A Luscious Caterpillar, 05-23-20

got up at 5:00 am to get the dog pottied and fed before I headed out the door to meet my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne over at the William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden at 6:30 for a walk.

We walked first through the garden, looking for insects… and we were both kind of surprised by how few we saw. There didn’t even seem to be many bees.  We were super-excited, though, when we came across the caterpillar of an Anise Swallowtail Butterfly on one of the Giant Fennel plants.  I’ve seen the eggs and some early instars of this caterpillar before (when they still look like bird poop), but I have never seen the adult caterpillar before.  (I’ve seen photos of them, of course, but never a live one.) Their colors are luscious: pale blue and green, with black and yellow spots, and white lines… I think I took about 30 photos of that one caterpillar. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We also found some red Leaf-Footed Bug nymphs on another plant, and the eggs of what I think was a Green Stink Bug.  Hard to tell without seeing any adults or nymphs around them. They were brown and barrel-shaped with a rim of tiny hairs around the top of them.

A new-to-me insect today was a small Pug Moth, also called a Common Eupithecia Moth.  It was a kind of nondescript little moth, mottled brown. What made it stand out was the fact that its wings had kind of an elliptical shape, and the moth held them straight out at either side. It was on the leaves of a Basswood tree (also known as the American Linden Tree).

I’d never seen that tree in bloom before and didn’t know what it was. But today it was blooming, and the florets grew out of a separate leaf-like bract that looked different from all the other leaves. I don’t usually get excited about trees, but this one was so interesting, I had to do some research.

The trees are a favorite of bumblebees and a wide variety of moths. “…Basswood flowers produce an abundance of nectar from which choice honey is made. In fact, in some parts of its range basswood is known as the bee-tree…” The leaf buds require at least 14 hours of sunlight in a day before they’ll open.  “…American basswood is dominant in the sugar maple–basswood forest association…” The flowers and stems have a lot of sugary sap in them. They’re usually found on the east coast and Midwest -–They’re Chicago natives. — but came to the west coast as ornamental trees in housing developments because they grow so quickly and provide a lot of shade. They can live for up to 200 years. Cool!

We also found a shrub that had tiny white flowers on it, and its lancet-shaped leaves smelled like lemon and spices! I haven’t been able to find an ID for it anywhere, though.  And the garden doesn’t have identification stakes or guides anywhere.  Bummer.  I’ll keep looking.

At the middle pond there were lots of Wood Ducks and Mallards, including some mamas with babies.  The ducklings are so light, they can walk right across the lily pads.  We even saw a pair napping on one of them while their mom ran off anyone who came near them. About ¾ of that pond is now covered by Sacred Lotus plants.  There were buds here and there, but none of them were opened yet.

Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera,taking over the middle pond.

We could see some Flame Skimmer dragonflies flitting back and forth among the lotus’s giant leaves, but were only able to get a distant photo of one of them when it landed down close to the water.  Roxanne noticed, too, that there was a hummingbird that seemed to be “guarding” that same area of the pool. I wonder if it had a nest nearby, and/or if it saw the dragonflies as competition for the territory.

What really surprised us, as we walked around that pond, was a pair of fledgling Great Horned Owls.  They were sitting on a low bare branch that hung out over the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first and had to have Roxanne confirm for me that, yes, that was a pair of owls. 

They were in the shade, so it was a little difficult to get photos of them, and they fled as soon as we started to walk toward them.  They flew off into a nearby tree, but were then harassed by crows and flew off further toward the trees near the street.

We then walked to the large pond and walked around that. Not a lot to see there, but we did spot several Red-Eared Slider Turtles and a Pacific Pond Turtle. And we came across a female Mallard who was sunning herself on the edge of the pond. She had several babies with her, and at first we feared she wasn’t keeping a very good eye on them.

Mallard ducklings, Anas platyrhynchos

One of them wandered off into the water and was being pursued by another female Mallard who seemed like she might hurt the baby.  Mama Mallard woke up, though, and went into the water when several of her other ducklings decided they wanted to get their feet wet, too.  Seemed like a “reluctant parent”. I wonder if this was her first brood…

So many questions.

When we left the big pond, we walked back past the middle pond and through the garden back to our cars. I tried to find the owls again before we left, but couldn’t catch sight of them.

All together, we walked for about 4½ hours before heading home.

Species List:

  1. African Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Angel’s Trumpet, Brugmansia arborea
  4. Anise Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio zelicaon
  5. Argentine Pear, Iochroma austral [purple bell/horn shaped flowers]
  6. Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii [deep red]
  7. Basswood Tree, Tilia americana [a kind of linden tree]
  8. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis
  9. Bigfruit Evening Primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa
  10. Bottlebrush, Crimson Bottlebrush, Melaleuca citrina
  11. Branching Phacelia, Phacelia ramosissima
  12. Bronze Fennel, Florence Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare dulce
  13. Buckwheat, Arrowleaf Buckwheat, Eriogonum compositum var. compositum
  14. Buckwheat, Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum
  15. Buff Orpington Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var Orpington
  16. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii
  17. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  20. Cape Honey Flower, Melianthus majo [weird sac seeds]
  21. Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile
  22. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  23. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  24. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  25. Common Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  26. Common Poppy, Red Poppy of Flanders, Papaver rhoeas
  27. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  28. Cowpea Aphid, Aphis craccivora [adults dark, babies pink]
  29. Coyote Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  30. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  31. Day Lily, Orange Day-Lily, Hemerocallis fulva
  32. Douglas Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii
  33. Dutch Iris, Flag Iris, Iris × hollandica
  34. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  35. Field Penny-Cress, Thlaspi arvense
  36. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturate
  37. Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis
  38. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum
  39. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis
  40. Giant Mullein, Broussa Mullein, Verbascum bombyciferum
  41. Golden Columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha
  42. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  43. Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris [eggs]
  44. Hairy Matilija Poppy, Romneya trichocalyx
  45. Hedgenettle, Blephilia sp.
  46. Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema sp.
  47. Jerusalem Sage, Genus Phlomis
  48. Larkspur, Rocket Larkspur, Consolida ajacis [white or blue]
  49. Lavender-Cotton, Santolina chamaecyparissus [yellow, whorls]
  50. Leaf-footed Bug, Leptoglossus sp. [red nymphs]
  51. Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  52. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena
  53. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  54. Mexican Sage, Salvia mexicana [deep purple]
  55. Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
  56. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa
  57. Oregon Grape, Berberis aquifolium
  58. Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris
  59. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  60. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  61. Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria aurea
  62. Pincushion Flower,  Mourningbride, Scabiosa atropurpurea
  63. Pineapple Guava, Feijoa, Acca sellowiana 
  64. Pug Moth, Common Eupithecia Moth, Eupithecia miserulata [lays with its wings open]
  65. Quince, Cydonia oblonga
  66. Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria
  67. Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber
  68. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  69. Rose Campion, Silene coronaria
  70. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  71. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria
  72. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  73. Tower-of-Jewels, Giant Viper’s-Bugloss, Echium pininana
  74. Trailing Bellflower, Campanula poscharskyana [pale purple-blue, groundcover]
  75. Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum [yellow flowers]
  76. Tree-Anemone, Carpenteria californica [white flowers, kind of look like rock-rose]
  77. Violet Tubeflower, Iochroma cyaneum [bunches of tube-shaped flowers]
  78. Wandering Fleabane, Erigeron glacialis
  79. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  80. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  81. Woolly Hedgenettle, Stachys byzantina
  82. Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria
  83. Yucca, Common Yucca, Yucca filamentosa
  84. ?? shrub with tiny white flowers and fragrant leaves