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Sunday, June 29, 2008

South Platte 2

Here's part two of my picture set.

By the way, these frogs are huge. I guess six or seven inches across. When you walk along the edge of the pond, you'll here a sudden squawk of indignation and then a splashing reminiscent of someone skipping a dinner plate a few times across the water. Quite impressive.

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South Platte

I went for a bit of a walk today, sans children while Theo took the kids to Mr. Biggs, or as I've been calling it Dà Xiān Shēng. Lots of buzzing insects, mucky swampy water, algae, dust, and sunshine sounded much better than a bunch of screaming kids in an arcade.

The upside is that I got a lot of pics and had a fun time. The downside is that I won't be able to do it again till next weekend. It's a long weekend coming up though. I hope everyone else is busy being social so I can go muck about some more.

So, here's some pictures of my little adventure; no particular order.

Oh, and I brought home a bullfrog tadpole and was widely acclaimed by all my children. Especially after I told them how I had to trick a warty swamp witch to tell me the location of the land of the bull frogs, wrestle the tadpole from the bullfrog village guards in a hand-to-foot/claw/paw battle that would make Jeff Corwin cower and then make a fast getaway while giant sticky tongues lashed out at me like whips. No one asked me if they should kiss the little fishy things with mini-hind legs already sprouting.

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Insect Models, Yeeesh.

I dunno if you've ever had a photographer put a reflector under your face, at about chest height. It's supposed to counter all the unflattering shadows produced by various bulbous features. (You might have gleaned that I don't like having my picture taken.) Anyhow, this damselfly seems to know the trick.
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Au Natural

Mantises are so cool. Even after you put them down, they'll still hang out with you.
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Hey Baby

Here's another highly detailed shot of my un-manicured hands.

When you're around baby mantises (go to your local nursery and by an egg sac), you become attuned to their funny little hops. That's how I spotted this one. I just saw it out of the corner of my eye, but it was the type of movement that identified it. Adults are much harder to spot.

Now that I've been mucking about in the Colorado bush for a while I'm starting to feel like I'm becoming familiar with a bit of the body language. Moths, skippers and butterflies all have distinct ways of flying, landing and postures. Flies mimicking bees don't fly like bees. Tiger beetles zoom in short bursts low along the path. Gnats fly around my head. (I guess this one isn't really unique knowledge.) Other bugs like stink bugs creep around to the opposite side of a stem very slowly, while grasshoppers creep until you get close and then with a burst of yellow, orange or red explode out of their hiding place -- only to land a few feet in front of you and in your current path.

Then there are the creatures that hide very well, but in predictable spots. Burrowing wolf spiders hang out generally just below the ground. The entrance to their burrow is an almost perfect circle slightly raised above ground level with a silken rim entwining small twigs and dried grass. You can almost always guarantee an ambush bug sighting on the native waist high sunflowers -- or when you see the body of a bee, hover fly or wasp inexplicably dangling from a flower. A shallow funnel shaped web, dirty, water spotted, and covered in little pieces of debris, will always have a funnel web spider at the base, just give an outer web blade of grass a little wiggle and it'll come out.

And finally, there are the creatures that move so fast and often, they're just hard to get a close look at. Dragonflies and butterflies seem to be unpredictable, but you can watch a dragonfly making circuits and stopping at the same twig or cattail. Butterflies are more chaotic. You may know the type of flower but not which on specifically. When in doubt, hang out by damp ground on a hot day. They come to drink.

I suppose these aren't great or grand revelations, just things I didn't know when I first began to wander slowly. It does make me feel just a bit more nature literate.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

... that pops into your head

Polynesian headdress velvet man-eating space flowers anenomes doesn't 'clematis' sound like an STD sunkist sunkissed eggplant babaganoosh a flower does bloom in the yard when there is no one to see it OGMO used to sit under these I need to install a new trellis that looks less like a kids' make believe what were they using it for it still flowers even on the ground cool roots sunny leaves makes a clematis happy as can be-ves I miss OGMO what will I do with the kids this weekend zoo or hike or feeding the ducks I wonder is clematis have a Chinese name time to practice some more and pet patient soft Yeti.
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Sunset Backlighting

It was a twelve hour away-from-home day. When I got back, all I wanted to do was veg out with the bugs in the grass as the sun was setting.

If I was of a mythical mindset, I might say the damselfly is a bamboo dryad.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008


This top one is a Green Hair Streak, very flashy in contrast to the reddish-brown soil. The bottom one I'm not sure of. When I first spotted it, I thought it was a cabbage white til I got closer and saw the different wing shape and more extensive black markings. It might be a Rocky Mtn Parnassius (Parnassius smintheus) .

My favorite butterfly ID site has moved. For anyone who likes to look these things up, the USDS site is now hosted by the Montana State University at:
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Nom Nom

Our tarantula, a Curly Hair (Brachypelma albopilosum), is generally slow and shy, reticent and reclusive, except when there's a cricket around. Then he/she moves too fast for us too see. He/she prefers the Petsmart large variety generally, but here deigned to nosh on a Reptilian Haven breed. We have gone out to the back yard and caught crickets and grasshoppers, but from the lackluster reaction I think they must taste fairly 'gamey'.

We tried to measure her/him recently, but she/he slowly crept away. It was like a dog that is doing the army crawl out of his 'time-out' spot. I think we can safely say two and a quarter inches for the body alone and about three, legs included.


There's a creek behind our building at work and there were a number of what look like rainbow trout to me. This one was maybe six inches long. It and another of the same length as well as some fingerlings were caught in a shallow area, probably due to the recent rain and changing water.

I'm not sure what's on it's head. It looks almost like a parasite, but the marks are very regular. Maybe it's some stress reaction to the very shallow water.
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Sun Smooched Flax

Not the favorite "cloudy day" lighting, but the shadows on the leaves give some nice texture. I love flax.
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Fly with a Yellow Jacket

These flies are pretty funny. Definitely convincing if you only get a quick glimpse, if you're too terrified to stick around, or if you don't know much about bugs. If this fly was a person though, I picture her as wearing nose glasses with that big bushy mustache and pretending she was Clark Kent.

I liked the interesting pose and the yellow and black pattern. Might make a great tattoo.
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cactus Flowers

The green part has a bit of the mole-nose appearance. The color though would easily attract humming birds for miles around.

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Invisible Water Snake

I wonder if it is a coincidence that the pattern of ripples looks so similar to a snake's skin.
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Spikey Bits

We saw many small irridescent green caterpillars (or maybe beetle larva, I'm not sure). There were also quite a few big spikey ones hanging around the campsite. I don't know the species of this one.

Funny thing I learned the other day, the Chinese word for lobster translates literally to "dragon shrimp", lóng xiā.

I'm not sure what brought that to mind.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hitchhiking During a Wind Strorm

Not great photos, but a new order to put on my buggy life list -- a snakefly. I noticed while driving what I thought was a house fly hitting the driver's side window. When I actually saw her, it was pretty obvious it wasn't a common fly. We were just coming into Walsenberg and I pulled over into an empty lot and took pictures on the upholstery and the edge of the rolled down window. It was too windy for her to want to fly away immediately. In looking her up, I found out that in North America, you'll generally find them in the Rocky Mountains. Cool.
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Gaudy Bee

I saw this little guy on one of the rock walls of our camp site. I think Dad would like the colorful, gaudy appearance of this five-eyed critter. I cropped an otherwise so-so picture in which the bee had moved its wings to the side and gave a good view of the pebbled surface of the exoskeleton. I wonder if the coloration comes from the layering of chitin rather than pigment (similar to some beetles and perhaps to some butterfly scales).
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Aster Dramaticus

Very common little flower, I see them on most of our Colorado hikes. The lighting was changing rapidly with wind blown clouds and swaying tree limbs above us. It was definitely the time to put a little distance between us and the big Dune. The kids didn't like full body exfoliation.
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Geometrid Moth

That's my current guess from (search for "geometrid" and you'll see a very similar moth.

Rowan spotted this one near the base of the Zapata Falls near the Great Sand Dunes.
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dandelions Dying

Chemical death rained down upon the yellow-headed weeds in the yard. I see part of a medusa-like skull emerging from our lawn or maybe some chloro-chuthulu-phyll tentacled creature. But that's just me.
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