Along the Air Line... 2012-2013 - Winter, Part 4
The Air Line Trail in Eastern Connecticut - Stan Malcolm Photos

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Stan Malcolm Photo

 

 

February 14th.  First chance to reach the trail since 30 inches of snow fell on February 8th and 9th.

 

 

Glad to see the parking lot plowed at last, though naturally other priorities took precedence.

 

 

The trail itself is still fairly deep in snow.

 

 

February 15th.  Thirtyone degrees (Ahhh.) and fog rising from the snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They're back!  At this point on the trail with the sun well up, I heard the first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year; right on schedule despite the recent foul weather.

 

 

I saw several blackbirds (and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks) but wasn't able to get pictures of them.

 

 

I did much better with a flock (at least 5 birds) of American Robins (Turdus migratorius).  The first wildlife I've been able to photograph for months!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At nearly 50 degrees in my snow covered Marlborough back yard this afternoon, I came across this Firefly (Coleoptera, Lampyridae).  Looks like a female Diurnal Firefly (Ellychnia corrusca) in rough shape: broken antennae, scarred left eltyron.  Fireflies in the genus Ellychnia lack the light organs that otherwise define the family.  These are active by day and males find females by scent.  Finding this beetle active was reason enough to hit the trail to see what other insects might be out atop the snow.

 

 

The usual Winter Stonefly adults (Family Nemouridae) were near the Route 85 trail head for the most part.  (They emerge from a small stream nearby.)

 

 

Spiders like this female are also common.

 

 

 

 

 

I see Crane flies (Family Tipulidae) like this every winter.

 

 

 

 

 

This Leaf Beetle (Family Chrysomelidae) is the first I've seen in winter on snow.  Looks like the Pigweed Leaf Beetle (Disonycha glabrata) which overwinters as an adult under bark.  (I found another one on February 22nd, on snow at 21 degrees.)

 

 

 

 

 

But the real shocker was this beetle larva actively crawling over the snow.  I'm trying to get an ID, but for now I'll guess Adephaga: Carabidae or possibly Dytiscidae.

 

 

Dytiscidae (Predaceous Diving Beetles) would be a big surprise.  I would expect them to be overwintering in mud below the marsh ice and water.

 

 

Czech water beetle expert Martin Fikáček confirms that it is a Dytiscid.  I'm blown away.

 

 

The full story of this beetle larva is here.  Many thanks to colleagues at the "Friends of Coleoptera" facebook page, hosted by curator Max Barclay at the Natural History Museum, London (formerly the British Museum of Natural History).

 

 

February 16th.  More Nemourids out (not pictured), and this Crane Fly.

 

 

Not sure who this character on the marsh is meant to be.

 

 

February 19th.  Yesterday was frigid and blustery.  The trail was silent.  Today the sun was bright, the wind undetectable, and the Red-winged Blackbirds were back and calling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 24th.  Rain overnight and drizzle this morning meant a slushy trail, but...

 

 

...nice to see Mallards wandering around on the still-frozen marsh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 28th. Foggy morning after rain yesterday which finally melted more of the snow on the trail.

 

 

In some areas of the marsh, tannin-stained water overflowed the ice.

 

 

Much of the channel was ice-free and flowing fast and high.

 

 

 

 

 

March 2nd.  A lone Ring-billed Gull circling over the marsh.

 

 

March 4th.  More Red-winged Blackbirds arrive at the marsh every day it seems.

 

 

The first Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) of the season...

 

 

...and here with his mate.

 

 

Two male Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris); another first for the year.

 

 

March 5th.  The Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) getting closer to the trail, and more vocal.

 

 

Several more Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) today.  Very skittish; hard to get a decent close photo.

 

 

March 7th.  The trail almost clear of snow, but that is expected to change later today and overnight.

 

 

A few of the many Mallards on the marsh.

 

 

More Mallards overhead, with a Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) bringing up the rear.

 

 

Wind caused quite a chop on the marsh today, though this Ring-billed Gull (Larus delewarensis) seemed unaffected.