Friday, September 30, 2011

How about those eyes?

My local crop of Oak Treehoppers has maintained its position on my Black Oak trees ever since September 8, when I first spotted them. These nymphs have about doubled in size, and still have their brilliant coloration. They are about 6 mm long, halfway to adult size. They hardly move at all. The adult mama that perches nearby rarely moves either. When I poke her with a leaf or pine needle, she'll fluff her wings a little, but mostly crawls to the far side of the twig. She does that when I approach with my camera, too. Basically, pretty unflappable. Rarely cause any harm to the trees, and this year there are so few that it's safe to say they cause no harm at all.
I hope some of these will mature to the adult form that has red and white longitudinal stripes. That would be prettier than the current mom of the group which is sort of olive drab with pale yellow spots.

Been watching bugs too long!

While everyone else is photographing the fall colors emerging on our broadleaf trees, I guess I've gotten a little carried away staring at our myriad species of insects and spiders. A friend showed me what happens. I might need to get back to looking at leaves and flowers, and get some skin cream and dark glasses.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall Colors Getting More Intense

The top three photos today are of a small plant I spotted in a dry ditch near Quincy. It looks to me like a member of the nightshade family (tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers, and poisonous nightshade, among others), but I'm not sure. Click on a photo for a close-up. An elegant berry. Anyone recognize it?
The bottom three photos are a sampler of the fall colors appearing rapidly around Quincy: Oregon Grape, Maple, and Virginia Creeper. The native maples in town, Bigleaf Maple and Mountain Maple, tend to turn yellow or brown, but the many non-native types often get brilliant red and orange. There are too many non-native maples around town for me to keep up with - Silver, Norway, Sugar, etc., etc. One of Quincy's great features in the fall, and they're just getting started.

Winter Readiness

Sometimes I enjoy Fall as an entity in itself, but most of the time I think of Fall as "getting ready for winter." That feeling can alternate between a sense of foreboding and one of excitement, depending on day to day events. I love photographing bees and bee-like flies, but if I get stung, the mood changes.
This post is headed by two photos of an oak tree in front of Papa's Donuts in East Quincy. I show off this tree - actually two trees - every fall because it displays more spectacular fall color than any other oak tree I've seen. As of yesterday, it sported two small clusters of flame-red leaves while most of the trees remain green. The next photo down is of a bee-fly on Chicory, the latter being a roadside wildflower that persists until the first snow or afterwards. The wolf spider in the next photo was seen in my friend's studio where it is undoubtedly making winter preparations. Next is a close-up of the type of Mistletoe that grows on conifers, this one seen on the trunk of a huge Ponderosa Pine. The Ambush bug, one of my favorite photo subjects, seems to rest on composites most of the time. All the ones I've seen this summer and fall have been on daisies, as shown here, and tansy as featured several times in recent posts. This head-on view shows the powerful-looking front pair of legs. Would be a great model for sci-fi thrillers. Last is a praying mantis egg case spotted on a window frame at the Co-op. I check daily, hoping to catch the emergence of hundreds of babies. They are "born" as miniature adults. Mantises 1/4" long a very cute. Oops! A friend and fellow naturalist just reminded me they don't hatch until spring. I'd have a long, cold wait. I just hope no window-cleaning person dispatches them.
I titled this post "Winter Readiness" because I'm reminiscing on an issue of the Green Mountain Gazette than ran 30 years ago and which we called our "winter readiness issue." The cover photo was one I took of my son Dave splitting firewood. I'm still in the middle of splitting firewood this fall and many of my photos are the result of my discovering interesting bug larvae in the logs, then getting distracted and wandering around the neighborhood with my camera. I hope you enjoy the results.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mike's Yard Again

He wasn't exaggerating! The largest cap is probably 9 inches across. Lots of growth since I last saw it a couple of days ago. Lots of other beautiful goings on, too. A Crimson Columbine in a shady spot is still putting out blossoms as fresh as in spring time. The pansies are stil looking great. They are actually domesticated violets. The red dragonfly, a species I never see at my house, seems to be the dominant type here on Chandler Road. And finally, a healthy crop of cherry tomatoes. Too many errands today, so I was on the run, but this half hour visit was rewarded by may great sights.

More Front Yard Stuff

Hectic day, but I can't walk to the car without scanning my yard for photo ops. I planned to get a shot of the fungus in my lawn that has grown about 3 inches taller since my last post and has acquired some sort of tunneling bug, but on the way, I tipped over a small board and saw a pill bug shedding. I've been watching pill bugs all my life and until today had never seen one shedding. It was exciting. And, I was hooked. I had to look at a couple of my other favorite activity spots and got shots of earwigs, spiders, and a dense colony of ants. A few samples are posted here. Then I headed off to Mike's yard based on rumors that his lawn fungus is growing like crazy.

Beauty in Disease?

My son found this leaf of Bigleaf Maple in the woods near our house and brought it home. We both found it beautiful. Some sort of fungus or lichen (black splotches) seems to have affected the rate at which chlorophyll disappears and reveals the yellow pigments that were previously masked by the green. Seems like a good model for camouflage clothing. Click on the photo once or twice for an enlargement and a better view of the details.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Still Video Clip

I almost titled this post "A Remarkable Piece of Engineering" or "A Remarkable Piece of Architecture," but those titles implied the existence of an engineer or architect, and I don't believe this critter was designed with forethought. Instead, it was a product of the greatest story on Earth, natural selection. I decided to call it a still video clip because I don't yet have the facility (in both senses of the word) to produce videos but the experience of taking a rapid sequence of stills of this critter felt like shooting a video. You'll have to use your imagination to get the video effect. I suggest clicking on each photo, once or twice, from the top down, and studying the details.
When I first turned over the 2-foot long piece of 2x6, I startled the centipede, but it was still cool enough that it didn't immediately run for cover. I carefully replaced the board then ran for my camera. When I got back, it was still there. It rather slowly (for a centipede) searched around in several directions for a place to find another dark hiding place. In some of the photos the head is a bit blurry while the tail is sharply focused, indicating that the head end was waving about, left and right, while the eyes and antennae participated in the search. Once it decided which way to run, it straightened out and sped up. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the wave pattern of its many legs (or are they arms?). As I've written here before, it is quite interesting to compare the wave pattern of centipedes and millipedes.
Did you hear the one about the two centipedes in love who went for a walk hand in hand in hand in hand in hand.....?

Another Woodpile Wonder

I think every kid loves crickets. But, then what happens? I found this beauty while scrambling to get my firewood under cover after hearing rainstorm warnings. I took it out to the lawn for a better background for my photo. Then I did a little internet research. Seems like a large group of kids grew up to hate crickets and become exterminators. Google mostly provided websites of exterminators. Booooo! Try googling "cricket anatomy" and you'll find all sorts of neat drawings of the common cricket types.
This one is usually called a camel cricket. Note, it has no wings and is tan. The field crickets, which are dark brown or black and have wings are the ones whose songs you hear at night. They both make good fish bait as well as food for your pet lizards. Nice antennae. Everyone asks me, "What's that pointy thing in back?" Most likely an ovipositor, although I'm not positive. The little appendages on either said of the base of the ovipositor are cerci (singular = cercus). Had an amusing time when I "googled" (when will it officially become a verb?) cercus and cerci and the browser gods insisted I was trying to find "circus." These are usually sensory organs, but in the case of earwigs, which have very large ones, they may serve as weapons.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Great Day for Bugs

These two photos are a hint of what a wonderful day it was for sightseeing in nature. Everywhere I saw tansy it was covered with grasshoppers and a bug I don't know, and, in one place a mating pair of Ambush Bugs. The Oak Treehoppers on my driveway oaks have been on the same branch for over two weeks. I assume the young ones are growing ever so slowly, but I was not able to measure them. I'd estimate these were about 1/4" long at most. Incredible pattern makes them look like little mechanical toys. More photos from today's adventures will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

In-town Wilderness for the Gourmet

Had a wonderful lunch today at Cafe Le Coq (This is not a paid ad!), celebrating our 25th anniversary four days late. Not only was the food excellent, the outdoor surroundings were right up my alley. Sort of like having all the aesthetic qualities of my favorite jungle without any of the dangers. Great flowers, both cultivated and invasive. (I hate to use that word for beautiful weeds.) A beautiful Calico cat which I imagined to be a tiger, and a variety of attractive shrubs and small trees. A great little hideaway in the middle of town.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Friend's Yard

I was really proud of my lawn fungus until I saw Mike's. A fellow nature lover, he does keep his yard looking nice, but due to a good location with enough sun and water, the inevitable visitors show up to make things more interesting than a so-called pristine lawn. I've photographed many interesting insect visitors to his flowers and now some of the broad-leaf trees and shrubs are showing the first signs of fall colors. The Oregon Grape (third photo from top) is showing some briliant red leaves and is a popular resting place for several different butterflies. His maples are starting to turn red, too. I'll photograph those during my next visit. This coming weekend I plan to do more drawing and painting than photographing, so look for a corresponding change in my postings soon.