Thursday, July 28, 2011

Utterly Random and Unrelated Jottings From The North

Monday 25th July

Took a cruise out to the Boston Harbor Islands. Spectacle Island is NOT named for being spectacular thats for sure.  More Cabbage Whites than you could, or would care to, shake a stick at and very little else. The problem so far as wildlife is concerned is the lack of any standing fresh water. And gravel/cinder surfaced paths are hard on the feet and the constant crunch is an assault on the ears.

Saw a single Pearl Crescent  and thats your lot.

Though there are nice views of the Boston skyline on the way back into Long Wharf.

Tuesday 26th July.

Salem. Ah Salem, where Mrs. B and I... well shucks we spent our first night together these 8 years ago.

Still an odd place with its mix of history, literature and freakshow.  I saw an excellent T-Shirt  which I intended to buy but didnt come in the the requisite XXL now needed to gird the Banished bod.  It featured a line drawing zombie Mickey Mouse and the tagline
" Salem MA. Disneyland for the Dead"

Salem is also the home of the Salem Witch Trials and  Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables. An interesting connection between the two is found in the Old Burying Point Cemetary.

 Justice (Colonel) John Hathorne was one of the presiding judges at the witch trials. He was also Nathaniel Hawthorne's great great grandfather. Hawthorne inserted the W in his surname in his 20s.

Wednesday July 27th.

View down Charles Street towards the Commons.

On the subject of Mrs Banished and myself and our previous trip to New England I was horrified to find that DeLuca Market on Charles Street had closed!
 It had been my local market on my first a trip to Boston these many years ago and so when Mrs. B and I were on our first date it seemed the appropriate place to buy a bottle of champagne. It never looked too much from the outside but an Alladins cave of groceries awaited within not to mention a splendid wine department  in the basement.
And now its gone.

But I did manage to make the pilgrimage to Fenway Park this afternoon. Couldn't do the tour alas because there was a game tonight
 A third straight win over the Kansas City Royals despite Lackey giving up 3 in the first. Thankfully Ellsbury, Pedroia and Big Papi delivered once again. Ortiz hit the Sox first grand slam of the season, amazing when you consider the number of double digit run totals they have put up this year. And amongst those grand slam runs came his own 1,000th RBI in a Red Sox jersey.

T-shirt seen today:
 "Boston Math: 04 + 07 = 11"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Greetings from the North

Personally I've always prefered Frasier. But he doesn't have his own bar or keep a decent pint of Guiness. Don't worry though, there will be plenty more time to drink Sam Adams.

Came into  town last night and drove right by Fenway Park lit up like a picture.

The Sox closed out a 3 game sweep of the Mariner's today behind Tim Wakefield who got his 2,000th Red Sox strikeout and now the Royals are in town for 4. Bought Banished Jr. and myself brand new Red Sox hats too. He picked the St Paddy's day specials in green with extra shamrock.

I'm sure there will be pictures somewhere along the line and then next week... Maine.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Into The (Slightly) Wild

I took a little trip down the road this afternoon to visit out local wildlife preserve, thats reserve to the Brits. Hoffler Creek is literally just down the road, a mile and a half on so. The preserve consists of three parts. There is Hoffler Creek itself which is a tidal creek running into the estuary of the James River.

The Creek at high tide

There is a tidal salt marsh and between the two lies Lake Ballard, a large flooded borrow pit or again what the Brits would call a gravel pit. The whole is surrounded by woods rich in bird and animal life from Pilliated Woodpeckers to the ubiquitous White Tailed Deer
The salt marsh and
Lake Ballard

I went primarily for the dragonflies and there certainly were plenty. If anything there were so many its hard to get a picture. The dragonflies are so numerous they are almost endlessly bothering one another and fighting over perches. There are moments of quiet though when peace reigns and a spirit of amity prevails as here:

The branch is shared by (from top to bottom) a Needhams Skimmer, a Four Spotted Pennant and a Blue Dasher.

Lots and lots of mating and egglaying going on. Alas the egg laying was mostly a little out of range and even the long lens was struggling with such small and fast moving subjects.
These Halloween Pennants could have been a great pic if the focus was just a little sharper. But still its an arresting image as they fly, paired, and dip into the still surface of the lake, meeting their own reflections.

Needhams Skimmers pair perched and then seperate before the female goes off to dip and lay on her own.
 The pair.

The ovipositing female.

And as a treat today heres a species I don't seem to ever see on our own pond.

This is a male Widow Skimmer Libellula luctuosa . The blue patch on the wings is very distinctive.

 But most impressive today were the numbers of Great Egrets in the marsh and on the creek.  I havent really mentioned the wading birds around here yet and I'll have to do more about that another time. But I've not seen so many at once before. It did make me wish again that I had a better long lens. And its tough to photograph pure white plummage in the blazing sun of noon.

In the salt marsh.

On the creek. 
And on the wing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Danger Will Robinson!

This is an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Its a very small dragonfly that tends to fly very low over the surface of the pond.

This is the Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta). It lives in large numbers in the pond  where it keeps company with a small number of much larger Snapping Turtles.

And now guess what is about to happen when you put the two species together.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Swallowtail News and Swallowtail History

Well once again I missed our Black Swallowtail emerging. But it was close!

Saturday morning I looked out to see the newly hatched beast, wings already dried, hanging from the papery husk of the pupa. I grabbed the camera to at least get that image, went outside and was reminded of one of the problems of taking pictures in the summer in Virginia. The inside of the house, and so the camera, is about 72 degrees. The backyard is close on 90 degrees and the humidity akin to a sauna. So the lens steamed up in an instant and by the time I had it cleared the subject had flown. Flown to the table on the deck at first where I managed one shot, and then flown entirely. Even this one shot is blurry thanks to condensation
So there it is, perfect but just not showing to best effect.
Later the same day another female was there laying again but the schedule dictates that we won't be here to try again with the latest group. By the time we reach this point again  Clan Banished will be in the far north on vacation.

So I'm going to fall back on the sequence from August 2008. This is what we were after again this year but I suspect it is not to be.

And with a single bound (s)he was free
Drying those wet and crinkly wings. Note the green colour of the wing veins, the blood is really pumping.

  And the whole sequence capped by a perch on Mrs B's finger.

Of course we knew there were many more around the yard this weekend all ready to emerge. We just hadn't tracked them down when they dispersed. So I was pleased to see this perfect newly hatched specimen come fluttering out of the garden to greet me at the ponds edge. This one is, I'm sure, 'one of ours'.

Sundays specimen. Look at the 'struts' on those wings. Fantastic engineering!

So now we can forget about Papilio polyxenes for the rest of the summer. Lets find something new to occupy our time. 

Hmmm now here one to watch through to the fall. A juvenile Argiope aurantia, the Yellow and Black Orb Weaver. What is very inadequately called the 'garden spider'. A quarter of an inch or so now this one is going to grow to be big and beautiful and hopefully we can follow that growth.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I got a new one!

Its always fun to find a new species in the yard. Sometimes I'm honestly not sure in the case of all the skippers, little orangey brown jobs. I think we have 8 skippers but who knows for sure.

But today I found a species that I know I hadn't seen in the garden before. We get plenty of Grey Hairstreaks, especially later in the summer and I had to get the picture downloaded and checked before I was sure but... this is the Red Banded Hairstreak. Not the most perfect picture but its the first so what the heck.

Here for comparison and because its also a beautiful little butterfly is the Grey Hairstreak

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Big Eyes You've Got

Back at the end of May I found this tiny mantis hiding out in the big rosemary bush. Well today I was pulling grass that was growing up through the bush when I found this mantis

I don't know if its exactly the same one, probably never will. But it certainly has grown if thats the case. This one is already a good 2 1/2 inches and I'd guess is going to get bigger still. I took the pictures in the beautyberry after I'd brought it out of the rosemary to show to Banished Jr. 

I particularly liked this shot of its giving itsself a pedicure

And I'm always pleased when they turn that inscrutible and wonderfully alien gaze on the camera.

Probably our most common dragonfly in the garden is the Blue Dasher. Once we reach July the numbers climb rapidly and you can find them perched on every other fencepost just like this one. Its always a good measure of how hot the sun is when you find them posed like this with their rears sticking up in the air. This behaviour is called obelisking and is used to control temperature. When a dragonfly thinks its hot then its pretty damned warm.
They are also pretty laidback and of all the dragons in the yard they are the easiest to get close to. Even if you do spook one into taking off then just keep still and likely as not it will return to that same perch almost straightaway. They have very striking green eyes.