On this date 40

bald cypress Taxodium distichum in Jones Lake, NC
Just a few this week, perhaps a harbinger of the slowing shooting season, perhaps just a fluke – I haven’t looked through following weeks in the database to see how the numbers are going. First up is this bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) in Jones Lake near Elizabethtown, NC, from 2006. This was taken with the Canon Pro90 IS and shows the lower quality of the camera, but I had the film camera with me too and might have this on slide, though an initial search didn’t turn up anything.

Jones Lake fills one of the enigmatic ‘Carolina Bays’ along the coast – you can go here for a link that explains those, as well as a different version of this scene.

We don’t see enough gastropods – let’s have some gastropods from 2012.

unidentified snail cruising over eggs likely of leopard slug Limax maximus
Despite impressions, this snail has not hatched from these eggs – yes, they’re eggs – and is in fact way older than newborn. I just happened to catch it as I was checking on the development of the eggs, and later on found them hatching, so I’m almost positive they’re the eggs of the huge and disturbing leopard slug (Limax maximus.) Even though they look barely developed, really, not a whole lot more development is going to take place in there before hatching – slugs are never much more than early fetuses anyway, so we’re talking a faint color change and that’s about all, externally. No chance to feel the babies kicking, though you might feel them oozing, I guess…

Moving on, far too late.

fairy shrimp order Anostraca
While attempting to hatch out some triops in 2014, which are damn cool little crustaceans, I eventually produced a few of these, which I suspected were brine shrimp but had a reader (seriously, there was one at one time) inform me were fairy shrimp instead, Order Anostraca. A little dark field photography in the macro aquarium netted some frames of their water ballet.

That’ll do for now. Join us next week for more creepy photos which prove that at no time was I capable of taking pleasant subjects!

September: OK to delete?

American sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua leaf under water's surface
You know, I had a month-end abstract all picked out, but then I realized that it looked way too similar to one of the On This Date images that I also had lined up, and switched to another. But that one, which is the one above, was kinda weak, so we’re going to have two.

Anyway, the one above is just a leaf (from an American sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, if you must know) that was just waterlogged enough to be submerged, but had not yet sunk to the bottom of the lake. The weak colors combined with the ripples of the water fit the bill, though not exactly showing off the color capabilities of your screen.

To make up for this, we have the second, ushering September on its way with low and high saturation, recommended by four out of five dentists.

autumn crocus Colchicum autumnale closeup
This is a crop from a larger image, mostly taken to record the flowers which The Girlfriend was interested in, especially since they were blooming vigorously at this time of year. And why not? They were autumn crocuses (Colchicum autumnale,) so when else would they bloom? Sheesh…

“Aw, c’mon, Al,” you say, “more water drops on flowers? What does the word ‘rut’ mean to you?” But I’m a nature photographer, so the word rut definitely has a different meaning that what you’re intending here, though I get it anyway. The month-end stuff was supposed to make me think about chasing abstract images as I toddled along, but it hasn’t exactly been happening that way. Maybe I have to devote a week to really aiming for such things…

A bit of lag

Right at the moment, I seem to be posting about photos and sessions from several days before; in this case, from last Thursday, even though I’ve already done another outing today, um, yesterday – whatever. I’ll let Buggato take the lead on that one, while my own images will show up here eventually.

seashore-mallow Kosteletzkya virginica bloom not long after a rain
So once the rainy weather had cleared on the 24th, The Girlfriend and I did a quick visit to the NC Botanical Gardens, just to see what was happening. The sky remained mostly overcast, so the light was muted, but it also remained cooler and was pretty comfortable, a big change from nearly the entire summer’s heat. This year seemed to be given over to the reptiles and amphibians within the gardens, well demonstrated by this visit as well. Among the first of the notable subjects was a Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) – but it took me a moment to be sure that was what I was seeing.

very dark Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis perched on quartzite boulder
First of, it was the darkest I’d ever seen one, and I knew they could get very deep brown, but this one appeared (perhaps because of the muted light) to be close to solid black. Actually, not quite solid, because it had a large bright path on its forehead, which was also confusing, but as I drew in closer it was revealed to be a patch of molted skin that had not fully detached yet. Having decided to perch on a boulder of quartzite, the palest rock in the region and almost like marble, it wasn’t exactly blending in. I spooked it as I tried to go in closer, but as we were leaving I made another pass through the area and found it again, this time being able to get much closer. It seemed to be brighter now, but again, maybe just from the lighting.

Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis showing retained patch of skin on forehead
I had affixed the macro flash rig by this time, so I could produce much better results. And you deserve a closer look at this same frame.

inset of previous image showing skin details
A hard shake of the head, a swipe with a foreleg, or just rubbing it on a handy surface would probably have dislodged that skin, and we’d do it in a heartbeat, but the lizard didn’t seem fazed, perhaps because it wasn’t obstructing vision nor even attached enough to itch. Other small flakes can be seen on the cheeks – anoles don’t shed like snakes, all in one piece, but bits at a time. Now have I mentioned that I love this lens? I mean, within the past five posts?

In multiple locations, we spotted more of the anoles, the typical coloration this time, both adult and very young, less than half adult size (which means they could have perched comfortably on your little finger.) I inadvertently spooked one in plain sight as I reached for a ripening passion fruit, annoying myself, but was still able to capture images as it peered at me from semi-concealment.

juvenile carolina anole Anolis carolinensis looking out from cover of leaves
Any expression of irritation or disdain that you’re seeing from the anole is strictly imaginary. Probably. But I still felt chastened.

And then, the frogs.

juvenile Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis on leaf of ginger plant
We saw a horde of tiny treefrogs all over the place, if we looked carefully, because they were all about fingernail sized, if not smaller; I’m almost certain they were all, like this, Copes grey treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis.) That’s a largish flower bloom in the photo, but not that big, though we have better scale shots to come. Seriously, the frogs were to be found everywhere.

juvenile Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis on top of pitcher plant
This is one atop a pitcher plant, which required an awkward and taxing position to obtain this portrait angle – seriously, I have a pulled muscle in my side that isn’t recovering because I keep doing things like this, but you know, fame and fortune and other imaginary benefits…

It would be easy to believe these represent different species, but no, the white spot under and behind the eye is a telltale of the grey treefrog, and the Copes subspecies is the only one we seem to have in the area; they’re just capable of color variations, but I don’t know if this is genetic, environmental, or controlled. The green hue is nicer, though.

juvenile Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis on end of average terracotta brick
Probably about fifty or more meters away on the other side of a building was where we found this one, so I’m not crediting these to all one hatching, though that’s not impossible, especially with hitchhiking on plants that the gardeners were moving around. But I want you to know that this one is sitting on the end of a typical terracotta building brick, so picture that in your mind as we go closer.

closeup of same juvenile Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis
This lens is kickin’, lemme tell you. Though I said that we’d have better scale shots, didn’t I? As this one decided to hop out of such an exposed location, The Girlfriend was able to slip her hand in unnoticed.

juvenile Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis on leaf with The Girlfriend's fingers behind for scale
Is that adequate to convey the size? Sometimes it helps a lot to have assistants. Hmm, that could be where the word comes from, now that I think about it…

I was not neglecting the insects on this trip, though they were less numerous, believe it or not.

eastern carpenter bee Xylocopa virginica motionless on unidentified white flowers
In the previous post, we had a southern carpenter bee snoozing in the pollen; this time it’s an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) that’s fallen asleep on the job, even though it was mid-afternoon at the time. I can relate; it makes perfect sense to grab some sleep in the afternoon, so you can devote late night hours to sitting up and writing overdue posts. Though don’t ask me what a carpenter bee has to write about, since I have a hard enough time determining what I have to write about.

[“Yeah, Al, tell us something we don’t know,” I hear ya, shut up anyway.]

Some distance away but potentially on the same species of flower, since I can’t be assed to look them up this late at night, we had some decidedly unsleepy wasps.

thin-waisted wasps Eremnophila aureonotata copulating right there in public where anyone could see
There is apparently only one species of thin-waisted wasp throughout this side of North American at least, and it’s Eremnophila aureonotata, so identifying these was easier than expected. They’re also known for aardvarking on flower clusters so, you know, change it up a little, guys. Also helping the identification was, in the words of BugGuide.net, “silvery patches on the sides of the thorax (pronotal lobes and mesopleura) and next to the propodeal spiracle and petiole socket.” Ah, yes, the old petiole socket, yes indeed…

I continue my quest for mantids either mating or laying eggs, but have been finding few at all, much less engaging in such behavior (flowers clusters or no.) In fact, it took quite a while before I even spotted one in the gardens, peering at me from moderate concealment.

adult likely male Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis half-hidden
From the size and girth, I’m guessing this was a male, so fairly unlikely, in my professional opinion, to be laying eggs anytime soon. After a while, we found another on a sign – it’s presently an annual event called Sculpture in the Garden, so there are sculptures and descriptive plaques scattered throughout the grounds. This mantis, likely also a male, wasn’t looking all that tip-top, since something had taken away nearly all of its wings and elytra.

likely male adult Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis with damaged wings
Would this make a difference to a female? Had it already? Do mantids have ‘marital aids’ that could conceal this? The questions abound.

Elsewhere could be found, in a very restricted area, a large number of stink bug nymphs, in varying instar stages but most resembling this one.

stink bug nymph possibly green stink bug Chinavia hilaris
Some posts back, I obtained photos of green stink bugs (Chinavia hilaris) hatching, and it appears this is what they look like as 2nd or 3rd instar nymphs, but I’m not going to bet the farm on it, because I have no idea how many other species might also look like this. And I checked, but I didn’t find any evidence of the egg cluster nearby. I thought I should feature a later stage anyway, this one being about six to eight (certainly not seven) times the length of the newborns, not far from adult size though the wings haven’t developed yet.

We just had a lynx spider, but you can never have too many lynx spiders, I always say, if by ‘always’ you mean, ‘never before in my life have I said that and I’m unlikely to make a habit of it now.’

green lynx spider Peucetia viridans on pitcher plant with prey
On one species of pitcher plant, a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) sat consuming some prey. On a previous visit we’d seen another on the same kind of plants, and in fact, I’ve seen them there quite often, despite the fact that they certainly don’t blend in at all – just goes to show you how stupid flies are I guess. Worse, though, is that the spiders are taking advantage of the pitcher plants’ native appeal to insects and using that for their own purposes, exploiting the pitcher plants to deprive them of food instead of, you know, evolving their own attractive abilities (like, start with losing the spikes, guys.) Thus it remains possible* that the brilliant red-and-white coloration of the pitcher plants is in response to this, drawing the attention of birds to the bright green tasty morsel so they can keep their hard-earned meals to themselves; we’ll know if the plants start developing, say, blinking lights or the appearance of bird seed or something. Nature is weird.

We’ll close with a ripe hearts-a-bustin’ (Euonymus americanus) seed pod seen from below, another awkwardly-obtained shot, but colorful, you gotta admit. I probably should have saved this for the winter months when we’ll need more color, but naaahhh

hearts-a-bustin' Euonymus americanus open seed pod as seen from underneath
* Less than 0.0001% likelihood, honestly

Herons all the way down

The other morning Buggato and I did a photo outing to the head of the Neuse River in Raleigh, an area called ‘Falls of the Neuse’ even though the falls have been replaced by a dam and spillway now. We hadn’t been down there in a while, and figured this was a decent time, but hadn’t counted on the flow being higher than normal, which prevented wading across to other photo opportunities. Nonetheless, we managed to snag a few images.

First thing in the morning, the lower overnight air temperatures (it got down to around 15°C or so) combined with the more stable water temps meant a lot of vapor rising from the water. A lot of vapor.

thikc water vapor rising off of Neuse River in Raleigh
In fact, that doesn’t do it justice at all, so I’m glad it occurred to me to shoot a brief video clip, because the motion works much better.

I would have loved to have put the kayak in to go drifting through that, but there was a small catch: the current is fast enough that coming back upstream would be a strenuous undertaking, to say the least. I believe the various water excursion companies that put in right there for day outings actually pick up their clients much further downstream, allowing them to simply ride the current. And yes, that’s traffic noise you hear in the background, an unfortunate aspect of far too many ‘natural’ areas around here; there are two roads crossing the river not far enough away. But you also hear the clicking of Buggato’s shutter.

There are several places where you can do scenic compositions, but for some reason I’m fond of revisiting versions of earlier ones that I’ve done, back at the turn of the century when I’d first start exploring the region.

short time exposure of flowing water in Neuse River, Raleigh
With a stabilized lens and the amount of flow, I was able to handhold the camera for the necessary 1/3 second to blur the water a little and still not have camera motion in the shot, so this experiment turned out well enough. The footing within looks treacherous, and it was to some degree because the rocks themselves would get a coating of silt and algae under the surface, making them the slipperiest surfaces imaginable, but for the most part the hazard of wading that day was in exceeding the depth of one’s shorts, or finding a sudden hollow that would send you stumbling, not a good idea with camera equipment. Thus the higher water narrowed our exploring area down by half, and the cooler air kept the snakes and lizards and most of the insects out of sight, so the bulk of what we saw were the herons.

great blue heron Ardea herodias in tree over Neuse River
Used to the plethora of fisherfolk that visit, the great blue herons (Ardea herodias) are fairly mellow there and will often perch not too far away, close enough to allow the use of a long lens for tighter portraits. This one had flown in as we stood on the banks, conversing quietly but by no means hidden or undetectable to it. From time to time it checked on us, wary of our presence but not enough to flee because of it.

great blue heron Ardea herodias looking askance at photographer
You gotta admire the skull structure that allows such downward visibility.

We worked our way upstream, taking paths that skirted the water for short stretches because the erosion and fluctuating water levels prevented contiguous paths along the river. I noticed that an old tree that had always been overhanging the water on previous visits had finally succumbed to gravity and entropy, but in looking back through my folders I realized it had occurred before our visit last year, and I’d simply forgotten about it. Its decay is an interesting comparison, anyway – here it is from last July:

fallen tree at head of Neuse River July 2019
… while here it is a few days ago, still decorated with the mist from the morning:

same tree in September 2020
The vapor really did persist for quite a while, but it took the sun a long time to rise above the shrouding trees and hit the water, so not too unexpected I guess. We worked our way along, and not very much further up had another heron that was posing nicely at the water’s edge.

great blue heron Ardea herodias in morning fog/mist on Neuse river
I should note that no where else was there fog that morning; this is all the effect of the warmer water, and did not carry out of the small valley that held the river. Nice atmosphere, anyway. I did a few frames at a shorter, wider focal length for setting and conditions (being fartistic, doncha know,) but then went in for the detailed portraits.

great blue heron Ardea herodias in fog at water's edge
I think I tweaked contrast just slightly higher for this, nothing significant. I’d also stalked along the bank to frame the heron against the background rocks a little more creatively, and like how the lines back there accentuate the heron. Little things, little things.

And then, only a little further on, another that alighted in a tree as we watched.

great blue heron Ardea herodias peering alertly from tree perch
To be honest, there were small territorial disputes among the herons all along the river, causing more shifting and short flights than any perceived threat of approaching humans, so I can’t say for certain if any of these were the same as photographed earlier. Meanwhile, we’re way too early for fall colors here, but this particular tree was changing for whatever reason, so the tighter framing gives the impression of more color in the region than reality, accentuating the patches of brown that herons can show when seen from the right angle. Maybe five to seven meters above the water here, this one has left the fog below. I just wish it hadn’t posed against all those twigs.

We pursued other subjects as well – what we could find, at least, which wasn’t a lot. Later on as the day warmed there might have been more going on, but the vapor would have been gone then, so you know, trade offs.

We found no less than three motherly green lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans) guarding their egg sacs, but still too early to see young’uns.

green lynx spider Peucetia viridans mother guarding egg sac
Green lynx spiders are ambush hunters, not relying on webs to trap their prey, and usually sit at the edges of flower blossoms (about like this) to await the approach of tasty pollinators. But at this point, with the eggs laid and waiting, I’m not sure they eat at all – their genetic purpose has almost been served, the offspring to continue their lineage, and in my experience they’ll hang around to run interference for the newborns for a while, then vanish, likely dying, so they may not eat at all except to help provide something for the hatchlings. I have none in the immediate vicinity to keep checking on, but a few years back when I had three mothers in the yard, I never saw them with prey after the sac was done.

The chilly morning also meant some of the bees were sleeping on the flower heads, a common sight as the nights get cooler.

possibly southern carpenter bee Xylocopa micans sleeping on unidentified yellow flowers
Much as it looks active here, it was barely twitching as we leaned in close, too sluggish this early to do anything (not that the carpenter bees get too concerned with close approaches anyway.) To the best I can determine, this is a southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micans,) because of those green eyes, but as I’ve said before, I just takes the picchers – someone else can take responsibility for positive ID. That’s out of my pay scale.

[We’re not going into what is actually within my pay scale, because it would embarrass us all.]

porcelain berries Ampelopsis brevipedunculata showing color variety
The porcelain berries (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) are coming into season, which means a display of varied colors not typically seen among any other plants. If you look up porcelain berries, you’ll find that they’re invasive (an Asian native) and considered a weed, but like many ‘weeds,’ I happen to like their appearance and don’t really care about the horticultural distinctions – longneedle pines are natives and shitty-looking, annoying trees, so, yeah, whatever. I still may plant some in the yard.

And finally, one last heron found as we were wrapping up for the day. This one was a little distant downstream, but posed regally on a decrepit stump, gaining just a hint of edge lighting from the sun attempting to break through the horizon haze. I thought it worked well to finish off the session.

great blue heron Ardea herodias perched complacently on very old trunk

Now I’m a believer

Another holiday falls upon us today, but don’t ask me how to celebrate it because I’m not exactly sure. Regardless, today is Skunk Ape Day, and if I had, like, more than three readers, I could hazard that a percentage is wondering what a skunk ape is, while those that know are wondering why I would even announce this holiday. There’s a story here, and though storytime was last year, that didn’t mean they were all told then.

A skunk ape is one of those cryptids, like bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster and Tom Cruise’s acting ability, that has never had any solid evidence presented for their existence yet the accounts and anecdotes remain. It is reported to be a hairy humanoid, an upright biped whose most notable trait is its horrendous odor, thus the name. Its habitat is considered swamplands of the southeastern US, mostly Florida (imagine that.) No one has ever produced a decent photo, much less a carcass or a discarded skunk ape water bottle, and sightings tend to be very fleeting and without corroborating witnesses.

Normally, I would consider this more than adequate to dismiss all such accounts as hyperactive imagination and suggestibility, as any good skeptic would do. Except for one thing: I have direct experience with one. Possibly. I never saw anything, mind you, but while on a photographic outing with Mr Bugg yesterday, we encountered the pungent and nauseating odor of one several times. Seriously, I’ve never encountered a stench like this before, and I’ve dealt with vulture vomit. But the worst bit was, it seemed to be following us.

We weren’t exactly in swampland, just on the banks of the Neuse River, yet there were plenty of thickets that could conceal something sizable. I’ve had experience with most of the animals in the region, and nothing produces a smell even remotely as horrifying, nor would it consider stalking two adult humans. I’d suspect a chemical fire, but it wasn’t everywhere, just in distinct patches, often encountered as we backtracked up our previous paths. At times I thought I might have heard a low growl, but it was fleeting, and never occurred when I faced in that direction.

It was disconcerting, to say the least, and I told Mr Bugg to be on his toes and ready to run for cover. He assured me that he’d had plenty of calories the night before, having polished off three bowls of homemade chili, so he had the energy reserves. I was in doubt about my own abilities, since I wasn’t sure I could take in enough clean oxygen, but we made it through the day unscathed. Pretty harrowing.

Too cool, part 42

The eclectic humor/cheesecake website theCHIVE is part of my routine, and it’s where I collect humor and memes to harass my friends acquaintances with. They have a couple of daily galleries, one of which being Daily Afternoon Randomness, and today there was this image featured – I’d give more credit but the source is unavailable. I also converted it to jpeg because I don’t use Google’s proprietary compression algorithms, which I imagine are another method of Google to scarf info from the webbernets. Anyway, check it out:

photo taken through telescope of crescent moon showing Fracastorius, from theCHIVE.com
In case it’s needed, this is a photo of a digital camera display attached to a telescope, obviously shooting the moon, which can be seen out-of-focus in the background. Recognize it, especially the crater on the terminator in the center of the LCD frame? You should, because I posted it only two days ago, but here it is again for easier comparison.

waxing crescent moon in early evening
From the sky color, I’d estimate that this was taken perhaps an hour earlier, “local time” (the twilight was almost gone when I took mine,) but it might well have been about the same time, just farther west than I was. You can even see the light touching the floor of Fracastorius crater. And yes, I’m quite certain this is the same day, given when it was posted and the position of first-magnitude Antares in the frame, over to the left (visible to me too when I took mine, but not pursued.)

Just thought you needed to see that. One of these days, I’ll get off my ass, get a proper collimater for my own telescope, and do some more detailed shots once it’s in proper focus. Really, it’s the lack of tracking motor, limiting the exposure times, that has made the telescope a low priority, but I have it, I might as well be using it…

On this date 39

We’re only going to deal with two years this week – I have photos from four, I believe, but two were noteworthy (for my own personal standards of ‘noteworthy,’ and we all know how those are.) We will begin with 2006, during a visit that The Girlfriend and I made to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

either European/common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis or pharaoh cuttlefish Sepia pharaonis in tank at NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
This is the unaltered version, but I’ve used it before after editing out the obvious distractions from the background. It’s either a European/common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) or a pharaoh cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis) – I failed to check the ID plaque at the time. It was the only time that we’ve seen the cuttlefish on display, and they were fascinating to watch, maneuvering around by the rippling of that fin-skirt around their bodies, wooing one another, and at one point extending their tentacles far our in front like a trunk. The eyes, believe it or not, are open – they just have very odd queasy-smiley pupils that are mostly closed against the light here.

either European/common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis or pharaoh cuttlefish Sepia pharaonis displaying bioluminescenceThe educational video playing nearby informed us that cuttlefish can display bioluminescence from their undersides during courtship, and we were lucky enough not only to see it, but to capture it in images as well, as the pic at right shows. Excuse the lack of quality, but let’s be real – capturing bioluminescence is tricky at the best of times, much less handheld in an aquarium (with the Canon Pro90,) but if you check, it’s actually visible in the first photo above as well, even with the flash illuminating the cuttlefish. However, the drawling adolescent that proclaimed, “That’s a squeed,” produced a catchphrase between us that remains to this day.

And now we go to 2012. I’d said before that 2012 was easily the most productive for arthropods for me, and this is a prime example.

unidentified lady beetle species Coccinellidae laying eggs on dog fennel leaf
Last week we got to see lady beetle nymphs hatching from eggs, and this shows you how unspecific time frames are to them, because here we are a week later seeing an adult laying some. I couldn’t tell you the exact species, just the genus Coccinellidae, and the action, um, wasn’t – she remained largely unmoving throughout a long shooting session. While a time-lapse sequence might have shown the process, it might not have, too – these are flash photos, and the dog fennel plant that she was using was very fine and swayed easily in the wind, so leaving the camera on a tripod with the intervalometer to fire off shots every minute or so would most likely have resulted in a lot of unfocused images.

second or third instar lady beetle Coccinellidae emerging from molting
Elsewhere on the same plant (I believe, anyway – it was a huge favorite of the lady beetles that year for sure,) we have a nymph, second or third instar I suspect, emerging from its molted exoskeleton – the bright colors will fade within a couple of hours to leave a spiky-looking black ‘bug’ with orange markings as the new exoskeleton hardens. Presumably these bright colors are aposematic, ‘keepaway’ markings indicating that the nymph is bad-tasting or toxic – I know the adults can exude their own ‘blood’ (hemolymph) to ward off predators. Those spikes on the back look nasty, but they may simply be camouflage – I’ve handled them at this stage and they’re unnoticeable, so not terribly hard and not capable on introducing an irritant to something human-sized, anyway. Just chock full of non-information today, aren’t I?

newly-emerged final instar adult lady beetle Coccinelidae drying extended wings
While it took years to finally capture a molting of anything, beginning to end, I was able to shoot a lot of frames of this newly-emerged final instar, otherwise known as an adult, as it was drying its wings. That’s the old exoskeleton/cocoon at upper left – they attach themselves to a surface for several days while they pupate into the familiar adult form. The wings themselves will become a translucent brown like tinted glass and normally remain folded up underneath the elytra, the big domed ‘shell’ – which in itself is not yet showing the typical black spots. But if you look very closely, you can see the places that will turn color, the pattern of spots visible though the pigment hasn’t developed yet. This entire process is of course very slow, generally taking about two hours before the adult would be capable of flight, so it’s not like I had to be right on top of things, firing off frames madly, to get a sequence of this development.

But just so you know, I have 183 images in the Arthropod 2 folder for this day alone, of the myriad subjects that I was finding. Someday history books will talk about how 2012 was one of my most productive years.

Equinox moon

Yes, it’s the autumnal equinox, that particular day when half of the moon is illuminated by the sun. Let’s have a look, shall we?

waxing crescent moon in early evening
What, you were expecting to see a half-sphere, first quarter moon? I said half of it was illuminated, but that doesn’t mean we’re in a position to see it from Earth. I mean, half of the moon is illuminated when it’s full, and even when it’s new, just like half of the Earth is illuminated even when it’s night – it’s not our half, granted, but half.

So, yeah, the equinox has no affect whatsoever on the moon or how it appears to us, really, but this is what I’ve got today, having fired off a handful of frames before the moon disappeared behind the trees.

There’s a crater on the terminator that’s pretty distinctive and, like my attempts with Tycho, it looks like I caught sunrise on the central peak, something that was just barely visible in the viewfinder. Except it doesn’t have a central peak, and what I seem to have caught is the first vestiges of light on the shallow crater floor, because I’m pretty sure this is Fracastorius, old and flooded with lava flows from other impact events. That far wall with its tiny crater to the left, catching the sun away from the line of the terminator, showed very well in the viewfinder and became my target of interest. Looking at the images afterward, I was also intrigued by the single spot of light down at the very bottom of the moon, either a crater wall or a mountain catching the sun down near the south pole, but my attempts to find out what this was were thwarted by the very simple explanation that we don’t have enough detailed photos of that area; even the relief maps of the best source I use for plotting lunar features marks the region with ‘Unsatisfactory photography.’ Ah well…

Just because, part 38

I’m probably not going to get too many opportunities to post in the next week, and what will be posted probably won’t be… comprehensive, shall we say? “Hit and run” is closer to the mark.

I’ve had a lot of images saved in the blog folder, some for quite a while now – 260 total – and finally decided to sit down and weed out those that weren’t going to result in a post. Most of those were prepared with the idea that I’d write them up sometime, but I never felt that strongly about the subject; you may be looking at what I do post and wondering how badly a subject must suck not to clear that bar, and that’s fine, be that way. See if I care. But anyway, better than half are gone now, and that’s allowing for those that might still provoke a writeup. You know, in the winter months when there’s not that much to shoot.

I’ll also take the opportunity to put up a pair that remained, random images that I just never wrote up until now. Not like I’m lacking in images for this month, but hey, while I’m here…

Northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis showing loss of feathers on face
Taken back in July but pushed off by more distinctive subjects, this is what a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) looks like without facial feathers – I know I always wondered. Now, why the feathers are missing is not something that I can accurately answer, but despite the name of both the species and the state, this is the south, so my guess is an incident having to do with alcohol and a grill…

And the other.

eastern pondhawk Erythemis simplicicollis partaking of a misting at night
We often have a handful of dragonflies that hang around the front garden areas, and this eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) got disturbed one evening in August and flew around my headlamp for a few moments before I convinced it to settle onto a plant; dragonflies have rotten night vision and always ‘roost’ for the night, but if they’re disturbed they’ll attempt to use what light is available to navigate to another safe spot. Once it had settled, I favored it with a misting, and since this was during the extremely hot and dry spell that we had, the dragonfly was visibly excited and eagerly sipped up all the water it could, wiping it from its head as the mantids will, as well as taking it directly off of the leaf. I was kind of sorry I didn’t have the video lamp handy to show this in action; I really should have it affixed more often. And now I’m thinking about whether a combined macro/video rig is viable.

[There’s more to this than you might think. First off, macro (still) photos are shot using the viewfinder eyepiece, strictly direct light through the lens, while video requires either the back LCD or an external monitor, which tends to work better. This generally means having the camera in a video rig, but that’s awkward to use when trying to make lens adjustments. The macro flash softbox and the video light are not interchangeable in purpose. I’m not thinking there’s an easy hybrid method that would work…]

We need another

What the hell, I already posted twice today, and cleaned out the ‘To be sorted’ folder (long overdue) – then I take out the compost and spot another couple of images to put back into it. So what’s one more post in a day, between us?

The green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) that I spotted hanging out in the ant trap on one of our hummingbird feeders seems to have made this a regular haunt, and while it would normally be out hunting at this time of night (it’s 11:34 PM,) it’s been raining all day long, courtesy of a hurricane I think, and for some reason treefrogs don’t like being out in the rain. So here it sits, waiting.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea waiting for the rain to cease
By day, it’s normally hunkered down in there, barely visible through the filthy plastic, and I’ve noted its presence several days in a row now. But the Copes grey treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) have been a lot more scarce, and I haven’t seen a full adult for a while now. Until tonight.

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis also waiting for the rain to cease
Two meters away on a downspout under the same roof overhang, a Copes grey also sits under cover away from the steady downpour, somehow not looking all that patient. To me, anyway – you know us experienced nature photographers can read the animals like a book.

[Sigh] And now I have to go sort another six images. Work work work…

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