Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Finally back and back online after someone in the neighbourhood apparently dug up something they shouldnt have and cut all our DSL services off.
I didnt really get to post the last couple of days up there either but I was out taking pictures.
One of the really nice things the Town Of Luray did in the last few years was to turn their creek, which was a typical stream running through a small town and rather icky, into something clean and interesting and a real feature.
The Hawksbill Creek, which incidently starts at the falls in the mountains that  we visited a few days ago, is now the centre of the Hawksbill Greenway
We took a walk around the one circuit the first rather damp day and 2 evening stolls along the whole length later in the week. Its now a Class A trout stream amongst other things, right in the middle of town. And lots of fish means lots of fish eaters. Any evening here you can see three species of Heron hunting.
Theres the regular old Blue Heron that we have on our own pond and all over the area.
Then theres the much smaller Green Heron (Butorides virescens ) which also visits our pond but I've never got a decent picture of at home. These are very striking with a dark glossy green back and a russett breast.
Alas it was getting a little dark when I snapped this one and the colours could show up better.
And then there is the Black Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax ) It is, apparently, the most widespread heron on the planet spanning 5 continents. But I'd not seen one before. And up here on the Greenway they were everywhere. In the stream side trees,
Or perching on the bridge footings as the sun went down.
I still went the whole week without a decent dragonfly picture due to the high river levels and without much in the way of moths thanks to the damp rainy or foggy nights which kept them largely out of the air.
I did get a pic of one of my favourite bugs though. The Nut Weevil Curculio caryae is apparently a serious pest of Pecan trees over here but sorry, its just too funny to be taken seriously by non-nut farmers.
Look at the schnozz on that!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Here Be Monsters


 Yes here be monster millipedes. Just everywhere as we hiked through the forest from Big Meadows down to Lewis Falls.
Something from the genus Narceus. Likely N. americanus, we saw literally dozens of these along the couple of miles up and down the hill to the falls. Difficult to miss really being as they are about 3 1/2 inches long.
 Apparently the millipede man at BugGuide yawns when he sees these and pastes in his comment
"Narceus americanus (Beauvois, 1817) (Spirobolida: Spirobolidae) again, the most common millipede species in eastern North America."
Oh God not another of those 3 1/2 inch N. americanus. They are soooooooooo passe.
Well some of us are still impressed you jaded old bugger. 
Oh yes and here also be Black Bears by the side of the road but I still had the macro bug lens on.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More From The Mountains

Its rained at least a little every day so far and we are waiting for warm fog to clear this morning but there are things to see up here even when the suns not shining. I must say the evening rain and lack of a porch at this cabin is wrecking havoc with my early morning moth surveys.

A Round Headed Katydid of the genus Amblycorypha
A Scorpion Fly probably Panorpa nuptialis but really not showing off the 'scorpion tail' from this angle.
Caterpillar of the Orange Tipped Oakworm Moth (Anisota senatoria) . The moth looks nice too if I ever get to see one.
Black Stink Bug (Proxys punctulatus)
And a much better upper wing shot of the Hackberry Emperor than I managed to get last year.
We really havent got out and about too much yet so really not such a bad haul. But it will be nice to get up into the Park and especially into Big Meadows on Wednesday I hope.
But, not one single dragonfly on this stretch of the river yet. The river is a lot highter than last year and its not so easy to find basking spots. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tiny Kleptos

Yes, this is  a klepto. Indeed these are a klepto couple!
And another new species to me.

 Say hello to Argyrodes species yet unconfirmed. She is above and he is below. And yes they are kleptos, or to be more precise kleptoparasites.

That is to say they live on other spiders webs and steal their meals when they aren't looking. I found these outlaws (or spongers, its a political call) living on the periphery of the web of a very large Garden Spider around the side of the house. I've convinced Mrs.B that this is sufficiently out of the way they she is NOT going to walk through the web and so successfully stood advocate for the Argiopes. Now while they may be parasites they certainly seem to me to live a very edgy existence. They skitter about the edge of her web which is now well over 2 feet across and as very small and nimble as they are I several times watched her feel their presence and turn that way. But being as she is literally thousands of times their mass I guess they get away with it as seeming ghosts. They are likely too small for prey themselves, there would be more calories expended in the chase and feeding than she could hope to get out of the meal.  Kind of diet snacks at best.

Meanwhile these two sneak around the fringes of her huge web taking the prey that are like themselve too small for her to bother with. In fact they probably perform a useful function in keeping the web clear of all those scruffy little gnats and mosquitoes that would otherwise clutter it up without any nutritional value to the owner/builder.

Hopefully later today I can update with a species on these. They are either A. nephilae or A. elevatus. Which ever they turn out to be  the common name is, appropriately, the Dewdrop spider



Friday, August 9, 2013

Those Crazy Beatniks

From the New York Times via the always fascinating Open Culture comes the following tale of the first meeting of 20th Century superstar poets  Allen Ginsberg and Patti Smith.

'It’s November 1969 and Ms. Smith is trying to buy a cheese sandwich at the Horn & Hardart Automat on West 23rd Street in Manhattan. When she finds herself a dime short, Ginsberg approaches her and asks if he can help. He offers her the extra 10 cents and also treats her to a cup of coffee. The two are talking about Walt Whitman when Ginsberg suddenly leans forward and asks if she’s a girl.
“Is that a problem?” she asks.
He laughs and says: “I’m sorry. I took you for a very pretty boy.”
“Well, does this mean I return the sandwich?”
“No, enjoy it. It was my mistake.”
6 years on , on the cover of Horses one of the finest debut albums every recorded.
Pretty isnt the word but theres a lot of us fell in love with that simple perfect image by Robert Mapplethorpe. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Up Close and Personal

Here is todays mystery object.
An ornate 18th century scimitar as carried perhaps by the rider in Slawkenbergius tale ?
No its the 'shin' of a Green June Bug in close up
And with a little more distance...
There seem to be a lot of these around this year. Or maybe I just seem to be rescueing them from Jrs pool everyday. I really dont seem able to do these justice, the camera doesnt capture the depth or irridescence of the colours.
  As you can tell from the shape these are related to the scarabs. We had another equally large scarab to rescue at the end of last week but this one I'd never photographed before.
It's the Grapevine Beetle (Pelidnota punctata) but alas, once retreived, it recovered very quickly and flew off before I got a second shot.
I don't seem to have seen so many mantis around so far this year but this one was in the Buddlea the other day poised and upside down. Not particularly large either, no more than an inch and a haf'
This is a robberfly of the genus Diogmites, one of the wonderfully named 'Hanging Thieves'. Not the species I photographed last year, I suspect. This one lacks the green eyes and seems generally leaner and darker. I'll let the folks at BugGuide call this one too.
I dont know if anyone ever looks carefully at the dragonflies I'm posting but its not unusual for them to appear to have 4 legs rather than the requisite 6. This is because often as here the front pair are pulled up, knees behind the ears if they had either, and used to help in feeding. They will manipulate larger prey into position this way. It always reminds me of T.Rex with those tiny forelimbs.
You can see the arrangement very clearly here.
In flight the legs are used to make a 'basket' with those long spines to scoop up and capture flying insects. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Biggles and the Imperial Thumbs Down.

On the subject of my Pandora then I have fine tuned the Radio Van Der Graaf Generator by vicious use of the imperial 'Thumbs Down'. Gone are the offers of Led Zeppelin and Phil Collins and the 'station now boast VDGG with a very large side of Jethro Tull and a leavening of Soft Machine and Peter Gabriel era Genesis.

That'll do me for the drive to work.

This mornings drive to work was accompanied almost entirely by Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick. Not the edit as I thought when it popped up but the whole 22 minutes of Part 1.

"So!  Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday? "

Biggles! Is Biggles still read? Even in my youth Capt. W.E. Johns' stirring tales of flying ace and all round adventurer James Bigglesworth were the stuff of comedy thanks to Monty Python. At school we spent hours of harmless 'fun' tormenting 1st and 2nd Year library assistants with searches through the card index for nonexistent and nonesensical Biggles titles. Biggles Flies Undone...Biggles Meets His Auntie On Top Of A Mountain...Biggles Controls The Means Of Production....Biggles Defends The Bourgeoisie.
I should be ashamed of myself.

Historical Aside:
Damn it, now I'm old there are way too many passing thoughts that merit the epithet 'historical'. But, still, on the subject of Biggles and Monty Python then I seem to think that the first time I became aware of the term 'gay' in its other than jolly context was in Monty Python's Biggles sketch.