Monday, April 20, 2009

Mothy Monday 4: The Dark Side

There was a time when birders were seen as having no interest in other aspects of the natural world apart from birds. I'm sure there have always been well-rounded naturalists, and birders who were interested in learning about other types of fauna and flora, but the stereotype was something I became aware of as I "grew up" as a birder (and yes, was primarily interested in birds).

Time passed, though, and as it did, I got more interested in insects. Butterflies were the initial flirtation, then came dragonflies and damselflies. But moths were the group that really sucked me in.

Lo and behold, as I started looking for identification information on these insect groups, I came across names that I knew (even if I didn't know the people in question) as birders. But here they were, often putting up complicated and useful resources on the web, not for bird ID, but for bug ID. I think this is why one birder I know refers to birders getting interested in insects as "going over to the Dark Side."

Well, if I had any doubt that I had gone over to the Dark Side myself (honestly, I've suspected it for a while; if I'm digiscoping Elderberry Borers, that obviously means it's high time for an intervention)
Elderberry Borer
the moth that illustrates this post sounded the final death knell.

For sixteen years (ouch), a friend of mine and I have been doing something we call the March Ramble. We wander around Cape May County in late March and try to find as many species of waterfowl as possible (twenty is the goal). We also like to build a good day list of other birds. It's a very relaxed Big Day; some years (such as this one) the Ramble slides into early April. The day totals are usually around 70-80 species, and the cumulative total is over 100.

This year, when we arrived at Bunker Pond, we walked up onto the hawkwatch platform and set up the scopes to look out on the pond. As we did, I saw a tiny fluttery thing flush and fly off. I knew it had to be a moth. I watched its flight; luckily, it landed on another part of the platform.

Then, with my scope ready to scan Bunker Pond for various species of waterfowl and other birds, I walked away from it and took this picture of a tiny but nicely-patterned moth that turned out to be a Red-banded Leafroller Moth (Argyrotaenia velutinana). I made sure I had a good photo of the moth (for ID purposes) before walking back to my scope and getting back to birding. Yes, I have truly gone over to the Dark Side.

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