On Friday we were able to escape the confines of the Museum for a day outside. We went to Bluff Spring Fen www.bluffspringfen.org. The area covers over a hundred acres and includes four different ecosystem types: Oak Savanna, Sedge Meadow, Mesic Prairie and Fen. Fens are spring fed with an underlying limestone rock layer, as the water comes up through the limestone, minerals dissolve into it making it mineral rich but also rather alkaline. This can be a fairly stressful environment for plants, but, of course, there are several species that have adapted to this rarefied environment. Doug, our department head, has been a volunteer at the Fen for several years and has put in many hours of restoration work, he is justifiably proud to be able to show the area to an appreciative audience. The weather was about as perfect as it could possibly be and we spent several hours outside enjoying the surroundings and its inhabitants.
One local inhabitant that Doug wasn't too happy to see was this doe with her twin fawns! I suppose you can understand, after all the hours he has spent seeding and planting native plants and removing invasive ones, the last thing you want to see is a four legged 'strimmer' devouring all your hard work!
There were a lot of coyote scats around and the dung beetles were very busy rolling little pieces away to lay their larvae in. Unfortunately my pictures didn't turn out too well but you get the idea.
Another cool thing that I failed miserably to photograph properly were these ants that were 'farming' aphids. The aphids produce a liquid that the ants use for food so in return the ants will protect the aphids from potential predators! It is the invert equivalent of diary farming!
One such potential predator is the Goldenrod Soldier Beetle Chauliognathus pensylvanicus they were very numerous and very striking with their bright orange and black colouring. The adult beetles feed primarily on nectar and pollen and so are important pollinators, but they also eat small insects such as aphids.
Another brightly coloured beetle that was around in great numbers was the Goldenrod Leaf Beetle Trirhabda canadensis which I have posted before.
Not to be outdone in the vivid colouring department there were a number of Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars Euchaetes egle I have to say that the Tussock Moths are rapidly become one of my favorite group of moths - their adult form is almost invariably a very drab brown unremarkable individual, but their caterpillars are a riot of colours, tufts and whiskers!
Another bright individual that put in an appearance was the Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle Labidomera clivicollis, not to be confused with the Milkweed Bug. This, unfortunately was another failure in the photographic department! If you want to see a good image, go to bug guide.
There were also numerous different crickets and grasshoppers, this one made it onto the post because he actually hitched a ride on one of my co-workers so I was able to snap him!
We had a great day and enjoyed getting away from the 'office' whilst still doing something work related and learning more about restoration of native habitat. After the Fen we all headed to Doug's house and had a bar-b-que!
Photo Credits - CJT
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