Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fishermen's Wharf

Can't compare to Bitstop's amazing ship photos, but I'll keep trying!

That drifted past while we were eating a late lunch. The damn thing is as big as my house. Possibly even a bit bigger than my house...

Much, much bigger than my house but I like it much better than those other ones.

Not unhappy with the shots, but I must plan ahead next time. (Although I am getting smarter: I knew I'd be running around town so I actually threw the DSLR in the truck.)

The mid-afternoon sun was rather lovely if still a bit overly-bright (it is, after all, still August in spite of the hints of autumn in the air and quality of light).

Neither was there an obvious (or easy--town was still thick with tourists) way to get on the other side of the harbor to put the sun at my back. :o( And the docks were full--four ships deep in some places. Missed the catch off-load, too.

When all else fails, take advantage of the backlighting!

No idea beyond a guess that it has something to do with nets, but it looked interesting.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Still looking closely...

And still hitting paydirt at CMBO Goshen. Still in the mountain mint. Gotta get me some of this plant!!!

European Mantid, Mantis religiosa; yup, this one's the "real" Praying Mantis. But it isn't one of our native mantids. (Obviously, if it's called a European.)

Most North American mantids, native and introduced both, are on the small side (under 3"); Chinese Mantids are the huge ones (over 4"). Both the European and the Chinese mantids were introduced to the United States by well-meaning gardeners in the late 1800's for pest control.

Note the white dot on the black spot in its armpit (click on photo to see it) and wings that run all the way to the end of the beastie--key features that make it a European mantid. The Carolina mantid (2-2.5", with wings that are shorter than the abdomen) is our only native here in the East. [*hee-hee-hee* I bought a new bug book; I think I picked the right one.]

Yes, it's a skipper. And I even know which skipper because our local butterfly guru was conducting a garden walk: Sachem.

Egads, another skipper. (Will, the butterfly man, usually finds around a dozen species of skipper on his surveys at CMBO/CRE.) And again, an ID thanks to Will: Salt Marsh Skipper; it's the only one here with such long, slim wings. (Skippers are as bad as dragonflies for difficultly with an ID. I'm learning the damn things against my will!!!)

Much more to my taste: yet another hairstreak, this time a White M. Seriously. Can't you see the "M" below and to the right of the orange spot? (Okay, so it's actually a black and white M... Whatever.)

Also saw the wee little black-legged, yellow-bodied crab spider again but instead of running insanely around the mint, this time s/he was hiding under a floret with only two front legs visible from above. :o(

Friday, August 19, 2011

Look closely.

The gardens around Cape May Bird Observatory's Center for Research and Education may look a bit worse for wear, but if you walk slowly and look closely, there is much to see. If a recently posted critter photo wasn't taken at my house, chances are it's from the CMBO property.

Here are a few more:


Partridge pea, growing like, well, a weed.

But oh-my-gosh, it's a native!

I can't get enough of hairstreaks (another Gray), and they can't get enough of the mountain mint.

Hah! One of two skippers I can ID without a blink: silver-spotted.

No idea beyond that maybe it's a moth (maybe) and it's handsome.

Boneset. Ya gotta love the name. And it's pretty. And native. And look who was sitting quietly in the background hoping to be overlooked:

Maybe an inch long, perhaps a hair more. That's a boneset leaf it's on. Remember how I said I hate to ID dragon/damselflies but they do have the most fantastic names? "Fragile Forktail." JKRowling couldn't do better... (Many thanks once again to Mike Crewe. Who needs an id book when he's as close as an email?)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm glad somebody's happy...

With the weather. (Those are not raindrops--I finally had to hose down everything on the decks last week. When I wrote this, I was watching a nasty storm--sliding north of us and leaving us only with some rather spectacular light. *phbbbt* As I post this: ditto, but without the neat sun and clouds look.)

One of the few plants that I've bought that has not only survived in spite of me but is thriving is the hens-and-chicks. I started them in the yard around a little pond soon after I moved in, but when they didn't appear to be too happy there I moved them to pots on my deck.

They like that much better, well enough to not only survive winters outside (even in relatively shallow pots that must freeze solid at least some of time) but to multiply enough to require dividing up every few years.

This spring's division is doing ok in the take-out container, although the one grew up instead of out. (I'm not sure plucking off the dead lower leaves helped the look. Well, it's different.)

A couple years or so ago I had transferred the bulk of the plants to a huge planter that was mostly for a trellised morning glory. It needed some more soil cover to keep down the weeds, and I figured being in full sun most of the day would please the succulents.

Ai-yi-yi… They've gone gang-busters, shooting out babies left and right.

And they are themselves taking on new stature. Okay, so it's nowhere near the size of its agave cousins from Longwood Gardens but for a houseplant/rock garden accent plant I'd say they're doing alright. And they need to be divided again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yes, one more spider. [updated]

Sorry, they are the only critters who (mostly) sit still long enough to have their pictures taken.

Pick your favorite common name: yellow garden spider, black & yellow garden spider, common garden spider, orb weaver, Argiope aurantia...

Don't care what you call her except wonderful: that sure looks like a green head fly to me. (Ok, so it has green eyes, not a green head. Whatever. That's what it is commonly called. And if you don't understand my rejoicing, you've never been to the Mid-Atlantic coast in summer.)

Look up. She's got a not-so-little secret tucked up there above the window frame.

UPDATE: She's gone, but she left a little something else to remember her by...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tree Cricket.

Caused me to dodge, she did, when she winged across the deck past my head...

Of course, she looks nothing like any illustration in the guides--those show males, whose wings are flat and wide across the top of the body. Personally, I think she's more interesting.

Bit unusual beastie in that a tree cricket's mouth parts jut straight out, unlike most crickets and grasshoppers whose choppers are tucked under to their chins. If they have chins...

Nobody's looking... (antenna up)

Oops, I've been noticed. (antenna down)

Friday, August 12, 2011

All good things...

To those who wait. Unless one is waiting in the wrong place...

The MO of a crab spider is to hide motionless and ready to grab a quick snack, usually near the tip of a plant that is in a zone of high insect activity and often somewhere that provides at least a hint of camouflage.

But this little one may go hungry a bit longer than it should have to. The only reason I found it, even though I was looking for just such a beastie, was due to the fact that it was just a bit shy of an ideal position: a little too far from the mountain mint flowers that were humming (literally) with nectaring insects of all sizes and persuasions, and a little too conspicuous in the darker green leaf of a trumpet honeysuckle vine wending its way through the mint patch.

Ever try to hold your arms out like that for extended periods? It's difficult. It hurts after a bit. (It was a favorite punishment of a teacher I once had for students who talked too much during class. Yes, speaking from experience and that's all I'm saying about it except once was enough to learn the lesson. That year.) Our little crab spider apparently thought so too; notice how the front legs have drooped a bit from the first photos. (Could be it was just nervous about the possibility that I might fall into the mint patch. I was.)

Shaped rather like a crab spider, but a quick search through a couple of guides didn't give me a name to pin to this gorgeous--and ridiculously fast; I don't usually bother to crank the sharpness slider to 100 and still post a fuzzy photo--wee little creature. Much to my amusement, there actually is a group of arachnids called "running crab spiders"…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weed or Wildflower?

We'll now take a brief break from the creepy crawlies... (Sorry, lots more neat spider stuff to come!)

"If it blooms, it's not a weed." Unless it's where you don't want it.

Then it's toast. I am ruthless when it comes to wood sorrel (Oxalis) in the deck containers, native though it may be. I find it a lovely little wildflower, but it seeds itself everywhere. Prolifically.

At least it makes a nice subject for photo-fiddling.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Less-creepy spiny spider…

Another variety of spiny spider is also living on my front deck. This one is an Arrow-shaped Micrathena and is kindly (wisely) living amongst the hanging plants under the umbrella, so she isn't in my way.

A half-inch long spider against a busy background isn't easy to photograph (especially without a macro lens) and I'm afraid I scared the beejeebers out of her at first try. She leapt off her web straight at me when I put my finger up to give the camera something to focus on. How convenient that she landed on a nice solid background that contrasted so well with her colors...

Left alone (and uneaten) for awhile, she returned to her web and I came back with the DSLR, manual focus, and a steadier hand.

Okay, one more creepy spider pic: I moved the Spiny Micrathena's web again this morning... So I took her photo again while I was at it. (Not sure what she's doing with the drop of water that it looks like she's holding.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not so wee, nor wingéd.

Nor even an ant.

Despite the common name of Velvet Ant, it's actually a female wasp that for some lost-to-time, left-instead-of-right evolutionary turn is wingless. (Well, it obviously works; sometimes that's the only reason biology needs.) [ED. NOTE: She's relatively large as wasps go--about 3/4 of an inch long.]

It just so happens that I had found a male--who has wings (all the better to chase the girls?)--the day I found the tuliptree scale:

Gorgeous creatures… Too bad neither was easy to photograph. The guy was in deep shade (and I wasn't shooting with the flash, obviously) and the gal was trucking across the driveway so quickly that I had to waylay her (a plastic beverage cup was luckily close at hand) in order to go for a camera (you'd think I'd have learned by now that I should have a camera in hand each and every time I step out of my door, even if I'm just getting something out of the truck) and attempt (unsuccessfully) to slow her down enough to hope for a halfway decent photo.