Friday, June 29, 2012

Not what I'd call ideal habitat...

For a tree frog. On the other hand, if the summer is hot and dry and there's no other option for standing water... This bucket is balanced on the deck rail by my front door, and there was something unusual about it when I came home from work yesterday evening. See it? (Remember, tree frogs are out-of-place little gray blobs.) Look closely:

She's about half again as large as the one that was on the other deck the other month. Not sure if she was just soaking or was up to something else in the pot; there's too much duckweed to tell what she was doing other than that she probably was in the water at some time.

There was a frog-sized space clear of duckweed and she looked far too moist for the heat. Looks a bit plump, as well, but that could be merely due to the fact she's balanced on a rather thin rim.

Friday, June 22, 2012

But how big a bug is it? (This one? BIG.)

My mother recently made a request, along the lines of a suggestion: It would be nice if you indicated how big these things you photograph are... (Actually, she's informed me that she wanted to know how small these things are.)

It was a good idea that in less than two days I had the opportunity to put into practice.

So after I had stripped a few years' growth of multiflora rose (nearly impossible to get rid of non-native that grows like a weed) and Virginia Creeper (native stuff, good for wildlife, blah blah blah, but it grows like a, well, a weed…) from one of my sheds, I  glanced up and noticed an odd shape on the wall. Closer inspection gave me this:

I was doing nasty sweaty yard work and didn't want the cameras outside, but I did have a recently-emptied container to corral the beastie in after its in situ shots. Hopefully it would stay there long enough for me to get some close-ups. Yes, of course it was near the peak of the shed a few feet over my head, and yes, I knocked it down, as gently as I could. It landed safely on a few years' accumulation of mud and mulch, which may have made a better landing than the bucket anyway. (And once it was down, who knew it would play dead so well for so long?)

Top shot while it's pretending to be a bit of bark or something. Yup, that's an inch and a half. Eyed Click Beetles top out at about one and three quarters inches.

Bottom shot, with appendages well tucked. I didn't leave it this way for long, even though this is a typical click beetle capable of "clicking" itself right side up. After reading a recent blog post on Naturespeak about this incredible beastie and thus discovering they are capable of delivering a strong chomp (they eat grubs), I didn't want to pester it longer than I had to.

As it turned out, it was determined to play dead. I finally breathed on it to provoke a response.

Once it decided I wasn't going to eat it, it quickly started to scramble away. I tipped it into a plant pot, where it promptly returned to its defensive rigor and stayed that way longer than I had the patience to wait and see what it would eventually do.

The next day I found the kind of click beetle that I grew up with:

These are comparatively wee things (about as long as my thumb nail is wide) we never thought twice about turning upside down to watch flip upright with that audible little *click*.

I bet that Eyed Click Beetle would have gained some serious altitude and made quite a noise…

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ooh, how lovely... EeeeEEK!

This handsome young beastie (some sort of grasshoppery crickety (really long antennae) type thing, I think, even though it doesn't appear to have wing buds yet) caught my eye for obvious reasons. The colors...! The pattern...!

The really ugly mug...


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Damsel in Distress!

Okay, being eaten is perhaps a bit more than distressful.

A bit unusual, too, as it isn't a dragon eating the damsel (there is a species of dragonfly called a Dragonhunter that preys on other odonates) but another damselfly. Damselflies, although predators in their own right, typically go after smaller, less ponderous meals like as aphids and other such tidbits.

I discovered this particular cannibalistic event while I dawdled behind during a guided walk. My cameras weren't up to the task of recording the moment, but luckily we had just run into the local Butterfly Guy who had the experience and the lens to get the shots.  Thank you, Will !!!

Photos courtesy and © 2012 Will Kerling.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Belleplain, Early June.

Tarkiln Pond: a very pretty location as well as productive for all sorts of flora and fauna. Located along the northern border of Cape May County in Belleplain State Forest.

Veggin' the edge. Botanizing the blacktop… A large percentage of roadside plants are non-native, but they are numerous and beautiful. (And fearless leader Mike Crewe knows them all. As he should--for him, they are natives!)

Forget flowers; this onion (your everyday oniongrass, the non-native common wild onion) just clones more baby onions that will simply drop off and, hopefully, take root. (Mike has dubbed it the "Rasta Onion"… Walks with Mike are always amusing as well as educational.)

Deptford pink. A non-native but very lovely little flower.

Tony really gets into this birds and bugs and botany stuff…

It might be some species of tiger moth caterpillar. As thorough as my huge (nearly 2 inch thick) caterpillar guide is, it has a photo of a near-identical cat titled "Agreeable Tiger Moth" but with little info beyond that.

I'm not even going to try for an id on this "inchworm" (more like inch-and-a-half worm) but a closer look by Mike at a haphazardly nibbled bush along the roadside turned up the culprit and it cooperated for its portrait.

Where's a Peterson's Eastern Moths Guide when you need one???

Nearly the smallest example of its order (damselflies), a Fragile Forktail. It's little more than an inch long in real life--the inchworm was considerably bigger.

American Lady. She looks large in this photo, but she was actually a very small representative of her species.

American Copper. This is as wee a little butterfly as it appears.

Much to my surprise, I'm very quickly falling in love with waterlilies… (With Photoshop's "Ink Outline" filter this time.)

This web's maker was nowhere to be found. Some orb weavers are more nocturnal than not, so she may have been hiding under the sluice. With my vertigo, I certainly was not going to lean over to look for her, guard rail or no guard rail.

Wow! Blue and violet together on a damselfly; my favorite colors on a favorite critter. ("Variable Dancer"--who comes up with these names?!)

A quite striking female Spangled Skimmer. (Note that dragonflies hold their wings out flat, for the most part. Damselflies hold their wings over their backs, for the most part. There are always exceptions.)

And a more subtle but just as striking female Ebony Jewelwing.

This male Sparkling Jewelwing is even more impressive a creature. A rather appropriate name, too, as these particular damselflies (there were four males flitting about in the sun alongside the Tuckahoe River) were so iridescent that they really did appear to sparkle!

What trip leaders do after a walk while waiting for sandwiches at a local custard-stand-type eatery. It appeared to be some kind of football (not soccer--Mike is a Brit) crossed with volleyball…

(Sparkling Jewelwing male again)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Go fly a kite...

I prefer young things with four feet and fur, but even I must admit that my three year old nephew is quite an engaging little imp. And very photogenic in a happy, goofy way. (Sure wish I could still translate toddler talk, though; I used to excel at it when his dad was his age.)

My brother's family's first trip to the Jersey shore!

Of all things, they forgot the life jacket for the visit to Grandmom's shore house. (And on a day with a nearly-full moon, spring tide no less--there's usually land out there, a few miles of it across to the mainland on the horizon. Tides had to have been running close to 8 feet above mean low this weekend.) Makes it a bit tricky dealing with a boy who doesn't know how to stand still and loves water.

And then Auntie Wren has to go and point out a crab on the piling… (Happy to report that no one went swimming unintentionally. Hah! We didn't have to even have railings on these docks when I was that age.)

Videos are serious business, enough to justify sitting still.
(For about four and a half minutes. Maybe.)

Kites are never serious business.

"Higher! HIgher!"

Can you tell that it was Lucas' first experience flying a kite?

(Notice the tippy toes...)


Dad figured out how to make it dance. So Lucas did, too.