Sorry Katy, You Ugly

I’ve been hitting you with an unhealthy dose of bird posts as of late … and for that I’m not sorry – ha. Just kidding, I know there are loyal readers out there that prefer the non-aviary topics (and I know that from all the hate mail I get when their tolerance is crested). The good news is I have tried to remedy that with a quick post on … wait for it… something that doesn’t have feathers.

Shield-Backed Katydid shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in July 2014

Something tells met some of you may have just taken a few steps back from the monitor just then. I cannot lie, I am having to force myself to stay at the keyboard just to get through this post. This bug basically looks straight out of a horror movie and it creeps me out staring just at the picture. It took incredible willpower to stand there in person looking at it through the camera eyepiece. Guessing you are wondering what this thing is and will not settle for the answer “It’s a bug!”. Scouring the Internet (a fancy and technically deceiving phrase for basically going straight to Google), I came up empty. By the way, just in case you get an inkling to do some Google oogling under the phrase “creepy looking bug” – DO NOT DO IT – you will not be able to go outside for a month! Luckily, my brother Ron had better luck and was able to successfully identify “the bug”. This ladies and gentlemen is referred to as a Shield-Backed Katydid. Coincidentally, that happens to be Latin for “creepy ass bug”.

Shield-Backed Katydid shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in July 2014

This specimen was found while chasing waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We were out there in July 2014 on our way to North Carolina. Unable to remember the name of the actual waterfall Linda wanted to shoot, but if recalling correctly it was not that far from their extremely impressive visitor center. Do not pass checking that out if you are in the area. While Linda dials in her silky waterfall shots, I’m generally exploring the area for birds (not a stretch there) and if that comes up empty, I transition to dragonflies, then bugs (then cool fungi if you are curious). There are zero birds in the Smokies and the dragons were nowhere to be found. Simply looked down at the railing (don’t tell Linda, but right behind where she was standing) this Katydid was hanging out likely annoyed we were disturbing its hunting grounds. Sorry for the limited shots… was it mentioned earlier this bug creeps me out!?!

A quick fact before I leave you. The Shield-Backed Katydid were given their moniker for the enlarged dorsal area of the prothorax (apparently also called a pronotum) which extends down to the abdomen. All I got for you tonight, hope you enjoyed the post.

Unwarranted Concern

Sorry everyone, it has been an extremely busy month so far and time keeps getting away from me – a lot of that due to running. I was able to log a 13 mile run today in a very hilly course, so I’m feeling comfortable about my upcoming Toughest Illinois’ 15K race. The good news on the blog front is I am once again within the 2 year queue window having processes a number of shoots including a run to Starved Rock and another to Kentucky – yes, they include new bird plus ones that are excited about their upcoming blog debut.

Thought I would throw out a quick one tonight just to get the ball rolling for the month.

Snowberry Clearwing shot at Jubilee College State Park in August of 2014

I should probably mention now that I have a pretty significant aversion to bees and hornets. On the bees front I used to experience significant swelling when I was a young kid whenever a bee would decide to sink its stinger in my tender flesh. Now that I am older I get a little less anxious around them when they are roaming around SOLO – get ground bees congested in a dirt hole and this dude starts looking for implements of mass annihilation. Mowed over a nest last year and several played a game of darts on my behalf. On the Bumblebee front I usually just let them be (see what I did there hehehe) having never met an aggressive one in the field – usually they are too drunk on nectar to care about me. However, there is one type of large hornet or wasp that used to terrorized our summer Wiffle Ball field. I have yet to fully ID it, but it was at least 2 inches long, banded with black and yellow with a stinger that would bring some serious tears to a young boy’s eyes. When I saw this creature through my camera it immediately triggered a flight reaction

Snowberry Clearwing shot at Jubilee College State Park in August of 2014

Could this be the terror of my youth!?! Concern quickly turned to intrigue and forced myself to try and get some additional shots. It was big – maybe in the 1 inch body size with a 1.5-2 inch wingspan. Definitely the right color palette, but something seemed a bit off. Those wings are much more robust than the standard Bee or Wasp wing and I do not remember either have a furry butt. Then I saw this image in the digital dark room.

Snowberry Clearwing shot at Jubilee College State Park in August of 2014

That image left me with the impression it was more of a Butterfly than a Bee or Wasp. Time to hit Google and figure out what this mystery guest was. From a region perspective, this was found at Jubilee State Park back in August 2014. Using that information with a smattering of the visual characteristics eventually revealed the answer to the mystery – as best I can tell, this is a Clearwing – likely of type Snowberry. My fears were unwarranted, for this is a harmless member of the Moth family. I hope that isn’t what we raged war on as a kid, but I distinctly remember getting stung by one so either we allowed ourselves to exaggerate too much and it was really a hornet or that villain is yet to be properly identified. The good news is I’ll be able to recognize the Clearwing from this point forward and let myself enjoy the moment rather than fight the flight urge.

Hope you enjoyed this new Moth for the blog – see you again real soon.

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My What Green Eyes You Have

Welcome to April everyone! Bonus time is now replaced with monthly quota time so I get to start the trek to 6 posts once again. Figured I could at least get one out of the way seeing as how I’m just sitting here trying to recover from a difficult training run this morning – first of the young season two loop pass through the hills of Springdale for a healthy 13 miles (also took the second loop in reverse to make sure the legs were totally drained by the end). I also know my brother Ron is out trying to add to his bird count right now so opted for a devious subject
Praying Mantis shot at house October 2014

I know for a fact that Ron is not fond of the Praying Mantis based on his decision to wait an extra month to turn the page on our EddieSoft Gallery calendar so he could skip looking at the one we selected for our annual product. You can view the previous featured post on the Mantis back in Sept 2010 (link here). Hoping that after viewing this new set he might be in enough trauma that he will prefer to stay inside rather than risk a personal encounter – ha.

Praying Mantis shot at house October 2014

Hit the jump to see a few more creepy pictures!

Continue reading My What Green Eyes You Have

Bee My Valentines

While out on a training run (that’s right Ron, not a “practice” run) I came up with a clever title for a post. This may seem odd to a non-runner, but trust me, when out on a long run you are looking for ANYTHING to keep your mind off of the fact you are actually on a long run. The enjoyment of being out in nature – hearing the song birds encourage you along the way coupled with seeing animals frolicking about the woods can only keep you distracted for so long. Eventually your muscles break through that nature bliss and remind you … well, that you are on a long run. At those times, I try to concentrate on what’s on tap for the next post. Now that I had the clever title, I sifted through my image queue and found an appropriate set…
Bee on flower taken at Biltmore Estate July 2014
… and then I forgot to write up the post in order to publish on the appropriate day – total failure. All that cleverness left in shambles gasping for air on the floor of the digital darkroom. Finally decided to swallow my pride and go ahead and finish this post 9 days late – sigh. Now don’t get to lenient on me, these Bee shots were taken all the way back in July 2014. So technically I’m like 3 Valentine’s celebrations late but let’s call it a rounding error. I decided to exercise some strategic cropping on these shots thanks to some less than ideal lighting conditions. That Bee you see above… well, it was a little farther away in the original shot.
Bee on flower taken at Biltmore Estate July 2014
Hit the jump to see a couple more pictures of this busy Bee

Continue reading Bee My Valentines

Fragile Wings

Why don’t we just put a put a bow on this non-bird month.  Just sitting here taking a quick break to recover from my morning run.  As you know if you read this blog, just sitting around doing nothing isn’t one of my favorite things to do – seems wasteful when there’s so many pictures in the queue!  How about we sit here and recover from my morning run while cranking out a post – ahhh, much better.

Today we feature a creature that has a similar characteristic with birds.. albeit a much more fragile version.
Butterfly Set

That’s right, today we are featuring butterflies.  This generally means one thing to me – outings where I didn’t find any birds, dragonflies or frogs.  That is usually my progression out in the field.  After that you get spiders, insects and last resort a worm.  This particular butterfly is called an Orange Sulphur and was shot in Champaign IL.

Butterfly Set

Hit the jump to see a couple more butterfly specimens!

Continue reading Fragile Wings

Mile High Dragons

Howdy everyone!  Seems like it has been ages since my last post, but that is likely due to the extra high output over the last couple of months leading up to the last post.  One of the reasons for the delay was taking some time to work up another non-birding post – kind of a theme this month and figured I would keep it going at least one more post.  Not sure how much longer I can hold out on the birds though, developing a horrible twitch from the withdrawal hehehe.

Dragonfly at Denver Botanical Gardens May 2015

The good news is my brother and I were able to bird last Saturday up at Chain O’ Lakes State Park.  We took a 6 hour hike starting at 9am and then caught an hour or so after catching a bite to eat.  Unfortunately, it was pretty damn cold out with the temps dropping down to 23 the night before with a healthy dose of snow and sleet to accompany us on the drive up.  On the positive side, we had a dry day with plenty of sunshine that brought out a lot of birds for us to shoot.  I’ll catch you up on the day’s tin loading at another time but it is highly likely there was at least a +1 for each of us that day – Yeah!

Dragonfly at Denver Botanical Gardens May 2015

Hit the jump to read the rest of the post!

Continue reading Mile High Dragons

Bugging Out

And now for something complete different.  Thought it was time to switch it up a little on the Blog and probably more of a driver to finally get a collection from the small world out of my queue.  This is one of those posts that makes me cringe through the entire process.  First, taking the actual picture puts you waaaay to close to these creatures.  Second, processing them forces you to zoom even closer into the shots to check crispiness and worst of all, researching what it is we are staring out gives me a serious case of the heebee jeebees.  Taking that lead.. here’s a bee
Small World

An immediate confession is needed here.  I suck at identifying insects and arachnids so be forewarned, I’m going to leave you hanging on some of these but most of the time I should be able to get you close.  In this particular situation close means I can identify the subject as a member of the bee family, but much more than that would be a stretch.  If threatened with waterboarding I’d take a guess that it is a Common Eastern Bubble Bee based on numerous reference shots.  On the learning side, that beige blob on the hind leg of the bee is called a Pollen Basket where the Bee places pollen grains (who’d a thought) in for the trip back to the hive.

Next up one I probably owe a HUGE apology to.   I believe this is a Big Dipper Firefly or more commonly referred to in my neck of the woods, the Lightening Bug.

Small World

The Insect Identification website (link here) makes a point to mention how harmless these creatures are and how you should never put them in a jar because it stresses them.  The good news I didn’t STRESS them by putting them in a jar.  Nope I basically slaughtered them by the thousands when I was growing with a yellow wiffleball bat.  Literally thousands if not millions.  Midwest kids are generally damn good baseball hitters for what I believe is due to the bioluminescence of these bugs — err more correctly “beetles” posses.  Every Summer night we were out in the dark smacking the hell out of them with our bats (or tennis racquets if that happens to be your sport) in order to watch the chemical light show splatter into the darkness from a well place swing.  If you can nail a lightening bug in the dark you can hit a giant baseball with ease.

Small World

I can still remember putting the bat away at the end of the night and it still glowing brightly from the night’s home runs.  It may not have been eco-friendly but it kept us from planning more devious activities.

Hit the jump to see bunch more insects collected since my last bug post.

Continue reading Bugging Out

A Date with Eight

Now this is what I call cutting in close.  The last day of the month and I officially have one post to go.  If you recall from the last post there wasn’t much concern about hitting the monthly quota being it dog show weekend with plenty of down time to crank the required two out.  When Sunday came I figured it would be easier to just post one from home rather than drag the hotspot and computer out again.  In hindsight that was probably not the best decision of the day .. although I can DEFINITELY say that was not the WORST decision of the day.  There was also a long run on the agenda but still left plenty of time for a post … well, there was suppose to be enough time but there was an “incident” after the run that preempted any further activities that night.  The details might come out in a future post, but for now let’s just say that this kid was able to meet a number of under appreciated individuals in the emergency medical arena.

Which brings us to today scrambling to get a post out to end the month.  Based on a quick review of the upcoming blog topics it was clear that you are about to get hit with a crap load of birds from our many birding shoots we’ve been on over the past year or so.  As a relief from that barrage, figured it would be a good time to get a new set of our eight legged friends out.  The pictures have been processed for awhile now, but often creeps me out enough to opt for another topic.  As punishment for what may have been a bad decision yesterday, we bring you these:

A few of my friends are deathly afraid of spiders so a warning was probably in order.  The odd thing is they have no problem with clowns which is clearly something fundamentally wrong with their mental state.  I’ll lay down with tarantulas before letting a clown get within 50 feet of me.  This particular set of arachnids came from a day out with the Macro glass.  If you want to get out and be personal with the miniature wildlife, there is nothing better than heading out in the woods with a camera and tight focus glass.  Warning, you might not be comfortable with what you find!

When out exploring the wild the focus is on capturing unique inhabitants without impacting the subjects day to day life.  That philosophy cost me a front shot of this particular spider since the only way to do that would be to jeopardize the webbing.  It was also feeding and didn’t want it to lose a meal (granted, this might have been frowned upon by the victim).  From a coolness perspective, this spidey is near the tops.  Not only does it have a stunning color palette, but has unique features like the horns and the web funnel.  Based on some quick searches of the web, it was decided that this specimen is a Micrathena Sagittata or more commonly referred to as an Arrowshaped Micrathena.  According to Spiders.US (link here) this is a mature female.  They have eight eyes and each of the legs end with three claws.  If you didn’t already figure it out, Sagittata is Latin for Arrowed which accurately describes the shape of the body (Micrathena is for the Greek small Athena – who wore armor) .  True to where this spider was found it builds the web close to the ground (less than two feet off the ground – clearly effective based on the creature it was chomping on.  They have about a year lifespan and the site indicated they die at the first hard frost.

Hit the jump to read about some other spiders that were captured that day

Continue reading A Date with Eight

It’s a Darner but Darned if I Know Which

Thanks to hurting my foot yesterday, I’m trying to stay off of it as much as I can.  Bad for me, but good for my blog fans because this means a few more opportunities to get some posts out.  Yesterday’s entry focused on one of the many inhabitants in/around our local ponds.  Keeping with that theme, figured I’d go ahead and throw out another member of the pond community – the Dragonfly.

I have been amassing quite the dragonfly collection and a number of them have been featured in various posts (link here, here, here and here).  I know for a fact there are a few more I was able to get in the tin while out in the Nevada mountains.   I’ve stated this in about every single post on these insects but it is ALWAYS a given – identifying these often colorful winged creatures is damn near impossible.  I firmly believe this is more of an issue with the reference tools available on the web (and iPad) than it is a general comment about identification.  Every site that could be located by Google was scoured for any identifying features that would properly classify this dragonfly.   Clearly it has light blue markings on a deep purple base.  A very nice palette by the way if you are looking for a team color scheme.  It also has the unique club/tendril end to the abdomen that one would think is sufficient to track it down.  Of course, that would be just too easy now wouldn’t it.  About the only thing that could really be said with some certainty is you are likely staring at a Darner.  That is all fine and dandy, but WHICH ONE!

It did help to be able to focus on the Darner group but the web kept offering up conflicting images or bad descriptions and or photos.

The Bug Guide offered up this example of a Variable Darner (link here).  The color match is pretty close at least on the turquoise side, but doesn’t really have the deep purple look in the base.   The Dragonfly Whisperer actually provided a nice comparison of two potential dragonflies – particularly one he calls the Happy Face Darner (Paddle Tailed Darner) and the other being a Shadow Darner (link here).  Based on that information the best candidate appears to be the Shadow Darner.    Not to be outdone, the Land that Ugly Forgot (link here) which simply refers to it as a blue dragonfly – not exactly the most helpful reference but some nice pictures none the less (note, I have that red one in the tin as well).  Steve Rottenborn (link here) had a sample of Variable Darners but again it looks like the Happy Face ones from above as well as the previous Variable reference – see, I told you it was hard.    Next up the New Jersey Dragonfly site (link here) which offers up a Canada Darner that doesn’t look that far off from the Variables.  Ugh.  Not to be out done, the Sonic site (link here) refer to a similar looking examples as .. wait for it … California Darners – looks like a Variable to me!  Since we are on a role, how about some more Variables at the Utah site (link here).

Let’s take another look at mine.

Personally, the Shadow Darner seems to be the closest match.  Not emotionally tied to that decision in any way beyond having spent a heck of a lot of time trying to track it down.  Does look like the all red one I have is going to be easier to identify once those get processed in .. say about 6 to 8 months.  That’s all for now folks – getting warm out now so see you at the pond!

That Ain’t No Fish

Having just committed myself to another Half Marathon thought it would be good to get a post out before training takes over ALL my free time.  This will be the earliest in the race season I’ve run this distance.  Usually I build over the course of the season starting with the 5Ker’s moving to the 15K, back to the 7mi and THEN prepare for the final two halfs of the year.  Decided to short change that process a little and simply start with the 13.1.  No, I didn’t go crazy – umm, that may be up for debate.  Regardless, there is a reason and we’ll leave it at that.  The downside is it means there wasn’t really an off season this year as I continued to run through the winter months (yes, even outside when the temps actually got about 20).  Hoping the body holds together!

Oops, enough about my self-inflicted torture, let’s get to the post shall we.

I almost titled this post as Live and Let Die but that will make more sense later in the post.  Thought it would be fun to fall back on the memories when Globull Warming allowed me to go outside and spend time on the porch for more than 3 minutes at a time.  Take a look at this find

Creeeeepy.  I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve seen such a creature.  Definite concerns as to whether it could inflict harm on me or not.  It was definitely scary looking with the wings folded, but when I saw it with the wings spread I took an extra step back and got my wits before going in with the Macro again – looking through that glass puts you right up close and personal.

Hit the jump unless you don’t want to see the up close shots (but at least you’ll learn what it is!)

Continue reading That Ain’t No Fish