Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Got Goosed Monday

Late Monday afternoon I got a call from GG that the Canada Geese were down at the pond. Of course I grabbed the camera and hurried over to get a few shots.

Some years the geese are regular visitors showing up at certain times of the day to feed along the banks and cruise the pond. Normally it would be limited groups or maybe a family with the mother and father and 4-6 young ones. Some years we get a flock with up to 25-30 geese coming. They particularly like to ease over intothe nearby pasture to feed on the grass. Oddly enough the horses are usually tolerant of just a few geese, but when there are too many I have sometimes seen the horses actually slowly herd the geese out of their pasture. It's their grass after all.

This year the geese haven't been around as much it seems. For several weeks during the spring we would see geese daily traveling back and forth between other lakes and ponds in the area. Normally there would be just 2 at the time, but sometimes up to 8-10. Only seldom did they stop for a visit, but at times they would drop by the pond across the road to feed in the grassy areas around the pond. Then for maybe 6-8 weeks we didn't see them even flying over which seemed a bit unusual. We even discussed their absence, but we didn't really make a connection to the probable reason until we saw these visit.

It is likely the local geese weren't traveling around because they were busy with their new offspring. The mother normally tends the eggs during incubation while the father tends to stay around to guard the nest and family. For some time after hatching the goslings are not able to fly and take extended trips so it is only logical we would not see them. A little research revealed that during the spring/summer (and/or during the incubation and early weeks of the new goslings) the adults of some species even lose their flight feathers causing them to remain in the area around their nest. Of course we don't have a significant number of geese that nest in our area as most continue north into Canada for breeding.

Now all of a sudden the geese had reappeared. Evidently they had been there for some time when GG happened to spot them. Parts of the pond had so many small white feathers around the edge that it looked like a pillow had exploded.

This particular group looked like it could be a family group, but the younger ones were nearly grown as they were almost as large as the leader which I presume was the father. It is a bit difficult to tell the males from the females as they are almost identical. The male tends to be a little larger and heavier, but the difference is only about 10%. The leader of this group was definitely the decision maker and all the others just followed along as you can see below.
I took a few photo's but was hesitant to approach the geese too closely as I wanted them to become at ease with having a human around the pond hoping they would continue to visit in the coming days. They stayed around for quite some time before deciding to take flight and check out some other location. Or perhaps it was just time to go home for the evening. (Check out the character on the left looking around. Just like with humans there is so often one silly goose that wants to mess up a good group photo.)

Oh yeah. The green herons were back for a visit Sunday. We had all 3 of them this time. They didn't stay too long as there were human visitors around, but I did get close enough to get a few shots of them. Perhaps this one was too busy concentrating on the dragonflies on the
stick nearby trying to figure out how he could score a quick snack. I guess he didn't pay as much attention to me as he normally does. (Although the photo doesn't show them well there are at least 3 dragonflies of different types on that stick. That's not a common sight to have 3 of them perched so close to one another.)


Monday, July 28, 2008

Damsels Take Center Stage This Monday

It seems to me that I take many more photo's of dragonflies than damselflies. I think that is because the dragonflies are more prominent immediately around the pond. Most of the damselflies I see at the pond are the smaller ones and they tend to visit areas of the pond that are in the shade. They are much more prevalent in the later afternoon and early evening when most of the dragonflies have left.

When I leave the pond and venture into the woods and down the streams nearby, however, I run into a much wider variety of damselflies and fewer dragonflies. The damsels tend to prefer shady type areas dappled with a bit of sun. Many of them also prefer to perch on leaves and blades of grass compared to the dragons who often go for more sturdy perches such as sticks and limbs.

When the damsels perch on leaves in a spot of sunlight they provide excellent opportunities for some interesting shots. This is one of my favorite photo's. The dark wings and body are almost invisible in this small version of the photo, but I find the shadow it casts on the leaves enchanting. (Open in a larger view for better look at the damselfly itself.)

Damselflies also tend to vary more in size and wing characteristics than the dragonflies around the pondand fields here. Many are even much smaller than this golden beauty and have amazing arrays of colors.

And, as an added bonus, damsels are often seen in unusual positions with their bodies bent at one or more of the several joints. Often this is related to mating or the laying of eggs. I'm working on getting some video of both damsels and dragons to share with you in future posts so be sure to check back with us. I've already shot several test videos and I'm improving, but I want to wait until I get some great takes before posting them.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Just Hanging Out

I was a bit stumped by this week's 'Hanging' theme for PhotoHunt because the photo I wanted to use happens to be one of my favorite photo's. Unfortunately it was of another button bush and since I used that plant for last week's theme I didn't want to over do it. Then I thought of this photo and realized it should fit the theme nicely.

Many little creatures perch on flowers to feed, but in some cases the flowers may protrude in all directions so what else can they do but try 'hanging' upside down to get a meal. I'm not sure of the species, but it resembles an Appalachian Brown (Satyrodes appalachia) except the coloring is a little more purple than most of the photo's I've seen online.

I went back through some of my other photographs and found a couple more with hanging insects that I thought were interesting. Here's one of a damselfly hanging from a slender blade of grass. Normally they perch on top of a blade of grass or on a leaf. Some damselflies lay their eggs in a slit they make in a blade or leaf over or near water so you will sometimes see them in unusual positions when they perch. I find it interesting that they appear to use their front legs to actually grasp their perch while the larger and longer back legs are normally used for balance. The back legs have little spikes or hooks that penetrate into the perch to hold them in place.

And speaking of hanging in unusual positions check out the one below.

Here we find two damselflies in a circular mating embrace while hanging from the end of a stick out over the water. (CAUTION: Do not try this at home. These are professional damselflies taking advantage of over 250 million years of evolution in the perfecting of this technique.)

Weekly Theme - 'Hanging'

Post edited to add the following:

I noticed from the comments that several visitors really like the second photo, the one of the blue damselfly. If you happen to like it perhaps you would like to check out some of the other posts about damselflies and dragonflies. Just check out the labels list near the top in the sidebar for Dragon/Damselflies. If you don't have time today (and I know many of you photo hunters are like me, trying to visit as many of the theme posts as you can) then perhaps you might want to do what I do when I run across a blog I want to spend more time on in the PhotoHunt. Bookmark us and come back later for a more leisurely visit. We would love to see you again anytime.


Friday, July 25, 2008

I've Been Tagged (In the Nicest Kind of Way)

I frequently check up on the blogs of all our special visitors to the pond and imagine my surprise when I found that one of the most special had given me (or maybe I should say our blog) a special award. Rose (Rose DesRochers - World Outside my Window) has given us the 'SMILE AWARD" for the smile some of our photo's bring to her.

Thank you Rose for the award.Thank you also for all the help you give to new (and old) bloggers at BloggerTalk and of course for the smiles you bring us so often with your posts on your own blog.

Here are the rules for the award
1. The recipient must link back to the award’s creator (
2. You must post these rules if you receive the award.
3. You must chose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself
4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award, as posted by Mere.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient.
6. You must create a post sharing your win with others.
7. You must thank your giver.

Characteristics for the Smile Award:
1. Must display a cheerful attitude. (not necessarily at all times–we are all human)
2. Must love one another
3. Must make mistakes
4. Must learn from others
5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world
6. Must love life
7. Must love kids or animals

In keeping with the rules I would like to pass the award on to a few fellow bloggers that often bring a smile to me. For now I'm going to post just two of the those I want to pass along and save the other 3. I will be passing them along to the surprise 'smiles' I get from blogs I visit in the next few days.

Avril Brand For the smiles (and amazement) her animal portraits always bring to me

Nature Mama - For the great photo's and the excitement that comes through in her commentary that so often includes neat little tid-bits of information on her subjects

Now as an aside I thought I would leave you with at least one photo. We found this monstrous moth just a couple of nights ago on the window screen clamoring to get to the kitchen lights. It appears to be a Royal Walnut Moth. The Royal Walnut is best known for its caterpillar known as the Hickory Horned Devil due to its menacing appearance in the final stages of development. The caterpillar can grow to over 5 inches long.

The species does all it's eating in the caterpillar stage. The adult lacks a functioning mouth and does not eat which dictates its short life span at that stage. It usually mates the 2nd day after emergence and lays its eggs at dusk on the 3rd day.

And always remember this. A smile is one of the few things you have that you can give away to everyone you meet, but still have an endless supply for yourself.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A New Home For "Blogspot" And Pals

Since this is my very first time to post, I would like to introduce myself. I am GG, owner of the pond that Baker has been telling you about. Baker has been trying to get me to write for some time but I have been bashful about doing so. However, I thought now that you might like to have an up-date on our little Red Ear Slider (RES) turtles that Baker has captured (or rescued) from the pond.

You may recall the details of how we acquired our mascot, Blogspot, and how he got his name. (If not you can catch up on them here and here.) I set up a vivarium in a small (5 gal.) aquarium which Baker gave me to use as a temporary home for our new mascot.

A few days later he captured another little RES from the pond. We named that one “Red Spot” because of the bright red ear spots. Within a couple of days Baker caught yet another tiny hatchling RES the same size as Blogspot. I call that one “Yellow Spot” because it has no red as yet on the sides of its head.
Though I hadn’t really thought about becoming a ‘mama’ to three baby turtles, we just didn’t have the heart to put them back in the pond, so I put the other two in the tank with “Blogspot”. As the days went by we saw that it was too small an area for three turtles.

Baker came over with a 10 gallon aquarium which was no longer being used. We acquired some pebbles, some rocks for them to sit and bask on, greenery for them to eat and to hide under, and we made them a new vivarium.

Now BlogSpot, Red Spot, and Yellow Spot are doing very well in their new home. They are eating well, and happily basking in the artificial sunshine from the lamp which is over rocks in the shallow end. They have even become such chow hounds that when they see my hand over the water they know that I am going to drop the food pellets for them to eat and they grab them heartily.

I will keep you posted from time to time on our three little green-backs and how they are getting along.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Again - More Dragons and Damsels

I've been lucky when taking pictures of dragonflies and damselflies this summer. We have a wide variety and quantity of dragons and damsels around the pond and the streams nearby. If I miss the shot on one I just move along and there will likely be another opportunity just a few feet away. Or I can sometimes just sit in the prime areas and the dragonflies will come near enough to photograph.

Some of the species are more timid than others and spook more easily so it is hard to approach them for a good shot. It seems that some, however, are not overly concerned about a big human as long as I don't move too suddenly or too close. And some even seem to pose for the photo.

I've often had dragons and damsels land on me while I am taking photo's. I was shooting this guy down by the pond and after I got several shots I decided to try putting my hand below him to provide a perspective as to his size.

As I dropped my hand down below the stick on which he was perched he decided to hop off the stick onto my hand. Of course I had the camera in my other hand and was able to get a couple of shots before he left evidently to go looking for a little snack.

On another occasion I was down next to the water's edge taking photo's of this colorful Calico Pennant when I noticed the constant flitting of a damselfly around where I was standing.

I continued taking the photo's of the Calico but all of a sudden the damsel found that my sneaker made a good place to land. (I was glad I had on a decent looking pair of sneakers rather than that grubby old pair I normally wear down to the pond.)

I've had several other instances of dragons and damsels selecting various places on my body for a landing spot, but most didn't stay long when I started shifting the camera around to take a photo. Just a few days ago a beautiful damselfly landed on the hand with which I was holding the camera.

Sometimes they land on my shoulder or upper arm. I frequently wonder if perhaps they have landed on my shoulders or back and I never knew. I'm still waiting for one to land on my nose. Now that might make for an interesting shot. Or not.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

What IS That?

I really lucked out on this week's 'What IS That?' theme for PhotoHunt. It just so happened that I had made a post with almost that exact title only a few days before I started participating in PhotoHunt. Since at that time no one took a guess on what my photo was of I decided I would wait for this week's theme to post the photo again and then provide the answer.

It's not too hard to guess what it likely is in general, but if you are like I was you probably don't know its specific name.
Now play fair and guess (at least to yourself) before you click Read More to open the rest of the post and find out what it actually is.

I'm sure many of you guessed it was some kind of plant or the flower of a plant. If you did you are correct. This is the flower of the buttonbush plant. Buttonbush is an aquatic shrub that is natural through most of the eastern USA and all the way across the south. It is hardy and grows as far north as Nova Scotia. The plant typically grows around ponds, lakes, and streams or where the soil remains moist year-around. There are 3 or 4 of the shrubs along the pond.

The bush itself is not all that pretty, but it's flower gives it a special charm all its own.

The pincushion look of the flower is unique and the honey-like fragrance makes it a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. In fact the plant is sometimes known as the Honeyball.

Most of our buttonbushes happen to be shaded by trees along the banks so they produce a limited number of flowers. Still, they are very interesting to watch as the flowers progress through their growth cycle from small bumpy green balls to white before they then develop the white pincushion appearance. As they continue to mature their colors evolve with portions becoming a brown or orange and even almost red in some cases. Evidently there are several varieties of the bush as the placement of the balls varies among several bushes we have.

The bush provides a wide variety of benefits within its environment. Ducks and other water fowl love the seed of the bush. Many birds find its dense foliage a safe haven and a suitable nesting site. It is a fast growing shrub and its roots provide a good erosion control tool.

Buttonbush plants are good for a naturalized setting in soggy soils, quick growing, and can be pruned ruthlessly if required. We also have another bush away from the pond that has grown much larger and produces a great number of the flowers, but I think I''ll save that one for a later post.

Weekly Theme - 'What IS That?


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"That's a minnow???"

Since our pond is relatively small not many of the fish grow to a large size. It is doubtful that any really large bass will ever be caught. I've never heard of anyone catching one over 3-4 pounds in the pond. The bream type fish (bluegills, etc.) can grow to a respectable size, however. And the catfish? Well, that is for another post.

There are, however, other fish in the pond that appear monstrous compared to the bass and bream. And, they are actually minnows.

This fish is a grass carp and is the largest member of the minnow family. Grass carp are often added to a pond or lake to help control the growth of unwanted vegetation in the water. They are herbivorous and do not feed on the other creatures in the pond. The grass carp are treated to be sterile to prevent them from reproducing and upsetting the natural ecosystem. Normally adding 2-5 grass carp per acre will keep vegetation under control.

Grass carp were added soon after the pond was built. For several years we would see the last two of them swimming together.
Two years ago we started seeing only one and never two at the same time so we figured one had died. So, last year we added 3 new grass carp, each about 8"-10" long.

Grass carp grow very fast in their first year if adequate food is available. In just one year they grew to probably 24"-28" and maybe 15-20 pounds.

It's difficult to see exactly how large they actually are until you see them from the right angle.

Interestingly both of the older grass carp showed up this spring. Evidently they had been hanging out in the deeper water beyond our view. Recently, however, they have disappeared again. I'm hoping they will show up again and I can get some shots of them. They are really impressive being at least 50% larger than the 3 younger ones. I imagine the largest one weighs 30 pounds or more.


Monday, July 14, 2008

The Monday Dragon and Damsel Report - The Local Singles Bar

It seems I've been familiar with dragonflies and damselflies all my life. They are very common during the summer where I was raised. I always knew they were normally closely associated with water sources such as ponds, streams, and lakes, but that one could often see them some distance from an evident source of water. As I have watched the dragonflies and damselflies during this summer I have learned a lot about their habits and life cycles through observation and research. Some of what I learned is very specific to dragons and damsels, but much applies to the broader base of our natural environment.

I have taken to looking for dragonflies in other places nearby. I've checked around ponds and lakes and other water sources, but I was a bit surprised when I didn't find nearly as many dragons and damsels as I expected. Only one place of the several I visited came close to having as many dragons and damsels as our little pond. Eventually I figured out what I think is the basic explanation.

Just like all living creatures dragons and damsels have specific requirements to complete their life cycle. By chance of design and the seasonal weather our little pond just happens to provide most of the requirements better than some of the others I visited. Comparing it to the pond across the road is a perfect example.

Both ponds were built around the same time, but there are obvious differences due to the lay of the land, water sources, design, and normal recurring maintenance around the pond. One would think, however, that being so close they would have somewhat similar populations of dragons and damsels. Such is not the case. Our pond has probably 20 times as many dragonflies and a much wider variety. Why? It's because of procreation.

The pond across the road was beautifully designed and is well maintained. It is kept clear of most vegetation around the perimeter except at the head of the pond (the shallow end). Grass grows right up to the edge of the pond and is kept trimmed. There are two important factors though. The water level in the pond remains much more consistent and along the edges the drop off into the pond is much more steep. As a result there is little in the way of plants such as tall grasses growing at the edge of the pond in shallow water. Plus, the lack of a variety of trees and bushes directly around the pond means less plant matter such as leaves will fall into the pond and eventually float to the sides.

Our pond is different. All around the pond the banks slope down into the pond more gradually. Also, the water level fluctuates much more widely throughout the year. This gives plants around the edge of the pond a chance to grow at certain times of the year only to be covered up later when the winter rains raise the water level. Plus, we get much wider variety of plant matter falling into the pond and eventually drifting to accumulate along the edges.

Most dragonflies and damselflies lay their eggs in water primarily in or near vegetation. Dragons and damsels typically spend the greatest portion of their life in the water in the form of naiads which may go through several molts prior to emerging as the dragons and damsels we see. During their time in the water they need a variety of vegetation and plant material in which to hunt for prey and also to hide from predators.

Evidently we have more dragonflies because male dragonflies hang out around the primary breeding grounds waiting for females to show up. The pond provides not only a good supply of various insects they need to feed on, but also a preferred spot to lay eggs. I guess our little pond is like the local dragonfly singles bar, honeymoon suite, maternity hospital, nursery, and food market all rolled into one.

Let's raise a toast to bio-diversity and the importance of even the smallest ecosystems which give us creatures such as this.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Support Of A Different Sort

This week's theme for PhotoHunt is 'support'. Luckily I could think of several potential subjects, but one in particular kept coming back to me. I've always been amazed by the ability of some insects and spiders to walk on water. This recent photo of a water spider came to mind. Actually I think it is more accurately called a fishing spider, but the photo is not detailed enough for me to make a good determination. If I'm not mistaken the true water spiders actually live in the water and can swim underwater. Regardless, this spider uses the surface tension of water to 'support' itself on the water. It's legs are 'hydrophobic' meaning they resist being wetted by water. It's somewhat like wax on a car making the water bead into droplets.

I don't normally go looking for spiders to take photo's of, but sometimes they are just too obvious to pass up. I do watch them from time to time as they scurry across the water. They are amazingly fast. Some insects/spiders can move across the water at a rate of up to 30 body lengths per second. That's maybe 4 inches per second. Perhaps that doesn't sound that fast, but compared to the fastest sprinters who can run about 5 body lengths per second it rates pretty good.

A few days ago I witnessed an unusual maneuver by one of the large spiders. He was easing along when all of a sudden - sproing - he made a vertical leap straight up in the air as though he had been shocked. When he hit the water again he was off in a flash. Presumably this is an evasive action when the spider is startled or senses a predator such as a trout or bass approaching from underneath.

There are not a lot of these spiders at the pond, at least not the size of these. Most often they are not actually on the water, but resting on twigs, grass, or leaves at the edge of the pond. Evidently it takes a lot of energy to walk on the water as the spider has to remain tensed to distribute its weight effectively.

Of course, where you find big spiders you usually find baby spiders. (I presume these are spiders but they may be some type of water insect. It's hard to tell in the photo.)

Oddly most of the readily visible spiders are found along the northern bank of the pond. I'm presume that has something to do with the type of vegetation in or near the water and the amount of sun the area gets throughout the year. Also, more of the floating debris such as leaves, pollen, and such tends to wind up on the northern bank.

When you think about it, walking on water is a pretty neat trick. It's not just the issue of remaining out of the water, but also how do you move. Movement is all about action and reaction. Most walking creatures require friction to move themselves from one place to another. Your foot is held to the surface you are on by friction and your muscles propel you forward. Imagine standing on slick ice and trying to start running and you can see what I mean.

Well, since the spiders legs are hydrophobic and just barely actually 'touch' the water, how do they move without the tip of the leg slipping? The way I understand it the water spider does not exactly use that same type of action that we do. It uses an action similar to rowing. It actually pushes the slight dimple its legs produce in the surface tension of the water backwards which moves its body forward like an oar pushes the water back and the boat forward. For faster movement, such as moving to escape a potential predator, the legs actually penetrate the surface tension slightly, but the spider is so light its forward motion keeps its legs from sinking too deeply.


For you PhotoHunt visitors I have a little post script. I'm sure many of you may have experienced this same type thing frequently. Last week's theme was 'pointed'. Just after I had made my theme photo post I happened to take a photo that would have been great for pointed. The photo is not of the best quality as the subject was about 10 feet up in a tree and it was getting late in the day, but I'm sure you will appreciate the 'pointed' aspect it displays. If anyone has an idea what this is I would like to know.

Weekly Theme - Support


Friday, July 11, 2008

Our Neighbor's Flower Garden

I think I have told you before that there is a pond directly across the road from our pond. One thing that always draws our attention to the pond at this time of year is the bright flower garden next to it. The garden is not overly large but the colors and size of the flowers makes them visible from a long distance. I recently asked the neighbor if I could take some photo's of the butterflies and hummingbirds that frequent the flowers.

On my first couple of visits there were not too many butterflies willing to pose for a photograph
so I thought I would share some of the colorful plants and flowers with you. These are just a few of many varieties.

I think the flowers speak for themselves so there's not much I can add except that I think the last photo is one of my favorites. And I want to thank our neighbor for letting us share them with you.
Of course I plan to make a few more trips to the other pond to capture a shot of a butterfly or two and more of those great flowers.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fish Beds Are Not For Sleeping In

One advantage of the pond being rather small is we can see so much of the life of the animals in and around the pond. A perfect example is the fish beds. When the water level drops during the summer sections of the breeding beds become visible. One particular bed is not too far from the shore providing us with an excellent view of the beds where they deposit their eggs.

Although we can easily see the mature fish in this bed it is difficult to take a good photograph due to the reflections on the water. We can count at least 35 distinct bedding circles here and it looks like most of them are occupied.

Fortunately with a digital camera and a few image adjustments we can give you a better idea of what they look like. Here is the same photo after a few clicks of the mouse. Check out how many of the circles have a single fish near the center. Each fish swims slowly around its own circle and only darts out from time to time to confront any unwelcome intruders. They will chase off bass and even the grass carp which are probably 5-10 times longer and 20 times as heavy.

I think the fish on the bed are mostly bream type fish. Most are probably blue-gills. If you open the photo in a new window or tab you will also see that there are some bass patrolling the area and one in the lower right-hand side actually going between two of the bedding circles.

Taking all those photo's trying to get one to show the fish on the beds provided a few nice images to our surprise. With a few adjustments I think some of them proved to be interesting with or without the fish.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Creature (human creatures) Comforts

At one time the pond lacked any creature (human creatures) comforts. Over the past few years we have added various seating arrangements such as benches and swings. Some are permanent and some are movable allowing them to be shifted to take advantage of shade or sun depending on the time of year. For 'planned' events, such as the cub scout outing, we will normally bring out some tables and extra chairs and perhaps erect a temporary canopy. We realized, though, we needed some more permanent tables that could stay at the pond year-around.

A few weeks ago GG and I procured some used cable spools to use as tables. (You probably guessed where we got them. At a yard sale. You gotta love yard sales and flea markets.) These tables are not good for sitting at to eat. They are too tall and of course the bottom precludes pulling a chair up close. They are, however, quite handy for other purposes such as a place to put all the tools and such should we have a cookout by the pond.

One great thing about them is they are relatively easy to move. Just flip it up, roll it to wherever it's needed, flip it back down, and there you are. This also makes them easy to store in the edge of the woods where they just sort of blend in and disappear until they are needed again.

Best of all they were cheap and should be relatively impervious to our weather as long as they are painted every year or so. We finally got around to giving them the first coat of paint a few days ago. (Well, they painted them. I was away and missed most of the fun.)

And, the spools have an added benefit. They were immediately recognized by the kids (and a few adults) as great toys. We even have races from time to time. Well, they do. I keep my feet on the ground.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

In Nature It Is Not Impolite To Point

I took a few trips around the pond trying to find something 'pointed' for this week's PhotoHunt theme. I had a few ideas, but they didn't seem to come across in the photographs. Finally I got what I needed. And along with it I got a little education. At first glance this pine cone may appear to be only moderately 'pointed', but a closer look reveals the growth of the 'pointed' spikes on each of the scales of the pine cone. These pointed spikes are called prickles on the yellow pine. Any kid who has ever been in a pine cone fight using immature pine cones can tell you those prickles are definitely pointed.

I was surprised to learn that there are male cones and female cones. Actually the male cones are usually in clusters at the end of a limb and normally wither and die after they release their pollen. The female cone is the one we are mostly familiar with. It takes at least two years for a female cone to mature in virtually all conifers. The first year it remains relatively small and then it matures rapidly during the second year.

This photo is of a younger cone on the same tree. It almost resembles a small pineapple, but the yellow will quickly darken into the green of the first photo. Cones can remain on some conifers for up to 10-15 years and still produce viable seeds.

Perhaps within a year or so this cone will be fully matured and ready to open its shingle-like scales and disperse its seeds to the winds of nature.

Weekly Theme - Pointed


Monday, July 7, 2008

The Monday Dragons and Damsels Report

One of the first dragonflies I photographed around the pond was this one. They are quite prolific and being relatively large they are easy to spot even from a distance. Each one tends to stay in a territory, but they will often take long flights far across the pond. They are very fast and their flights tend to be longer in a straight line before making the typical dragonfly quick turns.

As with many of the larger dragonflies this one seems to prefer a higher perch along the edges of the pond. You can almost always find one on the alder bush. I don't think it has anything to do with the type of bush as I have never seen them land on the other alder bush further along the bank. Their preferred bush is in the sun more often and has a few bare branches that point toward the pond. I presume this gives them a commanding view of their territory.

I will also see them from time to time away from the pond, but I have not yet been able to capture them in a decent photograph in other settings. I understand that individual dragongflies will often leave the pond maybe 4 or 5 times a day. Even at their small size it is not difficult for them to travel up to a mile or so quickly to find a good hunting spot for prey.

By the way, I just ran across an interesting article in the Houston Chroncicle about installing a dragonfly pond for mosquito control. You might want to check it out.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Flying the Colors

The red,


and blue.