Sunday, August 2, 2020


Before Dumbledore was the famous surname of the headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it was a British dialect word for bumble bee. According to, there are 46 species of bumble bees in North America. This one is a common eastern bumblebee, Bombus impatiens.
This is one of my favorite "dumbledores," a golden northern bumble bee, Bombus fervidus. Click to enlarge.
In the 1866 book Description of the Habitations of Animals, Classed According to Their Principle Construction, the author, John George Wood, says: "Any Humble-bee, no matter what species, is known as a Bumble-bee, a Foggie, a Dumbledore, or a Hummel-bee, according to the peculiar dialect of the locality." This is the brown belted bumble bee Bombus griseocollis.
J.K. Rowling said, during an interview on WBRU Radio in 1999: "Dumbledore is an old English word meaning bumblebee. Because Albus Dumbledore is very fond of music, I always imagined him as sort of humming to himself a lot." This is the two-spotted bumble bee, Bombus bimaculatus.
There are dumbledores in J.R.R. Tolkien's poem "Errantry," first published in 1933. An excerpt from the longer poem that describes the events of a hero's jouriney is below, and two more common eastern bumble bees in a rose, above.

"He battled with the Dumbledors,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb;
and running home on sunny seas
in ship of leaves and gossamer 
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up
and burnished up his panoply." 

And, in honor of the onset of hot buggy August nights -- this guy, not a dumbledore but a humble fly, reenacting a line from yet another old poem that mentions a dumbledore. Below is "An August Midnight" by Thomas Hardy, published 1901.

"A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter -- winged, horned, and spined
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands... 

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space,
-- My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
"God's humblest they! I muse. Yet why?
The know Earth-secrets that know not I."

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Insects Close Up

The hot days of July are great for photographing insects. This bumble bee seems to be posing on the aster blossom, doesn't it?
I like to get close enough to imagine being enfolded in the pastel landscape of the flower, to be in the insect's world.  Click to enlarge.
See how the stamens seem to float in the center of this red daylily?
When a green sweat bee lands ...
It can look surreal.
Sometimes a photo reveals a lurking arthropod surprise. I was taking pictures of wild rose pagonia orchids like this one in the New Jersey pine barrens.
I was about to delete this shot because it's not sharply focused when I noticed that yellow blip on the petal.
Zoom surprise! The yellow blip is a crab spider.
And surprise within surprise! The spider is holding a tiny captured insect.
Uncomfortable weather for us out there right now. Good times for the insects.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Snowy Egrets

A snowy egret coming in for a landing.
Dramatic in flight. Click to enlarge.
Elegant at rest with stylish spikey breeding plumage.
Note the black bill, yellow face, yellow feet, and snow white feathers.
There are snowy egrets and lots of other birds right now at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville in Galloway Township, New Jersey. Here's a picture of the wide open spaces from the 8-mile one-way wildlife drive that loops through the refuge.
BUT... this is the season of the green head fly and they seem to be very hungry. As we went slowly bird-watching along the refuge road, flies followed the car and threw themselves against the glass, hoping to break in and feast on mammals. It was just a little bit like a horror film. But we stayed calm, stayed inside, and took photos like this one through the closed windows.

Sunday, July 12, 2020


I've been hunting for, and finding, carnivorous sundew plants in the New Jersey pine barrens. Three kinds grow there: spoonleaf, roundleaf, and threadleaf. The common names tell you the shapes to look for. All of them are covered with sticky tentacles that secrete mucilage that is attractive and deadly to insects. Click to enlarge this spoonleaf, also called oblong- or spatulate-leaved sundew, Drosera intermedia.
There are spoonleaf sundews growing all over this floating log. If an insects lands on one it will get trapped and digested and its nutrients will be absorbed.
The threadleaf sundew, Drosera filiformis, is slender and lovely.
And it has tiny delicate flowers that are open right now.
The one I have most trouble finding is the roundleaf sundew,
Drosera rotundifolia. It's small and low to the ground and blends in remarkably well for a bright red glittering thing. This whole plant is about two inches across.
Look for sundews in places like this.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Fourth of July!

A holiday meal of grapes for the red cardinal. He took every one of them home.
An elegant egret, white and sleek. Click to enlarge.
And a blue jay. (There's a color coded message here.)
Remember when the Grinch stole Christmas but it came anyway? Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Turkey Vulture

A turkey vulture showing off its good side.
The other side is pretty much the same. Notice how you can see right through the nose. It has no septum! The big nostrils plus a big olfactory lobe contribute to the turkey vulture's good sense of smell, which is uncommon among birds; it helps them locate the carrion they eat. Click to enlarge.
Grooming a feather. Keeping clean.
The red featherless face might not look great to us, but it makes it easier to clean up after sticking one's head inside carrion.
The turkey vulture. Well designed.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day and Happy Solstice

It's a two holiday weekend. Here is a handsome male mallard to wish everyone a happy father's day. Click to enlarge.
And a summer flower for the solstice that marks the longest day of the year. Remember in December when the sun was setting before 5:00? Around here, it's setting just after 8:30 these days. Yay!