I don’t know what, if anything, this pond is actually named but we call it Alligator Pond because we have seen alligators there in past years. This year we didn’t see any and didn’t see any of the water birds we’ve often seen, either. But the sky was fairly dramatic, so I took a picture of that instead. I think it made the short drive worth the effort. We stopped for Italian Ice on the way, too, which would have been enough on its own. But a nice picture is worth something in addition.
Monthly Archives: August 2016
I’ve already posted a picture for today and I don’t doubt that it will be the more popular of the two, but I wanted to post this one because it’s a new beetle to me. I’m sure I’ve seen them before, as they are fairly plentiful on the beaches of North Carolina, but I either hadn’t noticed them or never bothered to get close enough to take a picture. This is an eastern beach tiger beetle, Habroscelimorpha dorsalis, and it’s a lovely little thing, even if not the most colorful insect around. They skittered away as Cathy and I walked out to the eastern end of the island this afternoon and this time I stopped, moved in slowly, and bent down to get a few good pictures.
This is sort of a running gag with us. Every year we see these signs and chuckle. The title is from a class of Far Side comics by Gary Larson. He would put two things side by side that will inevitably lead to some sort of conflict and then caption it “Trouble Brewing.” For example, “Crutchfield’s Crocodile Farm” and “Anderson’s Sky Diving School” or “Falconers Club Meet Here and “12th Annual Tea Cup Poodle Fancier’s Picnic.” To us, these two signs are similar. Of course, there is a reasonable explanation. The road where this is found is a divided highway and the One-Way sign only applies to the southbound lanes while the Hurricane Evacuation Route sign applies more generally. Still, having them right next to each other pointing in opposite directions is classic.
It’s our fourth morning at the beach and we had our first sunrise worth my walking down to the beach to get pictures. I was afraid my lens would fog up when I went outside but it was actually cool out, about 68°F, so I had no problems. I took a bunch of pictures looking to the east and the rising sun. Then I turned around to find two ends of a rainbow, one over the ocean to the south and the other over the land. I got pictures of those, as well. What a beautiful morning.
Cathy, mom, and I went to Brookgreen Gardens today, driving the 75 minutes from Ocean Isle Beach and getting there at about 10:00. I’ve got three past posts with pictures from Brookgreen on the blog, two in 2013 and one in 2012 (Brookgreen Gardens, Thursday, August 02, 2012, Brookgreen Gardens, Thursday, August 01, 2013, and Brookgreen Critters, Thursday, August 01, 2013). Between the gardens, a lunch in the restaurant, and a visit to the small zoo, we spent about five hours there. Not long enough to see everything but it was a great visit. It was hot and very humid but not as swelteringly hot as it’s been some years. I took nearly 400 photographs today and I’ve got three to show you. This year I decided not to include any of the wonderful art work, there are simply too many nice sculptures from which to choose.
The first picture is of the Live Oak Allee, which forms the center of the garden leading up to the former location of the house. These trees are said to be over 300 years old and I have no reason to doubt that, as they are quite large. The branches are covered with resurrection ferns and there is the ubiquitous Spanish moss all over. Under them are beds filled with Caladiums. This image is an HDR image made from three different exposures and I liked the muted colors in this nearly monochrome image. I have mixed feelings about HDR images but I have to admit, they produce some extraordinary results. My camera has an autobracketing feature that lets me take three images in quick succession with three different exposures (and I can control the amount of difference between them). Sometimes I would prefer five images, but maybe that wouldn’t really help much. I usually take them without the benefit of a tripod and I’m sure they would turn out better if I didn’t have to hand hold them.
The second image is a Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) posing on bright red Coleus leaves. I found the contrast between the green of the lizard and the red of the leaves to be wonderful. We saw quite a few of these little lizards as well as huge eastern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera). In the zoo we saw black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax, including one which caught an anole), white ibis (Eudocimus albus), American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and in both areas, lots of dragonflies. That brings us to the final picture, a dragonfly with water droplets on its wings. I think the tiny droplets have a jewel-like quality, although this isn’t one of the jewelwings (genus Calopteryx).
This isn’t quite a sunset picture, although the sun setting contributed to it. It’s more a picture of clouds as dusk drew on. Cathy and I were out on the beach for about fourty-five minutes starting about 7:45 and the clouds were really quite spectacular, even if I wasn’t able to capture them completely. The sky was as deep a blue as you’ll ever see it and the clouds on the right were quite dark. The white cloud at the top was growing quite rapidly and I thought we might get a big storm. A nice way to end a nice day at the beach. Cathy stayed out a little longer to check on the progress of a turtle next a little way up the beach.
Cathy and I went out into the tidal march on the back side of Ocean Island late this morning. It was quite hot in the sun but it’s a cool place to be and I think we were both glad we did it. Hats and sunscreen were a must, though. I took a few pictures of a common egret (Ardea alba) and a few other birds. Mostly, though, we saw fiddler crabs. Hundreds of them. They would scurry away as we approached, disappearing quickly down their holes. If you stop moving for a while (sometimes a few minutes) they would come out again, as this one did. Of course I was lying down waiting for this one. It made it easier to be still but I ended up all covered with sand. This is an Atlantic sand fiddler crab (Uca pugilator).
Trigger warnings are nothing new. The practice predates the internet by quite a bit, although that particular name is relatively new. In the ‘old days’ you might hear “parental discretion is advised.” before a particularly graphic or shocking news item, movie, or television show. Even for those without children (i.e., where parental discretion isn’t applicable) these warnings gave notice to all that they might want to prepare themselves for something unpleasant. Whatever you think of the current practice, however, I found the accompanying sign to be a bit funny in this context. Here’s a genuine trigger warning. It fits the old definition, of course—if you trespass you should prepare yourself to be shot—but it also fits the new usage. You might want to avoid this, if being shot at tends to cause you to have a panic attack.
A week at the beach is never enough. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the shortness of the time at the beach or the shortness of the time away from work, but in any case, our week was quickly over and it’s time to go home. I went out onto the upstairs deck and took some pictures of the fairly calm Atlantic Ocean this morning. Actually, after the storm we had around mid-week (which was a rip-roarer) the ocean has been very calm, indeed. The other thing about the week being over, of course, is that it means we have to drive home, which includes a long stretch of Interstate 95. I cannot imagine that’s anyone’s idea of a good time.
We’re back from the beach and the black-eyed Susans are in full bloom all around our yard. There were some blooming when we left but there is no question they are at their peak now. They bloom along with and complement the Verbena bonariensis, sometimes known as tall verbena or purpletop vervain (although we don’t happen to use those names).
My camera has a hard time when I take pictures with a lot of yellow in them. The auto-white balance doesn’t know that it’s supposed to be yellow and tries to ‘fix’ it. The result is quite blue outside the yellow parts and I have to adjust for it after the fact. Not a bit deal, but interesting that yellow is the color most likely to confuse the camera.
Back in November (specifically Wednesday, November 18, 2015) I posted a picture under the title “Ara and the Band, Open Mic Night, Villain and Saint.” She was on stage again this evening, playing the songs from her new EP. If you are unfamiliar with the EP, it stands for Extended Play and designates (these days) a CD or download that is longer than a single and shorter than an LP (long playing record or CD). Generally they have up to 4 songs and are less than 25 minutes or so, although I don’t suppose there are any strict rules for this sort of thing. Anyway, she was releasing her EP (which you can get here: https://aracasey.bandcamp.com/) and we thought it would be nice to both support her and have an evening out.
As it turned out, our evening out turned out to be just me. Cathy got called away to something she couldn’t turn down (I know, I’m being vague and evasive but this is a public blog and I don’t feel like telling everyone everything that’s going on. Get over it.) so I went alone. Cathy would have liked to have come, as Ara is more her friend than mine. They play soccer together. We’ve also gone to her Día de Muertos party (see: Crazy Cat Lady and Eve) a couple times. That, and listening to her play, both times at Villain and Saint in Bethesda.
I took a bunch of pictures but this is my favorite. It just seems right, somehow. It was as good time.
I didn’t take very many pictures today and most of those I took didn’t turn out too well, but because I did take some and because I’m doing my best to keep up this one picture a day thing for a bit longer (I’m at 2050 consecutive days at this point, a little over five and a half years), this is what you get. It isn’t a bad picture, but that’s about it. If you like yellow or if you are particularly fond of black-eyed Susans you might even think it’s a nice picture. But it’s a picture. I promise to have better pictures from time to time. Of course, I can probably also promise to have worse pictures now and then. Most of them, I guess, are closer to average.
Late each spring, when the danger of frost is past, we move our large clivia out into the shade of a viburnum bush. As forest undergrowth plants from South Africa and Swaziland, clivia can’t take full sun but very much likes the fresh air humidity of a Maryland summer. Apparently they can be brought into bloom in the winter if treated properly but ours seems to bloom in the summer or early fall without any special treatment. It’s a lovely plant and I find it a bit surprising it isn’t grown more. It’s quite easy to care for and even when not blooming has lovely, green, strap-like leaves to brighten up a room. You really should get yourself one. As for flowers, there are yellow, orange, and red varieties, so pick what suits you best.
We have known this handsome, young man since he arrived on these shores in March, the newest, if not the youngest, member of Ben and Erin’s family. Formerly of the Philippines, he’s now an All American Boy (like Jack Armstrong, if you hold the All properly). We were fortunate enough to be present at a small birthday party for him today. It was a fairly casual thing but fun, nonetheless.
We were at his house (or his parents’ home, you might say) for our bi-weekly prayer meeting and Bible study. After that was done, though, we took some time to recognize and celebrate Ethan’s milestone. Erin had asked if he wanted anything special for dinner. Apparently his first thought was that everyone would have a piece of salami and a hard boiled egg on their plate (if I’m remembering correctly, I’m writing this 11 days after the fact). After she insisted that they should probably have something a little more substantial, he decided on salmon.
For dessert, when the rest of us would be here to celebrate, he had forgone the traditional cake and asked for apple pie and ice cream (didn’t I tell you he’s an all American boy?). He helped his mom by passing out plates of pie and ice cream before having his own. Because he was acting as a waiter, he decided to put a dish towel over his arm and do it right.
Happy Birthday, Ethan. We love you.
We met a long-time friend this evening at the Outta The Way Cafe near Redland and Muncaster Mill Roads (http://www.outta.com/). It was a nice dinner and we had a good time catching up with the friend whom we hadn’t seen in a little while. We talked about the past a little but mostly about the future and even (occasionally) about the present. I hadn’t taken any pictures yet but this friend is not the most eager photography subject you’ll ever meet and, although I sometimes force the issue, I wanted to honor her with to not be photographed this evening. The Outta The Way Cafe has a somewhat eclectic decor, including this large mirror surrounded by a frame covered with glass balls. I’m not as happy with it as I might be. The reflection in the mirror is in focus but the mirror itself, with its colorful frame, it a bit blurry. But if I’m going to post something, this had got to be it.
The pictures from out yard which I post here are often close up shots of flowers of things found in the yard. Today I thought I’d give a wider view. I know I’ve done this before and our yard isn’t anything special but that’s what I thought I’d do. Cathy was cutting the grass in the back today so I included her in the picture. It’s been quite warm recently and fairly humid, or to put it another way, typical summer weather here in Maryland, hot and steamy, but we haven’t had anything approaching the drought conditions we get some years. That means the grass has kept growing through the summer, which looks nice but it means it needs to be cut. Anyway, the black-eyed Susans are nice.
Here’s a question. Should it only be an escalator when you ride it up from one level to a higher level? To escalate is to raise. So wWhen you go down, shouldn’t it be called a depressor or declinator or something? I have the same question about an elevator. Maybe that would be too complicated. I don’t know.
Anyway, Cathy and I were at Dulles airport today to pick up Dorothy. She was returning from Turkey, flying from Ankara to Washington via Munich, a much shorter itinerary than her original Ankara to Istanbul to Moscow to Washington set of flights. In fact, her entire trip from Ankara to Washington was shorter than her layover in Moscow was scheduled to be. I think we were all happy with the change. I suppose I could post a picture of her, back on American soil (or the tile floor of the airport, anyway) but I kind of like this picture of three escalators (two of which are descenders, actually), viewed from above.
I think clouds are cool, especially when dramatically lit. This evening that’s what they were. They were also casting shadows. They often do, of course, when they are in a mostly clear sky, but this evening was different. Instead of casting shadows on the ground, as they normally do, the sun was low enough in the sky that they were casting shadows horizontally on each other. The clouds in this picture are not as dramatic as some I photographed this evening but I love the horizontal band of darker sky, which is the shadow of the cloud on the left. The atmospheric haze caught the light and made the ‘beam’ of the shadow show up.
I know this isn’t a really great picture of lightning but hey, it’s a picture of lightning. This storm came through the evening of the 15th and Dorothy and I stood out, first on the front porch and then out back under an overhang. Later we moved into the garage and looked out the open door. I took quite a few pictures trying to capture a bolt of lightning and this is the only one I got. A much easier way to capture lightning, of course, is to take video and then pull out the frame that captures it. But I wanted to do it with a standard shot. This was a 1/3 second exposure at f/8 and there it is. Lightning.
I got some nice wasp pictures today (as well as some reasonable but not great butterfly pictures. This is a beewolf. There are 31 species of beewolf in our area and about 140 worldwide. Although they are called beewolves because they prey on bees, their genus, Philanthus, means flower lover (phil = lover, anthus = flower). I find this to be a beautiful little wasp, with its shiny, dimpled, black and yellow exoskeleton. I love watching these fly around the mountain mint. I’d really be excited to see one capture a bee or other wasp to use as a host for her eggs but I’ve never seen that with this species.
It was County Fair day for us today. I went from work and Cathy picked up Karlee and Dorothy and came a little later (actually, because of horrendous traffic, it was quite a bit later). Because I had some time on my own, I took a few pictures, including this one of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air parked outside the Arts, Crafts, and Photography building. It’s a beautiful car, wonderfully maintained and restored. Of course I also took pictures of people, animals, and even people with their animals. I also had a chance to visit with some friends who work the photography building and who showed me where my pictures were displayed. Later, when Cathy, Karlee, and Dorothy came, we got caught in the rain and had to wait it out before making our way back to our cars as it let up. Still, I nice evening and one to remember.
Today is our 32nd Anniversary and after dinner and a visit to my mom’s we went out to dinner. We decided to go to Matchbox in Congressional Plaza on the Pike and we had a nice dinner. 32 years ago we had dinner at the Red Lobster on Shady Grove Road and we’ve returned there for anniversary dinners on occasion but thought we’d do something different this year. We had a nice meal, sharing a bowl of shrimp and grits (with cheddar and andouille butter sauce, which was excellent) and then each had a small pizza. We decided to take a few pictures of ourselves and this was done with the camera sitting on the table, which accounts for the slightly odd angle. It isn’t a great picture but if you know us, you already know what we look like and can more on to something else now. Regardless of how the picture turned out, I’m happy to say we’re as happily married as ever and looking forward to as many more years together as we are allowed.
As you probably know, there were more honey bees in the United States in 2015 than at any time in the preceding 20 years. The numbers have gone down a little in 2016 but we’re still in good shape. The number one colony stressor is the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor). In spite of the severe losses to the mites and to Colony Collapse Disorder, more honey bee colonies are being produced and there is no real danger of losing the producer of one of natures most wonderful substances (honey).
I’m not entirely happy with this image, as it isn’t nearly as sharp as it could be. This is a smallish spider and I’m pretty sure it is a Gea heptagon, the only Gea species listed for USA in the world spider catalog. She’s one of the many orb weavers and I think the web is quite nice. This one was down in the grass on the edge of the garden and considering the number of small flying and jumping insects in our lawn, I suspect she does very well for herself. I’ll try to get back with some additional lighting and see if I can do better, but for now, this image will have to suffice to keep you looking over your shoulder (and around your ankles).
We greeted the youngest family member in our church this afternoon. Amelia, just over two weeks old, joined her older brother and two older sisters with her parents at church today. Naturally we were all glad to see her and expect to get to know her better over the course of the next, well, however many years it takes to get to know her. She looks amazingly like her siblings, which isn’t too surprising. They’re a really good looking bunch and so much fun. Ellie says that Amelia is an easy baby so far. Lucky for her she doesn’t have kids that run her off her feet. Not all the time, anyway.
We drove up to Massachusetts today, taking about ten hours. Part of that was down to heavy traffic on 95 getting around Boston but the fact that we had two vehicles played a role, as well. We made it, though, in spite of getting separated coming off the George Washington Bridge. Dorothy moved into her dorm room and we met her new roommate, Kenna, pictured here with Dorothy. We went to a little taco place in Beverly called La Victoria Taqueria (http://www.victoriataqueria.com/). It was quite good and we enjoyed our food out doors. We’ve been having such hot weather that it was nice to be out on a pleasant evening. Here’s to Dorothy and Kenna.
When we drive to or from the Boston area we often stop at the Rockland Bakery in Nanuet, New York for a bit of bread. Because we’re driving most of the day and it’s not a good idea to take pictures while driving, this is one of my few opportunities to take pictures on those days (I guess I could take pictures at a service area, but somehow…). In the past I’ve tried to come up with bread-themed jokes to go along with my picture (e.g., Home For The Challahdays). Today I’ll just feature a picture of some huge loaves of bread. I have to assume these are a special order item, being too long even for the shelf trolley they’re on. We settled for soft pretzels (which were just coming out of the oven) and a couple rolls. It’s a fascinating place and worth a visit, even if you don’t buy bread (but we always do, of course).
It was getting on for dusk when we arrived at Laurie and Dave’s house this evening but we took a little time to enjoy their front garden with them before the light really started to drop. I took some nice pictures of anemone flowers (which I assume were Chinese anemone, Anemone hupehensis). Then just as we were about to go back inside the hummingbirds came buzzing around. There were two and they came quite close to us. I was able to get a reasonably good shot of a female ruby-throated hummingbird at 1/400 second at f/2.8 at an ISO rating of 1000.
I went out to take some insect pictures this evening but it was a bit dark to get anything worth much. I got a bunch of pictures of leaf hoppers but none of them were sharp and all were a bit of a disappointment. I was sort of resigned to post a picture that was only half way decent of a skipper.
It wasn’t a long time later that the sun began to set and I realize I’d have the opportunity to take some other pictures and save you all (both of you) from that. So, here’s a sunset, instead of the skipper.
I took more pictures of skippers today and fully expected that I’d post one of those here. But there were two variegated fritillaries (Euptoieta claudia) flitting around the yard (does that make them flitillaries?). For the most part I couldn’t get very close to them but once, as I was standing quite still, one landed within range and I got a half dozen shots in before it left. Most of them were not at an ideal angle but this one and one other turned out pretty well. The skippers are there all the time, so getting pictures of them can wait.
It’s still summer here, but some things have finished blooming and moved into autumn mode. The various species of Asclepias in the yard is a good example, with its flowers having faded and with seed pods bursting with the characteristic silky, filament-like coma or pappus. As the seed pod opens and the coma dry out, they are borne by the wind and the seeds deposited far and wide (to grow as weeds in someone else’s yard. Actually, we’ve had some come up in our yard, which we consider a good thing. But you have to either recognize what a small Asclepias looks like or let your weeds grow a bit before you pull them.
This isn’t the most flattering picture I’ve even taken of these two sisters, Abbie on the left and Grace on the right. Actually, the reason I was taking pictures of them was to get one considerably less flattering still (at their request!). I had intended to post that one but decided I would not, after all. So, feel free to laugh and to poke fun at them. If you know what the other pictures was then you probably know where it can be found. Feel free to enjoy it there. Abbie and Grace, if you want to post that one, it’s okay by me.
This moth took a little stalking before I could get a good picture. When I first saw it and got a picture the shutter speed was too slow and the first two pictures were not very good. I upped the ISO to 2,000 and got this one at 1/60 second at f/5.7. It still isn’t as good as I’d like. I went inside to get my twin flash macro bracket but when I came back out the moth was nowhere to be found. I did get a few images of a tiny fly (in the Family Lauxaniidae) but I thought most of my followers would appreciate a moth rather than a fly.
I was driving into Rockville today and had a little time to spare. I decided to go to the First Baptist cemetery at the corner of W. Jefferson Street and Great Falls Road. On the way there I was sitting at a light and saw these clouds. I had plenty of time (it’s a long red) and I grabbed my camera and got three nice pictures before I had to put the camera down and start driving again. I also got some nice pictures of the cemetery but I decided I like this one better.
Liriope is a genus of grass-like, flowering plants from East Asia. It makes a nice ground cover when grown in quantity, although it’s fairly slow to fill in, so you’ll need to plant quite a few plants to really cover the ground. It’s also enjoyed by rabbits. We have some growing along the edge of a bed under a Colorado spruce and it gets eaten back fairly regularly. It generally recovers but who knows how it would look if it didn’t have to deal with that? The name comes from Greek mythology. To quote from Wikipedia, “Liriope is a Boeotian naiad, who was probably the daughter of one of the Boeotian or Phocian river Gods. Liriope was loved by the river-god Cephissus, who was himself the son of Oceanus and Tethys, and bore his son Narcissus.”