May 25, 2023

Wichita Mountains moth observations

My family spent another extended weekend camping, this time at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma (Comanche County). This area is in the EPA Level III “Central Great Plains” ecoregion and the Level IV “Wichita Mountains” ecoregion. There has been pretty good rainfall over the last few months and the wildflowers were on peak display. It was really gorgeous.

I set up my moth lights and sheets on two nights, May 18 and May 20. The night of May 19 was cool and very windy, and it was not worth trying to anchor all of my things. We stayed in the Doris campground which is in oak forest. There are some grassy clearings nearby with milkweeds, Monarda, and other flowering plants. All said, I recorded 69 or more species of moths on May 18 and an additional 30 species of moths on May 20, for a total of 99 species of moths.

The most common moths were:

Ochre Parachma Moth (Parachma ochracealis)
American Dun-bar Moth (Cosmia calami)
Jaguar Flower Moth (Schinia jaguarina)
Confused Meganola Moth (Meganola miniscula)
Some as-yet-unidentified Litini – maybe Pseudotelphusa

Significant finds for me were:

Scarlet Underwing (Catocala coccinata)

Pelochrista argentialbana

Eucosma grindeliana

Long-horned Grass Tubeworm (Acrolophus mortipennella)

Georgia Archips (Archips georgiana)

Speckled Black Pyla (Pyla fusca) - really not sure about this ID.

Euchaetes zella

Charred Dagger (Acronicta brumosa)

Indigobush Twig Borer (Hystrichophora taleana)

Eastern White-blotched Prominent (Heterocampa pulverea)

It's quite possible that some of my observations are county records, but I don't think any of them are state records.

Here are my observations which I haven't been able to identify.

Non-moth observations

With all of the flowers in bloom there were a lot of butterflies out and about. The most common were: Common Buckeye, Black Swallowtail, Dainty Sulphur, Question Mark, and Hackberry Emperor.

I saw my lifer Oak Hairstreak, which I didn’t recognize on sight as being a new species for me.

I also saw a lifer bird, a Zone-tailed Hawk, which has been hanging around this area during breeding season for the last couple of years.
We saw a lot of Bison, Longhorn Cattle, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, several Eastern Collared Lizards, a few Prairie Lizards, a coyote.

You can find all of my observations from the weekend here.

Posted on May 25, 2023 04:09 AM by zdufran zdufran | 4 comments | Leave a comment

May 05, 2023

Alabaster Caverns moth observations

Last weekend my family and I went camping at Alabaster Caverns State Park in northwest Oklahoma (Woodward County). The nearby city of Woodward has a few moth observers. There are other state parks in the area (Boiling Springs, Little Sahara, Gloss Mountains, and Salt Plains), which means there are nature-oriented people making observations in these areas - more so than in a lot of the sparsely populated western half of the state. That being said, there aren't a whole lot of insect observations at this particular state park. The park has varying terrain including a deep canyon with a spring-fed creek north of the campground. This canyon includes one of the entrances to the 3/4 mile long gypsum cave. The state park lies within the EPA Level III ecoregion of "Central Great Plains" and Level IV ecoregion of "Gypsum Hills." (source)

I set up my moth lights and sheets on two nights, Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30. There was decent activity at the lights on Saturday night but Sunday night was almost a complete bust. I observed 65 or more species of moths on Saturday and 2 additional species on Sunday. The area where I set up the lights was south of the campground, close to a grove of trees in a lower lying area, which was sheltered from wind somewhat. (Google map link)

The most common moths were:

Army Cutworm Moth (Euxoa auxilliaris)
Pale Graphic (Drasteria pallescens)
Deduced Graphic (Bulia deducta)

Significant finds were:

Ponometia altera [OK STATE RECORD & lifer]

Arizona Bird-dropping Moth (Ponometia elegantula) [OK STATE RECORD & lifer]

Digrammia triviata [lifer]

Narrow-winged Midget (Tarache augustipennis) [lifer]

Melitara subumbrella - my first time to see in Oklahoma

Harvey's Prominent (Litodonta hydromeli) - my first time to ever see one all gray, completely lacking any green. I didn't recognize this as a Harvey's and thought I was seeing something new to me.

Radcliffe's Dagger (Acronicta radcliffei) - I've only seen this species once before and saw several on Saturday evening.

I imagine at least a handful of the 67+ species are county records but I haven't taken the time yet to go through each one and compare with the county list.

Interesting & unidentified:

Pococera - I'm considering this could be a species I haven't seen before, P. subcanalis. If not, it's probably P. asperatella or P. expandens.

Eucosmiini - I'm thinking this is probably from the genera Eucosma or Pelochrista but I haven't found a good match in either of those yet.

Eucosmiini - this is a really attractive little Tortricid moth that I think is from the genus Eucosma, but I haven't determined which species yet.

I'm pretty sure I have this one in the right family (Tortricidae), but I could be wrong. I'd be happy for any help identifying this one.

Non-moth observations

I saw a lot of Lemon Paintbrush (Castilleja citrina) in bloom - my first time seeing that species. Bird observations of note were Bewick's Wrens singing, lots of Lark Sparrows, a pair of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, a Louisiana Waterthrush (which eBird flags as rare for this location), a huge flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and my lifer Common Poorwills singing after dark. In the cave we saw several bats and I was able to get photographs of two species: Tricolored and Cave Myotis.

You can find all of my observations from this state park here.

Posted on May 05, 2023 07:05 PM by zdufran zdufran | 2 comments | Leave a comment

June 11, 2019

My 500th moth in Oklahoma

Yesterday I noticed that I had recorded 499 species in the Moths of Oklahoma project. Wow! One more and I would hit the 500 mark!

So, last night when I saw a Deadwood Borer (Scolecocampa liburna) on my sheet I was pretty excited. I had seen other observations of this species in Oklahoma, but hadn't yet seen it myself. It was fun that when I saw it I knew that it was my 500th.

I know I have a number of observations that have not been identified to species level and also some that may be misidentified, so my total species count will likely go up and down a bit, but for the time being the Deadwood Borer is my #500.

I am now in my 3rd year of pretty regular mothing and it is astounding and exciting how many new moths I continue to see - mostly in my own backyard. I love moths and it is so much fun to continue seeing new species on a regular basis. That is the main draw for me.

Posted on June 11, 2019 03:32 PM by zdufran zdufran | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 28, 2017

National Moth Week

On Wednesday evening, July 26, three Normanites (including @ehjalmarson) gathered in a field near a wooded area south of Lake Thunderbird and setup a bright light pointed at a white table cloth draped over a ladder. As the sun was setting we took off on a walk and looked for moths and other creatures in the area. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was hoping maybe I would see a handful of familiar species and, if I was lucky, a few new ones. We immediately encountered a large moth that was unfamiliar to me (Sad Underwing, Catocala maestosa) and continued to see other species we didn't know - as well as a mouse and at least 2 species of frogs.

When we circled back to our light setup we were excited to find that a number of moths and other insects had been drawn to the light. We stayed in place for another 2 hours, photographing every new species we saw. In the end, we documented about 30 distinct species of moths, a few of which we have not yet identified. The most common moth we saw was Grape Leaffolder (Desmia funeralis), followed by Olive Arta Moth (Arta olivalis), and Light-ribboned Wave (Leptostales ferruminaria).

Other interesting sightings include:
Banded Net-winged Beetle (Calopteron reticulatum )
Lesser Ivory-marked Beetle (Eburia mutica)
Rhynchomitra microrhina

It was a very enjoyable and fruitful evening! We all added several species to our life lists.

Posted on July 28, 2017 02:10 PM by zdufran zdufran | 35 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment


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