommon in the area. Surprisingly, those species (for example Ervilia concentrica) although quite common on Turner Beach, had been completely overlooked by all of the shellers who had donated local material and local collections to the Shell Museum before I started visiting Captiva and Sanibel in 2011. There is a shell club on Sanibel and many residents and visitors come to Sanibel specifically to collect shells, so when I started out, I did not expect to be able to find any species that no-one else had yet found. And yet now I have found over 30 species that were new to the list for this area.

But I should explain that I do a lot of my most productive searching while moving through promising spots and drift lines on the beach by crawling on my knees and elbows with my nose near the sand. Most people look for shells while they are walking or standing up, although some shellers do sit down and search. A few people take sediment samples home, in order to search for the shells of micromollusks using magnification. However, because most people do not crawl on the beach, the majority of shellers never seem to notice numerous species of shells that are between 8 mm and 2 mm in maximum size.

Also some shellers refuse to show any interest in bivalves that are present only as single valves. Because of that prejudice, they miss a large number of the rarer species of bivalves.

While most of the shells here listed were found on Turner Beach, I have also included the names of a few rare species which I found on one or another beach on Sanibel Island, but those listings are clearly marked as such.

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Gastropoda

Fissurellidae
Diodora meta -- three shells, 2014, 2015, 2017
Lucapinella limatula -- a nice fresh shell, 2015

Tegulidae
Agathistoma fasciatum -- one juvenile shell, 2015

Cerithiidae
Cerithium lutosum -- two shells, 2016, 2018

Tornidae
Cochliolepsis adamsii -- one shell

Naticidae
Polinices lacteus -- one shell from West Gulf Drive Beach on Sanibel

Tonnidae
Tonna galea -- fragments only

Cassidae
Cassis madagascariensis -- fragments only
Semicassis granulata

Volutidae
Scaphella junonia -- fragments only

Pseudomelatomidae
Crassispira sanibelensis -- a fine fresh shell from West Gulf Drive beach

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Scaphopoda

Dentaliidae
Antalis antillarum -- one shell

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Bivalvia

Arcidae
Barbatia domingensis -- several shells. I was the first person to find this species.
Fugleria tenera -- two shells
Arcopsis adamsi -- a few shells

Pinidae
Atrina seminuda -- no-one understood that this species was present on Sanibel until I explained that, and then Pam Rambo went searching for it.

Pectinidae
Euvola raveneli -- Not at all rare! This species was present on the islands and in the collection, but was not recognized as such until I pointed it out. In the early days of the museum, it was thought that only Euvola ziczac was present.

Limidae
Limaria pellucida -- one valve from Lighthouse Beach

Lucinidae
Callucina keenae -- several valves
Lucina pennsylvanica -- three valves from West Gulf Drive Beach
Parvilucina crenella -- a fair number but usually overlooked because of size

Unguliidae
Diplodonta nucleiformis -- one valve

Crassatellidae
Kalolophus speciosus -- one valve

Cardiidae
Americardia columbella -- a few valves

Anatinellidae
Anatina anatina -- a few intact shells, mostly from Lighthouse Beach and West Gulf Drive

Tellinidae
Serratina aequistriata -- a few valves

Semelidae
Ervilia concentrica -- very large numbers of valves, a few of them paired
Semelina nuculoides -- first found in 2014

Basterotiidae
Basterotia elliptica -- two valves
Basterotia quadrata -- several valves

Veneridae
Cyclinella tenuis -- intact empty shells from more than one beach on Sanibel
Lirophora varicosa -- two or three valves, one very fresh

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It is possible that I may have omitted one or two species which will need to be added to the list as I go along.

Posted on October 18, 2022 02:01 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 10, 2022

Which insects lived in Yellow Lantana in Encinitas, California?

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When my husband and I were staying at Moonlight Beach Motel in Encinitas, I ended up looking quite carefully at the surrounding area because I walked through it almost every day.

There is a house on "A" Street between 3rd and 4th Streets where there is a flower bed along the sidewalk. That is on the north side of "A" street near and at the corner with 4th. That flower bed is almost entirely filled with Yellow Lantana. Here is a list of what I found there:

Yellow Lantana, aka New Gold Lantana, Lantana × hybrida -- cultivated.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135189317
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135189286

Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus -- lots of the little butterflies always seemed to love nectaring on the Lantana flowers.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135189253

Ophiomyia a serpentine leafminer -- was on one leaf of the Lantana.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135189317

Calycomyza lantanae blotch leafminer -- on many of the Lantana leaves.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135189253
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135180606

Lantana Stick Moth Neogalea sunia -- I found from one up to four of the caterpillars on the Lantana plants at any given time.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/136633994

On, or in, the flowers:

Stripe-eye Lagoon Fly Eristalinus taeniops -- was in one of the flowerheads.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135189423

Comanche Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla comanche. A larva of this species was within one of the flowerheads.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135182147

Genus Brachymeria, a Chalcidid wasp, was within one of the flower clusters.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135180726
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Posted on October 10, 2022 08:37 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment