Wednesday, 20 May 2015

It's Elfin Season Again...

One of the joys of spring is that Elfins are in season! These little Lycaenid butterflies only have a single generation per year so you gotta get out and see them while you can. Nova Scotia has five (possibly six, see note below) species and I've already seen and photographed three of them, including a "lifer" (a new species that I haven't seen before), so far this year. This one is an Eastern Pine Elfin, Callophrys niphon, photographed at Roaches Pond in Spryfield on May 15, 2015. Note that there is a chance, albeit a small one, that NS may also have a sixth Elfin species, the Western Pine Elfin, Callophrys eryphon, since they are known in New Brunswick...Cumberland & Colchester Co. butterfly watchers should get out and look!

The second species I've encountered this year is the most common (both most numerous and most widespread) species, the Brown Elfin, Callophrys augustinus, photographed near Mt, Uniacke on May 16, 2015. Looking at this photo of a fresh specimen you might wonder why it's not called the "purple" or the "violet" Elfin? Unfortunately those stunning violet scales are soon lost and for most of their flight period they are generally just another LBJ (a little brown job).

Finally, my lifer, a fresh Hoary Elfin, Callophrys polios, photographed near Mt, Uniacke on May 16, 2015. I don't know why it has taken so long for me to finally see and photograph one of these but I'd never seen one before this one. This particular butterfly was what I call "partially cooperative," meaning that it hung around and allowed me to repeatedly get "portrait close" but it kept landing in places where it was shaded or partly obscured by grass or twigs. The consequence of shooting a shaded, dark-coloured butterfly is "blown-out" background highlights! Hopefully I'll find some more soon and get some opportunities for better photos (though maybe I should just consider myself lucky and be thankful?).

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Some Stupendous Spring Spiders...

Spring has finally sprung in Nova Scotia! After a l-o-n-g cold and very (very!) snowy winter, this insect (and other macro nature) photographer was overjoyed to finally get out and get some photos. Some of the first "insects" that I've encountered have been some new, and I don't hesitate to say stupendous, spiders. This little Salticid or jumping spider, Habronattus decorus, barely 5mm or so long (less than 1/4") with its bold blue-white and cinnamon colouration, was particularly common as it hunted around the early blooming mayflowers (Epigaea repens). Photographed at Roaches Pond on May 10, 2015.

As far as I can recall this is the very first "running crab spider" that I've ever encountered. I found a number of these dark Tmarus angulatus spiders sunning themselves on alder and birch saplings near Mt. Uniacke on May 5, 2015. A week later they were nowhere to be found...

Finally, the pièce de résistance of my spring spider surprises is my first Nova Scotia encounter with a lichenmarked orbweaver, Araneus bicentenarius. These spiders grow to monumental proportions in the southern part of their range and it is not uncommon to find specimens that are 5 cm (2") or more from chelicerae to spinnerets, with webs that are 6 metres (20 feet) or more across. This one, photographed May 16, 2015 in the Pockwock watershed near Mt. Uniacke, was about 13mm (1/2") long, a respectable size for an early spring orbweaver. I do have to admit that I never really appreciated the "lichenmarked" colloquial name until I saw this one (as you can no doubt see yourself).