Thursday, October 16, 2014

Spotted Spreadwing Damselfly

This female Spotted Spreadwing Damselfly (Lestes congener) takes advantage of today's warm sun to lay eggs in the verticle stems of the Fox Island Nature Center Wetlands plants and young trees.

The Spreadwing Damselflies are easily mistaken for dragonflies because of the open position of their wings when perched.  The Spotted Damsel is a late season flyer along with Meadowhawk Dragonflies.
Photo by J. Ormiston

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mating Meadowhawks

For about a year and a half I have been trying to get a photograph of dragonflies mating.  This past week as I was on a short walk at the Fox Island Nature Center Wetlands a mating pair of Blue Faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum) landed only five feet away.
 In this "wheel position" the male (red abdomen) grasps the female just behind the head and the female curls her abdomen to bring it in contact with the male so sperm can be transferred to the female.  The tattered wings of this female shows she has had an active summer
This pair of Meadowhawks are in the "Guarding Position" as the male grasps the female just behind the head and they fly in tandem as the female lays eggs across the top of the water. In this position the male is guarding against the female being inseminated by another male.  Male dragonflies have the ability to remove the sperm of a previous mating from a female before depositing their own.
Photos by J. Ormiston

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Duckweed and Watermeal

The larger 2 and 3 leafed Duckweed clings just under the eye of the bull frog. The smaller ( 1 mm ) Watermeal clings to the back of the frog and covers the surface of the pond.
This female Bull Frog warms in a small pond covered by Duckweed and Watermeal. Both plants are free floating plants commonly growing on small still water ponds.  Duckweed is the worlds smallest flowering plant and Watermeal is the worlds smallest seed producing plant.  These two plants can can grow so densely that they can lead to oxygen depletion of a pond and fish kill.

Friday, July 4, 2014


First appearing more 100 million years before the dinosaurs, DRAGONFLIES are a marvel of adaptation.  Surviving ice ages and  mass extinctions they are the animal kingdom's premier aerial predators. There are 97 species identified in Indiana and 462 species in North America

Eastern Pondhawk - a horizontal perching dragonfly
    Dot-Tailed Whiteface
This 12-spotted Skimmer has just captured a fly in  mid-air.
Ruby Meadowhawk
Ruby Meadowhawk

In Great Britain and Europe DRAGONFLIES and DAMSELFLIES are all identified as DRAGONFLIES.  In North America we identify them separately.
Photos: J. Ormiston ,2014 (Fox Island Co. Park)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"OH, DARN-er!"

We recently had a large group of 5-6 year old students come to Fox Island Park for a field trip.  On of the stops during their visit was at Bowman Lake to participate in using nets to dip for aquatic life including various water dwelling insects.

One young man retrieved a darner nymph (dragonfly) and was very excited to share it with his classmates.  I asked him to put it in the holding pan and continue to dip with the net.  Ten minutes later, when I looked in the pan, the adult dragonfly had started to emerge from it's exoskeleton.

Over the next 45 minutes the students and adults watched as the adult Green Darner slowly crawled out of it's skin.  The new adult was left clinging to a lakeside bush to finish it's transformation to a flight capable mosquito eater.
Photos: J. Ormiston

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Toad Haul

It starts with the sharp shrill call of the male American Toad (Bufo americanus) partially submerged in water.  Ideally it should be the water of a fish-less vernal pool providing a safe haven for the fertilized eggs of the attracted female.

In order to fertilize the female toad's eggs the much smaller male climbs on the back of the female and grasps her tightly with his front legs in what is called "amplexus'. As the female releases her eggs into the water the male fertilizes the eggs as they come out of her body.  The eggs look like a single or double string of black beads held together by clear jelly. This male and female toad are partially submerged in a vernal pool on the berm of Fox Island Park lake road.  The egg string is laying across the left rear leg of the female.

This single string of eggs was about 6 feet long.  The eggs will hatch in 3-12 days depending on the temperature of the water.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Northern Water Snake

Along with the emergence of the frogs, tadpoles and fish from the ooze and slime of our ponds and lakes come the predators that feed on those delicacies.
The coloration of this melanistic Northern Water Snake is nearly black but many have an obvious banding and splotchy pattern.
One of these is the Northern Water Snake (N.erodia sipedon). These non-venomous snakes are often confused with the venomous Cottonmouth Water Moccasins but the shape of their body markings are very distinctive.While the N. Water Snake is found throughout Indiana the Cottonmouth is found only in the southern tip of Indiana. These snakes are live-bearers and mate from April thru June and give birth from July thru September.
These snakes are typically aggressive and will strike freely if approached.  Even young Northern Water Snakes are not hesitant to bite if not handled properly.  I can speak from personal experience on that point.
Thanks to Dr. Bruce Kingsbury, IPFW Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dir. of the Environmental Resources Center for his help with identifying this snake.

Photos: Fox Island Co. Park Nature Center Wetlands, 4-11-2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"My Log!!"

"Jeez, yesterday it was the water snake, today it's YOU!!"

"Whoa, you're kinda cute close up!!"
This male midland Painted Turtle is very protective of his favorite basking log, then realizes the potential of sharing his log with a female.  Male painted turtles have much longer front claws than the female, the top of the male's shell is flatter and the female is generally larger.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Midland Chorus Frog

The midland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) is one of the first frogs to begin calling in the spring in Northern Indiana.  The call sounds like someone running their thumb along the teeth of a plastic comb.  This small frog (1.50" long) is nearly impossible to see as it calls for a mate in the ponds and wetlands where they live.  It took me about 30 minutes to find this particular frog even though I  knew I was within 6' of him and knew the exact area he was in.  I finally spotted the frog by watching for the rippled water as he called.  I was only able to get so close because the frog was facing away from me and I walked very softly as I searched the pond edge. Note the inflated throat and rippled water around this frog.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


The thick ice is nearly gone from the Nature Center Pond at Fox Island County Park but last night's low temperature formed a thin skin of ice on the pond's surface. As the temperature rose throughout the morning the edges of the pond became liquid again and I walked the shore looking for some form of life.  Sure enough a tadpole darted from shallow water, then another - stopping just long enough for me to snap it's picture then off into deeper water. It's coloration blended perfectly with the decaying vegetation on the bottom of the pond.

Friday, February 7, 2014


In a recent post on NATURE POSTS there were photos and information about the Cattail Moth Caterpillar that spends the winter snug in the seed heads of cattails.  The post sparked a desire to see if I too could find these interesting little caterpillars, locally, and see how they were surviving the effects of of the"polar vortex". The caterpillar, once hatched inside the seed head has a abundant food supply in the seeds of the cattail.  By binding the seed head fluff with silk the caterpillar insures that it will have protection in order to survive the winter winds-or will it.  On this particular day the temperature was about +9 deg. F ( -13 C) with a NW wind at about 10 mph and bright sunshine.  The cattails collected were along Ft. Wayne's Towpath Trail near Eagle Marsh restored wetland.

The fluffy seed head in upper center has been bound together with silk from the 
 Cattail Moth Caterpillar (Simyra insularis)

After gently pulling apart about 6 fluffy seed heads and finding only dead caterpillars and Cattail Bugs I found a live caterpillar that was very active in the warmth of out home.  This caterpillar crawls across the fibers of the cattail seed fluff.  The caterpillar was in a seed head that was about 75% intact and still very compact.  I can only believe that the very low temperatures of the polar vortex were not survivable for caterpillars in the loosely structured fluffy seed heads.