Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A pretty spider in late November

I had planned for a leisurely walk through the arboretum today, hoping to find a few bugs and take a few pictures. I was dismayed but not surprised to find that I have pretty much forgotten how to work my Canon camera that I bought last spring. Seriously. (I can also attest that, in spite of the time-worn saying that assures, "You never forget how to ride a bicycle", I have.)

But I was fairly satisfied with this photo of a Banded Argiope spider in a clump of tall grass. Argiope is a common orb-weaver, harmless to people. It has been a few years since I saw the black and yellow kind at the arboretum, and I'm pretty sure this was my first banded one. So it was nice to find her. Hopefully there is a male out there for her, and she will have (or maybe already had) a chance to mate and lay eggs, and maybe next year there will be more of these hideous and lovely creatures. And hopefully by then, I will have re-learned how to use my camera. Hopefully.

Banded Argiope

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bug (photo) Dump

Over the past several months(!) I have still been taking pictures of bugs, but I just haven't felt like blogging. So tonight, I put a bunch of them into a set on Flickr, aptly named Bug Dump 2013.

Click on the link to see them.  Nothing's labeled or anything, though.  I'll try to get back in there and do that sometime.  Maybe.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A new bug at the Arboretum

Black Stinkbug, Proxys punctulatus

After a tour this morning, I noticed this bug on some low plants beside the trail. As I got closer to take its picture with my phone, I noticed that it had a little white spot. I thought it was just debris or something, until I saw an identical bug nearby with an identical white spot. In a few seconds, I realized there were quite a few of these bugs. With the idea in my head that I would return tomorrow with the "good" camera, I at least took the time just now to identify this guy: Proxys punctulatus, the Black Stink Bug. And in doing so, I have found that it might just be a newcomer to these parts. BugGuide lists its range only as far west as Arizona. In a little further searching, I have still not found any mention of this bug in California. So maybe I need to look a little harder. Or maybe this is something new.

Like most other stinkbugs, it's a plant-sucker. Hopefully it will not turn out to be an invasive pest. I will try to get some more pictures of it soon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A couple of moth-y nights in the desert

We spent the weekend in Yucca Valley, and I brought my blacklight. There was a good collection of moths to be found in the morning.












White Line Sphinx

With the exception of this last one, the White Lined Sphinx, I don't know the names of all these moths, although their shapes are familiar. Hopefully someday I'll find out their names.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Meeting a new friend leads me to vicarious blogging

In the midst of my current blogging slump, I have been getting out a bit and seeing some nature and finding some bugs. And I have been fortunate to meet a kindred spirit from the blogosphere. I found Cheryl's blog in 2011, just by chance, as I was looking to identify what turned out to be a furcula caterpillar. She lives in West Virginia, but has been out here staying with family for a while. We met face to face at the Arboretum, and since then we have gone on a couple of fun outings.

Like me, Cheryl uses a point and shoot camera, and the beauty and clarity of her images has made me realize that part of my blogging dissatisfaction is just because I'm unhappy with my cameras. (yeah, I'm blaming the cameras. again.) But seriously, my little old Canon is on its last legs. The light settings I have come to depend on are no longer working the way they should, and images often come out too light or too dark. And now there is a disconcerting grinding noise every time I turn it on and off, when the lens goes in and out. Then there is my iPhone camera. It's handy, it's spontaneous, and there are loads of cool apps that can enhance my pictures. And I have decided that it will never be my preferred camera for taking bug photos. It's just too hard to hold it. Focus, on little things up close is hit-and-miss. So I've decided that I really do need to get a new camera.

Anyway, last month, Cheryl and I visited the Tidepools at Little Corona Del Mar during a great minus tide. And while I was struggling nervously to keep my balance on the nearer rocks without dropping my iPhone in the water, she actually made it much further out, and got all the pictures I wish I could have, and more. You can see them here.

Then last week, we took a nature walk on the Claremont Hills Wilderness Trail. This place is less than an hour from my house and I'd never been there. Among the pictures Cheryl took that day were a shot of the Lorquin's Admiral butterfly we saw, a first for me, and a tiny baby rattlesnake that had just been run over by a bicycle.

This week, I have managed to get a few of my own images. I'll try to get them posted soon!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

First mantids of 2013!

The first two danglers!
Well, there's nothing like seeing my favorite bug-friends to nudge me out of a serious blogging slump. Would you believe I spotted these 2 guys last Friday, dangling in the morning breeze from my kitchen window? Of course I knew the egg case was there, and I had been keeping an eye on it every morning because I knew it would be hatching soon.
And sure enough it did!

Legs unfolding
I quickly and carefully moved the egg case to a safer location after the first photo. I was expecting my gardener that day, and I didn't want the babies falling where the lawn mower would get 'em.

The first to hatch
As sometimes happens, only 3 hatched that day. The rest hopefully have hatched by now, but this was actually an egg case from the arboretum, and I took it back to its original location on Friday afternoon. I'll be checking it in a couple of days.

A brand-new mantid

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Overwintering... or not

Overwintering Grasshopper
Sometimes the gray bird grasshoppers survive through the winter.

Dead Grasshopper
Sometimes they don't.

These two grasshoppers were in my front yard this afternoon, just a couple of feet from each other.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Feeling halfway crabby

But maybe not as crabby as this actual crab:
Half a crab?
I was walking on the beach the other day, when I came upon what I thought was just part of a dead crab that had washed up at the edge of the water. I gave it a little poke, and was surprised to see that it moved.

crab underside
I turned it over and saw that it was a complete, intact, and very stubby female crab, with eggs, even. Don't worry. I turned her right side up again

I was taking advantage of a recent minus-tide for beach exploring. In fact, I try to plan my beach visits specifically during the lowest tide, the better to find stuff. I climbed around the rocky tidepools a little bit, but this becomes physically more difficult for me every year, and since I was by myself without even my phone, I didn't want to risk a fall. But that's OK. It's nice just being on the beach. And on a chilly January day, midweek, it was pretty deserted.

Thinking optimistically, I had brought an empty bread bag with me, in case I found more good shells than would fit in my pocket. But I actually didn't see too many treasures that I really felt compelled to collect, so I decided to use my bread bag to collect trash, which was almost as plentiful as the shells in some spots.

My collection this time
My trash collection

One-footed seagull
This little gull, missing one foot, followed me for a bit as I collected the trash. I wonder if he thought I might have something to eat in there.

The spots you see on the bird photo are from bits of dust that have worked their way inside the lens of my little Canon camera. It doesn't usually show up in macro mode, but it's almost inescapable in longer shots. There's no way to get the dust out. Well, I suppose I could send it away somewhere to be taken apart and cleaned, but that would cost about as much as a new camera, which is why I decided to get the iPhone. (and also because I needed a new phone).

A few bug photos with the iPhone camera

It's been a less than inspiring winter for me. I haven't felt too much like blogging.
I have been trying to accustom myself to the iphone camera. And while it does take pretty good pictures, and I have downloaded a bunch of fun photo apps, I find that (1) the camera is physically difficult for me to hold and manipulate, compared to a "real" camera, and (2) as nifty as all the apps are, they are difficult to see and manage on the iphone, so I usually want to edit them on my ipad or my PC. So that cuts down on the spontaneity a little bit. But here are 3 bug pictures that I've taken fairly recently:

Red Shouldered Bugs
A few red-shouldered bugs hanging out in the sun.

One flower, one caterpillar
Here is a little owlet moth caterpillar, perhaps a Heliothis sp. There was one lone flower blooming on a patch of columbine, and this little fellow was on it.

Fat Green Caterpillar
This fat caterpillar was hanging out under a trash can in my backyard. (pardon the frass)

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