Tripod holes 36

brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis on roof of Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier, Florida
N 25° 1’56.73″ W 80°30’14.18″ Google Earth location

It’s easy to think that it’s almost a waste of time providing this location, because nothing like this brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is likely to be found there 99% of the time, but this may not be true; this was taken within the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier, a facility for both wild bird rehabilitation and the care of captive, unreleasable avians. It was, specifically, on the roof near a large ‘public’ area for the birds, where many rehabilitated patients congregated to receive food handouts, able to be off on their own but, in many cases, unwilling to leave until their flock passed back through on their migrations. Or simply unwilling to leave because free food and no other immediate demands, of which many of the truly wild, uninjured local birds would partake as well, when they could get away with it. The staff tended to recognize their former charges, though, and avoided feeding the freeloaders. So was this a recovered patient, or a wild bird hoping to snag an easy meal? You got me, but it was the closest I’d been to a brown pelican, providing a nice portrait pose, and I’m pretty sure is still the closest that I’ve managed, 24 years later.

This spot also provided the first, and so far only, time that I’ve seen a great white heron, and following the paths down to the sound provided a nice tableau, as well as one of the images still in use on my business cards – I had just decided on the “Wading-In” name and so was keeping an eye out for example images. The opportunities are rife, is what I’m saying, and it’s an easy stop on your way through the Keys, so no reason to let it slide past. Not to mention that the cause is a good one, so be sure to donate a few bucks while there – or, you know, even if you don’t get the chance to go.

Até nos encontrarmos novamente, August!

possible dwarf palmetto Sabal minor fronds
I realized after posting the previous that I was breaking a trend/tradition/absolutely pointless practice that I’ve been upholding since 2018 – namely, seeing August out in a foreign (to me) language. Far be it from me to question or buck traditions, even ones that I inadvertently created, so we have another month-end-abstract. This time, however, we have one of the oldest, at least in digital form, dating from 2004 in Florida – I’m too lazy to dig out the oldest abstract slide that I have, much less negative, and scan that. Maybe next year…

Not an August pair

it is but it isn’t, you know what I’m saying? Mostly isn’t. Yet it’s the end of the month, and that peculiar obligation that exists only in my decrepit mind says it’s time for the end of the month abstract. Except, I shot so little this month, and even less of it abstract or fartsy in any way, that all we have is this:

sweet basil Ocimum basilicum leaves with probable red-banded leafhopper Graphocephala coccinea aboard
Not exciting, but at least the sweet basil in the back is doing well, though this patch does not seem to have any anoles to keep down the leafhoppers like that in the upper corner. The overall shaping was good even in the natural light.

And another, from earlier today:

patch of altocumulus clouds
Yeah, I know, but it’s evidence of the passing of Tropical Storm Idalia, which gave us a few gusts and light rain, but we’re well outside of the track here so that was no surprise.

That’s two half-ass abstracts, which makes one wholly ass abstract, right? I think that’s how it works…

Scratch that

Remember when I said (yesterday, more or less) that the little anole on the front hydrangea knew what it was doing in choosing a concealed spot to sleep?


juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis sleeping almost vertically on wet oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia leaf
Let’s see here: centered directly on exposed leaf, not even adequate cover from rain, failure to blend in with background, near-vertical position… D minus. The only credit it gets is for being centered and potentially blending into main leaf vein, but I could see this guy from the road, so…

And when I say near-vertical, I’m not kidding:

juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis sleeping almost vertically on wet oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia leaf
I backed off a little to do a more establishing shot, and ensured that the camera was held dead-level, so you weren’t seeing any odd camera angle in the previous image. Didn’t even pick a leaf that had backup beneath it. Ah well.

I took a quick peek out back too, and found nothing until I was on my way back in.

green treefrog Dryophytes cinereus perched on storm door
This guy looked like he was waiting for me to return, so I made sure I got a decent portrait before I went through that same door. And as I did so, it turned to face me still, probably entranced by the headlamp, but hey – maybe the desire of fame was that great.

green treefrog Dryophytes cinereus peering forlornly through storm door glass
C’mon, how was I gonna pass this up? Makes me think I gotta check the pet store to see if they have frog biscuits…

Just a little more

The rains finally came, and did so with vigor I must say, and while I was out last night doing some basic yard maintenance, they started up again while I was finding a couple of subjects to photograph. Thus, I went back out with a poncho on both myself and the camera to do a handful of shots (this was when it had slacked off to a half-hearted drizzle, and not the sideways walls of water that we’d had earlier.)

First off was noting that the molted exoskeleton from a few days before was still snagged in some webbing on a Japanese maple.

molted exoskeleton from Carolina mantis Stagmomantis carolina snagged in web in Japanese maple
There wasn’t a reason to photograph this initially and I noted it in passing, but immediately afterward found another exoskeleton in the same tree, and so had to do the establishing shot. The new exoskeleton was of a spider, however – then I realized it wasn’t.

unidentified orbweaver hanging head-down in Japanese maple during rains
Well, it was, but not an empty one like I initially thought. This was instead a live spider hanging out waiting for the rains to cease, and I’m not going to try to identify it here because I didn’t capture enough detail – I feel comfortable saying it’s some kind of orbweaver, because I take comfort in such things. The raindrops were a necessary detail of course, even suspended in the web. By the way, there was no sign of this guy any time I looked today – don’t know where it got to.

I decided to check on someone in the front yard as I was already out with the rain gear. One of the smaller Carolina anoles (Anolis carolinensis) has been found now and then on the front oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia,) and so it’s part of my routine patrol when I’m out. I’ll provide a photo snagged nine days back, that I didn’t post then, but when the anole was being its most obvious:

juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis perched on empty branches of oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia flower cluster
Like I said earlier, from the size I suspect this is last year’s brood, sprawled across the empty
twigs that supported the former flower cluster, hanging way out in space with total unconcern. However, every time I’ve spotted it since, its done a much better job of concealing itself, usually to the point that I either never see it, or it’s hidden enough that photos aren’t really worth the effort – yet, it greatly favors the end of this one main branch of the hydrangea. The previous night, it had the tip of its nose, with one eye visible, peeking out from under a leaf, still fast asleep, but when I returned some time later with the camera it had withdrawn its head and just the tail was visible. This was the same circumstance last night, in the exact same location, right before the monsoon struck, and I figured the fierce storm would have driven the tiny reptile into deeper cover, but a couple hours later during the light drizzle, it could still be seen in the same position.

juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis sleeping under leaves of oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia
Unfortunately at this resolution the finer raindrops still adhering to its haunches aren’t very visible, but this was enough to indicate that it had probably weathered the storm that way. I tried, from multiple angles, to get a peek at the face, with no luck.

juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis sleeping under leaves and flowers of oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia after rain
You can just see one front foot peeking out from under a flower petal, but the petal edges were down tight to the leaf, forming an adequate shelter I guess, and nothing of its body or head showed anywhere. It knows what its doing.

It had been nearly three weeks without a drop of rain, all while the sun was beating down (well, during the day at least) and temperatures peaked in the 30s while not dropping too low at night, and the various plants were all suffering from it. This also meant that wildlife activity was at a minimum, as was mine – I was taking care of routine yard tasks but unwilling to spend much time stalking subjects, even at night. Not sure this has changed much right now, but at least the ground is saturated and the plants will be happier.

Tripod holes 35

Nancy Wilson performing in Heart during Bad Animals Tour, Rochester War Memorial, October 17 1987
N 43° 9’14.23″ W 77°36’39.52″ Google Earth location.

This is Nancy Wilson with the band Heart performing at the Rochester War Memorial, the first concert that I ever attended, and because of an open audience area, no seating whatsoever, I was able to get fairly close to the stage so that my pathetic little Wittnauer Challenger and its 50mm lens could actually achieve a halfway-decent concert photo. This took some effort, because of course everyone was crowding the stage, and the press of bodies was damn near the same as if we’d been stacked horizontally instead of standing (mostly) upright. They largely don’t do that now, because it’s ripe conditions for accidents, not to mention groping and all that (though somehow I remained free of molestation myself, probably because no one then knew how famous a nature photographer I’d become.)

It was almost entirely luck that this image came out as well as it did, though I made the effort to frame it as well as conditions allowed and certainly sweated out a couple liters in the exertion necessary, but having enough light and no noticeable motion blur was pure chance. Cameras were even disallowed in the arena, but we didn’t know that until we arrived (there being no internet and no word about this when we purchased the tickets,) but the bouncers at the gate took a look in the backpack we had and let us pass through, more likely watching for ‘professional’ rigs with longer lenses, or perhaps not giving a damn anyway.

This one bumped slightly ahead in the lineup while I was doing a little research. It could have been posted very close to exactly 36 years after it was taken, since I know the date: October 17, 1987, during the Bad Animals Tour. However, Ann Wilson, Nancy’s sister and thus co-founder of Heart, is presently touring with her band Tripsitter and will be playing in Syracuse at the NY State Fairgrounds just three days from now – that’s as close as they’ll come to this tripod holes location. The two had actually planned to reunite Heart for a 50th anniversary (!!) tour this year, but apparently couldn’t agree on the lineup, and so Ann is touring with her own band and Nancy may yet appear with Heart sometime next year. If you’re as old as I am, you may want to keep checking the music news.


So, at ten PM I realized that I had that last post to put up, and ten older posts to correct in the database (mostly page break stuff,) with commensurate corrections to the text files of each post that I maintain, and the database to download as a backup and archive, and check all six e-mail accounts through the webmail interface for things going into spam that shouldn’t have, all before my deadline of midnight. On top of that, I found that, for the first time ever, a scheduled post (preceding this one by two,) had somehow not posted, showing as “Missed Schedule” in WordPress. Dunno how that happened, but I had to correct the scheduled posting time for that too.

All done now, as well as downloading a new 3D printer part and converting that into the .gcode file for printing, and starting that on the printer. I began this post at 12:04 with all that under my belt. Is the guy slick or what?

Handful of night

Found a couple of subjects while poking around tonight, but only had very short periods of time to capture them, which I’ll explain in a moment. So this is what you get.

First off, I found that the spiny assassin (genus Sinea,) still occupying the basil plant, was polishing off a meal which looked a little odd, so I quickly went inside and got the reversed Sigma 28-105 and the flash unit. Oh, and the camera. We’ll start with a wider shot.

spiny assassin Sinea nymph with likely spittlebug Cercopoidea nymph prey
Reasonable detail from the body this time, and even the developing wings are visible, but this is still a nymph. It got its big ugly ogre-club foreleg in the way, but I was able to shift vantage a bit for a better look (largely accomplished by turning the pot and tipping it up onto a rock so I could sit on the ground for stability.) Before we go any further, we’ll go in closer on that head.

close up profile of head of spiny assassin Sinea
This is not quite full resolution, and required a bit of luck because I could not resolve this detail in the viewfinder to know when I had sharpest focus – this is one of several frames. Also, the batteries of the headlamp that I was using to focus were running down. I did some specific measurements this time: the overall length (proboscis to end of abdomen) of the assassin was just 9mm, and the visible portion of the head seen here is 2mm. Give or take ten percent – I couldn’t actually clamp a micrometer on it. You can see we’re at the limits of what the lens can do, some distortion already creeping in, but I snagged the facets of the eye, so I’m pleased enough with that.

Now we get a better look at its capture:

spiny assassin Sinea nymph with captured likely spittlebug Cercopoidea nymph
I’ll be honest, I thought on first look that it had captured a tiny snail, mostly because of how shiny the prey was, but I also couldn’t see the tucked legs until I achieved this angle. I recognized that big ‘nose’ (I believe it’s called the frons) and initially thought it might be a cicada nymph, getting excited for a moment because I’ve never seen one in the stage after hatching, before they burrowed underground for development, but then I recalled another species which I’d photographed many moons ago, and the shininess is pretty indicative. This is likely a spittlebug nymph, especially since I’d already seen the drippy evidence of them on the same plant earlier – if you’ve ever found clusters of foam on plants and wondered what it was, it was the protective traits of these guys, and that link above will provide plenty more views. There are at least three separate species that I’ve found in the area, which all belong to the Superfamily Cercopoidea, so that’s as much as I can offer right now.

At full resolution:

likely spittlebug Cercopoidea nymph captured by spiny assassin Sinea
All that KY Jelly is its own product, mostly the sap that it draws from the plants, which it then pumps full of air bubbles and surrounds itself with for protection – it didn’t work in this case. You can’t see it here, but this little spud has its own proboscis like the assassin, only it uses it instead to suck out plant juices. And check out the little horseshoe-shaped spurs on the legs to clamp onto the plants.

Moving to the back yard now, I spotted some newly-drying wings peeking out from under the leaves of one of the Japanese maples, and then spent a frustrating couple of minutes trying for a decent photo as the headlamp got dimmer and dimmer. This is the best I managed:

final instar adult Carolina mantis Stagmomantis carolina just after molting
This is a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina,) about half the size of the much more prevalent Chinese mantids, and the first I’ve seen in weeks. I didn’t even spot the molted exoskeleton at first, but the faintly translucent blue tint to the wings told me to look for it, because that only shows right after molting. This specimen was well aware that I was around and likely concerned about its exoskeleton being not fully hardened, and repeatedly danced around out of a clear view while I vied for a good position. Add in that I just had the Sigma lens which is for extreme closeup work and doesn’t provide as wide a view as the Mamiya, plus it’s fixed at f16 which was no help at all with the dimming light. It was fun (meaning, it involved a bit of cursing, but that’s not even uncommon with me.)

Coming back up the steps, I glanced up and saw the moon peeking through the clearing clouds. Mr Bugg is presently doing a long sequence of moon shots which you can only see if he’s friended you on FaceBlerck, since he’s abandoned his blog now – I don’t so social media. But he challenged me to get my own shots, which I’ve neglected up until it showed tonight through a small gap in the trees. Small gap – I knew it wouldn’t last long, what with the earth still spinning and all that, so I quickly got the long lens and tripod.

waxing gibbous moon just beyond first quarter
My position at the top of the steps was very limited, the moon moving rapidly (well, as moons go) behind the leaves. This was one of the initial frames without the teleconverter, and more than acceptably sharp, but I’d had to shift the tripod into a slightly unstable position to get it because the legs were already at the edge of the deck. After adding the teleconverter, I was already too late.

waxing gibbous moon getting shadowed by overlapping leaves
Without the preceding pic and a decent familiarity with the appearance of the moon, one might have missed how Maria Crisium, Fecunditatis, and Tranquilitatis got a bit darker, but it was just the leaves between the camera and the moon – my window was now closing. But hey, for a few minutes work (eighteen, to be exact, between the first and last images here,) I’m not complaining. Except about that uncooperative mantis…

Four years now

Yep, four years ago today, at roughly this very time, we cleverly captured The Monster and brought her home.

Monster, or Taz, posing in the door for her fourth year anniversary
Though, thinking about it, it might not have been so clever – it was far too easy, so she might have known exactly what she was doing. After all, there were absolutely no crinkle-ball toys to be found in the parking lot at work, while she has a fine selection of them here. And a sea-turtle bowl – let’s not forget that.

She has, admittedly, filled out a little:

new kitten looking vaguely suspicious
She’s slightly more inclined to snuggle up rather than creating havoc now, but only slightly. At times, she’s quite insistent on biting because she really wants to play rough and the other Boogs won’t let her. Neither will The Girlfriend, so I’m the last remaining option:

Monster getting in a quick slap fight
Even I won’t let her get too excited/rough, but I think she needs an outlet too, and she usually knows not to bite too hard. But keeping her claws trimmed is paramount.

Little else going on here right now. Due to warning signs from the workhorse computer, I ended up swapping it out for an upgraded (but still used) one – I don’t need all the bells and whistles and nothing I do is demanding, but I do need a bunch of SATA ports for the multiple drives. That, however, presented a handful of problems during the switch, including one drive that got altered (for no reason that I can determine) and showed as empty – it took a recovery program to rebuild the partition table and reveal that yes, it did indeed possess files. This was a few hours of diddy-fucking around, but I will say that it was considerably less of that than any Windows system I’ve messed with, and while Linux isn’t any better than Windows in the error message department, once the root issue could be determined, there’s almost always a readily-available tool to repair it.

[The system is a dual-boot with Linux Mint and Windows 7, because the film scanner only runs on Windows, and upon booting, Windows wanted to download new drivers for every damn thing – despite the fact that it already had them all save for the ethernet card. Go figure.]

Other than that, play-testing a few games for The Manatee, and tricking out several 3D models for printing and eventual uploading. Been staying busy, just not with stuff that shows here, is what I’m saying.

Out of practice

Man, I’ve hardly picked up the camera in days, and haven’t done any high-magnification macro work in weeks at least. My macro muscles were protesting. But I did a handful of frames today, so we have a smattering of content – kinda like the sweater you get for your birthday from a distant aunt who has no idea what you like. Hide your disappointment and try to look grateful.

Anyway, we have a little find on one of the (many) basil plants, seen here at full frame for scale and context.

spiny assassin genus Sinea nymph nestled among basil leaves
Looking like little more than a fragment of dead leaf, which is kinda the point, the nymph of a spiny assassin bug (genus Sinea) stands watch for other less-alert insects. Aside from not being able to see many details because of its size, it’s also a nymph, and distinguishing an exact species is next to impossible. There was enough detail in this frame, however, for a closer look.

spiny assassin genus Sinea nymph in closer detail
Thorny little cuss, isn’t it? And those antennae look like they got caught in the folding doors, but that’s how they be. Overall length wasn’t above 10mm, so those thorns might have been a deterrent for something the size of the newborn anoles, or they might not even have been up to that task – I have no idea what might prey on something like this.

Because it was in a nice accessible location and not likely to be going anywhere, I dug out the reversed Sigma 28-105 for some tight closeup work. Those pics were just adequate for a broader frame – I should have had more light to focus by, since the indirect daylight wasn’t enough and focus was ever-so-slightly off, but my heart wasn’t in it.

closer profile of nymph of spiny assassin genus Sinea
You can see the peace sign of the left foreleg spikes, way out of focus in the center of the frame, and recognize that these were roughly 3mm closer to the camera than the head, giving you an idea that depth-of-field is not impressive at this magnification, even at f16. But the proboscis is prominent, and used to drill through the exoskeleton of its prey. Maybe someday if I’m hardcore I’ll try to stake out something like this to photograph (or video) a capture, but I imagine that could take hours, and it’ll occur on a day much cooler than anything we’ve had in the past several weeks.

In other news, while I haven’t been shooting, I did update the ‘Favorites’ page, and added an entirely new one, ‘Shameless,’ because it was probably long overdue. It is nowhere near complete, I’m sure, but you can always find both in the top menu. And I’ve got a few other things in the works, though the Tripod Holes posts are now complete through September, with several more images in the lineup waiting for the accompanying text. I’m not that lazy, in other words. Smile and say, “Thank you, Uncle Al.”

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