August 24 — Summer’s End

One day I went down to the brush dump to get rid of the last few branches from the big thunderstorm.  I took the camera and found a few targets.

The Question Mark butterfly An unusual tiger beetle
Flying grasshopper

I noticed this band-winged grasshopper hovering about two feet off the ground.  I’ve seen this behavior before.    It landed near two others.  I think it was a male competing with another male for a female, and this flight is a display.

On the way out I noticed some Asian carp in the flooded field across the street.  That immediately gave me the idea to go bowfishing.  I returned with my old recurve that I’ve had since I was about 16, outfitted with a reel that’s relatively new.  I spotted one carp really close to the shoreline, and drilled it.  I got good penetration and pulled it up on shore.  Maybe I should have stopped there because I missed about 4 times after that.  The outfit doesn’t have a lot of power.  Anyway, I came back the next day and shot another one, as well as a couple of common carp.  Bowfishing is oodles of fun, but I seldom get to do it.  I think it’s been about 5 years since I tried it last.  It’s even better when striking a blow against invasive exotic species.

Asian carp, gasping at the surface. Asian carp, post-skewering.

Ron came to visit from Wisconsin.  We spent the afternoon out at Lowell’s fishing like we used to do when he lived here.  It was like old times.

Ron with a foot-longer Ron, Lowell , Joe–a three amigos reunion

Ron scored first with a bass, although Lowell caught the biggest bass, a 15-incher.  I caught three of typical size.

August 16 – Turtles & Bugs

Tuesday morning I met Dan for breakfast, followed by a photo session at my house where I was showing him the techniques I use in my insect studio.   I think I learned more from him.  He showed me how to use custom white balance, which compensates for the yellow cast that fluorescent lights tend to make.  It worked beautifully.  We shot a praying mantis and a mole cricket. 

The mantis The mole cricket

Afterward we went into the back yard to look for targets of opportunity.  I had a box turtle that I had found on a motorcycle ride earlier in the week.  It was the first I’ve ever seen in Lewis County, but it was crossing the road between two corn fields.

Box turtle Metallic fly

Ugly fly Long-horned grasshopper

Colorful fly

Dan conned me into letting him take some photos of me, then sent me this photoshopped image.  I love it.  I do like to photograph large insects!

Joe goes BIG.

Wednesday night at Lowell’s I caught 5 crappie, 4 bass and a bluegill.  The fish are on the bite in spite of the hot weather.  I had quite a mess to fillet when we were done, but it was well worth it.    We released the box turtle in the blackberry patch.  I think it’s safer there than on the roadway.

Quite a while ago I was invited to write a chapter of a book on the evolution of wasps.  After I turned it the final draft of the text, the editor asked if I could provide photos of some of the species carrying their prey.  I emailed back, “Hell, yeah!”  Not really, but words to that effect anyway.  But I didn’t have photos of all the species I wanted.  The deadline is not until December so I had all summer to collect them.  Friday I found myself with nothing pressing to do and decided to try to get a shot of a black and yellow mud dauber carrying a spider.  I knew it was a long shot.  First I’d have to find active nests, then spot one carrying prey, then get the shot.  I’d have to use flash because they always nest in dark places.  I looked in my boat house where I’d collected data last summer and I saw no live wasps.  I remembered seeing lots of the wasps at my friends the LaCounts’ earlier in the summer.  They have lots of barns and outbuildings that mud daubers love.  I called up Rhonda and she told me come right down.  She let me into her little garden shed, which had lots of nests and a few wasps buzzing around already.  I just put my regular flash on the camera and sat in the shed.  A wasp showed up carrying something that I thought was a mud ball.  But mud balls don’t have legs.  Having the door ajar seemed to disorient her a little, and she spent a lot of time crawling around the doorway.  That gave me many opportunities, even while waiting for the flash to charge.  In less than five minutes I had the shot.  I showed the LaCounts and they were equally surprised.  I went back in the afternoon to try for more, and with fancier remote flashes, but all I got was really hot, and nothing better than this:

Success!

August 10 — Heat wave

Tuesday night I made to Lowell’s for the first in a long time.  It was the hottest day of the year, with water temperature of 93.3 F.  We should have been skunked, but we killed them.  I caught 14 bass and a crappie.  Biggest bass was 2 lb.  I took the motorcycle out for the fishing trip.  It was warm, but not bad.  I had a Camelbak to drink from in any case.

This Tiger Swallowtail on Ironweed I shot from Lowell’s pontoon boat.

Male common whitetail; hard to avoid overexposure.

Late Sunday morning I took a bike ride around town, mostly for photography purposes.

We’re having a nice bloom of these Common Buckeyes. I think this bee had as much pollen as she could carry.

Clouded sulfurs are common, but not that easy to shoot.

August 2 – Florida Field Trip

It was time for the long-planned research trip to Florida with my two collaborators.  I drove to Cincinnati to meet up with Jon.  I got there early enough that we took a motorcycle ride.  We took his two Honda VFR 800 Interceptors, with his wife Sandy riding two-up with him, to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.  This is a major hang-out for motorcyclists.  It was my first time on a sport bike, but I have to say it was really fun once I got used to it.  The route to Rabbit Hash had lots of twisting, turning roads, which is probably why motorcyclists like it.  We also went past Big Bone Lick State Park

Rabbit Hash General Store Me and the VFR

The next morning we left early in Jon’s Ford Explorer.  We went through North and South Carolinas, which I had never visited before.  It’s beautiful country.  We met Chuck at Pacetti’s Marina, Campground and Fishing Resort near Orangedale, Florida.  Interestingly, there are many semi-permanent residents there.  We stayed in Chuck’s new Airstream trailer, which was very comfortable and accommodating.  We had steak the first night!

Monday morning we went out to Jill and Bill’s place, which had been a productive site for cicada killers in the past.  We saw several burrows in the stables and a few out in the sheds.  There were some males hanging around the stables, but only a couple of females at the sheds.  We marked one female.  We waited a long time just to see what might be there.  I walked around the horse pasture, photographing various things.  The horses provided some entertainment.

Anole lizards are common there, but I like them.   The Great Blue Skimmer was one of the most abundant dragonflies

Wild turkeys were all over this neighborhood. Eastern bluebird juveniles ate bugs in the pasture every morning.

This horse liked to roll around. Then she shook off the debris.

This is Lola, the miniature horse.  She’s curious. She was kind of like a big, herbivorous dog. I grew to like her.

Unknown digger wasp with volcano burrow. Carolina chickadee
Dragonfly eats wasp. Another anole giving me the eye.

Tuesday we excavated a couple of burrows.  It was neat because sometimes the wasp provisioned with 7 small cicadas, other times with two large ones.  We got the data we could, then packed up and left.  We moved to  Paynes Prairie State Park, near Gainesville.  It’s a beautiful place with lots of wildlife.

These huge orb weavers were everywhere. Four-spotted pennant.

Wednesday we went to a site in Newberry that has also produced well in the past.  We found one lawn that must have had a hundred burrows.    Most of them were all done, but a few showed signs of recent activity.  We hung out there for awhile, just to be sure we had an accurate assessment of the situation.  We found one female digging; I needed about 20 to do the experiment I wanted.  We bugged out after awhile. 

Our one digging female. Sandhill cranes.

Our research plans shelved, we decided to hang out at the park for a day.  I went on one hike that afternoon.  It was so hot I ended up taking the shortest route back to camp.  It was 95 F, humid, and the heat was reflecting off the sandy road.  Whew, did I sweat!

Bugs making sexy time. Grasshoppers are good food.

Palamedes swallowtails. Nice single specimen.

I had been hoping to shoot a lot of new butterflies that don’t occur back home, but this was the only one I got.  At least it’s a good one.

Tree frog beating the heat. Anole extending dewlap.

9-banded Armadillo rooting in the leaves. Running away from me.

Jon and I went on a run Thursday morning.  I hadn’t run in at least a month.  I did OK for about a mile, then side stitch kicked in.  The last mile was tough, and I had to take some walking breaks.  It was another sweat fest.  We took some hikes around the park, checking out the visitor’s center and big lookout tower.  We saw the wild horses and some sandhill cranes in the distance.  When we got down we hiked to where the cranes were and I got some closer pics (above).  I should mention that we twice ate at a local barbecue place that was outstanding.  Twice I went back to the little boardwalk where all the wildlife seemed to be hanging out.  That’s where I got most of the good images.  As usual, click through to see larger versions of the pics, plus a few more I haven’t posted here.

Jon and I drove back to Cincinnati on Friday, while Chuck headed back for Pennsylvania.  We got in at a reasonable time, and decided to go to a nightclub to see a blues band with Jon’s wife and daughter.  I hadn’t heard live music in awhile, and it wasn’t a bad band.  We left at the first break because we’re old and have early bed times.

Saturday Jon and I went on a long motorcycle ride.  It was a blast.  The weather was perfect, overcast and 70s to 80s.  We got a few drops of rain but not enough to matter.  The roads were interesting, very curvy and winding through lovely countryside with lots of horse farms.  The bikes were awesome.  I learned to lean it into the turns better, and I found that when passing, it had a tremendous amount of acceleration, even at high speed.  Sport bikes are very aerodynamic, so they’re very smooth at speed (unlike my bike).    We ended up at Rabbit Hash at lunch time, so I had a hot dog and an ice cream.  My nutritious meal.  We stopped at the Kentucky Speedway, where a few cars were being tested.  Dang they’re loud.  It had just been announced that day that they had landed a Sprint Cup race.  We went up into Indiana to meet Jon’s wife and daughter at a winery.  I had a small sample of Concord that was really good, or at least much better than the stuff I make!  We went through Oldenburg, which is where the order of Franciscan Sisters that founded Marian College is located.  It has some great old buildings, including the church and school.  We also stopped briefly at the Whitewater Canal, a historic structure from Indiana’s past.

At the whitewater canal.

In the background you can see Jon and behind him the old locks, which appear to have been hand operated.  We covered 260 miles that day, and probably spent more time in the saddle than I ever have before.  It was a nice, little mini-vacation. 

Sunday I drove home, stopping in Crawfordsville, Indiana to assess the needs of Stacey’s Mom’s house.  We’ll be heading there later in the week.