Brief public appearance

I ventured out today, partially to get some exercise, partially to see what there might be to photograph, but mostly to see if I could find any mantis egg cases. I was completely foiled in that primary goal, not spotting even one, but I snagged a handful of photos, including some most unexpected, so not a total loss. But yes, the quest for egg cases goes on…

For now, we have what can be found around here in the winter, even though it peaked around 21°c today.

backlit puffy seed spire of unidentified weed
I don’t know what this is, but there were plenty of them around Mason Farm Biological Reserve, and this one was catching the right light. I was out fairly late in the afternoon, at least according to the height of the sun, which had to be blocked from the lens by my hat to prevent glare in the image, despite the lens hood. Granted, this was with the Canon 18-135 so the ‘tulip’ lens hood is of very limited use in such circumstances – better than nothing, but hardly adequate.

[The reasoning behind this is, at the widest/shortest focal length, any typical lens hood would intrude into the frame around the corners because of the wide field of view, so lens hoods for wide angle lenses are cut in such a way that they will not intrude. But this leaves a lot of room for the sun to intrude, which is what lens hoods are there to prevent, so in many cases they do nothing.]

Another backlit shot:

dried seed pod, possibly milkweed, still retaining fluffy seeds
I didn’t closely examine this seed pod to confirm that it was milkweed (genus Asclepias,) because I was being fartsy and not sciencey, but it looks like it to me, with some other weed photobombing the frame. Why the seeds haven’t dispersed yet, I don’t know, but I think they have this appearance from the rains a few days back, which may have stuck them together and hindered their wafting away. I liked the stark look anyway. By the way, the fluffy bit is often called floss, but also goes by the labels of silk, coma, or pappus, while some of the seeds themselves can be seen towards the bottom of the frame, faintly out of focus. This is the hard-hitting information that you come here for.

blue-grey seed pods flowers of unidentified weed
same image in more neutral lightOf course, immediately after saying that, I present a weed that I’m not bothering to look up, but it has a pretty cool slate blue color. This was enhanced a bit by the lighting conditions, since the camera was still set for sunlight though I was shooting in open shade by this point, so the original image is tinted by the blueish light that results. Thus I tweaked it, at right, to be closer to what the colors looked like in white light – still fairly blue, but a lot closer to grey – they remained distinctive because there wasn’t a hint of brown therein, unlike virtually every other dried flower or seed pod, or leaf or stem, in the landscape. Might have looked pretty cool in a dried flower arrangement, if you’re into that kind of thing. Notably, it was not a mantis egg case, which is what I’m into, so I did not collect any.

But then, while I was playing in the editing program, I took the color-corrected version and slammed the Saturation setting against the stops, which is rather abusive to such precision programming though there are times when it’s necessary. Or maybe not. But since the image wasn’t too saturated to begin with, the effect is not as cartoonish as it would be in many other images, and is actually kind of pleasant in color. Plus it gives me another image to upload for the year, which isn’t going to be anywhere near enough but it gets us less than a hundred away from last year’s mark.

What surprised me a little, on my return leg, was finding a bat enthusiastically circling one of the fields, definitely doing its little swoops and dives after insects – I would have thought the bats were all tucked in for the season, but this one, at least, proved how little I know. Smartass. So I endeavored to snag a decent photo, knowing this was going to be tricky because the bat was moving fast and semi-erratically, ranging between perhaps eight and eighty meters in distance in its perambulations, and far too small in the frame for autofocus to lock onto more than momentarily. Manual focus was necessary, though requiring constant correction, and zooming in too far to try and get the bat larger in the frame meant it was very hard to track its wild movements. I shot 65 frames in my attempts, to give you an idea, knowing that most of them would be worthless.

unconfirmed bat, probably little brown bat Myotis lucifugus, out of focus overhead
This is full frame on one of its closest approaches, nearly right overhead, at a focal length of 428mm, about the best that I could get away with – you can see that focus isn’t tight, and the motion didn’t help. There were too few features visible to pin down a species accurately, but the size and prevalence in the area suggest the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus.) I could track its movement for a few seconds at a time at best, longer at greater distances of course – as it got close, this dropped to no more than a second, every time. Bats more intent on snagging food than maintaining predictable geometric accuracy in their flight paths, which is just selfish.

But, I did get one frame that wasn’t completely unacceptable.

unconfirmed bat, probably little brown bat Myotis lucifugus, in dynamic pose
If I had to pick one angle to get sharp, it would be this one, so I’m satisfied – not ecstatic, but pleased that I got something to keep. This is a significantly tighter crop from the original frame, and just to let you know, if my species guess is correct, the wings are in the realm of 20cm across in this frame – the little brown bat averages more (22cm or so,) but they’re not fully extended here. And there’s even a little shaping from the fading light, instead of being a complete silhouette. I’m still looking to get better shots of a bat in flight, but this will do for now, especially given that it was taken in late December.

Tomorrow, by the way, marks the 13th anniversary of the first post, so it requires something, probably something related to thirteen. Well, it requires not a damn thing, but it’s an excuse to keep posting in the slow season, plus (maybe) making me get out again, so we’ll succumb to silly number recognition in this case. You know, for you.

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