Family Friday: Aww, The Sprout and Leo

Some of you may remember the post that I sent out in June, reporting that our Leo had developed one white whisker. Well, time is passing and entropy continues to envelop us all, and he’s no exception. Another whisker, right next to the first one gone white, has followed suit, as you can see—hence the “Aww” in my title, for “another white whisker.” Here he is again, this time in the very good company of Batty’s daughter The Sprite. Don’t they just make the purrrfect pair?

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Webnesday (64)

As the days grow longer, the  weather warms and the flora flourish, I’m seeing a very rewarding increase in the fauna in our garden as well. One very welcome guest that I met last week is a variety of little jumping spider that I haven’t seen for some 3½ years, and I found that last one in Batty’s garden, about a kilometer and a half from where we live. It’s a female Polkadot Hopper (Opisthoncus polyphemus). This immigrant was reportedly first noticed in the north part of the North Island some 20 years ago and has expanded its new range here down into its central region. It is endemic to Australia and New Guinea.I’m still using the Classic Editor, so you can see more detail with a click on a photo.

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Portraits: A Perfect Pair

I was browsing through my file of favorite critter photos earlier today and came across this image that I made back in March 2018, at the annual livestock show that is held on the showgrounds in the little community of Kumeu, which lies to the northwest of Auckland. I was enchanted by the obvious trust, respect, and fondness evident between this venerable rancher and his favorite bull. I had every intention of including this in a post at the time, but I see that I did not. So it’s long overdue, and I’m happy to bring it to you now.

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Fleeting Beauty: The Tiny and the Giant

Squiddy found this tiny nymph yesterday; we thought it was a wētā, but it’s likely to have been a katydid. I coaxed it onto some dandelions and was able to make just this one photo before it jumped away. Unfortunately, its hind legs, which were easily at least three times the length of its body, were not within my depth of focus. I should have made a few shots while it was in the glass, and was actually quite lucky to get this one. That dandelion head, by the way, is 4.5 cm (1.77 inches) in diameter. Since I already posted this before a more likely ID, I’ll keep the wētā information. They are indigenous to New Zealand and are basically giant, flightless cricket relatives, belonging to the families Anastomatidae and Rhaphidophoridae, and are among the heaviest insects in the world. An adult giant wētā can be as large as a gerbil. My only personal experience with an adult was on the island of Tiritiri Matangi in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland in December 2018. This one was about three inches (7.6 cm) long. It was snuggled into the foliage so I couldn’t get a very clear view, but you should get a pretty good idea. If you do a Google search for “weta insect,” lots more information is available for this magnificent insect.

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We have two reasons to be especially jubilant. The first is that our application for NZ permanent resident visas has been approved. This process has taken more than five years and a boatload of paperwork and other associated red tape, but it’s finally come to pass. The second is that we have dropped to C-19 risk level 1, a little less than a week ago. Things are pretty much back to normal, to our delight—although one new case was reported two days ago, and folks are still advised to wear masks when using public transportation, and most are complying. And the recent elections produced excellent results, in accordance with our hopes. We feel so very fortunate to be here and in daily touch with our families. There are so many reasons to give thanks for our blessings, and these are only a few.

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Webnesday (63)

Last Saturday I hosted a garden party for the whole family. We brought the tablecloth and napkins back to wash them and set them on the dining room table. On Sunday morning I heard a startled yelp from CD and when I came to investigate, she said that she had seen an enormous spider retreat into a little cave in the folds of the napkins. When I looked more closely, I was excited to find this magnificent male sheetweb (or bush) spider, Cambridgea foliata, which had apparently taken refuge there and stayed put overnight. We know it was a male because of the large chelicerae (which hold the fangs), and they are known to be out and about at this time of year looking for females. On his way to a garden release, I gave him a few minutes to explore a small bouquet of flowers that I’d bought at a grocery store the day before; I’m sorry, but I didn’t note the name of the flowers. The one that he’s perched on in the photo, though, is exactly 6 cm (almost 2.4 inches) across. These are one of our largest spiders, and their webs can be more than a meter (39.36 inches) in diameter. Feel free to click on a photo if you’re adventurous enough to see an enlargement.

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I think back, now and then, just how lucky I’ve been
With the lands I’ve been privileged to know,
All the curious faces and magical places I’ve seen,
How in many a new land I’ve taken a new hand
In friendship beginning to grow,
My first trip at eighteen and the many long years in between.

When I first left my land and arrived in Japan,
A whole new world was opened to me,
And the people I saw and the new culture all were so strange.
Though at first I was blind, I was opening my mind
And I soon was beginning to see
That our smiles were the same, and with that came the start of the change.And the more that I saw, there was more that I wanted to see,
And right from the start, I gave thanks in my heart
That this chance had been granted to me.

University inside the Wall of Berlin
In the seventies seems like a dream
And I still count my time there among the best years of my life.
As my studies went forth, a young girl from the North-
Country came, and we soon were a team,
And in spring, in the shade of the elms there, I made her my wife.When the summers would come I would put out my thumb
Just to see where a new road would lead—
Copenhagen or Bergen or Amsterdam—give me a ride!
Maybe Paris as well, maybe Stockholm or Helsinki,
Only a few things I’d need,
Never knowing how far, my guitar always there by my side.How the time seemed to fly as my path took me hither and yon,
But I saved all I could of my memories and friends
In my journals as I traveled on.

I can feel the heat still from the day Broken Hill
Was a hundred fourteen in the shade,
Hear the magical songs of the bell birds and magpies at dawn,
Where the Ghost Gums grow tall and the forest rains fall,
Smell the scent of the fragrance they made,
Feel the land cry for rain where the Nullarbor Plain stretches on.On New Zealand’s South Island I’ve traveled the high land
To where the Fox River is born
In its glacier of ice, ere it slices its way to the sea;
From the Cape in the East to Otago
I’ve feasted my eyes on her many a morn;
With her mountains and rivers a part of me ever will be.And the more that I saw, there was more that I wanted to see.
And right from the start, I gave thanks in my heart
That this chance had been granted to me.

Now, from Sydney’s white sails to the green Yorkshire Dales,
The Aegean’s indelible blue
Off the cliffs of Dubrovnik, to Reykjavik, strange on the tongue,
And from Montevideo to Botany Bay, from Managua to Mexico too,
In the pubs from Bemidji to Belfast my songs I have sung.

And Duluth, Minnesota’s the place where I’ll go
When it’s time to be settling down
To a home on the hill overlooking the Lake of Superior
With the sunlight at play on the breast of her bay
And her autumn’s incredible crown —
How I long for her song! Everywhere I have gone, I could hear her.How I’ve longed for her song—everywhere I have gone,
If I listened, I always could hear her!

(C) 2002, Gary D. Bolstad, KrikitMusic

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Webnesday (62)

Early yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, as I went  out to my tool shed in the back garden, I was happy to find one of my favorite spiders on the door, just waiting for me to invite it  to a photo session on one of our garden flowers, and I was only too happy to oblige.It’s a Holoplatys apressus, and its compact shape allows it to squeeze itself into some very tight spaces, which has resulted in its common name, which is “flattened jumping spider.” It is officially listed as endemic to New Zealand but it has very close relatives in Australia and, as it is commonly found in driftwood, it is thought to have quite possibly immigrated from there. Males and females are quite similar (males may have longitudinal abdominal stripes), so I’m not sure to which gender my volunteer belonged. It was very cooperative and we enjoyed each other’s company for a good hour or so. (Click on a photo to enlarge.)

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Birthday Greetings!

I’m having a lovely birthday today. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the birds are singing, and I’m treating the whole clan to dinner tonight from our favorite Turkish restaurant. I’m also reflecting on past birthdays and birthday weeks at our cabin in Minnesota and would like to share a few flashbacks that I’ve gathered from years past. One stands out in particular: my two musical buddies and I (together we are Indian Summer) put on a two-hour concert at the Historic Ironwood Theater in Ironwood, Michigan in 2012. We had an audience of around 250 and it went extremely well. Also, it’s very nostalgic for me to think of the magic of the autumn colors in the north woods that I have missed this year, so here are a few, just for fun. I hope you’re also having a lovely day!

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Webnesday (61)

It’s Webnesday, and I have a new one for you. The day before yesterday Batty and The Sprout saw a hunting wasp (likely Priochnemis monarchus) dragging a paralyzed banded tunnelweb spider (Hexathele hochstetteri) across the ground and managed to scoop the spider into a small container for observation, thereby saving it from a rather grisly end. The wasp had stung the spider and was certainly taking it to a burrow, in which it would lay an egg on it. When the egg would hatch, the larva would then devour the live (but still paralyzed) spider until it would be completely consumed. They brought the spider to me to give it another two days of relatively-peaceful life. I placed it on one of our garden flowers for a photo session, and then put it into the freezer, knowing that it would never recover from the deadly sting of the wasp. Compared to recent spiders that I’ve had the chance to study here, it was very large, its body approximately an inch (2.5 cm) in length. This was a fine windfall opportunity to help to add a final chapter to the life of this magnificent spider. Squiddy will preserve the spider and present it to her classes at the Auckland Institute of Technology for education and study.

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