Webnesday (66): Long-Jaw Silver

The day before yesterday Squiddy came and tapped on our window. She had discovered a spider that we had both been hoping to find some day, but which had so far eluded us. It was a female Leucauge dromedaria, commonly known as a humped silver orb spider. It belongs to the long-jawed orb weavers and is native to New Zealand, Australia, and also some South Pacific Islands. She was quite happy to explore a branch of swan plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus), a southeast African variety of milkweed which is, by far the universally-preferred food plant here for our many Monarch butterfly caterpillars. As usual, if you’d like a more detailed view, just click on one of the photos.

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Menagerie Monday: Figuratively Speaking

One of the trees that we acquired when we bought our place here in Auckland three years ago was a fig. Frankly, I have had many chances to sample (candied) figs in my younger days, and I must admit that I cannot remember ever having been impressed. However, I try to be always open to (most) new opportunities, and I had never sampled a fresh fig right off the tree until we moved here. I can’t say that it matches other fruits in our little orchard, but it’s a little better than I expected. On the other hand, there are birds that are very fond of them, among which are the wonderful silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis). They are very small, with a maximum length of about 12 cm (4.7 inches), and very active and difficult to catch with a camera. As our figs mature, however, they are increasingly attracted to them, and they provided me with a few minutes of opportunity yesterday. Aren’t they lovely? (See also my last post from two years ago featuring them, here.)

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World Whale Day

Tomorrow, the third Saturday in February, is World Whale Day, which has been observed on this date since 1980. I’d like to offer a few images from two encounters that come immediately to mind. I made the first in the Hauraki Gulf, during an excursion from Auckland, New Zealand, in 2005, while I had only dreams (and no firm plans) ever to reside here. It’s a pair of Orcas, with the Auckland skyline in the background. These last two are fond memories of humpbacks from a cruise that sailed from Moss Landing, California, back in November, 2014. May you have a safe, healthy, whale of a day.

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Monday Menagerie: Feathery Flashback

As high summer has us in its grip here in the Southern Hemisphere, with near-drought conditions again threatening us with brown grass and the start of cracks in the soil, I’ve gone back in my archives to six years ago, to a welcome relief from a several-month-long winter drought when we lived in Nebraska. The relief came in the form of a beautiful snowfall that started around 9:30 in the morning and lasted for about 5½ hours. When I went out to shovel the driveway, I heard the unmistakable chittering and cooing of several turkeys calling softly to each other, a sound I hadn’t heard for a couple of months. I spied a flock of ten toms slowly working their way in my direction, so I slowly went back into the garage, put the shovel down, hurried inside, grabbed my camera, and slowly made my way back outside, standing very still and very quietly near the foot of the driveway. They didn’t seem to mind the click of my shutter at all, and we watched and studied each other for about 15 minutes before they ambled out of range again. It’s a memory I will long remember. Meanwhile, back to the present, rain is predicted—at last—for tomorrow. I hope it will come, as the land really needs it, with water restrictions and well-below-normal reservoir levels. Here’s hoping.

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Here Be Goblins (3)

Here’s another offering from our hike on Mt. Taranaki earlier this week. We were surrounded by three of my favorite forms of vegetation—mosses, ferns, and lichens. Today I bring you a sample of the latter. I would have loved to have a tripod to get a shot with greater depth of focus and my Nikon with a macro lens, but the weather and the available time resulted in my using my waterproof Olympus hand-held. Next time we get a chance, I hope to go better equipped and with more time for photographic preparation.

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Here Be Goblins (2)

Back in the Goblin Forest on the eastern slope of Mt. Taranaki, there were not only a great selection of mosses and lichens, but also a fine array of ferns as well. Both the overcast sky and the intermittent rain cooperated to produce my favorite lighting conditions. I believe these are Parablechnum novae-zelandiae, or palm-leaf ferns, or Kiokio (the Māori name).

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Here Be Goblins (1)

I’ve been off the website for a week: We made an adventuresome excursion to New Plymouth, on the northern edge of the peninsula formed long ago by the eruption of the volcano known as Mt. Taranaki. We spent three days there with Squiddy and family, and on the last day embarked on an unforgettable hike up onto the slope of the mountain, from its east side. The weather (rain squalls and wind) was such that we went only part of the way toward Dawson Falls, but the section that we did hike included a generous portion of the section known as the Goblin Forest. The trees are blessed with wonderful crops of mosses and lichens, and we were well rewarded for our efforts. More to come, soon.

And, by the way, I’d like to ask for your help on another issue: With increasing frequency when I’m working with Photoshop, the dotted line that shows the size of the brush I’m using for dodging, burning, etc. disappears and I’m left with only the crosshair center of the brush. Sometimes it resets when I close and reopen the program, but I usually have to shut down and restart the whole system before it works again. Any thoughts, please?

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A Penchant for Pareidolia (6)

As we face a New Year with unforeseen, formidable, and frankly-bizarre challenges, I find myself looking for hope—and distraction—in the world around me. With this thought foremost in mind, we are delighted to be able to go for a casual walk in a local park, and we did just that a little more than a week ago, to a parcel of land that’s known as Smiths Bush, and is a rare and precious local remnant of old-growth forest. Among the most impressive trees are the puriri (Vitex lucens). There is an unforgettable grove of them near the main entrance, but as we walked the entire circuit (both ways), I noticed, or more accurately imagined—for the first time—not one, but two(!) faces imbedded in one of these remarkable trees, very close to the boardwalk. I had passed this tree at least several dozen times before, but this time it spoke to me. The first that caught my eye was the gnome, with its long chin and beard, its high forehead, and its scrunched-up eyes and nose, as if it had just heard a really outrageous pun; the second was just above and to the right of it, seeming to look down on its neighbor with something akin to benevolent tolerance. Can you see them? And, if you can, what do you read in their expressions?

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Family Flashbacks (18)

With this new year still in its diapers/nappies, I find myself reflecting back on this date in previous years, and this one, sixteen years ago, came to mind. We were happily ensconced in Omaha, Nebraska, and we had had a lovely all-day snowfall. I had just finished shoveling the driveway and took time to go back out again, at 20 minutes after midnight, to savor again the glow of our holiday decorations. I still miss our home of 18 memorable years there, but it’s history now, and we have moved on to wonderful new frontiers.

Posted in Family Flashbacks, Melancholy Monday, Night Photography | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Family Flashbacks (17): Nice Ice

As we hunker down between Christmas and the start of the New Year here in New Zealand in the mild clutches of an unseasonably cold spell for this early summer, my thoughts drift back to when this date found us in winter while we were living in Nebraska. It was our tradition to hang strings of pine cones from the downspouts that flanked our front porch and, when the weather was right, meltwater from the roof would trickle down them and during the chill nights would freeze into icicles. There was a particularly good crop ten years ago, a section of which I caught with our big, beloved oak in the background. With this memory, here’s an end-of-the-year warm wish for a safe and healthy New Year.

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