Monthly Archives: March 2013

Jumping spider

Most entomologists disappoint the public by knowing nothing about spiders. “They are bugs, after all!” Well yes and no. Entomologists study insects and spiders are not insects. To the lay person any small creature is a bug, to the entomologist not even all insects are bugs. Anyway we had a salticid (jumping spider) that shared our home when we lived in Idaho. It was very shy, and especially camera shy. I would get glimpses, but not much more. The last day as i was cleaning, i saw it and got a decent cell phone shot. The shiny, metallic-looking chelicerae are a surprise! Even though Phidippes audax is not a rare spider, it was fun to share a home with this gentle (at least to us)phid3 predator,

Al Gillogly introduced me to Baeus a while back and I will need a little spider knowledge to find them.

Advertisements

how to move your insect collection

Some of you might be wondering how do I move my insect collection – here are some ideas.

Your cabinets are the safest place to store your collection at home, and when you are moving.

Your cabinets are the safest place to store your collection at home, and when you are moving.

Drawers ready to load back into the cabinet.

Drawers ready to load back into the cabinet.

Insect drawers being reinserted into cabinet - note the cardboard shims that prevent the drawer from rattling inside the cabinet during transport.

Insect drawers being reinserted into cabinet – note the cardboard shims that prevent the drawer from rattling inside the cabinet during transport.

drawers loaded and shimmed into cabinet - the top drawers (which we do not own) allow for a special protective treatment.

drawers loaded and shimmed into cabinet – the top drawers (which we do not own) allow for a special protective treatment.

The top drawers are pillows! and the front of the cabinet is replaced.

The top drawers are pillows! and the front of the cabinet is replaced.

Both cabinets (we have two) are wrapped in sleeping bags and roped securely into place within the truck.

Both cabinets (we have two) are wrapped in sleeping bags and roped securely into place within the truck.

Unimportant household crap is placed between the cabinets and our box springs placed on top for extra protection. The mattress is lashed vertical and "snug as a collection of bugs" the collection is ready to travel across the country. Good luck in your travels!!

Unimportant household crap is placed between the cabinets and our box springs placed on top for extra protection. The mattress is lashed vertical and “snug as a collection of bugs” the collection is ready to travel across the country. Good luck in your travels!!

The journey is over. One tenebrionid lost a leg. No other problems. I forgot to mention that large specimens get brace pins that help stabilize the insect. ALSO – drive carefully and smoothly – every jolt you don’t give your collection helps it travel. Perhaps we should always drive like it matters…

Burrowing Owls

So many birds are having population declines. Burrowing owls suffer from all of the habitat loss and environmental poisons that other birds do, but have a couple big additional factors. Unlike many birds, Burrowing Owls have habits just like ground squirrels and other burrowing mammals that people like to kill for sport. I have found Burrowing Owls shot on their nesting burrows by these ‘sportsmen’.

burrowing owlMuch of their remaining habitat is near roads. Not only does this give ‘sportsmen’ easy access, but it also exposes the owls to direct mortality from automobile collisions. This photo was taken near a nesting burrow that was at the intersection of two busy roads, it was common to find the young owls dead on the road. Eventually the burrow fell into disuse – either they all got killed or the adults realized that the burrow was a poor place to raise a bunch of kids.

Read the book ‘Hoot’ to your kids. Go look for some owls.

For those in the conservation trenches – it is not a war!

As usual: the story is true, but everything has been changed to protect the innocent. Additionally, without totally changing everything I would be violating a sacred trust – what is said within the confines of a pickup truck in the desert may not be spoken of outside of the truck. The people (often unpaid) working cutting edge conservation issues face entrenched government agencies, industries that knowingly destroy resources (even if it costs them money), and a lack of understanding of issues by society. The language of these activities: fighting conservation battles on the front line or in the trenches is evocative of warfare. The purpose of this cartoon is to point out the obvious…

trucktalk

A few Western birds…

This is a memory post. Living in Tennessee will be exciting, but here are some birds I will miss from Out West:

The Greater Sage Grouse is an iconic bird of the shrub steppe and a symbol of the intermountain west - it is a shame that we treat them so badly.

The Greater Sage Grouse is an iconic bird of the shrub steppe and a symbol of the intermountain west – it is a shame that we treat them so badly.

The song of the Sage Thrasher brings joy to the shrub steppe!

The song of the Sage Thrasher brings joy to the shrub steppe!

The call of the Poorwill means you are camped someplace very cool. This photo was taken by tracking the bird with a camera with an infrared focusing system and then snapping the shot with a flash.

The call of the Poorwill means you are camped someplace very cool. This photo was taken by tracking the bird with a camera with an infrared focusing system and then snapping the shot with a flash.

The West has enough corvids to bring a smile to anyone. Gray Jays have always been favorites of mine, but so are Ravens, Magpies, Pinyon Jays, Scrub Jays, Steller's Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, and the rest...

The West has enough corvids to bring a smile to anyone. Gray Jays have always been favorites of mine, but so are Ravens, Magpies, Pinyon Jays, Scrub Jays, Steller’s Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, and the rest…

Burrowing Owls are very special birds to me. Once common, these birds are now having population declines.

Burrowing Owls are very special birds to me. Once common, these birds are now having population declines.

There are so many more birds that are part of this special place I have been privileged to live in. What birds make where you live special?

 

 

 

 

Gardener Beware

Just because it comes in a seed packet doesn’t mean it suitable for your garden. These 050224seedspackets are full of noxious, non-native plants. Mr Fothergill’s Wildlife Mixture Wildflower packet would be fine if I planted it in England – every plant listed on the packet is listed as noxious in one of the 50 contiguous states. The Kudzu vine was packaged out of California. Kudzu is a beautiful, great-smelling plant or is a green hell – it all depends on point of view (and how noxious your state weed board views the plant).

Consider gardening with native plants. You may plant an unruly native, but you won’t plant an ecological disaster. Just something to consider when shopping for plants this spring.

Respect those who went before

I am honored to provide a post written by Steve Bouffard. This was originally written as a comment to a previous post. I simply can not say enough good about Steve.

Your post and picture of Gattinger reminded me that in most Western cultures we don’t honor and respect our elders enough. We don’t value their accumulated knowledge and wisdom. I was educated to this fact in summer 1968. I worked for VT Fish & Game Dept. doing an inventory of VT wetlands. We had to identify riparian and wetland plants. This was a challenge for a college freshman who never had seen or heard of taxonomic keys, especially early in the summer when there were no reproductive structures on the plants. Our ace in the hole was Frank Conkling Seymour, curator of the Pringle Herbarium at the University of Vermont. He had to be in his 70’s, having completed and retired from a previous nonbiological career. I brought him 3 full plant presses. He rattled off genus, species, variety and authority faster than I could write them down. I was duly impressed, but what he did later that summer left me awestruck. We collected a pink water lily (Nymphaea sp) that we couldn’t identify to species. He took one look at it and pronounced it not native to VT. He pulled out a book and keyed it out. Pondering for only a moment he said the author was wrong. I was dumbfounded; at my level of knowledge and education, if it was in a book it must be true. I never met anyone who had the knowledge an self assuredness to proclaim a book wrong. He pulled out a second book. He said “this is interesting, this author disagrees with the first author; they’re both wrong”. Double WOW! He pulled out a third book and said “this author got it right”. The next summer he published “The Flora of Vermont” and “The Flora of New England”.  If that wasn’t enough, he was writing  keys for plants of Nicaragua from his annual collecting trips. A few years later he published a checklist to Nicaraguan plants. These quiet, unobtrusive men who contributed so much to biology deserve our profound respect.