Monday, September 9, 2013

Return to Flat River Impoundment (Durham County, North Carolina)

Every September, many local lepidopteraphiles (butterfly lovers) make a pilgrimage to the Flat River Waterfowl Impoundment in north Durham county, North Carolina. Located just north of Historic Stagville along Old Oxford Highway, the impoundment offers a gravel loop trail through wetland habitat. The area abounds with alternate wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), (Helenium amarum), and willows (Salix spp), all of which are attractive to adult butterflies or their larvae.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis© N. Cagle 2013

Time: 10:30AM to 12:00PM    
Date: Sunday, September 8, 2013
Weather: Full sun; 85-90°F
Butterfly Count: 14 species

  • Cabbage White - 1
  • Question Mark - 1
  • Hackberry Emperor - 8
  • Tiger Swallowtail - 4
  • Clouded Sulphur - 2
  • Orange Sulphur - 10
  • Cloudless Suphur - 11
  • Variegated Fritillary - 3
  • Pearl Crescent - 3
  • Common Buckeye - 13
  • Viceroy - 8
  • Clouded Skipper - 3
  • Fiery Skipper - 1
  • Red-spotted Purple - 2
Today, as we started walking the trail at the Flat River Waterfowl Impoundment, Buckeyes frequently intercepted our path. Occasionally, they were accompanied by Clouded Skippers. In years past, we have seen a much larger number and variety of skippers, although we often go two to three weeks later in the season.
Common Buckeye © N. Cagle 2013

Clouded Skipper © N. Cagle 2013
 Further down the trail, a large willow -- which we call "the butterfly tree" -- was alive with Hackberry Emperors and Horseflies gleaning sap. Beneath the willow, a Question Mark hung upside-down from a blackberry (Rubus spp).

Question Mark © N. Cagle 2013

Red-Spotted Purple © N. Cagle 2013
 Dung piles are excellent microhabitats for beetles, flies, and butterflies. On one pile of raccoon scat (filled with crayfish and persimmon seeds), we found a Viceroy and Hackberry Emperor competing for the rich trove of much needed nutrients, included salts and amino acids.
Viceroy © N. Cagle 2013

Hackberry Emperor © N. Cagle 2013
 As the morning heated up, we were greeted by the bright orange of the Fiery Skipper. We also saw three Variegated Fritillaries near blossoming Passiflora incarnata, a known host for Variegated Fritillary caterpillars.
Fiery Skipper © N. Cagle 2013

Variegated Fritillary © N. Cagle 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Spiders along the Eno River

Spiders Along the Eno River

As summer seeps away in the Piedmont, spiders begin to spin their webs in earnest. Those of us hiking off the beaten path, in particular, will fight our way through a series of webs spun by prodigiously productive orbweavers (Families: Tetragnathidae, Nephilidae, and Araneidae).

Photographs of some common spiders in the Piedmont appear below. 

Orchard Orbweaver (Leucage venusta© Nicolette L. Cagle 2013

Triangulate Orbweaver (Verracusa arenata© Nicolette L. Cagle 2013
Triangulate Orbweaver (Verracusa arenata© Nicolette L. Cagle 2013

Unidentified Orbweaver © Nicolette L. Cagle 2013

Spined Micrathena (Micrathena gracilis© Nicolette L. Cagle 2013

Crab Spider (Family: Thomisidae)