Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Shane Day

Its December 25th again and its time to celebrate Shane MacGowans birthday.

It seems that while America continues its War Against Shane, by refusing to ever play A Fairytale of New York on any of those 'all christmas' radio stations that threaten to drive us all insane; it is number 1 in the UK all over again.

While its never going to be my favourite Pogues song, it is the only christmas ditty that doesn't instantly induce vomiting.

I finally got to see Shane and The Pogues this year and shambling as he was you can't say the man doesnt still have a sort of charisma. But you have to wonder what he could have achieved even half sober over the last 30 years.

Happy Birthday Shane and Happy Christmas yer arse.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Air Sculptures

The Torture Never Stops

Air sculpture was the name Frank Zappa (1940-1993) gave to his guitar solos. Frank would have been 71 today if he hadn't fallen victim to prostate cancer. These two tracks come from the last tour that Zappa abandoned part way through because he got tired of his fractious band.

But for all the anomosity between some of its members, he still called one of the albums from that final tour "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life"

Watermelon In Easter Hay

Sad to say that he never took another band on the road, because for all the studio hi-jinx, classical aspirations and toilet humour, this is what he did maybe better than anyone else... 

Air sculpture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Cricket in the Hearth...Not!

Saturday we took Banished Jr out to the Winter Wonderland. He loved it. All those robot elves and animated critters in a world of artificial fuzzy snow. We had to go around 3 times before we could go home.

But the one that really took my eye was this wonderfully seasonal Xmas mantis. I mean it was wrapped up warm as it turned from side to side in its little grotto complete with china cabinet, fireplace  and tiny tree. The red scarf looked warm and the pearls were an imaginative touch but still...

Its a mantis chaps. Just how Christmas is that?  

I'm sorry I don't have video for this, as lethal front leg wave was so cute.

Goldenrod seed heads with just a touch of frost at the weekend. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tom Waits For No Man

Tom  Waits doesn't want to grow up.
But he's 62 today anyway.
Happy Birthday.

Don't we all feel this way some days?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Because We're Optimists

Well I successfully managed to not photograph a grey heron flying low over the pond on Friday and apart from that there is not much moving but  short winged green grasshoppers now. This latter despite the temperature pushing 70f in the last weekend in November.

So instead of birds or bugs here is a tree.

A Wooden Tree by Ivor Cutler to be precise.

And for no other reason than that the track popped up on my digital music storage doodad in the car this morning and reminded me how lovely Ivor's work could be. It was also a favourite of my daughter when she was little and I'm now trying to pass the Cutler tradition to Banished Jr. I'm not sure whos responsible for the lovely little animation that accompanies it but it seems perfectly in keeping with the spirit of Cutler.

The spirited Ivor

"But we keep on singing,Because we're optimists"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hail Bright Henry

Hail Henry Purcell who died this day in 1695. Born in  1659(ish) he was the most English of all English baroque composers and is still perhaps the greatest composer that the fairest isle has produced.

He was a boy choister in the Chapel Royal and later organist there. Indeed for a time he was organist both there and at Westminster Abbey. As such he produced much sacred music and much too in celebration or commemoration of members of the royal family. Odes, anthems and processionals galore; sacred and really not so sacred. All this in a short life that ended in only his mid 30s.

"She loves and She Confesses Too. "
Susan Gritton /The Kings Consort

"O Solitude". Alfred Dellar

Perhaps most importantly he is the first English opera composer. He might not have written the first English opera, that seems to have been Venus and Adonis by Purcell's teacher Dr John Blow, but his Dido and Aeneas is magnificent. This is true opera in that the action procedes by sung recitative not spoken dialogue.

"When I am Laid in Earth" Dido and Aeneas
 Emma Kirkby, Taverner Players/Andrew Parrott

Purcell wrote enormous amounts of theatre music and several semi-operas (with spoken dialogue) including King Arthur, The Fairy Queen and  The Tempest  (the jury seems again to be out on the latter).

"What Power Art Thou" (The Cold Song) King Arthur
Andreas Scholl, countertenor
Ensemble Artaserse
For many years Purcell's music was largely over looked by the English, we are a modest and self-effacing people after all as everyone knows.
Happily we came to our senses and he is now recognised as the master that he was.

The last word goes to Gerard Manley Hopkins.

"The poet wishes well to the divine genius of Purcell and praises him that, whereas other musicians have given utterance to the moods of man's mind, he has, beyond that, uttered in notes the very make and species of man as created both in him and in all men generally."

HAVE, fair fallen, O fair, fair have fallen, so dear
To me, so arch-especial a spirit as heaves in Henry Purcell,
An age is now since passed, since parted; with the reversal
Of the outward sentence low lays him, listed to a heresy, here.
Not mood in him nor meaning, proud fire or sacred fear,        
Or love or pity or all that sweet notes not his might nursle:
It is the forgèd feature finds me; it is the rehearsal
Of own, of abrupt self there so thrusts on, so throngs the ear.
Let him Oh! with his air of angels then lift me, lay me! only I’ll
Have an eye to the sakes of him, quaint moonmarks, to his pelted plumage under        
Wings: so some great stormfowl, whenever he has walked his while
The thunder-purple seabeach plumèd purple-of-thunder,
If a wuthering of his palmy snow-pinions scatter a colossal smile
Off him, but meaning motion fans fresh our wits with wonder.

I couldn't have put it better myself

Monday, November 14, 2011

Just Didn't Hop Fast Enough

I know, you're all going to think I'm obsessed with mantids and their rather gruesome dietary habits. But you have to admit, they really do look amazing.

This one caught a major meal, perched at the base on one of the fence slats and had already consumed half the grasshopper when I found it. Very much worth a wander down the yard for this one. For all that both are jumpers and that they have other similarities of form, these two arent closely related. The Carolina mantis is actually more a cousin to the cockroach than the orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets and katydids).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

While The Sun Still Shines

Updated with IDs 11/14/11

All is not lost bug-wise even as we head for the middle of November I spotted a few stray skippers today out at Sleepy Hole Park, without the camera though.

Yesterday  there were still plenty of varied grasshoppers popping up at most every step.
Short-winged Green Grasshopper (Dichromorpha viridis) female.

Short-winged Green Grasshopper (Dichromorpha viridis) male.
And then when I put down the groceries to unlock the door, there was a single little beetle making its slow way up the frame of the porch chair.

As most everything I see here it was new to me. It turns out that its a Diurnal Firefly. That pink is an unexpected flash of colour on an otherwise flat grey beetle.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Refuge of the Roads

Happy birthday Joni Mitchell who it seems is an astonishing 68 today.  I know I'm getting on and all but hell...Joni is 68!

Nooooooo she's in her mid thirties surely.... forever.

For all the great work she's done over the years I always find myself going back again and again to Hejira. That voice, already a little smoke deepened by this album, and behind it the huge singing rolling fretless bass of Jaco Pastorius. Thats not to mention Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter or Herbie Hancock.

The album is full of road songs but this is the one, the title track, that I can never get out of my head.

More so now than ever since I recall listening to it as the future Mrs B. and I rolled up I-95 from Salem to Bar Harbor for around 9 hours.
That was my first 'road trip'. I'm a Brit and I dont think it's possible to  drive in any direction for 9 hours in the UK without hitting the ocean, certainly not at a steady 60mph. It was only mid June and the roads were near empty once we got into Maine. We didnt see another car in either direction for over an hour at one point. And this was the interstate. I never figured out how the toll covered the cost of the poor guy out there collecting it as we seemed to be the only $1.00 he collected in that hour.
And Mrs. B of course drove the whole thing because being a Brit I'd happily managed to get by for 44 years without learning to drive. You can be sure that that didnt last long once I got here to stay. I still don't like it mind you and Mrs. B still drove it on the same route this summer, our first time back there since.

Of yes, Joni's birthday.... heres some more from the album.


68... well I'll be buggered!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

A Happy Halloween from chez Banished and especially zombie baby Tommy, or as Banished Jr. calls him 'chunky baby' 

The Banished Family's pumpkin lanterns, Mrs B's Medusa winning the prize without a doubt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Dash of Colour

Updated 11/01/11

Its so much cooler this weekend. Not too further North in Maryland and Pennsylvania its actually been snowing. Not so chilly here and nice out in the sun after yesterdays rain.

Went out without too much hope today though and was pleasantly surprised by a couple of little jewels.

This is a little leafhopper, the Broad-Headed Sharpshooter (Oncometopia orbona)

I do wish the picture had been a little sharper but I only had time to grab a couple before the hopper hopped. Still they do catch the fantastic colour and texture. It looks like its made of copper and lapis and barely a half inch long. Brings to mind the mechanical vampire beetle of Del Toro's Cronos

Also jumping happily around in the warm grass on the bank down to the pond was this Meadow Katydid.

 I'm not sure of the species on this yet but I've posted one at BugGuide looking for guidance. Certainly no rush to snap this one though, she was happy to perch on my finger

BugGuide tells me that she is Orchelium agile, the Agile Meadow Katydid

There is such a variety of colours amongst the grasshoppers and katydids. Green and brown is just the start.  A couple of years ago we found this beauty in the yard. Not for nothing is it called the Handsome Meadow Katydid.

Halloween tomorrow and the Banished household has been carving pumpkins like crazy the last couple of days. I'm rather pleased with my own effort... Nosferatu. No I didnt design it but I did carve it without screwing it up. My best since 2004's Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Happy birthday Charles Ives, born today in 1874. The first truly American composer he alas took the celestial railroad in 1954, but his influence on  American music cannot be over estimated. And damn it the man didn't even do it for a living! He has to be up there at the top of the list of influential insurance men right alongside Franz Kafka. The Charles Ives Society has an excellent introductory biographical essay

In celebration, here is the composer himself playing the Third Movement 'The Alcotts' from his  Piano Sonata No.2 Concord Mass.1840-1860.

The four movements are Emerson, Hawthorne, The Alcotts and lastly, Thoreau in celebration of the Transcendentalists who made Concord their home in those years. For those wanting to know more then the man is very forthcoming in his Essays Before A Sonata
"These prefatory essays were written by the composer for those who can't stand his music—and the music for those who can't stand his essays; to those who can't stand either, the whole is respectfully dedicated."

There are many many recordings of the Concord Sonata out there but this one is special.

If you want something done right then do it yourself.

As you might gather, I am inordinately fond of the music of Charles Ives.

The weather has cooled dramatically and things are a little slow in the garden. Perhaps a weekend trip to Hoffler Creek is called for.
I'm suddenly wondering what the heck this blog is going to do all winter? 'Banished's Bugs That He Didnt Post At The Time'?
You have no idea how many pictures I shoot that you don't get to see.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Coolest Hat In Jazz

Nothing whatsoever to do with bugs but Thelonious Monk was born this day in 1917. Sometimes its just good to have some great music to share.
And no, there really was no finer headgear in jazz, Lester Young's pork pie included. The classic quartet with Charlie Rouse, John Ore & Frankie Dunlop.
Just enjoy.
Happy would have been 94th birthday Thelonious whereever you maybe.

Bum info, it was yesterday the 10th. Art Blakey today though!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bon Appetit

Saturday really was a beautiful day, fall is with us. And though temperatures are still warm for a Yorkshireman used to northern English Octobers mid 70s is very pleasant indeed with bright sun and gentle breezes.

My best find for the day was a happy accident. Many times I've found the otherwise 'invisible' by their effect on those around them. Its a little like finding astronomical objects by the gravitational effect on those visible bodies close to them. The bug equivalent is the fly, bee, wasp or damselfly thats sitting oddly, upside down or otherwise off kilter. Find one of those and there is usually a reason that you dont see at first glance. It can be a little Jagged Assassin bug with the fly impaled as it hides inside the flower or a camouflaged Crab spider.

Saturday it was a small dark bumblebee dangling seemingly by one leg in the rosemary bush. On closer investigation this was revealed as its being the main course for a mantis.

I can't help but wonder if this is the very same mantis Ive found in the same shrub 3 times now this year. In  May and again in July. Hmmmm if so she was missing half an antenna... do they grow back? It was fun to watch her eat the bee, especially once she'd removed a leg and was gnawing on it like you or I with a chicken drumstick.

I checked some of the other images and this one is missing half an antenna! So the odds are good that its at least the one from July if not neccesarily May.

This one also looked full of eggs I think, look at that darkening and swollen abdomen.

Banished Jr. found this beauty on his swing set.

A jumping spider one of the Salticidae and a big one too. Big enough to get a nice close-up on the head to see the eye arrangement and a hint o those green mouth parts. First time I saw that I thought I was seeing things.
We spent much of the day in the yard around our little shade bed under the big trees creating the Banished family traditional halloween graveyard. 
Welcome one and all!

I really love what Mrs B did with Tommy the zombie baby this year. The ossiary/skullheap is inspired I think and sets the little rugrat off to perfection.

Little Tommy at sunset.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Halloween Bug II

Though its so much cooler right now, there are still bugs out there. This one is a 
Bug, the Large Milkweed Bug  Oncopeltus fasciatus. Another orange and black one with a halloween feel but this one is a plant feeder and not an assassin. 

And as a prelude to posting some favourite spiders next time... well shes got an eye on you. Several of them actually.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Skipper Question

So finally here is the Skipper post I've been threatening for a while. There really couldnt be much else, seeing as its been raining solidly for a week and a half until today.

There are lots and lots of skippers here, Back in the UK there are barely a handfull to have to ID. But here Butterflies of Virginia and the Carolinas lists over sixty. Now a few of these are very distinctive, others are reasonably so but majority are little orangey-brown jobs that the experts have problems telling apart even in the hand.

See..little orange brown jobbies. Im really not sure of them.

But I have got a few I'm sure of over the last couple of years.

This bright little specimen with the spots is the Fiery Skipper.

The Clouded Skipper has the three distinct dots in a line on the forewing and then has that gray to lavender 'clouding' too.

 This very pale one with the long white dash is the Salt Marsh Skipper. We're surrounded by salt marshes so it a pefect spot for them.
These Sachem Skippers are probably the commonest in the yard. But they are getting into that grey area where one looks a lot like another so perhaps they just seem to be so common.

This one isn't a visitor every year and I havent seen one at all so far this year but theres no mistaking it for any of the others. The Long Tailed Skipper Urbanus proteus
 is the only member of its genus found so far north. The rest are tropical. And it has a positivly tropical look with that iridescence on the body and the base of the wings. Theres no mistaking this one'

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mummy (or Mommy) Mantis

When I left for work Friday, this mantis was sitting on the porch. When I got back in the afternoon I thought I'd check to see if it was still around. And sure enough there at the top of the mallow...

Its getting late in the season and the Carolina Mantis has turned this more interesting blend of grey, brown and khaki.

 Its Saturday now and last thing I looked she is stil there in the same spot, despite its having rained for 24 hours. I think the reason is that shes waiting to lay eggs when the weather dries up a little.

I had another mantis do exactly the same a couple of years ago in exactly the same shrub and managed to get some shots of the event. Boy do these beasts lay a serious batch of eggs. They're encased in a hard shell and they are going to stay that way until spring.

If  we get eggs this time I'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Assassinated Assassin's Halloween Cousin

Meet assassin bug  Pselliopus barberi.  Close but more flamboyant relation to the late Pselliopus cinctus so recently seen as a snack for our argiopes.

Looking at BugGuide this one seems to be an east coast special, Maryland, Virginia and N Carolina. Its a new one to me and destined to be known from now on as the halloween bug for obvious reasons.

And yes, I know I said skippers & grasshoppers were next but thats nature for you, popping up unexpectedly.
You'd never have forgiven me for missing this one would you?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Really Rather Quiet

The weather in the week after the hurricane was marvellous. It was cool, barely making 85F, pleasantly breezy and not humid. The last week, after the Labor Day holiday it got wet and sticky, as the torn up remains of hurricane Lee crawled up the east coast dropping huge amounts of rain.

But now we are back to what passes for routine around here and things in the yard and the pond are oddly quiet. I wandered down to the pond Sunday and again I startled  what appears to be a Green Heron and again it shot off across the pond to disappear into the willow thicket on the opposite side. I'm pretty sure it has set up home over there. I just wish I'd startle it a little less and that I'd have the long lens on one of these days. When I did get the lens switched out I at least caught this, also moving like lightening hence the blur. 

The Belted Kingfisher is one of those rare american birds that isn't flashier than its european cousin. Its white, slate and russet plumage is nice but it lacks the jewelled quality of the kingfisher I'm more used to seeing. It is a bloody sight noisier mind you.

This is a less action packed but much less fuzzy picture I took on vacation at Smith Mountain Lake in 2008. Got got up early to find this one perched on the deck rail overlooking the lake and got just one shot before it was gone.

 The Monarch is an iconic american butterfly, found from Canada to Mexico and migrating in huge numbers. They seem to show up in my yard later into the summer and into the fall.

Its interesting when the autumn does come to see them moving south as I drive north in the morning, crossing the James River following the Monitor Merrimac bridge or so it seems.

And actually you can get some great views from the bridge as you cross the river....providing Mrs B is driving at the time. Its also the best place to watch pelicans.
Sunset over the James River

And finally for today here is another of those bright little assassin bug nymphs. This one posing nicely on top of a little pyramid of Beauty Berries.

Next time yet more grasshoppers and the confusing world of skippers.