an abbreviated walk at Mill Pond

Banded Hairstreak butterfly (Satyrium calanus)

On Monday, we visited Mill Pond Conservation Area with the intention of taking a long, slow walk along the Lime Kiln Trail. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Shortly after setting out, we met a family coming down the trail leading from the forest. Everyone had their sweaters pulled up over their heads with just their faces exposed. A couple of the kids shouted “The deerflies are horrible today!” It didn’t take long for us to verify this fact. Despite having sprayed a bit of repellent on our clothes and Sabrina’s coat, the deerflies soon attacked, burrowing into our clothing and through Sabrina’s long hair. Don and I were okay about slapping at flies, but it wasn’t fair to Sabrina to subject her to deerfly bites, so we turned around and headed back to the parking area before we had walked for more than ten minutes.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta)

Despite the shortness of our walk, we spotted quite a few interesting things along the trail. I’ve picked a few of the nicest sightings and posted them here. On a patch of milkweed that was in bloom, I found several insects — the Banded Hairstreak butterfly in the top photo, and some of the insects below (click on all images for larger views. We saw many dragonflies along the way — species which I featured in a recent post after our last visit to Mill Pond, but particularly conspicuous this time round were many of the dark navy-colored Slaty Skimmers (Libellula incesta). Most were alongside the trail in an area of plantation Red Pine. As I approached each one to snap a photo, almost invariably, it would often shoot off its perch stick to fly at me, brushing against my face or hand with wings that made a sound like crumpling cellophane. Returning to its perch, it would pause to crunch down a deerfly that had been buzzing around me just moments before. The dragonfly in the above photo is just finishing up a meal of a captured fly.

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon)

Also encountered was this very nice-sized Northern Water snake (Nerodia sipedon). A good meter in length and quite heavy, it was basking among the cobblestones in a muddy spot on the trail. Don had wandered off, so I had an awkward time trying to hold Sabrina’s leash while moving in for a closer shot with my camera. I didn’t want to pull her toward the snake, so I ended up taking a one-armed photo from a little further away than I would have liked to be.

Pale Beauty moth (Campaea perlata)

All along the trail, moths were seen flying ahead of us, often flushed up from the vegetation. The moth in the above photo, a Pale Beauty (Campaea perlata), was one of those less-than-obvious sightings where I notice a tiny wedge of pale wing sticking out from the edge of a leaf as I pass by. I carefully turned the leaf to reveal this wonderful little moth.

Clytus ruricola Longhorn Beetle

On the return walk, I stopped to check a patch of Common Milkweed near the parking area. At this time of the year, some of the most happening places for insect activity are milkweed patches, and this one was no exception. In addition to moths, butterflies, dragonflies, wasps, bees and the usual hoverflies, I found the above Clytus ruricola Longhorn Beetle.

Odontomyia virgo Soldier Fly

And also this Soldier Fly which might be Odontomyia virgo, or a closely related species. The larvae of these flies are aquatic, and the flies are supposed to be found not far from water — which was true in this case. I’ve never seen a fly marked like this before, so it was a nice way to end our abbreviated walk.

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13 Responses to “an abbreviated walk at Mill Pond”

  1. Nina Says:

    Such a pretty collection on your abbreviated walk–I should be so fortunate.
    Love those striped antennae on the Hairstreak.
    Deer flies are a problem here, too–though most of the worst of it has passed. For some reason, I swell terribly from their bites. How such a lacy-winged, delicate fly could cause such aggravation has always seemed ironic.

  2. Wayne Says:

    Sweaters, imagine!

    Wow – deerflies notwithstanding, an impressive set of discoveries! The hairstreak is very nice, and I can see how the slaty skimmer gets its name. The longhorn is very impressive.

    Looks to me like the soldier fly, which is very neatly patterned, has been two timing. The pollen is not from the milkweed!

    And btw, that particular milkweed is very nice with its horns protruding through the translator arms.

    I’ve seen two or three deerflies this year, very unusual. I’m guessing the dry weather was responsible, occurring during the usually wetter springtime when they normally appear in fair numbers. There’s an instance where I will not be complaining!

  3. Wren Says:

    Great moth photos, especially the Banded Hairstreak.

    I had to google deerflies, and I think my previous ignorance was bliss. I hope to not add to my store of first hand knowledge, because they sound awful!

  4. Duncan Says:

    Great stuff Bev, you certainly find some interesting, and beautiful, creatures.

  5. bev Says:

    Nina – I find the deerflies quite attractive too, so it’s too bad they have to make such a nasty nuisance of themselves. They can be just horrid when I’m out in the canoe as I’m usually barefoot and they take advantage of the situation!

    Wayne – Yes, sweaters! It was a cool morning when we set out, but we were not so heavily attired. It was nice to get a few night sightings in before having to abandon our walk. I never gave the pollen on the Soldier Fly a moment’s thought, but you’re right, it must have been on another plant sometime just before.
    It really is too bad about the deerflies and the even more terrible horseflies in this region (oh, and the mosquitoes and blackflies). The deerflies can absolutely ruin a summer hike or paddling trip when numbers are high. A couple of summers ago, we had planned to hike at Cape Chignecto in Nova Scotia, but we met with such large and ferocious horseflies, that we abandoned our plan almost immediately. Unfortunately, they really seem to like to pick on Sabrina — they are sneaky and go for the insides of her ears, the soft skin behind her ears, or the thin part of her coat on her belly. Sprays don’t do much to keep them away, so we usually abandon a hike if the deerflies or horseflies show up. Some forests are particular horrid, so we avoid those places.

    Wren – No deerflies where you are? That’s fantastic! Be *very* glad that you haven’t yet met them.

    Duncan – Thanks! I’m always a little amazed that we can turn up so many neat things, even during a brief walk.

  6. Dave Says:

    I’ve wondered what those little white moths were. Of course, I suppose you’re going to tell me that there are actually two dozen species of nondescript white moths that fly up from the leaves this time of year.

  7. DougT Says:

    Great photos, as always. I’m jealous of the Clytus. I have recently developed a passion for longhorn beetles, and that’s a species I’ve never seen before. I’m also curious about the Odontomyia. A week and a half ago I photographed a similar species at he prairie where I work, as I had never seen one before. Unfortunately, mine did not photograph well. Then over the weekend I saw more on a trip to Michigan. I don’t know whether I had previously just overlooked them, or if they are just having a really good year this year. Lots of stuff seems to be having a good year here in Illinois.

  8. robin andrea Says:

    I am impressed by the sheer number of different species you found in ten minutes, and photographed. What a fine day, even if it was cut short.

  9. bev Says:

    Dave – Uhm.. what can I say? Indeed, there are a number of nondescript white moths in the forest. These are slightly greenish though, and the edges of the hind wings are a bit wavy, so they stand out from the rest. Hope that helps!

    Doug – I’ve photographed quite a few other longhorn beetles, but I think that’s the first of that particular species. I certainly had muscular looking legs! We’re having a good year for a number of species here as well, so it may be that some of the less seen insects are just a bit more numerous this year. I think that’s the case with Scorpion Flies. I don’t generally see that many each year, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been encountering them everywhere.

  10. bev Says:

    robin – I might have been disappointed by the length of the walk, but the biodiversity of that site makes even a short visit quite worthwhile.

  11. Cathy Says:

    “Don had wandered off . . :0)” My hubby wanders off when I’m fidgeting with my camera. Now of course, you’ve got me wondering about that cellophane sound.

    When you wrote that the snake was ‘heavy’ – I assume you’re guesstimating. I mean – you’re not handling it (?) *shiver*

    It’s always a little disappointing when flies spoil the ointment. One of my worst outdoor experiences involved deer flies. They cared little that we were doused in ‘Off’. The faster we moved – the more we sweat – it was like sharks to blood.

  12. bev Says:

    Cathy – Don and Sabrina often walk ahead and leave me shooting photos. After awhile, Sabrina gets anxious and keeps stopping, so they turn around and come back looking for me. She’s so funny…a very devoted worry-wart dog.
    The cellophane sound — yes, when dragonfly wings collide with you, or when they collide with each other, there’s a sound like crinkling cellophane.
    Yes, I was guesstimating with the weight of the snake — I guess I mean that it was a “weighty looking” snake, which a mature snake will be. I don’t handle snakes too often, although I don’t mind picking up Smooth Green Snakes, Ribbon and Garter Snakes. However, I always feel like picking them up probably stresses them, so I prefer to just observe them. I’ve never picked up a Water snake and doubt that I ever will. A lot that I meet are quite good-sized and water snakes have a bit of a reputation for “biting fiercely” when they feel threatened, so I figure they’re better not disturbed.
    As for the deer flies, they can be just awful. That’s just how they were on Sunday — chasing us and biting. I’ve had that happen when I’m canoeing into marshes and it can be dreadful. And you’re right, the “Off” doesn’t seem to deter them one bit. I feel sorry for the poor animals that have to put up with them in the bush.

  13. DougT Says:

    I think that your caution on the water snakes is well founded. We keep some here at the Nature Museum. Not only are they rather nippy, they are very ready to musk you when you pick them up. Yuk.