Thursday, June 23, 2011

The rest of the bugs and a few other critters... Willowbrook Wildlife Center - 6.18.11, post 2

So here are the rest of the bugs and the amphibians I saw when I was out last weekend.

The firey skippers are making their way back out.  I know there were scads of them at the South Pond last year, but I haven't seen them out there yet.  This was the only skipper I found at WWC.  But the summer's young. :)

 When I shot this, I thought it was an ant, it was so small. There's a reason for that - it's called (from what I could find in the research, though, oy, this was not easy!) it's called an Ant Spider, or an Ant Mimic Spider. Photographically speaking, I love the starkness of the red and black against the white rocks.  (And for the record, yes, I lumped the arachnid in with the insects.)

I'm pretty sure this is a Cabbage White butterfly.  No spots on the outsides of the wings, black tips on the inside.

 And with the nice warm weather came some really fun spottings.  Bullfrogs!  Lots of bull frogs.  Many, many of them heard me long before I saw them and lept into the water before I could get at all close.  Those guys have some stretch.  Some were hitting the water about ten feet out from the banks!
 This guy was not at all afraid of me.  He watched me as I watched him.  He even sat there while I changed the data card in my camera (timing is everything).
 And in case you couldn't see the one in the water, they're good sized frogs.  I'd guess five inches, nose to vent.  Probably over a foot when you stretch out those monster back legs.
 Which puts these guys in really, really stark contrast.  First of all, they're insanely small.  Probably 1 cm nose to vent.  Maybe 2 with their legs.

These little buggers are making me insane.  I cannot figure out what they are.  They're *probably* toads.  The skin is rough and dry and when I walked near them, they scattered, but I don't remember seeing or hearing even one of them going into the water.
 I love the false eyes on the back of their heads.  I also find it interesting that his eyes are flush with his head.  Most frogs have those, well, you know... frog eyes where their eyes sit on top of their heads so they can leave just their eyes above the surface of the water and keep an eye out for lunch.  His eyes on on the sides more than the top.
I was even able to find an itty-bitty tadpole committee.  They have stripes on their tales that will be the stripes on their legs and spots on the bodies of both the tadpoles and the adults.

Okay, one last post on this trip tomorrow. :)  For today, little tiny frogs/toads and ant spider are added to the list which gives me 41 new species for the year.  Almost there!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Something's Bugging Me about This Post - Willowbrook WC - 6.16.11, post 1

So I mentioned in my last post that I was heading off to Willowbrook Wildlife Center again, this time as part of a volunteer work crew.  It was a great experience, and the brief walk I took through the center afterwards yielded a lot of great shots, but first I received some bad news.

My grebe died.  They said that at first he seemed to be doing well and eating on his own, but about a month after he was brought in something compromised his lungs and they were unable to save him.  I know they did everything they could; they're a remarkable facility, but I'm still kind of bummed.

Anyway, there were five people on our work crew and our job was to clear out a couple of invasive species in a section of the prairie.  We were pulling out Honeysuckle and Buckthorn and there was a *ton* of it.  In three hours we cleared about one-hundred square feet.  That doesn't sound like a lot for fifteen man-hours, but it was hot and the work was pretty intense.  We made a roughly ten feet deep, by six feet wide by six feet tall pile of brush to be burned.

There were some phenomenal insects and spiders unearthed in doing this, and the best way to get them at the time was to shoot them on my phone, so I did.  Of course the very next day, before I'd had a chance to move any of the shots, my card corrupted and I lost the pictures.  Oh well.

It was about 85* F out there and we'd been working pretty hard (and dragging up All The Pollen Ever!) and I was in jeans and work boots, so I didn't stay too long to get pictures afterwards.  I walked around the pond as far as I could go (they have a section blocked off) and did a bit on the trails.  But even in the hour and a half or so I was out there, there was a lot of cold-blooded critter activity.

In fact, I'm going from pretty much an all-bird blog, to an all-bug blog!  Mostly, but not entirely.  Well, entirely for this post.

This shot was an accident.  I was actually trying to get the wildflower and the bee flew in.  It's a bumblebee, of that I'm sure.  ProjectNoah tells me it's a Megachilid bee, probably Osmia.

This is a Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle.  He's an amazing iridescent green with a white face.  He's pretty small, maybe two centimeters long?

 Tiny dragonfly is tiny!  This is a Calico Pennant.  Lovely little bug with little hearts on their tails.  But small, for dragonflies. I'd say their bodies are between 1/3 and 1/2 the size of the 'normal' dragonflies I usually see like the Pondhawks or Saddlebags.

And for this particular day, they were also the most calm and easiest to shoot.

I have to say, these are the most ironic dragonflies for me.  They're called "Common Whitetails", but I rarely see them.  I saw one a the North Pond last year and there was only a few of them here.  Not so common!
Okay, photographically lously, but at least you can see the White when it's all spread out.  The big splotches on the wings and the light body make them pretty easy to recognize, even in flight.

This is a very small grasshopper, only 3 or 4 cm long.  I'm still trying to find out what kind he is.  Anyone have an idea?
A new dragonfly!  This is a Jade Clubtail.  They're significantly different than the other green dragonflies I've seen before.  I knew right away that this was something new.

They like to perch on the lily pads which is unusual.  If you look through most of my dragonfly shots, you'll notice that they usually like to land on sticks, reeds and grasses that are sticking up out of the water.

I believe this is an Eastern Comma.  It's a Comma of some sort, but because I couldn't get a good shot of her with her wings open, I'm not one-hundred percent sure which one it is.


This was the best shot I could get of the tops of the wings.  Not much help.

Okay, that's eleven shots.  Enough for one post.  More bugs and a few other critters and plants, later.

So let's see... the comma, the jade, the calico, and the tiger beetle.  Four new named species.  39 total of my 50.

Friday, June 17, 2011

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog...

Okay, so while the Zombie March was the best thing to ever hit my blog's stats, I do realize that most of you are here for the cute, the fuzzy and even the scaly or chlorophyl-filled.  While going through a bunch of old folders and making back-ups of my shots, I realized I'd gone to the Nashville Zoo back in March and never put any of those shots up.

So, here are a few of this blog's more usual denizens.

Let's start with these guys.  How cute are they?  While they look a lot like kangaroos, especially with nothing to use as a size scale, they're actually wallabies.  The little guy there is an albino male and very young.  Well, not like born-yesterday young, he's obviously out of the pouch, but still young enough to stay Very Close to mom at all times.  His dad is albino too - you can see his tail in the bottom of the shot.  I always thought albinism was a recessive trait, so either it's not so much or mom has one gene for "brown wallaby" and one for "albino wallaby" and the baby picked up the recessive from her.  Either way, he's adorable.

Okay, less 'adorable' and more 'awesome'.  Look at that *massive* paw!

And back to adorable.  It's hard to tell with giraffes, again with not having anything to gauge size by, but this is a wee baby giraffe.  Of course when you're born at six feet tall "wee" may never quite apply.  But compared to mom and the rest of the herd, he's very small.

There was a Red-tailed Hawk circling the zoo, but not actually a part of it.  My guess, since he was circling the tiger enclosure, is that he's looking for any scraps the resident population may have left over.

 One of the first things you see when you enter this zoo is this pair of Hyacinth Macaws.  This guy was busy peeling the bark off the tree he was sitting on.  What I love about this shot is that the *side* of his black tongue has a dotted yellow line going all the way down it.  It's like someone painted a street on his tongue!

 I think this camel was trying to blow me a kiss.  Or spit in my face.  Really it could have gone either way.

  Again, with slightly less cute.  But a neat shot.  I really wish I had my tripod for it, because setting up the right f-stop and getting the camera to focus behind the closest element... not easy handheld!

Here's one of his buddies.  There's that famous 'smile'.  Doesn't he look like the cat that got the canary?  Or is that the gator that got the cat???

Okay, tomorrow I've signed up for a work day at Willowbrook Wildlife, so things will go back to normal around here.  Unless it storms like it's supposed to. :(  Well, in that case things will probably still go back to normal, I just won't have shots from Willowbrook.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Do the Zombie March in Three Easy Steps...

Okay, so this is the last post on the zombie march, as much fun as it's been.

I'm going to repeat my warning from the last post:  NOTE to the regular readers who are used to cute, fluffy squirrels and happy little song birds...  These zombie posts contain exactly what you'd think of when you hear "zombie".  A lot of stage make-up gray faces and latex flesh wounds and currant-juice fake blood.  If this is not what you signed on for, please feel free to look away now.  Personally, I found it all to be a lot of "Hey look someone in make up", but some people on the street were legitimately startled by some of the participants. Personally (and this is something I'll go into later) the only thing I found creepy were some of the contact jobs.  Even under all the grease paint, latex and Rice Krispies (more on that in later too) I still expect people's eyes to look like, you know, normal eyes.

So if this is not your thing, feel free to back-button now.  The next post I make will be back to the cute, fluffy, normal stuff you're used to from me. :)

But if you're into zombies... you have to become one.

The event was planned on the internet.  There's a website and a Facebook site and everything.  You have to wonder if this is one of the odder things Mark Z and the Twitter folks have found their inventions being employed for.  "Yeah, we created this great way for people to find old school friends and to chat with their cousins ... and it was just used to set up 2000 people to dress like zombies and attack Chicago."

If it's not one of the oddest things they've been used for, I want to know what *is*. :)

Anyway, the website said that if people needed help with make up, there would be people set up to help you.  But most people showed up either read to go, or they just bloodied themselves there or they made their friends undead.

These two girls were two of the first to show up and start getting ready near the Bean.

 I posted these girls before.  They were busy helping others get set up.  When I looked at their "victim", I saw this...
So I had to ask why they were sticking Rice Krispies to her face.  Turns out that they put liquid latex over the cereal and it gives the texture you can see on Ginny's face above.  Neat trick!

 I mentioned that the one thing that made me freak out a little - among all the gray and green and white paint and all the latex and fake blood - was the contacts people were using to do bizarre things with their eyes.  Like this zombie - with one blown eye and one normal.
Or these two.  I wish I had the aperture set a little better, so you could see the blue eyes in the blonde girl's eyes a bit better.  They're the freakishly light blue ones that make her look almost irisless.  And of course, there was scads of red eyes.  I wonder how many people went home and tried to use 'red-eye removal' on their photos. :)

 Once everyone was made up, we started moving all 2000 zombies and 100 photographers down Michigan Ave.
 Crossing streets was fun.  We um... annoyed traffic a few times.
Some of the tourists were a little taken aback.  I don't think this was included in the brochures. :)

At one point the traffic problems got us noticed by the cops.  They were totally cool with everything, and this guy - a bike cop - basically became our escort, helping us not, you know, completely hose traffic in the Loop.  He was also totally game for playing along with everything.

 When there was a lull or a rest stop at a landmark, certain Zombie Dramas would break out.  I want to note that these skits were completely ad libbed, but also completely consensual.  No actual 'innocent by-standers' were actually grabbed by the zombies.  Even this guy was totally on board with being "attacked".

 This guy was so into getting his picture taken with the Zombies that he kissed anyone who sat next to him on the cheek. (I don't think he actually made contact, because a.) creepy and b.) make-up... on both parties.
 When we stopped in front of NBC, the "Zombie Hunter" went after one of the zombies with a camera.
 He lost that battle.
 But when he got up to try again, this little tiny person (I wish I had a shot of her face - she was an adult, but actually smaller than me.  And in feetsy pajamas!) jumped on his back.
And held on but good until she took him down.

 As we moved through town, the locals began whipping out whatever camera they had.  dSLRs, point-and-shoots, cell phones...

You just have to imagine this guy getting home.

"Hi honey, how was your day?"
"Well, 2000 zombies went past the hotel."
"Oh be serious!"
"No, look, I even have pictures!"

Because, really, who would believe that?

This guy had both a phone and a regular camera.  He's a roller-cop at the Bean.  The fact that he carries a dedicated camera makes me think that 2000 zombies may be 'just another day on the job' for him.

This guy even 'Flat Stanley'd the zombies.  If you don't know what Flat Stanley is, you can go here to read up on him.  The short version is, when you either can't go somewhere yourself, OR you go somewhere alone and can't get pictures of you in front of a landmark, you put a little picture/doll/figurine in the shot that represents you.  A friend of mine uses a Captain Jack Harkness  (from Torchwood) action figure, other people use a favorite stuffed animal.  It's a way of showing "I was here, I saw this thing in person, but I couldn't get myself into the shot."  This guy couldn't get a picture of himself with the zombies, but he held the little Amigurumi doll (which, IMHO, looks like Where's Waldo) to the zombie parade as a way of saying, "Look what *I* did in Chicago!"

 So we shambled past Broadway in Chicago...
 ...across the Chicago River.  (One thing I noticed about zombies - they're camera hogs. If I stopped for a second to get a shot, odds were good someone would stick their face against my glass.)
Clearly a zombie from years gone by got tired of being labeled and left this on the railing to the bridge over the river.

After making the loop around, well... The Loop, we made our way back to the Bean.  It was about four hours later... and there were still people there getting dressed up as zombies.  I have no idea what they were going to do or where they were going to go as a zombie, as the walk was over, but... there he was.

ETA: So this young lady with the red hair here is Alexandra.  She and I were chatting on Facebook and she explained why they were still doing make up after the march.  "If you were wondering why we were still doing make-up, we were just having fun I suppose.  I didn't understand why people wanted makeup after the march, but I was having fun so I did it."

The one last person I have to mention is Heather Myers.  Heather was going around with a small video camera, interviewing zombies, but not dressed as one.  I asked who she was interviewing for and she said that it was for her Masters thesis.  She is, no joke, getting her Masters in Zombies from HARVARD.  She turned in the proposal to her advisor as a joke and had her 'real' topic of... something about the aculturalization of Native American Trickster Gods... to turn in afterwards. Anyway, the advisor looked at the Zombies one and went, "You are so totally doing this!" So now she travels around and studies the zombie phenomena and its growth in America.  How wild is that?

This week I'm going to a bonfire event.  Those shots will probably be a little more along the lines of the stuff you're used to seeing from me.  But I have to say, I wasn't sure about hanging out with the UNnatural for a day, but it really was a blast.  Thanks to all you zombies.  I've never met friendlier undead people in my life.

OH!  That reminds me... I kept asking people if they knew this song, and I didn't meet one who did.  I'm not saying it's brilliant music or anything.  But it's "All You Zombies" by the Hooters.  It's an old 80's pop tune... that's vaguely about zombies.