Damsels in Distress

You may remember that I volunteer with the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management from time to time, helping them clean up and maintain the natural areas here in Boca Raton. Last weekend there was a work party at Yamato Scrub, and we were there for sunrise, coffee, donuts, muffins, and—oh, yeah—work. We trundled wheelbarrows full of sand from the sand mound to a few areas of sidewalk between the two recreated wetlands on the site. There’s a sand berm between the northern pond (the deep one) and the southern wetland (much larger and shallower). When the rains come, the sand next to the sidewalk tends to follow the water downhill, leaving the sidewalk higher and drier, which will eventually cause the sidewalk to fracture and degrade. So our work party helped to shore up the sand around the sidewalk, delaying the inevitable for another few seasons.

We also did the traditional work party routine: trash pickup, with long-handled grabbers and trash bags, cleaning up as much of the area as we reasonably could. You always find the usual stuff that people discard (cans, bottles, wrappers, shotgun shells), but you’re also always on the lookout for the fun stuff. For example, when we did the planted area in the parking lot, my covolunteer Dan found the weirdest object I’ve yet seen: a fully inflated toddler’s waterwing. What on earth was that doing in the parking lot of a scrub area?

As we were taking trash from around the perimeter of the wetlands, we ran across some pretty blue flowers, which our ERM coordinator ID’ed for us as Blue Curls (Trichostema dichotomum); I was able to snap a decent image with my iPhone and its little Olloclip macro lens:

 

Blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum</em.). Yamato Scrub, August 30, 2014.

Blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum

We also ran across some hogplum (Ximenia americana) in flower; the contrast between the delicate blooms and the long, wickedly sharp thorns, never ceases to impress me (particularly when I get too close!). I couldn’t get good focus with the iPhone, so here’s a shot from the next day with my real camera:

Hog plum (Ximenia americana). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Hog plum (Ximenia americana). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Of course, during a work party I can’t exactly tote around my real camera and rig, so the iPhone photos just serve to remind me of what’s there until I can get back to the site with my DSLR and its macro lens to do some real “work.” For example, here’s a shot of the blue curls taken with my Nikon instead of my smartphone:

Blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum</em.). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum

Nice to get some focus across the entire image!

In fact, the main reason I went back to the site the day after the work party was that while we were working, I noticed some damselflies that intrigued me—spreadwings of some sort, but without my macro lens, I wasn’t able to get a sharp enough picture to ID them. So I returned the next day with my real camera and set about hunting them down. Turns out I wasn’t the only hunter in the wetlands: this enterprising Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii) captured an unwary (or just unlucky) Atlantic Bluet (Enallagma doubledayi).

Rambur's Forktail breaking its fast on Atlantic Bluet. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Rambur’s Forktail breaking its fast on Atlantic Bluet. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Damsels in distress, indeed! The fork tail in the picture above is spreading its wings, but only to keep its balance and flight-readiness; when resting normally, it folds them over its back, like so:

Rambur's Forktail (Ischnura ramburii). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Here’s a closer look at her enjoying her breakfast:

Rambur's Forktail (Ischnura ramburii) and breakfast. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii) and breakfast. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

After some hide and seek, I was able to relocate some of the spreadwings and, as I might have expected, they’re the only species we have here in Boca as far as I know: Carolina Spreadwing, Lestes vidua:

Carolina Spreadwing (Lestes vidua). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Carolina Spreadwing (Lestes vidua). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Carolina Spreadwing (Lestes vidua). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Carolina Spreadwing (Lestes vidua). Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

But when you’re intent on hunting down one particular insect, there might be others who are just as intently trying to hunt you down!

Biting fly, Tabanid family. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Biting fly, Tabanid family. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

A word of caution if you plan to hang out in the wetlands: there are plenty of predators on the wing! For example, a few dragonflies (top, Little Blue Dragonlet, Erythrodiplax minuscula; Middle, Common Green Darner (Anax junius); bottom, unidentified.

Erythrodiplax_minuscula_YS_20140831 Anax_junius_YS_20140831 Dragonfly_YS_20140831

And if you’re the first one on the trail, you might find a few roadblocks put up by other kinds of predators, like this spider (I think it’s the tropical orb weaver, Eriophora ravilla, but I’m not sure):

Orb weaver. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

Orb weaver. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

You need to look sharp if you don’t want to walk out of the scrub wearing spider silk! Now, if only those biting flies had been the bugs that these spiders were eating… Oh, well.