Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Reflections on an Egret


Here is a Great Egret (Ardea alba) (and its reflection) from the Potomac River a few weeks ago, when there were egrets all over the place.  There were also lots of Ospreys (the bird, not the plane, though I have seen some of those too recently).  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Wings of the Dragonfly


A great many years ago I read an article about scientists studying dragonflies.  The method for identifying a dragonfly in the field was to shoot the dragonfly with a shotgun shell filled with dirt.  The body would be damaged, but usually enough of the wings would remain intact to determine the species.  (The patterns of veins in insect wings are a key factor in establishing and identifying insect taxa; in fact, wing veins can be preserved in fossil insects, and used in the naming of species from millions of years ago.)

I’m not up on the state of the art in dragonfly research, but I have to wonder if the shotgunning is still necessary now that we have digital photography.  Even with my amateur-level camera, I can get pictures of perching dragonflies that clearly show the details of wing venation. 

Here are some from the last few years:









Monday, July 31, 2017

November Sunset for July




Just to make sure that I have a post for July, here is a picture of a peach sunset.  It is from last November.  

Note the airplane above and to the right of the solitary grey cloud.

(As always, click to enlarge.)



Friday, June 30, 2017

DePauw, DePaul


I recently learned that there is a college called DePauw University.


All these years I had thought that people were just mispronouncing DePaul University.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lights for May



I’m almost always too busy or too tired to blog, but I try to have at least one post per month.  I’m putting up this picture to give me something for May.  It’s one of the results of my failed attempt to photograph the Pink Moon.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Virginia Cactus


In my recent internet browsing, I happened upon an odd fact of botany—there is a cactus which is native to eastern North America, the Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa).  It occurs across the eastern half of the United States, and even in a few locations in southern Ontario.  

It turns out that I saw, and photographed, some of these cacti during my vacation in Virginia Beach a few years ago.



Here are some prickly pears interspersed with other vegetation, near the beach.



Here is an isolated example from First Landing State Park.



I had previously thought that the cacti which I saw in coastal regions were exotics which had been introduced by humans, and then thrived in the sandy, desert-like beach conditions, in much the same way as the Texas Horned Lizard.

In fact, according to this site, the Eastern Prickly Pear is native to Fairfax and Prince William Counties (although I can’t think of any possible location in Fairfax or Prince William County that would be suitable cactus habitat). 

(Well really that site says that the Eastern Prickly Pear is “naive” to Fairfax and Prince William Counties, but I assume that they meant “native”.) 




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pink Moon


I happened upon some news reports today that tonight is the night of the Pink Moon.

This is nothing particularly unusual, or particularly pink, it’s just the name given every year to the full moon that occurs in April.

(Earlier tonight the moon had an eerie mustard color, probably as a result of intervening cloud cover, but I couldn’t convince my camera to focus for a picture.)


If nothing else, it is a good night to take a drive in your Volkswagen Cabriolet

Friday, March 31, 2017

Rough, Tough, Chough


There are a few words in the English language in which the letter combination GH is pronounced as F.

These include rough, tough, enough, and Julianne Hough.

Given how rare such words are, I thought that I knew them all, and was surprised in the last few days to learn a “new” word in which this linguistic oddity occurs: chough.  

The name chough is applied to two Eurasian bird species in the family Corvidae; they are generally crow-like in appearance, but have orange or yellow beaks.  The name is also applied to an Australian bird in a different family, Corcoracidae.

Therefore this example of a linguistic rarity is entirely unknown to English speakers in North America, but (presumably) well-known to English speakers in the British Isles and Australia.  



Incidentally, this GH-as-F phenomenon reminds me of something that happened to me in second grade: I was reading one of the later books in the Wizard of Oz series.  I understood every word in the book, except one: laughter.  I thought that it was pronounced “lawter” (which would rhyme with slaughter, although I’m not sure if I knew that word either).  For the entire book, I couldn’t figure out what “lawter” was, but I was able to deduce from the context that “lawter” occurred in mirthful situations.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Don’t Know What Happened Here



I was trying to take a picture, probably of a herd of deer, and something went wrong.


It does look kind of cool, though.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

First Post of the Year


I wanted to do one more post for 2016 on New Year’s Eve, but then I forgot.  Then I was going to post on New Year’s Day, but forgot that too. 


Here it finally is.  I didn’t feel like writing anything, so it’s a picture of some lotus leaves at night, taken on the same occasion as pictures in a previous post.