Ribbon cutting

I’ve said before (many times) that I have my own indication of when spring is officially here, and last evening, though technically only a few hours ago, we reached that mark. On stepping onto the back deck late at night, I glanced down and saw my first treefrog, a Copes grey, sitting on the lip of a planter. Even though dinner was about ready (I’m on a weird schedule, well, no schedule at all actually,) I grabbed the camera and macro flash and went back out to record this event. This took only a couple of minutes, since I had a minor task to do as I passed, but when I got back out, there was no sign of the frog.

This was slightly curious, because this portion of the deck is wide open with few hiding spots, and I know treefrogs don’t tend to move too fast, but a thorough search of the surroundings failed to turn up my official first frog. Nertz. But then as I passed a nearby planter, I found someone else looking at me casually as if to say, “Hey.”

green treefrog Hyla cinerea peering out from planter well
This is instead a green treefrog (Hyla cinerea,) though you’d know that if you read even three posts at random from the past year, because we’ve got ’em in spades on the property. This was, in fact, immediately alongside the planter seen here, which lends a little weight to it being the same one, but not a lot. Now having seen two (even though one disappeared,) I started checking out the yard and, in short, spotted at least six individuals in various locations, such as this juvenile scaling the shed.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea clinging to the cornice
I had no easy way of providing scale, but this one was less than half the size of the previous, a bit shorter than my thumb, and obviously last year’s brood.

I checked out the backyard pond, badly in need of cleaning after this winter, and found another harbinger alongside.

green frog Lithobates clamitans venturing out in spring
This is an aquatic green frog (Lithobates clamitans) – not a treefrog, and I really wish they’d pick a different common name. They’re always a lot spookier than the treefrogs, and this was the best frame that I got, because it leapt into the pond as I maneuvered for a better perspective, but that was all right, because I was simply cataloging how many different species I could find. The air was slightly chill, making me put on an overshirt, but otherwise quite nice, and the frogs were deciding that it was time to get out.

I was hearing some activity from the neighborhood pond and decided to head over there, but as I went up the back steps to enter the porch, I found my original subject.

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis clinging to porch screen
Now that’s a Copes grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis,) and judging from the size alone I’d say it was the same one, though it had crossed the porch and scaled either the steps or the support posts to get about three meters higher than when I first spotted it, so it was on a mission, anyway, but I was glad to get the chance to photograph it as the official first. Cooperatively, it was showing off the brilliant yellow patches along the hindlegs, often tucked away out of sight whenever the frog is in a typical pose.

Down by the neighborhood pond, I was following the calls and soon spotted an American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) advertising for some action, which it was kind enough to do as the headlamp was on it, so I could get a decent frame.

American toad Anaxyrus americanus calling
Unfortunately, I made a small mistake, and only took the camera and flash arm with me on the short jaunt, forgetting that the batteries were quite low. It was enough to get a few still frames, but as I switched over to video to get a short clip, that was too much for the batteries and they died completely; the spares were, of course, in the bag a few hundred meters away back at the house. Ah well. I also got out the smutphone to at least do a couple of audio tracks of the call, but at that point the toad decided to cease making noise, because that’s what wildlife does. I’ll return with the full video rig later on to ensure that nobody provides any useful displays or calls.

Anyway, happy official first day of spring, calendar be damned, and get out and try to enjoy it a little more eagerly than my final model for the evening here. Cheers!

green treefrog Hyla cinerea peeking from downspout stub

Profiles of Nature 12

pair of blue-crowned conures Thectocercus acuticaudatus in squabble
This week, we have Wyatt between shooting sessions, trying to get a makeup artist to confirm that he has nothing stuck in his teeth, forgetting again that he doesn’t have any. Wyatt broke into the biz by jimmying the back door, but then discovered modeling while in prison (it was a pretty bizarre penitentiary.) He has a natural gift for playing teenagers, making him very popular among catholic priests, but has his sights set on Broadway because he grew up playing Monopoly – needless to say, he doesn’t spell very well. Wyatt has, in the past, been advised that he should invest for his future, and heard that children are our future; putting two and two together led to some radical attention by the FBI before they determined that he was none too swift, and at least pointed him towards buying gold instead, explaining why he now has a large collection of gold kid statues. This does put a crimp on his dating life. Wyatt has said that growing up watching Sigmund and the Sea Monsters had the greatest influence on his career, but no one has yet determined why and everyone is afraid to ask. He owns three cats, a rabbit, and a sarcastic fringehead in memory of a past girlfriend. His favorite drag coefficient is 2.475.

Come back next week in the vain hope that we will have forgotten about this damn topic!

MM hmm

Yes, indeedy, it’s the 2,000th post here on Walkabout! And it actually would have been here a little bit sooner, but I decided that I was going to feature something for it, which required finishing a long-standing project, and I have now. That’s all explained in the podcast, because yeah, it had to be a podcast too.

Walkabout podcast – Two Thousand

Just for the record, it’s a total of nine separate tracks; I had a lot more, but mostly of other riffs that didn’t make the grade, that were muted out and then, when I was satisfied (for now,) discarded.

The MIDI keyboard was/is the M-Audio Oxygen 25 Mk IV, though I got mine used so lacking the full software bundle, and thus only what I could download for free.

The main software for all of this is the same as for the podcasts themselves, which is the marvelous Audacity.

screenshot of Audacity files for Walkabout Theme 01
The Windows side of the synthesizing was done with Reason Lite – literally thousands of instruments, but only a small percentage of those were ones I’d find useful.

The Linux side was largely accomplished by Rosegarden, with help from Hydrogen. There is also MuseScore, which is a pretty slick program in itself but not used for this particular project.

If you have the interest in tackling music production on a Linux OS, I found this page to be the most helpful by far. However, it is also helpful to route PulseAudio through Jack so that both the MIDI sound system and all other system sounds (like music files, videos, and so on) can be heard simultaneously – if you don’t do this, you’ll have to choose one or the other for a session (which basically means starting and stopping Jack – not difficult, but a pain in the ass if you’re trying to follow a video tutorial or want to hear some sample sound files.)

By the way, in my defense, when I finally decided I was going to finish this project for the 2,000th post, that milestone/kilometerrock/furlongmineral was only ten to twelve posts off, and I buckled down and completed the entire set of tracks in a couple of weeks. I think one of the riffs was composed beforehand, but all of the recordings were done in that time – previous stuff that I’d played with never made the final cut. So while I’d been noodling with this for a long time (including the delay when the system simply wasn’t going to allow any futzing around with music at all,) the actual work was accomplished fairly quickly. At least for an amateur that, seriously, can’t actually play any instruments.

I mentioned finding another mantis egg case in there:

almost hidden ootheca egg case of Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis
Even though it exists at a little below eye-level, you may get the impression of how difficult it is to spot casually, and this one is going to prove challenging to photograph or video come hatching time. But yeah, I was glad to see the mantises succeeded in placing two egg cases in the yard, even when they weren’t anywhere near cooperative enough to so do when and where I could see them.

The Welcome page was written back at the very beginning and edited only trivially since then, and still maintains the purpose and reasoning behind the blog, so check it out if you wish.

And while I feel like I should have even more superfrabulous content for the 2,000th post, it occurred in the slow season when there really isn’t a lot that I could add, and delaying it until there was would mean, well, fewer posts. But just you wait until the 3,000th post!

edited photo of green treefrog playing a synth keyboard

Focus, part 2

Once again, this is continuing a theme of observing and commenting on recent cultural behavior in this country, and has nothing to do with photographic focus. It’s potentially a lot more useful than camera technique, but still, it’s not photo-oriented.

In part 1, the attention was on the specific trigger event of George Floyd’s death and the immediate reactions/conclusions to that; this one is going to address the subsequent actions taken by far too many people.

As I said earlier, the police officer involved in Floyd’s death (Derek Chauvin) was charged with his murder and relieved of duty – immediately. This is exactly what we expect from our judicial system, and exactly the procedure that should be followed by law. Yet we got to see countless thousands of protests, over many weeks, across the country, except that it isn’t exactly clear what was being protested, and in many cases, I’m not sure most of the protestors even knew. The overall assumption seems to have been that this event, with perhaps a few others included but the focus was definitely on Floyd’s death, was representative of wholesale and widespread racism. And again, it’s not exactly clear where, and potentially most of those protesting wouldn’t agree on that; some felt that it was within ‘the police’ as a distinct entity in the country, while other’s felt that it was in the country itself – really, there’s a huge spectrum of assumptions to deal with, and little recognition that it is a spectrum.

[As an aside, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that a lot of the reaction was a side-effect of the pandemic, largely the frustrations over the huge change in habits that this engendered across the country, and in other circumstances there may have been an entirely different response. There also remains the possibility that the cultural emphasis/obsession over social media fostered a lot of it, lending people to believe that a gross injustice was being perpetrated even as our justice system had things well in hand. Almost certainly, the current fad of ‘Woke’ attitudes shares a lot of the blame. I’m sure there will be a lot of papers published in a few years regarding the contributing factors and sociological impact.]

There are several inherent problems with protesting. While the possibility does exist that a large group of people will invoke necessary change among, for instance, policymakers or governing officials, history demonstrates that it tends to be slim, especially if there isn’t a clear avenue of change to begin with. And even if/when it does work as intended, the results aren’t immediate, often not even within a few weeks. The result is a large group of emotionally-charged people wanting to be heard, wanting to invoke change, that cannot possibly come to a satisfying conclusion within the realm of the protest. With luck, it peters out peacefully, or was organized enough to recognize the basic trait of protesting and prepare the participants for the inevitable lack of closure.

Most protests, however, lack such organization, and usually lack a clear focus. “Stop killing black people!” is easy enough to do – I wasn’t doing it in the first place, so hey, are we done here? What else are you expecting? Laws? We got ’em. Anything else? Without a clear and defined goal (almost all of which will be accomplished hundreds of times easier than by marching in the streets with placards,) the protest is destined to fail.

Much worse is the bare fact that a large group of emotionally-driven people is, bluntly, a bad idea, and how this has still not been accepted within all cultures remains a mystery. It’s a mob, pure and simple, regardless of whatever altruistic or ethical or spiritual motivation lies underneath. Mobs are fucking terrible at making decisions – it’s kind of their defining trait – and humans are notoriously bad about going with the flow and being influenced far too much by others instead of thinking for themselves. We like to repeat that there’s power in numbers, which is true enough, but there’s also stupidity in numbers, and those two really don’t belong together. And yet, despite the thousands of examples throughout history, often aptly demonstrated just within the past few months, we still can’t recognize the warning signs.

And, to literally no one’s surprise, a hell of a lot of these ‘protests,’ these public demonstrations of ethical behavior and moral conscience, turned into riots and looting. Perhaps some of those participating had some line of reasoning (‘Woke’ reactions to fucking inanimate statues seems to be a favorite,) but it’s safe to say that, in the realm of convincing arguments, this falls even shorter that the average soccer riot, because at least soccer fans aren’t out there to promote a new moral high ground. Not to mention that half of those are drunk. But it’s exceptionally hard to get behind a movement that urges justice through its use vandalism and theft. Some might even say it’s counterproductive…

It is impossible to over-emphasize just how pointless and stupid such actions are. The only aspect (that I saw) that had the faintest vestige of focus and relation to a cause was the destruction of various statues supposedly representing archaic, unwanted standards or behavior. I am in no way supportive of such actions, and will address this is in detail in part 3, but point out that this was the only aspect that had a passing relation: everything else was completely detached and served no positive purpose whatsoever. Defacement of government buildings or grounds? Pure vandalism, and incapable of fostering or even coercing any wanted change, even if this was within such a body’s power in the first place (as I said in part 1, nobody actually knows if there’s a problem to begin with – it’s all huge leaps of logic.) Defacement/destruction of any other fixtures, buildings, and shops? Complete nonsense, targeting people that have no bearing or involvement in the matter whatsoever, and wreaking havoc on the economy in that region during a time when it specifically was poor to begin with. Seriously, assholes, pick a better time than a pandemic to do your fratboy posturing.

I really shouldn’t have to address looting either, but then again, it was hardly an isolated incident, was it? I welcome anyone to rebut this, to come by and tell me that it served some purpose, even if it wasn’t necessarily efficient. I want to know how robbing from shopowners of any kind somehow rights the wrongs that are being perpetrated. I want to know how this demonstrates the value of the cause.

If anyone was ‘on the fence’ about the necessity of changes to our culture, our government, our police forces, or anything else, how convinced were they by riots, vandalism, and looting? How thoughtful and well-reasoned did they find these arguments? How insightful was the footage?

And then, of course, the real targets of attention, those that actually do have prejudice or bias in their views of certain cultures, races, or ethnicity – how convinced were they? Seeing the error of their ways now, are they? I’ve posted before about activism that works directly against the cause, and I’m not sure you could arrange a better demonstration of this, really.

This is not activism. This is not forwarding a cause. This is diddyfucking around like a spoiled child having a tantrum, making matters far worse for everybody than if they’d Just. Stayed. Home.

[There’s a bit of irony in here too, in that no one participating really believed the police were willing to violate the laws and their duties in the manner claimed, because the last thing that you’d do is make yourself a prime target of such. There couldn’t even be ‘martyrs for the cause’ because the protesters were directly engaged in criminal activities and demonstrably (heh!) unstable. “Case dismissed.”]

People like to imagine that they’re doing work like Martin Luther King Jr, using protest as a method to effect change. Except that King was quite a bit smarter than that, promoting an organized, peaceful, and multi-faceted approach that had a lot of thought behind it and eschewed emotional, kneejerk actions. And of course, few protestors recognize the thousands of other such protests that accomplished jack shit, because it’s a pretty ineffective method of promoting any kind of agenda – when there’s even an agenda to be seen, and not just venting. Much worse, however, is that even if it did work by some chance, forcing a change instead of convincing someone of a better alternative is only mob rule, just this side of fascism; not the thing we want to encourage. Might does not make right, and noise does not make a solid argument.

I’ll be a bit (lot) presumptuous here and propose a set of steps to consider before someone gets involved in a protest, or indeed any form of activism:

1. Check all emotions at the door. Actions done out of anger or frustration are rarely ever effective, because these block rational thought.

2. Determine, to a high level of certainty, that there really is a problem. It remains entirely possible that impressions or initial evaluations are completely mistaken.

3. Determine, to a high level of certainty, what that problem is and where, exactly, it lies. Assumptions and pop psychology should be discarded immediately as a fool’s game.

4. Formulate a plan that addresses the problem within the existing structure of our culture and/or government. If there’s already a law in place that applies, great! The groundwork is already done. If there isn’t, nothing is going to get better until there is. Lawmakers don’t pay attention to mooks with placards, just as a subtle hint.

5. Before engaging in any kind of activity, have a damn good idea what it will actually accomplish, preferably with previous examples of effectiveness. Imagining a reaction or outcome is only fantasy.

6. People are not sheep, waiting around to be shown the wisdom of our goals. Consider them at least as intelligent as we are, preferably more so, and aim accordingly. Even if we have a solid argument, condescension will guarantee that no one will listen.

7. There is no such thing as Thought Police. New laws don’t ever cause someone to change their thought processes, only to avoid expressing them as publicly.

This is perhaps the hardest for many people to grasp. We cannot force someone’s mind to change; it must be coerced, convinced, established, and reinforced over a long period of time, and what it usually comes down to is their own willingness to do so. As you might imagine, this can be a ridiculously hard thing to accomplish. Change takes time, as well as lots of support, which doesn’t mean extra staples between the poster and the stick. If you’ve never looked at a placard that said, “USA is for whites,” and thought, Huh, that seems convincing, well then, neither has anyone else. Instead, think of something that you changed your mind on, preferably some belief that you held since childhood, and recall how that change took place, how long it took, how many factors were involved, and how many factors you could now list in support of it. Those are the kind of things that we should aim to produce.

And the last one, which is more important than all of the others combined:

8. Be prepared to take responsibility and correct things when we have made a mistake. Not “if.” While the rest up there are intended to help prevent this occurrence, they’ll never be a guarantee against it. And if we fucked it up, it’s our responsibility to unfuck it. Yet there are countless actions where this is prohibitively difficult, if not outright impossible; once started, that boulder is liable to keep rolling down the hill. “I thought I was doing the right thing,” means jack shit to those who fall under the boulder. If we don’t know how to fix it, then we should make damn sure we’re not breaking it in the first place – or simply leave it the hell alone at least until we are sure. Imagine the historical events that would never have taken place had this simple concept been adopted.

There are a couple of interesting anachronisms here. Many of the protestors no doubt believed that they knew what was wrong, the specific issue that they were protesting against, which is essentially believing that they were smarter than the responsible parties (again, the ‘police,’ the ‘government,’ even most of ‘society,’) but then abdicated thought and consideration to go along with the mob and engage in some fucking stupid actions, most of which would accomplish nothing positive in the slightest. Not a role model for anyone.

Then here’s my own, because while above I suggested treating those we wish to convince as if they were at least as smart as we are, I also have to recommend that we assume those around us, those we consider our allies and compatriots, may be stupid; not so much in our behavior towards them, but in following their actions or believing in the effectiveness thereof. It’s a fine line to walk, because we don’t want to come off as pompous or condescending to anyone, but we always have to assume that they may not be the best at making decisions, therefore the only safe bet is thinking for ourselves. We’ve been told to do that since childhood, anyway, and it’s an essential part of critical thinking and skepticism. Most especially, if we ever find ourselves about to engage in something that we hadn’t planned when leaving the house, that’d be the best time to stop and consider.

And, as mentioned above, acting emotionally usually doesn’t allow us to even get that far, so best to avoid acting emotionally altogether; when we’re angry or frustrated (or, for that matter, even excited or aroused,) we react, eschewing consideration and fair judgment in favor of base drives. That’s all (mostly) well and good when escaping a dangerous situation, but absolute shit for nearly all other circumstances. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…”

It also helps to know that a mob is made up of individuals, all acting towards the resulting behavior – it is not a group of people separate from us. Our own behavior helps push it in its direction, so if we’re there, we cannot claim any innocence in the end result. A better quote might therefore be, “If you can keep your head so all about do not lose theirs…”

Post-weekend Chroma

There must be a less awkward way of saying that…

red maple Acer rubrum samaras against clear sky
Welcome to the first Post-weekend Chroma post, which nonetheless somehow seems familiar, though I did a title search and I certainly have not had this topic before. No matter. Today Buggato and I did an outing to Jordan Lake to see what was happening, since technically it’s spring now. And there were some colorful indications of that, as shown here by the seed pods (samaras) of a red maple (Acer rubrum,) sometimes called a swamp maple. They flower very early, quickly producing the seed pods visible here before leafing out in earnest. A handful of other early trees are budding or blossoming out as well, but for the most part, things still look a bit dead, and a lot of brown/grey trunks and empty branches continue to dominate the views about everywhere. So, you concentrate on the color that is available.

possibly cherry blossoms growing wild on Jordan Lake
These certainly look like cherry blossoms, which are an Asian species and thus not native, but there have been enough used in landscaping for the past umpteen decades that it’s easy enough for a few examples to pop up unintended, I suppose. I really doubt this wooded section alongside the lake is being landscaped by anyone, but if it is, they need to do a bit more cleanup of the greenbriars.

The wildlife was exceedingly sparse still, with very little to be seen – mostly gulls and cormorants. No sign of eagles since that one back in January. But as a lone osprey passed close overhead, we were ready.

osprey Pandion haliaetus against clear sky
That’s the full-frame version, to give some idea of how close it was (though, granted, this was shot at 600mm.) But we need a better look at that look.

closer inset of osprey Pandion haliaetus looking haughty
If that expression doesn’t make you feel like a common peasant, I don’t know what will. Someone in Security is gonna get fired. Neither one of us was wearing a tie, so perhaps that’s the reason.

And one more, which spells out the grand total of worthwhile subjects that I caught, anyway.

great blue heron Ardea herodias against the rocks
Yes, yes, another great blue heron, as if we haven’t seen enough already. But this one was carefully placed and timed with that complementary shadow over its head, mimicking the plumage, so it’s transcendent. Or something like that.

[I can say that, taken from a floating dock on a windy, choppy day with a telephoto lens, just keeping this little snot in the frame was a challenge, much less preventing the autofocus from wandering to the background, and eventually I just switched to manual. And I tried miming to him to fix that stray feather on the breast, but he studiously ignored me. Damn birds seemed to be all high-handed today.]

But, my side project is finished-ish and is ready for the 2,000th post, which is only two away now! Am I over-hyping the hell out of this? You betcha!

Maybe a prelude

oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia bud and last year's leaf
We’re sitting here with dire threats of horrible weather if we don’t eat our vegetables, though as I type this not a damn thing is going on. We’d had a bit of rain overnight, and this morning while it was still a little misty I did a handful of photos out in the yard. Above, one of the oak-leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) shows some new buds while still retaining a leaf from last year, demonstrating a curious trait: the new buds are definitely a bit hydrophobic, causing the water drops to bead up, while the old leaf is just the opposite, allowing the water to adhere smoothly and evenly. Why? Shit, don’t ask me, I just takes picchers…

I shot a similar composition of The Girlfriend’s Yoshino cherry tree, just breaking out into bloom.

new buds and old leaf on Yoshino cherry Prunus × yedoensis
I think the tree still has two leaves from last year clinging stubbornly to the branches, so I framed one of them for this shot, then concentrated on the new blooms for more fartsy stuff.

rain on blossom of Yoshino cherry Prunus × yedoensis
Yeah, I know, there’s probably a few hundred photos of water drops on leaves and petals on the blog alone, to say nothing of my stock folders. But would you rather see these, or still-mostly-dead grass and bare trees? Okay then. And you probably blew past this so fast you never noticed how the flash snagged a few mist droplets in the air

There’s detail on that flower that deserves a closer look, so lucky for you I’m right here on it.

closeup detail of wet cherry blossom Prunus × yedoensis
Pretty cool, right? I know you feel bad now for judging me as trite and stuck in a rut.

The sky was overcast, so natural light photos tended to be a bit lackluster, also requiring a wide-open aperture and slower shutter speed, so most of those aren’t all that great, but I happened to like the one following, of some tulips we planted this past week.

tiny water droplets on edge of tulip Tulipa leaves
That’s some serious fart, right there. Just brimming with culture. Like moldy yogurt.

My favorite, however, was a wild plant springing up in the edge of one of our pots, not something that we planted.

unidentified shamrock-like leaves with water drops, perhaps Oxalis
It looks a lot like shamrocks, and might actually be a species of Oxalis, but for now it remains unidentified. The leaf clusters are very small, less than a centimeter across, so much smaller than the typical Oxalis species. And yes, I’m a day late – oh well, better luck next year.

*     *     *

Side note: I was finishing this post just as the rain started in earnest, and I sat on it to see if I’d have any cool photos to add – we were told big-ass hail, high winds, and tornado warnings, so, you know, drama. We got rain, and not even as heavy as some of the interminable winter rains. Ho hum.

In other news, the countdown continues – we’re three away!

Profiles of Nature 11

green lynx spider Peucetia viridans and clearwing moth Hemaris on butterfly bush Buddleia davidii
Our first husband/wife team, Hepzibah and Enoch often work together on the same photo shoots, specializing in topics such as housewares and cheating spouses, and have appeared on the covers of cereal boxes and romance novels (and that one notable crossover, the romance-themed cereal called Steamy-Os.) Enoch and Hepzibah initially caught a lot of backlash for their mixed marriage – he’s lactose-intolerant and she’s from the lower east side – but as their reputation grew they started getting enough of an attitude to throw some shade on their detractors who, really, were only thinking of the children. They met, not at a shoot or a casting call as you might expect, but when he keyed her car during a scrum over closeout eyeliner; they like to call it, “love at first deposition.” They admit that they intend to settle down some day, maybe raise a couple of pertinent questions, but for now they’re quite happy with hedonism and tabloid scandals, ensuring that one of them calls their arresting officer racial slurs at least once a month – this keeps their publicist on her toes. Hepzibah and Enoch love to spend their spare time reaching out to their community, usually earning them puzzled looks from bypassers as they stand at the town lines with their arms outstretched, but their preferred hobby is scratching ancient snide remarks on air dryers in restrooms. Neither likes the idea of three-ring binders, believing the binders should decide without restrictions imposed on them by culture. Enoch’s favorite food additive is carregeenan, while Hepzibah thinks acesulfame potassium is the shit.

Join us next week, hold firmly for sixty seconds, then let stand for at least two hours until fully set.

Not food and not motherhood

I actually got a few photos in today – nothing exciting, nothing even noteworthy, except that I wasn’t even trying; today was yard work and gardening day, and I was mostly planting things. But as a nature and wildlife blog, this post isn’t going to the Favorites page, mine or anyone else’s, and the best I can say for it is that it isn’t food related, or about the trials and tribulations of raising kids. So there.

As I was working outside of the front window, which was open to let in a bit of fresh air, The Boogs gathered to see what was going on – all of them.

All three Boogs gathered in the same place
This is remarkable in itself, because there’s been a certain tension in the place since the introduction of Taz/Monster in 2019. She’s a bit too hyper and playful for the other two, and while Kaylee can cope with this about half of the time, Little Girl is not at all happy with it and usually wants no proximity to the youngest in the slightest. But I guess the draw of the great outdoors was too great – that, and wondering what I was swearing about out there.

(This wasn’t anything special, because I’m always swearing, but it was coming from outside the window this time, so it bore investigation. So you know, left to right, this is Monster, Kaylee, and Little Girl. You can see them as kittens here and here – the very first photo at that latter link are Kaylee and Little Girl, though none of us knew that yet.)

While Monster will chase Little Girl short distances when the former is feeling impish and the latter non-confrontational, at other times Little Girl will take no shit at all and will slap the hell out of Monster (which Monster will cower away from, then try to affect an air of disinterest.) Recently, however, it appears Little Girl is starting to get a bit more of the spirit of things, because she’ll actively chase Monster around the house, which I suspect they both secretly enjoy. Yet today, as I stood outside the house with the camera raised, they did something far more affectionate than normal:

Monster and Little Girl actually being civil to one another
That – is not at all typical, and surprisingly both of them were agreeable, at least for a moment, and neither got feisty about it, being as mellow as old friends. There’s something about spring, I guess…

By the way, I feel I should mention, a significant portion of my desktop is taken over by two cat beds, because it was necessary, and as I type this, both protagonists are occupying their respective spots – there’s a safe distance (and myself) between them.

Okay, enough of that, let’s get to some appropriate content. As The Girlfriend was raking out part of the back yard and bent to remove a detested longneedle pine sapling, she unearthed one of our residents.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea unhappy about being disturbed
While I normally consider the first appearance of the treefrogs, either the Copes grey or the green (Hyla cinerea) seen here, as the first true harbinger of spring, I’m not counting this one because it hadn’t emerged on its own, though I suspect that point is not far off now. It still gets pretty chilly at night, so they’re not ready yet, but within a couple of weeks, I’m guessing. I didn’t have the macro flash handy so these are strictly ambient light, which was light overcast skies, and when I leaned in with the 80mm macro lens, I had to shoot wide open to keep the shutter speed manageable.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea being irritably patient
While I tried to gently rebury our friend here in a safe potted plant, it was having none of that, so after the photos I simply let it be to establish a new hiding spot on its own.

Later on as I was planting things out front, I felt something walking across my hand and looked down to find a small, unfamiliar bright green spider. Now, I vowed that I wasn’t going to photograph the daffodils this year, because even though they’re usually the first decent subjects of spring, I’ve photographed them every year, and so does everyone else, so the awareness of trite kept me from doing the same this year. But as I transferred the spider to the nearest prominent plant, which happened to be a daffodil, it immediately took up a protective camouflage position against a petal edge, and thus when I eventually fetched the camera again, I ended up going against my vow. This is why I’ll never be a priest (well, among a few thousand reasons.)

bright green orb weaver possibly Tetragnatha viridis on edge of daffodil bloom
I suspect you get an inkling of the size from this, especially since I told you what it was posed on, but overall length stretched out like this didn’t exceed 20mm. I had indeed gotten the flash for this one, finding as I did so that it had somehow been left switched on and the batteries were quite dead, so once again, wide open in ambient light, far from the best approach. I was still in the middle of several yard tasks so I wasn’t devoting a full session to this, but this was perhaps enough to identify it anyway; near as I can tell, this is a specific long-jawed orbweaver with no common name, but Tetragnatha viridis. I couldn’t see the long jaws, but the eye pattern was right and some of the example photos at that link look damn close, so this is a tentative ID for now.

So yeah, the camera still works, and I’m still capable of posting current content. Woo hoo.

Who’s counting?

Anyone visiting this blog anew (and, the crucial bit, reading more than half of a single post,) might conclude that I seem to be fond of numbered posts, which isn’t exactly true even when there are, honestly, quite a damn lot of them. And it hasn’t stopped yet – I mean, aside from the weekly Profiles posts and the occasional repeating topic like On Composition, I still have at least three others in the works. This is largely due to yet having too little to shoot where I can branch out a bit, so I’m maintaining content without a lot of current input. But take it from me, I feel bad about this, really, really bad, and will be correcting it soon. Like, you know, how Betelgeuse is going to go nova ‘soon.’ Sometime in the next half-million years or so…

I thought I had a topic that I could exploit a little here, since today is the 118th anniversary of the founding of the first National Wildlife Refuge, which would be Pelican Island NWR, near Sebastian, Florida. Now, I lived not a long ways from Pelican Island, but I don’t think I ever visited, and to my recollection stopped just short of the borders on at least two trips. This may have been due to not knowing it was the first until after I left Florida, and not being back on the east coast since, but either way, I have no photos to show.

Well, okay, none from that particular refuge. I have plenty from others, and a lot of them have already been featured herein, in non-numbered posts even (I think, anyway – I should probably check.) I toyed with the idea of doing a specific visit to a wildlife refuge today, but where I live in central NC, there are none within two hours drive, and I’ve got some other things planned for the day, so, no. You’ll just have to use your imagination, or make your own trip. Or, really, make a trip anytime you like, because who cares if the visit is on the anniversary or not? That’s the kind of meaningless shit we humans get up to. Like this:

pair of roseate spoonbills Platalea ajaja  not on speaking terms
This is a pair of roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) spotted in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, possibly the only time I’ve photographed them. These were taken just three days before being down at Sebastian Inlet just north of Pelican Island NWR and not entering, because we can get even more meaningless if we try. But this is one of the species that prompted the creation of the National Wildlife Refuge system in the US, because they were hunted almost to extinction solely for their feathers, the meaningless fashion fad back then. Refuges were created as habitats and breeding grounds for species that were being hunted or crowded out by increasing populations and development. Too often now, such refuges are only created from land that’s too difficult/expensive to develop, and that largely seems to be the case in NC, where most of the refuges are coastal swampland. But hey, if they work, they work – better to encourage people not to be stupid, of course, but I have my doubts that we’re heading in the right direction in those regards.

I’m also going to use this space to announce that my 2,000th post is nigh (six away, I believe,) and I’ve been busy trying to complete something for that. Do you care? No, but I do, so you’re along for the ride. And you still have time to get me a gift, not that you’re obligated or anything, and far be it from me to bring up the stupendous effort and thought that goes into this site but, you know, if you have a spare Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro lens lying around…

A few tentative breaths

ywllow-bellied sliders Trachemys scripta enjoying the warmth
The past few days have begun to get pleasantly warm – I was going to say, “Finally,” but this is pretty much right on time for this latitude; it was even warm enough to open up the house for a bit today. Yesterday and today, I ventured out to see what else was venturing out, which is a guide for other photographers: we are now entering nature/wildlife photographer season, so if those are your goal, you’ll start seeing them appear on lakeshores and along game trails.

Anyway, yesterday was just a brief outing around the neighborhood pond, revealing nothing that I wasn’t already seeing routinely, but the yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta) were out in force, and by that I mean in the dozens, finding anything that would support some weight to bask and enjoy the temperatures. I also spotted a few red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) here and there, closely related but not native, or at least not historically – that may actually have changed by now.

red-eared slider Trachemys scripta elegans eyeing the photographer warily
The red “ear” (really, just a stripe on the dorsolateral portion of the head, nowhere near the ears, so never trust biologists) is often barely visible, simply because it sits right where the sunlight reflects from the turtle’s somewhat slick skin, especially if it’s still wet. Coincidence, or is there some nefarious purpose to this location? Ya got me, pilgrim.

And, really, not a whole lot else to see despite the weather. Even the geese were scarce, presenting only a handful, and just one great blue heron (Ardea herodias) hanging out on the pond’s edge until it decided I was acting suspiciously…

great blue heron Ardea herodias portrait
… and I was, because while plenty of people were perambulating around the pond without even looking over, I was pausing and raising this big black contraption, then strolling a little closer and doing it again, and so on. Just not kosher.

But last night, I went out trying to find a couple of good locations for the chorus frogs (and whatever else I might see,) and happened upon a spot that may provide some cool photos just a little later on. I don’t want to say anything else right now, because then you might (like you always do) start harassing me if you don’t see anything appear here promptly enough. We’ll wait and see how lucky I get.

That meant, however, that I wanted to see what the spot looked like in the daylight too, so I stopped there today to check it out, picking up a Carolina mantis egg case in the process, so I have one of those to monitor now. Then I went down to Jordan Lake for a peek.

And Jordan Lake was crowded, lots of people taking advantage of the weather, which isn’t ideal because they tend to scare off some of the subjects, though admittedly, most of what I see down there are birds at a distance anyway. Which were not in evidence at all – I think I saw a lone seagull and a perched vulture. In fact, I wasn’t seeing much of anything until, wandering the water’s edge, I spotted this:

juvenile northern water snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon motionless at water's edge
Right where the waves were pushing up detritus and the occasional dead fish sat this guy, a dead northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) only slightly longer than my hand. When I first spotted it, it was in my shadow, and never twitched as I moved and let the bright sunlight shine on it; in my experience, snakes can sleep easily in the open (and have no eyelids, so it’s not often obvious,) but will still launch themselves for cover when something blocks the light. I did a few frames, then reached down and nudged it just to be sure.

basking juvenile northern water snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon
I was rewarded with a sudden flinch into a more ready position, and a whole lot of tongue activity (which I simply couldn’t time to capture in a frame – it takes place in less than a half-second.) The position was a little curious, because while out in bright sunlight to take advantage of it, the snake was still in enough contact with the water (which isn’t yet at a good temperature) to be losing some body heat to that. Not a very quick learner, this reptile: both failing to bolt when danger threatened, and not being efficiently cold-blooded. Kids these days.

But I switched angle and did a fartsier shot, because I was told to:

juvenile northern water snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon from opposite angle
I’m a little curious about the change in color register, because for all photos the white balance was set for full daylight (no correction.) I expect the shadows to be noticeably bluer, but we’re still seeing sunlit areas here, just a more oblique angle. I don’t know, but while I normally prefer a little warmth in photos, I actually like this last version the best.

So, it’s a start, with serious, committed spring ready to rear its ugly head. Or something. This also means that I’m in transition from the typical winter depression to the spring allergic reactions, so, yay? Whatever, I’ll cope, just gimme something to shoot.

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