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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day!

Chincoteague wild ponies. Click to enlarge. 
"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature."

                               -- Antoine-François Prévost

Sunday, June 10, 2018

June

A cabbage white butterfly on vetch flowers. Click to enlarge. 
I am appreciating June right now -- the hot sun, cool shade, little breezes, and scents of honeysuckle and privet. This butterfly reminded me of this line from Pablo Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets:

Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month 
of June trembled like a butterfly. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sharpshooter!

Meet the Broad-headed Sharpshooter, Oncometopia orbona. Click to enlarge.
This large leaf hopper is called broad-headed for obvious reasons. There are a couple of competing stories about why it is called a sharpshooter. Maybe it is because it can defend itself by spitting a liquid stream of waste at an adversary, causing a diversion while making its getaway. Then again, it might be named for the magnificence of its accurate bullet-like long distance leaping powers. OR it just might be its stealthy way of disappearing like a military sharpshooter, tiptoeing to hide behind a tree to avoid detection when approached. 

I played a game of hide and seek with this one while trying to photograph her from behind or above. Every time I moved, she moved deftly to the opposite side of the stem and then froze, giving the impression she was tiptoeing -- or should I say tip-tarsus-ing? 

I say her, because what I noticed first about this bug was the bright white wings patches. Female sharpshooters of some species produce this stuff and then store it on their wings until they lay eggs. Then they scrape it off their wings to apply a protective coating to the eggs.


Well met, Ms. Sharpshooter!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Happy Memorial Day!

Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey. Click to enlarge.
Soldier rest! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking. 

from Soldier, Rest! Thy Warfare o'er
by Sir Walter Scott 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Feisty Egrets

Here's a lovely snowy egret with gold feet on display and plumes blowing in the wind.  It's  in a great fishing spot near the outflow from a water gate at one of the ponds at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville, New Jersey. 
It's a spot worth defending, apparently, and any unwary egret that gets too close gets chased.  The  one on the right looks cowed, doesn't it? "OK OK -- I'm going already!"
But egret #2 did not move fast enough and ended up getting a kwok-yelling, wing-beating, flying jump directed at him. 
Then a couple of others showed up and got the same treatment. "Go on, get out of here!"
Ok. Alone at last. Back to fishing. 
Until the next interloper arrived! 
There were interludes of unexpected synchronized flying. Very nice! 
Then finally alone again. This bird looks to me like it would grumble if it could. I'll bet  more challengers showed up after I left. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Blueberry Robber

I learned something interesting about the eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica. I was walking in the woods in south Jersey in a place near blueberry farms where lots of blueberry bushes grow wild in the understory. There were also lots of carpenter bees hovering around every wooden structure I passed that day; no doubt recently emerged from their overwintering chambers. Some of the bees were visiting blueberry flowers. No surprise there -- who wouldn't want some delicious blueberry flower nectar?                                Click to enlarge.  
Looking closer, you can see the famous white face of a male eastern carpenter bee. Click on this sentence to go to an earlier blog of mine that describes the carpenter bee's life cycle.  Carpenter bees are coming out of their winter homes right now, just as the blueberry bushes are flowering. Great timing! 
I found later that carpenter bees are famous for “robbing" blueberry flowers of nectar. They call it robbing because instead of sticking their heads in and getting covered with pollen, carpenter bees make slits in the sides of the flowers and go straight to the nectar at the base. In the picture above you can see some of these vertical slits on the flowers. Signs of bee robbery! And it doesn’t stop there. Honeybees come to the slits and take nectar. It’s not a total loss for flowers, though, because some pollen gets transferred.

You can click on this sentence to read the abstract of a paper in which it was experimentally demonstrated that the pollen transferred in about three robbery style visits equals that transferred by a blueberry pollinator doing it the conventional way. The study also found that carpenter bee robbery might actually be beneficial because of the large number of honeybees it attracts to the flowers. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Opossum!

I met this opossum at an outdoor event in South Jersey last weekend.  He's a wildlife ambassador for a conservation group, helping to promote good will toward opossum-kind by posing for photos and looking cute. He is cute, right? Click to enlarge. He was full of personality, too. 
Here he is eating a raw brussels sprout. The Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana, is the only marsupial that occurs naturally in the United States. Like other marsupials, mother opossums have a pouch to carry nursing baby opossums. Fun facts: the babies are called joeys, adult males are called jacks, and adult females are jills. LoL! 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Flower Edition

Spring flowers are open all around today. Yay! A quote from Iris Murdoch: "People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us." Click to enlarge. 










Sunday, April 15, 2018

Northern Shoveler Ducks

Here is a pair of northern shoveler ducks, Anas clypeata. The female is in front and the male behind. Shovelers are famous for their larger-than-duck-average bills, which are flattened on the ends, like shovels. The bill shape and their habit of using them to "shovel" food from the water gives the birds their common name. 
You often see them as in this picture, with their bills barely submerged. They sweep their heads from side to side to filter food from the water, finding algae and plant material, aquatic insects, crustaceans, and more. Click to enlarge. 
Shoveling. Makes it look easy, doesn't he?
Shovelers also sometimes up-end like this in a move called dabbling.  It distinguishes them and the rest of the surface feeding or dabbling ducks from ducks that dive underwater to feed. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

New Neighbors

One gray squirrel in the maple tree hole. Click to enlarge.
Wait ... there's two!
Make that three! Cuteness overload!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Still Cold

I have a new set of extension tubes to use with my macro lens. I've been practicing with them inside. Today was going to be the day I'd take them out and shoot stunning photos of insect faces. But thanks to the persistent cold, I have flowers in the snow instead. Click to enlarge. This has to end eventually, doesn't it? Insect faces hopefully coming soon. 


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Finding Spring

It's cold outside. There are still piles of snow out there. There's more snow predicted for Tuesday, the first day of spring. But walking around the neighborhood today I found abundant signs that it has already begun to unfold. Here are some. Click to enlarge.



And once again, it is time for my favorite lines from my favorite spring poem. 
"Hounds of Spring" from Atalanta in Calydon by Algernon Charles Swinburne. 

For winter''s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins; 
The days dividing lover and lover, 
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remember'd is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, 
And in green underwood and cover, 
Blossom by blossom the spring begins. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Another Snow Storm Coming?

Last week. And maybe again tomorrow. Click to enlarge.
But winter won't last much longer. Helleborus and snowdrops are blossoming and spring officially arrives in just 9 days. 
Here's an apt bit of poetry by Robert Seymour Bridges:

While yet we wait for Spring 

While yet we wait for spring, and from the dry
And blackening east that so embitters March,
Well-housed must watch grey fields and meadows parch,
And driven dust and withering snowflake fly;
Already in glimpses of the tarnish'd sky
The sun is warm and beckons to the larch,
And where the covert hazels interarch
Their tassell'd twigs, fair beds of primrose lie.
Beneath the crisp and wintry carpet hid
A million buds but stay their blossoming;
And trustful birds have built their nests amid
The shuddering boughs, and only wait to sing
Till one soft shower from the south shall bid,
And hither tempt the pilgrim steps of spring.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Beaver Dam

I was walking on a trail in a nature preserve in south Jersey the other day when I came to this sign. Closed by beaver you say?
There was an orange warning finger, so I was definitely going that way.
I passed this. Beavers?
Then I passed this. Can't look any more beaver-gnawed than this.
Then the path ended in a pool and a beaver lodge. How cool is that?
Closer. Click to enlarge.
And to the right -- a beaver dam!
A big beaver dam. See it curling away like an S?
And here's the pond that the dam contains. Good job, beavers. I thought I heard a tail slap so maybe a beaver saw me, but I did not see it. I'll be back to check on progress here later, so hopefully I'll get a beaver to pose for me then.