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Photography Challenge Day 125: Weird Insect in the backyard

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the weird bug that I noticed on the side of the house. Luckily, there is an entomologist in the family and he was able to identify the insect—it is some type of robber fly.

Some type of robber fly on the side of the house

Basically robber flies are opportunistic predators that feast on a variety of different invertebrates including other flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, wasps, bees, and even spiders. Robber flies have a broad worldwide distribution (though they’re not found on the Hawaiian Islands).

Robber flies have saliva that contains both neurotoxins and proteolytic enzymes, and when they inject it into their prey—they have a liquid meal to consume once they return to their perch with their stunned, liquified prey. If a robber fly bites you (if you’re irritating them)—you’ll end up with a nasty, painful welt due to the contents of their saliva.

The life cycle of the robber fly takes about one to three years to complete (from egg to mature, mating adults), as most of their life is spent in the immature forms (which are still predators to other larvae and immature insects).

They can be consider both beneficial and irritating in terms of what prey they go after—it’s good that they target wasps, hornets, grasshoppers; but currently it isn’t helping the honeybee populations when they’re eaten by robber flies (though honeybees are a very small portion of the diet of robber flies). They will go after what is in the area, so it is a balancing act—hope they’re out before the bees show up (or that they’ve eaten and are no longer hungry).

I will be keeping my eye out this summer to see if I can spot any more of these unique looking flies in the backyard.

References:

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/beneficial/flies/robber_flies.htm

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Photography Challenge Day 124: Flashback Friday and Summer Solstice

So today marks the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere–it’s the longest day of the year (more or less), and the first day of summer. The only reason why it’s more or less the longest day is that some people may have had a slightly longer night last night, or they might have it tomorrow night. The summer solstice falls between June 20 & June 22 every year.

Stonehenge

So what better way of celebrating the solstice than with a flashback Friday photograph to Stonehenge. I was thrilled when I managed to book a reservation to go out to Stonehenge on my brief trip to the United Kingdom a couple of years ago. I still want to get back and go to Greenwich and tour a little more around London.

Stonehenge is one of the places that pops into the minds of people (at least for me) when thinking about the summer solstice. I’ve always been in awe with the both the construction and layout of the stones. People were able to get huge stones moved inland, put them upright, and then able to put stones on top of those–and most are still upright a few thousand years later.

So now we’re going to have ten plus hours of sunlight for a few months (the days are going to start getting shorter), and that means hopefully more time outdoors (at least on the weekends). I love summer time (mainly because of the longer days, but I don’t like the humidity that goes with southern weather. One thing I’ve learned–the older I get the less I’m able to quickly adapt to high heat indexes. So where ever I move it will either need to be towards a cooler climate in the summer (which means really cold in the winter, and dark earlier), or just make sure that I have enough window fans to keep an apartment cool.

While I’ve had plans for doing some gardening this spring, those plans never came to be–so I’m going to have to make due with weeding out the other gardens and maybe plan for some fall plantings for early spring flowers.

On another note, I think that if I’m able to swing more than one large trip (a networking and then a vacation) soon it will be to Scotland for a few days, take a train down to London, then after a few days take a train to Paris (and maybe down to Madrid) and then fly home.

No Comments PhotographyRandom Celebration Daystravel

Photography Challenge Day 123: Throwback Thursday Edition no. 2

So today’s photographs are throwback photographs to prior vacations or weekend getaways, again.

Waves on the beach in Maine

When I was out in Boston, I managed to make it up to Maine once or twice to visit with distant family (third or fourth cousins)–once was over Thanksgiving, and then I managed to get up there more or less for a full weekend.

The beaches were more rocky around parts of Portland–actually had lunch on a refitted ship–that was an interesting experience. I enjoyed the brief times I made it up to Maine, and would love to go back and make it up to Acadia National Park around Bar Harbor for hiking and camping (just need to find someone else to go with).

Nautilus seen in bay on South Padre Island, TX

It’s been almost six years since we took a trip down to South Padre Island (with a brief stop in San Antonio).

One of the unique things that I liked was trying to take pictures of life under the water. I have had very few chances of using my digital camera underwater–mainly because I have yet to find a snorkel mask that will fit over my glasses comfortably. I know that I could get contact lens for swimming–but I rub my eyes way to often, and they’re a no go because of that.

The nautilus was actually in a group with some other hermit crabs and other aquatic life when we went to watch the sun set over the bay.

Nautilus and other shell dwelling creatures.

I’d like to get back to South Padre Island and try either kayaking in the bay or using my standup paddle board. That is another thing I’ve realized–I’d like to be close to some body of water (lake, river, pond) that I can maybe take my paddle board out on every so often.

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Photography Challenge Day 122: Wednesday wisdom

So I’ve decided that I’m going to try to switch things up a little and start putting in some inspirational quotes and ideas into my photography challenge as well.

This one (and several others) stood out to me tonight. One reason–is that I am trying to start planning my reboot break, and part of the planning period is to put down as many different things that I would like to get accomplished during my break.

One thing I’ve noticed (as I’m trying to pay more attention to the little voices) is that when I do daydream–it usually how I want to get done with things at work, that way I can be outside in the nice weather. I think that I need to try to fix my daydreams–to where they’re about where I would like to be, and not about where I’m at.

Though when I do daydream about being away from the lab–it’s traveling, writing, nature photography, cooking, crafts, reading, being outdoors, and basically enjoying myself. This is telling me that I should be looking for a job that gives enough vacation time so that I can travel at least once a year (as long as I have pets–I doubt I’ll travel more than maybe three or four weeks out of the year–until I figure out a way to travel with them), and one that I can leave work at work.

I know the type of balance I want in my job, I just need to figure out which scientific path(s) to start investigating to see which one(s) are the best match.

I know that this has gone on a slightly detour from the original–daydreaming is preparation–but that is how my mind is currently moving. It is jumping from one thing to another (sometimes to something that isn’t even there or real).

I had tried to write down five or ten ideas a day (I managed about a week), and then I felt like I couldn’t think of anything else. I’m going to try to do a brain dump this weekend (a probable post coming on that), and once I’ve done that–hopefully get back into a habit of writing at least two to three ideas a day. Then I will pick one and try to flesh it out into a post or even it’s own page (depending on the topic).

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Photography Challenge Day 115: Wild Bird Wednesday

Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the wild turkey. It has been quite awhile since I’ve seen one in the area. This one was just chilling in someone’s front yard next to their bench. If it hadn’t moved it’s head, I would have almost thought that the family had put out an lawn ornament.

The turkey is back in the neighborhood

We have had turkeys through the neighborhood before (last time was probably about two years ago), when a group was going through someone’s front yard.

What are some cool facts about turkeys:

They’re able to swim—they just tuck in their wings, spread out their tail and start kicking.

They have a well known fossil record—fossils found in the southern US & Mexico have dated turkeys back about 5 million years.

Due to dwindling numbers in the early part of the twentieth century—birds were captured and released in different areas of the US to help repopulate those areas. Now they are found in all lower 48 states, plus Hawaii and parts of Canada.

There are only two domesticated birds native to the New World: the wild turkey & the Muscovy duck.

The domesticated turkey originated in Europe—after European explorers brought back wild turkeys from Mexico (where they’d been domesticated), and then when the English showed up on the East coast—they brought the domesticated turkey with them.

Reference:
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wild_Turkey/overview

I’ll be keeping an eye out for these guys this year–usually they really start coming through the neighborhood in the late summer/early fall. This one was obviously casing the neighborhood early.

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Photography Challenge Day 108: Pyewicket (short post)

I’ve realized looking through photographs to share on my daily challenge, that most have been from my weekly walks at Boomer Lake. So I’ve decided to switch it up and go a different route–sharing a picture of one of the cats in the house.

Someone decided to give the smaller “condo” a try

So we had to replace one cat condo about two years ago (it’s amazing the damage that five cats over a course of 14 years can do to one). The one we have now doesn’t stretch all the way to the ceiling like the old one, but it has an additional cat condo on it. The funny thing is–none of the cats usually go in there. When they do–they look like Pye–wondering why something so small was purchased for them.

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Photography Challenge Day 101: Waterfall Wednesday.

So today’s pictures are for #waterfallwednesday. Also I was feeling slightly nostalgic and wanted to look back on my first big solo trip that I took in 2009. One of the places that I visited within Hilo, was the Wailuku River State Park, which had a nice waterfall.

Rainbow Falls

I actually went to the this particular state park twice–once on my own, and then as part of a group tour.

The waterfall was nice–not gushing over, but it had been awhile since they had any rain, so things were drying up a little. I would have loved to see the rainbow that forms in the morning–but my hotel wasn’t close to the falls, and it wasn’t open that early anyway.

Another waterfall

I wished that I had seen these waterfalls when the water was flowing nice and fast over them–to where you would be barely able to make out the caves below them. Even though they were “small” waterfalls–at least there was enough water flowing over them to be waterfalls.

One thing I would like to do–travel and see how many different pictures of different waterfalls I could capture. I’ve gotten several from different state parks in northern Minnesota. They’re a thing of beauty when they’re flowing and a thing of wonder when there isn’t much water flowing and you can see under the falls.

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Photography Challenge Day 97: A damselfly at rest

Today’s winner of the photography challenge was the damselfly that I managed to get a picture of as it was resting on a piece of wood in the backyard this afternoon.

Damselfly resting in the backyard

These guys belong to the same insect order (Odonata) as dragonflies, but are classified in a different suborder (Zygoptera). The main differences between the two groups are that damselflies have slimmer bodies, are smaller, and usually fold their wings along their body when they’ve stopped to rest.

Damselflies are beneficial insects to have around as they eat flies, mosquitoes, and other small insects (many of which we probably consider pests). After mating, the female will lay eggs in water (so it could be around vegetation that is partially submerged; or other water filled cavities (such as bromeliads in the trees in the tropics). The young damselflies (which are call nymphs), are carnivorous and feed on daphnia, mosquito larvae, and other small aquatic organisms.

The young will go through several molts, before the winged adult emerges. The damselfly also has a lifespan of about one to two years. It is possible that damselflies migrate, though most stay within a certain range of where they hatched. Damselflies aren’t as sensitive to environmental changes as dragonflies, but having both in the area usually means that the ecosystem is in good standing.

I did try to get a even closer picture of it, but when I moved to get a picture from the front it flew off. That is going to be a mini goal for the spring/summer/fall–try to get an even closer picture of a damselfly (and dragonfly).

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Photography Challenge Day 64: The ornamental onion has flowered

Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the ornamental onion that we have planted in the yard. Luckily it is a perennial and comes back year after year—though if I’m still around in the fall I might try to get some more bulbs and plant some more. That way next spring/summer can have others come up with hopefully different colors.

One of the ornamental onions has flowered

These flowers are actually numerous small flowers that together look to make a larger “flower” that will hopefully attract some honeybees to the yard.

Close-up of an ornamental onion flower’s flower

These plants are nice to plant in areas that you want to deter rodents (for us—that’s mainly the moles, as the squirrels give the dogs exercise and rabbits know not to come into the yard), as most rodents don’t care for the taste of onions.

So in the fall if I remember to get some more bulbs (and if I’m still at home) I’m going to plant them in other areas of the yard to help deter the moles out of the backyard. I will also get some more daffodil bulbs and plant those as well (since they’re also a nice mole determent). But spring is here to stay and I’m sure that summer will be knocking at the door anytime.

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Cottontails are out and about: photography challenge day 60

So today’s photograph is of a cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus). Seeing these guys in the morning now means that spring is here and summer is around the corner. I will now hopefully be seeing this one (or another) at least two to three days a week as I walk to catch the morning bus.

I spied a cottontail rabbit on my way to the bus stop this morning.

So what are some facts about the cottontail rabbit?

The eastern cottontail rabbit is the most common species of cottontail rabbits and is found throughout North and South America (though within the US—it’s found from the east coast to the great plains—hence the name eastern cottontail).

They like to be on the edge of open areas—so they can be found at the edge of fields, farms, meadows, parks—areas that can also back up to wooded areas to hide.

They’re herbivores—so they eat grasses and if they can get into gardens—they’ll munch on peas, lettuce, and herbs. During the winter months they’ll eat bark, twigs, and buds.

Rabbits tend to breed three to four times a year (as only about fifteen percent of the young survive their first year), and the young are self-sufficient within a month (which is about one to two months before they reach sexual maturity). The populations of cottontails can grow quite quickly depending on the number of initial rabbits in the area.

References:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/e/eastern-cottontail-rabbit/

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