Saturday, July 30, 2011


Hot pink, that is. Bougainvillea--a new plant for me. It was on sale, of course. The painful-to-look-at pink flowers were a wonderful surprise.

This photo was over-exposed and trying to tweak it back wasn't working, so I took the color out of it instead. Who knew it would look better that way?

The bougainvillea was nearly a perfect match for the mini-mandevilla that was also on sale... Pink is a lovely color, so long as it is being worn by flowers (or flamingos) and not by me. ;o)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day-glo dragon.

Actually, she's matured a bit from when I first saw her. She's not nearly so loud as she was; you can see that the dots and dashes along her tail are no longer bright lime but are shading into turquoise...

This is a female Eastern Pondhawk; the males are actually a light powder blue all over. I'll say it again: dang confusing dragonflies. Good thing they are so wonderful to look at.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who knew?

That cantaloupe seeds were so tasty? Even when cooking in such a slimy soup that the bird had to shake them off before cracking them open. (The dish of fruit peelings was put out for the butterflies but then we actually had rain!)

This female cardinal didn't seem to mind the mess--she was back the next day for more. (Yes, I did try to dump off most of the rain water.)

Shouldn't be surprised, really, that she kept coming back for more; I think toasted pumpkin seeds are delicious. Cantaloupe seeds can't be that much different. I might have to fight the cardinal for the next batch.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


It's rather surprising to many (it was to me) that the prickly pear cactus is native to our region. (Eastern prickly pear, Opuntia humifusa, also called devil's-tongue in the native plant data base I have. Momentary panic over, that it wasn't actually a native: case in point for why most hardened scientific types prefer scientific rather than common names...) I suppose a sandy, and therefore relatively dry, soil is similar enough to that of a desert to get by on.

How marvelous that such a solidly-constructed and well-defended plant has such delicate flowers…

Friday, July 22, 2011

Difficult Dragons.

Yeah, you kind of think they would be…

A male Seaside Dragonlet (see what I mean about fantastic names?), an older one as the dusty bloom along his tail attests. [Hmm, I must remember to ask about those tick-like bumps along his back…]

A female of the same.

And another, younger, female Seaside Dragonlet.

Confusing, confusing, confusing! Many of the seaside dragonlets flitting around a local little pond appear solidly black. One of our expat Brits, who knows more about our flora and fauna than just about any local expert and generously shares it with us, tells me that any combination of black and orange (all black; all orange; black body, orange-spotted tail; orange-striped body, black tail) can be found on this particular little dragonfly.

Add in the fact that these things hardly ever sit still and you should not be surprised that a person must be more than a bit obsessive-compulsive to key them out. And have fun doing it. I am thrilled to find that I am not so obsessed. (Although I have to wonder if that is only because I'm inherently lazy and have someone like Mike around to happily do it for me…)

My conclusions after my recent mini-lessons in dragonfly id and morphology? It's much easier to tell males from females than species from species--you just look at the naughty bits. (Odonata porn. *sigh*) And beginners should not attempt either without a digital camera. 

Naturalists are indeed very odd folk… We love chasing dragons.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Midsummer's Day

High noon (or close enough to it as makes no difference) on a mid-July day is no where near an ideal time to be shooting photographs but you take what you can get when you can get it (and then tweak it later).

The underside of an orb weaver (garden spider). The zigzag is called a "stabilimentum" and theories as to its purpose range from structural support to visual warning to keep too-large prey out of the web. Doesn't look like this one is doing very well at either. On the other hand, it does seem to be the only thing holding the entire web together…

Itty bitty butterfly (Gray Hairstreak--my bad, I knew what it was), smaller than a quarter coin. (The plant is mountain mint. If you want to plant one thing that will bring in the largest possible number and variety of nectaring winged things--butterflies, bees, wasps, flies, things that you can't tell what they are because they are trying to look like something else--plant mountain mint.) I find these wee beauties charming, not the least for their tendency to twitch their wings up and down when perched, the flutterby version of wagging their tail(s)!

Halloween Pennant. Dragonflies can be quite a nuisance to ID given that males and females often exhibit sexual dimorphism (they look different even when the same species) and even an individual's appearance can change with age, but they (and their cousins the damselflies) have the most wonderful names!

Notice the parasites, a red mite, entrenched in between this one's body plates… ::twitching in sympathy::

I suppose that's some consolation for being eating alive by bloodsuckers during the dog days of summer: even the bugs are bugged by other bugs!

Friday, July 15, 2011

There you are...

After a rather vociferous early spring, the gray treefrogs (northern persuasion) in my yard have calmed down their calling. (Odd, as everyone else seems to be reporting higher activity in the recent rains.) I hadn't been able to follow their quacking to an actual frog even when I was sure there was one somewhere on the front corner of the house (possibly in the downspout--smart frog). It was pure luck that I noticed this one when I went out on the side deck the other morning. [Apologies for the pre-coffee, slightly-out-of-focus shots. And the desperately-in-need-of-cleaning-and-painting doorframe. Eek.]

How nice that the former homeowner picked tree-frog gray for the color of the house siding! (Interesting side note: these frogs have the ability to turn tree-frog green as well; I've not been lucky enough to see this, but I have noticed changes in the amount of the dark patterning in one individual over the course of a day.)

'Sephone, having successfully charmed her way into the house last fall, becomes very confused when I go outside...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Snake in the gr—, tree?

Green snake in a tree, sure. Black rats and even racers, definitely. All three are considered somewhat arborial.

But a young garter snake?

That was surprising. It is even more surprising that I didn't walk smack into this little fellow, given that it was hanging practically at eye level right over the path to my deck. Luckily for both of us I did notice it when I walked back, and it even stayed long enough for me to get the camera.

Speaking of scales in trees... I finally noticed that my tulip tree was collecting an inordinate amount of bees and wasps and butterflies, given that it hasn't been in bloom for weeks. Turns out several branches were copiously dripping sap. Huh???

The culprit: tulip tree scale. Oh. Of course. (This little patch of the bug--yes, scale is actually an insect--is nothing compared to the badly infected branches. And you could actually see the things peeing!)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A flight? A swarm? A squadron? An assault?

A maelstrom? A seethe? (No no no, that's vampires...)

What do you call a dozen or so gigantic dragonflies hunting en masse over your driveway?

I know what I'd call an under-dressed, repellent-free person who goes outside in an attempt to video them: stupid.

[Trust me, the blurry little objects zipping back and forth are easily 4+ inch long dragonflies. And maybe a close-up mosquito or three.]