Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

2009 Biology Department Field Trip

Vermillion River, LaSalle County, IL

Can it really be time for our annual department field trip again? On Sunday, my department headed down to Illinois River country for some departmental bonding and collecting live animals for display at the museum. We were able to do some fishing in the Vermillion River this trip. Last year at this time it was in full flood, and we couldn't get anywhere near it.

A Helgrammite that we dredged up with the seine net

Ichneumon wasp from the banks of the mighty Vermillion.
Please don't scream like a girl.

After fishing and bug watching along the Vermillion, we headed off to Starved Rock State Park where we set up camp for the evening. Vincent made Cajun chicken breasts and jambalaya for dinner. Can you tell that Vincent is from New Orleans? After dinner, some of the crowd headed off for amphibian watching. Others stayed in camp while I fired up the blacklinght. The sheet was reasonably active this year, with lots of geometrid moths and sexton beetles.

Oak Beauty (Nacophora quernaria)

Pretty moth, not yet identified
Update: Orange Wing (Mellilla xanthometata)

Fishfly (Chauliodes) Caddisfly Thanks Seabroke!

Dobsonfly (Corydalus) - This is what helgrammites turn into
Fishfly (Chauliodes) thanks, again, Seabrooke
Sorry for the terrible editing on the captions for this post.

Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus orbicollis)
One of our prettier carrion beetles

After we all went to bed, it started raining, fairly hard. The next morning, the forecast was for the weather to ease a bit, and then to get very bad with thunderstorms, hail, and high winds. We decided to hang out for the day and to head home rather than camping for a second night.

Illinois River seen from Starved Rock

One of the many canyons at Starved Rock State Park

We started with a hike at Starved Rock. We climbed up on the bluffs for great views of the Illinois River, then descended into one of the many canyons that dissect the park. After a couple of hours of hiking, the sun poked out. We decided to take advvantage of the situation and do a bit more fishing. We visited a small creek that runs through and adjacent to agricultural land. Last year we had quite a bit of success getting minnows for aquarium displays at the Museum.

Steve and Jamie work the seine net in a small creek

Checking ouit the net contents. The crew gathers minnows from the net and puts them in a bucket

This year was much the same. We got a great assortment of fish for our aquarius: red bellied dace, rainbow and orange-throat darters, and creek chubs. Our aquariums are going to look great when we add these guys

The minnow bucket. What a haul!

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At 19:28, Blogger cedrorum said...

It's looking very lush there. Seems you have a theme going with the rain. Please send some down this way, we could use it. The Helgrammite looks like it could do some damage.

At 00:21, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I remember doing this in intro 101 biology class
going to a river and dredge up what we can find.

At 21:32, Blogger Doug Taron said...

cedrorum- I would not go anywhere near those helgrammite mandibles with a finger.

Spo- The trip has very much that feeling about it. I never thought I'd do this as an adult and play the role of the prof.

At 21:24, Blogger Amila Suwa said...

Sounds a good trip. I would have loved to be out there with such an expert team. This area looks a rich ecosystem. Off on a 3-day private trip. Wish me luck (No dSLR photography due to unavoidable circumstances)

At 09:29, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Very cool. I'm a big fan of the Illinois River valley :)

At 19:15, Blogger Will said...

I particularly liked that pretty, unidentified moth. In color, shape, simplicity of design and general "feel" my immediate reaction--coming from my own world in ornament and style--was, "how Arts and Crafts!" A very fine specimen, indeed.

At 08:44, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Amila- Good luck! I hope that being out in the wilds with no camera doesn't feel like torture to you.

Dave- Thanks. That's a part of the state I should spend more time in. Too bad it's so far away.

Will- The beautiful color combination of that moth is what caught my eye, as well.

At 11:24, Blogger Seabrooke said...

Nice collection of critters there, glad to see you were doing some blacklighting! I think it's an activity lots of people would find intriguing if they were introduced to it.

I think what you labeled a fishfly may actually be a large caddisfly, and your dobsonfly is actually a fishfly. I got a few of them to my lights and posted about them last year (fishflies), and was lucky enough to find a few dobsonflies at the in-laws' last summer. They're very distinctive with their massive, intimidating jaws (dobsonflies).


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