Cicada from my Office Window

Back in August, I noticed a cicada on the screen of my office window. I was there for quite some time, so I went outside and zoomed to get a picture of it. Several days later, it was still there, and I decided it was probably time to collect it. I opened my office window and took off the screen…gently pulled the cicada from the screen.

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It sat on the table in my office – protected in a small box – until a few days ago when I finally got around to taking a closer look and some photographs. It’s not a periodic cicada…but otherwise I didn’t determine the exact kind it is. It’s probably a male because the end of the abdomen is not pointed enough to be a female.

I took some pictures with the macro lens clipped to the cell phone. It’s hard to get the whole insect in focus with the shallow depth-of-field. In the two pictures below the eye and head is focused in one….and the wing joint is crisp in the second.

The cicadas are already silent for this year. The eggs are laid, and the larvae will begin their long development. We’ll have more adults emerge next spring. And in 2021 we might get the emergence of a large periodic cicada brood; that will be a noisy summer.

Zooming – August 2019

There are 10 images in this month’s ‘zooming’ post – a selection from places I’ve been over the month: Brookside Gardens, Patuxent Research Refuge, and Mt. Pleasant Farm. I used the zoom a lot on my camera, so I always have a lot to choose from…and the collection almost always is dominated by plants. This month is no exception although there are a few insects (butterflies and a cicada) and a frog.

There is one type of plant that is featured twice. Can you find it in the slideshow?  The answer is below the slideshow.

The hibiscus is the plant featured twice: the red flower and the three green buds!

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2019

August 2019 was busy – but not as overwhelming as July. I savored the recovery time before the busy fall field trip season volunteering and my own travels. It was still easy to find little celebrations this month.

For three weeks of the month, I celebrated two mornings with Howard County Conservancy summer campers. What great experiences for me and (I hope) for the campers. Fossils, water and flight….interesting themes of high interest to the 5-12 years old groups. I could have counted 6 little celebrations but opted to count each week as 1 larger celebration since I had so many other things to celebrate.

Celebrating Coursera course Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions from University of Alberta (which I hope to finish by the end of the month). It was wonderful to have time to dig into an online course again.

Montessori teachers in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. A group of Montessori teachers in training came through the exhibit one morning (when it wasn’t too hot) and I celebrated conversations and that the method is still popular. My daughter certainly thrived in that type of pre-school.

Finding lots of botanical print books. Just when I think I am about to run out of online botanical books, I find a lot more…..and celebrate.

Getting a new laptop ordered. My old laptop is almost out of warranty and, even though it has a new battery and seems to be working well, I ordered a new one. I’m very excited about getting it all set up by the end of the month.

Flavorful cantaloupe. The CSA had very sweet cantaloupes this year. I celebrated melons that were as good as my memories of childhood cantaloupe from my grandparents’ farm.

Office rearrangement. I celebrated a new arrangement of my office furniture and general tidiness of my home office…in preparation for a new laptop.

Photographing a living cicada. Usually the cicada’s I photograph are not living – or are too cold to move. I celebrated seeing one fly into a tree and photographing it…while it was singing.

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Patuxent Research Refuge – Part II

Continuing about our visit to the Patuxent Research Refuge last weekend (map)…

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At the very beginning of the Loop Trail near the visitor center, we saw a blue dasher on a sign! A great way to start the morning at Patuxent.

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After leaving the bird blind on the Loop Trail, we crossed the bridge heading toward the Cash Lake Trail and began to realize that it was getting hotter every minute…the hike was going be a short one. Looking back toward Lake Reddington, I took one landscape picture

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Then zoomed in for waterlily pictures. The bright sunlight made the water look very dark.

There was a thistle blooming nearby….and going to seed.

After photographing the herons, we came back to the Viewing Blind at the end of boardwalk. I noticed something fly into the tree and was lucky enough to zoom in to find it – a cicada! It was probably the highlight of the trek for me.

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On the way back to the car I noticed the milkweed…looking too good to have very many Monarch caterpillars.  There don’t seem to be many Monarch butterflies this year in our area – noticeably fewer than last year. I hope they are more numerous elsewhere.

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Smartphone Nature Photography – part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post….

Identification. Sometimes I take a lot of photos so I can identify something later. This was the case with these caterpillars. They were devouring dogwood plants at Brookside Gardens last summer. They remind me of lemon bars (yellow custard underneath powdered sugar). I defaulted to thinking they were a moth or butterfly larvae…but they turned out to be a dogwood sawfly larvae!

Stories. Some pictures tell a story. If you are aware at the time…make sure you take the pictures of the whole story. This Achemon Sphinx Moth was discovered by summer campers going out between rain showers during a nature photography activity. Moths are more active at night and usually are hiding in foliage during the day. This one was on the ground and twitching. I knew from experience in the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit that it had probably been bitten by a spider. We took our pictures and left it where it was. I regret that I was too busy helping campers to keep my camera at the ready to shoot the moth being pulled between two rocks – presumably by the spider that never did make itself visible.

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Insects. Insects can be very fast moving and difficult to photograph no matter what camera you have. They often are slow or immobile when it is cooler. Cool mornings are good to find cicadas – silent and still…but maybe not dead. Butterflies can be under leaves roosting if it’s cool…or it is dusk and they are seeking a place to spend the night. Then there are masses of milkweed bugs that are prevalent in the fall. They are moving but there are so many that it’s easy enough to get a good number; I always try to figure out how many instars are shown in the same picture.

And sometimes it is just luck. This blue morpho sat on my wrist while I was at the exit of last summer’s butterfly exhibit at Brookside Gardens. I had my phone on the lanyard so was able to pull it out and one-hand the phone to take the picture.

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Specimens. There are nature photography shots that might be of specimens rather than out in the field. The shot of the blue morpho wing was from a specimen that had died using the 15x macro lens. I’ll try the 60x next summer. I included the label in the picture of the dogwood tree cookie…for documentation; I liked the irregularity of the rings.

Wet day color. Sometimes a rainy-day hike is a good thing. The color of fungus is often more intense on these days – and the phone handles the raindrops better than more traditional cameras.

Light. Sometimes an image is made by something special about the light – spotlighted ferns, the shadowing of a sectioned Nautilus shell, a sunrise.

Clipping. Because the camera only has a digital zoom, I often take the picture without zooming then make a clip after I get home. In the example below – the two butterflies (tiger swallowtail and male monarch) are clearly identifiable even though the clip has a painterly look.

So – go out and take some pictures! The only blooms we have outdoors right now are the witch hazels. There are other winter opportunities too: tracks in the snow (or mud), seed pods, snow landscapes, and ice crystals. And maybe a squirrel will be close enough and still enough….

Cicada Identification

I photographed two cicadas in August. When I found the second one at home I had more time and took more pictures. I realized that I probably had enough different views that I should try to identify it. I knew it wasn’t a periodical cicada (one of the 13 or 17 year life cycle species) because it didn’t have red eyes.

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I looked more closely at the markings and did some research using the Maryland Biodiversity Project website…and found it: Swamp Cicada – Neotibicen tibicen. The description they give fits perfectly: “Field marks include bright green in the wings, the white ventral area, greenish legs, and green patches on the head.”

I decided to return to the few pictures I took of the first one I photographed. There were fewer pictures because I was in the field with summer campers. Still – it is clearly Linne’s Cicada – Neotibicen linnei.

With this little success – I am motivated to try more often to identify what I manage to photograph…the challenge being to get quality photos from as many perspectives as possible!

Zooming – June 2018

I am late getting out the posts that I normally write toward the end of the month….this is a catch up week after being in Texas for almost 3 weeks! As usual – it was easy to find favorite pictures taken in June that used the zooming capabilities of my camera. There are all the usual suspects – birds, butterflies, and vegetation. Can you pick out which ones were in Texas and which were in Maryland?

Enjoy the June slideshow!

Road Trip Home from Nebraska

We retraced our road trip to get home from Nebraska – taking two days (again) to make the drive.

I took some last pictures around the hotel the afternoon before we left: the art in front of the gas station when we were filling the tank, the sunny parking lot, and the curtains in the room (they are a good prompt for a Zentangle!). This trip was the first time I had ever been in Nebraska and I was surprised that it was hilly; somehow, I expected it to be very flat like the panhandle of Texas. As we headed east the next morning we made one stop while still in Nebraska. There were a few people that were making an early start like we were – but not the crowd at the rest stop on eclipse day! The rest stop included some signage about the Native American use of the area.

We crossed the Missouri River, leaving Nebraska and entering Iowa. The rest stop at Council Bluffs has good signage about the history of the place and the fossil record; artistic ‘bluffs’ near the entrance, a floral mosaic inside, and low dividers around some of the picnicking areas; and a reddish colored walkway that might have been patterned after the river we’d just crossed.

We stopped at mid-morning to eat watermelon another Iowa rest stop. There were plenty of tables in the shade but it was cool enough that we picked one in the sunshine. There was a cicada that was very slow moving – too cold to make noise or fly away when I got close to take a picture! We stopped in Iowa City for lunch at a McDonalds and part of the decoration had physics and chemistry formulas! Right before we entered Illinois, we made one last stop and I took pictures of sun flowers. I like to see plants that are good for pollinators and birds in the rest stop gardens.

The Mississippi River is the boundary between Iowa and Illinois and I took a picture as we drove over the bridge. This is before the river joins with the Missouri…so it’s not as muddy looking. The only rest stop we used in Illinois had planted their formal beds with things good for last summer and fall insects and birds…good for them! It seems to be the trend in rest stop maintenance!

We hit a lot of traffic as we drove to the south of Chicago and into Indiana. I took a picture as we entered the state. We made a stop at a gas station before we got to the hotel in Elkhart, Indiana….tired after a long drive. There was a restaurant within walking distance from our hotel and it felt good to get the exercise after sitting for so much of the day.

The second day we had a shorter drive. The Ohio rest stops are more formal grass and trimmed bushes. There are some margins that might provide plants for insects. There are lots of travel brochures and I picked up several – thinking that north east Ohio could be a good destination for a fall or spring road trip. The rest stops have either barrel or dome sections over their food courts. I realized in the last one we stopped at that there was a Ohio map on the floor!

I took picture through the car window as we went into Pennsylvania. The Alleghenies make for a lot more elevation change and winding in the highway. The clouds were fluffy that day too. The skyline of Pittsburgh…the Heinz sign…the Squirrel Hill tunnel (my son-in-law’s apartment is on top of the tunnel!). After we left my daughter in Pittsburgh, we made a stop at one of the service plazas on the Pennsylvania Turnpike…and then it was through the Allegheny Mountain tunnel.

Our only stop in Maryland before we got home was at the South Mountain rest stop. By that time the fluffy clouds were mostly gone. The stop has mowed grass around the picnic tables…but the beds are planted with meadow type grasses and small flowers rather than exotic flowers. Those plants probably are easier to maintain and give the butterflies/bees a boost!

An hour later – it was good to get home.

Previous posts about our Solar Eclipse trek: Road Trip to Nebraska for the Eclipse, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Solar Eclipse – August 2017, Nebraska Sunrise.