Sunday, October 4, 2015

The brood is gone, mostly

We had a pretty intense rain and some lightening last night.  In one of my best Treehopper observation sites, all that's left is one mama and one juvenile.  The lighting was just right, so this ends up being one of my favorite photos of the season.

Default Flowers, Part II

 For an explanation of this set of flower photos, scroll down to my previous post.  All the flowers were within a 5-foot radius in front of Patti's Thunder.  The last photo in the series is my idea for an avant garde ad for Dish Network. 

Default Flowers, Part I

 Maybe default isn't the right word for it, but it's how I felt when I took these photos.  You see, when I was having lunch with a friend at Patti's Thunder around 1:00, it was warm and sunny.  Not a cloud in the sky.  We were outside, next to the flower garden, and there were dozens of insects visiting the flowers, courting, etc., and I vowed to get my camera after lunch and come back for some insect photography.  I was particularly intent on photographing the Cabbage Whites that were abundant, and mating in mid-air.  By the time I got back, the day was unraveling.  A storm was moving in.  It got cloudy and cooler very fast, and all the bugs were gone.  Well, I guess I can celebrate Patti's great work of art after all, even though I missed the bugs.
 Marigolds, Nasturtiums, and many other bright ones adorn this fairly small space beneath the grape vines that are producing well.  This is part I of two sets of Patti's flowers.  I'll be back during the next warm spell.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What was going on a year ago?

 During the first weekend in October, 2014, the Oak Treehoppers were active, as they are now.  But, I
 was way behind in my firewood splitting.  I found these cedar rounds photogenic, so I took a break and got my camera.
 I then wandered down the driveway a bit and found these huge fungi erupting through the pine needles.  The second one pictured here got a little assist from me.  I saw a mound forming in the pine needles, so I carefully scraped some out of the way.  In a matter of days, there were 6 or 7 of these large beauties in the area, probably all parts of the same fungus connected beneath the surface of the ground.  So far this year, there's no sign of them, but I do think I'll go check this afternoon.
 On my way back up the driveway, the sun broke through a hole in the clouds and I got one more nice shot of the Treehoppers.  I decided to play with them a while.
 These last two photos show their size from another perspective and show that they are not to be feared.

Still Sucking

 Sucking Sapr from The California Black Oak, that is.

 And sucking the last bit of moisture from dry ground.  These were taken before Thursday's rain, so there might be a little sense of recovery out there.  I'll do some wandering with camera to find out.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

One could do worse....

 "When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice storms do....."

I first became a "swinger of birches" when I was around 15 years old and growing up in New England.  I was in college before I realized I had not discovered the art and science of carefully climbing nearly to the top of slender, flexible birches and, just at the right moment, thrusting my body out sideways and bending the birch to the ground.  The first time it happened it was by accident and I thought I would die.  Since I survived, I quickly learned more about the characteristics of birches and would repeat the ride on purpose.  I'd bend dozens of birches to the ground.  When I let go, they'd spring back a little bit, but remain bent for a day or two.  It was fun to come back in a couple of days and see all the bent birches fully recovered and ready for another round of bending.
     Around 30 years ago, when my middle son was 15, we were in the foothills of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, close to Robert Frost's homestead, and I had the opportunity to introduce my son to the bending of birches.   Today, as I walked out to my car, I experiences a sudden wave of nostalgia as I saw our bent birch.  It never fully recovered from the ice storm that struck several years ago.  This storm was caused by neighbor's snow blower as hundreds of pounds of what we locals call Sierra cement were thrown at the tree, bending it all the way down until it rested on the garage roof.  The above photo shows the extend to which it has recovered.  It will never be able to give us thrill rides, just memories.
   Frost's poem, Birches, written a generation before I was born, is evidence that I did not invent the practice.  He ends the poem with "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches," and I totally agree.  Between the opening lines quoted above and the closing line, there is much food for thought and I revisit this poem often.
 Here are some close-ups showing how there are parts of the tree whose leaves are turning bright yellow, and other parts remain a fresh green.  This is the same tree on which I've photographed the Red-breasted Sapsucker every summer.  Our cats like to climb it, but they aren't heavy enough to bend it. 
I wonder if young boys or girls still bend birches, or even play outside.  One could do worse.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Nature Study

 One of the advantages of having a good background in nature lore is that when you're doing a mundane task like splitting firewood or raking leaves, you're much more likely than the average person to see something interesting, like this Leaf-footed Bug hanging onto a catkin of our birch tree.
 One of the disadvantages of having a good background in nature lore is that when you're doing an important task like splitting firewood or raking leaves, you're much more likely than the average person to see something interesting, like this Leaf-footed Bug hanging onto a catkin of our birch tree.