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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Coffee Beans (Coffea Arabica)

Wars have been fought and people killed over these little beans. Millions of dollars are at stake to satisfy the caffeine thirst of the world...

coffe beans (Coffea arabica)
imported raw coffee beans (coffea arabica)

industrial coffee roaster
Coffee being roasted in a 1959 era roasting machine

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clean Energy – Leaf And Water

An assignment to illustrate the idea of green energy, or clean energy. 

leaf drop
water drop on green leaf

Monday, March 29, 2010

Parastic Fly (Pyrgota undata)

This amazing looking creature is a large member of the fly family, but with a with a unusual life cycle. Flying mostly at night, they will chase june beetles in the air and while in flight, lay a single egg on the beetle. 

Imagine this thing chasing you with graspers out, ready to grab on.

pyrgota undata
parastic fly (Pyrgota undata) in flight

The egg will shortly hatch and the larva will drill into the beetle. Once inside they begin to feast until the beetle is dead.

pyrgotidae fly
parastic fly (Pyrgota undata) portrait

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Southeastern Myotis (Myotis austroriparius)

When people hear that I work with bats frequently, they usually assume that I have to go into a lot of caves. And while bats are often cave dwellers, they are also at home in a variety of other habitats. 

For instance, below a southeastern myotis emerges from a tree hollow in Central Texas at dusk.

Myotis austroriparius
Southeastern Myotis (Myotis austroriparius) emerging from tree hollow

southeastern myotis
Southeastern Myotis (Myotis austroriparius) detail

Bats are usually content to find a tiny place they can squeeze into, where southern exposure keeps the environment warm and they feel safe.

southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius)
Southeastern Myotis (Myotis austroriparius)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala)

I love how frogs can have just their eyes and nostrils above the water line while the rest of them is hidden below the surface. 

leopard frog
juvenile southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vietnamese Mossy Frog (Theloderma corticale)

These frogs will wedge themselves into piles of moss and effectively disappear, blending into the lumpy green landscape. Of course, it helps to be lumpy and green when employing such a trick – hence the warty looking specimens below...

vietnamese mossy frog (Theloderma corticale)
vietnamese mossy frog (Theloderma corticale)

vietnamese mossy frog  (Theloderma corticale)
vietnamese mossy frog (Theloderma corticale)

cute frogs
vietnamese mossy frog (Theloderma corticale)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How George Costanza Dresses: Morning Mist

It's so hard to work in a pop culture reference in nature photography.

morning mist
morning mist – themally heated water at sunrise, yellowstone national park

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Colorful Wasp (Sphex habenus)

Wasps are noted for their reproductive sculduggery. Most depend upon a host insect of another species, and they engage in various forms of kidnapping and poisoning to make this happen. The host is usually kept alive in a state of paralysis until newly hatched young are hungry and ready to eat. There are a thousand variations of this tale, and the complexity involved can be astounding. It is the stuff of horror films.

From IMDB entry for Ridley Scott's ALIEN movie:  The alien's habit of laying eggs in the chest (which later burst out) was inspired by spider wasps, which are said to lay their eggs "in the abdomen of spiders." This image gave Dan O'Bannon nightmares, which he used to create the story. But spider wasps (pompilidae) lay eggs on their prey, not inside them, after which the wasp maggots simply snack on the sting-paralyzed spiders. O'Bannon may instead have been thinking of either ichneumon wasps or braconid wasps. The ichneumon drills a single egg into a wood-boring beetle larva, whereas braconids inject eggs inside certain caterpillars. Both result in fatal hatch-outs more alike to O'Bannon's alien.

This particular wasp is known for going after katydid nymphs. It is large and colorful with a painful sting.

colorful wasp (Sphex habenus)
colorful male wasp (Sphex habenus) (Family Sphecidae)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ornate Ichneumon Wasp (Thyreodon sp.)

This wasp was huge with beautiful orange antennae and orange striping on the abdomen. What really caught my eye was the violet iridescence of the wings. I'm not sure what these would look like under ultraviolet light (the spectrum that many insects see the world in), but the wings look mostly black until the light hits the surface just so.

ornate ichneumon wasp
ornate ichneumon wasp (Thyreodon sp.) with iridescent wings

Monday, March 22, 2010

Black And Yellow Mud Dauber Wasp (Sceliphron caementarium)

Wasps are often gangly, delicate looking creatures. Why they have the thread thin stalk leading to the abdomen is mysterious, but there is a whole group called "thread waisted wasps". While wasps will kill other insects to feed their young, it is not unusual for them to nectar on flowers like a bee.

Below a mud dauber wasp takes off from a salt heliotrope flower.

black and yellow mud dauber wasp
black and yellow mud dauber wasp (Sceliphron caementarium)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)

Wasps carry a vicious reputation for a generally mean disposition. It is well deserved. Of course, not all wasps are aggressive or quick to administer a painful sting, but it is wise to give them some distance unless you want to find out for yourself.

As warning, they typically flag themselves with gaudy colors - which makes them rather attractive to photograph...

Great Golden Digger Wasp
Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Skate Face (Raja rhina)

A skate is a type of flat fish that feeds along the ocean bottom. They have a curious face-like structure on their underside, that is purely anthropomorphic. The eyes are not actually eyes, but olfactory sensors, perfectly placed to mimic the structure of a human face.

Longnose Skate (Raja rhina)
detail of the underside of a young longnose skate (Raja rhina)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pollen Detail Of White Trillium (trillium Ovatum)

Extreme close-up view of the pollen gathered on the anther of a white trillium (trillium Ovatum).

trillium pollen
pollen on white trillium (trillium Ovatum)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

White Trillium (trillium Ovatum)

This lovely native flower makes a brief appearance during spring in the west. The first trillium that pops up is always breath taking - soon to be followed by a small explosion of little white blooms. 

Many flowers have more than one common name, however this one has more than usual:  pacific trillium, trinity flower, western trillium, western wake robin, wakerobin, western white trillium, white trillium.

white trillium (trillium Ovatum)
western white trillium (trillium Ovatum)

The white trillium bears distinctive 3-petaled, white flowers in spring above its dark-green leaves.

white trillium (trillium Ovatum)
western white trillium (trillium Ovatum)

white trillium (trillium Ovatum) petal
white petal of the western white trillium (trillium Ovatum)

white trillium (trillium Ovatum)
pollen covered anthers (trillium Ovatum)

Below - a cut away view of a western white trillium flower (trillium Ovatum) showing the long stem, subterranean bulb and roots.

white trillium (trillium Ovatum)
cut away view of a western white trillium (trillium Ovatum)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Winter Forest

frozen forest
Douglas fir trees clad in a light dusting of snow. From Lostine Ridge in the Wallowa Mountains.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Oak and Palmetto Forest

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia. 

oak and palmetto forest
oak and palmetto forest

Monday, March 15, 2010


Coast Range, looking west as moisture blows in from the Pacific.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pacific Madrone Tree (Arbutus menziesii)

A favorite tree unique to the west coast. Beautiful in shape and color...

madrone tree
pacific madrone tree (Arbutus menziesii), shaw island, washington.

The bark of the madrone is constantly peeling off in paper thin pieces.

madrone bark
peeling bark of a pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Grasshawk Dragonfly (Neurothemis fluctuans)

I love the color palette of this dragonfly. 

grasshawk dragonfly (Neurothemis fluctuans)
grasshawk dragonfly (Neurothemis fluctuans)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Termites In The Air (Reticulitermes flavipes)

Thousands and thousands of termites filled the air on a warm, humid day. This phenomenon, while filling every homeowner with a sense of dread, is something to see. Hoping to get a photo of the colony from which all of the airborne termites were emerging, I took some time to locate the source, but by then, the emergence was mostly finished. This species must have contact with the soil to survive, so they are unlikely to inhabit a wood structure with a good, concrete foundation.

From AnimalsDiversityWebR. flavipes reproduce in swarms. Swarming occurs when a colony reaches a certain size and when temperature and moisture levels are favorable. Usually this occurs on warm days after rainfall. Some researchers speculate that swarming occurs after rainfall because the ground is moist, which make it easier to create a new nesting site (Benavides, 1988). Alates, winged swarmers, fly from their native nest until they hit a "fracture point" in the air. This causes their wings to fall off (Benavides, 1998) This flight is not considered a mating flight because R. flavipes are only sexually attracted to their mates after their wings have broken off (Light, 1922). Once they find a mate, which takes a while because the female is choosy, they walk together to find a suitable nesting site. They mate after they've built a "nuptial chamber" in their new nest (Benavides, 1998). At her peak a queen will lay an egg every 3 seconds, or 30,000 a day. She will lay 10's of millions of eggs during her life

winged termite
subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) workers and winged reproductives

flying termite
subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) beginning their reproductive and distribution flights.

termite soldier
subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) workers and soldiers in decaying wood

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Canyon Bat (Parastrellus hesperus) – What's In A Name?

Naming creatures of the wild is no easy task. When Carolus Linnaeus (1707 - 1778) famously created the classification and naming conventions we still use today, animals were labeled using a mishmash of greek, latin and common names that varied from region to region.

The truth is that classifying and naming animals is still a great challenge to this day.

A case in point: the western pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus hesperus) is now to be called the canyon bat (Parastrellus hesperus). Biologists had good reason to do this in 2006 after genetic tests revealed that it was unrelated to the eastern pipistrelle.

I still stumble whenever I have to say the bat's name outloud...

Canyon Bat (Parastrellus hesperus)
Canyon Bat (Parastrellus hesperus)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bat Bug

Bats are notorious for having a variety of critters that live on or around their bodies. One of the ideas postulated as the reason for bats frequently changing their roost sites is that parasites rapidly become a problem. 

myotis cililabrum
western small-footed bat (Myotis ciliolabrum)

Below, a bat bug (family: Heteroptera) ectoparasite feeding on part of the wing of a big brown bat.

bat bug parasite
bat bug (family: Heteroptera)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

More Fun With Parasites

A few posts back I mentioned the carrion beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis). In keeping with the theme of parasites*, I am sharing another view of the same beetle with a detailed view of a few extra passengers.

carrion beetle in flight
carrion beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis)

Watching the beetle, I could see the little white mites skittering across the beetle as it walked and flew about. It must be quite a ride for the little insects. Below is a detailed view of the same image with the mite clearly visible on the neck, and few more on the chest. It would roughly be equivalent of having a full size crab wandering around on a human.

carrion beetle with parasites
carrion beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis) detail with mites

I posted these images to Flickr for hosting here, and a fellow Flickr alaskanent user posted this comment:

Nice shot! The mites are not parasitic however. They are mutualistic in some cases (beneficial) and in others commensalistic (the mites benefit but the beetles are neither harmed nor helped) and only in rare cases do they actually qualify as parasites. The mites eat fly eggs, thus cleaning carcasses of competitors so there is more food for the beetles.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Vivid Dancer Damselfly With Passengers

This image was in a recent presentation I did, and a member of the audience commented that it must be female because of the "eggs" near the end of the tail. In truth, these are not eggs. I did not notice them when I was taking the photo, but the camera makes it cleanly visible.

vivid dancer damselfly (Argia vivida)
vivid dancer damselfly (Argia vivida)

Take a closer look

damselfly mite parasites
parasitic mites on the tail of a damselfly

They are mites, not eggs.

Every living creature seems to have to contend with one kind of parasite or another. Some are internal, and some are external. In this case the mites are probably tapping into the blood between segments in the exoskeleton.

I have seen damselflies covered from head to tail in mites, so by comparison this is a light load.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Fan Palm (Livistona endauensis)

In Malyasia there is a rare, endemic palm that survives in a few small patches. I was on the trail to another destination, and it was something of a grueling climb. Leeches were all over my arms and legs. My guide pointed out the palms, and even though it was threatening to rain – and the light was fading (and hiking these trails at dusk is a bad idea because of the bengal tigers who's prints were clearly visible all along the trail), I decided to take a few moments to set up my tripod and compose a few frames...

Livistona endauensis, fan palm tree,

Livistona endauensis, a very rare fan palm tree

Rare fan palm trees (Livistona endauensis)

Livistona endauensis in the malaysian jungle

tiger footprint
tiger footprint nearby

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Photography As Adventure

I went to a talk featuring Susan Seubert, a photographer I have always admired. One point she hit on, that rang true for me, is that photography provides an enriching life experience that is hard to match. It may not be easy, it might even be heart wrenching – but it provides an impetus to meet incredible people, hear amazing stories, and travel to places that are new and challenging.

There are hundred different ways the camera can lead to exploration, from life on a miniature scale – to a grand landscape. From learning something new and technical, to appreciating the simplicity and color of a garden flower.

It is something I am thankful for, and acutely aware of how lucky I have been to travel this path.

Humid Jungle
ecuadorian cloud forest

snowy forest
winter forest in the oregon coastal mountain range

Endau Rompin Rainforest
endau-rompin national park, malaysia

hart mountain
hart-mountian national antelope refuge

Friday, March 05, 2010

Aimless Shooting

I always seem to be balancing multiple projects at the same time, and while I like being busy – I occasionally miss being able to simply let my mind go and find an interesting subject at my leisure. It becomes something of a creative exercise, and while traversing a winter forest recently I made time to slow down and wander a bit. The weather was cool and wet, and the light was drab so something of interest was not immediately obvious.

My mind wandered, and my eye roamed. It was wonderful.

decaying leaves on the forest floor

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Ancient Elk In Rock Art

A petroglyph etched into the stone by native americans perhaps as long as 2000 years ago. There are quite a few bighorn sheep, but one obvious bull elk with an impressive rack.

elk petroglyph
ancient rock art depicting elk and other animals

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Elk Living, Elk Dying

Making it to adulthood does not mean an easy life for an elk. Life in the wild is a constant test of fitness. Dodging disease, injury, predators and the like is a full time job. Oh, and then there is hunting season.

roosevelt elk at night
Roosevelt elk at night (Cervus canadensis roosevelti)

In the west wolves are returning and cougar populations are growing. The timberland that was once a refuge is now a potential trap. Pack wolves roam the open country looking for the any sign of weakness.

bull elk
rocky mountain elk in timber (Cervus canadensis nelsoni)

If an elk is lucky enough to make it to old age, then the winters become the true test. A harsh winter will kill many adults - usually the older ones.

red-tailed hawk on dead elk
red-tailed hawk feeding on a winter killed elk

elk bone
bleached elk bone

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Details About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer