It was a long and hard week although I’m not going to go into details here. Those who know us know what happened. Anyway, this morning my mom and I drove down to North Carolina for a family reunion. It was a long day, especially considering we drove home again afterward but I’m ever so glad we went. After a week like this, being with family is as good as it gets. I took a few pictures during the reunion (and passed the 110,000 mark on this camera), but I decided that I’d post this picture, taken shortly after we left, instead.
Monthly Archives: August 2015
I spent a little time in the back yard chasing butterflies today. In numbers, the various skippers are by far the most prevalent in our yard. The most noticeable are the tiger swallowtails. After that, I would have to say, come the cabbage whites. Most times you can see one or two flitting about. The are in the air a much higher percentage of the time than their more common cousins and they don’t like to be approached. That means finding a likely spot and waiting. Out of all the photos I took of this one, only two were in anything like decent focus. Even they were not perfect, and that, I’m afraid, is what you will get today. Pieris rapae, the Cabbage White, on Verbena bonariensis, purple vervain.
I have a feeling this isn’t going to be as popular a picture as some. Even the picture of the fly I posted recently (Eristalis transversa, Transverse Flower Fly) was popular because in spite of it being a fly, it’s a beautiful fly. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are pretty much universally disliked, however they look. I haven’t done much with identification of mosquitoes so I’m not sure which this is. At first glance, I think it may be Orthopodomyia signifera, but I wouldn’t place a great deal of confidence in that. The picture may not be sharp enough, really, to get a definitive ID, but I’ll see what I can find out from the experts at BugGuide.net.
This is one of the larger skippers and is quite conspicuous because of the bright, white streak on the hind wings, visible when it is at rest. It is a harder thing to get a picture of than the smaller skippers, being more shy to being approached. Even this picture isn’t everything I could have wanted, but I suppose it’s good enough. The bees on the mountain mint, all around where I was standing when I took this, were quite thick. I wish I could take a picture to show you how many of them there are, but to show the whole area, I need to get far enough away that the bees are too small. It’s the motion that I really love.
This is a female eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus), by far the most common large butterfly that we have in our garden. The males and females are easily distinguished by the blue on their hindwings, as seen in this photo.
There was a little delay in getting this picture up on my server. I’ve been approaching capacity on the 3TB drive (which is really only 2.7TB) that has most of my photos on it and as I was uploading today’s batch of photos, I reached it. I ordered a new, 5TB drive (which is really only 4.4 TB). I installed it on Monday (8/10) and then spent about 24 hours copying everything to that. It’s now up and running (as I write this on 8/12) and I’m back in business.
I want to thank Tom, whose retirement party was today, for taking a risk and hiring me, back in January, 1997. I think it’s worked out pretty well for all involved, including the company, but he was already Cathy’s boss when I applied for the job he had been advertising. Tom was our boss for about five years, directly at first and then with a supervisor between him and us. In 2002 I went to work on project work and haven’t worked for Tom since then, but I won’t forget his bringing me in. I also worked with the other three in this picture, Julie, Maureen, and Shayna, a lot more back then and it was very good to see them. But it was Tom’s day. All the best in your every endeavor.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
I was out with my dual-flash macro bracket this afternoon and I got a few reasonably good pictures, including this katydid wasp (Sphex nudus). I got some more of the transverse flower fly (Eristalis transversa) featured in my post on Friday, July 31, 2015. I’m still trying to figure out how to control the light properly from the three flash heads (the on-camera flash and the two wireless slaves). In certain situations it seems to produce an overexposure no matter what I do. It seems to be related to how much dark background there is in the frame, which sort of makes sense. Always learning.
We took Dorothy to the airport today and she flew up to Boston. From the airport, we decided to pay a visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on the Anacostia River in northeast Washington. The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) was past peak, according to the ranger on duty, but they were still blooming pretty freely. The water lilies were a little more past, but there were quite a few even of them. We also got a good view of a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) wading in one of the ponds. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and with a wonderful breeze.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Cathy and I went to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens today. We especially enjoyed the Lotus, which were blooming quite profusely. We also enjoyed the greens. Lotus, growing in shallow ponds, have such beautiful, green leaves and I wanted to capture the various shades produced by the shadows. I think this picture does a pretty good job of it, although you’ll have to imagine the swaying of the leaves.
Cathy and I took a walk along Rock Creek between Lake Frank and where the creek goes under Muncaster Mill Road today. It was late in the afternoon and the light wasn’t very bright under the trees so this is the best I could do getting a picture of this butterfly, a southern pearly eye (Lethe portlandia). It’s a pretty little thing, flitting about around puddles in the dirt path.
So, two days in a row with two pictures posted for the day. Crazy. Of course, I don’t think anyone actually reads what I write. Most people see my pictures on Instagram or Facebook, which is fine, but they don’t see the text there, just a link to it here. I’d be surprised if anyone actually follows that link. If you do, and if you are reading this, well, thank you very much (and I’d be delighted if you let me know). Today’s second picture is a feather from a blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata). While the darkness of the woods made getting a clear picture of the butterfly difficult, it made the color in this feather all the more beautiful.
The black-eyed Susan is by far the most prominent flower in our back garden throughout most of the summer. There is a large patch of them in the central garden, where there used to be two large maple trees. There are more around the patio and outside the dining room window. They are scattered in other places, as well. While there is still a lot more green than any other color, the orange-yellow of the black-eyed Susan is clearly in second place.
I was following this pretty, little butterfly around the back yard, trying to get close enough for a decent picture. When it finally let me get close enough, I got a bonus in the form of a small (but unidentified) spider. I’m pretty pleased with how this pictures turned out, although getting the spider in better focus would have been nice. This is one of a few hairstreaks that we see fairly often in the area, and is probably the most common.
In addition to the profusion of black-eyed Susans around our patio, Cathy has potted plants along much of the edge. Some of these are perennials that she doesn’t have to do much with, but others are changed each year, planted with annuals. This year, Cathy took a lot of sedum out of a large pot, because that pot could be better utilized by something a little more striking. She planted these purple flowers (a variety of Angelonia), a sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), and some orange zinnias. The purple flowers and the dark leaves of the Ipomoea, in particular, are really set off by the bright orange/yellow of the black-eyed Susans.
This is one of the many (3,500 species worldwide, with 180 occurring north of Mexico) orbweaver spiders. It’s hard to tell from this angle, but a picture I got of her back shows me pretty conclusively that this is a Basilica Orbweaver (Mecynogea lemniscata). I came upon it in the woods next to my office. Fortunately I saw the web before I walked into it. I hate it when that happens, especially with spiders as large as this.
I know I’ve already posted a picture for today, the spider that some of my visitors won’t like, but I have this picture to share, as well. This is the spent flower head of a teasel (Dipsacus species). I love the lines and the apparent softness of it. In actual fact, it’s a bit prickly, but I think they are quite pretty. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
I was trying to see how close I could get to the tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) today. This one let me get pretty close and you can see the hairs on her body. I have a question for any botanist out there who happens to come across this page. It is my understanding that one of the three characteristics unique to mammals is hair. If that’s the case, then what are the hair like things on this butterfly? Is there some definition of “hair” that lets it include mammal hair but not the apparent hair on other animals? If so, please let me know.
I went up to Pennsylvania with mom and Seth today. We spent a little while doing what amounts to heavy yard work but took a little time to relax and enjoy the quiet, as well. It was hot, particularly out in the sun, but otherwise a beautiful day. Before we left, I wandered off with my camera for a bit and chased little butterflies as they moved from flower to flower. They often have their wings folded when they are on flowers, but I wanted to get a picture with them open. Typically they will open and shut them at somewhat regular intervals and I managed to capture them mostly open in this picture.
Update: I originally titled this post “Fritillary” but that was wrong. It is a “Crescent,” probably a pearl crescent or something similar.
It has been pretty dry recently and the flowers and other garden plants are starting to notice. It isn’t so dry that we are having any restrictions on water use, fortunately, and I decided to turn on the sprinkler this afternoon. As the sun was getting lower, I was walking around the back yard looking for something new to photograph. I noticed that for about a half second, each time the sprinkler went around, there was a rainbow in the spray. I waited a few times and tried to capture it. It was brighter than this in “real life” but I captured it reasonably well.
Cathy and I wanted to go to the fair this year and it’s always fun to be at the fair with kids. So, we arranged to meet this young family and spend the late afternoon and evening with them. We got there before they did and that gave us time to check out the photography in the Arts, Crafts, and Photography building (building 3). I had entered four photographs and managed to earn a 2nd and a 4th place ribbon for two of them. Not necessarily all I could have hoped for, but not a bad showing for a first time exhibitor. It was nice to see friends there, as well, and to get a personal tour of the photography exhibit from Sarah.
We met Andy, Kelly, and their kids after that and spent a while looking at animals before heading down to the carnival portion of the fair. We enjoyed watching them ride on various rids and I took quite a few pictures. They were not actually on the swings when I took this. We tired out before they did and decided to call it a night at about 8:20. They kept going and stayed until about 10:00. We were tired from the heat but glad that we went and we had a really nice time with these lovely kids.
There were a bunch of American goldfinches in the back yard this morning. I wouldn’t say there was a flock of them, but there were more than two. I would say “a family” but I have no idea if they were related in any way. I’m not nearly the birder that my brothers are, but I’m going to say that the bird higher up in this picture is a female rather than an immature bird. There is another, lower down, that I know is a male. They were, as you can see, in the black-eyed Susans, just on the edge of our patio, so fairly close. This was taken through the glass, kitchen door, though, which accounts for some of the softness in the image.
It’s time. Dorothy has finished her gap year and had a good time working with the youth at 4th church this summer. But a week an a half ago we took her to the airport and she flew off for 10 days of canoeing and camping on the Raquette River and nearby lakes in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. Tomorrow, she returns and we are to meet her at the school which will be her home away from home for the next four years. She had everything packed and ready before she left and all that remained was for me to load it into the car. I was happy that it went into the smaller car and we didn’t have to take the minivan.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we drove up to Gordon College today with Dorothy’s things. We got there before she did, having no significant traffic issues until we got to Boston, when everything came more or less to a standstill. If not for those last sixty miles, we’ve have been very happy. Still, we checked into our hotel and had time for dinner before going to the campus.
She had been camping and canoeing in the Adirondacks for ten or eleven days so she would not thank me if I were to post a picture of her from that evening (although she looked fine, actually). While we were waiting for the campers/students to arrive, I took a few pictures of the campus. This is the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel. That’s Adoniram Judson Gordon (1836–1895) the founder of Gordon College and nearby Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary.
Today was officially move-in day for incoming freshmen at Gordon College but because she returned from La Vida (the school sponsored camping trip) last night, she was able to move in then. That gave us some free time while the other freshmen were moving in. We went to Manchester-by-the-Sea and had a late breakfast at the Beach Street Cafe. Then we drove out to Gloucester and saw the Fisherman’s Memorial. It started to rain while we were there. We drove around a little more but mostly stayed in the car.
After that, we met some friends for lunch. We spent a little time in Dorothy’s dorm room while she unpacked and got settled in a little bit. In the evening, there were orientation events, some for Dorothy, some for us, and some together.
If you’ve been following my posts, then you know that we drove up to Gordon College to drop Dorothy off, or more precisely to bring her things, because she was already up here. She had a good time camping and canoeing for a week and a half and among the people she met was this young woman named Emiko. When you move into a new situation with all new people, it’s never easy to predict who you will end up being friends with, but this friendship seems off to a good start. Later we met her parents, as well. Making friends can be hard, particularly for those of us who are a bit reserved and who are not good at small talk. But somehow it happens. I don’t really know how, but it happens.
Cathy and I went to a breakfast gathering this morning and met the school president (among others). Then, between that and lunch time, Cathy, Dorothy, and I took a walk around the pond that is right behind a few of the campus buildings. On the way to the pond, we stopped for this picture in front of a rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos). The pond itself is quite lovely, with a lot of water lilies growing on it and boggy land (if you can call it ‘land’) around much of it. The pictures I took don’t really do it justice. The sky was a light, slate, gray, so colors were subdued. On a day with blue sky and scattered clouds it would be better.
In the late afternoon there was a signing ceremony. All incoming students sign a document as an indication of their desire to attend the school (or something). Anyway, after that was what we dubbed, ‘the crying time.’ This is when parents are asked to leave. Before we went to our car, which was parked at the other end of campus, we went to the school sign at the main entrance (behind the chapel) and took some pictures. This one only has Dorothy in it. We took more, with three other students who Dorothy had gone to school with in years past. After that, Cathy and I headed off and Dorothy’s college career had begun.
We drove home from Gordon College today, a drive of about 465 miles. Just under half way (in terms of miles, if not hours) is Nanuet, New York, home of Rockland Bakery. It’s just west of the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River. We figured fresh bagels and cream cheese would make a nice lunch and it’s hard to get them much fresher than when they are coming out of the oven onto a conveyor belt as you watch. In this picture are large rolls, also still hot from the oven, with a crunchy crust and soft crumb. It was mesmerizing to watch (and I took a short video, as well!). Behind me as I took this photo was rack upon rack of breads, muffins, and pastries of every description. If you happen to be in the area, you could make worse decisions than stopping here for a bag of bread. (http://www.RocklandBakery.com/)
It’s been fairly dry lately. Not as dry, certainly, as in some years when we’ve had an actual drought. But the ‘normal’ dryness that we usually get in late August. The black-eyed Susans are starting to be affected, which is the sign that we could really use some rain. I actually think they are quite pretty when they start to wilt, so I took some pictures this evening after work.
Almost two weeks ago, on August 13, I posted two pictures, one of which was of a basilica orbweaver spider (Mecynogea lemniscata). A few people on Facebook couldn’t actually make out what it was (and those who could were generally not excited by the picture, in any case). Well, today’s picture should be easier to identify (if not to actually appreciate). This is an orchard orbweaver (Leucauge venusta). They are not as closely related as I would have guessed, belonging to different families: the basilica orbweaver is a member of family Araneidae (Orb Weavers) while the orchard orbweaver is in family Tetragnathidae (Long-jawed Orb Weavers). This one was moving from the center of her web up into the relative protection of some leaves, because I got a bit too close.
I know it’s still summer but it seemed like fall this morning. Outside it was cooler than inside for the first time in a while. They sky was a beautiful blue, with puffy clouds scattered about. The black-eyed Susans and other flowers are feeling the dryness and heat of summer but that doesn’t mean they have all disappeared. It’s actually quite nice in our back yard right now. Not it’s best, perhaps, but still, pretty nice.
The bumble and carpenter bees were thick this afternoon. One nice thing about them is that they are much more slow moving than most of the other bees that are about and they allow me to get pretty much as close as my lens will focus. The fact that they are so large means that I can fill the frame with a bee and not need to crop it at all. This one turned out pretty well. The white face indicates that this is a male.
It’s wings are in pretty bad shape, at this point but they seem to be over-engineered enough that it didn’t seem to have any trouble flying with them. This is a less common butterfly than the eastern tiger-swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) and even the monarchs (Danaus plexippus) that we see most often. It was moving between the black-eyed Susans and the buddleia. It’s a pretty butterfly, even with much of its hind wings missing. The orange spots are quite vivid and the pattern is unmistakable. Both sides of the wings, but in particular the upper surfaces (not seen here) show a decidedly iridescent blue color in bright sunlight. In certain light it can appear purple, which accounts for the common name, but red-spotted blue might be a more obvious name.
Generally, I’m not very partial to insects that eat plants that I like. There are levels of dislike, of course. Those that simply suck on the sap aren’t as bad as those that eat leaves and stems which in turn are less of a problem than those that bore into plants, particularly woody plants. Still, they can be bad enough. This is particularly true early in the season, when even sucking insects can seriously stunt the growth of plants and prevent them from blooming. Blooms, after all, are why we grow many of these pants.
The large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) is somewhere in the middle of this continuum. It doesn’t do significant damage to the plant on which it feeds, either in its nymphal or adult stage. It eats the seeds of milkweed plants. In this case, these large milkweed bugs are on Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed). They do cause damage, of course, because the eaten seeds will reduce the amount of self-seeding that the plants can do. But they don’t do any real harm to the plants themselves, which are fairly tough perennials. So, I let these alone. They are quite pretty, anyway.
American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a pretty common weed in our garden. It’s very large leaves are unmistakable even when the plants are very small. We try to pull it up as soon as we see it but sometimes, we miss one or two. Back in the middle of our hedge, which is about eight feet tall, three pokeweed plants were growing. We didn’t notice them until the started to show out of the top of the hedge and of course, by that time they were pretty well established. I managed to get most of the roots of one of them but the other two were too close to the fence to dig properly and I’m afraid they will come up again next year. But I’ll be watching, this time.
The bumble bees and the carpenter bees look a bit alike, both being fairly large and a combination of black and yellow or orange. The bumble bees are in a separate subfamily from the carpenter bees, being in the subfamily Apinae along with the honey, Long-horned, Orchid, and Digger Bees. This one is considerably smaller than the carpenter bee I posted a photo of recently, probably being at most about two centimeters long.