Blogs

Fitz Clarke, citizen scientist and a superb photographer, has documented the insects, birds and flowers at the site over the last years. We are privileged to feature many of his photographs in the Blogs section of this website, under the rubric Bringing Nature Home. Go there to see A Visual Smorgasbord of Bugs at the Sparrow Field, A Wasp and a Beetle and Aphids and Mole Crickets meet their Predators: Photos Tell All, and many more entries.

His latest addition is Project Monarch Health, about the ongoing work at the Sparrow Field in collaboration with UGA to study this butterfly.

Fitz Visited the State Park – July 8

Below are a few recent images. Some a bit closer than you normally might view. I find them rather interesting as you can all but read the thought process of the bird. Each bird is an individual and each species seems to have a bill shape to fit its major food source. 

The DNR Staff, Skidaway Island State Park, Chatham County, Ga have a very interesting bird observation area to the rear of the Interpretive Center, all but one of these birds were photographed there. You will note the juvenile Painting Buntings are birds recently fledged, their nest in close proximity to the feeding stations to the rear of the Interpretive Center.

Regards,
Fitz Clarke

A Wasp and a Beetle – July 4

Thought I would share with you two wasp, a bee, and beetle species you will find should you visit our “Sparrow field” and Fresh Water lagoon # 2 ( last large lagoon traveling north on Bartram).

The Sparrow Field, “Field Thistle, Cirsium discolor” is, and has been roughing it through the drought, yet it continues to provide nectar to bees, wasp and butterflies, as well as shelter to bugs, spiders, etc. The “Paper Wasp, Polistes bellicosus” provides the spiders as first meals to its emerging young. It appears this food chain is abundant, as long as insecticides are not in use. ( I might add I am constantly spraying myself with “Off-25% Deet” and striking horse flies and mosquitoes with my sweat-stained base ball cap)

The Soldier Beetles, family Cantharidae are active in the blooms of the Field Thistle. The males appear to be attacking each other for the females, the winner copulating with the single female on the thistle bloom. I have been observing and photographing this beetle for the past two days. It is an amazing macro world out there.

The water level, as on all of our fresh water lagoons, is extremely low, to include fresh water Lagoon # 2. Should you park and walk, or view from your golf cart, you will observe many ” Black-and-yellow Mud Dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium” along the shore edge where there is an abundance of fresh mud. It appears to me the bees and wasp, especially the Paper Wasp and Mud Daubers, are very tolerant of disturbance. I have as yet to be stung while remaining extremely close while macro photographing.

Regards,
Fitz

Eastern Kingbird at the Sparrow Field

Today, 6/30/2011, I attempted to photograph a Black Swallowtail butterfly nectaring thistle plants, our Sparrow Field, The Landings, Skidaway Island, Ga. My efforts proved fruitless; however, this migratory “Eastern Kingbird” flew from its Purple Martin gourd perch to a group of “Dog Fennel”, to my left, south/west of me. With the sun to my back, the Kingbird proved to be an ideal photographers pose.

I fired off a few frames, with fill flash set to -3/4 ( to bring out the shadows and color), which I now share with you. This beautiful bird can be located by a visit to the Sparrow field. There is a “Sparrow Field” sign at the intersection of “North Bartram and Pettigrew Dr”. You can drive into the field and park, or drive around the field path. I would ask you take your time to visit the 75 yard berm, which we are turning into a “Pollinator Friendly Area”, a nectar source magnet habitat for the bees, wasp, and butterflies/skippers

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly at the Sparrow Field – July 1

Images of the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, show the female ovipositing her eggs onto the host-plant, Passiflora incarnata ( passionvine). The, 7/1/2011, egg image is but three seconds old.

At the Sparrow Field, we have two locations for the passionvine host-plant, consisting of about 6-7 plants each of the species “Passiflora incarnata.” These plants originated in the yard of Landings residents Jill and Richard Hespos. Jill furnished to me a plant from her stock two years past. I transplanted descendents from our butterfly garden, all together approximately12-13 plants to the berm. They have taken off and are providing a thriving nursery for the larvae of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly. (I might note it is also the host-plant for the Variegated Fritillary and the Zebra Heliconian, all of which rely upon the Passionflowers to survive. )

Yesterday, 30 June, Carol Warner and I marveled at the number of very fresh Gulf Fritillary nectaring the many different nectar sources on the berm, as well as the “Field Thistle”, Cirsium discolor ( I believe this is the thistle species) growing within the Sparrow Field and its perimeter. I feel certain many of these beautiful butterflies were recently eggs upon our “Pollinator Friendly Area” passionvine plantings.

Regards,
Fitz

CHALLENGE: Finding Skippers at the Sparrow Field

Should you reside on Skidaway Island and like a challenge, you may well wish to visit the “Sparrow Field”, the 3 1/4 acre field on North Bartram, where Pettigrew Drive intercepts. (the Sparrow Field sign at the moment is not in place). Oh, the challenge is to identify three of the small butterflies, know as “Skippers” observed nectaring the various plants to be located within the “Pollinator Friendly Area”, on the 75 yard berm, as well as on the many thistle plants, etc growing about the field.

If you have a golf cart slowly drive around the field, when you observe a darting yellow bug amongst the Lantana, Verbena, Heliotrope, and other nectar sources sit quietly and with binoculars enjoy their beauty. I take a great deal of satisfaction sitting on my portable stool, waiting for one to nectar a bloom, then photograph.

I have 14 images below of some bugs you will presently find “out-and-about.”

Regards,
Fitz

Purple Martins at the Sparrow Field – June 15

There is something very special between a mother and her babies. That was very evident today, 6/15/2011, as I watched this mother Purple Martin coaxing her young from the safety of their nesting gourd, one of the 16 gourd rack, Sparrow Field, Skidaway Island, Ga. When last we monitored there were 74 chicks.

The sky was filled with the adults and newly fledged young above the 3 1/4 acre Sparrow Field. It was a bad day indeed for the dragon and damsel flies, as well as other winged insects attempting to transit the field.

Regards,
Fitz

Gulf Coast Swallow-Wort and the Queen Butterfly – June 12

In a weekend email to fellow butterfly enthusiasts, Fitz writes:

I most enjoyed our conversations relating to my recent observations of the “Queen”, Danaus gilippus butterfly here on our Skidaway Island, Savannah, Chatham Co, Ga. On, 1-3 June 2011, a fresh female oviposited onto one of the Milkweed family species, Asclepias curassavica at our 3/14 acre Sparrow Field, here on Skidaway Island, app 300 yards from the edge of Romerly Marsh, a marsh separating our island and Wassaw Island, a barrier island directly east of our islands marsh edge.

I have found that the Queen, a southern counterpart of the Monarch, normally strays north from Florida when the “Cynanchum angustifolium, Gulf Coast Swallow-wort, one of its Milkweed ( Asclepiadaceae family) host-plants blooms (It currently is in bloom). This Cynanchum angustifolium host-plant is a perennial vine, with yellow, white, green flowers in a simple umbel with narrow alternate leaves, often over looked as it twines amongst our Sea Ox-Eye Daisy, Borrichia frutescens, Black Needle Rush, Juncus roemerianus and other plants located adjacent to our marsh edges.

You may wish to check your marsh edge for this most important host-plant vine. If you are fortunate you may locate the Queen. This beautiful butterfly has a wingspan of 3.2”, is richly colored, “darker than a Monarch, a deep chestnut or mahogany brown or orange brown.”

The below images are of this all important host-plant, Cynanchum angustifolium, Gulf Coast Swallow-wort vine and the Queen Butterfly.

Regards,
Fitz

This Week at the Sparrow Field…

The Passionvine root systems we transplanted (two plots) from my yard have taken hold. The plants are being visited by not only the “Gulf Fritillary”, Agraulis vanillae, but also “Variegated Fritillary”, Euptoieta claudia, both of which have as their host-plant, species of Passiflora. I counted five Gulf Fritillary larvae, one image below, beside that of the beautiful bloom of this host-plant vine.

First Queen Spotted at Sparrow Field

On the morning of Wednesday, June 1st, I was weeding, and day dreaming when a “Queen” Danaus gilippus briefly landed on my left shoulder, then flew to our “Pollinator Friendly Area” plots to oviposit onto one of our two Milkweed species, Asclepias curassvica. This is the first “Queen” I have observed since we initiated the Sparrow Field berm project and an overpositing female at that!!

-Fitz

Southern Skipperling – May 23

Here is an image of the ‘Southern Skipperling’, Copaeodes minimus, nectaring the very small Helitrope patch (rear right area adjacent to path), Sparrow Field. This grass skipper has as its host-plant, Bermuda Grass, Cynodon dactylon, most plentiful and a constant curse to the golf course maintenance staff.

It is ‘the smallest US skipper’ with a wingspan of .06″. Notice the distinctive and conspicuous white ray running the full length of the hind wing.

 

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