Tag: insectphotography

Highlighting Nature Photography Day: Diversity of Wildlife at Boomer Lake

The North American Nature Photography Association designated June 15 to be Nature Photography Day.

Red-eared sliders swimming in Boomer Lake

Water snake gliding through the waters at Boomer Lake

Their first ‘Nature Photography Day’ was back in June 2006, and their goal is to promote the enjoyment of nature photography, and through the use of the camera advance the ’cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes both locally and globally’.

Hybird Baltimore and Bollock’s Oriole spotted in Boomer Lake Park

They (the North American Nature Photography Association) also run a photography contest every year marking the holiday as well. This year the challenge started on June 4 and ends tonight (June 15). You are able to enter multiple nature photographs throughout the week and a half that the contest runs–I’m sad that I only saw the contest this morning, but one can either download the app (iNaturalist) to your phone or sign up on the site (iNaturalist) to submit pictures for the contest. Though even after the contest ends–you can still share pictures through the site.

Cedar Waxing in a cedar tree

I will be setting up an account via the site (and deciding when to also put in an application to join the North American Nature Photography Association) some time this afternoon, so that I can share a few pictures that I’ve taken over the past week and half (Luckily my last walk up at Boomer Lake was on the 4th).

Double-crested Cormorant spotted at Boomer Lake Park, Stillwater OK

I’d decided years ago that nature photography was going to be one of the photography ‘sub-areas’ that I’d focus on for several reasons: 1) I enjoy being outdoors and exploring, 2) I like to ‘look’ for various animals (such as birds or insects), and 3) it is almost always a ‘free’ thing to do when exploring new areas.

So here are some of the nature photographs that I’ve taken over the past few months that I would rank among my favorites so far for the second quarter of 2021:

Nymph on an wildflower

As I was walking back across the bridge, I noticed this little grasshopper nymph sitting in the wildflower. Since I’m not an entomologist, I’m not sure what nymph stage this insect was at or if it is even a grasshopper.

Possible Orchid Oriole spotted at Boomer Lake Park

I spotted this bird on one of my walks, and I think based on the red flank that it was possibly a male orchid oriole.

Green Heron preening itself at Boomer Lake

Just about a hundred yards or so after spotting the possible Orchid Oriole, I spotted a green heron preening itself in one of the covers. Also captured in the picture was a grackle and a couple of turtles sunning themselves.

Two scissor-tailed flycatchers sitting in a cottonwood tree

And finally–the state bird (the scissor-tailed flycatcher) is in the area again for a few months. This beautiful flycatcher is a resident from about late April through late August/early September (though sometimes still spotted in late September or early October).

So these were just a small number of pictures that I’ve taken over the past two months since I’ve been trying to get back into at least doing a monthly walk at Boomer Lake. Now that summer is here–I will probably only be doing a single walk a month at Boomer (unless really nice temps hit), so I will also use the backyard and creek area as inspiration for practicing nature photography as well.

Reference for Nature Photography Day: www.nanpa.org/events/nature-photography-day

How are you spending nature photography day?

No Comments bird watchingflowersinsectsnatureoutdoorsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysScienceTurtles

The bee on the chive flower: Photography challenge day 8

So I’m basically going to be a day behind in the photography challenge, unless I manage to do a double photography post at some point.

The winner for today’s entry is the honeybee on the chive flowers.

Honeybee on the chive flowers

The honeybee (and actually all of the bee clade) is actually only native to Eurasia, but humans took them to four other continents (Africa, Australia, South & North America).

In terms of recognition—there are eight species recognized, but with a total of 43 subspecies. These subspecies are populations of bees that living in different areas and have different morphological characteristics. Out of those species—two have been domesticated for honey production and/or crop pollination—the eastern & western honeybees. Other bees may also produce & store honey—but not to the extent that the eastern & western honeybees manage.

Honeybee on the chive flowers

One way to help these insects is to plant bushes, flowers, veggies, herbs, and other plants that are native to the area (or at least not totally invasive) that can attract the bees and help them survive.

We have numerous bushes in the yard that flower (crepe myrtles, rose-of-Sharon, wisteria, clematis, flowering quints, and others), in addition we also have various herbs planted, though the only one that really flowers is the chive.

Chives are a flowering plant that produces edible leaves and flowers (though we leave the flowers alone so that the bees, wasps, and butterflies have something to also feed on). They are also related to common onions, garlic, shallot, leek, scallion, and the Chinese onion. These are one herb that once you plant; they will come back up for a couple of years (unless there is a really cold snap, and I’d guess less than 0 degrees).

This year I’ve managed to get the picture of bees, flies, butterflies, and wasps all resting/feeding on the chive flowers. A new goal for next year—record and see how many of which species land on the flowers.

Do you like chives? If so–what is your favorite recipe for them? Another thought–maybe once I have my own place, I can become a part time beekeeper. Are you (or someone you know) a beekeeper? Have you ever thought of becoming one??

No Comments flowersinsectsnaturePhotography

It’s a wasp week: photography challenge day 6: the yellow jacket

Today’s winner for the photography challenge is the yellow jacket wasp, also just known as the yellow jacket.

This is a predatory social wasp that is common to North America. These wasps live in a colony that contains worker wasps, queens, and drones; the colony is annual with only fertilized queens survives the winter and starts a new colony the coming spring/summer.

This queen will then spend the spring and through the summer into the autumn the queen spends the time laying eggs within the nest. Depending on where the queen builds the nest, the size of the colony can range from ~4000 members to larger numbers (upward of say 10,000 members and numerous eggs cells).

yellow jacket wasp flying around the hummingbird feeder

The diet of the yellow jacket wasp varies depending on either the stage of life or the position within the nest. The larval diet consists of proteins derived from insects, fish, and meats. The workers (drones) collect, chew, and basically regurgitate the food before feeding it to the larvae. The larvae feed the workers by secreting a sugary substance, and when there aren’t as many insects to feed to the larvae—the workers will go foraging for sugar sources outside the nest. The diet of the adult yellow jacket wasp consists of fruits, flower nectar and tree sap—plus the sugar water from hummingbird feeders.

Yellow jacket wasp feeding at the hummingbird feeder

Sometimes the nest/colony of yellow jacket wasps are very noticeable, other times they aren’t (as some are built behind/below steps and logs—hidden from sight). I actually remember one summer, when on vacation my dog found a yellow jacket nest—it was built behind a wooden step going down to the lake (after that—she totally hated any small flying insect that came near her—she had gotten stung several times in the snout).

Yellow jacket wasp hanging around the hummingbird feeder

I notice the yellow jackets coming out in the late summer (usually end of July through mid-September) at times feeding at the hummingbird feeder. Usually we don’t have that many issues with them—unless they keep flying around the patio table.

Unlike other insects—I don’t think I want to figure out where the yellow jacket nest is (not willing to risk getting stung); these are insects that I’m not scared of and realize that they are beneficial to have (as they do hunt other insects)—but I’m also not sorry if I don’t see them either.

Have you or your pets ever been stung by a yellow jacket wasp?

No Comments insectsnaturePhotographyScience

Photography Challenge Day 5: The mighty cicada killer

Today’s entry into the photography challenge is the cicada killer. This is a large wasp that hunts cicadas—though they don’t eat them (the adults feed on nectar and sap)—the female will lay her eggs on a paralyzed cicadas allowing the wasp grub to feed on the cicada as it goes through several larval stages.

Cicada killer looking to dig a nest

Within the US they’re found in the throughout the country (divided between being the Eastern cicada killer and the Western cicada killer)—and since OK is almost central, I’m going with just cicada killer, and then south into Mexico and Central America.

In terms of size—the female cicada killers are larger than the males, only because they cart their ‘prizes’ off to their nests. I have no idea if this one is a male or a female—I’m going to guess female.

These wasps are actually burrow wasps—the female will dig her nest in the ground, and will have ‘egg cells’ off the main burrow. Within each cell the female will deposit one or more paralyzed cicadas and then lay an egg on the cicada. When the female lays a male egg—it goes on top of a single cicada; if the egg is female there may an addition cicada in the cell as well. Each cell is then closed off with dirt, and the female will continue digging cells as needed.

Once the eggs hatch, and after they go through their larval stages, the young will winter in the pupa stage underground and emerge the follow spring. There is only one generation per year.

I think a new photography goal will be trying to get a picture of a cicada killer carrying a cicada off to her nest, or possibly getting a picture of a cicada killer emerging from the nest in the spring.

I’ve never really been afraid of cicada killers—I always seem to have to ‘remind’ them that I’m not a cicada—as they seem to have really weird flight patterns. But we do get quite a few of these around the backyard in the summer.

Question: which would you prefer seeing a lot of during the summer—cicadas or cicada killers?

No Comments insectsnaturePhotographyScience

Photography Challenge Day 4: Which is it: the silvery checkerspot or pearl crescent butterfly?

Today’s entry into the photography challenge is the Silvery Checkerspot (or the Pearl Crescent) butterfly. I am not an entomologist by any stretch of the imagination (actually more often than not—I’ll send a picture of a bug to my cousin [who is an entomologist] for identification purposes. Though I am slowly branching out from doing straight bird photography and trying to get pictures of butterflies and other insects as well. As I get better at photography and slowly expand what I’m taking pictures of, I’m find the names of some of the animals interesting.

Either the silvery checkerspot or pearl crescent butterfly landed by the pond.

Take this butterfly for example—it’s an orange and black butterfly, and is either the silvery checkerspot or the pearl crescent butterfly. I’m assuming that the name is coming from the whitish edges and the bar pattern on their antennae. The pearl crescent should be a little smaller and lack the white dots (and since this one didn’t show any white dots—hard to tell; as some checkerspots might not have large white dots).

Right before it decided to turn around…..

We’ve had quite a few of these butterflies through the backyard this summer. As with all butterflies and moths, these butterflies go through their lifecycle near their host plants. Their range (either the silvery checkerspot or the pearl crescent) stretches from Canada downwards towards Mexico (though not seen in the western part of the country), and then eastward.

With its wings closed…..still not sure which species it is…….

Since the pandemic and self-isolation started I’ve realized that I do turn to taking the camera out to the backyard and looking at things through a different lens. One photography goal now is to try to see how many different butterfly/moth caterpillars I can get a photograph of during the spring/summer/fall months starting in 2021.

What’s your favorite butterfly/moth species?

No Comments butterfliesnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 201 (a few days late, and slightly short): The cottonwood borer

So I realized that I’m a few days behind on the photography challenge–there were internet connection issues on Thursday, and last night I was just too tired to log in and try to do a double post. Therefore I’m going to post Thursday’s winner today, and then I’ll do a couple of double posts over the next few days to play catch up yet again.

The winner of Thursday’s photography challenge is the cottonwood borer. I realized that it was a beetle that probably fed off of trees, and with a good guess, managed to figure out which “beetle pest” I was looking at.

Cottonwood borer crawling on grass.

What I find interesting—it wasn’t around any trees. It was crawling on the tall grass along the bank of Boomer Lake. I’m assuming it was trying to make its way to the closest cottonwood, poplar, or willow tree it could find.

Side view of the cottonwood borer climbing on the grass.

It is one of the largest insects in North America, and is found in the United States (east of the Rocky Mountains).

Look at those antennae

These are pests—though the larvae do the most damage when they hatch, by ingesting the inner portion of the tree, turning it into sawdust and pulp. I’ve seen numerous paths on cottonwood trees that we’ve taken down and the outer bark was removed, that the larvae took throughout the tree. Depending on how close the larvae hatch to the roots, they can also damage the root systems, killing the trees from the bottom as well as from the inside.

No Comments insectsnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 200: The adult praying mantis (short post)

Wow, I’ve made it (more or less) two hundred days of posting a different photograph. Now if I can just start doing a more different themes, I’d be even more impressed with myself–but hey, that can possibly be the next challenge. That’s a good idea prompt–can I come up with a minimum of three hundred and sixty-five (or six) different ideas for pictures??

Anyway the winner of day two hundred–is an adult praying mantis. I’m pretty certain that it isn’t related to the one I saw the week before–unless it had gone through like six-to-eight metamorphoses in a very short period of time.

Adult praying mantis

So we were sitting outside Saturday, when I noticed that we had company on the inside of the umbrella. There was this adult praying mantis that was just hanging out on one of the support arms of the umbrella.

It moved a little

It started really moving around towards the end of the day, and I’m assuming that as the temperatures dropped down to a bearable range, it headed out to hunt for it’s meal.

Since I’ve started to pay more attention to my surroundings, trying to find unique things to photograph–I’ve seen more on the insect side of things than I normally would have paid attention to sitting outside. I’m sure I would have noticed the praying mantis, but I may not have taken it’s picture.

But since I’ve seen two this year, it will be interesting to keep an eye out and see how many will be making an appearance in the spring.

No Comments insectsPhotography

Photography Challenge Day 198: The chives have flowered

So the winner of today’s photography challenge are the flowers of the chive plant, and the numerous different insects that have visited them so far.

One of the several stalks of chive flowers

There have been numerous different insects on the chive flowers so far, though I haven’t been keeping count (or actually watch for a specific amount of time).

One species of wasp on the flowers.

This summer I’ve seen a couple of different wasps, and some flies. I’m pretty sure that the butterflies are coming through–just not that often when I’m around with my camera.

Mating wasps on the flowers??

So it looks like some of the wasps were also potentially mating on the flowers as well–I thought that this was a really weird looking wasp. Once I got the pictures on the computer–it looks likes two wasps (or other flying insects) potentially were mating (or one was cannibalizing the other).

Butterfly on the flowers

Though this one butterfly did come through the yard on Saturday, and stopped on the flowers long enough for me to get a couple of pictures of it. I also think that this is the silvery checkerspot butterfly (more on this in another post).

No Comments butterfliesflowersinsectsnaturePhotography

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 188: Grasshopper hiding in the grass

The winner of today’s photography challenge is a grasshopper. I noticed this guy hanging out in the flowers of some grass (if I had to wager a bet—it is either switchgrass, or a close family member).

Grasshopper in the grass

So grasshoppers go through five different molts between hatching from the egg and the adult—but they look like an adult in each stage (just smaller and slightly weirder—as I shared some pictures of the younger nymphs earlier this summer).

This one was just chilling in the flowers, though I’m sure that if I got any closer it would have jumped towards other tall grasses in the area.

A little on the grass (as I’m going to say that I’m pretty sure that it is either switchgrass—or a close family member), it was probably thinking of chomping on. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a perennial warm season grass that is native to North America. This is one of the many plants that is being groomed as potential biofuel plants. One of the main reason why it is being looked at: it isn’t part of the food chain for either humans or cattle (or other farm animals).

It can also grow in areas that other plants can’t—such as high salt, and brackish waters. It has a very good root system—so it can also work in erosion control as well. It comes back year after year—and before we started building cities and towns in the middle of the prairie—it was one of the major native grasses.

I actually worked with this grass during graduate school (it was the focus of my dissertation)—and I am always amazed to see how tall it grows in the wild (in the lab—it’s height is limited by either the growth chamber or being trimmed back in the greenhouses)—it can get up to six feet tall pretty quickly in some areas.

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