Grab bag

newly adult decim periodical cicada Magicicada septendecim on rose leaf
Just a handful of recent images, some from before the trip, some from after – no real theme or coherence here, sorry. Above, a newly-emerged adult decim periodical cicada (Magicicada septendecim) poses on a leaf of The Girlfriend’s badly-damaged rose bush before heading out into the big bright world. Curiously, this was two weeks ago, which is early for cicadas, but more curiously, this was less than two meters from where I’d reburied the one I found in January. Same one? I have no way of knowing. This one, if I have the identification right, is a 17-year variety, spending nearly all of that underground attached to tree roots – unless, of course, they’re disturbed by someone doing yard work.

By the way, that rose bush is proving problematic. At the old place, I had mistakenly killed off a rose that The Girlfriend really liked, and vowed to replace it with a similar species (one that smelled lemony was the prime criteria.) The Younger Sprog found this one last year and I reimbursed her for it, but it was transplanted late and didn’t thrive. This year it got an early start and seemed to be doing well, only to get attacked by inchworms that decimated the leaves in two days. We all did routine worm patrols and stopped the damage, and it was recovering nicely, producing two new blooms. Then, apparently, a deer nibbled both of those off the other night, without touching anything else in the yard. Just to be perverse.

Last year, on two occasions, I’d found the shed skin of a smaller snake at the base of another rose bush alongside the mailboxes, but never got even a glimpse of the owner. Early this spring I found another shed skin, suspecting a garter snake from the size. I knew it wasn’t a venomous copperhead from the skin on the tail, and I’ll let you in on a little trick. On all non-venomous snakes in North America, the belly scales cross the entire belly, one scale across like a tank tread, down to the cloaca opening, after which they split into two staggered scales, providing a faintly braided look. The venomous snakes, however, retain the single crosswise scale down to the tail tip (or the rattle, if such a species, in which case the skin stops abruptly as if cut off.) But one morning, I spotted the owner sitting on the mailbox post soaking up the sun placidly.

prairie kingsnake Lampropeltis calligaster basking on fencepost
This is a prairie kingsnake, perhaps about 30cm (12 inches) long and the diameter of your finger – those diamond-shaped markings are a dead giveaway, though as they get bigger the markings may split up more. Completely harmless of course, unless you’re a rodent or another snake, which is their primary diet. This one is not yet big enough to take down any of the moles that are tearing up the yard, but it is still encouraged to remain for that purpose.

I did a quick trip down to the nearby pond this morning, collecting some water (and whatever little critters it might possess) and checking out the spring progress. The pickerel weed is coming along, almost big enough to start making the green treefrogs feel at home, though I spotted none yet. But the new blooms were out and the bumblebees were visiting.

bumblebee on pickerel weed pontederia flower
The bees were active enough to make nailing focus quite tricky, and I have a lot of images to throw out, but managed a couple of interesting keepers. I like the blur of the wings on this one.

Once back home, I started getting a bit of yard work done, which meant encountering several different arthropod species. I get the impression the cold winter slowed down the emergence of the insects this spring, but more are showing up every day. While doing some closeups of assassin bugs, I spotted this black ant industriously carting a dead leafhopper through the pine straw, apparently trying very hard not to ever come into the open where photographing them would have been easier, but somehow I snagged this image as they made a brief appearance in the light again.

black ant with dead green leafhopper

Back when I transplanted one of the new azalea bushes, the composted soil that we use sprouted, as usual, something else – it’s been largely pumpkins this year because we all did jack-o-lanterns last year, and now I know better than the let the seeds go into the compost. Anyway, I was about to remove the unwanted plant from right alongside the azalea when this little dude leapt away from my hand. It seemed more than happy with the new plant, so I opted to let them both remain.

young Chinese mantis Tenodera aridifolia sinensis posing near azalea

The Girlfriend has been trying to find the calla lilies that she likes, and we finally located a pair this past weekend. I had transplanted them into pots until we decide where they will go in the yard, and in going past one of them today, I spotted a little white jumping spider doing a patrol of the plant. The contrast was great against the large leaves, but my patience paid off even more, because eventually it jumped across to the deep maroon blossoms and provided this alert pose.

jumping spider Hentzia mitrata on calla lily Zantedeschia aethiopica
jumping spider Hentzia mitrata on legIn fact, I suspect the little arachnid was sizing up the gap between itself and the camera – they often do this, sometimes not at all bothered by this huge unfamiliar shape looming close, and I’ve seen the behavior they exhibit when getting ready to leap to a new location. This one made several jumps across the plant, eventually finding its way down to the planter and then across to my leg. I haven’t shaved in a while, and it seemed to find the experience distasteful, because it soon returned to the planter again. Yes, I’m embarrassed.

And finally, I close with a photo from the botanical garden a few days back, a green anole that had been trying to drink from one of the ponds there until my approach spooked it. I closed in on it while it sat among the leaves and obtained a nice portrait, cropped tighter here to show off the detail of the scales. I don’t know why, but I like the mosaic texture of lizard skin. The head, by the way, is probably about 15mm in length, smaller than the end joint of your little finger – macro work is fun.

green anole Anolis carolinensis portrait

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