Monday, May 19, 2014

On Tour

After torrential rains on Friday that flooded downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth, this weekend was beautiful. Bright and sunny and just around 70f. Perfect weather to be out and about. So Saturday was spent mulching in the yard and planting yet more new plants in the hope some of them will survive. Last weekend we finally managed to buy some milkweed for the monarchs. And this weekend we put in a few more bits and pieces and mulched front and back trying to keep the weeds down and stop everything from shrivelling up from the heat come July and August.

But then Sunday we took another trip out to Norfolk Botanical Garden as it was another perfect weather day. But the day started in the yard before we set out with this less than perfect Spring Azure. One wing was a little tatty (I know Im a Nazi over this) but it did pose with wings spread so that we can all see that it is a BLUE as opposed to a vaguely silvery.

From then on it was a day for the less common or just plain new. Everywhere I turned there were species of butterfly or dragonfly I either see once in a blue moon or hadn't seen at all.
Now not everything posed to perfection, but when your after that new one you have to take what you can get. The first two dragonflies were species I have seen before but arent everyday beasts especially around my pond.

We had a baskettail posing prettily on a catmint. I've better shots of the baskettail but its always nice to have them posing somewhere other than a dead twig.

Then in the Frog Bog area there were plenty of early Common Whitetails, Blue Dashers and this slightly less common Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata). This one was very cooperative while I moved around it. One of the pleasing things about the temperature being what it is is that while its warm enough for everything to be out and about it isnt so warm that they whiz around nonstop.

Then in the butterfly meadow with its beautiful planting on wild flowers there were a variety of dragons zipping about in pursuit of the smaller flying beasties. One that did settle for a minute or two was this Painted Skimmer, only the second one I've managed to snap. While the other, shot at Hoffler Creek, is the better image then was certainly more prettily placed among the meadow flowers.

The butterfly meadow leads to the butterfly house but that doesnt open until mid -June. The butterfly friendly gardens around it were busy enough though especially with skippers. Amongst these, nestled in the clover and flitting just for a moment were the Checkered Skippers. I've never shot better than a blur on these so it was nice to finally get something resonable. It took a little concentration because if you took your eye off these it was easy to lose them. 
The latin name is Pyrgus communis.

Most of the time at ground level there was a scratching and scamping in the dry leaves in and around the bushes and shrubs. A moments patience would reveal a lizard on the hunt. There were lots and lots of Five Lined Skinks out on Sunday. Both young, with bright blue tails:

And mature males on the lookout for more than a snack as shown by the bright red head.

As the lizard gets older the stripes grow less distinct and the blue tail fades to a blue grey in the females or plain old brown in the males.

And the last new species for the Botanical Gardens yesterday was this little Stilt Legged Fly (Taeniaptera trivittata) doing a very convincing impression of a wasp, waving those white tipped legs like antennae.

On the way home we stopped off at a new site in Portsmouth, Paradise Creek nature park. This is off of the Elizabeth River and is a reclaimed wetland with woods all around it. It was our first time there and honestly it's not terribly attactive. Its under development still and its surrounded by ugly industrial buildings and silos. And the area of housing behind is best described as unsalubrious. And while it was getting late as we didnt roll up until 6pm there really wasnt much of anything to see. A wetland with no egrets, not herons, no ospreys I saw barely a bird but for a few stray swifts. And not one butterfly. Not a single one. And almost no dragonflies either. Until just as we were heading out and back to the parking lot a single small dragon landed in the vegetation beside the path and I got my last new species for the day.

This is the Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice) that is distinguished by being the only dragonfly that breeds in salt or brackish water. With as many tidal salt marshes  as we have around here I'm surprised I havent seen one before. But it did make the otherwise miserable Paradise Creek worth the visit.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

What is Big Ginger and Horny (Well, Horned at Least) ?

The answer is Odontotaenius disjunctus, the Horned Passalus. I found several of these big (1 1/2 inch) beetles in a rotted tree trunk in the little park across from the house. I didnt notice the little central horn on its head until it was ID'ed at BugGuide. I was distracted by all that ginger hair! All around the head and thorax and just look at those hairy ginger 'shins' especially on the second pair of legs.

The second image is the true color, black. The third looks blue but that's purely the color of the sky. This is, as Capt. Beefheart said, a Shiny Beast.
And on the side of the house I found a new-to-me jumping spider Lyssomanes viridis known as the Magnolia Green Jumping Spider. I'm not overly pleased with the picture quality on this as it was very small and pretty much translucent. Against the light siding it made for a poor shot.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Deep Purple

Looking at these on a good sized screen and not my phone I'm convinced I shouldn't post from my phone camera unless it's something special I couldn't photograph any other way. The spontaneity does not make up for the reduction in image quality on a screen bigger than 3x2. Like yesterday's lizard looked sharp on the phone but really it just wasn't sharp enough.

Friday, May 9, 2014

You Want Colour (or Color) We Have That

We have Rhododendron


and Iris
The 'black' (or at least very deep purple) iris should open today with the temperature climbing to 90F.
Oh damn it here comes summer and we barely had spring. I feel like it was snowing a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Half Asleep Wholly Wonderful

Once more falling back on the Banished iPod for inspiration here is a favourite track from my favourite band of all time Henry Cow.

Founded in Cambridge in 1968 by Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson joined shortly thereafter by drummer Chris Cutler and home at various times of Geoff Leigh,  John Greaves, Georgie Born, Lindsay Cooper, Dagmar Krause and the semi detached Slapp Happy ( Peter Blegvad and Anthony Moore).

Their unique brand of Avant garde-agitprop-jazz-progrock-free improv continued until 1978 when they split and scattered their various talents to the four winds of musical weirdness.

Half Asleep- Half Awake is from the bands second album Unrest

Sorry the video for this is so ugly but it is the best sound quality I could find and thats what matters.

Henry Cow on stage.
Note comfy chairs and tasselled standard lamps. Very cosy.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Good Thing

My stats tell me that someone came to Banished's Bugs today while searching the interweb for Ivor Cutler. This can only be a very good thing. If you don't know the creator of  "Life In A Scotch Sittingroom ' and so much more then you should scour the interweb for him too. You won't be sorry.
Indeed, start here