27 April 2010

The Sun Also Rises

That's right, Ernest.

Ra greeting Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) FFS Atoll, NW Island Chain, HI, 2007

26 April 2010

Some news is bad news...

We were at Boyscout Woods when the Fork-tailed Flycatcher was found at Smith Oaks (less than 1/2 mile away) - but we didn't find out about the sighting until late that night, when we were on the north side of Houston.

Another call came in today; nice resume, but someone else got the job.

And my darling hand-me-down Minolta G400 point-and-shoot is gradually losing its shutter speed control. At least that's my guess, since regular shots are seriously overexposed and a few with slight zoom and dark backgrounds are coming out tolerably (in fewer than one out of five tries). For a 2004 model digital camera, the obsolescence may be understandable. But I like this one, I can work with this one. I can digi-bin photos that would make other people cry* (they still end up feeble, but they're better than nothing). There's a new one online for $300, a used one on ebay for $200 and a broken one on ebay for $25 - but those are the ONLY ones I could find at all. Maybe I dropped this one a few too many times. It got a brand new spare battery last year before the honeymoon, perhaps it couldn't keep up. The anthropomorphism is horrible there, but at least it has no name.

Example: I had about 10 photos that looked like the one below.

Finally, after zooming in and re-centering the photo, 1 turned out. It seems to wash out regardless of flash.

Agonizingly enough, it does the same with macro. If you're wondering, the photos are from Boy Scout Woods at High Island. They were taken while we should have been at Smith Oaks! Ah well.

23 April 2010

Hold Music vs. Lesser Nighthawk

To the dear readers of this blog (there must be 7 or 8 of you now, you exclusive club, you!) we apologize for the lag in super-awesome posts lately; we're on the road. To hold you over until the next post of witty banter, we invite you to consider this post "hold music" or elevator music, or whatever it is that fancy blogs have these days to keep readers from leaving.

Today's activity: Oiled Wildlife Response Workshop by Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education, aka Sharon Schmalz, my Houston area rehabber!

Afterward we drove down to Sabine Pass and tried to unwind but the migrants kept us on our toes. Highlight: Lesser Nighthawk. Second highlight? Common Nighthawk right after the Lesser!

In fact, here's a video - you can tell how windy it was (and hear the Royal Terns in the background) One more video and two photos are now up in our RBA album.

Yes, you say, there is a clump of bark-colored something in that video. And if you're not a birder, you're probably not going to care one way or another about Common vs. Lesser Nighthawk. Basically Lessers are silent, low-flying, buffy nighthawks who stick to arid southern regions. Commons are the ones you see/hear (they have a "BEERT!" call) over parking lots and around stadium lights at football games over much of the US.

Map from whatbird.com:

...as you can see, the critter shouldn't be at the very SE corner of Texas! If it strays another mile or two to the east, that's SW Louisiana ;-)

Happy migration; 140 spp in 2 days of birding, 1 more to go.

18 April 2010

Poor Grammia

Actually, not genus Grammia at all.
Formerly placed in genus Apantesis.
No more.
Still, quite vividly a member of Sly and the family Arctiidae. Or is it Arctiinae now... ah, the excruciating joys of entomological taxonomy.

Thanks to the collective and helpful knowledge-base at bugguide.net I have finally learned the currently true name of a tiger-moth I came across while still slingin' shrikes on Naval Auxiliary Landing Field, San Clemente Island.

The photos of this beast had been in a photo-dump file I honestly had forgotten about, until thinking of this particular individual.

Notarctia proxima "Mexican Tiger Moth"

This insect occurs from south-central Oregon down through California, Mexico and Central America. Also occurring west to east from Nevada, Utah, far west Colorado, south-central New Mexico, and the Big Bend region of far west Texas.

Hindwing color can vary from mostly white to mostly red.
Abdomen red or orangish with black tip.

Anyways, this individual was pointed out to me early one morning, 19 Oct 2008, by US Navy personnel . It was recently deceased on the inside window ledge of the SCI security building.

That building had great porch/security lights.

Anyhow, the "Woolly Bear" - type caterpillars that some may recall are generally "Tiger Moth" species.

17 April 2010

blatant promotion

The Moth and Me is now up! I think I missed posting the March edition... whoops.

15 April 2010

vote for Anakin....

...our 5yr-old, to be 6 in July.

He's in a photo contest (click the photo to see).

Golden in Blue

In TX, its tradition to take photos of family members sitting in Bluebonnets, the state flower.

Heidi and I have our own 5-yr-old named Anakin. Yes, his owner is/was/is a Star Wars nerd. Original Trilogy (no computer cartoons), and yes, Solo shot Greedo first.

I have to remind little punks at the park that yes Anakin Skywalker had some issues, but he was ultimately redeemed. REDEEMED.
Their eyes and generally glossed over by then and I go along with, yes he'll be Vader shortly now beat it!

Thanks for your support!

12 April 2010

Stunning noctuid

family Noctuidae make up the largest family of moths. In North America alone there are more than 2,900 species.

The majority are active at night and wear cryptic brown or gray patterns. The majority, but not all...

Eight-spotted Forester (Alypia octomaculata), male is notated by white dorsal stripe

Nectaring on flowering blackberry. This species is a member of the rebellious subfamily Agaristinae within the Noctuid clan. Members of which are often striking and quite noticeable.

Widespread in the eastern portion of the continent, here in Central Texas we are nearing the peripheral of its western range. It's larvae, feed on ampelopsis, Virginia Creeper, and other plants in the grape family. Some people mistakenly take Virginia Creeper as Poison Ivy or Poison Oak.

'Tisn't. It does not take long to learn Virginia Creeper as Virginia Creeper. Leave that native vine be if you can. It looks great on your wooden fences, and wonderful on the trunk of oak trees. There are some fantastic, colorful moths and butterflies that use it as hostplant for their larvae. You'll love the adults.

There is much Virginia Creeper where we live. This native vine plays host plant to several species in family Sphingidae as well.

We, after I took two mornings trying to photograph this guy, finally captured a picture of this individual last Friday at Woodway Park here in Woodway, McLennan County, TX.

A great moth; brilliant color, diurnal...... and yes... Noctuid. Some moths, like people, don't go with the trends.

We like them.

11 April 2010

Final Four; more bugs!

As promised, here's a less morbid bug post. These leps are alive!

Bordered Patches (Chlosyne lacinia) are among our favorite bugs, not that we're generally too biased. My first experience with them was at South Llano River State Park, floating downstream in a cloud of bluets (tiny blue damselflies). Every patch of mud along the banks had a flutter of shocking black-and-orange; a burst of color where none was expected. The under wing is a fabulous pattern of black and muted whitish tones.

Since most of our leps for the day were patches and crescents, the only other spark of diversity I can offer (beyond the dogface saga) is a Common/White Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis/albescens). The photo below had to be rotated twice. That's just how I roll - have to get the bug where it is and any way I can! (In the spirit of full transparency, this is very much a ground-level butterfly... to be at or below its level is an anomaly and there's no way I could pass up the opportunity!)

Not bad, all things considered. Looking at it upside-down was just too disorienting to post, but I suppose it would have added artistic flair and some sort of bold statement to our blog. Alas, it has been presented in a plain and easily viewable format. In fact, that photo wasn't even taken through binoculars, as many of my photos are.

Vesta/Graphic Crescent (Phyciodes graphica), alone on a chip of bark.

Not taken through binoculars either; just with old-fashioned belly crawling and macro.

Final Four; Southern Dogface

In the three hours we spent birding and butterflying Warbler Woods, you probably wouldn't think we had a week's worth of posting material! We could, but we'll spare you. These next photos are a bit tricky, bear with me: Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia) is the butterfly below... all 1.5 of them.

Those angles aren't stellar but they show you what we saw; a confusing jumble of too-many-wings for one butterfly, but not-enough-wings for two. As best we can tell, the male Southern Dogface was "snacked" mid copulation by either a dragonfly, or more likely, a bird. This is a bit distressing for the observer because this means the female is now dragging around extra weight. And unable to detach from the male's body, she's unable to lay eggs. So somewhere there will be a very happy bird who will snack on a bug-and-a-half when she goes.

Morbid, eh? Next post won't be.

10 April 2010

Final Four; bluebonnets

Matt's post, "a few bugs of the Final Four" offered photos of dancing Bordered Patches and Vesta/Graphic Crescents. No bluebonnets? Well, here they are!

Voila, the seasonal photo of bluebonnet goodness! Our visit to Warbler Woods was punctuated with scattered meadows crammed full of bluebonnets. They're quite a nice pick for the state flower of Texas since they have a lovely, full cluster of blossoms. Even their aroma is etched into my brain as a "happy smell" (right up there with gardenias and mimosa trees).

More love for the bluebonnets. Any guesses on the spider ID? While we're guessing ID, the flowers below could also use the help. It was all I could do to resist crawling through each patch of flowers and trying to get every different kind; we would have been there forever and barely covered any ground!

As usual, there was plenty of scat to be seen. Yet in all of the central-Texas scat-poking, the cluster of sow bugs/pill bugs was something I hadn't seen before. It was reminiscent of the dung beetle party witnessed last summer, with sow bugs replacing dung beetles. Whatever had been eaten to produce the scat was furry but without any bones visible to ID it, and not wanting to crash the party, we left the turds undisturbed.

That sounded awkward... have a flower?

09 April 2010

San Antonio nightlife

Post-game adventures involved walking from the stadium back to the hotel, with a slight detour to breathe the quiet moments that the Alamo doesn't often have.

It's really quite a lovely structure, sadly surrounded by urban madness these days. The couple next to the flagpole were so photogenic - since it was Easter Sunday, a few folks were still milling around in their church garb, this family being among the last of the evening crowd.

Our hotel, Emily Morgan was across the street on the NW side of the mission; you can see the top corner in the photo below. It looked remarkably vacant from the outside, day as well as night.

These photos give you an idea of what my camera was up against. I'm certainly not fluent in nocturnal photography, nor playing with the timer on the camera... but the results were still pretty cool. Our Baylor shirts outshined the Alamo because we were just at the edge of the street light's path!

If you feel brave, here are a few more artistic attempts:

These last few posts have probably contained the most of "Matt and Heidi" that you'll ever see. The next few posts may contain a few more token photos to appease the relatives who say we post more creepy-crawlies than cute-fuzzies, but it's quite debatable whether or not we count as cute-fuzzies! (Collins, the Bluebonnet photo will be up soon; it counts!)

The above angle cracked me up; Monday morning as we headed out, our line of sight just happened to involve the Crockett Hotel sign appearing just above the Alamo. Sneaky!

08 April 2010

Final Four

Since we were very conveniently located in downtown San Antonio, Matt and I did the obligatory tour d' River Walk: we paused in front of the Alamo for our standard tourist shot. I hadn't seen the Alamo since a class field trip in 4th grade; it looked the same, surrounded by too much civilization. After scooting through the Marriott shops to get to the crowds of UCONN fans, we gawked at Cave Swallows nesting under bridges and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron selecting twigs for its nest. Classic River Walk experience, no?

Here are the photos that everyone* has been waiting for; the stadium and our view from within said stadium. Not sure if they're still calling it the Alamodome, but at least it doesn't sound as random as Minute Maid Park!
* everyone = people who know I'm the least sports-oriented person ever

And here's a lovely shot of the loudest Baylor fans in the entire stadium:

Thankfully, on our way down to San Antonio, we had stopped at Oma's Haus in New Braunfels for lunch and ended up taking a "fudge strudel" - good thing. After the 70:50 game, we needed a consolation snack! Sorry, no photos of that delicious piece of heaven-in-a-pastry.

07 April 2010

Final Four, the preparation

About that Final Four... I married into a very Beary Baylor family and wouldn't you know, my Jeep had some adjusting to do as well. Oh yes.

I must have felt bad about not making the Houston game (was under the weather anyway) to support the men while they were clobbered by Duke. Matt was able to go with his father and brother-in-law, at least. In addition to wanting to support the women, Coach Mulkey told everyone to be there and we certainly couldn't decline. So, San Antonio it was!

Here's the view from our corner room at the Emily Morgan Hotel: can you guess the Baylor fan?

...when we continue with our next Final Four post, there will be obligatory Alamo photos of the happy couple. And photos from the game. And probably some fuzzy evidence that my camera has some handy night settings.

06 April 2010

before the Final Four

With little down time between the Baylor men playing in Houston, our anniversary and the Final Four... a few things slipped between the cracks. With an early trip to Meridian State Park, we saw one "after hatch year" (AHY) male Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) (nearly a month later than our first sighting last year). Also starting to show up, Juniper Hairstreaks (Callophrys gryneus):

The Trudell & York family, enjoying the spring weather:

For evidence of our pseudo-elopement, check out "let them eat cake." We tried to do some normal anniversary type things, like waiting a year after the marriage to finally combine dinner and a concert. Our usual bread pudding stop at Buzzard Billy's was delicious, and Waco hosts a series of free summer concerts along the Brazos (the Brazos Nights concerts), so until next year:

The opening act was Lucas Nelson & Promise of the Real; yes, that's Willie Nelson's son. The main draw was Waco native Wade Bowen, and the after-concert attraction was a Longhorn Beetle (of the Cerambycidae).

...and one of these posts we'll even get caught up on San Antonio.