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Jul 1, 2019 10:59 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

June Sightings

First monarch caterpillar reported by Bob Wick on June 15. BOB WICK
Jul 1, 2019 11:49 AM

Among the notable sightings for June was my first monarch butterfly sighting of the year. An adult finally visited my backyard milkweed patch, which had quite a few plants in bloom, in the last week of the month.I did not get a good look at the individual to see how worn the wings were, which might indicate whether it was a second generation adult of the year that hatched as far south as North Carolina and migrated here (well worn wings) or a third generation adult of the year that hatched from an egg laid on Long Island (fresh-looking wings). In either case, I hope to see some larvae (caterpillars) feeding on the leaves of my milkweed plants soon.

Second generation of 2019 adult monarchs reach Long Island in early May. Before they perish, the females lay eggs on milkweed leaves. Eggs take one week to hatch and the caterpillars need another 12 days to reach full size before pupating. Bob Wick sent a photo of a full grown monarch caterpillar taken here on June 15, which was hatched from an egg laid here in late May.

The 2019 report from their Mexican overwintering sites was good news: scientists estimated that numbers there were the highest recorded since 2006. Population estimates are made based on the acreage they are covering in their mountain forest overwintering sites. Numbers in the past few winters have been very low, with January 2014 recording the lowest on record: 1.65 acres. Scientists have targeted 15 acres as the amount that would sustain the monarch population, and this year’s tally came in quite close to that target: 14.9 acres of forest covered with adult monarchs.

Bob Wick also passed along information about the sandhill crane I reported about last week. It has extended its stay here to a full month, as it was still feeding along Cranberry Hole Road on June 28.

Earlier this month I visited Long Pond by kayak to retrieve several remote cameras from otter latrine sites on that pond. The cameras have movement and heat sensors to detect and photograph wildlife. Among the 5,000 photos of wood ducks, Canada geese, mallards, great blue herons, raccoons, gray squirrels, Eastern chipmunks, Norway rats, deer and a variety of songbirds, were 363 photos of river otters.

Otters often travel in groups, but all these photos were of single individuals, and since otters lack distinct markings such as stripes or spots, it is not possible to say whether all the otter visits recorded between March 1 and June 20 were of several or one otter. Still, the date and time stamped on each photo reveals useful information about their visitation patterns. They were March (1, 20-21, 29), April 24, May (3, 6-11, 31) and June 2-3.

This pattern—15 total day visits over a span of 113 days—is typical of otters as they rarely stay in one place for very long, preferring to move around and explore their large home ranges. It also confirms that Long Pond, a new otter site first documented in 2018, is part of an established home range of an otter as opposed to the original sign noted in 2018 being that of a transient juvenile otter making a brief stop in the area.

While leaving the pond, I heard my first chorus of gray treefrogs for the year.

Finally, an update on the Accabonac bald eagle nest. The nestlings appear to be ready to make their first flight, as they are moving around the large nest and occasionally flapping their wings. The adults are leaving them alone for long periods of time, and when they return it’s apparent that the young are nearly as large as their parents. At 10 to 14 weeks old, the young are fully grown and weigh as much as an adult. It will be interesting to see how their first flight goes. In a typical nest positioned below the canopy of a live tree, the first flight is often a short glide to a lower branch. In this case, the first flight will most likely be a long glide to the ground, and hopefully not into the water.

Once they’ve earned their wings, young bald eagles are nomadic for their first four years and may wander quite far from their nesting area. At 4 to 5 years of age, they will have developed the white-feathered head, a sign that they are mature and ready to mate. At that point, they will return to their natal area in search of a mate and suitable nest site.

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