Jan 042017
 

Today, I continue my recent Florida adventures with a collection of images from the Key West Butterfly and Nature Observatory, the only butterfly house I have ever visited that has actually obtained permission to breed many of the nonnative butterflies on exhibit there.  Butterflies swirl and glide about everywhere as one walks the curving and recurving path through the space; I could almost have pointed my iPhone camera at random, snapped a photo, and found at least one butterfly in view.  Below are a few treasures from my trip, which was the second visit there — the first was two years ago, just a few scant days after my yearlong photography project ended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 032017
 

I took both of these photographs from the same place — the edge of a raised wooden boardwalk surrounding Rum Island Springs on the Santa Fe River near Fort White, Florida.  The first image, taken with my Ztylus fisheye lens, captures the colorful, inviting world of the riverine landscape, with its shallow, perfectly transparent waters and woods still in leaf in early December.  Turning, I saw an intriguing little beetle making its way along the edge of a wooden railing, the inspiration for the second photograph with my Ztylus macro lens.  They are worlds apart yet geographically adjacent — a reminder that there is so much to notice wherever we are.  One photo cannot possibly capture the experience of being in a place; as I found two years ago, even a full year of inhabitation is not enough to grasp it fully.  As I consider my upcoming trip to Australia, I am humbled, reminded of Thoreau’s proud declaration that “I have traveled widely in Concord.”  The challenge is to slow down enough to notice what is there — to let the inhabited landscape speak to you, in colors, forms, and furtive movements glimpsed out of the corner of an eye.

Nov 262014
 

I paused on my walk down Piney Woods Church Road late this afternoon to notice a silken cocoon that was attached to the side of a greenbrier stem.  I photographed it in the waning light, trusting that identification would be relatively easy back home.  After thumbing through various field guides and looking at many photographs online, I finally found a tentative match:  the six-spot Burnet moth, Zygaena filipendulae.  Alas, this moth is found in Britain and continental Europe, not in North America.  Its closest Georgia relative is the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer (Harrisina americana), a common crop pest and certainly a possibility.  However, this caterpillar evidently spins a cocoon among the fallen leaves at the base of its host plants, rather than along a stem.  I could not locate any photographs of its cocoon, so I still think it is a possibility.  I suppose I will have to wait until spring and see what emerges.

 

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Nov 122014
 

On this last day before the weather is expected to turn sharply colder, I was surprised to encounter another Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia) along Piney Woods Church Road today.  I assumed it was the same one I had seen just a couple of days earlier, but close comparison of the photographs revealed that this one has slightly different, and much brighter, markings.

Less surprising, perhaps, was another dandelion in full bloom along my way, after an absence of several months.  Such familiar beings as butterflies and dandelions offer me a reassurance of springtime as winter approaches.

 

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Nov 112014
 

Today the weather along Piney Woods Church Road was mild and pleasant, with a high near 7o degrees and sunshine into the mid-afternoon when high clouds moved in.  Tomorrow, though, marks a downward plunge in temperature culminating in our first frost and many days where highs will not rise above the mid-50s.  This cold snap will likely bring an end to the autumn pollinating season.  Today, though, the air was filled with tiny bees and flies, zooming between the scanty flower blossoms lingering on the goldenrod plants still in bloom along the roadway.

 

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Nov 072014
 

After 311 outings down Piney Woods Church Road this year, I will confess that, while each day ineluctably brings new wonders, some days are far more wondrous than others.  There are days that I drag my feet, stop everywhere to look for something inviting to photograph, and still reach the far end of the road without a single photograph.  Then, nearly desperate, I find something satisfying enough to be sufficient, and I hurry off home.  There are other days, however, like today — days when everywhere I look there are new possibilities for the camera lens, new glimpses into nature’s riches just a short distance beyond my back door.  Those are the days when I return home with 40, 60, 80 or more photographs, and I cannot choose between them all.

My late afternoon visit today was a magical autumn ramble.  Everywhere I looked, the colors of the season blazed forth in all their glory.

Ready to greet me upon my arrival was this sassafras tree, on fire with shades of red, orange, and yellow.

 

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Further down the road, a lone hickory still glowed with leaves of yellow-orange.

 

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The late-day sun shone through strands of horsehair on a barbed wire fence along the roadway, beckoning me near.

 

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Even a roadside grass long gone to seed seemed touched with glory.

 

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Nearby, a backlit leaf of a white oak sapling nearly overwhelmed me with its brilliant colors.

 

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Even a muscadine leaf — a subject of numerous photographs across the span of the year — was illuminated with such beauty that I simply had to take its picture yet again.

 

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Perhaps the most amazing discovery of all was not a leaf, but an insect visitor.  I was delighted to encounter this Buckeye (Junonia coenia) resting in the sunlight beside the road.  For all the flowers that have bloomed over the past half-dozen months, this was the first Buckeye I have seen on my walk.  And there was not a flower in sight!

 

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Oct 252014
 

As I made my way along the new wooden horse fence bordering Piney Woods Church Road this afternoon, who did I see by an old friend from months earlier, the Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena quadripustulata).  I didn’t recognize him (her?) at first; the edges of his abdomen had largely lost their brilliant red fringing from earlier in the season, but I could still discern those telltale red bumps on his back (the pustulata part of his name).  He lingered long enough for an extended photo session, the fruit of which was the portrait below.

 

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Oct 242014
 

I encountered this mellow grasshopper while strolling along the new wooden horse fence on Piney Woods Church Road earlier today.  He (who certainly might be a she instead) may be another Differential Grasshopper like the one I photographed a couple of weeks back, but I am not certain.  He was not at all camera-shy, as you may note.

 

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Oct 242014
 

As autumn proceeds, insect life gets more scarce along Piney Woods Church Road.  Lately, I have been craving an encounter with some sort of creature making its rounds along the road.  This afternoon, I encountered two:  a wasp and a grasshopper (the latter the topic of another post).

I found this bright yellow wasp buzzing along near the ground, moving into and out of the leaf litter. It rested for a moment on a a leaf, but took off quickly when I pointed the camera its way.  I waited again for it to make landfall, only for the same thing to happen again.  On maybe the fourth try, she perched on a Hoary Mountainmint leaf and stayed put, occupied with grooming her antennae.  I took quite a few photographs, most of which ended up a bit blurry.  This one did not.  According to the BugGuide experts, she is most likely the Ichneumon wasp, Neotheronia septentrionalis.

 

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