29 minutes of playtime

Going out for something last night, I noticed the moon was sharp and in a good position up over Walkabout Studios to take advantage of, and decided to fire off a few frames. I did not, despite the previous post, bother to try for some meteor photos – that would have come much later in the night hours (technically the wee hours of the morning) as the moon dropped lower, and I had no intentions of being up then. No, this was just a casual effort to see what I brought up.

One thing about moon photography, or at least my experiences with it, is tweaking focus. For best detail the focus has to be precise, and neither the autofocus nor the manual focusing screen allows for perfect focus every time, so shooting a lot of frames while (manually) refocusing between each tends to net the best results. The difference between frame A and frame B will never show until you look at the resulting images on the computer monitor, so it’s best to get as many variations as you can while out there.

This was one of them:

waxing gibbous moon in October
Note that this is just before 11 PM EDT, so the yellowish cast isn’t from being low on the horizon, but likely from airborne particles, smoke from the west coast wildfires – there was one particular evening a few weeks back when the moon was horizon-orange while high in the sky due to this high-altitude smoke. But of course, being sized to fit the blog layout isn’t showing off enough, so we’ll go for a full-resolution fragment.

inset of previous moon photo stretching from Copernicus to Tycho craters
The big crater at upper right is Copernicus, the prominent one with the central peak at lower left is Tycho Maurolycus [Tycho is presently out of sight], and the one with the peak in the middle of the dark grey lunar ‘sea’ is Bullialdus (within Mare Nubium.) I’m pleased to get the erosional ‘scalloping’ of Copernicus’ edges, highlighted of course by the sun angle – timing means a lot for lunar details. Just for scale, Copernicus is about 92 kilometers across, about the north-south width of Connecticut, or the distance between Disneyworld and Cape Canaveral, or the spacing between opposing Atlanta suburbs (okay, not really – the actual drive is probably longer.) Considering that I was using the Tamron 150-600 and the Kenko 2X teleconverter, I’m not complaining. I really have to dig the telescopes out…

I also did a few video clips, and did indeed catch birds in two of them, but I’ll save them for later. For one, I rotated the lens to be aligned with the moon’s apparent movement, so it would go straight across the frame top to bottom and the terminator would be ‘level,’ and the bird cut right across dead-level with the terminator. Which looked fine in the video, but you’ll notice that the terminator is nowhere near level, and I was aiming upwards anyway (the moon was at an azimuth of roughly 35° when these were shot,) so the bird’s flight angle was far from normal-looking.

While out there, I noticed a bright ‘star’ not far from the moon, knowing from the magnitude and position it was likely a planet instead – I remembered Jupiter and Saturn would be up and close by, but not the order of them. Before it passed out of sight behind the chimney, I fired off a number of frames, at varying exposure times and ISOs, to bring out whatever detail I could with the rig, having a decent amount of success. However, the following image, while full resolution, is ‘Photoshopped,’ a digital composite that seems to be the norm for astrophotographs anymore. I’m not fond of the practice, but it illustrates something here.

composite image of Jupiter with Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa
That’s Jupiter of course, with four of its moons: from top to bottom, Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa. However, the exposure to actually snag the moons bleached Jupiter out to a featureless white disk, so another exposure of the planet was dubbed over to show the striping. Also, I either captured Callisto extremely faintly, or motion blur from the rotation of the Earth during exposure rendered the moons into short lines, so this exposure of the moons has had the brightness brought up so Callisto was more visible and wouldn’t be lost in display.

Since the two photos immediately above, Jupiter and the crater detail one, are the same magnification at full resolution, this means that Jupiter appears roughly the size of Copernicus, and you can go out any night and see if you can discern Copernicus by eye (though it would work best if it’s near the terminator like here, to throw some distinctive shadows.) With a decent pair of binoculars, the Jovian moons can often be made out, just barely, but it takes some more serious magnification to get any kind of detail from the planets themselves.

Now, some observations that made this post take way longer than intended. It seems like Callisto at top is quite far out there, but remember that the moons are all orbiting Jupiter, in a plane roughly flat to us, so they are all likely somewhere in this ellipse and not at their maximum separation according to our perspective. For giggles, I did a bit of playing around to determine the relative distance with Earth and its moon – assuming Earth was the size of Jupiter within this image, how far out would the orbit of our moon be? And the answer is, well outside of this frame. The moon is roughly 30 Earth diameters away, and the entire frame diagonally doesn’t span 30 [Jupiter] diameters. Makes the moon landings seem a bit more impressive, doesn’t it?

So, the title is quite misleading, now that I look at it. The actual time between first and last frames last night was 29 minutes, but it’s been a lot longer than that putting all the details in this post.

Nag time

I was going to call this simply, “Reminders,” but I like this better.

The first is, are you prepared for All Hallows Read? You should be – I’ve featured it here often enough. Last year was, of course, a bust because no one was trick-or-treating, nor should they have been so, good on them all. The previous year was truncated by a fierce storm rolling in – silly helicopter parents worried that their little boogums would get wet. It was, like, the perfect weather around here for Halloween, warm but with a gusty wind that threw the leaves up in little tornadoes, and a storm brewing audibly in the distance – atmosphere out the ass.

But anyway, if you’re not the kind to click on links, the premise of All Hallows Read is, you give out books for Halloween, instead of or in addition to candy – we do it in addition. The Girlfriend collected a load of books appropriate for all age ranges, spooky-themed and not, mostly at used bookstores and thrift shops, and we keep them out on a little shelf by the front door. It remains a hit with both the parents and the kids, and is loads of fun to observe. There’s a good chance I’ll move the fire pit out front and have a fire going, maybe even roast some marshmallows.

Anyway, it was The Bloggess that first alerted us to the practice. Spread the word, because this is the kind of thing we need more of.

New kitten getting into act
Had to re-use this photo of course

The second thing I’m here to tell you is the Orionids meteor shower is peaking the night of the 20th, so not quite a week away. Unfortunately, this means the moon will be full, which is far from ideal because it’s up all night long, and of course Orion, where the majority of meteors will appear to be originating, is not too close to the moon but not far enough from it either. Most meteor storms are best after midnight, and in this case Orion doesn’t rise until about that time anyway, but the moon itself won’t set until about sunrise. So why am I telling you about a storm with such crappy viewing conditions, even if the weather is perfect?

Yet many storms peak on a certain day, but are visible for a few days before and after – some for an entire month, so feel free to try earlier, like tonight if you’re inclined, just to see what happens. Listen, I don’t set the schedules, I just try to alert you to them. Routinely, I see excellent photos that people obtain of the storms while I see bupkiss, so maybe I should just give it up. What’s the point, anyway? Who’s even coming to this site?

[It’s still Friday, by the way…]

Profiles of Nature 41

ruby-throated hummingbirds Archilochus colubris Carol Harvey Vicki Lyle swarming feeder
Nothing stops the relentless march of the Profiles of Nature! Though you could try paying us off – we’re not gonna rule that out…

This week we have Carol, Harvey, Vicki, and Lyle, a quartet of acrobats that go under the name of ‘The Flying Antimacassars,’ though no one has had the nerve to ask them why, or cared. They were hounded and forced into performing by their kids, who even as preschoolers recognized that college loan debt was a bank industry scam and decided that the best way to avoid this was to have rich parents – you’re free to wonder what their kids are gonna be like, but we’re guessing they’ll get knocked off by an heroic time traveler (we already own that storyline, so don’t even think about it.) The Flying Antimacassars are reasonably successful, but a little late in developing, because no one goes to the circus anymore and Battle of the Network Stars has been defunct ever since Gabe Kaplan had that lion-taming incident, so now they just have a YouRube channel (The Flying Antimacassars, not the Network Stars, who don’t even rate a capital ‘T.’) Things were going well until Vicki hit Carol in the face during an attempt to perform what they call the ‘Cotton Pony,’ forcing Carol to be out of commission for a few weeks. Acrobatic routines with only three people tend to be dramatic, but not terribly smooth since one person keeps crashing to the ground (usually Lyle,) but then they thought to mount an action cam to his forehead and increased their viewers exponentially. Fortunately, Carol was able to rejoin the group about the time that they realized they could no longer remove the action cam memory card, given its depth in Lyle’s skull. One good viral video will put The Flying Antimacassars into their targeted retirement bracket, but they’re competing against a lot of teenagers dancing braless, so who can tell where this will go? Or, again, cares. Carol’s favorite cereal toy was the Alpha-Bits Pocket Printer, and Harvey’s was the King Vitaman Royal Racing Coach; Vicki’s favorite was the Flintstone Rock Grabber, and Lyle’s was the Sugar Bear Musical christmas Ornament – but then again, we already knew Lyle was a dweebelo.

Just like the stuff forgotten at the back of the fridge, Profiles will still be here next week, and certainly not improved in that time.

Local variants

The other day I did the rounds of Walkabout Estates to see what was happening among the nonhuman residents, kind of like a camp counselor but with a lot less chance of finding kids sneaking peeks at a bootleg copy of Emmanuelle vs Ghidra. What I did find, however, was a notable difference in the hue of the green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) that were snoozing for the day, just within the boundaries of the Estate which, despite your impressions of nature photographer income, is humbly modest. It was worth illustrating, so we have more post fodder, with the first set of these photos taken within twenty minutes and twenty meters of one another. We’ll start with the bright one.

adult green treefrog Hyla cinerea on trunk of trumpet flower Brugmansia
This is the only adult in the lineup, tucked in to the main trunk/stalk of one of the trumpet flowers (Brugmansia.) The flash might have brought this one out a little brighter than subjective observation of it within its shaded location, but it’s safe to say this was a pretty brilliant green in color.

Now we go to the front door.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea on edge of storm door
This is a juvenile, so about half the size of the previous, and probably the most ‘average’ of the color variants that I see – bright green, but within the realm of brighter/paler leaves.

This one, by the way, returned a couple or mornings later and spent the entire day in this spot, riding the door back and forth as we passed through it well over a dozen times. I have no idea what it thought about this, but we tried to keep it low-key.

Now for one on the coiled up garden hose, another juvie.

juvenile green treefrog in very dark hue
The flash undoubtedly made this seem brighter than it appeared in the deep shade of its hiding spot, because it looked almost black when first spotted. This is as dark as I’ve found them, and not very frequently at that. Not blending in with the hose too well, but still subtle within the shadows.

And now the weird one.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea in two-tone coloration
The bronze color is something that I’ve seen before, but I’ve never seen any frog in such a clearly defined two-toned pattern, and I have no idea what caused this. I know frogs can change color, but I’ve never seen it happen and don’t get the impression that it’s a quick change, not to mention that the brownish color is hardly needed to blend in with the hydrangea leaf (but notice the color around the nostril.) I revisited this one throughout the day to see if the pattern changed at all, but saw no evidence of it. I have found no signs of this one since either, but if it completed a hue shift, I may simply not have recognized it.

I know what you’re thinking: Why didn’t you maintain constant surveillance, since it was so conveniently at hand? Do you call yourself a dedicated nature photographer or what? Which is pretty presumptuous, given how much I post here just to keep you in the loop, but sure, fine. I do have a life, of sorts, so standing there all day long wasn’t quite in the cards. But I will be continually watching for such things in the future.

Two days earlier, another had demonstrated no knowledge of camouflage whatsoever when it perched on a large leaf from the same oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia.)

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea not at all blending in with bright red leaf on oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia
There’s a chance this is actually the same as the one above, within the same general size, though I feel this was actually a tad smaller, but given the separation of days versus the trivial separation of perch distance (like half a meter,) the odds favor them being the same. We’ve seen this leaf earlier, but the weight of the frog detached it from the main stem and it soon wilted. Still, there were plenty of choices that weren’t quite so obvious.

But while we’re here, we’ll check in on the anoles, or at least, one in particular.

juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis hiding under rose leaf for night
The juvenile Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) that was found, multiple times, hanging around the front garden is still there, and still found routinely, photographed occasionally. The other night it had taken shelter in at the top of an old rose blossom under a leaf – perhaps a good hiding place if you don’t value your tail. Still, the head was difficult to make out even if you were specifically trying, but at an angle where the morning sun would alert it that day had broken, so perhaps not as thoughtless as initially imagined.

tip of Carolina anole's Anolis carolinensis head peeking above old rose blossom
No real surprise since I always find it at night with the powerful beam of the headlamp, but the anole is always aware that I’m around, even if disinclined to move, so yes, you can barely see the open eye here.

The next night it was in a slightly different location, without any shelter at all but with, perhaps, a little residual heat from the day.

Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis sleeping on yard sculpture
This is another of The Girlfriend’s mobile yard sculptures, like the ones that the frogs seem to like, and has appeared here before too. I’ll note that the anole tends to be pale at night, but will soon darken in the morning to blend in with whatever it’s on and/or absorb more morning sunlight – you’d think it could do this at night for camouflage, but any common predators probably aren’t active at night anyway and the color change might be a conscious effort. Either way, I usually have a much harder time spotting this one during the day, unless it moves (which is how I find a large percentage of my photo subjects anyway.) I’m delighted to have the resident, and torn between getting cool photos and letting it go undisturbed, but there’s always the chance that my repeated presence is conditioning it to not worry about me and it’ll become more tolerant. I can justify anything if I try…

Like an old dirt road

It’s easy to get into a rut – or at least, it is for me. Depending on conditions and location, I realize that I’m finding mostly the same subjects, and I try tempering what I post because it’s a lot of photos of the same damn thing. And then, like earlier in the year, things change and suddenly I’m in a different rut, too many of another subject. Right now, it’s like driving a crappy country road where you have no choice but to jump back and forth between ruts, but I’m taking slight advantage of this one because I have more frog and lizard photos waiting in the blog folder.

So, a ‘sunset’ outing to Jordan Lake yesterday at least provided some new/old subject matter. The lake is not a good place to find green treefrogs or Carolina anoles, but it is a good place for other things. At times, anyway.

perched great blue heron Ardea herodias sen through gap in foliage
The initial conditions, for better than half of the outing in fact, were overcast, and there was little activity to be seen. A perched great blue heron (Ardea herodias) lay ahead of us along our path and we knew it would get spooked off eventually, so I took advantage of a gap in the trees for a closer portrait before we got too far. Within another minute it decided to vacate to quieter portions of the lakeside.

Ospreys and bald eagles made appearances, but little more than that, and they were framed against grey clouds in lower light, so most of the efforts produced nothing worthwhile. On the horizon, a break in the overcast slowly marched eastward, producing a small patch of blue sky, but too few of the birds chose to pose against it, demonstrating that, at least around Jordan Lake, the raptors have no fashion sense.

Eventually we switched to a different location, really only a couple of kilometers away but facing in the opposite direction, and the bare patch advanced resolutely. Since it was late in the afternoon, this soon produced bright sunlight peeking through at a low angle, which allowed some nice lighting, like for this very distant bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus.)

distant bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus perched alongside dead tree
This is at 600mm and cropped a little at that, so you know the eagle was quite far off – easily over a kilometer – and showing no inclination to go for some exercise, but the light conditions were pretty cool.

A few great egrets (Ardea alba) were nearby – closer at least than the eagle – but not providing much in the way of poses or settings, and still too low to catch that sunlight, but eventually a pair of them launched themselves from the shore and cut out across the water, getting into better light as they did so.

great egret Ardea alba skimming low across water with tiny captured fish
Yes, that’s a tiny little fish in its beak, barely enough for a snack, and why the egret didn’t scarf it down before taking flight I cannot say; there were no apparent threats and we were still a long ways off ourselves, but maybe it was trying to protect its capture (a grandiose term for something too small to make good bait) from its companion, who followed close behind.

A very large number of black vultures passed overhead over a period of a few minutes, all heading in the same direction, so I’m assuming they were returning to their evening roosts, since the sun was less than an hour from setting at this point. Much better, however, were the pair of juvenile eagles that started playing tag right over our position.

pair of juvenile bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus wheeling overhead
For a few moments, they were close enough to get in the same frame, they just didn’t do it when they were facing the right way or banked to catch the light – again, oblivious models, but what can you do? One did get a lot more cooperative as it split off from the other and stated hunting.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus dropping talons at beginning of stoop
Normally the feet are tucked well back, so when they drop like this, it’s usually an indication that the eagle (or osprey) is about to descend for a fish, called a stoop (I say this to other people at times, and they usually think I’m being derogatory of the birds.) There were a couple of hesitations, but sure enough, the eagle dropped down towards the water purposefully.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus descending over water
The sky wasn’t completely clear, plus there were some taller trees on the lakeshore in that direction, so the eagle passed out of better lighting momentarily. That uniformly dark head but paler breast marks this as likely second-year, having hatched in spring of 2020. I point this out because we’ll come back to it.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus snagging fish from water
For once, autofocus behaved as the view crossed the horizon, and I was able to get the moment of capture as the eagle skimmed low over the water at a reasonable clip. Unlike the osprey, all of the eagles that I’ve observed don’t dive into the water, but snag their captures from just beneath the surface as they cruise overhead. There are a couple of reasons for this, all speculative right now: the bird wants to avoid getting waterlogged and having to expend the energy lifting itself from the water afterward, which is significant for something this heavy; or the eagle’s profile is noticeable enough that it approaches quickly and obliquely because it’s less likely to scare the fish off this way. I want to point out that the initial spotting of the fish usually takes place over a hundred meters off, and the eagles stay on target throughout a twisting dive and while crossing several different reflecting and refracting conditions from the water, since a lower angle will drastically change how the surface appears. It’s possible that eagle eyes are naturally polarized, greatly reducing reflections from the water – I should look this up.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus with successful capture
But yeah, this time the light angle was excellent, and the successful capture could clearly be seen. Knowing the size of eagles, the fish is likely just a little less than the length of your hand. Obviously not a huge meal for the bird, but likely the last for the day.

Now it gets a little interesting. There were faint signs of an altercation between the two eagles as they passed out of sight behind some trees, but nothing too serious. And then the other eagle appeared holding a fish.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus transitioning to adult plumage, with fish
As you can tell from the plumage, this is clearly not the same one we just saw, and clearly in possession of a meal. They’d been wheeling overhead for a couple of minutes at this point and had performed no fishing actions, except that pictured above, while in sight. I’m used to seeing eagles catch something and then find a perch, usually some distance away, to eat it, so this was different, and I wasn’t sure that this one hadn’t stolen the fish. We’ll take a moment here to point out the age of the eagle, since they have specific coloration for the first four years of their lives, before they have the classic adult plumage that we all know. The head is clearly going white here, but the tail is not, and the underwings still sport the mottled markings of the juvenile, so I’m placing this as right at the fourth year. Feathers don’t change color of course, so they have to be molted out for new, differently colored ones to take their place, and this happens a few at a time, usually in matching pairs so the bird does not have uneven aerodynamics.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus showing mixed plumage
Another look at that same one – not the best, but with the low light angle, only at times would the eagle show its colors clearly; at others, it would be more backlit and not showing much more than a silhouette like above. But the underwing markings and the not-white tail show clearly here – and one other thing. These are only seconds apart and the eagle clearly did not drop (or gobble) the fish, but it’s no longer visible here, tucked well up against the tail.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus still in possession of fish
And we return to the first, once again showing possession of the fish – I spent a bit of time going back and forth between the frames to ensure myself of the timing of these appearances. So we have two things of note: the first is, they were both wheeling around while clutching meals, not inclined to actually eat them too quickly, which has me curious. The second is, they were clearly not siblings, being a couple of years apart in age, yet hanging out together with only the faintest hint of antagonism, and that took place mostly behind trees so I’m not even sure about that. Right now, just adding it all to my internal catalog of behaviors that I wouldn’t have expected.

Also note the uneven appearance of the back of the wings, the trailing edges. This one is molting, slowly losing feathers as they push outwards, soon to be replaced by new ones, but in the interim there will be a gap in the uniform appearance. Go on back up, if you’re inclined, to compare the wings of the two.

The best shot of the evening actually came earlier – I know, I’m placing buildup over chronology; what kind of a nature photographer am I? Nobody cares, including me, so let’s plow on. Not long after arriving at the new location, we spooked a great blue heron from a perch within the trees overhead, and it flew out over the water (again, into excellent light,) croaking as it did so. But then it turned back, wheeling around and coming almost directly towards us, which I found extremely curious because there as no doubt in my mind that we were the ones that caused it to take flight. Examining the frames afterward gave a hint of the reasoning, however.

great blue heron Ardea herodias examining water below immediately after fleeing perch
I have several frames with the head and eyes in largely the same position, so it’s clear that the heron spotted something promising in the water as it took flight and came back around to examine it, us be damned. After a few seconds, it determined that these fish (or perhaps a Soviet-era sub – ya never know) didn’t merit further study and turned away again, providing a perfect light angle as it did so.

great blue heron Ardea herodias banking with the late afternoon sun
This isn’t quite full frame, being cropped a little just to fit with blog usage better – just add more of the same around the outer edges if it bothers you. But this shows the framing and position well enough (plus the last vestiges of the clouds,) while we now go in closer for the detail.

same image in close up showing sharp detail of face and feathers
When you can actually convince the birds to play nice at those times (which is a big ‘when,’) late afternoon or early morning, when the sun is low and golden or orange or even pink, is a great time to catch birds in flight. But of course they have to bank at the right angle, and you have to be in position yourself to take advantage of this. The shadows give a lot of definition to the individual wing feathers while the light shows off all the different colors of the bird, and of course now it’s looking directly at us. While this could be debated, given that the eyes face out from both side of the head, it was also pretty close to us and, again, we were the ones that made it take flight, so I stand by my statement.

Having started the outing in full overcast, the sky transitioned to almost completely clear, with just a hint of the cloud cover low to the east, and actually made for a clear and boring sunset, not even any decent colors from the sky. I’ve found this to happen more often than not in North Carolina, which is why I don’t chase sunset here too often – I definitely have more consistent luck in other locations. So it goes.

No one looks forward to this

… even the people that benefit the most from it – you’ll know why in a second, or if you’ve been paying attention to the past years’ posts on the sidebar there.

Yes indeed, Friday, October 15th is National Grouch Day, so you have plenty of time to prepare and find that it was all for naught as none of your plans come together; you can decide for yourself if this is appropriate for the holiday or just fucking typical. As if you couldn’t figure this out on your own, National Grouch Day is the day that all of us marginalized, despised, and mistreated cynics and curmudgeons have our day in the rain, allowed and encouraged to spread the misery to everyone that we can. You know those irrepressible people that seem to think everyone should be happy and grateful and upbeat all the damn time? Yeah, they’re not allowed to even utter a peep all day. They’re even required to take drugs that induce constipation, or at least be really hungover.

No, I’m lying, of course they’re not – no one seems to think those people should be inconvenienced in any way. Woke, my aching ass. So we’re on our own, as always, forced to make our own efforts to have people conform to a mindset that’s far more appropriate to our society. We’re the unsung villains, the ointment flies, the Debbie Downers that even make those cheerful shits useful, but will we ever gain recognition for that? Don’t make me laugh! [You couldn’t anyway.]

Not only that, but it isn’t on a Monday this year, instead a Friday, so everyone will go home and forget about it all over the weekend, just to make this almost entirely in vain. Start early, is my recommendation.

As I have with years past, I am providing a few ideas (not that you need them) to enjoy observe the holiday in the proper manner. The aim is to produce our level of grouchiness, not to be an asshole because those are a dime a dozen; that means we participate as much as anyone else, and we’re not permitted to even find this amusing. I provided a link for that unfamiliar word, and naturally it fails to define it anyway.

So, suggestions (that you’ll ignore):

  • Eat something that gets stuck in your teeth right before a meeting or date
  • Use the stupidest movie quotes you can find, frequently
  • Put a notch in your nail clippers
  • Give directions (and follow them yourself) that always route through construction zones
  • Buy the cheap socks and underwear
  • Answer or comment on everything in your social media feed. Also, forward the most inane stuff you can find
  • Play Frisbee in a crosswind
  • Develop that braying, snorting laugh
  • Randomly hit numbers on your phone during a conversation
  • Try to find a decent movie on a free streaming service
  • Play spice roulette, especially for an important meal
  • Read past performance evaluations. Or think about exes
  • Ask a complicated question right at the tail end of the meeting or class
  • Watch DIY videos by people who don’t understand lighting, preparation, or voiceovers
  • Read anything by Ayn Rand
  • Disparage NASCAR in any southern state
  • Use a sticky bookmark
  • Put a loose bowling ball in the trunk of someone’s car
  • Use an Etch A Sketch on a bus
  • Quote Ayn Rand
  • Watch NASCAR
  • Ask someone if they remember something far older than they are
  • Bend your scissors
  • Compliment someone’s taste in the opposite sex (they’ll never know if you’re being sarcastic or not)
  • Originally, I had,

  • Congratulate an anti-vaxxer on their efforts in getting people vaccinated (“Nobody listens to you”)
  • … but realized that was far too much fun for the holiday. By all means, do this as frequently as possible, just not on Friday.

    I had also asked The Manatee (no relation to The Girlfriend, despite the first names) if he had any suggestions, and he came up with,

  • Propose something cool and idea-generating with almost no lead time so if someone wants to participate they either have to whip something out off the top of their head, or not participate
  • … which seems more specific than it needs to be, which I find annoying.

    However you do it, make sure you embrace the holiday just long enough to make it uncomfortable, and then a little longer yet. Everyone will still be back to glorifying good moods in no time, the turds.

    Intermission, part 2

    I’m in the middle of a long post right now, worrying about it too much given the number of visitors to this site, but that’s my own neurosis. Meanwhile, I followed a link to a video clip that was quite amusing, but it was hosted on [urgk] Twitter; I attempted to embed it here (with full attributes and links, mind,) but all that occurred was a direct Twitter link anyway, and no, that’s not happening. If you’re interested, follow the link way down at the bottom of this post over at Why Evolution Is True, the one with “Please title this short film:” appended.

    So, without a video clip to embed, I present a memelike thing of my own creation, just because it’s been sitting in the blog folder for a few weeks now and I have little new to post right this moment. Both photos were taken on the same night in August right here in the yard, and suggested the relation almost immediately upon viewing the images; I’m hoping it’s recognizable.

    Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis and green treefrog Hyla cinerea re-enacting their favorite meme
    I know, I’m not acting my age, or at least what people imagine it’s supposed to be, anyway, though that’s the story of my life; how I found a girlfriend, I’ll never know, but I ain’t knockin’ it. Wait – that didn’t come out right at all

    Profiles of Nature 40

    jumping spider Hentzia mitrata Bimasha cha-cha-ing or something
    Know what? You’re a crybaby. Cry, little crybaby. “The Profiles of Nature just won’t stop! Waah! Waah!” Little crybaby…

    This week we have Bimasha, the last photo of her on stage before she stepped off the edge and fell into the orchestra pit, breaking three different legs (and a pedipalp) and getting billed for the damage to the woodwinds section. The lesson is, stay off the pharmaceuticals that dilate your eyes when facing the stage lights. Before the accident, Bimasha had a promising career as a one-woman chorus line, partially because of those long, glowing legs, partially because of the red hair, mostly because she was able to stay in step better than a string of other dancers. Or so she says; rumors arose that she was sleeping with the producer after he was found eaten one morning. Bimasha, laid up in the hospital as of this writing, is considering a change of career, not sure if her high kicks will ever be the same and also pretty fucking pissed at woodwinds in general now. She thinks she might try melanomatherapy, the art of relaxation through skin cancer, or perhaps just painting since she’s pretty adept at not replacing the lid properly on the 5-gallon bucket nor stowing it securely in the back of the truck, leaving a trail of white paint for two kilometers down the road, which seems to be a requisite skill. Asked to relate an amusing story from her life, she speaks of the time when she was five months old and urinated in an entire crate of new oboes, slightly disturbing since she’s only three months old now. For her retirement, she invested in a shipment of durians, which will rot away since no one will buy them, resulting in an insurance pay off while the durians themselves will keep her in fruit flies for years. Bimasha charges everything and travels a lot, and double-dribbles more than she should. She claims that her favorite kitchen appliance is her fondue pot, but we call bullshit because who the hell has ever used a fondue pot?

    You have seven days to find a spot in the world with no internet access and spare yourself the horror of another Profiles of Nature. Good luck.

    Still the same, still cute

    I know I’ve been quiet, and it’s for a variety of reasons like projects, a bad keyboard, the waning conditions for critters, and simply that I’m only obtaining more photos of the same subjects. But then again, they’re still cool subjects, so I’m not going to let them languish in my folders for too long.

    We’ll start with one from last month.

    juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea hiding within yard sculpture
    I like this one for the subtlety. For a while, the overnight temperatures were dropping kinda low and it had an effect on the denizens of Walkabout Estates, though you have to look hard to see this one. Not quite ready to call it quits for the season and find some soft earth to bury itself within, a juvenile green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) found a spot that reflected a little of its body heat back to itself, while also warming up quickly once the sun rose high enough, though since they’re nocturnal, the frog wouldn’t venture out again until nightfall, and a decently warm one at that.

    The Girlfriend is fond of metal balance sculptures, indoors and out, and so we have several in the yard. Only a meter away from the fixed one above, one of these tipping, spinning works provided a daytime shelter for another specimen, who’s snuggled up to stepmom.

    juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea tucked onto metal sculpture for day, with another in background
    This one’s about half of adult size, so they seem to be doing just fine in the yard – really, we have a buttload of them now. This is faintly indicated by the fact that there’s two in the frame – see the second one? Yes, of course this was intentional. I’m offended that you even briefly entertained the possibility that it wasn’t.

    But we need a closer look at our main subject.

    closer look at juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea on metal sculpture
    This one’s tucked in so tight, the legs look painted on – it was really impressive. That night it ventured out for foraging, but returned to the alternate side of the sculpture, the counterpoint crow (I think that’s what they’re supposed to be) for the next day’s snooze. Meanwhile, those that sleep on the upright poles tend to switch around each morning, and even the one that routinely chooses the oak-leaf hydrangea out front will select different spots thereon. After about six times, I stopped escorting the green treefrogs out of the greenhouse, knowing from the varying sizes that there were at least three separate culprits, and it appears they know how to find their way out on their own (less so for the screened porch, but no one has discovered it so far this year.)

    We’ll throw in a casual one from the other day.

    either northern cricket frog Acris crepitans or southern cricket frog Acris gryllus perched on small twig
    While waiting to meet with a student at a local park, a quick movement near my feet caught my eye, and I managed a couple of frames of this tiny frog as it paused on a little twig. This is either a northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) or southern cricket frog (Acris gryllus) – the differences are very subtle and not captured in this image, and their ranges overlap right through this portion of the state, apparently the Mason-Dixon Line for cricket frogs. It did not occur to me to say out loud, “The south will rise again,” and see if I was met with a whoop or a snicker. Next time.

    [The depth of field might give a faint indication of scale here, but the frog was in the 10-12mm range, little more than a blob.]

    When I featured a juvenile Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) earlier, I mentioned that it was the second I’d seen that night. The first was much more challenging, both to spot and to adequately capture on not-film (man, digital needs its own counterpart to the established film phrases.) Here was my initial frame:

    juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis sleeping within dead leaves
    If it wasn’t for trying to get a good angle on a nearby treefrog, I probably wouldn’t have spotted this guy, tucked in between a pair of dead leaves for the night, but one particular angle illuminated its pale belly and caught my attention; dead leaves don’t often sport white stripes. Then, it was a matter of trying to get the flash unit to reach it, while tucked back among the large leaves of an oak-leaf hydrangea. Part of the difficulty was trying not to disturb the hydrangea at all so the anole wouldn’t get alarmed and scamper off. My second attempt was much worse.

    Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis almost hidden within shadows
    You’re seeing most of the length of the body here, but the flash didn’t make it past the intervening leaf so we only have weak reflections reaching the anole. Pfeh.

    juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis peeking from between dead leaves
    This is as good as it was gonna get, given the conditions – a ring flash would have worked the best just for reaching in there, but I wasn’t about to go scampering inside to get it. I’m lazy sometimes. Well, okay, all the time, but that includes sometimes.

    The same anole from that earlier post made an appearance twice more, this time on the rose bush only a meter from the gardenia; last night I tried for a few more pics. I still like the initial ones better, mostly for the dew, but did get a portrait angle this time.

    juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis trying to sleep on rose leaf
    It opened its eyes because of the headlamp bobbing around, but didn’t show any apparent alarm, and quickly closed its eyes again as I left it alone. But before that, I switched to the other side of the rose bush to do the full body shot.

    juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis in full body shot
    This particular rose bush has fairly small leaves, so you know this one isn’t big at all, but you knew that already anyway from the inclusion of the scale.

    I was a little surprised to find it still on the bush after 10 AM this morning, though it was stirring now. And darker.

    juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis stirring in daylight the following morning
    The color change from anoles isn’t necessarily camouflage, though it can serve that purpose, but more often either a mood indicator (mostly when another is around,) or an environmental thing, in this case quite possibly absorbing more solar radiation to warm itself up. It was aware that I was there, but I kept my movements to a minimum and it didn’t feel the need to flee.

    juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis looking suspiciously at photographer
    I did a couple of quick video clips as well, as it did a modicum of exploring, but these were handheld, so too shaky with wandering focus (actually my own body swaying back and forth outside of the narrow focus range,) so they might see duty when I have a more complete collection of clips demonstrating feeding or something, when I’m more prepared with the tripod and a comfortable angle. That means, not bending over awkwardly and trying to see the subject in the LCD on the back of the camera, but using the external monitor instead.

    I started this post early this afternoon, and with one thing or another, only got back to it late in the evening – it’s almost midnight now, and I’m trying to close it out before then. But I will say that I did a quick check earlier, and the anole has switched over to the nearby delphinium flower for the night, so perhaps, if I get motivated tomorrow morning, I’ll try a little video stalking then – I really need to dedicate the effort to such things. We’ll see how lazy I am, I guess.

    Still there? Why?

    It’s no secret that I despise social media, especially given that little graphic over there on the sidebar, but just in case it isn’t perfectly clear, I find it, all of it, to be pointless, puerile, and in most cases, manipulative and antisocial. I had a Facebook account for a couple of years I believe, begun solely to suss out some things for my employment at the time, and I made an effort to ‘use’ it socially while I had it. Long story short: it did nothing for either the employer or myself, and I dumped it the moment I left that place anyway – that was eleven years ago. Even during that time, I wasn’t at all pleased with the outright statement that if I posted photos, Facebook could use them as they saw fit, essentially denying copyright. So even the supposed benefit of ‘exposure’ (which is a standing joke among photographers and artists) was thwarted when I refused to post anything that I found really decent.

    In the time since, all the stories about the tracking of personal info and habits, and the security breaches and outright manipulation of its users, came as no surprise, only convincing me that I never should have even contemplated making an account in the first place. Watching the amount of blatant misinformation and distinct mob behavior that has arisen since makes me wonder why anyone even bothers.

    And then there’s this. Frances Haugen used to work at Facebook, and provided a ton of information to the federal government about their practices, and then allowed 60 Minutes to do an interview. The basic upshot of it all is, Facebook targeted and maximized its shitty content, regardless of any demonstrable inaccuracy and well aware of the negative affects on the users and to society at large, because it enhanced time on the site. In other words, fuck everybody, we’re making money.

    The faintly amusing bit about this is how it’s being reported on the various news providers, which followed the exact same business plan for decades – perhaps not to this extent or with as precise data about the impact, but let’s face it: getting people pissed off has been a priority of news media for a very long time. There has not be an unbiased news source for at least my lifetime, probably since just after its inception (look up William Randolph Hearst for giggles,) but granted, some sources are a hell of a lot worse than others. For both social media and choice of news outlets, too many people consider ‘the lesser of two evils’ to therefore be okay, citing the reasons why some alternate source or outlet is to be despised, but quite frankly, if they all suck even a little bit, why patronize them at all?

    Now, I never got into the entire begging for feedback and validation thing, and never felt that I needed to display the minutia of my life nor see anyone else’s, so I really cannot fathom the appeal of social media in the slightest. On occasion, I find that some participant or other says something amusing or pithy with some regularity, obtained peripherally through other websites, and have briefly contemplated whether directly ‘following’ them might be more entertaining, but immediately realize that all of the interesting content quickly gets disseminated to those peripheral outlets anyway, so why bother?

    So, here’s my recommendation: dump it all. For a month, or even a week. Forget about the inane horseshit that people post, and suppress the urge to post your own. Just try it. See what happens. See if not hearing about where Rob-Bob and Antibella went for dinner really makes a difference in your life. Enjoy the moment, not the potential to brag about your trip to the southernmost point on the continental US (people have already seen it anyway.) Did some politician say something? Yeah, they blather a lot, but never really provide anything useful. Did something make you angry? Chances are very good that it was intended to do so, and you’re simply playing into the game.

    Most especially, live your own life, not the life that anyone wants to dictate to you. Don’t feel obligated to fit into some preconception of ‘social’ expectations, and the amount of views/likes/attaboys/shiny little gold-colored paper stars doesn’t make the faintest difference to anyone. Don’t take my word for it – find out for yourself.

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