A river grab bag

With the Farmers Market, Beer Garden, and beautiful weather added to the usual Sunday crowd, I tried the find the quietest spots I could, which tend to be along the river, and this is the oddball cast of characters I found there.

First up is a young blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata), old enough to fly, but still pleading to be fed, with incessant diminutive calls and little wing flutters. Really, that’s the cutest age, right? At least he was too busy to elude my camera as well as his elders have managed to do all summer.

Next up are a couple of surprises for me in the river, a painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) sporting a fine algae patina and a tadpole, probably an American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) judging by its size, who’s already grown hind legs. We’ve seen both in the pond, of course, but I wouldn’t have expected to find either one in the river. Live and learn, we hope.

This next pair take us back a bit, to the Middle Devonian age, about 385,000,000 years ago. They are brachiopod fossils imbedded in the argillaceous dolostone of the Milwaukee Formation, laid down when the future midwest was under a shallow sea. I had to step off the path to let a group pass, and as I waited, these were just staring me in the face, as patient as can be. Yup, we’ve even got fossils in Estabrook Park.

A little less patient were these two, an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), who appears to have seen better days (insert joke here about someone swallowing its tail), and an unassuming little moth who appears to be a gray spring moth (Lomographa glomeraria).

Speaking of impatient, get a load of this bunch of damselflies all trying to mate on the same little scrap of grass floating on the river, and based on their color and location, I’m gonna go with river bluet (Enallagma anna). On the other hand, the BugLady asserts that this behavior, an “oviposition aggregation”, suggests powdered dancers (Argia moesta).

Lastly, we’ve got this little cutie, and based on the pictures, my guess is (common) pill-bug (Armadillidium vulgare), especially given “restricted to calcareous soils or coastal areas” after what we just learned about the Milwaukee Formation. I read that pill-bugs are crustaceans, not insects, they breathe through gills, and many other fascinating tidbits.

Further, there are trilobite fossils in the Milwaukee Formation, and pillbugs are among the closest living relatives. Heck, there are even pill-bug fossils for sale! The more I dig, the deeper it gets.

Anyway, that’s the weekend round up, and who knows what the new week will bring, eh?

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

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