February 10, 2019
People are now saying that this winter, containing the Polar Vortex of the past couple of weeks, will be a record season. It is surely true that the little creatures, whose company on the Wall of Fame out back always is such a cheering sight, are mostly nowhere to be seen. This week I found a few little friends on February 3rd and February 5. So I've taken the liberty of inserting a few pictures from Late January and Early February of the past few years to show you what the company might have included had this winter been more usual. (Or what goes for usual in a normal world.) The weaving on the left is from an old American overshot pattern, the only (I believe) pattern whose symmetry is rotational and not reflectional. Check me out on this! It isn't totally out of place here since the name of the pattern is "Snails' trails and Cats' Paws." Where this rendition of mine goes off from the classical renditions is the use of color. Ordinarily the overshots contain two or three colors (Dark Blue or Black, White, and maybe a third color, probably red.) On the right is a real cat, Tripper. Where she goes off from usual cat data was her unusual fondness for rabbit company. Remember Big Bunny?
Remember that there is information in the name of the file for each image. You can see it by mousing over the image - look at the lower left of the screen. Or you can click on the image to get to the (usually) larger image. Then the info is displayed in the address line above. Sometimes the second click will actually display a different view of the original image.
This first creature is a Psyllid, a relative of the barklice and the aphids. This one is probably Trioza albifrons, and is taken from a shot taken on February 1, 2017. Second may or may not be a terrible picture of Drymus unus, the bug that seems to be so happy in this yard during the fall and winter. I think it is (both terrible and D. unus)! Third is a proper picture of D. unus...
Here are a couple of flies. First is a Fungus Gnat from January 22, 2017, and second, which looks like some kinds of gnats, is most probably a Crane Fly - from this year, February 3, 2019. I thought at first from the shape of the wings that this might be a Wood Gnat, but the long long legs convinced me of its probable Crane Flyness. By the way, Crane flies are very interesting flies - their shape is so exotic and they come in a beautiful array of colors, both wings and bodies. If you are looking for a beautiful fly to practise your photography on, look for them, especially a bit farther on in the season when they are posed against lovely green plants. This next picture was taken in June 2016 and although it could use some lightening up and some cropping you can see what a lovely creature is a Tiger Crane Fly.
Many times you can predict what you will see from week to week in one year is to keep the pictures from other years handy. But this year has been a reminder that nothing is for sure. The spiders at least give us some stability - Sometimes! These two were both seen on February 3 of this year. I'm not sure what either is, but the ID App on iNaturalist.org suggests that the second one is a kind of False Widow Spider. One thing we can say about the supposed Widow is that it is a male. Look at those big round pedipalps!
Also on February 3 we saw this first spider. Doesn't it look shapewise like the green humpbacked spider we saw last week (second picture)? The humpback and the other spider both have a similar cut-out shape on the back of their abdomens. I'm pretty sure this puts both of them into the genus Eustala. (That's the genus for the humpback.)
If this were 2017, we might have seen this Ghost Spider a day or so ago. And we might have seen this Cribellate Spider a couple of weeks ago. (The cribellate spiders fold themselves up like an umbrella as in this second picture. Then they turn back into spiders to make their getaway.)
The third picture shows an open umbrella!
In 2015 we saw this and many other long-jawed spiders in January. Same for other years. For several years, we saw this green long-jawed spider - in winter and no other time. Then a couple of years ago, we saw it later in spring. Since then I haven't seen it. I'm told it may live in the tall blue spruce behind the shop and may fall down onto the siding once in a while - but why in winter?
The pond is iced over with only a small hole kept open by a little floating heater. But a
year (and a week or two) ago, we could see the bottom and a bunch of fish busily waking up from the long winter. It will happen!
Take care and think spring. That's what I'm doing.
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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2019