Kids on drugs?

I’ve had such positive responses to yesterday’s katydid photo that I’ve been going back over the last time I had the opportunity, which was almost a year ago, and I’ll be doing a follow-up blog soon. But first…

Have you ever wondered how some of the creatures in this incredibly-diverse world of ours can develop the amazing (and sometimes downright outrageous) colors that they do? Tropical inhabitantsespecially fish and birdscome to mind, as well as various butterflies come immediately to mind, and I’ve found myself wondering if they could be any more flamboyant if someone had given hallucinogenic drugs to a group of kids (of any age), provided them with an array of magic markers and paints and fluorescent lighting and turned them loose to invent the wildest creatures they could think of.

Ever since I saw my first one as a boy in Michigan, I have been drawn to the minuscule (average 8 mm or 1/3 inch) red-banded leafhopper (Graphocephala coccinea), which could quite conceivably be the creation of someone whose mind and imagination have  been considerably altered and enhanced, respectively.

While I was looking for yesterday’s katydid again, with not much hope of finding it, a small butterfly caught my eye, and then another, and while I was following them around to where I thought they had landed on our sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata), which climbs up and all over our mailbox, this little fellow whizzed up and landed Red-banded leafhopper 2367on a nearby leaf, whereupon I abandoned all pursuit of the butterflies and started cautiously (and gleefully) stalking my new prey. I was able to get within comfortable macro distance and the breeze was calm, andafter its third moveit became comfortable enough with me nearby that it was apparently content to dismiss me as a potential threat.

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Green on green

I’m back in Omaha and have another week until CD returns from her five weeks in New Zealand with our girls and their families and, even though she isn’t here to supervise, YardWork must be done. Accordingly, I was dutifully mowing the lawn today, and I noticed an insect jumping out of the path of the mower and flying into a tuft of ornamental grass that we have. I immediately shut off the mower and moved cautiously in for a closer look. What I found was a lovely katydid, hiding deep in the depths of the grass jungle. Since there was no way that I could get a clear view, I finished the mowing and came back shortly afterwards. My photo angel Frances was with me, as it had climbed up to one of the tufts, in plain sight. I was very soon back with my macro lens and tripod and, though I maneuvered carefully, it was obviously aware of my presence and kept creeping around to the back side of the tuft. I moved more slowly and, eventually, it allowed me to get a few good shots, of which I like this one best. After consulting several online resources, I have Handsome meadow katydid 2324learned that there are some 6,400 species of katydid, and I believe (thanks to one of my favorite resources, that my visitor was a male Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum). If you’d like to know the species of grass that was his chosen refuge and perch, you’ll have to wait another week until I can consult CD, who can pretty much immediately put a name to any plant in the garden, at which point I’ll update this post to include that information.

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A fondness for fungi: Turkey tail

I was finally able to go for a hike in our woods today, but my old path was so congested with windfall trees in the wake of the big windstorm a little over a month ago that I spent nearly all the time trying to make it reasonably navigable again. I had my little camera with me, but all but forgot to use it–until I had followed it to its end and was returning on a neighbor’s logging road. There on the cut surface of a large tree that had been felled years ago, was this magnificent example of a what I’m quite sure is a turkey-tail mushroom Trametes versicolor 1030259-post(Trametes versicolor), which I simply must share with you. I included another specimen in a post (here) just a little less than a year ago. I have only one more day here, but I’ll be back in a few weeks and will see if I can find others when I have a bit more time.

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A looper in the fleabane

I’m spending a week at our cabin in northern Minnesota and have been mostly working on cutting up the trees that fell during our big straight-line windstorm a little over a month ago and haven’t had much time at all for any recreational photography. I did, however, find an interesting caterpillar which could possibly be the larva of a cabbage looper Cabbage looper on daisy fleabane 2257(Trichoplusia ni), which is a pretty common geometer moth–at least it looks pretty similar to the illustration in my faithful Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths from 1977. I’m more confident in putting a name to the plant in which it was perched: It’s Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus). I could identify the plant because there were still some blossoms, which look very much like tiny yellow daisies with many frilly white petals.

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Webnesday (39)

For the past several days I have been watching a beautiful orb weaver building, consuming, and re-building a web just outside our bedroom window.  This evening, after answering post comments, I decided to see if I could make a portrait photo. There’s a lot of vegetation that prevents intimate access, so I had to use a secure tripod and my long lens at its extreme (300 mm) and employ the on-camera flash, because it was already deep twilight, and there was barely enough light to focus manually. I made about ten shots, and Neoscona? 2241only one gave me decent detail (probably because she was busily manipulating and chewing on the yellow jacket that had had the ultimate misfortune of trying to make a pass through her web).  I’ll try to make a better shot tomorrow, when there’s more natural light.

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Last lady standing

A little over a week ago I posted (here) about our naked ladies (Lycoris squamigera) in their prime and at their best. They grow in two separate places in our garden and have been holding on bravely but, as will happen with all mortal beings, all in one stand most of them in the other have lost their glorious, blushing radiance—all save one.  Last naked lady 1030214I’m sure it’s the last, as I cannot find any new buds waiting to unfurl. They are among my very favorite garden gracers, and it’s always a little sad to see them wither and fade. Last naked lady 1030216But they will be back again next year—and we still have daisies and brown-eyed Susans to savor for a while longer. And we have these memories.

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Nebulous noteables: Iowegian monster (Part 2)

In my reply to the comment by ShoreAcres in my last post, I mentioned that a large part of the original cloud had calved off and that the two parts had then migrated apart. I made Iowegian monster 2224this shot of the larger (but not as tall) portion within seconds of the one I featured yesterday.  Imagine, if you can, these two combined. I still get goosebumps when I think what it must have been like to be under it! And, yes, this one was 100 miles away as well.

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