Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Due Reward

Well it looks like I finally managed to fix the blasted leaking toilet. I won't say for sure until tomorrow morning if the floor is still dry.
But as my reward I took myself out in the pleasant sunshine, a little cooler these last 2 days just in the mid-80s. I wanted some better pictures of our Black Swallowtail cats and anything else was a bonus. 
The caterpillars change dramatically with each shed skin. Right now the fennel has about 3 stages of cats. They start out almost entirely black and each stage adds a little more colour, white, orange, green.
We have lots and lots of Black Swallowtails of course. But we also have our state butterfly the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). And we had a particularly nice specimen today on the mallow.
Our garden arch, built for Mrs.B and my wedding in the backyard just 9 years ago, is grown now with vines and honeysuckle. The honeysuckle always seems to be a popular spot with the Basilica Orbweaver
And I do see Ruby Throated Hummingbirds in the yard on a fairly regular basis. But somehow I never seem to have the right lense. The same was true today I still didnt have the long lens but the macro. Still just for once the pictures were usable once 95% on the frame was cropped out. One day I'lll get them, but these will do to post at least. They really do love that salvia. 
Now I'm going to check on the toilet. Wish me luck.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I was looking at Ashes news today. For my american readers that means the cricket Test Match series in England this summer between England and our oldest dearest enemies the Australians. 5 Five day games over the course of the summer where you could play them all and still end up with out a single 'result'. Not this summer though as England have won the first two already, the first one of the closest in years the second by one of their biggest margins ever.

But it was something else I found that I wanted to share. This is a little piece of cricketing history that brings a whole world to mind for me. It was the summer of 1977,  August 11th and the opening day of the fourth test. I had just finished my A levels and come to think on it I was on the Isle of Eigg off the west coast of Scotland. I was hiding out from my exam results, looking for some decent beer but finding nothing but cans of McEwans. Counting birds or something I think and hanging out with the local hippie commune listening to Jethro Tull.

 And it came to pass that Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott scored the 100th century (a century is a score of 100 or more) of his cricketing career. Not many ever score 100 hundreds and none had done it before in a test match and absolutely noone had done it on his own home ground of Headingley before a largely Yorkshire crowd against our very oldest rivals. And as an aside, anyone who knows Geoffs reputation would be amazed that he scored the century on the opening day of the game. Boycott? 100 runs? In only one day? 

Boycott drives Greg Chappell for 4 runs to complete his 100th first class Century. He went on to score 191in that innings, his highest score against Australia and was the last man out as usual

What I wanted to share is the BBC Radio commentary from Test Match Special on Radio 3 that day. The commentators are Christopher Martin Jenkins (CMJ) and another Yorkshire and England hero by then retired, the legendary fast bowler 'Fiery' Fred Trueman.

Test Match Special, the true sound of an English summer.

Curious Historical Aside
I might have been listening to this on Eigg, I wasnt paying much attention to the rest of the news.  On my return to the world after 3 weeks in a tent. I was astonished to see the headlines in the press concerning the apparent attempted theft of  Elvis Presley's body.  I had to admit that I didn't even know he'd finished with it. He had died August 16th possibly of delayed shock at the news that Geoffrey had scored a century in only one days play.

In the early 21st century its almost impossible to beleive one could be so isolated as to miss that snippet of news for days. But then, no cell phones, no internet and I must admit, little or no Elvis Aaron interest.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

They're He-re

After a disastrous spring where all our Black Swallowtail caterpillars were consumed by some unidentified agency the summer generation are here and doing well. The current count is around 30 with ages ranging from the tiny black and newly hatched to 3rd moult at about an inch and a half long. The first set never made it so far. Fingers crossed this time around

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Bit Of A Clean Up

Some times you just need to tidy up a little.

I have pictures hanging around from last week that don't fit a theme, or a scheme or anything else. Just some pictures out and about from the hottest week of the year so far.

 There was the jumping spider (most likely Platycryptus undatus) running around the edge of Jrs. pool  And another , not the same species, over at the Botanical Gardens watching me over the edge of a leaf when I got too close.

 Bug nymphs both at home:

The ever present Zelus luridus

And at the Botanical Gardens again, unidentified Assassin Bug nymphs (family Reduviidae). 

 Made 2 trips to the Gardens last week. One at the beginning of the week, Jr.-less and one last Sunday with Jr in tow...though usually in front, with most of our time spent at the waterplay fountains. It was VERY hot and humid. 

On the Monday in the Butterfly house I snapped this female ovipositing on the PawPaw.

And on Sunday, even the dragonflies were looking for a little shade. Particularly the Slaty Skimmers. Maybe they feel the heat more being such dark blue and absorbing more.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Someone Must Be Out There

It took a year to reach 5000 page views, it took another 8 months to hit 10,000 and then 6 more to achieve 15,000 hits. So someone MUST be put there then. Besides those ad bot parasites

My god! The face-hugger got the staue of Rubens at Norfolk Botanical Gardens!!
Bloody parasites!

The Greeter

Found on the front door at work when I arrived Wednesday morning.
A Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)

Apologies for the quality, hes small and the camera phone doesnt do small very well.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Self Portrait

With the help of Mrs.B's weirdy crackled gazing ball in the yard and my Hipstamatic I present my new self portrait.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Stand Corrected Hurrah!

Back on June 15th I took Banished Jr. to First Landing State Park beach for a birthday party. I managed to sneak a few pictures of some of the hundreds of dragonflies out there in the dunes and I posted a couple here and at BugGuide too. Sometimes I post at BugGuide looking for ID and sometimes because I know what it is and it's just a good picture to help others ID their specimens. In the latter spirit I posted 2 pictures of Great Blue Skimmers taken that day.

But now I learn I got it wrong, again.

Yes, one  is a Great Blue but the one below apparently is not. Now its very similar and if you arent expecting it to be anything else you don't look as hard... But in fact its a Bar Winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena ) which I'm happy to say is new to me and much less common than the Great Blue. Its always a good indicator of a species frequency to check how many thumbnail pages there are for it on BugGuide. Great Blue Skimmer has 9 pages of  24 per page. Bar Winger Skimmer 1 page of 24 plus a second page with just 2 images making a grand total of...not so many of them about then.

Oh yes, the beast in question:

    Apparently the identification secret is pruinosity. Pruinosity is the blue/white colouration that a lot of dragonflies , especially the Libellulae, develop as they mature. It mostly occurs on the body but is can show on the wings as it does on the Twelve Spotted Skimmer and the Widow Skimmer. And if you look carefully, as I didn't at the time, it occurs here at the very base of the hindwings. The Great Blue Skimmer doesn't have this.   
Now I need to see if I have any more misidentified that day.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hard Times

You know times are tough when even the spiders are overcrowded.
Checking the iris bed yesterday I found not one , not two, not 3 but 4 black and yellow Garden Spiders Argiope aurantia . If that doesn't sound like a lot then remember this is the largest spider in the garden and that the full grown adult may have a web 2 feet across its clearly going to get crowded and something has got to give. Of course they won't all stay there, they never do. Weather will move some of them somewhere more sheltered and  no doubt birds will take at least one. But one will usually stay in that bed the summer long and be huge by the time the fall comes around. I always think that calling this beast a garden spider is a ludicrous understatement. They really are awesome creatures.

Our four current residents in ascending order of age and size are:

Clearly the youngest, this black and yellow spider isn't black or yellow yet more differing shades of gray. It will need to shed a skin and will then look like this:

This one clearly did, just, shed that skin and it is still in the web beside it. Which make the next one, though the same size at least a little older as the skin is discarded. Its not a certain sign but looks like a decent indicator to me.

Which brings us to the last and largest living in splendid isolation at the opposite end of the bed from the first three at least one molt ahead of any of the others. As such she earns a close-up and a shot to put her in context.

New on Tuesday was a Skipper to add to the list. I hadn't noted it before though its not uncommon. The problem is this is the Least Skipper and it is very small indeed, very flighty and very easily missed. If this was a moth it would be a Micro, but we don't have micro butterflies...apparently. I forget how many Skipper species that is for the yard and I suppose I need to consider if I can count the Brazilian Skipper I didnt see but whos very large, very ungly caterpillars devoured our canna last year while we were on vacation.See here for the ugly devils

I need to go back and check my own post from sometime last year and do a count.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Out Of The Box

I still love my new toy, the iPhone, but as a toy rather than as a phone.

But there are some really cool things to love. I especially love my Pandora which unlike it's name sake doesn't release the ill's of the world from a box but musical goodies. When I bought this current car it came with Sirius radio and they tried to get me to subscribe. It came, they enthused, with dedicated channels for 'all (my) favorite artists'. Now I may be a difficult old bugger but the Elvis Channel, the Beatles Channel and the Michael Jackson Channel do not my favourite artists make.

But the Pandora app has let me really make my own 'channels'. I started out by being deliberately difficult and creating Radio Henry Cow and expecting it to say... 'Henry who now?' But what a miserable old cynic I was.  In the car this morning Henry Cow Radio, via iPhone, gave me;
Arcades by Henry Cow from the Unrest album

Dogbreath Variations by Frank Zappa from one of the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore live albums

Etude for Combo by Thinking Plague who Id never heard of but turn out to be a band orginally formed by the excellent Bob Drake. They will be checked out further in the near future.

Red by King Crimson It has put up several King Crimson tracks but noticably only instrumentals. Yesterday it played Larks Tongues in Aspic Pt1.

and finally just before I got to work
Viva Pa Ubu by Henry Cow from Western Culture.

Even the one I didnt know was great and it's now started throwing me Frank Zappa tunes too.

Here is the Henry Cow Viva Pa Ubu!
I don't want to sound like a commercial for Pandora but its really rather splendid. I have 'difficult' tastes in music and this seems to be doing an amazing job of finding me goodies. My other 'channels' are a Brian Eno station that brings good stuff including many I'd quite forgotten like Eno Moebius and Roedelius 'The Belldog' from After The Heat and other more or less interesting 'ambient' style tracks.

 The Van Der Graaf Generator channel is less successful as it casts it's net a bit too wide and I have to 'Thumbs Down' tracks from Yes, Cream, Genesis after Peter Gabriel (really!?!?) and the Beatles. Sorry but I only want somewhat eccentric prog rock. Likes and Dislikes may improve this one over time but then its not something you can or should do when driving. 

But, overall Viva Pa Ubu and Viva Pandora          

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Meet the Beetles

Just a few nice finds from Sunday afternoon and a break from weekend-long bathroom redecoration.

The is the Eyed Click Beetle (Alaus oculatus ) and it doesnt take a great deal of work to ID it. Those huge eye spots on the  pronotum (behind the head) and the overall large size make it unmistakeable. My glasses are in the picture here for an idea of scale. When this click beetle clicks you really hear it!

 And a second impressive beetle, though not as large, is the Green June Bug (Cotinis nitida). Still it is around 3/4" long and the colouring is wonderful. Only the one snap in this case as it was off again before I got a second chance.

It is a member of the family Scarabaeidae, the scarab beetles. On a less dramatic scale is this Bug nymph yet to be indentified as to species. You would think its fairly easy with this patterning and with those white stripes on the legs and antennae. But there are so many to choose from and they change so radically as they grow and moult.
I'll let you know.
Its a Brown Marmorted Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys)

And finally... just a nice sharp headshot of jumping spider Hentzia palmarum. The big macro lens has such a shallow depth of field that the rest of her was pretty much a blur. But this was nice and crisp and really shows of those massive fangs (well massive to scale, its a tiny spider) and the eye arrangement.

As to my title, Meet the Beetles I know Id rather this one;

Than actually  Meet the Beatles.

Oh yes RIP the 2 Luna Moth pupae neither of which emerged after I rescued them from the pond as caterpillars. everything seemed to be going well but sometime over the weekend they ceased their noisy wriggling and have been sadly silent since. I'm not sure what went wrong. But its been a bad year so far for our caterpillars. The first batch of  Black Swallowtails back in the spring mysteriously disappeared over the course of a couple of days. They all vanished more or less in the course of a day when only around 5 days old. They seem to have fallen victim to either birds or wasps. Its the first time I've had this happen though. Normally the vast majority make it through to butterflyhood. Its a bummer and now we have the Luna failure too 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Brain One

More musical juvenilia this morning. We've had the improvisation before and combative sound art collage and now here is the Brian 'Brain One' Eno inspired ambient electronic epic.
I'm not sure exactly when this was done. I'd guess around 15 years ago. The software whatever it was came with a PC I bought. I imagine it remains there to this day, likely somewhere in Gloucestershire, likely a landfill by now I imagine.
I messed around with the various beats and samples it contained, combining and recombining, stretching everything out to ludicrous slow tempi looping the lot at about 15 minutes and stitching them end to end. So what came out was a one hour multi track loop that I could then go through mixing as I went. There were, frighteningly, 3 of these. There were to be 4, one for each season but even I got bored. They were burned to CD as finished audio, the only way available at the time to move that much data out of a PC. Now there are 2 my having lost the my favourite, winter, piece somewhere down the line.
So if you have an hour to spare you can find the Autumn piece here

Make that 40 minutes. The upload seems to start to foul up at that point and by the end its just static.
But I'm not going to mess with it. You'll get the idea after about a quarter of an hour anyway.
The CD had a cover using this image from Fall 2003
The best  year I remember for autumn colour in the UK and my last before I headed over here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

( I Love) My New Toy

I fried my old phone a month or so back when we took a trip to First Landing and I paddled in the ocean with Banished Jr. and forgot it was in the thigh pocket of my pants. Water is bad enough but sea water is instant electronic death.

And so Mrs. B said get an iPhone for your update which is due anyway. I resisted. Mrs.B called and ordered me one anyway.

Its actually not bad if you can type anything  what with my big fingers and its appalling predictive texting.

But I do like Pandora. I already have "Radio Robert Wyatt" and "Radio Henry Cow". I'm cheap and didnt dump the ads. Mrs. B finds them super annoying, but then when she gets one every 4 or 5 songs or so thats true. but then her songs are mostly around 3 mins long. I don't hear that many commercial myself  as most of mine are around 10 minutes... minimum.

And then Outa_spaceman   recommended Hipstamatic as my camera app. This is undoubtedly a good thing. I've havent had much chance to play around yet but anything that lets an iPhone take pictures like tintypes is on my nice list.

Fun, fun, fun!