Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Brown Anoles Get Their Own Post - The Octagon, Post 3/3 - October 7, 2012

So I mentioned before that anoles in Florida are as common as houseflies up here in Chicago. Literally... you occasionally get one in your house in Florida, like we get flies in the house in Chicago.  But since I don't actually live in Florida, I find the fascinating and fun.  We just don't get free-roaming lizards in a state that freezes over for several months a year.  I've counted anoles in my list, so this isn't for that, but just fun pictures of these common little guys.

"As the insurance representative/mascot of the year, I welcome you to this gathering..."

Seriously.  Doesn't he look like the Geico Gekko getting ready to make a speech at podium?

I liked this guy for the way he showed off the coloring on his back scales.
Same guy, different view.  It looks like he has eyelashes from the way those scales above his eye are colored.
This picture is fun because it gives you an idea of exactly how small these little buggers are.  This is a standard chain-link fence.  He's not much bigger around than the wires.  I also love how his little 'hands' are wrapped around the fence.

This guy has awesome coloring.  His details are are so stark!  Also... the size of the wire fence.

This guy is 'scalier' than the others.  For lizards, the others seem pretty smooth.  This one is a bit 'toadier'.  He's also doing the splits, which lets us see the patterns on his leg.

And one of my favorites.  This lizard is a little confused.  He's not a turkey!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wildlife at the Octagon - 10.07.12 - Post 2

So I can see that with 2012 winding down in a little over a week, I'm going to have to do massive amounts of editing and posting if I want to make my 100 species mark.  I'll try, but... it's not looking likely. :)  I'm pretty sure I've *seen* 100 different species, but getting them shot, cropped, edited and documented is another matter entirely.

But I'm going to try. ;)

Here are the critters that were not permanent residents of the Octagon, but were hanging out nonetheless. :)

Band-Winged Dragonlet Dragonfly (059 - 2012)
This is one of the larger dragonlet dragonflies.  It's a Band-Winged Dragonlet.  It's almost as big as the pondhawks, and has the same sexual dimorphism.  This is a male.

Now here's something I definitely won't be seeing here in Illinois.

It's a Southern Black Racer, and racing it was!  It was moving parallel to us as we walked, mostly by weaving itself in and out of the wires on the fence.  Unfortunately by the time I realized what it was, I was coming down from the fence.

Southern Black Racer (060 - 2012)
But then it ended up coming right at me.

Very, very good thing this guy is harmless.  My "this could puncture me, I should flee" instinct still isn't very solid.  I think I jumped when I first saw it, but then it was, "ooh, I need to chase it and get pictures!"

Turkey Vulture (061 - 2012)
Another guy who's pretty endemic in Florida - the turkey vulture.  Not what anyone would call a 'pretty birdie'.  They're scavengers and huge and just... not the friendliest thing ever.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Octagon - Exotic Animal Sanctuary (not the Mixed Martial Arts kind) - 10/6/12 - Post 1

I seem to have fallen off the face of the internet for the past few months.  There's nothing like an insanely busy Etsy season on top of a 10-hour-a-day day job.

But I'm on break now, so I can go back to editing the seemingly billions of shots I've had waiting around since at least last October.  So with no further ado...

The Octagon!  

The Octagon in Punta Gorda, Florida has nothing to do with MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).  They're an amazing Exotic Animal rescue.  They take in animals that your typical shelter can't handle... you know... lions, tigers, bears, monkeys,  lemurs and the like.  Most of these animals come from private zoos or individual owners who either discover that these large and typically wild animals can't be controlled as pets any more or who lose them when the state wildlife or law enforcement agencies discover that people who shouldn't have these animals do.

They take in animals who have been abused, starved and otherwise mistreated.  They are a no-kill, long-term operation where animals are cared for and given medical treatment and kept in a humane environment where their well-being is the primary concern.

To that end, they are less concerned with how well a certain enclosure allows for photographs.  They have visitors come to see the animals as a way to generate revenue, but they really aren't a *zoo*, so to speak.

I know exactly what they mean, but I get this mental image of some kids trying to break out the Scrabble board and get the lemurs to take a turn.  I think they'd spell "We Are Not Monkeys".

 So they warn you in many places that these are not domesticated animals.  They are not pets.  Do not try to touch or feed them.  And in case you missed it... YOU COULD LOSE A FINGER!

Speaking of lemurs...  

Like I said, this place isn't set up to be a Brookfield or Lowry Zoo.  The enclosures are for the safety and comfort of the animals.  Not photographers.  So I don't have a lot of pictures of the actual animals worth sharing.  It was incredibly hot the day I was there, so most of them were hiding in shade boxes or just sleeping somewhere in their space.  This lemur was interested in what was going on around him, but he was pretty much the only critter who was.

There's something just amazing about a tiger's eyes, isn't there?  This is Rajee.  She was abused by her former owner - hit with a garden hose.  Needless to say, she's not too keen on people now.  After hearing about someone doing something like that to an animal that depends on them, I'm not too keen on some people either. 

So this guy had no interest in people, but I had to get a picture of his coat.  I've never seen a tiger with anything other than black stripes.  I've seen white with black Siberian and orange with black Amur tigers, but this was very new to me.  How beautiful!

One of the things I found kind of funny about this trip was the amount of uncontained wildlife I was able to shoot there.  So in my next post I'll have dragonflies, a snake, some anoles and a few others that weren't *kept* there, but seemed to really like hanging out with the permanent residents!

And if you have a few extra bucks laying around (and if you're in the US and still looking to make a charitable donation for your 2012 taxes), the Octagon has a donation link on their website.  Please think of helping them out with this incredible mission they've undertaken.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp - 10.07.12 - Post 6/6

Last Post for Corkscrew.  Then I'm going to do the shots I took of the effects Hurricane Sandy had on Chicago.  Then I'll go back to the rest of the Florida trip.

So... last of the Corkscrew Critters. :)

Pig Frog (054 - 2012)
 I believe this is a Pig Frog.  Pig Frogs, as a docent we ran into on the trail was telling us, were responsible for the *incredibly* loud croaking we heard through certain parts of the swamp.  He's about a foot long back toes to nose.

American Green Tree Frog (055 - 2012)

By contrast, this guy is about one inch long.  He's a little tiny American Green Treefrog.  The white line running under his eye from his jaw is the big clue.  So cute!
Green (Carolina) Anole - (056 - 2012)

 This is a Green Anole.  It's also called a Carolina Anole.
 As long as I moved really slowly and carefully I could sneak up on him and get a better shot of his coloring.
Brown Anole (057 - 2012)

This, on the other hand, is a Brown Anole.  The Greens are native to Florida, but the Browns are an invasive species brought up from Cuba and the Bahamas.  And they are *everywhere* in the state.  Like, we're used to getting the occasional fly in the house up here in Chicago... my parents are used to getting the occasional lizard in the house.  I kept stopping as we walked and going "Oh look!  A Lizard!"  And my dad would say something like, "Around here that's like going, 'Oh look an ant.'  Nobody stops to point them out here."  Anyway, this guy was basking in stripe of sunlight he found and if you look carefully, I think he was smiling at me.

Alligator Flag (058 - 2012)
And then there was this one plant for the trip.  Unfortunately, unlike last time it wasn't Iris season.  There were Ghost Orchids out there, but I couldn't find any.  Not even the ones they had great big signs pointing to.  Apparently Ghost Orchids grow on the sides of trees... about 25 feet up!  But this is called Alligator Flag.  I have no idea why.  There wasn't an alligator near by and the one gator we did find wasn't in the Alligator Flag plants. But I did like this shot for the dew on the leaves.  The little purple flowers reminded me of tiny orchids.

So those are the notables from Corkscrew Swamp in the Everglades in Florida!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Huricane Sandy Claims a Tall Ship. One I've boarded.

So if you're anywhere near the U.S. right now, you know we're battling a hurricane that's being felt throughout a full 1/3 of the country.

Tomorrow I plan to go take pictures of the way the extreme weather is churning up Lake Michigan here in Chicago, but I wanted to take a minute to note that we've had what is assumed to be two fatalities already and one ship lost.  The HMS Bounty sank in Hurricane Sandy earlier today.

In August of 2010 I attended the Tall Ships Festival at Navy Pier as a Media Guest and I toured the Bounty.  It was a replica of the ship used in the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" and more recently it was used in "Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest" before becoming part of the Tall Ships Tour.  The Bounty was probably the most popular attraction at the festival.  I noted on my blog posts in 2010 that at one point the line just to board her was over four hours long.

Most of the crew were able to get into survival suits and board lifeboats before she went down. Two crewmembers are unaccounted for.  They're certain they left the ship before she sank, but they didn't make it to the lifeboats.  My thoughts are with them and their families.

Here are a few of the shots I got on board this amazing ship:

Some of the media news coverage of the loss of the ship

ABC News
CNN News
Video of the rescue of 14 of the 16 crew

Update:  Of the two missing persons, one has been found and rescued, but is - at last report - unresponsive.  The remaining missing person, somewhat fittingly, is the Captain.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp - 10.7.12 - Post 5

One last creeper, and then, a truly weird thing... the only bird for this trip. 

Spotted Orb Weaver (053 - 2012)
This is a Spotted Orb Weaver.  They were *everywhere* in the swamp.  Which makes sense since their endemic in the southeastern U.S. - again, something I won't find in Illinois.  The neat thing about this shot is that you can see that the first segment of his legs are red where as the rest are black and white.
This is not a shy spider.  They make huge webs you could see from the boardwalk and then sit right in the middle of them.  Sometimes you'd find them or their web hanging right in front of you.
I like this shot because even though the web is hard to see, the spots (from his name) are easier.  Look at the white stripe right down the middle of his abdomen.  He has gray spots down the white line.
Pileated Woodpecker (054 - 2012)

And then there was my one major bird find for this trip.  There were a few other birds, but none of them photographed well.  I may fight with them later, but for now, there's this Pileated Woodpecker.
These guys have the weirdest range.  Up the U.S. West Coast, through a swath of lower Canada and then down through the northern Midwest and Eastern states all the way down to the top of Florida.  But nothing through the Southeast, most of Texas or the Northern U.S. around Wyoming, the Dakotas and Montana area.  And he was drilling and drilling and drilling.  I hope he found some awesome bugs for all the work he was doing.  They are in Illinois, but I don't think I've seen one here yet.

Okay, reptiles and amphibians are next and last.  For this shoot.  There were many, many, many more pictures taken while I was in Florida.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp - 10.7.12 - Post 4

OkayI think this is the last group of true insects for this trip.  I have some spider shots to do soon, but as we all know, spiders aren't insects.

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (052 - 2012)
This is a Ruddy Daggerwing.  And it was ruddy difficult to Google!  This is probably due to the fact that when you Google "orange butterfly with black lines" you get Monarchs up the ying-yang.  It's not helped by the fact that this particular species has a pretty small habitat so there just aren't a lot of pictures of them or articles about them out there compared to the Monarch or Red Admiral or a Sulphur, which are everywhere and much easier to find on the net.  South Florida and the Florida Keys seem to be about their whole range.  So, totally one I wouldn't be able to get up here in Chicago!

Paper Wasp (053 - 2012)
I'm still waiting for my "That can puncture you; you should FLEE" response to return.  Instead, when I saw this, I was all, "Oh look!  A *brown* wasp!"  We have yellow-jackets-o-plenty up here, but this was new.  It's one of the 22 types of Paper Wasps we have in the US. Anyone care to tell me which wasp I witnessed? :)

Female Yellow Dasher

Remember the blue dragonfly in the last post?  Here's his girlfriend.  Well, I don't know if it was *his* girlfriend, but this is the female of that species.  I called attention to the yellow spot on the male Blue Dasher's abdomen... the female takes that to the extreme.  She's pretty much all yellow.  And as you can see, she was pretty mellow. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp - 10.07.12 - Post 3

Okay, now that the dolphin detour is over, I can get back to Corkscrew Swamp.

Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar (050 - 2012)
Near as I can figure, this is a Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar.  It's a lot like the White-Marked Tussock that I showed the other day.  Obviously, this one is white and the 'hair' patterns are different, but the over-all effect is pretty similar.
Here's another one.  Like the White-Marked, these caterpillars tended to travel in herds and also they can do you some damage if you think "oh cute, little fuzzy guy!" and try to pet him.
I thought this is a plain old Eastern Pondhawk, of which we have a ton in Chicago.  But it was awfully small, so I dug a little deeper and it turns out that it's a Blue Dasher.  You can tell by the yellow on the thorax and the lower part of the abdomen.
Phaon Crescent Butterfly (051 - 2012)

There are a truly ridiculous number of small orange and brown/black butterflies in the world.  Best I can figure this is a Phaon Crescent.  It's about an inch and a half across, when the wings are spred, it has white antennae with black tips.  (If I've got this wrong, feel free to correct me. :)

I didn't realize how many bugs I had from this trip.  So... more insects tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bucket List Shot - Bottlenose Dolphon - 10.08.12

Okay, I'm going to finish Corkscrew Swamp, but I had to pop out to post this one shot.

This is, somewhat obviously, a Common Bottlenose Dolphin.

I took about 500 shots yesterday at Stump Pass (Englewood, Florida) but this was the best one.  And really, it's one of my bucket list shots - a good, clear shot of a dolphin breaching. 

We were really surprised to see them so close to the shore - maybe fifty yards from the beach we were standing on - and for so long, given the horrible Red Tide that's going on right now.  But we stood there for what had to be half an hour watching a pod of at least five of them.  I'll edit a few more of the shots that show their dorsal fins and such, but I had to get up this one.  I'm ridiculously pleased with it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp - 10.7.12 - Post 2

The Bugs of Corkscrew Swamp.

I got a start yesterday with some of the bugs I saw, so I figured that I'd wrap up with them first.

Swamp Darner Dragonfly (047 - 2012)
So here's a dragonfly you don't see in Chicago.  It's a Swamp Darner.  And while Chicago was built on a swamp, we definitely don't qualify as one now.  I hate that this shot is backlit.  Normally when I shoot, I get half a dozen frames or so at time to try and get one without shake or in order to try getting the light at a different angle. This is the *only* frame I got of this guy.  So it's clear, but horrible lighting.  Blergh.

Palamedes Swallowtail (048 - 2012)
This is a cool find for me.  It's a Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly.  It looks a bit like the Giant or even the Tiger's black morph, but there's no blue and no bar across the middle of the wings.  This butterfly has a pretty narrow habitat band going from the Gulf coast areas of Texas around Florida and up to about West Virginia (seasonally, further south more often).  So I won't find these at home!

Queen Butterflies (049 - 2012)
These are Queen Butterflies.  We found tons of these guys clustered up at one point of the trail.  Probably fifty of them all together.  And a lot of them were very interested in this dead plant you see in the picture.  These are the three that stayed after we accidentally spooked several more off of it.  I cannot imagine what brought all these butterflies to a dead plant.

Okay!  Three more bugs tomorrow! :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp, Everglades, FL - 10.7.12 - Post 1

I know, I know, it's like I fell off the face of the internet.  Short version: new day job, long hours, successful craft and art shop.  No time to blog.  In fact, very little time to shoot.

But I made the time to get down to Florida while I could this week and I'm doing as much shooting as humanly possible in my four and a half days down here.

Yesterday we went to an amazing place called The Octogon.  No, it has nothing to do with Mixed Martial Arts... but I'll talk about them later.

Today was Corkscrew Swamp.  Corkscrew is part of the Everglades and is a pretty amazing place with wildlife unlike anything you get to see in the great 'wilderness' of Chicago.

So I'm going to start off with a few of the highlights from what I saw today.

White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpilar (044 - 2012)
 This is a White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar.  He's kind of creepy-cute, but that's pretty deceptive... he's venomous.  Not poisonous (meaning you get sick only if you eat it), but venomous.  Don't pet him!


There were a great many of them down a particular sub-path on the boardwalk.  We had to be careful where we leaned over the railings that we didn't get got! 
Just a quick little video of them scampering along the wood.  It's only 11 seconds.

White-Tailed Deer (045 - 2012)
These deer were adorable!  They were so small we thought at first they were Key Deer, but Key Deer actually only live on the, you know, Florida Keys.  So they're White-Tailed Deer, according to the checklist you can download from the site's website.  Anyway there were a couple of them out in the grasses.  This one stayed pretty close to us.  Here she's looking at me like, "Really, I'm eating here.  Do you have to watch?"

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (046 - 2012)
 One last critter for this post.  A great big, very bright yellow-orange grasshopper!  An Eastern Lubber Grasshopper to be exact.
 He was pretty mellow about us walking around him and taking pictures of him.    I love that if you look carefully (and, you know, blow the picture up to full size), you can see his mandibles folded up against his face!

So there's three quick new species for this trip.  I have oh so terribly many more pictures to sort, edit and post.  This is barely even a drop in a bucket.  But hey, I have to start somewhere!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chicago Gay Pride Parade - Post 8 - Outfits... or the lack thereof (beta) - 6.24.12

Okay, back from my trip down south.  And back to the Gay Pride parade... at least for the moment.  This is clearly a massive undertaking (I did mention starting with 4000 photos, right?)  So I'm going to post this group today and then go to do a few shorter events and then I'll go back to these when I have time.

Every year one of my favorite groups is Folia Brazil.  They're a Samba group and they are so bright and so colorful with so much energy, that to me, they kind of epitomize what the Chicago Gay Pride Parade is about.  They're way more fun than this group from the Chinatown event I went to a while back. Possibly because they fit into the venue, but definitely because of their costumes. And two years later, I'm still trying to understand Samba at Chinatown.

 This girl was very invested in getting the crowd worked up.  It's always fun when the performers have an interest in the observers. ;)
 This was the only guy in the group, but his outfit is amazing.  I can only imagine how that costume makes the dancing exponentially more difficult.  If it were me I'd be constantly worried that I bent a feather or something.  But the visual impact is astounding. He also had fun interacting with the crowd.
 This girl was an astounding dancer.  I have no idea how she could move like that without losing that incredible headdress.
 Here she is again with someone who clearly looks like her outfit was inspired by the sun.  Again, how do you dance in these headdresses without losing them?

I don't think  she was associated with the guy from above, but she also made awesome use of the quail (?) feathers.

 I really do love it when people just look like they're having the time of their lives in the parade.  By the end of the three hours you always see people who really look like they'd rather be anywhere else.  So it's really nice when you get the shots of people who are just *happy* to be there doing what they do.
 Now, I did find this interesting.  You'll notice in the shots above how easy it was for me to isolate individuals.  They had tons of space where they could do their thing and be in the spotlight.  Then there was this group in the back.  The costumes are scaled way down, and they're all in a line.  I'm wondering if this group is the apprentice dancers or something.

And, of course, they come with their own accompaniment.  I'm not sure why, but their drum major decided they needed to stop, right in front of me and play.  I don't know if he was bidding to get their picture taken and posted somewhere, or what, but here they are!  The drum line for the salsa dancers. :)

Okay, so now I'm going to pop out and work on the photos for a few shorter trips/events.  I suspect I could post on this parade for months, but it's time to shake it up.