Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Love Valdez, Alaska

We only spent two days in Valdez on the coast of Alaska but it was an amazing two days. The drive is beautiful, even if it is raining. Our first day we were able to go out on my uncle Dan's boat to Prince William Sound. We saw several Humpback Whales close to the boat and Dall's Porpoise were playing with the boat; they look like small Killer Whales with a crazy spray.

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) - with calf

                                              Dall's Porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli)

We got to see the Columbia Glacier along with several Sea Otters, which are super cute. The Glacier had large chunks of ice floating in the water. We picked a small one up for the cooler to keep our drinks cold.

As you can see below Valdez is one of the most beautiful places on Earth!

The next day we went Halibut fishing and had a blast! We all got our limit of Halibut and made it back to see some fisherman do some Salmon seining. It is amazing to see them do this. But the fishermen are not the only ones catching fish, so are the Sea Lions! If you get a chance to spend time in Valdez take at least a week. You will not regret it.

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) feeding on Pink Salmon or Humpback Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)

Steller's Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatusfeeding on Pink Salmon or Humpback Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bears OH MY OH MY and Wood Bison TOO!

We were really disappointed in our trip to Denali National Park. We thought we would see a LOT of animals and we only saw a couple of Moose far away and some (4) Carabou which we were really excited about but had hoped for more. We spent two days there and nothing. We saw no bears in Alaska at all. Feeling a little defeated on the bear front in Alaska, we headed back to the lower 48. On the road between Watson Lake (YT) and Fort Nelson (BC) we were surprised to see 11 Black Bear and 3 Grizzlies! The Grizzlies were a momma and 2 babies. We actually spent about 2 hours on the side of the road photographing them! We got LOTs of pics of the Black Bear as well. There were also several Wood Bison on the side of the road which are a little different than our Plains Bison; Wood Bison have a larger hump on the shoulders. Below are the photos of these amazing animals. If you ever have the chance to visit northern British Columbia you must take the Alaskan Highway from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson not only are there TONS of animals, but there are also a LOT of beautiful vistas! Check out our Flickr page for more pictures (click on any photo to reach our Flickr page).

American black bear (Ursus americanus)

A baby Black Bear

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)

Wood Bison, Mountain Bison, Wood Buffalo or Mountain Buffalo (Bison bison athabascae)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Olympic National Park

OK, so this first photo was not on the Olympic Peninsula, but it is equally amazing in itself. It is Multnomah Falls in Oregon and we had to turn around and see it after a day of collecting bugs. We took the dogs, (I posted some photos on facebook), but when we got up to the falls where I wanted to photograph them they were getting so much attention that we could hardly do anything. Luckily John could escape off to the side and shoot this.

We then ended up going up to the Olympic National Park to see some cool insects as well as the rainforest! Unfortunately this was our first bad day of rain and that put a damper on the insect collecting. In the morning we were able to get these shots of an AMERICAN RAINFOREST! I love this place and would like to spend more time here. This was the Hoh Rainforest on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula.

Kendra and John

Monday, June 25, 2012


Yosemite is an amazing place. The views were outstanding. However, what you don't see in these pictures is that there are TONS of people everywhere. I am very glad that many people wan to see  a national park, but as some point it felt like an amusement park. Yosemite valley was incredibly packed with people. We don't take pictures of people so here are some really cool scenery pictures. The place is breathtaking.

We came into Yosemite from the east on the Tioga Road, near Mono Lake. I would recommend staying in that area. June Lake is a very small fishing town with few people.  But you get the mountains and nice views. Below is Toulumne Meadows near the east entrance to Yosemite.

This is Tenaya Lake it is also near the east entrance to Yosemite. The rain clouds had just rolled in and gave us a neat view.

As you start to drive west you start to get glimpses of the Yosemite valley.  In the background you can see half dome.

We drove up to Glacier point first to get a really good view of the Yosemite valley and there were stunning views after stunning views.

Here is a view of Yosemite Valley you can see all the buildings down there! Lots of people!! :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bumble Bees and Carpenter Bees!

Again we are getting lots of different Bumble Bees up here! It is great to see so much diversity. However many people get Bumble Bees and Carpenter Bees confused. Bumble Bees have hair on their abdomen and Carpenter Bees do not, their abdomens are shiny like the individuals below. Bumble Bee's have hair on their abdomen.

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa (Notoxylocopa) tabaniformis orpifex)

California Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa californica)

We love seeing the Bumble Bees up here and the populations seem to be doing well. Even thought several studies have said that populations have decline, from a  fungal pathogen, Nosema bombi.
Other studies have also proven that the abundance of the European honey bee has also caused a decline in the populations because of competition. European Honey Bee's collect the nectar causing a scarcity of nectar in areas for the Bumble Bee. Bumble Bee's respond by sending more foragers to get nectar instead of pollen. This in return leads to fewer offspring of the Bumble Bee. 

There are things that can be done. The Xerces Society is helping land managers create strategies for increasing pollinator numbers. Land managers need these pollinators for wild flowers, blueberries, tomatoes and many other crops. There are also local groups trying to create habitat for bees like Texas Bee Watchers.  You can make your yard more bee friendly as well. Below are some of the Bumble Bee's we have seen along the way.

Nevada Bumble Bee (Bombus nevadensis)
                                        Indiscriminate Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus insularis)

                                        California Bumble Bee (Bombus californicus)

We also got one of these guys in flight!

Kendra and John

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sierra Nevada Insects!

We are really racking up the insects in CA! They take longer to process and ID so we have not been posting as many. So here are several of our insects that we have gotten in the Sierra Nevada's .

Like most things the smaller these guys are the more amazing they are when you get to see their detail.

Thread wasted wasp, Sphecid family Ammophola sp in honor of our good friend Hook who studies this family in Trinidad. This is guy is from California but still a very beautiful insect.

Lace wings!!! These are always beautiful! Different species than we have in Texas but looks very similar! This is a Green Lacewing (Pseudomallada sp., prob. perfectus)

Ant lions (Myrmeleon sp., prob. either rusticus or timidus) look similar to damselflies but are very different. Their nymphs are not aquatic like damselflies. Their nymphs are actually found in the little funnels in the sand on the beach or any other sand or fine soil that you walk through. They use them as little pit fall traps to catch other insects and eat them. They are a wild looking little creature as a larva!

However they become a very beautiful adult insect! They look similar to damselflies but you know they are not because you can see the relatively large antennae. Damselflies have antennae, they are just very small and hard to see with the naked eye!

Downy Leather-winged Beetle or Soldier Beetle (Podabrus pruinosus) seems to be everywhere we go! He still looks much more beautiful when you get to see him up close and with a lot of light!

Western tent caterpillars (Malacosoma californicum) can be VERY abundant! In fact John came in from outside and about 20 of these moths came in the trailer with him. Yikes we are still pulling these guys out. In fact their was one in the shower this AM.
I love the way the antennae look on these guys, almost like little horns.
In the morning we found these cool eggs from the Western Tent Caterpillar laying on the table. 

Blue Milkweed Beetle (Chrysochus cabaltinus) are a stunning beetle. I swiped this little guy out of the air as he was flying by. They eat milkweed as their name implies but unlike Monarchs do not get toxins from the plant. They actually will cut a piece of the leaf and let the sap (containing the most of the toxins) run out before they proceed eating the plant. The female however will place a protective coating of her feces around the eggs which contains a rather high concentration of the toxin.

There are a lot more pictures on flickr just click on any of the pictures and you should be able to scroll through the rest of the photos if you would like. We have a lot more to ID and process but this is a start!

Kendra and John
- posted from ipad during the international bug expedition 2012

About Me

My photo
John is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin. Kendra is a Professor at St. Edwards University in Austin. John has focused on dragonflies and damselflies in his career. He has two books Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and the South-central United States and The Damselflies of Texas. He is currently working on the Dragonflies of Texas. John and Kendra are also currently both working on revising the Peterson Field Guide to Insects of North America. We have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Latin America, Africa and other parts of the world where we enjoy taking photos of pretty much anything that will allow us to capture its image. We are lucky enough to be able to teach students about the amazing biodiversity we see and to travel and photograph together.