Journal archives for August 2020

August 11, 2020

Steiroxys Revision Beginnings

Steiroxys is a genus of shieldback katydids with currently four described species. Though we know there are many undescribed species (Caudell 1907) and though it's sister genus Idiostatus was revised (Rentz 1973) with many new species, now much work has been done on this genus. All we know is, there are many species and most probably have small ranges. I've decided to tackle this issue and use citizen science to view distinguishing features of potential species. The downside to this, I cannot be able to revise the genus with just photos naturalists posted because in order to describe a species, you must have a holotype specimen. Which means I have to go out into the field, capture and ultimately kill the insect. I can send the specimen to a museum with my description of species and only then will the science community accept my work. Right now, this is just a outline of eight potential species photographed on iNaturalist and I will tag the observers as I go.

We have additional problems with this. Out of the four described species as of now, S. trilieatus and S. pallidpalpus holotype specimens are lost so we have no clue what they look like. To add onto the problems, I cannot get a sufficient view of holotype of S. borealis to determine the distinguishing features. As mentioned by Caudell, potential species can be identified by the male's cerci, the sensory organs on the abdomen end and the shape or size of it can determine species. For females, subgenital plate shape seems to play a role in identification but since no iNaturalist observer has photographed the female underside, they are all genus level for me. So here's the list:

Steiroxys species-a

Observer: @jimmylegs
Individuals: 2 males
Range: South-central valleys of British Columbia; Kamloops Lake to Kettle River Recreation Area.
Cerci: Probably incorrect terminology but the cerci have two "prongs". The two prongs in this potential species are close to the tip of the cerci and they curve sharply inward in unison.
Notes: A lot of confusion here for this. The cerci of James's individuals are identical to Steiroxys trilieatus photographed by Dan Johnson in the website "Katydids North of Mexico". What I need to decide is whether these are a described species or Dan misidentified and his individual is a part of species-a.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/55532673
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/48959879
https://orthsoc.org/sina/330a.htm

Steiroxys species-b

Observer: @justine_dm
Individuals: 1 male
Range: White Lake Grasslands Protected Area, British Columbia.
Cerci: Compared to species-a, the inner prong is thicker, shorted and triangular-shaped. The outer prong is straight and long.
Notes: Might not be a potential species since it's a nymph.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/27234583

Steiroxys species-c

Observer: @geographerdave
Individuals: 3 males
Range: Mount Saint Helens, Washington
Cerci: Short and stubby. Inner prong curves slightly and the outer prong may bend outward. The indentation between the two prongs is indistinct.
Notes: If I were to name this species... Steiroxys helenae

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/16266565
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/16266563
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/15961135

Steiroxys species-d

Observer: geographerdave
Individuals: 1 male
Range: Cascades near Panther Creek Falls, Washington
Cerci: Short and stubby. Almost identical to species-c but the inner prong is straight, not curved and is almost equal length of outer prong.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/55331279

Steiroxys species-e

Observer: @axyaliendragon
Individuals: 1 male
Range: Willamette National Forest near Rainbow, Oregon
Cerci: Intermediate between species-a and species-c. The prongs angle inward at a slight curve but not as distinctive as species-a. Inner prong has a more definitive prong.
Notes: I admit the cerci in the photos are kind of blurry so its possible it's not species. Could be S. strepens.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/50346899

Steiroxys species-f

Observer: jimmylegs
Individuals: 2 males
Range: North Shasta Mountains, California
Cerci: Cerci enormous with the two prongs exceptionally curved and they'll meet in the middle.
Notes: This could be a new species but this part of California is within the proposed range limits of S. borealis. Unfortunately the provided photo on Orthoptera Species Files (OSF) regarding the holotype does not clearly show the cerci.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/45973643
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/45973620

Steiroxys species-g

Observer: birdwhisperer (myself), @coreyjlange and @birdernaturalist
Individuals: 3 males
Range: Eastern Oregon
Cerci: Identical to species-a but the inner prong is placed near the base of the cerci not near the tip. This type of cerci shape occurs in three in the same general vicinity leaving me to believe it is indeed different from species-a.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/56099976
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/16191058
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/16661120

Stieroxys species-h

Observer: Heidi (BugGuide user)
Individuals: 1 male
Range: Lucky Peak near Boise, Idaho
Cerci:: Similar to species-i, long, mostly straight prongs though the outer prong has a slight arch to it.

https://bugguide.net/node/view/500769/bgimage

Steiroxys species-i

Observer: @maybedre
Individuals: 1 male
Range: Atla, Utah
Cerci: Short and straight, very similar to species-d but the outer prong is significantly longer than the inner.
Notes: This sighting is well within the proposed range of S. pallidpalpus but since the holotype specimen has been lost, I cannot confirm if the cerci are correct.

Summary: So there you go, 8 potential species. I hope with help of James, we can collect a few specimens and clear up the waters of this genus. I'm expecting quite a few more species to show up since we do not know which species live in Montana, Colorado, Idaho, eastern Washington and species limits throughout the Cascades. I wouldn't be surprised if the number doubles. Through citizen science, we can make plans on where to go to find species and that's what makes iNaturalist such a great platform for a project like this.

Posted on August 11, 2020 23:08 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 8 comments | Leave a comment

August 06, 2020

Starting August Hawking

We are now five days into the month of August. The temperatures are finally sloping downward and it seems the hawks are liking it too. There are now 140 observations and we tagged on two new species sighted for the project. I got a Peregrine Falcon a couple days in southeastern Oregon and a Barn Owl was photographed in La Grande. Guess I got to see try and find them, along with a Long-eared Owl that might be in the area.

This week's observation of the week goes to @webarranch for an excellent photograph of two nestling Ospreys in Ellensburg. You can tell juvenile osprey from adults by the spotted wings. Though naturally they nest on top of dead trees, artificial platforms have given them the spots necessary for a population rebound. You can see the photo here.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/54964246

Keep looking out for raptors! There are many there waiting to be photographed. Good luck!

Posted on August 06, 2020 00:55 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 12, 2020

Rising Numbers

Another week has passed! The project has had an additional 34 observations added during the week and it probably would've been more if I had uploaded my latest photos quicker. That means the project not officially has 174 observations with 22 species sighted. We also have our newest addition to the project, a Sharp-shinned Hawk but I'm waiting to see if the observer has more photos since Sharp-shinned Hawks are not all that common in the summer.

Now it is time for the observation of the week. I think it should go to @craigjhowe for an excellent photo of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk near Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon. I'm not what there is to say about the photos, I think they speak for themselves. I'm always fascinated by Red-tailed Hawks since even though they're the most common species of raptor in the Pacific Northwest, they are so variable, how can you lose interest? You can see the photos here:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/55934060

What can we expect for next week? Well it's cloudy in northeastern Oregon today so maybe that's a sign of cooler temperatures and an escape from intense heat. Hawks like cooler whether so be sure to check your valleys. Wheat fields are also being harvested across Washington and plows attract hawks like moths to a light. We could see a lot happen.

Posted on August 12, 2020 14:48 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 01, 2020

July Summary

It is the last day of July so now it's time for the report on what went down in the project over the month. Here we go!

Top 5 Species:
Osprey -- 26
Swainson's Hawk -- 18
Red-tailed Hawk -- 18
Turkey Vulture -- 9
Great Horned -- 8

Total Species Overall: 19

Top 5 Observations Submitted: birdwhisperer 34 obs, @uta_stansburiana 14 obs, @cgates326 7 obs, @flammulated 5 obs and @josegarrido 4 obs

Top 5 Most Species: uta_stansburiana 8 species, birdwhisperer 7 species, flammulated 5 species, cgates326 5 species and josegarrido 3 species

Species Still Not Observed: White-tailed Kite, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Barn Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl, Spotted Owl, Great Gray Owl, Short-eared Owl, Boreal Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Merlin, Gyrfalcon and Peregrine Falcon -- 16 species

Counties Needing Obsercations: WA (9) -- Ferry, Pend Oreille, Grant, Lincoln, Adams, Franklin, Klickitat, Columbia and Garfield -- OR (6) -- Morrow, Jefferson, Wheeler, Grant, Klamath and Malheur

News and What to Expect in August: This was great starter month for the project, a good 113 observations of raptors across inland Washington and Oregon. Osprey have a significant rise in sightings compared to last year, probably because of all the young. Washington observations definitely need some work but occasionally I go to work in Idaho, so I can expect to tag some sightings in southeastern Washington. And I would really like to see some sightings for Ferry County, WA, I know it's the best place in these two states to find Northern Hawk-Owls.

These hundred observations also made it hard to choose an observation for the month but after careful consideration and using a different spotlight from Obs of the Week, I've decided to make @patty_teague close-up shot of a Turkey Vulture the observation of the month. These vultures are really on the borderline of what I would call a raptor. Though hawks and eagles go under several names, I've always thought of "birds of prey" as any bird that eats flesh and that includes herons, pelicans, loons, grebes, shirkes, etc. And to a lesser extent, every bird is a bird of prey as crossbills are sometimes referred to as "cone predators". To me, "raptor" is a more apporiate term and describes any bird of prey that has 1) a beak make for tearing flesh and 2) talons to catch, kill and hold prey. New World vultures used to be a part of the order Accipitriformes but it was split a few years ago. Though typically associated as a raptor, they don't exactly have talons to hunt. Whether or no they are a true raptor, they're on the project anyhow.

August starts tomorrow, what should we expect? I really want a Broad-winged Hawk this year for the project. Though their peak migration month is September, there are 4 ebird August records of this species within the project's perimeters, all of them along the Cascade east slope. If you birding that area, look up and see if any hawks have a white subterminal band. I am kind of shocked nobody spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin or Peregrine Falcon, so it would be nice to get them down soon. August is also a good month to do some summer owling. Almost all Oregon sightings of Boreal Owls are in late summer. But who knows what will happen? Hopefully we are all staying safe and good raptor watching!

Posted on August 01, 2020 00:11 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 26, 2020

Birds of a Feather

This is the final full week of August before we really start the hawk migrating season. But I'll cover that in the August wrap-up. For this week, IPNRM obtained 40 more observations with our total count being 247. No new species were sighted though. Most of the sightings however were feathers or roadkill so not the traditional photo sessions. Referring to my own sighting, the third Red-shouldered Hawk of the project has been added after I photographed an adult in Union County, Oregon, the fourth county record.

Besides feathers and roadkill, the rest of the observations for the week are long distance documentary pictures, so it was difficult to decide on an observation of the week. I hope this is acceptable but I'm going to share my own photo, a juvenile Western Red-tailed Hawk in which I photographed him at the... right moment. If you needed a laugh this week, here's where you'll get it.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/57650940

What should we expect within the next week? September will start and that means we really need to start looking for migrating Buteos like Red-shouldered Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks. Wheat fields are still being harvested, I watched a kettle of 28 Swainson's Hawks the other day so you might get huge numbers in places. And there always seem to be a surprise.

Posted on August 26, 2020 20:51 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 19, 2020

Hilltop Raptors

Another week has passed in the IPNRM and we have now crested 200 observations for the project! Let's go over what happened during the week. We added 37 more observations and the top five most observed species are on fire. For once, the Red-tailed Hawk doesn't seem to outcompete all the other species as the Osprey is only three observations behind. I'm not sure if that's because observers are really interesting in photographing osprey or what. But on an additional note, we have now crested last year's record of Osprey sightings. That's a good sign if I do say so.

This week's observation of the week is different from the other observations I've congratulated. It is a recording this week. Without further adieu, the project's focus turns to @nightjar09 sighting of a Flammulated Owl in Walla Walla County, Washington. Here's why I'm so excited about this recording. I lived in Walla Walla for two years and though I never did look very hard for Flammulated, I camped enough times in the Blues to know that this species is hard to get in the county. I've heard Flammulated in Columbia and Garfield county but I just couldn't find them in my home county. So for this observer to find the 3rd county record is outstanding and I believe a round of applause is needed. You can listen to the recording here:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/56700537

What should we expect in the following week? Well, typical summertime things are getting in the way of hawkwatching. Some places are having in-class school this year so parents are making sure they go camping before another year starts. Wildfires are growing in east slope of the Cascades, so that might be hindering your progress. As for me, lightening storms are killing my parties and I do not want a repeat of yesterday, in which I was hiking in Ladd Marsh and the storm came in while I was still a mile away from my car. It's not fun so check the forecast, just because it is sunny now, doesn't mean it stay that way for an hour. Anyway, in whatever way you can contribute, it will do and check fields. Wheat fields are being plowed in southeastern Washington and that draws in Swainson's/Red-taileds by the dozens. Good luck!

Posted on August 19, 2020 15:33 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 1 comment | Leave a comment