And here is the part 3 of my trip to Romania where I’ve discovered over 40 species in 3 hours of wildlife spotting and photographing from which around 22 were new species for me. If you have not read the first two parts you can do it here (part1, part2). In this part I will try and expose some interesting facts about the 4’th species of grasshopper found, a first time seen butterfly, some other bugs and at final a beautiful bird that looks like a dinosaur in flight.
I didn’t manage to properly identify the 4th species of grasshopper photographed that day, I didn’t even manage to take to many shots of it, I only have this one but is one of my favorite so I wanted to share it with you. It is made with my phone and a macro lens (details here), one of the few photos where I’ve managed to get the focus right. I found that is pretty hard to nail the focus with the phone if anyone has some suggestion will be more than welcome. This grasshopper is part of the Short-horned Grasshoppers Family (Family Acrididae) distinguished by relatively short and stout antennae. This family has between 10.000 and 11.000 species and it is best known because all locusts (swarming grasshoppers) are part of this family.
Another photo that I like, is this one of a Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) made this time with the DSLR and zoom lens (details here), probably on auto as I still didn’t feel confident using the manual mode. There are huge amounts of information about the most important, widespread and well known Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) on the internet and most people know a thing or two about them so I will not get in too much detail now. The fact that after the man increased the natural range of the honey bee from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East to all parts of the world except Antarctica, A. melifera adapted to the local environments and formed 28 recognized species is a clear illustration of how evolution and selection works. Besides the natural selection system, the beekeepers have an impact on the formation of this subspecies by purposely crossbreeding variations in order to obtain more resilient and more productive bees.
I have to admit, I like dung beetles. I once listened to a podcast with a researcher that studied all his life dung beetles and in first years was kind of shy about telling people what was his specialty. But dung beetles can be so awesome, they are hugely diverse with about 35 000 species and about 200 new species described each year and play a great role in ecology, agriculture and tropical forests. Without them, the world will be literally full of shit. By removing the dung, they control also the population of some pests like flies that would otherwise use the medium themselves. They are also incredible seed dispersals and seed burials, especially in tropical forests. One of the ways of finding dung beetles is to look for them in dung, especially cow dung and that’s what I found myself doing. Nobody there to see me so I confidently took a stick and started poking into almost every cow dropping that I could find. I found holes, signs that the beetle was there, in every pile I’ve looked and in some I could even see some beetles burrowing deeper once I’ve uncovered them. I hate disturbing animals so I have limited myself to the one acceptable photo that I got as the beetles were very shy and didn’t want to be out to much. I identified this beetle to be Aphodius scrutator, a Central European species that loves cow dung and heat, being seen from June to September.
While looking for dung beetles and other critters a Red Pine Longhorn Beetle (Stictoleptura rubra) landed on a flower next to me. It is a beautiful beetle with a long body and long antennae, females having red-brown colored elytra and the males pale ochre elytra and black head and thorax. The larva feeds on dead wood and tree stumps, manly in coniferous, and the adults feed on nectar and pollen. Some of the species from the same family as the Red Pine Longhorn Beetle are serious pests, boring into living trees or untreated lumber causing a lot of damage.
On the same plant on which the beetle landed, a fly landed too. Tachina fera is a fly from the genus Tachina of the family Tachinidae. At first, I thought it is a hoverfly species but it turns out that flies from the Tachina genus are parasitoids of Lepidopteran caterpillars. The female fly doesn’t lay her eggs inside her host like a parasitic wasp, instead, it lays her eggs on the leaves of a nutritive plant for the caterpillar host. When the eggs hatch the young larvae enter the body of the caterpillar, one larva per caterpillar, and eat them from inside. For this reason, is thought that this species can be of importance in forest pest control. There are two generations each year, adults being seen from April to June and from mid-July to mid-October.
As I told you in the beginning, I found another butterfly, first time seen species and also last time until now. It is a Marbled White Butterfly (Melanargia galathea) and despite his name and looks it is part of the ‘’brown’’, from the subfamily Satyrinae. This species like others in the subfamily lays the eggs on the wings or from brief perches on grass stems, and are just sprinkled among the grass stems. When hatching, the larvae immediately enters hibernation and only feeds the next spring. Adults can be seen from June to September in almost all Europe.
For the final of this trip, I left the last animal photographed in my trip back home to Romania, a majestic bird that in-flight looks like some prehistoric dinosaurs, the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia). I have seen a couple up in the sky when I was photographing in the meadow, but for better shots, I have stopped on the roadside at one of the many nests built on top of the electricity poles. In Romania, every year there is a survey to which any can participate and that looks to find out how many nests are and how there are distributed. The frame for the nests is usually provided by the people. The Storks have a lot of influence in human culture and folklore, mostly because of their great size, their habits of eating pests and they’re close to human nesting habits. There are lots of legends, myths and folklore about the storks and they appear in many pieces of literature but maybe the most well-known legend is that they are responsible for bringing babies to new parents. It is an ancient legend but it was popularized by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen in the 19th century in the story called ‘’The Storks’’. I can wait to see them again and maybe this time get some more artistic pictures with them.
The rest of the species found that day I’ve left out because I have described them before and had enough new ones to deal with. Here are some of them: White wagtail(Motacilla alba), Wood White(Leptidea sinapis), Meadow Brown(Maniola jurtina), Flesh Flies(Family Sarcophagidae).
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.