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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

spawning slamon
spawning coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

salmon eggs
salmon eggs in a redd

salmon eggs
coho salmon eggs

salmon egg
coho salmon egg (Oncorhynchus kisutch) detail

hatching salmon
coho salmon hatching out of egg (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

salmon sac fry
detail of salmon sac-fry

spawning salmon
spawning salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dobsonfly - King Of The Insects

These photos have no sense of scale, but these are one of the largest insects in North America. They spend most of their life in a larval stage, living under water. They are voracious predators, attacking anything that moves. They can deliver a painful bite to anyone foolish enough to handle one.


dobsonfly larvae (Corydalus cornutus) also called a hellgramite

At their adult stage they morph into large winged insect and take to the air to find a mate. I photographed an adult western dobsonfly at night near Trout Lake, Washington.

Corydalus cornutus
female dobsonfly (Corydalus cornutus) nocturnal flight

She would easily fill the palm of your hand. Both of these examples are females. The males are note for their giant, stabbing mandibles.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

The most feared snapping turtle in the United States is usually considered to be the alligator snapping turtle. They just look mean (and they are).

Second place is awarded to the common snapping turtle. They have the same generally bad disposition, the same ambush hunting techniques, and they are big enough to remove part of your hand if not just a few fingers. They will make short work of it too.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) underwater view

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baby Turtles! Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

Yesterday's leech posting required a dose of "cute" for a follow up. You can't go wrong with baby turtles.

red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

swimming red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Texas Leech

Leeches are not popular for good reason. They are soft bodied little parasites that will attach themselves to you by whatever sneaky means available. They are ugly too.

So why post a photo of a leech?

Bear with me. If you can get past the unpleasant natural history of this particular leech – I think you might agree that it is at minimum "interesting looking". In fact, I think the pattern is quite remarkable.

aquatic leech
aquatic leech

I have been to part of Asia where terrestrial leeches find their way into your clothing, into your bed, and into the shower. I watched one leech wriggle its way through the eyelet of my boot once, and I knew that later, when I removed my boot, there would be an ugly brown leech engorged with blood stuck on my foot. Believe me, i'm no fan.

But I can appreciate a successful evolutionary strategy when I see one.

aquatic leech in various stages of locomotion

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Carrion Beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis)

Carrion Beetles feed on decaying organic matter, such as dead animals. They have the unique ability to help solve crimes...

from Wikipedia: They are a very important tool in determining a post mortem interval by collecting carrion beetle progeny from a body, and determining the developmental rate. Based on the number of instars present and what stage of development they are in, a time of death can be estimated. This is very useful in medicocriminal entomology, the emphasis on utilizing arthropods as evidence to aid in solving crimes.

Carrion Beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis) in flight

Monday, February 22, 2010

Predacious Diving Beetle (Cybister fimbriolatus)

Another interesting beetle adaptation. The predacious diving beetle lives and hunts underwater, but when it needs to relocate, it can take to the air until it locates another suitable body of water. These beetles are large enough to kill and consume small fish, however they typically hunt other invertebrates.

predaceous diving beetle (Cybister fimbriolata)

Predacious Diving Beetle (Cybister fimbriolatus)

diving beetle in action

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Click Beetle / Eyed-Elater (family elateridae)

Interesting beetle with a curious adaption. When adult click beetles (Elateridae) are placed on their backs, they have the ability to flip themselves over, sometimes going several inches into the air. This is done when the beetle arches its body, then suddenly snaps a pointed projection on the bottom of its prothorax into a small groove on the mesothorax. The eyed click beetle has two spots on its pronotum that resemble eyes, which may frighten predators, especially when the beetle flips into the air...

Click Beetle / Eyed-Elater (family elateridae) flying at night.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

The naturalist, J. B. S. Haldane, was asked by a cleric about what he might infer about the Creator, based on his wide ranging study of life. Haldane supposedly replied that the creator had "an inordinate fondness for beetles" based on the then current count of beetle species at around 400,000.

Beetles are the largest of insect orders, and therefore one of the widest spread and most successful orders of life on Earth. 

They demonstrate tremendous diversity, and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors...

One of the most colorful beetles I have photographed is the tiger beetle.

six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

They are aggressive, voracious predators with lightning quick moves.

six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

Never mind that it took me three days to photograph one in flight.

six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

flying six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Whirligig Beetle, or Gyrinidae Beetle, (Dineutus sp)

Small and fast moving, these little aquatic beetles often swim in agitated circular patterns. They are so adept at avoiding predators, that getting close to one can be quite a challenge. Seen in detail, they have a surprising beauty and personality. 

whirligig beetles also called Gyrinidae beetles, (Dineutus sp)

They have divided compound eyes. The upper part of the eye sees above water while the lower part of the eye can see under the surface.

swimming whirligig beetle also called Gyrinidae beetle, (Dineutus sp)

swimming whirligig beetle also called Gyrinidae beetle, (Dineutus sp)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Red Ichneumon Wasp (Ichneumonidae)

These small, delicate wasps are typically nocturnal and can often be seen around street lamps or other lights. This photograph resulted from an experiment in which the camera automatically recorded whatever came into range on a warm Texas evening. It appears very alien to me, and I love the body attitude as it flies toward the camera.

red Ichneumon Wasp (Ichneumonidae)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Native Green Bee (Andrena ilicis)

This lovely native bee was buzzing around the blooms of a flowering tree in Travis County, Texas. 

native green bee (Andrena ilicis)

native green bee (Andrena ilicis)

Notice this older worker (below), covered in pollen and with tattered wings, as she approaches the end of her useful life.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Camouflage Moth (Noctuoidea) – Disappearing In Plain View

This moth has evolved the neat trick of looking like a twig by day. Looks pretty effective to me...

camouflaged moth

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Goofy Looking Insect - The White-Headed Fly (Archytas apicifer)

Insects are almost always interesting in one way or another – at least for me. It is not lost on me that many people find the crawling, flying and creeping denizens of the insect world creepy if not completely revolting.

Nonetheless, it is rare that an insect makes me laugh. This little white-headed fly seems to have an abundance of personality simply because it has a face that can be anthropomorphized – an unusual occurrence in the world of diptera (flies)




white-headed fly (Archytas apicifer)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mima Mounds

An aerial view of unusually regular mounds of earth and vegetation commonly refered to as "mima mounds". Their formative mechanisms continue to be a mystery. Photographed from the air in spring at The Nature Conservancy's Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in NE Oregon.

Mima Mounds on Zumwalt Prairie

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Phorid Fly (Pseudacteon obtusus)

As I mentioned in the previous post, imported red fire ants were introduced to the southern U.S. accidentally in the 1930's. They have no natural predators to keep their populations under control.

However the Fire Ant Project at the University of Texas is releasing the fire ant's natural predator from Brazil - the tiny phorid fly – into the areas around Austin and Dallas. There are several species, but they all parasitize the fire ant in a terrifying process that involves eating the ant's brain (from the inside) by a larva implanted by the phorid fly.

imported red fire ant (solenopsis invicta)

The ants, despite being raised in North America where they have no predators, appear to have a instinctive fear of the fly. They respond with a panicked, defensive action that is usually ineffective.

phorid fly and imported red fire ants
Phorid Fly (Pseudacteon obtusus) hovering above imported red fire ants.

The fly picks an ant that would make a good host, and then hovers above looking for a good moment. When opportunity allows, it will drop suddenly and stab the ant with its ovipositor and implant a single egg. When the egg hatches, it makes its way to the brain and larva will devour the ant's brain until it dies or its head falls off. Nice huh?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta)

If you have ever been to the southern part of the United States, you probably learned early on that it is not wise to sit in the grass for a picnic, or any other activity. Thanks to this vicious little insect, the imported red fire ant, many outdoor activities take on a certain edge of risk.

These ants are tiny and hard to spot, and since their accidental introduction to the U.S. in the 1930's, they have become a major pest. With no native predators to keep them in check, their populations have expanded through the southern part of North America.

Their little nest mounds are everywhere, and easy to spot if you know what to look for.

imported red fire ant (solenopsis invicta) nest mound

If you agitate the nest mound at all, they emerge in mass to defend their home.

imported red fire ant (solenopsis invicta) defensive reaction

For such a small ant they pack a powerful sting.

imported red fire ant (solenopsis invicta)

Photographing the portrait below was not easy. I had to use a magnifying loupe to see which end of the ant was the front! 

imported red fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Euphoria Beetle (euphoria fulgida)

More than once, I have been startled by these colorful beetles. They fly with a noisy clack of the wings that at first, mimics the buzz of an angry bumble bee...

euphoria beetle (euphoria fulgida) collecting nectar from a thistle flower

euphoria beetle (euphoria fulgida) in flight

euphoria beetle (euphoria fulgida)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stolen Cameras

For years I have been using custom built, remote camera systems to photograph elusive and nocturnal subjects.

I can still remember how elated I was to photograph a wild, nocturnal mountain lion at Zumwalt Prairie a few years back. Wild mountain lions are almost never photographed unless they have been trapped or cornered by dogs, so this image was a particular accomplishment.

Wild Mountain Lion
wild cougar (felis concolor) photographed at night.
From mountain lions to white-footed mice, I have refined the system constantly over the years to allow me to photograph a variety of subjects in a variety of situations.

white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)

Perhaps one of the most common subjects, by default, have been raccoons. They seem to be everywhere.

raccoon at night
a nocturnal raccoon (procyon lotor) on a game trail, arizona.

My systems are considerably more advanced and complicated than the average trail camera that can be purchased at Cabella's, and they often use fairly expensive digital cameras for image capture.

I have always known it was risk to leave this equipment out in the forest for weeks at a time. I would always evaluate the risk, and make a judgement call.

Despite being aware of the risk, I was a bit surprised to find my equipment stolen when I set up on a log bridge in Washington State. This is a remote location, and far off any trail. The equipment would have been very hard to spot tucked away under a fallen log.

Whoever stole the equipment smashed the weatherized camera housings, and then re-assembled them nearby – laid out neatly on a log. A message perhaps? The cameras were of course, gone. 

Below is the final test image taken before the equipment was stolen.


I have since built a new system, with some major improvements. Hopefully I can hang onto this one for a while.

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Details About Me

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