June 15th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

A couple days ago I spent an evening hour doing field research. Specifically, seeing what was in the field behind the public parking lot in Grand Case. In fact, there was quite a lot going on there. There were a bunch of species of true bug (Hemiptera) that I have been struggling to identify. There were also lots of insects mating. I guess evening is a good time for that.

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June 15th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Below are some photos of three species of bat in La Grotte du Puits des Terres Basses. This is the first time I have seen the greater bulldog bat, Noctilio leporinus. It is also known as the fisherman bat, because it catches fish. Amazingly, it does this at night by using echolocation to detect disturbances in the surface of the water, then swooping down to catch the fish. Also visible in the photos are many young Antillean fruit-eating bats.

Look carefully and you may also see streblid flies, which are also known as bat flies because they are bat parasites, some of which may use only a single species of bat as hosts. Just another example of the fascinating wonders of nature that are happening on the island every day, unnoticed amid the bustle and development.

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June 13th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

This set of photos shows a cricket molting. The species is probably from the tribe Hapithini, although I am having some difficulty figuring out which genus and species it is, as there are few images online from this group. I have seen a number of these colorful crickets on the island, but this is the first time I’ve happened upon one while it is molting.

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June 13th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

When I was out finding stick insects, I found more. Much more! There were, of course, spiders. I was particularly interested to see many orb weavers from the genus Eustala. Apparently, some members of this genus normally hide during the day and only spin their webs at night. This explains how they can be so common at night in an area where I rarely see them during the day.

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There were a variety of other creatures, including caterpillars, strange moths, a millipede with flies on its head, and some sleepin’ lizards.

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June 10th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Before a few nights ago, I had only seen a walking stick (or stick insect, or phasme, or phasmid) on the island on one occasion. Apparently this was not so much because they are rare or even so difficult to spot, but I just wasn’t looking properly. By scanning the trees overhead on the roadside with a flashlight, I was able to find six or seven in perhaps an hour. My sources think it is a species that was recently discovered in Puerto Rico in the genus Clonistria. The green ones in the images below are females, and they are immature. The brown ones are the males.

Phasmids are interesting because many islands harbor endemic species, and also because they look really cool. I found these on a variety of different trees and shrubs.

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June 9th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

I’m not sure of the actual name of the hill, but the road near it is called Round Hill Road, so that’s how I’m referring to it. It’s the hill that rises up towards Mont O’Reilly from Grand Case, behind the Caribbean Queen pharmacy. I took a walk up there a few days ago and found quite a few interesting critters. I don’t have a lot to say about them at the moment, because I need to do some serious work to identify many of them. In general, the area is pretty lush for such a low hill and there’s quite a lot to be seen there. It also offers plenty of opportunities to get poked and scratched by a variety of thorny shrubs.

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June 7th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc


St. Martin Book Fair
A few photos of our booth from the 9th annual St. Martin Book Fair, at events in Concordia and at the University of St. Martin in Philipsburg.



June 7th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

The 9th annual St. Martin Book Fair was last weekend, and we were lucky enough to have a table at some of the events for The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin. The book fair was very fun and it was wonderful to see all the people creating, promoting and enjoying St. Martin culture. Highlights included a speech and poetry reading by Nobel prize winner Derek Walcott and the launch of the new cookbook From Yvette’s Kitchen to Your Table. My personal favorite experiences from the book fair were having our table swarmed by kids who wanted to know all about the animals on the island and getting to know Yvette’s daughter Jewel as we finished up the last of the wine after everyone else left the closing ceremony.

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June 7th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

I took a little walk across the main road from Grand Case to where I had found the tiny hairstreak in December, and the area was quite different. Although the rains have started and the vegetation is growing quickly there, none of the plants that made up the bulk of the flowers in December are in bloom now. And, of course, I didn’t see any of the tiny hairstreaks that were so fond of those flowers.

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June 6th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Leucauge argyra is probably the most commonly seen orchard spider on the island, but it was still quite a treat to see a pair mating near Grand Case the other day. I noticed a pair of the spiders on a low-hanging tree branch with a bit of webbing on the leaves. The smaller male was tugging at the lines of silk, presumably to send a message of his intent to the larger female. Spiders often use this type of cue when courting, which varies from web-tugging to dancing and leg waving, depending on the species. The main benefits are establishing that the desired partner is willing to mate, and is of the same species, because each species tends to have a distinctive mating ritual.

In this case, the female was initially facing away from the male, but after some persistent signaling, turned around and spread her front legs, allowing the male to approach. As you can see in the photos, the male spider (on the right) has pedipalps full of sperm. Pedipalps are leg-like appendages in the front of the body, and the tips of the “loaded” pedipalps look like small red balls. The goal for the male is to inject his sperm from his pedipalps into the epigyne of the female, which is located on the underside of her abdomen.

It was a difficult thing to photograph, particularly due to the extreme heat, with just enough breeze to blow the branch in and out of focus, but not enough to cool down the photographer. Immediately after what I believe was a successful coupling, the male disappeared.

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