“You paid money to do this”

I mentioned earlier that there was some potential content coming, and lo and behold, here it is! We had friends visit last weekend, mostly to help us with a major project (which they achieved in exemplary fashion,) but also to kick around a bit, and one of the activities that I’ve been itching to do again since the first time during the Cleveland trip is to hit the canopy walk. We’d intended to have more people along, but for various reasons it didn’t work out, so it finally ended up with just my friend Wendy and I going. You undoubtedly remember Wendy and her S.O. Reg (“Strikes”) from such posts as Costa Rica or North Topsail Beach, but Reg and The Girlfriend opted to keep their feet on the ground. Nonetheless, we came prepared, and documented the outing from two different camcorders and two different smutphones, though I never did convince Wend to hold the phone horizontally when shooting video, so the format change shows in a few places.

Worse is the quality, which is only the fault of my not spending money on a Vimeo account that I upload to twice a year or so; the free account only allows a 500mb per week upload, and most of my renderings came out larger than that, so to get it down to size, the quality took a hit.

The website for Go Ape! Find a location, book your visit, marvel at how idiotic people are, whatever.

The full tour takes about three hours or so, but that includes five portions or stretches or whatever; basically, you climb a rope ladder at the beginning of each station, then travel between treestands through various obstacles and crossings until taking a zipline down to the ground, then tackling the next. You can always opt out after any of them, but what’s the fun in that? Also, the time it takes will depend on the number of people in your group, the number of people just visiting that day (backing up the treestands, as it were,) and how quickly you can tackle the tougher crossings. But yeah, have comfortable and flexible clothing and expect to get a little dirty and probably a lot sweaty. I have to say that visiting during the fall was a lot more comfortable overall.

And I rate Cleveland a little better, mostly because the ziplines were longer, but also the last station went pretty high. Which is not to say that Raleigh was a disappointment.

So, am I gonna spring for a yearly membership? Hmmmm….

Oh, you physics!

More stuff is in the pipeline right now, but it may still take a couple of days to come out, so for now I leave you with a video that is not mine (yeah, I can hear the cheers from here, shut up.) Miss Cellania (possibly not her real name) featured a clip from CGP Grey, who we all know and love, about the proximity of the planets in the solar system. No, not the cluster of the “rocky bodies” (Mercury/Venus/Earth/Mars) versus the gas giants (Jupiter/Saturn/Uranus/Neptune,) which is interesting enough – the relative distances between the two classes is huge. Instead, this talks about which is closest to which, for the greatest amount of time. The answer is pretty cool.

Was the answer surprising? It seems kind of obvious in retrospect, at least if you know orbital periods, but the idea of the lineup of mean orbital distances from the sun, the ‘order’ we all know, has always been misleading.

Now, I want to see when, and perhaps how often, the planets have the greatest distance from each other; I’m imagining it happens once every several thousand years or so.

[By the way, while I am never a fan of bloated, monopolistic websites and their manipulative behavior – which is why I host my own videos on Vimeo – using the link I provided under “CGP Grey” above will produce a bunch of related videos that may also be of interest. Just this once.]

Questions in the wake

Colings Foundation B-17G "909" departing RDU International Airport
Two years ago, I wrote about visiting a show featuring vintage WWII aircraft owned and operated by the Collings Foundation, among them a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress model dubbed, “909,” seen above. This aircraft was not only open to walking tours through the fuselage, tickets were available to take a flight in it as well (along with three other aircraft on the same “Wings of Freedom” tour.) Had I the available funds, I would likely have taken a flight in at least one of them, but the price was well out of my budget at the time; I did at least tour through it and took countless photos, because I’ve always been an enthusiast over WWII-era combat aircraft.

Tragically, on October 2 of this year, that same B-17G developed engine trouble while doing a tour flight with several passengers, and crashed just short of the runway while attempting to return to the airport only minutes after takeoff. The crash killed seven of the thirteen people aboard, among them the pilot and copilot. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB,) which is the primary investigative body for aircraft accidents, will be examining the wreckage and radio transmissions for some months to come and has not issued any distinct details, but at the moment the evidence is pointing towards engine problems, and not some particular fault of the crew.

As always, any situation like this raises numerous questions about the safety and reliability of an aircraft that first rolled off the line in April 1945, before either of the deceased crewmembers were born, and such questions are not without merit, even when the risk of operating such older aircraft is known.

First the bare facts of the matter. The B-17 was first introduced in 1935 and was produced in prodigious numbers during World War II, and reflected the attitudes of the time. A lot of aircraft were needed quickly, largely because the attrition rate was so high for bombers; the idea that these would still be flying even ten years later wasn’t really considered. And of course, they were and still are a product of the technology of the time, since retrofitting or updating most portions of the engines or airframes wasn’t a goal much after the war ended. This particular aircraft never saw combat, but was used during nuclear tests in the fifties. All warbirds today are maintained either through caches of spare parts manufactured back during the regular production runs in the 40s, or with custom-machined parts as needed; the costs of the latter means that much more of the former is the case, and these aircraft are primarily flying on parts over 70 years old.

Any fatal crash is a tragedy, but in cases where the passengers were flying in such aged and difficult to maintain vintage aircraft, it is always asked whether such a thing had to happen, or if the risk of operating such a vehicle for air tours is far too great, but no question is as simple as that. In our age of all-but-guaranteed safety for nearly everything that we do, we come to expect nothing less, but the men who originally flew in these had no such guarantees or expectations; which perspective should we be adopting here? And of course, such flights are not “necessary” in most senses of the word, but then again, neither is at least half of the things that we engage in everyday. The risks are far more known and accepted during such flights than they are for, say, a fire in our apartment complex.

But are such flights even necessary? Is there some aspect of history, of education, of mere human experience, that is provided by such operations? It is certainly not necessary to attempt to maintain these aircraft in flying order, but exactly how much more interest, how much more impact, is fostered by such? As I said, I would have flown in one without hesitation given the available funds, with the risks well known (I follow enough of the news to know how frequently such aircraft develop trouble.) And I can vouch for the awesome experience of hearing those engines, a sound which nothing before or since has ever produced. It is as close as we can get to experiencing the conditions of the European air war firsthand, but I’ll be the first to admit that it probably over-glamorizes it as well.

interior view of ball turret of Collings Foundation's B-17G "909"
Should we be maintaining these aircraft solely as museum pieces, or at the very least, allowing the risks to be taken only by a select few trained crewmembers with distinctive knowledge of the hazards? Most museums and vintage aircraft organizations feel this way, and it’s not hard to make a rational case for it. But at the same time, no museum that I have ever come across allows visitors to tour through the aircraft, even on static display, and again, the impact of seeing those conditions and quarters firsthand is far, far greater than seeing it through photos, videos, and even intricate model kits, which encompass my experience up until those days two years back. The high ticket prices for the brief air tours always go towards maintaining these aircraft, flying or otherwise, at a time when too few museums are adequately funded. It is an ugly reflection of our society, perhaps, that we have to turn to private foundations and risky flights to help fund these tangible historical examples.

And then again, maybe the impact on me personally only came about because I already possessed the interest in WWII aircraft; Mr Bugg was with me during one of those visits two years ago, but showed far more interest in the passing commercial airliners than the warbirds literally at his fingertips. Maybe we don’t need any such examples, but just enough emphasis on this period in history (and any other, not to be single-minded) to make an impact to begin with. And there’s even the idea that concentrating on the aircraft (or tanks, or strategies, or news reports) misses the more important focus on how we even get into wars in the first place, and how we could avoid them in the future. There is no doubt that a good portion of our history, from the military standpoint, glorifies the “brave defender” aspect and the shameless tribalism rather than presenting it as a disturbing and reprehensible example of our baser instincts that we really should be attempting to eradicate.

I have no real answers or directions that I’m leading with all this; I just wanted to put down a few thoughts that the crash fostered in me again, and to provoke a few different perspectives.

Storytime 44

So if a picture is worth a thousand words, this storytime post is going to be the longest, I think.

osprey Pandion haliaetus crusing past with fish
Anyway, this sequence was captured during this outing, as we tracked an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) passing with its capture. To set the stage, we were standing in plain sight on the lakeshore, probably some 40-60 meters from this bird, and given how good raptor eyesight and hearing is, there’s little question that the osprey knew we were there. Which makes its behavior slightly puzzling.

osprey Pandion haliaetus in hard bank with fish
Abruptly and with no warning, the osprey banked hard as if avoiding a collision. I was tracking it and just kept firing off the frames without taking my eye from the viewfinder.

osprey Pandion haliaetus in banking dive with fish
But after the maneuver was over, I was able to look around to see the threat that had made the bird dodge so quickly, and found nothing at all – not another bird within hundreds of meters.

osprey Pandion haliaetus coming out of hard bank
This image makes it appear as if the osprey might have been about to lose its fish, and struggled to maintain it, but the previous photos give no indication of that, and they’re more than capable of hanging on with just one set of ridiculously-sharp and strong talons.

And again, I might have suspected that it suddenly became aware of our presence and figured it was coming too close, except it wasn’t very close (we’d had others pass much less than half that distance overhead earlier in the day,) and I can’t believe that it suddenly noticed us. We weren’t hidden in any way, or unobtrusive save for perhaps being quiet at the time.

osprey Pandion haliaetus returning to its original flight path
Too, it soon banked back onto its original course, instead of veering off across the lake away from us, so I doubt we were the cause.

There’s a slim chance that it suddenly spotted a fish below it in the water, and started to home in for the kill before remembering that it already had a fish, but that seems suspect too. Pretty unlikely that it ran into a spiderweb. Too late in the season to be competing in the shorebird slalom trials. So what I’m saying is, there’s a story but I ain’t got it.

Maybe it was one of those pesky dragonflies

The right conditions

For Halloween evening, we had almost ideal conditions: the temperature was warm enough to be out without a jacket, but there was a breeze that occasionally turned into a blustery wind that bullied the leaves around, as and the night wore on, the sky began flashing ominously and distant thunder could be heard. It was, as far as I was concerned, just the right kind of mood for trick-or-treating, but I suppose the parents thought the tornado warnings we were getting were, you know, “not the ideal nurturing environment for little woogums,” and so the visitors disappeared quickly. Which was a shame – we still had a lot more books to give out, but those that had come around before then were all pleased, and most were repeat visitors from last year. This is definitely an aspect of the holiday that I heartily recommend.

But as the rain finally rolled in (the thunder and lightning had pussied out,) we had friends stop by, and we were all up for a while with dinner and bullshitting. Then as they left and I was turning back to go inside the house again, I glanced down at our porch railing and found another little visitor.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea on porch railing
green treefrog Hyla cinerea with fingers for scaleYes, it’s another green treefrog (Hyla cinerea,) but I’m cool with that, because I was hoping to get them established in the area and it looks like it’s working. The combination of higher temperatures and rain seems to have brought this one out, possibly assisted by our porch light being on, which was certainly attracting its share of insects. I had to do a scale shot with the fingers of my left hand in the background, but because the aperture on the Mamiya 80mm macro lens is manually controlled with a spring-loaded lever operated by my left hand, this meant that I was shooting wide open at f4, so depth dropped a bit. Still, I think I effectively demonstrated that this is a juvenile, roughly half the length of an adult (I did not measure it, but I’m estimating it at about 25mm in body length.) It was pretty patient with me as I got a variety of angles, including going in for the portrait.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea in portrait
Now, I admit that this is shamelessly altered, exploiting the capabilities of digital manipulation to present this other than how it originally appeared, because I had to lean in from the top of the railing and the frog was upside-down in the original frame, but it looked much better rotated. Oh, wait – I could have done that with film, too, or even with, like, a woodcut. Scratch all that guilty talk.

[Actually, I dubbed out a pesky hair that was adhering to the frog’s leg too, so make of that what you will.]

And then, leaning over the railing, I found this wasn’t the only visitor, or even the only one within a meter.

pair of differently-sized green treefrogs Hyla cinerea on wall
A pair of the same species were clinging to the wall in that inimitable treefrog way, just off the railing itself, which actually joins the wall along that edge seem on the left side. The two of these were on either side of the first frog seen, size-wise, the larger one being about adult size, while the smaller one not terribly far from the tadpole stage. And I also like how I captured three different hues of skin tones all together here.

In fact, let’s go in for a closer look at the wittle ‘un.

very young green treefrog Hyla cinerea with bronze coloration on wall
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in quite this color before, though I admit that the newly-emerged tadpoles that I’ve caught a few times were pretty close. However, none of those had the telltale white side stripe of the green treefrog, nor those three Mr Burns spots on the back. This is the first indication I’ve had that those markings develop pretty quickly, but as yet I have not had the opportunity to observe the various stages of development sequentially; I find individuals at certain stages, and then days or weeks later find others at later stages, but can never be sure if I’m looking at the same ones, or even the same brood or species. I’ve made it a point not to retain captives for more than an hour or so for detail shots, while it is almost necessary to raise some from the egg stage to know that I’m seeing the same species each time. Maybe at some point I’ll set up a decent aquarium/terrarium, though I know maintaining that would be more effort and time than I can dependably devote to this project right now. We’ll see what the future holds.

Getting to be that time

very curious bat species
Yep, dusk is falling on that magical evening, so I had to post an appropriate image to help the mood along. Here, we see an extremely rare Portuguese tiny-tailed bat (Yashulden bythis) cruising overhead in pursuit of its favorite prey, Carolina wrens. Since Carolina wrens are diurnal and bats are nocturnal, now you know why they’re extremely rare.

Okay, no – there is no such species, and indeed, this isn’t even a bat. It was shot at one of my beach trips this year, spotted as I was doing the sorting and set aside for a nonsense post, and is in reality an unidentified tern. The ‘tail’ is actually the bird’s beak, while those ‘ears’ are the notched tail. You should have known right away that I was joshing you, because nothing that flies could possibly have a thin little tail like that, since a tail surface is necessary for pitching the body in flight. But it was still a cool silhouette when thought of in that way, right?

[You have to also appreciate the idea that I posted this in a timely manner, right before dusk on Halloween, as if readers are constantly refreshing the page to see what might pop up, and not discovering this post on, say, December 17th.]

Here’s another perspective, possibly the same species but very likely a different individual since the photos were shot three minutes apart.

unidentified tern silhouette in morning twilight
Really, both of these photos are going to be discarded from my stock, because they serve no useful purpose, but I kept this one for a moment only because of that shine of the rising sun from the beak, about the only thing that breaks the silhouette and hints at what you’re seeing. And not very well at that.

Oh, sure, just waltz out of here, October!

something reflected in the water
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it’s the end of the month, and that means it’s abstract time! Gather the kids, pop some popcorn (the proper way, none of this microwave bullshit,) and settle down as we spin this sordid tale.

This month’s image was indeed taken this month, stemming from my occasional tendency to look around and find something compelling other than my primary photo subject. And while this is cropped a bit tighter than the original frame, I have to admit that I really liked the effect. You, naturally, already know what I was photographing, but I’ll provide the explanation for all the kiddies out there (you know, the ones that read my blasphemous and potty-mouthed blog, but only for the philosophical posts.) So to that end: Hi, all you yard-apes! Keep your snot-covered hands in your lap and try to pay attention for eight seconds. No, I don’t care who pushed who.

We’re seeing a reflection in the softly rippling surface of a pond here, and the blue and white colors should give a pretty good idea of what we’re seeing a reflection of, even if the details are a wee bit obscured. No, not a cloud, but that’s a good guess [ya gotta lie to the grubby hamsters from time to time to keep their spirits up, otherwise they wet the bed.] Instead it’s a bird, specifically one of the ones seen here, the white great egret (Ardea alba) perched in the tree. The breeze wasn’t anything to speak of, barely noticeable at all, but it was enough to shudder the water’s surface and prevent a more direct reflection. In such cases, the effect is not very visible by eye because it’s constantly shifting, but as the camera captures a bare moment in time, you can get these wonderfully random shapes. It works best if there are a lot of colors to be reflected, such as at sunset, but even the three or four colors available here seem to have worked. Should some nice autumn hues develop this year, which is a bit iffy right now due to the long drought we suffered, I may be doing some more examples.

By the way, I hope you’re set for All Hallows Read this evening – I know we’re prepared, and I may be back later on if it produces any cute stories, but it will likely be a few days hence since we’ll have company over for a couple. And should the weather hold out, this may also engender some more post-fodder, because we have an outing planned. Am I jinxing it by saying this? Nonsense! That’s superstitious talk, and this is certainly not the day for that

Laziness does not pay off

Actually, just typing that title reminds me of the satirical ‘Demotivational’ poster that I saw some years back, which read something like, “Hard work pays off over time, while laziness is an immediate reward.” Nonetheless, this is a tale of knowing better, gambling and losing, and learning a lesson yet again that I will still fail to heed at some point in the future.

That lesson is, “Keep the photographic equipment handy,” which I’d learned long ago while working at an animal shelter, and usually keep in mind, but this time around I felt I was already lugging too much stuff around. This past weekend, I was house- and pet-sitting for someone nearby, and brought a few things to work on, but didn’t want to, like, pack for an entire trip. What this meant was, when I came across something interesting, all I had available to shoot with was my phone, and if I haven’t yet made myself clear in this regard, I consider shooting photos with a smutphone to be as useful as using your car as a dining table or showering in the sink; it can be done, but “half-ass” is about the best that can be said.

In this case, we’re talking about a little scene that I found while taking the dog for a short stroll around the backyard at night.

juvenile black rat snake Pantherophis obsoletus clinging to brick wall after recent meal
Luckily, the dog missed it entirely, because this particular canine would likely have tried eating it – he sure sampled every other damn thing that he came across. This is a juvenile black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus,) in the transitional color phase between their monochrome mottled immature appearance and their shiny black adult one. And yes, it’s clinging directly to the vertical brick wall – black rat snakes are excellent climbers.

[By the way, if you noticed that I’ve given conflicting scientific names for the species, that’s because the taxonomy actually changed in the period between these posts. Damn biologists can’t leave well enough alone.]

If you look closely, you can also make out a distinctive bulge in midbody; my model here had eaten quite recently. Since it was only about a half meter in length and thus as big around as my thumb at the thickest point (before eating, anyway,) this means it wasn’t a huge meal. Rat snakes tend to target the rodents – imagine that – but there was another species that was visible in distinctive numbers while I was out there, so I’m inclined to say that one of them served as the meal in question:

green treefrog Hyla cinerea on back steps
The green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) were to be found everywhere in the back yard, so the odds are favoring one of those as the unlucky digestable, but there wasn’t really any way of knowing, because I’d also left the x-ray machine at home (What? You mean you don’t have one?) This photo was taken by the light of my pocket flashlight, which has a kind of side-mounted flood function, so I could stand it up on the step near the frog. For the snake shot above, the flashlight was held in my mouth for focusing, but I believe the phone’s little LED flash went off. At least the pattern came out pretty well.

Not as lucky on the next attempt, perhaps 10-15 minutes later.

juvenile black rat snake Pantherophis obsoletus coiled atop outdoor water spigot
While such snakes can climb a vertical wall, they don’t do it quickly, and this one had made its careful way over to the spigot and perched a bit more securely atop it – I wish I could say where it was heading, but I saw no particular destination in view and I was endeavoring not to disturb it too much. The flashlight was now being held underneath the phone, which should have provided enough light, but either the focus didn’t lock or the ‘shutter speed’ was too slow to prevent some movement blur, so nothing printable here. Just a different perspective from the evening.

And yeah, I’ll be remembering to bring my camera along from now on – for a short while, anyway…

Storytime 43

large patch of white fur on trail
I happened across this little scene several weeks back, and it remained in place for quite a long time – as far as I know, some of it still remains. It was found directly on the trail around the nearby pond, and is very likely evidence that some mammal met its end at the teeth of a predator, also likely a mammal; I’d lean towards a fox dispatching a rabbit, myself, but this isn’t just a guess.

First off, there was a lot of white fur – more than most wild animals in the area have, since most display it only on their bellies. The exception is a white-tailed deer; while still only on the underside, there’s a significant expanse of underside, enough to produce this size patch. However, two things steer my thoughts away from this. The first is, deer hair is a little wiry, pretty stiff, and this was remarkably soft. The second point is, there were no other remains to be found at all, and anything that could take down a deer is likely to leave behind something, usually a few very noticeable bones at the least, to say nothing of any of the brown hair that serves as the primary coat. The texture of the fur indicated likely a rabbit, and because of the amount of it, I’m inclined to say either an escaped all-white domestic rabbit, or a wild albino.

But could a hawk or some other raptor have been the responsible party? It seems unlikely, because the patch was very localized, as seen. Prey that is eaten in the low branches of a tree tends to leave behind tufts and clumps that scatter a little, spotted here and there, and even prey that is eaten on the ground (semi-rare, because the raptor is vulnerable then,) still often sports other remains – hawks have sharp beaks so they can slice off what they need, and often leave the larger bones behind. I remember a distinctive find in the common area of my apartment complex, many years back: a pair of bird legs, pigeon-sized, still attached to the bloody pelvic girdle, with nothing else but a couple of scattered feathers to be found. It seemed odd to find nothing else, until I realized I was standing near the base of a light pole – the hawk (sharpshin or Cooper’s, which are both bird-eating accipiters,) had probably consumed its meal atop the light fixture, and my find was one of the discarded fragments.

Foxes, however, possess the size to completely consume a rabbit, and the habits to hork down most if not all of it, bones included. Few species can digest hair, so this is often torn away while eating, but rabbits also have easy-to-shed hair that helps them escape predators, so at the scene of a tussle it’s very common to find tufts even if the rabbit escaped. Given the mass of hair, though, I doubt it escaped in this case.

Something other than a fox? Possible, sure, but there aren’t a lot of choices around here. I’ve never seen any stray dogs at all, day or night, and a cat isn’t big enough to eat an entire rabbit, and sometimes not even completely eat a juvenile. We don’t have bobcats in the area. There’s a chance of a coyote – they’re within the region, but this is a pretty urbanized area and I have yet to hear any calls, much less see any. But I’ve seen foxes several times.

So while there’s nothing that can be proved, there’s a decent probability that we know what happened here, mostly just by knowing a few traits about wildlife. I’m open to other suggestions, however.

Scheduled to appear

So, there’s a small benefit to backyard photography, aided by blogging about it, and it’s this: you have the opportunity to see if there is a long-term pattern that develops among the common species, and even pin down exact dates. It doesn’t necessarily tell you why there seems to be a pattern, however…

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea in silvery grey color on rosebush
There’s a large and hearty rosebush that sits alongside the mailboxes at the end of our driveway, and when I went out to get the mail yesterday I spotted a little anachronism on top of a leaf, which is how I find far too many of my photo subjects; the pattern of leaves was broken by something that was not leaflike. This one was silvery-grey in color, and initially I thought that I’d found the egg case of a Carolina mantis, but a closer look immediately dispelled this stupendous mistake since I recognized it as a treefrog. Despite the color, this was not the common Copes grey treefrog, but a juvenile green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) instead.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea in silvery grey color on rosebush
Given that the overall length of the frog in this position was less than 30mm, which is about the length (and shape) of a Carolina mantis egg case, I think I can be forgiven, but we’ll have to check with the pope of nature photographers for the official ruling. And of course they’re not usually silvery grey (green treefrogs I mean, not the pope who actually is,) but the white stripe down the body identifies this pretty solidly, since the grey species lacks it. While the temperatures have dropped a bit now from the sweltering summer months, this guy was still out in direct sunlight, which was also curious – they usually avoid it, but this could have been intentional warming in late afternoon before going out on its nocturnal hunt that evening.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea in silvery grey color on rosebush
As for the color, I can’t answer that right at the moment – it didn’t blend in very well with the leaves, but it was a pretty solid match for the heavier stems just a few centimeters away, and I honestly don’t know how quickly they can change their coloration. I’ve seen them in a variety of green hues, but not grey, until now. The drought that we just came out of might have had something to do with it as well, but I’m only speculating until I spend a little time in research, which is not happening right at this moment.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea in silvery grey color on rosebush
Switching from ambient light to macro flash changed the appearances, of both the frog and the background, to some degree – I actually like the ambient light version better this time around, but the flash unit is often necessary to bring out details better (allowing a smaller aperture for greater depth,) and of course when I usually find them at night.

I remarked upon a pattern, and I’ve seen it for a few years running now: the treefrogs disappear in late summer, almost unable to be found, but make a reappearance as the weather turns colder. Again, only speculation, but I think that, in spring and early summer, they emerge from hibernation and begin the mating cycle, keeping them within easy reach of a water source to deposit eggs, but then move higher into the treetops for the hotter months. As the temperature starts dropping, they come back down to ground level to find a spot to burrow into for the winter months. Seems to coincide with the temperature changes, anyway.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea in silvery grey color on rosebush
While I had the flash unit fired up, I had to go for my portrait angle, or the best I could achieve given the frog’s position close to the stem. And you gotta love those little legs tucked in that way – I really need to do a carving of this someday.

The change might also have been due to finally getting some decent rain for the first time in weeks, though I don’t know where the treefrogs might be when it’s too dry – you’d think they’d be close to water sources like the rainbarrels and backyard pond, yet no signs of them were to be found the past few weeks, so this might not be a valid thought (but that goes without saying – my edumucation is not, shall we say, extensive.)

The rosebush has been showing the signs of the drought recently, as slightly evidenced by the wider pic further up – all of the blossoms had disappeared, even though it hasn’t been cold enough to foster the winter ‘dead’ appearance yet. A few weeks back they’d still been present, as shown by a grab pic that I’d snapped then, which I include now just for comparison and because I’ve been slack on spider images and I know you’re all getting kinda antsy about that.

unidentified spider lurking within rose blossom
Yes, that’s a spider hiding deep within the blossom, unidentified but fairly likely a barn spider, which are common here and prone to hiding during daylight before spinning a large orb web at night. I just liked how well the camouflage worked despite it being in about the highest contrast position it could have achieved.

Oh, and one more shot just for giggles, back to yesterday, taken as I returned to the house. The aforementioned kitten is still around.

Taz watching author from storm door
Believe me, this is not at all indicative of her personality. We went through various names suggestive of her nature – referring to the beans she was obviously full of, to naming her after pistols, and some attempts to find the name of a silent film star since she doesn’t meow audibly at all – before we finally settled on “Taz,” given her whirlwind activity several times a day and her monstrous nature. More about her later on.