Long Island – part 1
(this post describes events which happened on June 1st)
Before this day, I had never been to Long Island before. I had no idea it contained so much open natural habitat, and that such interesting and rare wildlife lived there.
We took the ferry from Connecticut – me, my advisor, and three undergrad lab members. It was an adventure right from the start! I had never been on a ferry like that before. Exploring the decks, playing cards and buying delicious pretzels… soon enough we had arrived. We had to drive around to the bottom part of the “lobster claw” of Long Island, and went almost all the way to the end. We passed lots of vineyards, cute little towns, and expensive looking houses.
Finally we reached the scrub oak habitat, where we met up with some other scientists/collectors. In some places the oak and undergrowth was very thick, and in other places it gave way to sand and blueberries. I would love to visit this place during blueberry season later in the summer… mmmm…
As we approached the shore and the area got more sandy and grassy, we came across an unexpected plant… a cactus, Opuntia humifusa (thanks to Robert Pace for the ID). We continued to spot them occasionally as we wandered about, careful not to step on any of the small ones. I had no idea I’d ever see a cactus in NY!
Our entomological mission: to collect Catocala caterpillars (the adults are the beautiful underwing moths), and be on the look-out for Merolonche dolli. The Catocala were for my advisor’s research, and the Merolonche would have been for me (in the subfamily Acronictinae). They are fuzzy little black and red caterpillars which feed on blueberry and related plants. We used sheets and sticks and baseball bats to beat the vegetation and catch what fell, as well as slowly scanning the leaves for caterpillars. We managed to get a bunch of great Catocala, but unfortunately no Merolonche… perhaps next time!