*sigh* the old adage, "The more you know, the more you realize how little you know" is so true.
November 29, 2006: I noticed this little fly on my pineapple plant. It was moving its wings in an odd rowing motion and posturing along the leaf edges. I snapped a few photos and shrugged, having no idea what it was other than some kind of fly.
Then I got lucky. Actually, my luck has been improving over the past year as a couple of guys have been adding lots of information and species to this site devoted to listing the flora and fauna of OC. Lo and behold, when I checked there was my little fly in living color and identified to genus: Pogonortalis; and a wonderfully descriptive common name: Boatman fly. So now I know what to call it.
What does it eat? Where does it lay its eggs? What do the larvae eat? How many molts do the maggots go through before pupating? How long is the entire life cycle typically? How many generations per year are produced? Is the boatman fly a friend or foe? What is its geographical distribution?
Very little information is, so far, forthcoming on this bit of fly. I found Pogonortalis doclea listed on an Australian site as well as on Bugguide. I found a reference on the California Dept of Food and Ag noting that it is a class C pest--whatever that means.
Still, I am grateful to have a name to pin on it . . . it would not only be unwieldy to search for "small big-eyed fly with bulbous, velvety-looking abdomen and oar-like wing motions"; it would also be fruitless; I just tried it, no relevant results. Thank you very much, Natural History of Orange County, for the i.d. If I learn anything more about this small visitor to my garden, I'll post it here.