I spent most of the morning at Florencia Bay today on a fruitless search for two endangered Pink Sand-verbena (Abronia umbellata) plants that had been reported last week. Despite being unsuccessful I enjoyed poking around looking at plants and examining the flotsam and jetsam that was being brought in with the tide. The beach at Florencia Bay is over 5 km long and even though I had a rough idea of where the plants were I guess it isn’t surprising that I couldn’t find them in the maze of driftwood above the high tide line.
While having lunch at the mid point in the beach I noticed a small metallic beetle moving actively along the surface of the sand. I watched it for a while as it worked its way through some European Searocket (Cakile maritima) before I decided to try to photograph it. I usually take one record shot of an insect before moving in closer to get a better composed image so at least I have one picture that I can use to attempt to identify the insect back at home. The beetle proved to be very wary and I was only able to get two photographs before it quickly flew a short distance away. I approached it slowly and took a third photograph before it flew again, moving further down the beach and out of sight.
Unfortunately I no longer have my review copy of NWFs Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America but I managed to figure out that this beetle is a Tiger Beetle (Family Cincidelidae) and likely belongs to the genus Cincidela. The behaviour of my lunch time companion certainly fits with this genus. Tiger beetles are active and run and fly quickly and they can occur in bright sunlight on sandy areas and beaches. The distinctive patterning and irridescent sheen also fit with this genus as does the width of the head in relation to the pronotum (section behind the head).
Ted MacRae has identified my lunchtime guest (or perhaps I was the guest?) as a Western Tiger Beetle (Cicindela oregona) – see his comment below!
I enjoyed sharing my lunch (figuratively) with the Tiger Beetle and think that I’ll spend some time on the beach and in the dunes looking for more beetles and insects. It’s fascinating what you notice when you take the time to sit and quietly observe the natural world at work around you.
If you’re interested in learning more about tiger beetles, check out Ted MacRae’s excellent blog Beetles in the Bush and North Coast Diaries has an interesting read on the Western Tiger Beetle. For those want to view more excellent macro photographs make sure to visit Lisa’s Chaos where Macro Monday is hosted.