Monday, April 30, 2012

Moth program results

Our moth program with field guide author Seabrooke Leckie was a great success! We were a bit worried about the cool weather, but Seabrooke explained that many moth species overwinter as adults (rather than eggs, caterpillars, or pupae/cocoons). These cold-hardy species will fly in temperatures cooler than we were experiencing (in the mid-50s).

Seabrooke arrived in late afternoon, and we set up several sheets with different types of light (black light, mercury vapor). Moths are attracted to the lights and land on the sheets.

One of the sheet/light set ups.

We also soaked some rope in a mixture of red wine and brown sugar, and hung them out to attract species that feed on nectar and sap (many adult moths, however, do not eat at all). This mix should really be allowed to ferment, so we didn't have luck with that.

Stinky, sticky wine rope hanging from wood shed.
Seabrooke started out with a short presentation focusing on moths in the environment.



Then our group of about 30 people made the rounds of the sheets and collected moths in clear pill bottles. These were brought back into the building where Seabrooke identified them.



Seabrooke also helped my husband Darrin identify some photographs he had taken the last few years.

 
Our friend Don Sherwood has been raising silkworm moths. He brought along this Luna Moth to show everybody. I think this is probably one of the most beautiful moths in the world!


Here is our list of moths that came to the lights, with links to the species or genus at BugGuide, a great online resource for insect identification. Some very tiny moths ("micromoths") were only identified to genus.
The Curve-toothed Geometer. We released
all the moths at the end of the night.
  1. Unicorn Prominent (Schizura unicornus)
  2. The Gem (Orthonama obstiptata)
  3. Celery Leaftier (Udea rubigalis)
  4. Palmerworm Moth (Dichomeris ligulella)
  5. Featherduster Agonopterix (Agonopterix pulvipennella)
  6. Confused Woodgrain (Morrisonia confusa)
  7. Acleris sp.
  8. Common Acleris (Acleris subnivana)
  9. The White-Speck/Armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta)
  10. Dusky Groundling (Condica vecors)
  11. Olive-and-black Carpet (Acasis viridata)
  12. Epinotia sp.
  13. Eupithica sp.
  14. Bent-line Carpet (Costaconvexa centrostrigaria)
  15. Curve-toothed Geometer (Eutrapela clemataria)
  16. Red-banded Leafroller (Argyrotaenia velutinana)
  17. Gray-banded Leafroller (Argyrotaenia mariana)
There were also a couple of "get-aways" and some that flew near the sheets that we didn't catch.

Thank you Seabrooke for an excellent evening!

Julie Craves and Seabrooke Leckie.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Update on European Goldfinches

People continue to leave me comments on my previous posts about European Goldfinches in the U.S. (see list of posts below). I am still keeping track, especially of breeding records. In addition to accumulating reports from proactive observers, I also periodically look through birding listservs and eBird records. Unfortunately, any Illinois records put in eBird are filtered out of public view, but the state reviewer is working on changing this. Even so, I still have over 50 records of well over 100 birds from the past few years just in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois alone.

Here's a map from a previous post, showing the Wisconsin and Illinois counties highlighted in red where the bulk of reports of European Goldfinch come from.


In a previous post, I documented nesting in Waukegan, Illinois, which is in Lake County. Later, I found a report online of a family of European Goldfinches at Waukegan Beach on 13 August 2009, consisting of five birds: two adults, and two juveniles, with the fifth bird likely also a juvenile. The observer posted this photo on Flickr. The day before the photo was taken, another observer saw a minimum of 13 European Goldfinches foraging in a weedy area in what appeared to be two to four family groups in an area just adjacent to Waukegan Beach.

In 2011, European Goldfinches were reported nest-building at Waukegan Beach. A report in April 2012, just a couple weeks ago, also mentioned them gathering nest material. So it seems a breeding population is well-established in the Waukegan area.

These may not be the first European Goldfinches to have nested in Illinois, as there was also a report of birds nest building at Montrose Point in Chicago, Cook County as early as 2003.

In Wisconsin, the breeding population seems centered in the Racine area of Racine County. That is around 25 miles north of Waukegan. My previous post documented a juvenile in 2009 in the Racine suburb of Mt. Pleasant. Subsequently, I received a report in late July 2009: the Scheefs in suburban Racine reported on a juvenile showing up at their feeders shown in this post.

I also heard from Sarah Anspaugh of Racine, who took the photo below of a European Goldfinch family. A pair showed up at her feeder on 13 May 2009, appeared periodically through June, and on 8 July 8 there were 2 juveniles with them.


Jane Scheef of Racine contacted me again in 2010. The pair in her neighborhood arrived at her feeder on 29 June with 5 young in tow, shown in the photo below.



I think that an eBird report of six to eight coming to a feeder in Racine in late winter 2011 may be the same residence. The largest flock I have heard about was that of 30 on 4 December 2011, also in Racine (I think this checklist is the exact location).

Finally, in between Waukegan, IL and Racine, WI is Kenosha, WI, where a correspondent named Donna has had at least one pair of European Goldfinches at her feeders. In June 2011, she photographed them with three young. She recently wrote me that a pair is currently coming to her feeders.

Unlike American Goldfinches, European Goldfinches typically nest in May and June, so be on the lookout and keep sending those reports.

Here are my other posts:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Moth program with field guide author Seabrooke Leckie


It's with great anticipation that I announce an upcoming program, a joint effort between RRBO and the University of Michigan-Dearborn Environmental Interpretive Center. Seabrooke Leckie, co-author of the new Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America will be visiting on Sunday, April 29, 2012. She will be giving an informal program on moths, and will be setting up her nocturnal moth-attracting gear in the campus natural area to see what is around. Late April can be fairly early for a wide variety of moths at this latitude, but with the exceptionally warm spring, it's hard to know what to expect! Let's hope the weather doesn't turn too fickle.

I can't wait to see the new field guide. It will be released shortly before the program, and Seabrooke will be happy to sign your copy (she will have some available for purchase, or you can pre-order at Amazon). This book is sorely needed, and you can read more about the story behind it, what it will include, and see some sample plates at Seabrooke's web site.

Plus, I'm really looking forward to finally meeting Seabrooke in person. I first became aware of her through her former work as a bird bander at Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station in Toronto. They banded a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in 2003 that I recaptured here on campus in 2005. Since then, she and I have kept in touch through our blogs and social networking. Seven years is like forever in the ephemeral world of the Internet, so it feels like we have been friends a long time. I'm eager to met her ITRW ("in the real world"), as the kids say these days.

The program will take place from 8 PM until midnight at the campus EIC. A map and directions are on this page.

The program is free, and children must be at least 12 years of age to attend. We ask that you please RSVP by dropping us a note; you can do so by filling out the contact form on the RRBO web site.