A mother’s day post

I mentioned earlier, I believe, that I had a few mantis egg sacs that I was watching to see if they’d hatch, the intention being (of course) to photograph their emergence in better detail than before. One of the sacs was in the front garden where most of my mantis images from the past two years have been shot, and a couple of young-uns, not apparently from any of the sacs I was watching, had been spotted several times on the day lily plants. Early Sunday morning, as I was attempting to point them out for The Girlfriend, we realized there were even more than we suspected – a lot more. A close examination of the sac showed a thin clump of the telltale chaff that signifies a hatching. Which is about as close as I’m ever going to get to motherhood.

Later that day, The Younger Sprog came around with some calla lilies for her mother, and one pot of these was placed in the front garden behind the day lily plants (not yet budding out.) So this morning as I was checking to see if the sac might be producing more eruptions, I glanced over at the calla lilies in the vague hope that one of the newborns would be perched on a blossom, since it would make a great setting, and I’ll be damned if one wasn’t there! Couldn’t let that opportunity pass.

newborn Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis on calla lily blossom
This little sprog was well aware of my presence and noticeably agitated by it, so I was struggling for good framing; within a handful of images the mantis leapt away onto a nearby leaf, so I’m glad I was able to take advantage of the opportunity.

newborn Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis on calla lily blossom
Scale should be fairly apparent with these images, but I’ll say again that the newborns are roughly 10mm in length, easy enough to miss with casual inspection. Since the lilies that they like so much are right alongside the front walk, I’m always self-conscious about even walking past, but to my observations they tend to maintain safe perches and almost never appear on the ground; even when they end up there after leaping away from danger, they quickly scramble for height on anything handy.

newborn Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis on calla lily blossom
This is my favorite of the handful of frames, nicely positioned among the curves of the blossom; it would be nicer if the mantis had been facing me, but whatcha gonna do?

True to my word, I have been keeping an eye on the red-shouldered hawk nest (Buteo lineatus,) and yesterday morning we also had confirmation that the young had hatched, getting a distant peek at two fluffy white heads poking above the rim of the nest to receive fragments of food from the mother. With the foliage fully developed now the light has gotten a tad worse, but this is hardly surprising; hawks are smart enough not to place their nests in broad sunlight where their chicks would be susceptible to overheating and being spotted by other marauding birds. So the images are not likely to get a lot better than this, unless I snag a sharper 500mm lens (or longer.) Don’t hold your breath.

mother red-shouldered hawk Buteo lineatus with newborn peeking from nest
It’s always hard to gauge distance in such circumstances, but the lens focus ring seemed to believe the nest was about 40 meters distant, ten meters shorter than my guestimate, so you can decide who you trust. Nevertheless, the female appeared to be well aware that I was standing in the backyard behind the tripod and watching her, because she kept her back to me every time she was feeding the babbies, looking back frequently to ensure that I wasn’t creeping closer. At one point after feeding, she stood on the rim of the nest and looked for all the world like she was peering at the bowl judiciously; she flew off a short time later and came back with a sprig of fresh leaves that she added to the nest.

My goal, of course, is to be around when the fledglings make their first attempts at flight; we’ll just have to see how lucky I get.

Just to round out the post theme, I have to include an image from the previous weekend at the nearby pond. I have way too many images of Canada geese (Branta canadensis,) but I couldn’t resist firing off a bunch of frames as a family took to the water in the glow of the setting sun; a little ducking and dodging afforded me an almost-clear view through the foliage. I got the geeseling, and that’s what counts.

Canada goose Branta canadensis family taking to the water