Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mammoth BUGS

So. We're back from Mammoth Cave, KY.
Did we see lots of birds? Nope. (A pair of bluebirds was my best bird moment)
Did we see lots of bugs? Oh, yeah.

It was hot and humid in eastern Kentucky this weekend. With no AC in my car, we are fairly moldy by now. And the hotter it got, the louder the cicadas yelled. Brood XIV has emerged here at home and apparently in Kentucky, too. Everywhere we went, there were cicadas; young ones just emerging from the ground, teenager ones emerging from their old skins, randy adult ones singing their ugly butts off, almost dead ones twitching on the sidewalks, and fully dead ones no longer twitching on the sidewalks.

This morning, as we were checking out of the hotel, a luna moth greeted us.
Luna moth
"Good morning. We hope you enjoyed your stay. Please come again."

Luna face
Is there a more fantastic moth, anywhere?
Poor guy lost an antenna somehow.

While waiting to go down into the caves for a second tour, this guy was flitting about, and I got him to light on my fingers:
I thought it was a hackberry emperor, but it's not matching any pictures I can find. Who knows what this is? Speak now!

The caves we walked today are at the "wet" end of the cave system (which is the longest cave system in the world, by the way) and thanks to all that water over millions of years, the cave is festooned with glorious stalagmites and stalactites, soda straws, cave drapery, flowstone, and Frozen Niagara, a mass of formations that cascade down from one room of the cave into another.

Mammoth Cave has a sandstone cap that protects most of the system from water wanting to flow into the Green River, but where the cap ends, the formations begin.
The girls were so very unimpressed with all of the information we were getting from the ranger. But I loved it all.
Unsettling hole in the ceiling
Though there was a very large,unsettling hole in the ceiling. I was afraid to ask about cave-ins.

Many different kinds of critters call the caves home:
Little brown bats
Big brown bats
Gray bats
Eastern pipistrelle bats
Eastern small-footed bats
Cave crickets
Cave salamanders
Blind salamanders
Eyeless cave fish
Cave crayfish
Cave shrimp

While most of the life in the cave was inaccessible to us, we had no shortage of cave crickets. I thought that they were only where the lights were shining (every 20 feet or so) but the ranger started shining his flashlight on the ceiling, we realized that we were surrounded by them.
Thankfully, he saved that bit of info until we were on our way out. I got the creepy-crawlies on my neck as we passed under God-knows-how-many to get back to the outside.
Cave Cricket LOVE
These were mating. How........... cute.

On the way out of the park, I wanted to stop at a pond we saw on the way in.
Boy, am I glad we did, because this was in the parking lot:
Puddle crowd1
A butterfly "bachelor drinking party"!
I just read that only young males engage in puddling. And only certain kinds of butterflies (sulphurs and swallowtails, whose males will patrol territories for females) will collect in puddle parties. Huh. Interesting, eh?

And as we entered the woods around the pond, we found more:
Puddle crowd2
Tiger and spicebush swallowtails, and oodles of blues....summer azures?

Blue puddle

I sat down and invited Isabelle to do the same. I showed her how to wipe sweat from her brow (we had no shortage of sweat) and put out her finger to get one to climb on.
When one of the blues accepted her gift and walked onto her finger, she said quietly, in a voice I have never heard from her, "Mommy. This is a dream come true."
Isabelle's dream come true
She was in transports of joy. I feel like Mommy Of The Year.

The pond was lousy with dragonflies.
pond hawk
Blue dasher

A smallish snapping turtle (about two feet long) swam up to investigate us.
I got some good pictures, but I didn't realize, until I uploaded them, that I got one that looks like he is sticking his tongue out:
sticking out his tongue....not
It's a leaf. But it makes for a fun photo.


LauraHinNJ said...

You went to a cave instead of coming to the Jersey shore?!?


I love the puddle party pics, Susan. Glad you got to make your little girl's dream come true.


Susan Gets Native said...

We still have the Jersey shore in mind, no worries.

Isabelle was so cute when that butterfly stood on her. It was priceless.

Trixie said...

Ohhh...Isabelle, you are melting my heart! What super smarties you make.

I am soooo envious of all your butterflies. Glad you and the fam got out and about.

If you do go to the Jersey shore, let me know.

Kitt said...

Lovely flutterbys! I thought the mystery one might be an owl butterfly but the spots are a little different.

Mary said...

"Mommy. This is a dream come true." SWEET!

And I thought I saw lots of butterflies this weekend! It's too early for me to look up that butterfly on-line. Great photos, Susan.

By the way, thanks for the squirrel anatomy info :o) Most people ignored the question but I knew I'd get an answer from YOU.

KatDoc said...

Glad you're back safely!

Is that mystery flutterby a "Buckeye?" (I'm not too good on Lep. ID)


donaldthebirder said...

I am no lep expert either, but I think the butterfly with the eyespots is a Northern Pearly Eye Enodia anthedon.

NCmountainwoman said...

Wow! I had no idea about the puddle parties. Great shots.

I love Isabelle's dream come true.

Rurality said...

Hee hee, dream come true, I completely understand!

Cave crickets though... ick. Severe ick! Spiders rarely bother me, but cave crickets... the heebiest of the jeebies!

dguzman said...

I too didn't know about puddling--I've seen lots of swallowtails flying through the yard, so maybe I'll create some puddles to attract them! Beautiful butterflies.

And what a great moment with your girl. I think every mommy probably hopes for that moment.

RuthieJ said...

Except for the heat, it sounds like a wonderful trip Susan! I love all your pics of beautiful winged insects.
It would be a dream come true for me too!