The first bug was a shiny, metallic gold beetle resting on a leaf in the sunshine. Based on the shape and colour, I am guessing that it is probably a Metallic wood-boring beetle (Buprestid sp.) of some sort, although it puzzled me to see it on a leaf instead of a tree.
The other bug of interest was a small orange and brown butterfly fluttering in the parking lot clearing. When it landed I was happy to identify it as a Silvery Checkerspot. Marlborough Forest is the only place I’ve ever seen this species, and if there isn’t one flying in the parking lot, check the first open clearing along the trail as I’ve had them in both places.
There were a few more interesting and colourful bugs on my way to the first clearing, including what looked like some sort of plant bug…
…and a huge Robber Fly sitting on a leaf in a sunny spot. There are over 1,000 species of Robber Fly in North America, and some (such as this one) are clever bumblebee mimics. Up close, however, there are clues that this is no innocent pollinator, but something else. The back appears to have a large hump between the head and the wings, and the head shape and the position of the eyes are wrong for a bee. The face is covered in bristles, giving it an extremely hairy appearance – but not so hairy that the large proboscis cannot be seen. Robber Flies are predators, and use their proboscis to insert enzymes into the prey they have caught; these enzymes enable to Robber Fly to feed first by paralyzing the hapless victim, and then by breaking down and digesting the internal organs. Once the victim’s internal organs have been liquefied, the Robber Fly sucks the juices out.
If you see something that looks like a bee sitting patiently on a leaf, check it out – bees do not typically sit in one spot for more than a couple of seconds.
After leaving the cover of the woods, I continued along the wide, sunny trail that proceeds through the open cedar grove. I saw a Snowshoe Hare on the gravel path up ahead, and was surprised when it came bounding along the trail toward me. It ran right past me, and I was so startled I didn’t even have time to raise my camera. That was the first time I’d seen a Snowshoe Hare in Marlborough Forest.
I saw a few dragonflies flying along the path. Most were Chalk-fronted Corporals. The mature adults are a handsome black and white:
I also found a male Eastern Pondhawk. It snapped up a flying insect and carried it off to a perch where it proceeded to eat it.
I also spotted this White Admiral along the trail. Several species of butterfly were present, including Arctic Skipper, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Little Wood Satyr, and Viceroy.
Once I reached the pond I started seeing more odonates. There were lots of Racket-tailed Emeralds, Four-spotted Skimmers, Frosted Whitefaces and Chalk-fronted Corporals. When I was here with Chris and Lorraine in May, most of the whitefaces had recently emerged and had not yet attained their adult colouring – none had developed the white pruinosity that covers the upper part of the abdomen. It was good to see the Frosted Whitefaces living up to their name.
I spotted a Chalk-fronted Corporal flying off with some sort of prey, and identified it as a deer fly when it landed. The deer flies were terrible, and I was glad the dragonflies were doing their part to reduce the population.
A large swarm of deer flies surrounded me as I made my way through the woods to the stream at the back of the pond. A few Taiga Bluets were still flying in sunny openings, and a number of Little Wood Satyrs flitted through the shadows. At the stream I saw a single Ebony Jewelwing. Although I waited several minutes, I did not see any Twin-spotted Spiketails flying along the creek. Either none were present, or they were elsewhere. Missing them twice now this season made me realize just how much luck it took to see the spiketail at the same location last year – not only did my visit occur during its limited flight season (early June through late June), the spiketail was actually patrolling the creek when I arrived instead of perching somewhere along the stream where I likely would not have seen it.
As I headed back toward the parking lot I began to think that my visit was a waste of time as I hadn’t seen any odees I couldn’t find elsewhere, with the exception of the brief glimpse of the Aurora Damsel in the parking lot. That changed when I reached the meadow and found a swarm of emeralds flying next to a group of trees beside the pond. Most appeared to be Racket-tailed Emeralds, smaller emeralds with an almost wasp-like abdomen that becomes thin in the middle before flaring out to a wide club at the end. I watched them for a while to see if any other species were flying among them. When I noticed something that didn’t look like a Racket-tailed Emerald I swung my net and caught it. It turned out to be a female Brush-tipped Emerald.
The Brush-tipped Emerald has a metallic bronze and green thorax with one lateral yellow stripe and a yellow dot. The abdomen also has a yellow ring around the second segment and faint, pale stripes down its length. Females have a spout-like ovipositor that projects backwards 45°, which is distinctive among the Somatochlora emeralds of our region; this can be seen in the below photo:
After releasing her, I scanned the swarm for other emeralds. I spotted another one that looked like either a baskettail or a Brush-tipped Emerald, and caught it. It turned out to be another (or perhaps the same) female Brush-tipped Emerald. I left shortly after that, not realizing until later that I hadn’t seen any baskettails. I also hadn’t seen any Horned Clubtails, though I spotted one Dusky Clubtail on the ground on my way back to the car.
Once I reached the parking area I scanned the vegetation at the edges again for Aurora Damsels. This time I found one I could photograph. I tried to take a few photos of the damselfly from the side in order to show the brilliant yellow patch beneath the thorax, but wasn’t able to get close enough for any clear photos due to the poison ivy.
Although the Aurora Damsel may initially look like a large bluet, there are a few noticeable differences even when the yellow patch on the underside of its thorax isn’t visible. When seen from above, the top of the thorax has a large central black patch with wavy edges. The Aurora Damsel does not have prominent shoulder stripes as do the bluets. The large eyes are blue, with no black eyespots, and the back of the head is black. The abdomen may bring to mind a Stream or Skimming Bluet, but the two blue segments near the end have two pairs of black spots on top which are unique. In addition, the final segment is black with a pair of larger blue spots. Finally, the Aurora Damsel is more likely than any of the bluets (except the Taiga Bluet) to perch with its wings partially open like a spreadwing.
My outing went much better than I had hoped for with the Brush-tipped Emerald and Aurora Damsel at the end. For mid-June I was expecting more; although I was disappointed that the Twin-spotted Spiketail didn’t put in an appearance, I found enough of the Marlborough Forest specialties to make the trip worthwhile.