Home Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats


Jordan Lake Gameland (bridge over NC 751), Chatham County, NC

Jordan Lake, 7/8/14 Common Buttonbushes in Jordan Lake, 7/8/15 The pond connecting with Jordan Lake, 7/8/15 Water Primroses in the pond, 7/8/15    

This area is near the border between the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of North Carolina. You can see clay and sand mixing at the lakeshore, though the clay of the Piedmont predominates.

This inlet of Jordan Lake, in the northeastern corner, is my favorite natural area in driving distance of Durham, largely because of the large mudflats that occur during droughts, especially in the fall dry spells.  You aren't confined to trails in the woods, unlike in nearly all public-access natural areas.  During the dry spells, when the shrinking lake water reveals substantial mudflats, here are large stretches of ground crowded with a large variety of small plants without any nuisance value, although you can pick up "stickers" from Spanish needles (aster seedheads) 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 and in the shallowest water.   In the summer, during a drought, there was a small stream running from an inland pond to the lake across the mudflats, and the many species of aquatic insects in it and nearby couldn't hide from from my camera, although the invariably fast-moving beetles gave me a challenge.  In contrast, the inland pond is deep, and covered with vegetation such as Water Primroses in the summer.

In 2016, however, water levels were much higher than usual, and no mudflats were found.  But it was still possible to see water boatmen near the lake's edge.  The mudflats came back in 2017.

On the west side of the bridge is an area with trails and fields planted with corn.  On the east side is a trail leading through the woods which reaches either the lake or mudflats surrounding the lake, depending on how great the rainfall has been at that time of the year.   For directions, see a live map.

Inlet east of bridge


This time, the lake bed had no water other than a few small puddles, and was mostly dry enough to walk on.  False Nutsedge, a marsh plant, dominated the vegetation bordering the lake, and those farthest from the center of the lake had died.  A few Water Primrose and smartweed plants showed up on the lake bed, and Tarnished Plant Bugs found their way to the smartweed.  The nearby pond, apparently much deeper, remained full, without either vegetation or animal life.  As I did last time, I found a discarded boot, this time lost under more mysterious circumstances.

Toad bug Seed-bearing Valley Redstem and False Nutsedge, on the far east end of the inlet Blooming Valley Redstem Blooming Water Primrose American Lady


Blackbirds Boot Clam shell Another clam shell  


Convergent Ladybug Beetle (Hippodamia convergens) Same beetle Deer scat, with flies and persimmon seeds Grasshopper  


Ground beetle (Bembidion genus) Part of the northern edge of the mudflat, with False Nutsedge in the foreground Small part of the dry lake bed, with small plants, mostly False Nutsedge View of the southern border of the lake bed from the northern one.  


View of Highway 751 from the east end of the inlet A view of the center of the lake bed A view of the north end from fairly close, showing the vegetation that sprang up as the lake water receded A male midge that I caught while flying  


Monarch (dorsal view) Same Monarch (ventral view) Moth Mystery muck  


Tarnished Plant Bug on smartweed        


Red-spotted Purple (dorsal view) Question Mark Red-spotted Purple (ventral view) Slaty Skimmer Another Slaty Skimmer


Spider wasp digging More digging Yet more digging The wasp has retrieved a spherical object And carries it away


Tachinid fly Toad bug Virginia Hoverfly Same Virginia Hoverfly Same Virginia Hoverfly on a Common Buttonbush


Water boatman Another water boatman with mysterious circular motion Wildflower on vine Wolf spider and toad bug Wolf spider on feather


Antmimic spider Aquatic beetle and winged insect in trouble Virginia Hoverfly on a Common Buttonbush Common Buttonbushes, not blooming Wolf spider and Northern Cricket Frog


Dragonfly Same dragonfly Male Eastern Amberwing Stilt-legged fly Grasshopper nymph


Ground beetle Mating ground beetles Mystery insect One view of the lake Another view of the lake


Leafcutter bee Leaffooted bug Moth Orchard spider  


Northern Cricket Frog Feather Another feather Tiny fly Ground beetle (Bembidion genus)


Ground beetle (Bembidion genus) Inchworm Longhorn beetle (Euderces pini) Man on jetski Male midge


Pygmy grasshopper pair Skimmer in flight Another skimmer in flight Spider exuvia Toad bug climbing onto grass blade


Toad bug Whirligig beetle Wolf spider Another wolf spider with an egg sac Wolf spider carrying spiderlings


Water boatman Several water boatmen, including a nymph Water boatman exuvia    


Water boatman Three Water boatmen, including a nymph Small succulent plant Orb weaver Fly


The most surprising discovery was a group of water scavenger beetles, apparently trapped by viscous water and some large debris, in the stream leading from the lake in the direction of the pond. A recent rain had brought this water, but the remaining mud apparently restricted their movement, causing them to get stuck on their backs and clustering around a fallen branch.

Cloudless Sulphurs Cloudless Sulphur on Purple False Foxglove Fritillary wing Red-spotted Purple Asian Dayflower


Water scavenger beetles in the stream, getting turned over Water scavenger beetles, close-up of those turned over Water scavenger beetles, some turned over Water scavenger beetle in the lake, moving smoothly  


Fungi Another type of fungi Purple False Foxglove Where the lake meets the stream leading toward the pond Another view of the stream


Toad bug #1 Toad bug #2 Toad bug #3 Long-jawed orb weaver Least Skipper


Water scavenger beetles, all on their backs, One water scavenger beetle, separated from the group but still on its back Osprey Water scavenger beetle (Tropisternus collaris)      


Cloudless Sulphur Great Egret Jumping spider          


Walnut Lace Bug (Corythucha juglandis), not at the lake, but nearby Rove beetle larva Toad bug Water scavenger larva and worm Water scavenger beetle larva with prey


Wolf spider with spiderlings Mystery fly Fly with prey Not sure... Water scavenger beetle larva (note mandibles) with worm.


Crambid moth Tiny caterpillar eating a tinier plant Shore bug (Saldula genus, maybe) nymph Same bug nymph Tiny bug on skinny grass


Ground beetle larva Another rove beetle larva with butterfly wing Water scavenger beetle Same beetle Same beetle


The same water scavenger beetle larva mentioned above Gemmed Satyr Male Eastern Amberwing      


Giant water bug (Belostoma genus) Horse flies seeking sap on a Loblolly Pine Same horse flies Toad bug Same Toad Bug illustrating camouflage


Water strider (Trepobates genus) Same water strider Red-spotted Purple Same Red-spotted Purple Little Yellow


Northern Cricket Frog Another Northern Cricket Frog Least Skipper on Seedbox Blue Dasher Male Eastern Amberwing


Orb weaver (Micrathena gracilis) Another Micrathena gracilis Same Micrathena gracilis Tiny ground beetle Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


Female Great Blue Skimmer        


This time, this part of the lake was almost entirely dried up. There was a large puddle on the far side, where Great Egrets gathered. Apparently while the lake bed was wetter, some people tried to walk across it in search of the many large clams there, but it claimed the boots of some.

Green Treefrog, among sedges and Valley Redstem Same Green Treefrog Cricket frog, on lake bed Male Fiery Skipper Same Fiery Skipper, on Seedbox

Southern Bee Killer (a bee-mimic robber fly) Wolf spider with egg sac Seven-spotted Ladybug Beetle Butterfly wing, probably of a Great Purple Hairstreak Same wing

Valley Redstem Thread-waisted waap Red-banded Hairstreak Purple False Foxglove Teneral-to-adult transitioning male Eastern Pondhawk

Flower fly (Toxomerus genus) Great Blue Skimmer Ground beetle larva Eastern Phoebe A view across Jordan Lake, with Great Egrets on the other side.

Deserted boot, from when the lake bed was wetter Another such boot Bootprints on the lake bed A general view of the lake bed On the other hand, the nearby pond had more water than usual.

Female Common Whitetail Caterpillar in a nutshell on the lake bed Wolf spider and caterpillar at crack in lake bed A caterpillar on the lake bed, feeding on a tiny plant.  


Cloudless Sulphur Spicebush Swallowtail Sleepy Orange Female Sachem Silver-spotted Skipper

Teneral Blue Dasher Female Great Blue Skimmer Three male Great Blue Skimmers Eastern Amberwing. Sex hard to determine because half of each wing was transparent. Possibly a Black Saddlebags, was nearly always flying.

Bee on Common Buttonbush blossom Female Eastern Tailed-Blue on Chinese Lespedeza Dorsal view of Cloudless Sulphur on Wild Potato Vine Female Fiery Skipper What happens to old feathers. This ground was underwater earlier this year.

Monarch Transitional male Eastern Pondhawk Moth Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Toad bug Toad bug, showing important details Toad bug Virginia Hoverfly Same Virginia Hoverfly

Waterpods (Hydrolea quadrivavlis) common in the formerly adjoining pond Wolf spider with egg sac Great Egret flying More Great Egrets View of the mudflats


An unsually brown Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and two others on Common Buttonbush Other Eastern Tiger Swallowtails on the same bush Pipevine Swallowtail sampling the minerals in the clay soil A Little Glassywing skipper on Common Buttonbush Little Glassywing skipper

Morning glories Horace's Duskywing Two long-legged flies attacking a mystery larva Eighteen millipedes!  

Red-spotted Purple seeking tree sap? Wolf spider with egg sac Osprey carrying fish A view of the mudflats looking east A view of the mudflats looking west


Red-spotted Purple Same Red-spotted Purple Two Red-spotted Purples apparently seeking sap Same Red-spotted Purples Duskywing

Mating grasshoppers Male Great Blue Skimmer Ground beetle Horse fly (Tabanus atratus) Orb weaver (Mangora genus)

Red Admiral Robber fly (Diogmites genus) Robber fly (Promachus genus) Blue Dasher  

Robber fly (Diogmites genus) with wasp prey Silver-spotted Skipper Same Silver-spotted Skipper St. Andrew's Cross Toad bug

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a Common Buttonbush Another Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, also on a Common Buttonbush Ichneumon wasp Some of a large group of water striders (Trepobates genus) on the lake Four of the Trepobates genus water striders

Two Red-spotted Purples seeking sap


Assassin bug (Pselliopus cinctus) nymph with two acanaloniid planthopper nymphs Toad bug Male Eastern Pondhawk Robber fly  

Male midge Amber on a pine tree Antmimic spider (Castaneira longipalpa) Spined micrathena Female Great Blue Skimmer  

Robber fly Fish apparently attacking a water boatman. Yes, this type of predation is apparently well-known, according to a guide by  the Missouri Department of Water Conservation. A Horace's Duskywing and an Ailanthus Webworm Moth on a Common Buttonbush composite flower  

Fly, aquatic snails and other forms of life Clamshells, possibly showing human intervention Eastern Tailed-Blue, with spider exuvia The lake itself  


The lake waters were actually quite high this time, going past the Common Buttonbushes normally at the shoreline. The connecting pond was full of blooming Water Primroses. The dominant animals this time were dragonflies, mainly Common Whitetails, Eastern Pondhawks and Slaty Skimmers, with a couple of Great Blue Skimmers, Blue Dashers and Widow Skimmers. A couple of bumblebees had dug nest holes in the ground near to the water, and visited them at long intervals. I was surprised to see a bumblebee-mimic robber fly, the Southern Bee Killer, which flew around with bumblebee prey. I only saw two species of butterflies, Horace's Duskywings (I think) and a Red Admiral. I was happy to see a toad bug, a well-camouflaged insect that leaps very far, very fast.

Southern Bee Killer, a robber fly (Mallophora orcina) with bumblebee prey Same Southern Bee Killer Horace's Duskywing? Note the little flower (unable to ID). Teneral Eastern Pondhawk Adult male Eastern Pondhawk (with some teneral green on his head.)

Fowler's Toad Ground beetle Horace's Duskywing on unidentifiable flower Entrance to a bumblebee nest Bumblebee

Toad bug, well-camouflaged. You can see some sand here as well as clay. Teneral Widow Skimmer in flight Slaty Skimmer in flight Spider wasp

Teneral male Common Whitetail Male Great Blue Skimmer  


The mudflats had come back, and some new animals had arrived (and some have left.) The pond fed by lake waters had dried up almost entirely, leaving hundreds of water strider nymphs stranded in a puddle a few feet across. Had they been adults, they probably would have flown to a more suitable aquatic environment.  The Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) was the only wildflower species seen.

Bee fly Beetle and Giant Water Bug exuvia Same beetle, as discovered Blue Dasher Feather

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Common Buttonbush Dark Fishing Spider carrying spiderlings Male Eastern Amberwing Bumblebee on Common Buttonbush Common Buttonbush

Giant Water Bug in shallow water Coconut-like fruit, retrieved from the lake Bee drawing nourishment from the soil Long-jawed orb weaver Megachilid bee on Common Buttonbush

Robber fly with bumblebee prey Same robber fly and bumblebee Shore bug (probably Pentacora ligata) Skipper on buttonbush Silver-spotted Skipper on buttonbush

Wasp Some water beetles Several water striders, apparently all nymphs, in the nearby pond Waterstrider nymphs, in the nearby pond  

Just a fraction of the many water strider nymphs found in the puddle that was mostly what was left of the pond usually there        


After a hard freeze and several inches of rain, the mudflats were gone and a new large creek made it impossible to walk along the far (east) end of the lake.  A few gulls near the south side of the lake were visible, and a Great Blue Heron appeared briefly on the east end of the lake.  The new creek was perhaps eight feet wide and several feet deep, with several minnows in its murky waters.

Jordan Lake waterfront, showing partially submerged trees Jordan Lake, far end Pond, west side Pond, north side Pond, west side, close up

Ichneumon wasp Willow Minnows with maple leaf in new creek    


The shallowest waters of the lake contained countless fairly well-camouflaged water boatmen, "true bugs" 1-2 mm long.  Hydrophorus genus long-legged flies skated nearby on the water surface, blown by a fairly strong wind, occasionally clinging to vegetation.  Large fish frequently leaped out of the water as close as 20 feet away.  Farther inland, the Valley Redstems were starting to fade, though still bright red.

Pond joined to the lake by a stream Northern Flicker (a kind of woodpecker), one of several on the ground that saw me before I saw them and flew away.  Valley Redstems Mosquito pupa, seen in a deep puddle at the base of a tree stump.  Most of its "tail" is coiled underneath.  

Four Water Boatmen with a tiny leaf A single Water Boatman Damselfly (maybe Rambur's Forktail) with prey, which seems to be a spider attacking a still smaller arthropod. Long-legged fly (Hydrophorus genus), clinging to a leaf in a strong wind  

Mosquito pupa, with interesting debris, maybe its larval exoskeleton A marshy area near the far side of the lake.  The green matter is algae. Spanish Needles (Bidens genus), broken off undiscovered plants        


Most of the beetles were gone, but I noticed some new species on this hurried trip, discovered the color variations in a tiny grasshopper species.

The vegetation near the lake at the far end from the bridge.  The red stuff at 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 colorations.  ID thanks to David J. Ferguson Algae on a recently flooded part of the lake, at the far end from the bridge  


This time I had a chance to observe the Great Egrets before they flew to the other side of the lake.  Butterflies and honeybees were prominent; the Valley Redstem was still blooming.  Grasshoppers of many species appeared.

American Lady (in the parking lot on the other side of the bridge) 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 Grasshopper (Paratettix cucullatus) Aquatic snails and mysterious tube-shaped objects    


After a long drought, the mudflats were especially exspansive.  A tiny stream flowed from a pond to the lake about a city block away; it presented a rare opportunity to observe elusive aquatic wildlife, e.g., several species of beetles, water scavenger beetles and Northern Cricket Frogs showing a great variety of camouflage.  At the far end of the lake from the bridge, at least five curious Palm Warblers showed up, apparently migrants.

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. False bombardier beetle (Galerita janus, maybe), rapidly scurrying around at the stream's edge Water scavenger beetle, all underwater  

Jordan Lake Gameland west of the bridge


Sunflower Leafhopper Slaty Skimmer Long-legged fly Another Slaty Skimmer      

Female Great Blue Skimmer Red Admiral Same Red Admiral Grasshopper making itself at home on this leaf  


Horse fly (Tabanus fairchildi), Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 6/19/07 Rove beetle, Jordan Lake Gameland, 6/19/07.  The foreshortened abdomen was raised in the air. Casebearer beetle larva, Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 6/19/07.  You can see the little feet on the bottom. Grass spider (Agelenopsis pennsylvanica?), Jordan Lake gameland, Chatham County, NC, 6/19/07 Long-jawed Orb Weaver, Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 6/19/07


Female Common Whitetail, Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 6/19/07



Broad-shouldered water strider, Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 10/29/06, one of several seen.  These bugs seemed to the naked eye to be specks darting over puddles.  Northern Cricket Frog, a Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 10/29/06      

Copyright © 2011-2017 by Dorothy E. Pugh.  All rights reserved.  Please contact for rights to use photos.

B. Everett Jordan Lake Gameland near the NC 751 bridge: The bridge is in the center of the map with "751" on it.

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