Home Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats


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October 2011

You could say that October comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.  It's the month with the greatest temperature change, and this was particularly striking this year, since we ended up the month with temperatures historically normal for January.  Yet the leaves didn't begin changing here in the Piedmont until about October 11, and a full complement of arthropods was present in the area at the beginning of the month.  Of the typical summer arthropods in my urban neighborhood, the holdouts were tiny members of the Phidippus clarus jumping spider species, although other jumping spiders (Hentzia mitrata) lasted until the latest cold spell.  

Over on the Jordan Lake mudflats, the insect holdouts were Hydrophorus-genus long-legged flies which skated along a small stream connecting the lake with an inland pond with abundant water primroses.  Meanwhile, the Valley Redstem wildflowers, originally green with pink flowers, produced berries, turned red and collapsed while the prevalent False Nutsedge turned brown and remained standing.

Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC  10/31/11

This was a chilly morning, about 45° F. 

Brown Thrasher.  See other land birds. Bumblebee, not moving, on Bidens aristosa Red Maple Spider Flower (Cleome hassleriana).  Genus ID thanks to Laura Thomas.  

Third Fork Creek Trail, Durham, NC  10/29/11

Highs were in the 50s as a severe cold front entered the area.  No butterflies appeared.

Billbug (actually by the road).  See other beetles. Jumping spider (Phidippus clarus), 2 or 3 mm long Spirobolid millipede Fall colors  

Flat River Impoundment, Mangum, Durham County, NC  10/27/11

Highs were in the high 70s, and it was unpleasantly hot.

Variegated Fritillary Seven-spotted Ladybug Beetle Common Buckeye, with reddish hindwing Checkered skipper  

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris) Flower fly Cabbage White on aster Large fungus Swamp Milkweed pods with seeds

Durham, NC 10/27/11

Small arthropods were regularly visible on the yellow bollards: these three species were the most common.  Small field crickets made brief appearances on the trails.  The large snail was a surprise.

Jumping spider (Hentzia mitrata) Tiny jumping spider (a young Phidippus clarus), 1-2 mm long, tried unsuccessfully to catch the fly in the right (which was much bigger) Chloropid fly Snail (2 inches long)  

Jordan Lake Gamelands (near NC-751 bridge), Chatham County, NC  10/26/11

This is my favorite natural area in driving distance of Durham because of the large mudflats that occur during the droughts.  You aren't confined to trails in the woods, unlike in nearly all public-access natural areas.  There are large stretches of ground crowded with a large variety of small plants without any nuisance value, although you can pick up "stickers" in the bushes closer to the woods.  False Nutsedge and Valley Redstem are the biggest of these, while most others lie close to the ground. 

The vegetation near the lake at the far end from the bridge.  The red stuff on the bottom is Valley Redstem. Toad Bug scooting across the water surface of a small stream Fiery Skipper (in the parking lot across the street) Pygmy grasshopper (Paratettix cucullatus).  Not all members of this species have this black coloration.  ID thanks to David J. Ferguson Algae on a recently flooded part of the lake, at the far end from the bridge

Duke Gardens, Durham, NC  10/25/11

This day I heard the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks actually "whistling."  It was a high, quavering sound.

Flower fly (Ocyptamus genus, maybe) Giant water lily (Victoria amazonica) Exotic duck Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Raulston Arboretum, Wake County, NC  10/24/11

Monarchs showed up by the dozens, but there were many other butterflies there, too.

American Beauty: "field guide" photo Fiery Skippers: invertebrate male bonding? Monarch (dorsal view), very worn Monarch (ventral view) American Beauty: "greeting card" photo

Cloudless Sulphur Water strider (Trepobates genus), 2-3 mm long.  Not sure what the two little white critters are, but one has legs. Water strider (Veliidae family?) on top, about 2 mm long.  Other critter a mystery. Red-banded Hairstreak Male Sachem on Lantana Female Fiery Skipper

Durham, NC  10/23/11

Eastern Gray Squirrel, with a nut        

Fort Macon State Park, Carteret County, NC  10/18/11

Gulf Fritillary Flower fly (Eristalis dimidiatus) Fiery Skipper  

Pine Knoll Shores, Carteret County, NC  10/18/11

Willet Another view of Willet Portuguese Man o' War (Physalia physalis), found washed up on the beach.  Air bladder was about an inch long. Another Portuguese Man o' War,

Dragonfly wing Clouds overhead in early afternoon (with a little image-processing): color was visible without camera      

Morehead City, Carteret County, NC  10/17/11

Killdeer in a mudflat on the waterfront Two Brown Pelicans: the one on the left had just put a fish in its beak pouch.      

North Carolina Aquarium and the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, Pine Knoll Shores, Carteret County, NC  10/17/11

Sweat bee on firewheel at the North Carolina Aquarium (parking lot) A scene from the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area next to the North Carolina Aquarium Flower fly at the NC Aquarium parking lot    

Pine Knoll Shores (beach), Carteret County, NC  10/17/11

Adult Sanderling or juvenile Western Sandpiper Possibly a non-breeding adult Western Sandpiper      

Jordan Lake Gameland (mudflats), Chatham County, NC  10/15/11

American Lady (in the parking lot) Monarch Same Monarch Eastern Comma Fiery Skipper

Great Egrets Northern Cricket Frog Two aquatic snails, apparently interacting    

Valley Redstem or Scarlet Tooth-cap (Ammannia coccinea): flowers, fruit and buds Honeybee, Valley Redstem, False Nutsedge, and more! The green grasshopper had just landed on top of the brown one.  So much for camouflage! Crayfish hole

Common Buckeye, with red hindwing.  Photo was taken on the other (west) side of Jordan Lake Long-legged fly (Hydrophorus genus), about 4 mm long.  Seen here on mud, this tiny fly is capable of skating rapidly on the surface of water. Grasshopper (Paratettix cucullatus), very tiny (4 mm long) and well- camouflaged. Aquatic snails and mysterious tube-shaped objects    

Durham, NC  10/13/11

The arrival of autumn yellow.  This thumbnail came out sideways, alas. Six-spotted Fishing Spider Porcelainberry, an introduced plant that is considered to be invasive in many states, but not in North Carolina. Ant mimic spider (Castianeira longipalpa)  

Durham, NC  10/12/11

This was the second day that yellow leaves showed up.  It was a sudden transition.  This turtle had apparently come up the hill to escape the steady rain, but it had been consistently light.

Eastern Box Turtle        

Flat River Impoundment, Mangum, Durham County, NC  10/10/11

This was a mild, very windy day.  The water was very low, but covered with duckweed.  No migrating birds appeared, although several Northern Mockingbirds were sitting in one tree. 

White-M Hairstreak.  Part of the near hindwing (including the bottom half of the red spot) has been torn off, showing the deep blue dorsal side on the far hindwing. Cloudless Sulphur Mourning Cloak Moth (Epipagis huronalis) American Snout

A Jordan Lake Gameland (near Rte. 751), Chatham County, NC  10/9/11

Because of the prolonged drought this year, the mudflats were unusually large.  Fortunately, a small stream led from the woods through the mudflats to the lake, making it easy to observe the stream's aquatic fauna.  On the other side of the trail leading to this area through the woods from the highway was a pond full of water primroses. 

A view of the mudflats A pond inland from Jordan Lake An osprey carrying a fish Fiery Skipper  

Palm Warbler, at the edge of the woods at the far end of the lake.  See other birds. Another Palm Warbler Northern Cricket Frog #1 Northern Cricket Frog #2 Northern Cricket Frog #3

Ground beetle (Calosoma sayi), almost an inch long.  ID thanks to Jeff Winget. Male Eastern Amberwing, on what is probably a water primrose at the inland pond Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), seen at the inland pond. False bombardier beetle (Galerita janus, maybe) Water scavenger beetle  

Durham, NC  10/9/11

Chloropid fly (Meromyza genus), about 5 mm long        

Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC  10/8/11

Gemmed Satyr Flower fly Another flower fly Sleepy Orange  

Ebenezer Church Recreation Area (NC Division of Parks and Recreation), Chatham County, NC  10/7/11

Jordan Lake A solitary Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia), in sand at Jordan Lake's edge Long-legged flies (Hydrophorus genus), skating around on the surface of a puddle near the lake's edge Emaciated Fowler's Toad  

Annelids in a deep puddle False Nutsedge Jumping spider (Hentzia mitrata)    

Durham, NC  10/7/11

Fawn peeking at me from under its mother        

Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve (a North Carolina state park), Moore County, NC  10/6/11

Female Meske's Skipper (Hesperia meskei), anomalous in not appearing on a flower.  ID confirmed by Harry LeGrand.  See other grass skippers. Southern Pearly Eye Sandhill Chaffhead, popular with Clouded Skippers especially Field Cricket Tiny skipper.  Harry LeGrand thinks it might be a Dun Skipper.

Luna Moth caterpillar, about six inches long.  Photo taken by Karl Gottschalk. Checkered skipper Crab spider Dark Fishing Spider, landed on my map Rosy Camphorweed (Pluchea rosea) buds

Pinehurst, Moore County, NC  10/6/11

Brown Thrasher, looking back Same Brown Thrasher, which was apparently warning all the birds about me Long-leaf Pines    

Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, Moore County, NC  10/5/11

Meske's Skipper on  Scaly Blazing Star? Same Meske's Skipper from another angle Sleepy Orange (winter form) Leaffooted Bug  

Female Fiery Skipper Wasp Sandhill Chaffheads    

Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road Access, Orange County, NC  10/4/11

  Male Rubyspot Damselfly Eastern Fence Lizard Clouded Skipper on a lobelia  

Third Fork Creek Trail, Durham, NC  10/4/11

Carolina Mantis        

Durham, NC 10/1/11

Carolina Wren, which was singing at the time, even though it was night.  

Copyright © 2011 by Dorothy E. Pugh.  All rights reserved.  Please contact for rights to use photos.