Two-spotted Melyrid (Collops bipunctatus)

This is not a photograph of a Burrowing Owl

Two-spotted Melyrid (Collops bipunctatus)
Two-spotted Melyrid (Collops bipunctatus) beetle, somewhat out of its expected habitat in Brighton, Colorado, USA. July 1, 2012.

At the beginning of July I went on a trip sponsored by the Boulder Audubon Society to look for nesting Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) up in Brighton, Colorado. As you can see, this is not a photo of a burrowing owl.

We did see a lot of burrowing owls–several colonies–but mostly barely within scope range, and I still had trouble telling the difference between owls and prairie dogs half the time. The last colony we visited we did see one lovely individual about 20 feet from the road, but that wasn’t close enough to get even the mediocre photo I got in Oklahoma in 2010.

But I enjoyed seeing them, and I was able to photograph quite a lot of interesting insect life, such as the above gorgeous little flower beetle, somewhat unexpectedly crawling around on a gravelly roadside with no flowers in sight, and a lot of darkling beetles (Family Tenebrionidae). The flower beetle was moving along at a good clip, perhaps feeling a little exposed, so I wasn’t able to get a very good picture.

And here’s a fairly small robberfly (Family Asilidae):

Robberfly (Family Asilidae)

But I think the most exciting thing was probably finding a cooperative tiger beetle! I am in awe of Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush, who specializes in photographing tiger beetles–I find them to be incredibly frustrating and uncooperative insects. They’re fast and flighty, and half the time when they do run towards me instead of away, it’s so they can hide under my shoe. I cannot take photos of insects that are hiding under my shoe. In general, a lot of ground-dwelling beetles seem be in constant motion, so I expect I will continue to focus the majority of my insect photography efforts on dragonflies.

Tiger beetles are a pretty amazing group of animals, and I’m always excited to see one, even when they are not cooperative photography subjects. I believe this is the Punctured Tiger Beetle (Cicindela punctulata), and part of why it was so cooperative is that it had found a squashed individual of the ubiquitous darkling beetles, which it was busily trying to consume:

Punctured Tiger Beetle (Cicindela punctulata) scavenging a darkling beetle (Family Tenebrionidae)

I love how tiger beetles are pretty much made of long, long legs and chompy jaws of death:

Punctured Tiger Beetle (Cicindela punctulata)

I also spotted one bright metallic green tiger beetle, which I was not able to get any focused shots of, but which I am fairly sure was a green southwestern form C. punctulata.

After the owls we stopped at Barr Lake State Park for a lovely brunch, and I found some flowering milkweed that was absolutely covered with interesting insects…but that’s a topic for another post.

(Thanks to Ron M. and Michael C. Thomas at BugGuide for identification help. Remaining errors are mine.)

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