Monday, July 31, 2006

ENV: Circus of the Spineless #11 is UP!

And what gorgeous edition it is -- featuring screengrabs of each of the blogs! With succinct titles and links Roger has continued a Circus tradition by upping the ante for elegance of presentation. Be sure to visit at Words & Pictures.

And if that weren't enough he's created a Flickr companion Group -- you can check out Circus photos here:

Next month's Completion of our First Full Year issue (!) will be hosted at Sunbeams from Cucumbers. Be sure to start readying your posts for a celebratory edition. And watch that blog for news from Steve about where and when to send your submissions.

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ENV: Snouts!

John Branch in the San Antonio Express-News nails it!

Our state non-game invertebrate biologist Mike Quinn has produced a page of links to media accounts of the invasion. It's here:

An excellent overview of Snout Ecology by Mike is here:

The big news in these parts has been Snouts of course. But the story is larger than snouts. The past three weeks have been a huge education for me -- mostly about bugs, but about some other things as well. Over the next week i hope to post a lot of pictures and some text about the doings of the past mid-summer weeks -- snout movements and doings, the larger Lepidoptera picture, a huge revelation about Kerr County Odonates -- inluding the documenting and discovery of several species in this already well-known ode county, and a bunch of observations about hummingbirds.

Today though, to start off with a post for the 11th edition of the Circus of the Spineless, i'm going to feature Snouts. Ours are of the taxon known as Southwestern Snout, Libytheana larvata. In this regard i'm following Dr. Chris Durden, a UT entomologist who likes to spend time looking for the kind of fine detail that separates populations. His splits are not always recognized by others, but what i like about his work is that he a) has tons of data and has analyzed it thoroughly, b) he's not at all afraid to buck trends, and c) he's very open with his information. There may be others in the tight-cliqued community of lepidopterists who have other good info, but they're dang stingy about sharing it (and pretty condescending too to anyone new who shows a burgeoning interest).

Using that taxonomy for the moment, Dr. Durden has information to show four species/taxa of Snouts in Texas: L. larvata (the one showing up as the critter involved in the current invasion, L. carinenta, the primarily eastern form (which occurs west to at least Austin, L. bachmanii, and the Mexican form L. motya.

All of the Kerr County critters i've examined, true to Durden's prediction, have been L. larvata.

The education part for me comes because of a quirk of my employment. I am very active in the field every year from late August to mid-May, but i have not had a summer available to work in the field (except at my work location a little) since 1971. Because of that i have been unable to witness much less document many of the summertime dynamics of vertebrate and invertebrate, heck even flowering schedules, in all that time.

This year however i changed jobs in April and for the first time in decades have been able to actually get out and do some real investigative work. Perhaps a drought year was not the best year to begin with, but i think the drought itself has exacerbated a lot of natural phenomenon and perhaps focused emergences such that they became more visible.

Snouts typically are movers to adjust to environmental extremes. That is why they are undertaking what looks like a reverse migration. They are moving north to find foodplants (the genus Celtis) that has not been ravaged by drought.

I grew up in the lower Rio Grande Valley where Snout explosions are fairly frequent. They were always fun but hardly ever a surprise. Huge movements of course might make the news as this one has. And in this age of mobile news crews and citizen newsmaking a big migration was ready made for attention.

In the 20 years i have lived in Kerr County, i have seen a huge movement of Snouts twice. I can't recall the specific years right now, but at least one was related to drought -- i remember going to check out some ponds to see if they were concentrating migrant shorebirds. The ponds were dry, but no matter i could hardly see the cracked bottoms for the Snouts passing through.

This year i was envious, because even though i have my summer available to me, the other aspect of my new job is that i have access to 7700 acres of new territory to explore at will, and am using that to add to my years-long project of documenting the fauna of the county and area. I have already compiled a list of 1500 species of fauna and flora for just the Ingram 250-acre site, and there is much to be done (like working with 4500 photos of unidentified moths!). The envy comes from reading Tom Collins reports of Snouts migrating at his place -- just 15 miles east -- and yet i had no movement going on here at all.

I did have a Catalpa tree outside my office that one day was suddenly covered in Snouts. All without my having detected migration. A little shake of a limb would cause the tree to explode. A few days later i found another catalpa on the grounds with the same horde of Snouts.

By Thursday however, there were Snouts moving here as well -- thousands. Then an overnight rain quelled it somewhat. Now i'm back down to the hordes at the Catalpa, and today a sudden discovery by them of the hummingbird feeders outside my office window. The hummers don't know what to do. They had finally adjusted to the bees, and now along comes these flashy winged things.

The other thing that's happened in the last week is the appearance here of large numbers of other butterflies. Whether because of drought or other reasons, i have been unable to locate more than a handful of species and individuals all spring and summer of anything (except moths)! It's been disappointing because after several years of increasing numbers and rarity of cool Mexican species showing up in the Valley, i was hoping that some things would be moving north.

So, we have some decent gardens here, and i was really hoping for a good summer of butterflies. But alas nothing. Until this week, and whether they're moving along with the Snouts, or the rains spurred some emergence is irrelevant to me -- i just know i suddenly have leps.

Among the things arriving are huge for this county numbers of Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphurs. I'd bet that the largest number of individuals of either i've ever had in the county in one day is around five -- and yet this weekend i estimated 100 of the two combined. Also arriving were large numbers of Queens, Southern Dogfaces, Lyside Sulphurs, and Sleepy Oranges.

Altogether just in the last five days i added 14 species to the property list! Besides Cloudless and Large Oranges, the other more southerly species that showed up included a single Soldier and a single Common Mestra.

The best butterfly of the week for me however was a bright but rather nondescript skipper> it's a species that i've only seen once before, and not in this county. There are previous county records for it from somewhere, but there are precious few species left in the county that i have not encountered. And this one i found eight of concentrated in a small dry swale -- Delaware Skipper, Atrytone logan. Yup, a basically eastern species that barely creeps into the Hill Country.

Alright, enough of all that -- i'll be back with commentary on Odonates and Hummingbirds in the next few days. And will likely add more to this post as well, so check back. Now, here's some snout and recent lep pictures:

Snouts on Eupatorium serotinum

Snouts on Euphorbia marginata

Snouts on Pluchea purpurascens

Snouts swarming around Catalpa bignonioides

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Thursday, July 27, 2006


"Tour de France winner Floyd Landis tests positive for male hormone testosterone, according to Reuters."

Can't anyone, ANYONE, do anything any more without cheating . . .

I'm ticked . . .

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

ENV: Interesting Hummingbird!

At the feeders 25 July 2006, TX: Kerr County, 1 Mile NW of Ingram on TX27.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

ENV: Counting Odes and Leps

The First Probably-Not-Annual Two-and-a-Half-Weeks After The Summer Solstice Four-to-Six-Days After The Fourth Of July Dragonfly and Butterfly Count [hereinafter known as The Big Bug Day(s)]

Narrative to come as soon as i have the time to assemble my thoughts.

* New for the Ranch;  Photographed; NCR New County Record

8 July 2006
TX: Kerr Co., HCYR

4 Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor
1 Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes 
1 Two-tailed Swallowtail, Papilio multicaudata
1 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus 
1 Lyside Sulphur, Kricogonia lyside
1 Blue sp.
2 Dusky-Blue Groundstreak, Calycopis isobeon *
1 Emperor sp., Asterocampa sp.
1 Arizona Sister, Adelpha bredowii
1 Red-spotted Purple, Limenitis arthemis/astyanax
2 Monarch, Danaus plexippus
2 Horace's/Juvenal’s Duskywing, Erynnis horatius 

6 Smoky Rubyspot, Hetaerina titia *

1 Desert Firetail, Telebasis salva 
68 Citrine Forktail, Ischnura hastata 
25 Double-striped Bluet, Enallagma basidens 
2 Orange Bluet, Enallagma signatum 
7 Violet Dancer, Argia fumipennis violacea 
16 Dusky Dancer, Argia tranlslata
5 Blue-ringed Dancer, Argia sedula 
5 Powdered Dancer, Argia moesta *
2 Common Green Darner, Anax junius 
1 Comet Darner, Anax longipes 
2 Gomphid sp. 
1 Five-striped Leaftail, Phyllogomphoides albrighti 
1 Eastern Ringtail, Erpetogomphus designatus *
1 Prince Baskettail, Epitheca princeps
2 Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Brechmorhoga mendax
12 Banded Pennant, Celithemis fasciata 
1 Marl Pennant, Macrodiplax balteata * NCR
2 Red-tailed Pennant, Brachymesia furcata 
1 Four-spotted Pennant, Brachymesia gravida *
20 Eastern Pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis simplicicollis 
7 Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis 
8 Eastern Amberwing, Perithemis tenera 
20 Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa 
15 Common Whitetail, Plathemis lydia 
3 Roseate Skimmer, Orthemis ferruginea 
18 Swift Setwing, Dythemis velox 
12 Checkered Setwing, Dythemis fugax 
1 Black Setwing, Dythemis nigrescens * [first ph doc NCR]
14 Red Saddlebags, Tramea onusta 
3 cf. Carolina Saddlebags, Tramea cf. carolina  [NCR]
16 Black Saddlebags, Tramea lacerata 
2 Wandering Glider, Pantala flavescens 

TX: Kerr Co., Lynxhaven
4 Orange Bluet, Enallagma signatum
1 Stream Bluet, Enallagma exsulans
1 Arroyo Bluet, Enallagma praevarum 
1 Fragile Forktail, Ishcnura posita 
2 Prince Baskettail, Epitheca princeps 
1 Orange Shadowdragon, Neurocordulia xanthosoma [LL]
8 Variegated Meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum 
1 Spot-winged Glider, Pantala hymenaea 

TX: Kerr Co., South Fork Marsh

Odes: 40 species total, 32 at HCYR

9 July 2006
TX: Kerr Co., HCYR
2 Pipevine Swallowtail
1 Two-tailed Swallowtail
1 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
1 Lyside Sulphur
1 Goatweed Leafwing 

4 Double-striped Bluet
1 Sulphur-tipped Clubtail *
1 Four-striped Leaftail 
2 Banded Pennant
4 Widow Skimmer
1 Common Whitetail
2 Eastern Pondhawk
1 Eastern Amberwing
1 Swift Setwing
1 Checkered Setwing
1 Red Saddlebags
2 Black Saddlebags

TX: Kerr Co., RV Crossing
1 American Rubyspot
4 Smoky Rubyspot
8 Dusky Dancer
8 Powdered Dancer
6 Blue-ringed Dancer

TX: Kerr Co., Lynxhaven
2 Violet Dancer
1 Widow Skimmer 
2 Comanche Skimmer 
1 Eastern Pondhawk

TX: Kerr Co., South Fork Marsh
2 Violet Dancer

TX: River Inn Crossing
6 Double-striped Bluet

10 July 2006
TX: Kerr Co., HCYR
2 Pipevine Swallowtail
1 Black Swallowtail
1 Giant Swallowtail
1 Lyside Sulphur
2 Sleepy Orange
2 Arizona Sister
1 Red-spotted Purple
6 American Snout *

12 Double-striped Bluet
1 Sulphur-tipped Clubtail
2 Banded Pennant
2 Marl Pennant 
8 Widow Skimmer
1 Common Whitetail
6 Eastern Pondhawk
3 Blue Dasher
2 Checkered Setwing
30 Variegated Meadowhawk *
8 Black Saddlebags
20 Wandering Glider
8 Spot-winged Glider *
20 large dragonfly sp.

Ode Total 3-day count: 44, 36 at HCYR

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Sunday, July 09, 2006


What a shame to see Zizou end a magnificent career in such a dreadful way. He will regret that forever i'm sure. The cup was literally his, the glow had settled all around him, regardless of who the victor might have been. It was a sad end to a strange tournament.

Now that it has finished, let's dispense with all the hoo-ha about the group of death. I said early on that our group was the toughest. That the second (Czechs) and fifth (U.S.) ranked temas in the world were sent home from the first round should say something. And all our disappointment at our own finish is mitigated somewhat by our sole shining moment having come against the World Champions. Nevertheless, we were lackluster, and in the end Italy was just plain formidable.

Top of the world
Italy wins shootout with France for fourth Cup title
Italy not only won its fourth World Cup but also stretched its unbeaten streak to 25.
Posted: Sunday July 9, 2006 4:50PM; Updated: Sunday July 9, 2006 5:55PM

BERLIN (AP) -- Italy let France do nearly anything it wanted Sunday, except win the World Cup. That belongs to the Azzurri, 5-3 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw.

Outplayed for an hour and into extra time, the Italians won it after French captain Zinedine Zidane was ejected in the 110th minute for a vicious butt to the chest of Marco Materazzi. It was the ugliest act of a tournament that set records for yellow and red cards, diving and, at times, outright brutality.

And it was the last move for Zidane, who is retiring.

Without their leader for the shootout, the French only missed once. But Italy, rarely strong in such situations, made all five. Fabio Grosso clinched the Azzurri's fourth championship, and his teammates had to chase him halfway across the pitch to celebrate.

Only Brazil has more World Cups, five.

Until now, no team since the last Azzurri champions in 1982 had to endure the stress and anguish of a soccer scandal. Rather than be disrupted by the current probe ripping apart the national sport back home, the Italians survived.

In the final, they outlasted France, which underwent a renaissance of its own in the last month. The French controlled the flow of play, only to fail to finish through 120 minutes.

Their only goal, Zidane's penalty kick in the seventh minute, was the lone score by an Italy opponent in seven games.

But the Italians put the ball into the net 12 minutes later on Materazzi's header off a corner kick. And then they held on in a game marked by sloppiness and venom.

This was hardly artistic on either side, and rarely did Italy threaten over the final 75 minutes. But the Azzurri ignored recent history -- they lost a quarterfinal shootout to France in 1998, when Les Bleus went on to their only championship.

Andrea Pirlo, Materazzi, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Del Piero all easily beat France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez in the shootout. The difference was the miss by rarely used David Trezeguet, which hit the crossbar on France's second attempt.

When Grosso connected with his left foot, the sliver of Italian fans in the opposite corner of Olympic Stadium finally could let out their breath -- and screams of victory.

On the trophy stand, amid hugs and slaps on the back, Materazzi placed a red, white and green top hat on the Jules Rimet Trophy. Captain Fabio Cannavaro then held it high as cameras flashed everywhere. An impromptu Tarantella by the players followed as silver confetti fluttered around them.

It was, by far, the prettiest sight of the night.

With a 25-game unbeaten streak dating back nearly two years, the Italians added this title to their championships in 1934, 1938 and '82 -- when another match-fixing investigation plagued Serie A.

The hero then in Spain was striker Paolo Rossi, fresh off a two-year suspension for his role in match-fixing. This time, there were a dozen stars and a coach, Marcello Lippi, who seemed to make all the right moves.

Italy won its first-round group over the higher-ranked United States and Czech Republic, and Ghana. Then it beat Australia on a controversial penalty in the second-half extra time that Francesco Totti converted.

It routed Ukraine 3-0 before depressing the host nation with two stunning goals in the final minutes of extra time for a semifinal win over Germany.

Gianluigi Buffon made the save of the final match in the 104th minute as the ever-dangerous Zidane fed Willy Sagnol on the wing and then slipped into the area. Sagnol's cross was headed into the top of the net with the Italian keeper soared high to knock it over.

By then, the sea of blue supporters for both teams seemed as exhausted as the players. The crowd let out a short gasp, and then it was back to the tense and tentative action.

Zidane used his head again in the 110th for a nasty foul, a butt directly into the chest of Materazzi, earning the French captain an ejection.

For the remaining extra time, the fans whistled their displeasure.

Both sides played nervous, sloppy soccer for 120 minutes, hardly befitting a World Cup final. There were far more mistakes than inspiration.

France's Thierry Henry went down in the first minute in a seemingly innocent collision with the impregnable Cannavaro. Henry stayed on the ground, clearly dazed, for two minutes before being helped off with an ice bag held to his head.

The striker soon came back and his first touch, naturally, was a header. It was a terrific one, too, falling at the feet of a breaking Florent Malouda.

Malouda stumbled -- many might say dived -- in the penalty area and Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo immediately signaled a penalty kick.

Zidane, whose penalty beat Portugal in the semifinals, lobbed it right as Buffon dived the other way. The ball struck the crossbar and fell 2 feet inside the net in the seventh minute.

For the rest of the half, the French showed little of the flair that carried them this far. And Italy tied it with one of its strengths: a set piece.

Mauro Camoranesi won a corner kick on right wing and was setting up to take it when Andrea Pirlo signaled Camoranesi to back off. Pirlo took the corner, a perfect spiral that found the head of defender Materazzi above France's Patrick Vieira.

Materazzi's header soared past goalkeeper Fabien Barthez to tie it.

Luca Toni hit the crossbar off another corner kick in the 36th.

Henry had the best opportunity in the second half, but Buffon lunged left to hand-save his right-footed drive. France got a scare, too, when Zidane fell on his right arm and shoulder and needed freeze spray applied before staying in.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Italy cracks through to defeat Germany
Grosso bends ball past goalie in 119th minute in 2-0 win over Cup hosts
The Associated Press, Updated: 5:23 p.m. CT July 4, 2006

DORTMUND, Germany - Maybe the World Cup is the easy part for Italy.

With scandal tearing apart the national sport back home, the Italians kept plowing through soccer’s premier event Tuesday night with a last-minute win just when it seemed a penalty shootout was inevitable.

Fabio Grosso twisted a left-footed shot into the far side of the net in the 119th minute, then Alessandro Del Piero clinched the 2-0 win a minute later with a counterattacking goal as the Germans pressed desperately to equalize.

“We deserved it,” Grosso said. “We have a great group. We’ve beaten some very good teams. Now we’re going to celebrate reaching the final with all our well-wishers.”

The swiftness of the goals was stunning — Germany had pressured for the game’s last hour and slowly stretched the tight Italian defense. But Italy, which has allowed only an own-goal in six games, held off the hosts and crushed their hopes for a fourth title.

Now the Italians head to Berlin for Sunday’s final in search of a fourth trophy of their own. They’ll play the winner of Wednesday’s Portugal-France match.

“I can honestly say Italy deserved to win,” Italy coach Marcelo Lippi said. “We controlled the play more than Germany did and, in the end, we got these two great goals, which allowed us to avoid the roulette of a penalty shootout.”

In handing the Germans their first loss in 15 games at Dortmund, the Azzurri also remained undefeated in five World Cup meetings with Germany — this was their third win to go with two draws.

Until the extra time, it seemed Germany might find the net. As Italy tired, Germany found room where before there was none, creating space — and chances.

It never paid off. And by the beginning of extra time, it was Italy who threatened, once hitting the post, once the crossbar.

Then, out of nowhere, came the deciding goal.

Italy’s reserves rushed onto the field after Grosso took a brilliant tap pass from Andrea Pirlo in the box and curled his shot beyond the leaping reach of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and just inside the post.

With the hosts pushing forward in desperation, the Italians struck again on a two-on-one break. Del Piero finished with a right-footed blast into the top of the net just before the whistle sounded.

The Italians, who last won the World Cup in 1982, mobbed each other and rolled around on the field as their fans in a sliver of the stadium jumped in delight, waving the green, white and red flags in ecstasy.

“I have to say that we have beaten a very strong team,” Del Piero said. “They could have scored first on a couple of occasions. But we’ve done it. It’s a fantastic feeling.”

What the Italians have faced off the field could easily have sapped them of their resolve. Their domestic league match-fixing scandal reached new heights Tuesday when a prosecutor urged the demotion of four Serie A teams for which many of Italy’s players star. Every Italian team member plays club ball at home — and 13 of the 23 play for the topflight teams under investigation.

While the Italians celebrated, the Germans collapsed in dismay.

“It’s bitter to lose like that,” Germany defender Philipp Lahm said. “We had set ourselves the target of reaching the semifinals, but once you’ve reached that you want to go all the way.”

The home crowd lingered to cheer their heroes, who were supposed to be too young and inexperienced to challenge for this trophy. Instead, Juergen Klinsmann’s entertaining squad performed superbly, and the crowd sang to them and chanted their names and “Deutschland, Deutschland” after the match. Captain Michael Ballack and several others cried as they left the field, defeated but unashamed.

They just couldn’t finish the heady Italians, whose technical mastery, particularly on defense, was surpassing.

Italy is unbeaten in 24 games as it heads to its first World Cup title game since losing to Brazil in 1994.

Germany will play in the third-place game Saturday in Stuttgart, hardly where it planned to be.

“The boys are sitting there and have a bitter pill to swallow,” said Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup played in Italy. “It hurts terribly.”