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Photography Challenge Day 193: The young praying mantis

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the young praying mantis that was crawling on the patio table umbrella last night.

This young thing was making it’s way across the umbrella

So I’m not exactly sure what the exact species of mantis this is—praying mantis is a common name that seems to go for over 2,400 different species across the globe. In terms of distribution, they are found in temperate and tropical habitats, where most are ambush predators—though some will actively pursue their prey.

It seems to be camera shy……

The praying mantis also goes through several different growth stages between hatching and adult mantis, and the number of molts differs between species. So this one could be somewhere between two and five (for example) in it’s molts before reaching adult stage. Though it still has some growing to do in order for the body to fit the legs (and antennae).

A little better picture of the young mantis.

What are some interesting facts about the praying mantis?

Majority are found in the tropical areas of the world—there are only 18 native species found within the entire North American continent.

The most common praying mantis seen (within the US) are actually introduced species—not native.

They can turn their heads a full 180 degrees, without being possessed by a demon.

Their closest family members are actually cockroaches and termites.

They lay their eggs in the fall, which then hatch in the spring.

The females are known to occasionally eat the males after mating.

They have specialized front legs for capturing their prey.

Since they don’t fossilize very well—the earliest known fossils are only ~146-166 million years old

They aren’t totally “beneficial” in the garden—they will eat any and all bugs (good and bad) that they find.

The weirdest fact for last: They have two eyes, but only one ear—which is located on the underside of their belly. It’s thought that those that fly have the ear to help them avoid being eaten by bats.

Reference for the fun facts: https://www.thoughtco.com/praying-mantid-facts-1968525

So while I may keep an eye out for the egg pouches this winter (photography time)—I’ll also make note of where I saw it, and then check the surrounding area(s) in the spring and summer for the nymphs and adults.

No Comments insectsnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 186: The Waved Sphinx Moth

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the waved sphinx moth that was hanging out in the shed this weekend.

Waved sphinx moth

This is a member of the larger family of moths that are commonly known as sphinx moths, hawk moths, and hornworms—and there are almost 1500 species found throughout the world.

These moths have great camouflage—they are mostly brown, with both wavy lines and straight lines bisecting its wings. It’s unclear if the adults feed, unlike some of the others that have been mistaken for hummingbirds (from a distance).

The waved sphinx moth on the side of the house

I don’t think that the moth was happy being moved from it’s hiding spot—these moths are more nocturnal in nature, and it was rousted a good three hours or so before the sun went down. I do know that it did hang out on the side of the house for awhile before finding another area to doze in until the sun went down.

Depending on location, these moths may have either one or two broods a year. Since we’re in the southern part of their range, it is possible that there could be another brood before the end of October.

This may mean that if I pay attention and keep an eye out for them—I might be able to spot a caterpillar of the waved sphinx moth. Though it may be difficult, as I don’t think we have any ash, fringe, hawthorn, or oak trees in the neighborhood—though we might (I’m not the greatest at telling trees apart).

That could be something to keep me busy in the spring/fall—trying to identify the different trees in the area, that way I would have an idea of the insects that might be visiting them in the late spring/summer.

I’m pretty sure that the moth was only in the yard, because it had decided to try to snooze the day away in the shed before someone found it and decided to show it off. But it is a pretty looking insect, and I think I’ve seen them before on the trees earlier in the year (and definitely last year).

No Comments mothsnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 177: Another mockingbird on campus (shortish post)

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the mockingbird that I saw on campus this afternoon. So while the temperatures were still hotter than normal for this time of year (basically low triple digits, with a heat index probably ten to fifteen degrees hotter), I still went for a walk at lunch (mainly to get some chocolate).

As I was heading to the student union I noticed a mocking bird land at the top of a cedar bush, so I stopped and took it’s picture.

Mockingbird talking about the weather.

It didn’t seem happy with the temperatures (and who is happy with them)—hopefully it flew by the fountain in front of the library to cool off a little.

Since I’ve already done a post on mockingbirds, including interesting facts—I’ll just link to it—mockingbird. One thing I do find impressive about them—their ability to listen to something and then almost perfectly mimic it (hence their name—mockingbird).

I’m going to see if I can manage to get pictures of other birds on campus–such as sparrows, grackles, and starlings. If I manage to walk down by Theta Pond, I might see some ducks. Lunch walks may now become a thing I do–just to help get the steps in and hopefully as a way of managing stress and anxiety a bit better.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 176: The visitors to the nectar feeder

So it has been the dog days of summer lately and I haven’t made it up to Boomer Lake in about two weeks. Not that I don’t want to–but I’m not fond of overheating before ten in the morning (and water doesn’t stay that cold, that long). At least I managed to get some pictures of various birds in the backyard this afternoon (yes, I was crazy for sitting outside today–though I did have an outdoor fan going).

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the hummingbirds and the swallowtail butterfly.

Swallowtail butterfly drinking from the nectar feeder

So I had noticed that there was something at the nectar feeder that was upsetting the one hummingbird that was coming in to feed. This was one of the first times I’ve seen a hummingbird try to attack something. Once I got closer I realized that it was a swallowtail butterfly. I was able to get pretty close to it, but stayed back enough that it didn’t feel threatened. I was able to watch it a good five minutes or so drink, before it flew off.

Hummingbird sitting waiting for fresh sugar water.

So I’m not sure if it was the same hummingbird that tried to run off the butterfly, but one sat above us in the tree semi-patiently waiting for new nectar/sugar water to be brought out for consumption.

Hummingbird coming in to eat

The feeder has been popular this summer, especially since the flowers on some of the bushes seem to fall off as soon as they bloom lately.

And it’s eating……….

I’m pretty sure that this hummingbird is either a young one or a female–because I didn’t see any red on it’s throat–which rules out it being a mature male ruby throated hummingbird. Since we are almost halfway through August, it means that we’re also entering the start of the fall migration season already. Hopefully that means seeing hummingbirds at the feeder daily until they’ve all headed south.

Hopefully I will make it up to Boomer Lake this coming weekend for an early morning walk and see if there are any migratory birds starting to stay in town already.

No Comments bird watchingbutterfliesnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 175: The younger two dogs

The winner of today’s photography challenge are the two younger dogs: Rolex (our box mix puppy), and Magnet (my brother’s dog).

Snoozing puppy usually means happy cats……

Magnet has been an off and on presence in the house, since my brother lives a couple of hours away and they don’t make it back that often (I mean who really wants to do a four-hour round trip drive constantly?). But since she is basically a year older than Rolex, that makes her the beta of the house (Boozer is the alpha, and when Magnet isn’t around—she is alpha and beta rolled into one). Problem is that the youngest wants to play almost constantly during the day and it wears on the other two dogs (especially her methods of playing).

Rolex and Magnet patiently waiting for dinner.

I’ve realized a few things over the past couple of months—I would love to get another dog, but until I have a solid plan in place for my future that has to be on hold. The second thing is that the overly playful puppy is going to be needing to learn how to walk on a leash—she does okay for a short distance, but when I took her for one walk around the block it was total chaos—so there is that training that needs to happen. It is something to look towards when the temperatures cool, and I don’t have to worry about heat stroke for either of us.

I’ve also decided that once things are in order and I move—a kitten first (since Pancakes doesn’t care for either of the younger dogs right now), and once that helps settle her in, maybe a puppy or an slightly older dog (say no more than three or four).

I know that Chewi and the others are watching from the rainbow bridge, and happy that we’ve moved on from mourning and brought another dog into the household.

No Comments PetsPhotography

Photography Challenge Day 174: Another Fishy Friday Flashback (short post)

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the moray eel and the French grunts that were swimming past it when I took the picture.

Grunts and a moray eel

So the grunts are native to the western Atlantic ocean, and are found in close proximity to coral reefs. They are nocturnal hunters of small crustaceans and mollusks. It probably seems odd to name a fish a grunt—but someone, somewhere listened to them—and I guess they grind their teeth together (I’m assuming after capturing some type of prey), and that is where their name came from, the grunting sounds of them grinding their teeth.

The moray eel is one of my favorites at the aquarium—there is something about them that I find fascinating. Part of it is their body structure—they’re fish—but they lack certain fins (pelvic and pectoral). Though with this one, you can’t see the dorsal fin on the back of its’ head. I also love how in reality—they aren’t yellow or green—they’re actually a drab brown in color. It’s because of the aquarium having a drab background color in the area, the tint of yellow in its body mucus, reflects back as yellow or green (as it is referred to as a green moray eel).

One thing I’d like to do is to visit other aquariums and see if I can spot moray eels within the different areas (since I know that the New England Aquarium has them within the larger central aquarium).

No Comments FishnaturePhotographyZoos/Aquariums

Photography Challenge Day 173: International Cat Day (Short Post)

So since today is International Cat Day–it is only fitting that the winners of today’s photography challenge are the cats.

Pyewicket wasn’t too happy with the closeup……..

So we have three cats (all adopted from the local humane society). The eldest cat (by about a year and a half or so) is Pyewicket, our calico cat.

Then we have our “breakfast duo”: Waffles and Pancakes.

Pancakes, my black miniature panther.

We got Waffles and Pancakes within a few days of each other–Waffles was adopted first, and then I saw Pancakes picture on the site, and fell in love. It had been almost a decade since I had lost my first cat, Bigfoot (who was also a black cat–though he had more white on him than Panny does). Pancakes is my little cuddle bug at night, and in the morning. She loves to sit on my lap–and does a good job of reminding me when I spend to much time on the computer.

Waffles–sleeping on top of the cat condo

Not the best picture of Waffles, our Russian blue cat–but lately she has decided that the top of the cat condo is her spot to sleep (though that is where my cat usually likes to relax). This is our little troublemaker–she doesn’t like change (and lets you know), and isn’t above possibly starting things with the puppies.

I know find it funny that we’re in a “age reversal” with the animals–when we got the cats, we had several dogs, but they’re were all in their adult years. Now we got a puppy (and my brother got one last year), the cats are in their adult years and are acting like it. I swear if they could talk it would probably be nothing but “get off my lawn”, “turn the music down” and “in my day” from the cats to the pups.

I have realized that when I move–I will need to bring in a kitten (after a few months) so that Pancakes has company, and then after say another six months or so maybe get a puppy and hopefully that will all turn out nicely.

Happy International Cat Day!!! Do your cats and dogs get along all the time?

No Comments PetsPhotographyRandom Celebration Days

Photography Challenge Day 172: The apple (short post)

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the either the lone large crab apple, or the lone apple (that grew on what we have always thought is just a crab apple tree).

The apple–what type we don’t know…..

What makes this unique and odd—it’s the only one on the tree. I spent a good five to ten minutes (I know not a lot of time—but enough when its in the mid-90s and there is a triple digit heat index at basically 8 o’clock at night) looking and all the other “apples” are the extremely small ones that have been on the tree since early summer. Now one or two may grow into an apple like this—but this is the first year, we’ve seen an actual large fruit on the tree.

So now we’re on looking at the tree constantly to see if any other apples all of a sudden appear on the tree. In addition, we’re going to have to see if it starts to turn colors (say to red or yellow) or if it’s going to be a green apple. I hope that we’ll be able to harvest it before it falls to the ground—where the squirrels, birds, and probably dogs will all take a go at it. That is one thing that I would like to do whenever I move back east (hopefully)—go to an apple farm in the fall and pick some fresh apples and then try to make homemade apple sauce, or some dessert with fresh apples.

No Comments foodnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 171: Wisteria seed pods

The winner of today’s photography challenge are wisteria seed pods.

Wisteria seed pods

The wisteria is a climbing vine that is native to the eastern part of the United States. This flowering vine is actually a member of the pea family—which is one reason why it’s seed pods look like pea pods.

Though unlike peas—wisteria plants are poisonous, so it shouldn’t be planted in areas where child play, and shouldn’t be planted in areas where someone might accidentally pick the seed pods and eat the seeds.

We have the wisteria growing along the back fence, and I’ve been thinking of trying to start a new wisteria vine elsewhere in the yard—that way once it does flower (in ten to fifteen years), it can be seen closer to the house, and it may add value to the house whenever it comes time to sell. The only thing is—I’ve never tried to grow the plant before (the one we have, we got as a smaller plant from a friend who was thinning her’s out).

But I’m thinking that I’ll check on the wisteria over the next couple of months and maybe pick a seed pod or two, and see how many seeds are inside. Then I’ll dry them out, put them in an container for the winter and then try planting them somewhere in the spring. If nothing else, we’ll get some green growth going as the vines are suppose to start growing rapidly.

No Comments flowersnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 170: A Book Review: Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

The winner of today’s photography challenge—is the following book that I managed to finish about two weeks ago: “Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to make more room for happiness” by Gretchen Rubin. This is the second book by Gretchen Rubin that I’ve read over the past year (the other was The Four Tendencies).

Kindle books are great; this was one of the two books I finished during July.

This particular book deals with the issue of getting rid of excess belongings and organizing what you keep in a manner that makes you happy (and others living with you). Society as a whole owns way to much stuff—and there are people who rent storage units to store the excess that they can’t fit in their houses. Now I’m currently renting a storage unit, but that is because when I moved home—my room had been converted into a guest room (and I had only planned on being a guest for a few years tops). So my bed, a large bookcase, some other furniture and other belongings (dishes and such) have been sitting in a storage unit for six years.

I’d realized out in Boston that I had too much stuff, and got rid of some of it before moving back (in hopes of savings some money), but I still have too much stuff—especially if I add in what is in my bedroom to what I have in my storage unit. I’m going to slowly be going through things and paring down on what I have (as I realize I probably don’t need forty different t-shirts). That way if I do head back to Boston and have a smallish apartment—I can fit everything into it, without being overwhelmed.

So the book has five chapters, each covering a specific point/topic in the path of creating outer order, and hopefully inner calm.

The first chapter basically lays out the facts that you have to make choices on what you’re going to keep and what you’re going to be getting rid of; also when you’re getting rid of something you shouldn’t feel guilty about the fact that the item no longer has a place in your home (as the author points out—you can out grow things, or just decide that it isn’t necessary to keep a gift just to keep someone happy (who may or may not remember giving it to you).

The second chapter talks about creating order, and just lays out some simple guidelines that once can follow: such as if you can’t retrieve an item you probably won’t use it—which makes sense, we have one cupboard over the fridge that I forget what is stored in it (obviously we aren’t using the items, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to get rid of the items). Another guideline is to avoid buying souvenirs, or if you are going to buy souvenirs one should go with ones that are small and easy to display.

This is one area I will have to deal with once I’m settled (as I don’t plan on really unpacking all the boxes in my storage unit & repacking them)—I have a lot of little knickknacks that I’d bought over the years; I do have a small number that I’ve bought since I’ve moved home—but for the most part they’re packed in my storage unit.

I think I’ve come up with an idea on how to display them nicely—making use of my large bookcase, but at the same time I will probably try to sell some of them depending on how I can display them. Having little things showing your personality is good—you just need to be able to take care of them (such as dusting)—and if you have too many of them, you might fall down on that task.

The third chapter talks about knowing yourself and others. Basically—know what you consider to be clutter, what others consider to be clutter and if they don’t agree find some type of middle ground. The fourth chapter talks about cultivating helpful habits (such as tossing junk mail right away, making your bed in the morning, putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher, and so forth) to help keep the clutter down to a minimum.

The fifth chapter talks about adding beauty to the spaces. This can include adding a signature color (or pattern) to the rooms, arranging the displays on a tray, having a theme for the picture frames and so forth.

Basically the book walks you through the steps/thoughts of starting to declutter your home and/or workspace. Decluttering isn’t for everyone—you actually want to be doing it, or if you start you might find yourself with even more stuff (as you feel guilty for getting rid of things, you end up bringing in more to make up for it); also it doesn’t have to happen overnight. I’ve been slowly (and I stress the word slowly) working decluttering my life for the past year—I’ve gotten rid of some stuff, but I also know that I have a lot more that I can get rid of and still be happy. How I’m going about it: I’m asking myself—does this have more than one use? If I find myself in an studio apartment—things will need to be multi-functional (and maybe even multi-storage). Having multiple collections as a teenager or young adult is fine—but now I have to ask the question: do they have a place in the life/home of someone who will be hitting their fourth decade next year?

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is thinking of embarking on the journey of decluttering.

No Comments Book ReviewsLifestyle ChallengesPersonal DevelopmentPhotography