Monday, July 21, 2014

Forever Catching Up

It does seem these days that I'm always catching up with pictures taken and not yet downloaded. Typically here are pictures from 3 recent days. 

Thursday 17th July at Hoffler Creek
There were enormous numbers of dragonflies just everywhere but it was one of those counterproductive days. There were so  many that for every settled percher there were 3 or 4 more harrassing for the perch and so hardly anything settled long enough for a picture. Plus it seems to be a particularly bad summer for ticks and its not conducive to wading through the longer grass if your going to be picking blood suckers off your legs (or worse places) for the rest of the day. Finally I only got a couple of barely worthwhile shots but I did feast well on blackberries.
Female Needham's Skimmer (Libellula needhami
 Diogmites esuriens the Hanging Thief which I never catch doing it 'hanging' trick. They apparently like to hang by their front pair of legs from foliage.

Friday 18th July at Bennetts Creek Park
We hadn't been out to Bennett's Creek in a couple of years and it seems like the developers are determined to entirely surround the park with new homes. But its still a nice mix of somewhere for the kids to play, a river frontage with banks full of fiddler crabs and some woodland trails.Banished Jr always loves the playground but he also loves the thousands of fiddler crabs to be watched and chased on the creek bank and the woods just behind. When your the only one to disturb them in a while its like a wave of crabs heading for the water and for burrows. Think 'World War Z' with crabs. And about as fast too so not easy to get a good shot.
Red Jointed Fiddler Crab male (Uca minax). Only the male has the single enlarged  claw. 
(Philanthus gibbosus) 
The Bee Wolf no less ! It seems while this little beast feeds on nectar as an adult, the larvae feed on bees paralysed by the mother for their delectation.

 Saturday 19th July Norfolk Botanical Garden
Saturday was the Butterfly Festival and as expected the place was packed. But.... its a big garden and so packed is a relative term. There was still plenty of space and peace so long as you kept away from the children's garden and the butterfly house. Yes you really don't want to go to the butterfly house on butterfly day. Just way too crowded and the poor guides trying to stop the hordes trampling everything underfoot. Thankfully just about anything you could see inside on Saturday you could see flying free outside, it just took more patience. The gardens are making a huge effort this year to encourage the planting of milkweed in all its forms to encourage and support Monarchs in their movements up and down the East Coast. The plants sale Mothers day weekend and the sale Saturday both had lots of milkweed varieties and the gardens have planted more than ever. So milkweeds of all sorts were everywhere, as were the bugs that go with them. Lots of Monarchs feeding but I didnt actually see any caterpillars all day. 
But lots of Large Milkweed Bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and their nymphs at various stages.
Mating adults
Newly hatched nymphs
and those a little older at different stages.

The Swamp Milkweed flowers in particular were popular weeding sites for the Monarch butterflies and for bees and wasps. Two large and spectacular wasps.

The Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) 

and the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus). I've seen this one on previous occasions bringing prey back to its burrows. They feed their young on paralysed grasshoppers and katydids and often fly in with prey at least as large as them selves and often larger

And this striking orange/red Carolina Grasshopper (Dissosteira Carolina).
 And finally but sadly a little blurry is the young Black and Yellow Argiope. Its not yet black and yellow and the blur is due to a combination of the camera struggling to find the spider against that patch if fluffed silk that it has put in the center of the web and the spider doing its 'bouncing' act. It sets up and oscillation in the web and gently bounces the whole thing back and forth. Both these features seem to be defensive behaviors. They certainly fool the camera.
And yes I know there aren't any butterfly pictures from the butterfly festival. No good reason other than sheer bloody-mindedness.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

No Lonesome Pine But ....

...there are some other pictures from the mountains.

The Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

The lovely lilac Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis)

The stream loving Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)


and female.

A hoverfly I still need to identify.

And this Black Snake, showing the patterned underside as he slithers down the tree.

 Appalacian Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Friday, July 4, 2014

In The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia...

...On the Trail Of The Lonesome Pine

In the mountains for a break. Just rolled into Greenville VA and eating an Arby's Angus, four cheese & bacon sandwich. Roast beef AND cheese AND bacon! How unkosher is that??
Nice sunset though from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Live From Fort Boykin

Out to the beach today with Banished Jr. at Fort Boykin the site of both revolutionary and civil war forts defending the James River. There's very little left to see of either fort not even on the ground. But there is a nice sandy beach and this morning it was totally empty but for Jr. and myself. And a heron and a number of Gannets and what I initially thought were some flies fliting around the damp sand at the waters edge. But on closer examination they turned out to dozens of Tiger beetles the species still to be determined. Certainly not the six-spotted though, I'm sure of that much. Very different to the emerald green beast back in April in Chesapeake
One of those days when I should have taken the camera but wanted to be unladened for paddling and playing. So you'll have to settle for the phone... live from Fort Boykin.
Fort Boykin beach, deserted... but for

Hairy Necked Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hirticollis )

Widow Skimmer on the walk back to our picnic.
Wheel Bug nymph (Arilus cristatus) spotted on a Mimosa by Jr.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Visit Scarfolk Today

I have added a new destination to the 'Places You Really Ought To Visit' on the right.

"Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. "Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay." "

To those of us of a certain age Scarfolk is an only slightly twisted version of our British adolescence. 

It is very funny,pleasingly warped and its 'documents' and 'ephemera' are just delicious for those raised on Playschool, the Country Code and British public information T.V. spots. 

And yet again, Britain in the first half of the 1970s looks more disturbingly Stalinist than it seemed at the time.

The Great June Clearance

There were several days out that I hadn't yet had time to download/viciously edit/post from the month of June. So, while it still is June, I better clear them out.

June 13th was opening day for the Botanical Garden native butterfly house and so that of course warranted a visit. But before we got so far as that we passed by the frog bog for a good number of dragonflies.

The Slaty Skimmer

Needham's Skimmer

And the Halloween Pennant

In the butterfly house there were beasts everywhere but, as usual, lots of people in the way. But did manage to find the beautifully posed and thoroughly preoccupied Monarch

And many many Zebra Swallowtails, feeding on a variety of flowers and laying their eggs on the leaves of the Paw-Paw. Nothing else just the Paw-Paw...the single species. Very picky about the host plant are the Zebras and that's why, even around here, distribution is so spotty. Where there are no local Paw-Paw then you'll not find a Zebra while a few miles away you'll find hundreds.
Other pictures from that trip include these millipedes found in a colony living in a hollow between branches of the tree. (Oxidus gracilis)
This long horn flower beetle (Strangalia famelica)
The Diurnal Firefly below

And this little bee visiting the Black Eyed Susan.

A Common White Tail (immature male) and Eastern Amber Wing

Back in our own backyard this last weekend we had the first high summer Black Swallowtail caterpillars. Though it looks so far as if this isnt going to be a very good year for them. Numbers are low and there seem to be a lot of wasps taking cats when they reach the 'right' size.
This one had just completed its first molt thats the discarded skin on the dill behind it.

I've shot this leaf hopper, the Broad-Headed Sharpshooter (Oncometopia orbona)
before in the yard but this one stayed long enough for a decent picture. I still think it looks like a jewel or the jeweled vampire automaton in Del Toro's Kronos.

Blasted birds still refuse to cooperate. I had to shoot this little Downy Woodpecker between the slats of the fence as it ate earwigs from the bark of a buddleia.

June done, here come July.
 And this year we'll be around all month. Vacation doesn't roll around until beginning of September this year.

I'll update with fuller IDs on the mystery beasts as soon as I have them. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Blue & Brown

A skipper, likely a Sachem but who knows it's a LBJ (Little Brown Job) happily feeding on the mass of blue flowers that is the Vitex.
The blue flowered tree and the half-a-bedfull of Beebalm beneath it make this the most colorful couple of weeks in the garden.