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Summer’s dense foliage makes it tough to spot a kingfisher
as it rattles along the Little Crum corridor sounding the creek loudly for prey.

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But the constant call of a female, tracing low flights over the water,
recently made like a beacon through the bare limbs of a bright January day.

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Last March I watched a solitary Pekin duck

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make close friends with a mallard

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before matting a bed of grass on the rocky banks of Ridley Park Lake.

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The Pekin, I’ve read, is a domesticated mallard,
bred in China for thousands of years before it was brought to New York in the 187os.

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Paddling through the winter lake,

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some stick close together,

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especially this group of five,

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 which includes one duck curiously colored …
any ideas why?

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Update:  A reader’s close observations of these lake ducks lead me to agree that the the curious-looking gray one is, as she points out, an Indian Runner.  For more, see the comments by brookeduffy. Thanks, Brooke!

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This summer, when not zipping from flower to flower,

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some ruby-throated hummingbirds settled for a spell upon a creekside feeder.

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Daily male & female fed in turn

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until one day, bound beyond Mexico by way of the Gulf,
our red-bibbed males first headed south

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and, just this week, by look of the vacant feeder,
a final female followed.

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This daddy-long-legs seems forever engaged with an obstinant leafhopper.

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But another easily handles smaller prey, content to let me watch awhile

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before up & scuttling away.

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Though sharing a moniker with cellar spiders (also called “daddy-long-legs”), these arachnids are not spiders but harvestmen.  They are one of the several Leiobunum species, quite possibly Leiobunum vittatum, also known as the eastern harvestman, one of our commonly elegant residents here by Little Crum Creek.

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For an impressive glimpse of several kinds of harvestmen, consider checking out Daniel Proud’s informative series of posts on them.

Back at the start of March, my buddy Tony found a string of egg sacs in his bushes and generously offered them to me for suspense & safekeeping.

As I learned last fall with some black soldier fly larvae, these things are best put aside in a jar and forgotten awhile.

Then, sure enough, in the middle of May, a jarful of tiny spiderlings hatched and went straight to work suspending themselves in captivity.

Anxious for their healthy adjustment, I showed off the newborn basilica orbweaver spiders for only a short time, then set them and the emptying egg sacs down upon an azalea.

Within half an hour, they’d quickly dispersed in several directions beside Little Crum Creek.

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Soon after, I began watching the brush for them, wondering how the growing arachnids would fare.

There was no sign of any in May or June when the venusta orchard spiders seemed predominant.

But then in July, having succeeded orchard spiders throughout the herbaceous layer, grown basilica orbweavers suddenly appeared everywhere.

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Some of these pictures demonstrate the typical flat and circular style of web spun by all kinds of orbweavers.

But you’ll also detect the vaulted dimension of the spinnings which earned these particular spiders the name “basilica.”

I wonder, could a few of these divine architects be grown versions of our midfathered hatchlings?  Perhaps.

In any case, as July progressed, the basilica orbweavers showed themselves comfortable enough to couple here.

And they’ve begun suspending another generation of egg sacks that an adult usually tends.  Gifts that keep giving.  I guess I’ll pay them forward.

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Somewhere as a tiny 6-legged larva along Little Crum Creek, this female American dog tick hitched a ride on something small like a mouse or a squirrel, gorged on its blood, dropped off, and molted to a larger size.

The resulting 8-legged nymph then latched on to another mammal, maybe a raccoon or rabbit, and repeated the routine.

Finally I happened by to complete the adult tick’s 3-host cycle, potentially providing the nutrition she’d need to mate and lay more than 4,000 eggs.

Problem is, along the way, ticks can pick up diseases and pass them on to their hosts.

Dog ticks, in particular, could deliver Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Good thing for me then to spot her out of the corner of an eye crawling up a sleeve before feeding.

Not so good for her, however, imposing so boldly on a watchful host, one possessing both a natural aversion to parasitic vectors of pathogens and, when pressed, an inhospitable command of fire.

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Much unmentioned life along Little Crum Creek moves unseen in the cloak of night.

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That partly explains the appeal of fireflies, whose silent lights beside the water draw me raptly to the dark yard through June and July.

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This year’s first lights appeared at the end of May as single, unheralded flickers that would reach their numbered peak a month later.

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Now, near the end of July,  yellow-green lights barely dot the air above the creekside.

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But the season’s variety of flashing patterns and colors here has suggested the presence of several different species of lightning bugs along the banks.

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Many emit a single light every 3-4 seconds, tracing a yellow “J”  low to the ground or dotting the trees high above.

Some flash 3 times, others 12, as they cross the night.

Some light twice per second in the rhythm of a heartbeat.

Others emit a startling, 5-pulse pattern like a strobe.

And a few sail elegantly through space on single horizontal trails of greenish light.

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Pinpointing the different species, though, can be tough. And Firefly Watch, out of Boston’s Museum of Science, provides some useful resources to help people try.

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For now, I’m just impressed with the simple fact of bioluminescence and the quiet attention it inspires.

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So, here, I simply open the camera to share what the fireflies themselves are writing in the night.

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Inspired by blogs like Nature Posts  and Hawthorne Valley, each of these pictures captures an 8-15 second period of time during which most bugs will flash multiple times while passing through a single frame.

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By the photos alone, we might trace the flashing patterns of several individuals.

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So I leave you with these primitive shots (whose lights look better when clicked to enlarge), that I too might be quiet again, and return my attention to those silent emblems of all that’s left unseen & unsaid along the creek.

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Last summer, I discovered a sycamore tussock moth caterpillar beset by parasites that would ultimately spell its demise (see original post here).

Since that time I’ve wondered how this creature might have looked had it lived to adulthood.

Then, recently, a promising possibility came crawling up a shrub in the sycamore shade.

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The ID team at BAMONA says it could actually be one of two moths.

Sycamore tussock and banded tussock moths look so much alike that they can’t be distinguished through pictures.

Though reports of the banded tussock may be more common, our trees and annual caterpillar sightings strongly suggest the sycamore tussock.

In either case, my question about the caterpillar’s adult appearance seems settled.

Besides, according to Bug Guide, confirming the identity of one or the other requires genital dissection.

Not to worry little one.  I can live with the mystery.
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Not to be outdone in color and design, but a bit more shy than red-banded leafhoppers,

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broad-headed sharpshooters tirelessly scurry round leaf and stem to avoid detection.

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Here an adult and nymph just happen to meet a marksman equal to their game of hide & seek.

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A few weeks ago, while peddling along the woodland edge of Ridley Creek State Park, an eastern tiger swallowtail fluttered past my slow roll up an incline.

Standing to gain on its flight, I accidentally jammed gears, ground to a halt, and had to surrender the pace.

But the butterfly doubled back, flashed left and right before my handlebars, and resumed the way only when I set off again.

Later parting at a fork atop the hill, I waved thanks & praise to my continuing friend and rolled to rest alone in the shadow of a tulip tree.

It was flowering unusually low to the ground.

So I left the park with this picture of a bloom and the memory of a curious companion that led me there.

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Later, while mulling it over along Little Crum Creek, someone called me to a large moth perched wide on a window screen.

Carefully I removed the docile thing to a nearby trunk, snapped some pictures with the hope of discovering its identity, and soon marveled at how the moth’s name could have been recognized in the curious convergences of our day.

For here was Epimecis hortaria, the tulip tree beauty, a moth named for the recently seen flowering tree that hosts its larvae (a tree, incidentally, that I have not yet noticed here along Little Crum Creek).

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