19 de mayo de 2021

Isopods of Rapa Nui

Taking a break from working on my guides for Isopods of North America, I made short guide to the Isopods of Rapa Nui:

Publicado el 19 de mayo de 2021 a las 02:49 AM por astrobirder astrobirder | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de enero de 2021

Sphaeroma papillae hunt

Marine Isopods seem to be a poorly represented group on iNat, especially along the east coast of North America. Some species are also very poorly known despite being suprisingly common in some places. One of those species is Sphaeroma papillae, a Sphaeromatid that until a few days ago was only known from Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island and one spot somewhere on the north shore of Cape Cod. Some observations of them were made in Cold Spring Harbor in the past year, one which I used to find a population along the east side of the harbor to get a good idea where they like. Using that I managed to find a third population about 10min away in Oyster Bay under some rocks in a popular park, so now not only can I use that to help locate more populations of this species but I can also help others try to find this obscure but common species.

Sphaeroma papillae [Nassaquatuck Seapill]
Known range: Cold Spring Harbor, NY; Oyster Bay, NY; Cape Cod's northern coast
Theoretical range: Long Island Sound to Cape Cod, possibly further north
Habitat: under mid-sized dark rocks in areas of the intertidal zone that are directily influenced by any sort of freshwater. The two spots I saw the isopods had a salinity between 6-8ppt, while the nearby bays had much higher salinities (12-21ppt). They also appear to be obligate to this habitat, since rocks only a few feet away from the influence of the freshwater streams completely lacked them. Other than the freshwater requirement and their preference for dark rocks, they don't seem to be picky at all; the first spot I checked was a freshwater seepage coming from a wooden seawall and the second was next to a freshwter creek on a popular beach in the middle of a heavily developed town

How to identify: The uropod branches being the same length as each other rules out the only other Sphaeromatid genus in the area (Cassidinidea, which has the outer uropod branch less than half as long as the inner one) and the outer branch of the uropods being unserrated + the prescense of two linear tubercles on the telson rules out the only other Sphaeroma in the area (S. quadridentatum)


If anyone on the coast of Southern New England and the north shore of Long Island knows of places that seem to match the habitat description, please check them for this species!

Publicado el 04 de enero de 2021 a las 01:08 AM por astrobirder astrobirder | 3 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de noviembre de 2019

Stuff on Box

Recently I've been finding weird stuff on a few small patches of Box (Buxus) on campus. Box, as far as I know of, is very commonly planted in towns and cities in the Northeastern US, so I wouldn't be surprised if these critters were just as common as their hosts.

Box Sucker (Psylla buxi) forms strange somewhat globular galls out of the terminal leaves. They're fairly indistinct unless you know they exist, which they become fairly easy to pick out. The galls appear like slender clubs at the ends of branches, with leaves near the galls themselves often being malformed as well. This was the first Box gnawer that I found, finding it pretty much instantaneously once I could locate a Box bush.

Box Blight (Calonectria pseudonaviculata) is less conspicuous and to be honest I didn't know exactly what it looked like until looking for a while. It appears to form tan patches with darker borders in the center of leaves, something that might be a bit difficult to pick up unless you have a healthy leaf nearby to compare it with. The most important symptom appears to be dark lines on twigs, although i haven't checked for this yet. This seems to be reasonably common on the type of Box that's in the patch I looked like, although I've heard that newer plantings are of a more resistant variety (species) that might also be more resistant to other Box bugs. I'm not 100% sure this is the correct species for these symptoms, but for now I have my observations of this set to this binomial.

Box Miner (Monarthropalpus flavus) is probably even less conspicuous, forming faint yellow dots on the leaves. It's probably better to call this a gall than a miner, since it doesn't seem to make conspicuous mines from what I can see and is even a species of Gall Midge. This species seems to be common in the box patch I looked through, just not quite as conspicuous as the Suckers nearby.

Box Mite (Eurytetranychus buxi) is probably the least conspicuous of the four Box gnawers that I could find, although like the others it can stand out pretty well once you can locate some. These mites cause the leaves to become mottled with pale dots that are sometimes in pale lines from feeding on the leaf juices. If you compare leaves with mites with leaves without them, the differences can be quite conspicuous. Flipping over the leaf reveals an almost fibrous texture underneath (for the lack of a better word, photos show it better) that isn't present on healthy leaves. There are also often small red orbs on the underside of infected leaves that are probably the mites themselves. This one seems to be more widespread, occurring even on the newer disease resistant Boxes I found in some other places.

There's other animals and fungi that I haven't seen yet that also infect Box. These include a rust (Puccinia buxi) and another leaf blight that appears to turns the leaves entirely brown with black dots (Hyponectria buxi). If anyone knows of anything else on Box that I didn't mention please let me know, I'll be eager to look for them.

Publicado el 22 de noviembre de 2019 a las 08:01 PM por astrobirder astrobirder | 5 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de julio de 2019

Seaside Aphids

Today's adventure took me to a bay in one of Long Island's barrier islands. I didn't get too much in the water besides some Blue Crabs that chased me for some time (Canada Geese of the sea). The same was true on land, where there were only 10 or so species in a small strip of saltmarsh, but I picked up some odd Aphids almost coating some Carolina Sea Lavender. Some further research identified them as an undescribed and very poorly known species in the genus Staticobium, which had never been recorded in North America until recently. It's unknown if the Staticobium in North America are a new species or a known species that was either always present or recently introduced. Hopefully I can get some specimens (if I can figure out how to preserve them) in hopes of at figuring out some part of this mystery.

Publicado el 14 de julio de 2019 a las 03:34 AM por astrobirder astrobirder | 3 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

10 de julio de 2019

Mystery Insect

While leaving (retreating from) a tick-filled spot out in the Long Island Pine Barrens, this weird little thing ran across my path. I only got a few shots before it disappeared into the leaf litter, but from what I was able to get I could tell that this was something I've never seen before, both in life and on the internet. It seems to look vaguely like a Cockroach or Termite (Blattodea) but I can't tell. Does anyone know what this oddity is?

Edit: Mystery solved! It was a False Bombardier Beetle larva

Publicado el 10 de julio de 2019 a las 08:08 PM por astrobirder astrobirder | 1 observación | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de marzo de 2019

Shells and more shells

The highlight of today's multi-spot trip down to Jones Beach were a few odd birds and the discarded homes of long-dead bivalves. Just before arriving to the first location I saw an Eastern Bluebird materialize and disappear in flash of blue on the side of the road, my first ever for Long Island. I spent the first 30 minutes there fruitlessly trying to refind it, but I picked up an early Chipping Sparrow while searching for it, making the slight detour worth it. After that, I went down to two stretches of beach for the main reason why I was there; to see if I could find any interesting shells to get a boost in the yearlist competition I'm in. The first spot, which was on the calmer bay side, didn't yield too many shells, but the second spot along the ocean had representatives of at least 12 species of bivalves lying around, along with evidence of two widely-separated groups of boring animals on a very old Surf Clam shell. The best find there was a Fossor Coquina (Donax fossor), which is endemic to the coast between Long Island and Virginia. The arctic winds forced me to go back to the car before I could look for more shells, but the quick glance was still encouraging for future prospects. A pair of what was either Hoyt's Horned Larks (E. a. hoyti) or Prairie Horned Larks (E. a. praticola) and a flock of of Snow Buntings were some other nice sightings at that spot.

Tomorrow I'm heading to two other beaches to try to get more shells along with an area that supposedly has a state-rare but very distinctive Spikerush. Birdwise there isn't likely to be too much out, but the second spot has hosted a ridiculous amount of rarities in the previous few years, so perhaps something strange will pop up.

(live) Lifers today: 0
Total species: 2122

Publicado el 13 de marzo de 2019 a las 01:16 AM por astrobirder astrobirder | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

12 de marzo de 2019

First Post?

I guess this is my first post in here. I'm usually busy studying up in college in Syracuse, NY most of the time, but this week I'm back home on Long Island for spring break, so I'm hoping to get a boost in a yearlist competition I'm in (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/discord-inaturalist-yearlisting-2019). I'm also very enthusiastic about trying to see as many of the planet's one trillion species as possible, so most of my adventures surround trying to get new species that I have never seen before.

Today I went from my western Long Island homebase out to a few spots in the biodiverse Pine Barrens on the eastern end of the Island. The Barrens are extremely biodiverse (and very ticky!) in the summer, but most of it dies off in the winter, leaving only a few evergreen plants and wintering vertebrates visible for most people. Nonetheless, I managed to somehow get +30 new species (and countless others that I already had seen) on a trip out there earlier this year in a spot that I already had visited last summer, so the Pine Barrens are usually still worth the trip in the dead times between November and April.

The first spot was a place labeled on eBird as the Preston's Pond Complex. Preston's Pond and the surrounding pine barrens ponds are apparently very good spots for Dragonflies in the summer, so I wanted to scout them out beforehand. While I didn't get a chance to go deep into the area, I did pick up a few interesting species, such as the locally common lycopod Dendrolycopodium obscurum and some weird lichens. A half-decayed White-tailed Deer in Preston's Pond was also interesting, although I didn't get a chance to take a photo of it in its gory glory due to time constraints and to resist the temptation to show it to my death-queasy family.

Up next was the EPCAL Grasslands right across the street from Preston's Pond. I've visited here in the summer a few times to see the breeding Grasshopper Sparrows in the fields, but never in the winter beyond a quick dusk trip to look for Short-eared Owls years ago. I managed to pick out a few Field Sparrows, a Savannah Sparrow and two Horned Larks from the grasslands, but the star of this spot was a Red-tailed Hawk that swung down to a Woodchuck that crossed the road a few minutes before. The two disappeared before I could see what happened between them, but I'm assuming that either the Woodchuck was smart enough to follow the fence it was using as a shield against the hawk into the safety of the woodlands nearby or the Hawk got a very large meal.

The last stop was all the way east on the North Fork in a patch of woods just outside of Greenport. I've heard that an interesting species of plant was present out there (I'm not allowed to say what it is), so I spent most of the hour or so I was there looking for it. While I never found the plants, I did wonder through some pretty weird habitat, which included a large steep-sided ravine and ephemeral ponds everywhere. I picked up my first Snowdrops of the year as a single plant near the entrance then a huge area about 30ft in diameter covered with Snowdrops. I also got my long awaited lifer European Holly, a local invasive on Long Island that I thought I had some time ago but turned out to be a much stranger species (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19257504), and my first Spotted Wintergreen, a common plant denizen in the Pine Barrens. Another highlight at this spot was a Green Wood Cup in the heartwood of a downed branch, staining it an almost unnatural aquamarine color.

Tomorrow I'm heading south to get coastal oddities on the beaches and along the pools on the Barrier Islands. If I'm lucky I might be able to catch an early Eastern Phoebe that's been found in one area a few days ago.

Lifers today: 5
Total species: 2121

Publicado el 12 de marzo de 2019 a las 01:37 AM por astrobirder astrobirder | 13 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario