Monday, April 30, 2012

Black Narcissus

OK well its not black but very deep purple and its actually an iris but I've likely pulled in a few searching film buffs with the title. Isn't that nice though? Our big fancy iris have been flowering for a week and a half now which is early. Normally we don't see the first until the first week in May. Others are out earlier but ours are in the shade of a fence as they are so tall they need the windbreak. There are 6 colours and they give a nice show for about 6 weeks , the different colours coming into flower in sequence. They are one of the first things we planted when I arrived. The backyard had always just been an area of grass with 3 trees in the middle of it. We've spent a lot of time and effort digging beds and garden areas both front and back. And a lot of plants have been and gone in the intervening years. Its hot and dry in summer when its isnt raining torrentially. Plants have to be tough to survive and very tough to thrive.

You just have to see what lives and plant more of those

These look even better to me with a little rain shower on the petals like this.
I've got some better shots of the Hentzia palmarum, my little 'stripey jumper' of a couple of weeks back. Shot in the same place I'd guess its the same individual. The light was a little better this time and I got shots a little closer and a touch sharper. Hes so small though that its pushing the cameras capabilities outside with a moving subject. But thats what I do. I don't usually catch and I never keep.
And here is the first nice little grasshopper nymph of the season. Very small again this is not much more than a quarter of an inch yet and sitting on the petal of a dianthus. Everythings a little slow the last day or two though as the weather has cooled back to the 60s. I shouldnt complain though, rather that than 95 and sweaty. Oh and the ticks are early. Damn!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Not The Best But The Biggest

I was keeping my old Olympus digital in the desk drawer at work, but I've been carrying it in the camera bag lately and letting Banished Jr use it when we go out. But I do wish I'd had it with me today.

Instead, thanks be to my colleague John who has an iphone that has a half decent camera on it.

We found this beauty hanging out in the corridor this morning. But after grabbing some pictures and adding the ruler for good measure...good measure!... I slay me... we ushered her away before the arachnophobic peasants got wind and came waving pitchforks, flaming torches and 'bugspray'.

Looks like a Wolf Spider but I'm hanging on for a positive species I.D. A good size as you can see but still not up there with the Carolina Wolf  we found in West Virginia my first year here. Mrs  B thought the girls were having a little joke with that huge rubber spider. Until it moved. I didnt get a measurement on that one as it ended up as a smear. But it was bigger and chunkier than this. 

UPDATE: Doesnt look so much like the Hogna species I found in WV because its not a Wolf but a fishing spider. One of the Dolomedes. Not the one I get around my pond which is D. triton (Six Spotted fishing spider) but likely D scriptus. No I didnt just get to be a spider expert but at Bugguide Lynette Schimming certainly is. Where would I be without her.
Incidently our exiled spider's exile didn't last very long. Within the hour she was back inside... this time hanging around looking even bigger on the ceiling. If it stays put over the weekend I'll be back Monday with the camera 

For a fantastic fishing spider picure check out this D.triton at BugGuide. Not one of mine, god knows I wish it was. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Now We Are One

Banished's Bugs is one year old today. We made it through the winter with no bugs to speak of and actually prospered, in a small way. And on Tuesday we acheived a little page view milestone that I never thought we would hit in just a year. But its so embarrassingly tiny a number I'm not going to tell you.
We could celebrate with 'Happy Birthday' by Altered Images and don't think I didn't consider it. But looking back, without the benefit of rose coloured glasses, it seems so perfectly horribly vacuous and twee in  the way that only 80's pop can be that I couldn't inflict it on you ...or me for that matter.

So instead here is Birthday by The Sugarcubes. Its from the 80's too if rather later. But Bjork has been rather more influential than Claire Grogan who's career was all downhill from Gregory's Girl if you ask me which you didn't but since you are here I'll tell you any way. It's my blog after all.
Besides which it lets me be difficult and self-centred like my hero the out of print pamphleteer Dobson, by deliberately choosing the Icelandic language version over the English one.

So,  til hamingju með afmælið Banished's Bugs.
Yes that's the Icelandic eqivalent of Happy Birthday, though not a literal translation.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Palindromic Pod

And from my iPod just because I love it comes the title track Kew Rhone from the 1977 album by John Greaves, Peter Blegvad and Lisa Herman.

Greaves and Blegvad came together when Greaves's band Henry Cow  and Blegvad's Slapp Happy  united. But Blegvad's sense of the absurd really didn't gel with H Cow's political 'directness' and they parted company. Greaves left not too long after and they began working together in New York and produced one of the overlooked gems of "prog rock" though this is far closer to jazz than to rock for me. Other musicians include Carla Bley and Mike  Mantler  in whos studio the album was recorded. Lisa Hermans voice is wonderful.
One day I will have to post Swelling Valley  from their late 80s collaboration 'The Lodge' that really shows her at her best.

This perfectly illustrates Peter Blegvad's lyrical concerns. Anagrams and the longest palindrome I know. Brit's who don't know Blegvad's music might well know his cartoon strip   Leviathan  from the Independent On Sunday.

"Peels foe not a set animal laminates a tone of sleep"

Monday, April 16, 2012


Those Common Baskettails are pretty nosey beasts. All I've had to do is keep still and they will invariably come in to get a closer look. This isn't the case for most of the dragons I have to chase down to some roost or other and inch closer before they are off again.

So I thought Saturday I'd take a shot at some in-flight pictures. Now I wasn't really set up for this, I was in the park with 'busy' backgrounds, the distance was around 5 or 6 feet and I had the macro lens on. But I took the chance, set the camera to its rapid fire 'action' mode, took off the autofocus ( which wasnt isnt quick enough for a dragonfly) and waited to be buzzed. As soon as one hovered for a moment I manually focussed and hoped for the best shooting fast as I could in case I did manage to catch one. I repeated the process several times.

150 pictures later I went back and down loaded the results. From those was easy to throw out the 75 that had no dragonfly at all and the 60 were hopelessly out of focus blurs. That left 15 that had something that was recognisably a dragonfly.  But 10 of those you wouldnt have a clue what sort of dragonfly or neccessarily which end was which. That leaves 5, 3 were under or over exposed though reasonable. 

Left just 2 in the end and they were almost identical shoots taken less than a second apart. I am pretty happy with what I got though. It's clearly a baskettail and its clearly flying. As they say back in the UK...

 Also Saturday I mowed the grass, which I hate, because I surely wasn't going to do it on my birthday Sunday. The only upside of cutting grass is that it stirs up creatures you wouldn't neccessarily have seen if you weren't doing so. I bumped a shrub alongside the house with the mower and scared up this Conehead Katydid.

Neoconocephalus triops Broad-Tipped Conehead
Short one antenna though.

And my arch of honeysuckle is attracting more and more butterflies as the weather warms. This is a Cloudless Sulfur (or sulphur) Phoebis sennae . It is looking a little more tattered and torn than I'd normally shoot but I realised I hadn't posted one before. 

A big yellow early season butterfly just like the Brimstone back in the UK. But I dont think its quite as nice as the brimstone. It doesnt have the 'leaf' shaped wing and the female doesn't have the greenish cast. I does have one advantage though, which is that it will actually perch once in a while. Spring Brimstones never do.
 And they really arent related at all beyond the family level where both are members of the Pieridae (whites, yellows and sulphurs). The Brimstone is Gonepteryx rhamni.

Brimstone (copyright Jim Asher) from Butterfly Conservation UK

And as it was my birthday here is my birthday song.

David Bowie, Time.
From the Final Spiders from Mars gig at the Hammersmith Odeon filmed by D A Pennebecker in 1973. That outfit wasnt flattering then and sure as hell wouldnt be now seeing as DB was 65 in January. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Golden Spider

I have a new spider.

This is Gea heptagon. Not very big but I hope she will hang around for a while and get a bit bigger. Right now just a 1/4 inch but could more than double I'm sure. What let me spot her yesterday was the glint of gold as the sun caught her abdomen. I wish the camera had caught that better but a new species is a new species.
G. heptagon describes the oddly shaped body. The second picture here captures the 'humps' much better.

It seems I also have a small golden fly that I need to I.D. yet
UPDATE: BugGuide tells me Condylostylus (possibly C. caudatus)

And the new dragonfly, the one I hadnt recorded before last Saturday is now everywhere.
The Common Baskettail

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's In A Name?

It is fun sometimes to look at the search terms that bring people to your blog.

The site stats keep a list and on todays it shows, amongst others, "goliath bird eating tarantulas and their 9 eggs". My friend Mr Key at Hooting Yard says his number one search term is 'bees' closely followed by ectoplasm. Eat your heart out Frank. Actually my number 1 in terms of frequency is 'Shane MacGowan' which pleases Mrs B no end.

Still, I guess its down to my mentioning Goliath Bird Eating spiders in reference to my little Phiddipus jumping spider a couple of weeks ago. Its the 'and their 9 eggs' bit of the search  that tickled me.

But it also provides a good excuse to post the original illustration that led to 'bird eating spiders' getting the name.

The drawing is by Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717). This remarkable lady, Dutch by birth, spent many years in Surinam and recorded much that was new and exotic. Her drawing of a large spider dragging  a hummingbird from its nest was a sensation and the legend of the 'bird eating spider' was born.

Hmmmm now I have mentioned ectoplasm I might get as many hits as Hooting Yard!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

These Things Don't Have To End Badly

The whole 'spider eating her mate' thing can indeed be true as here. But it doesn't always end so badly for the male.

On Saturday I spotted a small spider in the corner of the door frame that looked interesting.

I thought at first that it was a young Orchard Orb Weaver, but checking with BugGuide it turned out to be a female Filmy Dome spider (Neriene radiata). But then, later the same day I spotted this:
Its the male Filmy Dome spider and he was slowly sidling his way up the door frame heading for a date with....who knows what. He is a little smaller than her but not so much as some species where the size disproportion is something like a Bamforth seaside postcard.

By late afternoon they were sharing her web.

And on Sunday... they were doing their spidery thing.

And at the end of all of that I'm happy to say he hung around for a couple of hours but then headed out... intact. I've since seen BugGuide pictures where they seemed to share the web for quite a while afterwards, days in fact. 

And also from that very productive weekend comes something for you arachnophobes
Malacosoma disstria
Forest Tent Caterpillar

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Moth in Black and Other New Faces

Well that was a great weekend for pictures, both best pics yet of some species and great pics of several brand new ones.

The weekend started off interesting but frustrating with what I was pretty sure was a new dragonfly for the yard. But it was small and jumpy and the best I could do was from 6 feet away still with the macro lens on and right down in the grass. Until I got this on the computer I wasn't even sure if I had the thing at all. But pic there was, as above. I couldnt ID it myself and posted on BugGuide. Later that day a Marty R suggested maybe a Baskettail. Not more specific as there are several species and most are very tough to call especially from a photograph. But I thought, hmmm OK thats a possible. Especially that very hairy thorax which is something I dont see on anything else that visits regularly.  

Anyway I was wondering if maybe anyone was going to add to that and left it at that for the day.

The weather has been beautiful all weekend, in the 70s, a little breezy but sunny. And theres blossom and flowers out all over the place. So I was shooting Eastern Tailed Blues and  a Red Banded  Hairstreak around the pond and seeing a good few damsels. But most werent a lot better than what I had.

Friday we boiled eggs, Saturday painted eggs and Sunday... well Sunday was time for Mrs B to crack them open, make devilled eggs and drive me out the house with the smell. Oh god I hate hard boiled eggs!

So I went across the street to the little 'park' that was left between our neighbourhood and the one next door. Its not THAT interesting as a rule as its kept mown so short. But it does have a little island of trees and shubs in the middle and a rather muddy sludgy stream in a cutting at the back. I don't much bother in summer as its too hot and too full of ticks. But yesterday I could see some trees and vines in flower so as long as it didnt smell like boiled eggs it was a positive oasis.

And indeed it turned out to be so. The flowering trees flowers were positively heaving with nectaring beasts. The first thing I saw was a brand new moth to me.
This is the magnificently named Mournful Thyris Pseudothyris sepulchralis. It's only a little thing but isn't that wonderful? And that name... sepulchralis.

And there on that same mass of flowers were a dozen or so Red-banded Hairstreaks. Thats a butterfly I didn't identify until last year and since have only seen 3 times including Saturday's and always as singles. But these were feeding so happily I was able to pull the banch down a little to get a better shot.
I don't think I'm going to get a better picture of a better specimen unless I find a mating pair now. Those tails are superb and I love those 'checkered' spots at the base of each hind wing. They remind me of those little squares you get to scan into your (not my) smartie phone. 

And once I'd had my fill of those I wandered on to the back of the park nearer the creek and here are a half dozen small dark dragonflies buzzing about. Buzzing me actually, these are very inquisitive beasts. They looked a lot like the one I'd half photographed Saturday morning and sure enough after 10 minutes chasing the things around I finally got a perch. I did the Golden Rule thing first and got a picture then moved closer and closer each shot. But this one was settled for a while and I got all the shots I could want and from pretty much every angle. Even when i did disturb it it came right back to the same perch if I was still.

Yes, the hairy thorax ( a he-man dragonfly...though it might be female) and the dark upper with the lower yellow spots and the dark marks at the base of the hind wing that werent visible on saturdays picture. It was the very same and great call Bernie R from the first picture. It is indeed a baskettail. Common most likely but still not easy to call. I Just know its not a Prince Baskettail. You know Prince , small but very flashy.

I also have caterpillars and some new spiders. But I'll save them for next time as the spiders are worth a post of their own too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stripey Jumper

This little spider is a male Hentzia palmarum. He was dashing and jumping all over Jrs little playhouse in the yard.  Actually I doubt if Jr. would fit too well these days as he had the playhouse since he was 2.  But I'd hate to see it go as its roof especially is a great place for spotting beasties that are otherwise lost in the foliage.

H. palmarium here is only around a 1/4 inch long but incredibly quick. Look at those over sized grasping front legs. And those fangs! If he lands on you, and he was jumping a couple of inches at a time yesterday, you arent getting away easily.

Of course the title 'pun' only works for the Brits, but a stripey sweater isnt funny. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lurid Can be A Good Thing


It isn't a word with many positive connotations. It always seems a little harsh for poor Zelus luridus my yard's most numerous assassin bug. But they are pretty bright right through their lifecycle and usually when we see them its because they stick out like a sore thumb against some unsuitable background. Like so:

But now it is spring , the blossom is come (and largely gone a week or two early) and the new leaves are opening. They are fresh and green and well frankly... lurid. So sometimes being lurid too is no bad thing.
Like so:

Thats really pretty splendid camouflage don't you think? Perhaps even more so with a smattering of pollen like everything else. Just goes to show that most of the time we don't see them at all. This one isnt an adult but it is a pretty large nymph.

This is a cranefly of course, everywhere in the spring. But this is a Tiger cranefly Nephrotoma ferruginea. Striking colour, pattern and almost metallic blue eyes.

And finally for today.
Well he gave his all and now he's dinner.
She is a Common House Spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum.
I guess he was too because now theres an egg sac in the corner of the window frame unless MrsB spots it and then everything is toast.

Some people are just arachnophobes and there is no getting over it.