April redux

Jumping spider

Towards the end of April I happened across a few observations that I thought would be interesting to post as a wrap-up to earlier topics.

This first one is going back to the jumping spider that I watched pounce at (and miss) a smaller brown spider. The following week I came across the above perched on one of the legs of my tripod. It was huge! Well, relative to my first little guy. It was easily a centimeter and a half long. Black and hairy, with striking orange markings, hard to miss. But the most eye-catching thing about this little spider was its fangs, a radiant metallic green.

The spider belongs to the genus Phidippus, but I’m unsure of the species. The metallic fangs are characteristic of this group, and are used in impressing females in courtship dances. The genus is primarily restricted to North America, and includes some of the larger jumping spider species. Julie Zickefoose apparently has a little black one that keeps her company while working. His name is Boris.

Jumping spider with prey

A bit earlier, I had found this guy hanging out on the wall of the station building. Unlike the individual from my original post, this one had had better luck hunting. He’s munching on a midge, which are extremely common down there.

Worn Compton Tortoiseshell

I came across this butterfly at the end of the morning one day. It was flitting from one tree to another and paused at this birch briefly. I identified it as a Painted Lady, and didn’t really give it much further thought. Then, while preparing the photos for this post I decided I should just double-check that it was a Painted and not an American, because I couldn’t remember which one had the spot on the wing. Well, turned out it was neither. I hunted through the entire Kaufman guide to butterflies twice before realizing that it was an extremely worn, rather orange Compton Tortoiseshell. The first one I’ve ever seen. But now I wonder if I’d been seeing them but writing them off as the more common Ladies.

Worn Compton Tortoiseshell at sapsucker well

It was pausing at the birch trees, and when I looked closer I realized it was drinking sap from fresh sapsucker wells. This species overwinters as an adult and comes out in early spring, much the way Mourning Cloaks do. Because it’s still quite early for nutrition in the form of flower nectar, they take some of their food from other sweet sources, such as sap wells (mentioned in the original post about the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker).

Mourning Cloak at Pussy Willow

And finally, returning to the Pussy Willows. The same day I had the tortoiseshell, I also observed three or four Mourning Cloaks visiting the buds of this Pussy Willow. For the same reason that the tortoiseshell was sipping at the sap wells, these Mourning Cloaks were drinking the nectar available from the female flowers of the willow. I love the velvety red-black of the wings in sunlight. Most butterflies I see that overwinter as adults look a little ratty in the spring. The tortoiseshell had a chunk missing from its wing like a bird had snapped at it. This Mourning Cloak seems to be missing a piece from its hindwing.

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2 responses to “April redux

  1. What a gorgeous little spider! Makes me think of a souped-up hot rod with those auto-enamel colours.

    I wonder how long sapsucker holes continue to weep? Would it be a reasonable corollary, if I saw a butterfly sipping at a tree, to assume that a sapsucker had come through recently?

  2. themarvelousinnature

    Hee. I like that analogy, Lavenderbay.

    I’m not sure how long you can expect sapsucker holes to stay open, but I would imagine that if you saw a butterfly that appeared to be foraging on a tree, particularly this time of year, it’d be pretty reasonable to assume a sapsucker had opened it up. Of course, it’s always possible the tree’s wound is from other reasons, so best to look for the actual holes. :)

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