June 28 – Fire & lightning

A week ago, after we had gone to Galesburg and back, we found we had dodged a tornado that went through the parts of Iowa where we had just been.  As we were breathing our collective sigh of relief, another cell brewed up and headed for our county.  We were paged out for stormspotting duty, but were too late to be posted to anywhere in particular.  Stacey ran the radio while I hung around the firehouse and took pictures of the spectacular lightning storm we were treated to.  Although tornadoes were spotted, the cell mostly skirted north of us, and we got just a bit of rain.  There was actually clear sky to the south.

I think this is the best one.  Click through for more. I haven’t tried lightning in a long time.  I learned a lot. 

One night we caught Savannah napping with Gretchen on the couch. 

The favorite sport of both.

One day about noon I was paged out to go to the firehouse.  We were then told that we had to do sandbagging.  Oh, joys.  The city was putting the gates in the levy, and they need about 6 pick-up loads of sandbags to seal them up.  That’s how I spent the rest of the day.  At least I had the experience of 2008 to help me.

I found this big scarab on the back porch. We found this beetle larva in the sand pile.

One day I went out to my friend John’s to photograph butterflies before we went fishing.  There weren’t many butterflies, but dragonflies were in abundance. 

Halloween pennant Widow skimmer, male
Slaty skimmer–first I’ve seen it in Lewis County. Blue dasher
obelisking

We only fished for about a half hour before we were rained out.  Another storm came through, and the lightning set ablaze the house of someone we know.  Being new, I wasn’t allowed to help much, so I took pictures.  The mammatus clouds afterward were kind of interesting.

They look bad, but they actually indicate that the worst has passed.

One day I was riding around downtown and noticed some old cars parked across from the BBQ restaurant.

All three lined up. Sepia tone makes it look period appropriate.

They were all Fords from the 1930s, I believe.  Click through to more images of the other cars.  They were very clean and perfectly restored.

I finally took the kayak out for its maiden voyage of the year.  Since all the streams are too high, I went to Wakonda State Park.  I didn’t catch anything until I was trolling across the lake and picked up a little crappie on a Rat-L-Trap.  I only stayed out a couple of hours.  It was fun to just get out and paddle.  I went out in the back yard and got some bug pics.

Bumblebee in flight–yet another. Great Spangled Fritillary

I’ve been wanting to get a good shot of this butterfly.  Sadly, this specimen was faded and torn up, but you can’t tell in the reverse silhouette here.

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June 21 – Hot, hot, hot

It’s been an interesting week.  Tuesday afternoon I went down to the MONEP meeting in St. Louis.  I checked the weather carefully before taking the motorcycle.  It was a nice ride down.  The meeting was a good one, as the presenter talked mostly about equipment he uses for wildlife photography.  It was twilight when I left, and traffic was light.  I hadn’t gotten far before I saw the large, dark cloud.  I hit rain, but only for about 10 minutes.  It was enough to soak my legs and shoes.  The old leather jacket held up pretty well.  It was nice on the way home on 61: cool, no wind, no traffic.  I was impressed with the coverage of my headlight on high beam.  It’s better than the average car!

Saturday I was going for a little ride, and had gone downtown to gas up the bike.  I saw Medic 1 go out, then the fire truck.  I thought I’d better follow along in case they needed me.  It ended up being an interesting rescue call out in the countryside.  I even helped a little.  I’m only a provisional member, but if there’s not enough of the crew in town, I can serve as a warm body.

I got out in the back yard one day to see what I could find.

Black-eyed Susan opening up. Sacrificing my blood for the action shot.
Strange spider. Colorful homopteran.
Grasshopper nymph.

One day I left Gretchen in the laundry room (her usual jail) while I was out doing something.  The bathroom door must have been open a hair.  She obviously pushed it open.  This is what an entire roll of toilet paper looks like shredded.

Gretchy-poo. 

On the Sunday morning bike ride we saw a coyote.  It actually paralleled us for about a mile.  It was pretty far away, though, and I had no camera on me.  I got in one solid day of yard work, but otherwise it’s been too hot or rainy to do much.

June 14 – A gem of an insect

I took the Sunday morning bike ride, this time with Rhonda LaCount.  It wasn’t raining when we left, but “isolated showers” were predicted.  We hadn’t gone too far before said showers began, light at first, but heavier at times. Fortunately, I had not brought my good camera, and my back-up camera stayed dry in its pack.  While going down Sunflower Road a fawn jumped in front of us.  It still had spots.  It ran ahead.  I was feeling pretty good, so I pedaled after it.  I told Rhonda I was going to tackle it.  When I got really close, it turned aside into the ditch.  I should have stopped and tried to get a picture, but I had lots of momentum and it was still raining.  My legs felt pretty good that day.  The long ride of the previous week and the short run I took with Savannah and Gretchen on Wednesday must have helped. 

Gretchen was playing with a bit of something in the living room one day.  I went to pick it up and it turned out to be a jewel wasp.  I’ve been trying to photograph one of these for years.  So maybe the dog’s a retriever!  I refrigerated it and took it down to my insect studio, subjecting it to my flash and macro lens.  It warmed up and started moving pretty fast.  By sheer effort I got a couple of decent shots.

Jewel wasp

Now you know how it got it’s name.  They’re gorgeous, about a centimeter long, and members of the family Chrysididae.    Usually, they’re in a shaded place and moving fast, which makes photography nearly impossible.  They are also known as cuckoo wasps, as they complete their life cycle by laying eggs in the nests of other wasps (just as cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests).  They are also known for their rock hard exoskeleton, which explains why Gretchen hadn’t killed or mangled it.  Click through to see three more (admittedly similar) photos of the wasp.  Good dog!

We had a successful gallery opening last Friday at the Canton Area Arts Council Gallery.  A good number of people showed up to see my camera club’s exhibit.  We had a lot of our members place works in the show, and a great diversity of subjects, except portraits.  It hangs until June 26.  Gallery hours are from10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 3 p.m.
Sundays.

June 8 – Flowerfest

When we are able, we like to take Gretchen for walks.  She loves to run and explore.  Savannah let her explore the muddy shoreline of a pond, where she rolled around, resulting in the dirtiest dog I’ve ever seen.  Remember that she has white hair.

And some of the muck had come off by this time.

One of my camera club friends brought me a live dragonfly.  I wasn’t too excited until I got it out and found that it was a Cobra Clubtail, a species I’ve only seen twice before.  I chilled it in the refrigerator and took many photos in my insect studio.

Head on. Dorsal view.

Sunday morning I took a bike ride.  It was supposed to be a brief one, but my shortcut was flooded, the Wyaconda being far out of its banks.  I took the longer route and I’m glad I did.  Not only did I get a better workout, I saw lots of things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Amish colt and mare. Purple milkweed.  I’ve only seen it in the field guide before.

I’ll be going back for some seeds of this milkweed.  It is gorgeous stuff.

Bobolink. Field of spiderwort.

I’ve only seen the Bobolink once before.  There were a couple at this spot.  I may go back with a longer lens.  I will definitely try to go back to the spiderwort field, as most of the blossoms weren’t open yet, and I’d like better lighting.

Spiderwort up close. Flooded field.

Monday I went to the La Grange garden club meeting where I gave a talk on dragonflies.  Incredibly, I wasn’t the only male there!  And the other guy was a beekeeper.  After the talk we toured the gardens of a couple of the ladies who live in La Grange.  Of course, they had great flowers.  Fortunately for me, it was a rare overcast but bright day, which makes for perfect flower photography.  Insects turn out well too.  I took far too many to post here, so click through if you’d like to see more.

Syrphid fly White-headed fly.  I think I heard it say, “Help me, help me.”

Common whitetail female Widow skimmer female

Sweat bee with droplet Unidentified insect. 
Really, I don’t know what this thing is.
Red admiral, ventral view Red admiral, dorsal view
(uncropped)

Group of lilies. Yellow lily

King of the Dogloo Spring Azure
Hollyhocks Yellow flowers

Damselfly Gloria’s rooster crowing.  This bad boy had 4-inch spurs.

Pink rose Red rose

Big rose Hydrangea

Bumblebee in flight

May 31 – Memorial Day

Savannah and I have been taking Gretchen for walks.  We often let her play around the edges of the ponds.  She doesn’t swim yet, but I’m not forcing the issue.  Sometimes I’ll take the camera for targets of opportunity, which usually end up being the dog.

She smiles for the camera.

Gretchen barks at a duck.

The duck is unimpressed.

Bumblebee takes off.

Gray Hairstreak.  Butterfliy populations look better this year.

Eastern Meadowlark chirps at us.

She turns on a dime!

She leaps!

She flies!

I went out to Lowell’s for fishing and caught about four bass on a fairly nice day. 

The first crop of goslings is about half grown.  Another is on the way.

Jade clubtail

Tree swallow.

I took the first bike ride of the summer on Sunday morning.  I hadn’t gone far when I spotted…

…a big, black rat snake.  

Look closely.

I thought this was the most bizarre wasp I had ever seen, until I got home and looked at this image.  The eyes, antennae and mouthparts are all wrong.  The little white haltere (near the center of its body) is a vestigial hindwing.  That makes it a fly, not a wasp at all.  Clever mimic.

The old iron bridge over the Wyaconda.

Harvestman on columbine flower.

Vinegaroon

People keep asking me what a vinagaroon is.  It is an arachnid, and similar to a scorpion.  It has no stinger, but can spray acetic acid. 

Joe LaCount came over Saturday morning and helped me put the stock pipes on the motorcycle.  OK, really he did all the work and I mostly watched.  The results were better than I expected.  It is super quiet now.  We took a test ride out to the park.  On Memorial Day morning Stacey and I took a ride out to the 18 Wheeler for breakfast.  It had rained earlier and I got a nice spraying of dirty water on the bike.  The restaurant has been remodeled, and the gas station converted to a big truck stop.    There’s the cab of a Peterbilt inside the restaurant, and the kitchen is a trailer.  A Harley hangs from the ceiling.  The food was only average, and it took forever to get it.  We had a nice, cool ride home.