Monday, March 26, 2012

Right Out of Jack Arnold

Updated 03/30/12
Is it a Tarantula? A Goliath Bird Eating Spider? And we need to send young Clint Eastwood up in a plane with napalm?

What a beast eh?

But no, it's a jumping spider. Genus Phidippus and actually only around a half an inch from end to end. I spotted it from the ground on the side of the house. It took a step ladder and the camera at arms length even then to get these 2 pictures. And I shot maybe 30.  I love those little 'horns' and the metallic green mandibles. I just wish they showed a little better. To Bugguide for a species ID.

UPDATED 03/30/12
BugGuide is still  hedging its bets but the leaning seems to be toward Phidippus otiosus. Looking at other specimens there I can see the difficulty. There are barely a couple that actually look alike. Its hugely variable. The name intrigues me though. P. otiosus. Otiose in which sense?  Indolent? Or  serving no practical purpose? Either way seem rather judgemental.

Again there were lots of damsels around last week. The second here is a newly hatched, teneral, Fragile Forktail. Its by far the commonest in the yard. Not so much over the weekend though as the whole 2 days was pretty steady rain. Sun all week, rain all weekend, and back to work and sun again today.

Butterflies are increasing too. This is a Clouded Sulfur Colias philodice

This little guy isn't IDed yet but I just liked the picture. The way he appears to be hanging on for grim death to the end of that iris leaf.

UPDATE. Atalantycha bilineata Two-Lined Leather Wing

And yes it is pollen season again. Everything I'm photographing right now has some degree of dusting. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Return To The Slighty Wild

Back to Hofflers Creek today for the first time since mid January. It is still unseasonably warm and now spring is with us with a vengence its time to look for woodland butterflies. And today they cooperated so long as Banished Jr. and I were patient. I was specifically hoping for some Falcate Orangetips (Anthocharis midea ). I photographed  a female there a couple of years ago but didnt see any males at the time.

The underwing is beautiful, but no male, so no orange tip. So back today looking for that very thing. They are smaller than the european Orange Tips but like them they dont seem keen on landing. I didn't get one good picture in all my time chasing them in the UK and we had to spend a deal of time stalking  this morning but time and the wet knees paid off with 3 decent shots. This is the best, catching the underwing and the  orange flash. The falcate part refers to the slightly hooked tip of the forewing.

And even better I got myself a new one. Watching for the little white and orange ones I noticed a number of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs). These too took some chasing down but one finally posed perfectly and I got the shots. I got the ID using Butterflies of Virginia and the Carolinas.

This little beast is Henrys Elfin (Callophrys henrici) and like most LBJs it reveals subtle beauties if you can actually get close enough. Little tails on the hindwings, those areas of grey-green wash. Just lovely and I love finding myself a new species.  

Banished Jr and I went to sit on the little pier out over Lake Ballard before heading home and got some nice views of the lakes turtles. The Painted Turtles in our own pond tend to be a little on the muddy side and not so 'painted'. But the lake is an old borrow pit and sandy bottomed. So residents here look like they have a fresh coat of enamel.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Big Surprise and Banished's Golden Rule of Bug Photography

It was 80 degrees yesterday which is ludicrously warm for March, even here. And so I was out in the yard tracking down the growing numbers of early season damselflies. Lots of Fragile Forktails (Ischnura posita ) which as you might imagine are kind of, well, fragile. More of them tomorrow when I've had time to go through my pictures.

But this is about the picture I don't have.

The various damsels were perching on the bare branches of shrubs and I was poking about trying to get on the right side to avoid the evening sun being directly behind and trying not to annoy too many bees in the process. Now I'm looking for tiny things, maybe an inch in length and very slim. I'm not looking for anything big. So when I stick my head into the shrub and there is a loud clattering of wings next to my head I'm not a little surprised. And when a mating pair of Darners whizzes past my ear and out the bush I'm really very surprised. I hadnt seen a dragonfly of any sort so far this year. Its hardly surprising as we dont really expect to see much before May. And here is a pair of our biggest dragons already mating.

So I'm annoyed because I should have been paying attention. But then lo and behold they have flown only about 5 feet and are hanging in another shrub. This though is where I become really annoyed. I got into position for a picture. The view isn't perfect, there are a few twigs between me and them but not enough to ruin the shot. And here is where I broke my own golden rule.

Banished's Golden Rule of Bug Photography.

Then worry about getting the picture.

As it was I leaned in a little closer and tried to avoid those twigs. And before I took that picture they were away and over the fence into our neighbors yard.

So I didnt get the perfect picture...I didnt get any picture at all. I don't even know what species these Darners were. There are a few possibilities and without a picture I'll never be certain.
Darners mostly cruise up and down the shoreline of the pond, non-stop and any photo-op is a rarity but a mating par like that come around once in a blue moon Most likely they were Common Green Darners  (Anax junius ) like the one I photographed in the very same bush back in September 2008.

Or maybe...

the Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros) taken just down the road at Hofflers Creek Preserve
But I'll never be certain.

Thats why its the Golden Rule

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Actual Bugs!

Yes it is official. The first damselfly of the year means that we are off and running. Its going to be a little slow yet, despite its being in the mid 70s yesterday and pushing 80 today. But that little fluttering thing perching awkwardly right in front of the low sun says that the real bugs are here for 2012. I couldn't give you a species as the newly hatched, teneral have very little in the way of colour or markings. I'll look a tlittle deeper though and see if I can get a species. There can't be that many possibilities this early in the year.
The blossom on our two trees out front is fully open and thankfully this year it hasnt been hit by torrential rain and wind just as soon as everything was looking good. And so the front yard (and the house when you open the door) smell like:

A) Cat pee in my opinion or
B) Old fish according to Mrs B. But then she hates fish.

Banished Jr. is undecided but he knows for sure which one is funnier.

Its been over 60 for several days now, since Sunday. I saw quite a  few butterflies around as we drove about on Sunday, mostly whites with some odd yellow flashes too. But all I've had in the garden so far is the good old Cabbage White just like blighty. But there will be lots more to come and I'm heading to Hoffler Creek Saturday morning while its still warm and before the anticipated rain comes in the P.M. Should be spring azures and falcate orange tips out there by now if not more.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Greatest Living Welshman

After Lou Reed's 70th birthday last week comes John Cale's today.

Co-founding members of the Velvet Underground, no band could support 2 such monsterous egos for very long. And  there have been times it seemed unlikely either would make it this far. But here they are and Cale even has an OBE for his pains, confirming his status as the Greatest Living Welshman.

(No, that title does not  belong Anthony Hopkins aka The Welsh Ham, scenery-chewer extraordinaire)

Back in the mid-70s Cale made 3 albums for Island records that as often as I take them off the iPod to make room for something new I think 'hell I need that' and put them back again.

Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy are just pure gold, ranging from the sweetest lovesongs through sweeping ballads he wrote with an eye for a Sinatra cover to rampant howling paranoia. The rampant howling paranoia increases over the span of the albums in line with Mr Cale's cocaine consumption apparently.

You can thankfully still get them as a set on CD too called The Island Years and I whole-heartedly recommend that you do so you can have this:

Mr Wilson, for Brian Wilson.
'And you know its true
That Wales is not like Cal-if-orn-ia in any way'

And this:

'Life and Death are things you just do when your bored'

And this:
'We picked up Dracula in Memphis
It was just about the break of day
And then hastily prayed for out souls to be saved
There was something in the air that made us kind of weary'
 .....and lots lot more.

Don't be cheap, you know it makes sense.

And finally today, neither living, nor so far as I know Welsh despite the name, was John Jenkins (1592–1678) a composer whos works for viol were brought to my attention today by Nige over at Nigeness and who clearly deserves further investigation now my ears have been opened.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Juniors Ear

I must say I'm forced to grin every time Banished Jr's. voice pipes up  from the back seat 'Dad I want my playlist'

He has his own playlist on my iPod and when we are heading to or from daycare or to the shops (sorry the store) he likes to have his own selection now and then. It started with his favs, particularly the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. But since then he has added to it. It used to be those songs where he would yell AGAIN! everytime they came on. But now we will be driving and he'll ask what something is and say he wants it on his playlist.  Things have come and gone because he also say 'I don't like that anymore.' But it is growing, slowly but surely. Why these? Well for some its because they had something he liked when he was younger, such as a chorus that sounds like laughter that made him laugh too which is the case with 'First of the Gang to Die' 

'He stole all hearts away -a- hey- a-hey-a-hey a-hey- way- a hey'

Others I don't have a clue; he just likes them. Good for him say I. Lets face it, he will discover the horrors of what passes for popular music soon enough.

The Banished Junior Playlist as it stood this morning:

Doctor Worm: They Might be Giants
He's grown up with TMBG Here Come the ABCs..the 123's and Here Comes Science. 
Black Cherry: Goldfrapp
I just can't convince him that the Felt Mountain album is better

Everybodys Happy Nowadays: Buzzcocks
Who'd have known when we played this to death on the jukebox in the Cock and Castle in 1979 that my nearly 5 year old would be singing it in Virginia in 2012

Irish Blood English Heart: Morrissey
His granny spoke to him on the phone at the weekend. "Its hard to understand him. He has an American accent" Well yes, he would I suppose. I did try to be the only person to speak to him for the language acquisition years....but it turned out to be impractical.
Sure 'Nuff And Yes I Do: Capt. Beefheart
I sneaked this one in and it stuck.
This is Halloween: Marilyn Manson
He prefers the Manson version from Nightmare Revisited. We had both once but the soundtrack version fell by the wayside.
Hoover Factory: Elvis Costello
No idea how he came to pick this obscurity. But he sat in back yelling 'HOOVER FACTORY!' pretty much before he could say much else other than mommy or daddy and so here it is.
Jack's Lament: Danny Elfman
This one is the original soundtrack
Time: Tom Waits
Of all the Tom Waits in the world he has to pick this one??

First Of The Gang To Die: Morrissey
See intro.

And one request currently pending:
Ewan McColl : The Cooper 'O Fife
Nickety Nackety Noo Noo Noo!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


This should of course have been posted on Friday March 2nd but for various reasons wasn't completed until today.

When those of us who are in our 50s came of musical age in the early to mid 1970s we looked back and we found lots of great stuff from the depths of rock and roll history. Of course at the time the whole of rock and roll history amounted to about 20 years. We found bands already gone but who were hugely influential and about to become even more so as punk briefly swept over us .

Amongst these historical figures, few loomed larger than the Velvet Underground and especially Lou Reed. The Velvets were gone but Lou, seemingly already a great grey eminence was with us still. He must have been in his early 30s, but still very cool for an old bloke.

Well today is Lou Reed's 70th birthday. Did anyone think the man who wrote 'Heroin' would live to be 70? It says a lot about how we see our icons and our heroes as we grow older. Yes there were old bluesmen still performing when we were kids. It was OK sitting in a chair with your harmonica and your guitar wailin' and stompin' doing your Howlin' Wolf thing and you could clearly do jazz.  

But you couldn't do rock and roll when your were old!

Or you end up like Elvis! Imagine Mick Jagger jumping about when hes older than your dad. Oh don't, that is too horrible and it has been for about 30 years now. But you get the point.

But yes, I'm past 50 and Lou is 70 and I don't know about him but I don't feel that different. Obviously I feel that most music today is bland and tedious and soulless and that the world is descending into the musical pit that is Idol and X Factor. But I've always felt like that anyway. As the little sign in my office says, right above my speakers.

It's Not That I'm Old
Your Music Really Does Suck.

So happy birthday Mr Reed. The musical world is a different and I'd say a better place for having had you in it. How many of us can say that?

And it was alright

Something like a circus or a sewer

And lastly for a friend and teacher who didn't make it to 70 here you go Andy I know you loved this one.

All together now.....

And the coloured girls go...
doo de doo de doo doodedoo doo de doo de doo.....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Am I Doing Here Revisited

I'm pleased that February produced Banished's Bugs best crop of page views yet. Excellent for the shortest month of the year.

But it does make me wonder what the function is. In February, of 5 posts only 2 were remotely bug or even wildlife connected. Altogether there were 2 pictures of honeybees and two (old) pictures of Downy Woodpeckers.

Apart from that just 2 celebratory posts on 'early' music and an entirely self-indulgent musical posting from my own back catalogue.

Just out of interest the most popular all-time post on Banished's Bugs is.... (drum roll)

No bugs there either just cricket.

And the picture today?

Just one of those chances. Sun was going down on a summers evening and the fisherman turned up right in my line for the sunset. Casting his net out to catch bait for bigger things tomorrow. Normally I hate people in my pictures, ask Mrs B, but sometimes... 

Well the sun sets every night, but the man with the net casting into a river of light and making a picture that could be a thousand years ago doesnt always turn up.