Don’t forget to include a title…

The parade of beautiful days in Estabrook Park just keeps chugging along, and even more surprising is the parade of new arrivals.

First up is what appears, for all the world, to be a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), right there on our pond, and this one seems to be yet another juvenile, based on its neck and chest looking paler than “all black”. You may recall seeing an image of them in a v-formation flying over the park back on May 14, and I never expected to have the pleasure of seeing one this close.

It was actually sharing a log with our new best buddy and recent pond regular, the juvenile black-crowned night-heron.

Meanwhile, down by the river, this critter scared me almost as much as the living and flying giant ichneumon wasp (Megarhyssa atrata) I told you about back in July. This time, she’s a female yellow garden spider, black and yellow garden spider, golden garden spider, writing spider, zigzag spider, hay spider, or corn spider (Argiope aurantia), which is a member of the family Araneidae, the orb-weavers, and “may bite if disturbed or harassed, but the venom is harmless to non-allergic humans, roughly equivalent to a bumblebee sting in intensity!” That’s an odd definition of harmless, eh? “Males range from 5–9 mm (0.20–0.35 in); females range from 19–28 mm (0.75–1.10 in),” and she was easily that big.

The Pedia of Wik explains that the dense zigzag of silk in the center of her web is known as a stabilimentum, and “the purpose of the stabilimentum is disputed. It is possible that it acts as camouflage for the spider lurking in the web’s center, but it may also attract insect prey, or even warn birds of the presence of the otherwise difficult-to-see web. Only those spiders that are active during the day construct stabilimenta in their webs.”

Less scary, but just as striking, is this red-spotted purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), which is of the same species as the white admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis), oddly enough, but has “evolved to mimic the poisonous pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor).” I’ve tried to show you pictures of this critter three times before, on June 20, June 19, and June 12, but could never get one to pose like this. We even saw a chrysalis by the pond back on June 4.

Finally, you’re not going to believe the common name of the new flower I found blossoming on the river by the boat launch. The common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) “is a North American species of flowering plants in the sunflower family.” I was wading through the weeds from this picture when I nearly ran into Mrs. Orb Weaver above and almost got to put that bumblebee analogy to the test.

That’s our show for today folks, and I can’t wait to see what I see tomorrow.

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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