Still not over

autumn sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua leaf against fallen bald cypress Taxodium distichum needlesWhen the weather wasn’t bad, I was tied up, and when I had free time, the weather was terrible. Plus, the terrible weather was enough to take the leaves from the trees in most places. Thus, the autumn color season danced away from me this year, but I think it avoided a lot of people, so I’m not going to feel too badly about it.

So when the clear skies and my availability finally synchronized yesterday and today, I could only do selective compositions – not much of a burden, since these are what I often pursue anyway. A nearby bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) had dropped all of its needles early, as they are wont to do – this is where the name comes from, actually – forming a bed for a solitary sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) leaf that caught a soft beam of light peering through the branches. This is one of the few trees in the immediate area that produces red leaves in the fall; most of the others are yellow and brown, and often not very vivid at that, so this is a small representation of what’s visible on a larger scale anyway. The temperature has dropped but hasn’t become ‘cold’ yet (The Girlfriend might disagree at times,) so the trees are looking threadbare yet the ground remains green when not obscured by leaves, and the rain has even brought new growth in places. Curiously, the rose bush that took a beating early this year and looked almost dead all summer suddenly sprouted new growth and a few blossoms at the end of the season, and has more leaves on it now than it has had since May…

backlit leaves turning colorsNot everything has changed, either, but most of what has changed has fallen, so the nice landscape views are none too visible anywhere. Just one of those weaker years.

I am obligated to report that the arthropod life has not all vanished. The pale green assassin bugs (Zelus luridus) are, in fact, quite active all over the place; I leaned into a low tree for shots of one in particular, and immediately found another walking up my arm. Since this was at my right elbow, I have no shots of this – I’ll let others dick around with shitty phone piccies, while I’ll try for different compositions.

pale green assassin bug Zelus luridus poised on leafThere will be more assassin photos coming along in a bit, especially if I get what I’m trying for, but right now I’m going to fall back onto our old friends.

Carolina mantis Stagmomantis carolina in longneedle pineThe family of mantids that I observed in the yard all spring and summer seem to have vanished, but a few of the Carolina mantids (Stagmomantis carolina) are hanging out at the nearby pond. Both were sluggish on my first encounter, since they hadn’t a chance to warm themselves much yet, but they soon became as active as normal. Unfortunately, the wind also started to pick up, swinging the branches about wildly, and focus on the smaller insects (about as long as my thumb) became impossible.

Earlier this week, while the temperature hovered around 12°c (54°f) and the rain was light but persistent, I found a Chinese mantis sitting at the base of a column in front of a store in town. I scooped it up gently, and initially it was so sluggish that it appeared more of a model than a living thing, but it roused itself slightly at the threat and started stumbling off; I placed it on a post out of harm’s way, surprised to still find one in the area. I didn’t have my camera along for that trip, so no photos of that one. But I’ll provide a large-scale shot of the other Carolina mantis from yesterday, just to make up for the lack of posts recently.

Carolina mantis Stagmomantis carolina looking threating in the fluffy flowersmushrooms and wild onionsRains, naturally, bring out the mushrooms. These are part of the first “fairy ring” I’ve ever seen, a nearly-complete circle of mushrooms. But they occurred in mixed lighting and the contrast prevented any decent images of the entire ring, so I went in close for a few dancing with the wild onions that are common in the area, which make the task of mowing the lawn a notably fragrant experience.

a pair of sliders basking on a logI only had a brief opportunity for this subject and couldn’t shoot a lot of frames, so this isn’t quite what I was aiming for. A pair of sliders was basking on a log as I approached, but they’re distinctly easy to spook in this pond, and both tumbled into the water as I was firing off frames. The conditions fooled the meter and the turtles themselves got a little washed out, but their reflections look sharp, as well as showing some of the color of the nearby foliage and sky. This was from yesterday; today when I checked the area, the light was completely different and the entire region in shadow, so I didn’t have the opportunity to improve on the shot, plus the turtles bailed the log even faster. So it goes.

Rambur's forktail Ischnura ramburii damselflyBut the light was much better in another location, so I chased a few shots of an anxious damselfly, probably a Rambur’s forktail (Ischnura ramburii.) Like the turtles, this one wasn’t enamored of my presence and didn’t hang around for the full photo session. I blame the influences of social-media and the internet.

pale green assassin bug Zelus luridus almost hidden among leavesAnd to close, another of the pale green assassins, because I liked how all the elements fitted together, plus it’s a decent scale shot. Often enough, this is exactly how many subjects first appear, and to spot them one has to be able to see the change in pattern, the unexpected element that signifies something other than the normal botany; for the Carolina mantis on the white flowers above, the only thing I spotted initially was a leg, out of place because no twigs or leaf stems should have been present among the flower blossoms. It’s a good trait to develop, but don’t ask me how to do it or how long it takes – I just realized that I’ve been doing it for a while now. Nor can I even say how good I am at it, because there’s no one going along behind me to tally all the critters that I miss ;-)

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