Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Arrives With A "Whumpf!"

There'll be no more basking in unseasonable warmth; Gaia decided to throw on a thick ermine shawl to celebrate the winter solstice, which occurs tomorrow at 12:47 p.m. EST. We got about six or seven inches of snow.
Kenny immediately set to work on the first order of business: digging his way to Fiona and refreshing her frozen water dish. Is he the best or what?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spruce Basking: Now With Video!

Yes, more lizards, you thought you'd heard the last about them for a while, but no, they are still up and around every sunny day between 10:30 and noon, even now it's December.  Here's one guy who let me follow him for a minute (until I lost my balance.) They climb up the dwarf Alberta spruce and take in the southern exposure for a couple of hours. I don't know how they can stand scurrying around on those needles, which are quite prickly, at least to my unwebbed fingers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cultural Offerings Close To Home

There's no excuse for not seeing a Marks family member in a stage performance this weekend; whether you like the rock and the roll, or you prefer the legitimate theatre, we have a talented relative to suit your taste. On Saturday, November 21st, be sure to catch Vacancy at the Vibe Lounge in Rockville Centre, just off Sunrise Highway. That's Devon on vocals and rhythm guitar. Doors open at 2 p.m., and VACANCY hits the stage around 4 p.m. (Yes, not exactly rocknroll standard time. Perhaps AARP is sponsoring the show. But hey, it leaves your whole evening free!)
And with that free evening, stop by Temple Emanu-El on Neptune Avenue in Long Beach Saturday at 8, Sunday afternoon at 3, to see my dramatically talented sister Janet bring to life the role of Gwendolyn Pigeon in the Long Beach Theatre Guild's production of Neil Simon's magnum opus, The Odd Couple. I mentioned this to someone who averred they'd never seen The Odd Couple, not in any incarnation: not the play, nor the movie, nor even an episode of the television series. I found this hard to believe.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Sweet Gig

Were you passed over for the position of NPR librarian? Take heart, there are still some excellent gigs out there, like this one. Makes me wish I had some archival experience...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Arachnophiles Only Read On

Here now is the late (very late indeed) late-summer roundup of Spiders In The Backyard, 2009 Edition. We will be starting with egg cases, but later there will be big hairy spiders, so you are aware. This summer we had a number of Cribellate Orb Weavers (Uloborus) on this one low evergreen shrub. They build a horizontal orb web, and sit around all stretched out with their legs before and behind them in a line. Odd. Here's a shot of what the egg cases look like. Naturally, I missed the emergence. Very hard to catch these things.

Here's the Uloborus stretched out, as is its wont, in the center of the web.

Here she is, stretched out (again) to the southwest with one egg case behind her:
So that was something new and different. There were plenty of familiar octopeds, too.
Here, it was a cool day, and this guy was sleeping under a buddleia leaf just off his web.

Look at the design on this spider's abdomen. It reminds me of a woven tapestry or rug:

Click to enlarge and check out the child-like flower image on this spider's abdomen, a brown flower with two leaves on a cream background:
( I don't know what's for lunch, but it looks like there's plenty of it... )

And last but not you-know-what, here's a belly-view of a late-summer badass, the kind that build giant webs across frequently-traveled paths...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hiding In Plain Sight

Would you look at that? Do you see what's in the seed pod, beside seeds?
I usually cut down the daylilies' flower stalks before they develop seed pods, but the ones I miss have, by mid-October, been dessicated into lacy cups of glossy jet beads, like the ones here. I thought it made a nice image, with the shadow and the contrasting textures, and photographed them two weeks ago. Only now do I see.....the snail. (Make that snails. That's one in the left pod, too!) These guys get everywhere. It's not unusual to see the little critters poised at the end of an eight-foot-long willow branch that must have taken them hours to traverse the length of, from the ground to the very tip where now is being chewed up the tenderest, juiciest new growth. But really, you climbed all the way up the stalk, into the seed pod... Did it eat and fall asleep? Was it attacked by a predator and left there, an empty shell? Went looking for that same stalk and seedhead today, but it's gone; it's been two weeks of rain, wind, leaves falling, sun, rain, etc. So. Something impossible to look out for next year...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moth Heart (No, Not The Playwright With A Lisp...)

Still slacking off here.

Coming soon: gruesome life-and-death struggles in the suburban backyard paradise.

Until then, this one's for Clytie!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Easier On The Eyes

I apologize for flaking out and leaving that giant spider up for weeks as the only thing to greet you, my welcome visitors. While I will continue to flake out for a few days, until I drum up something to say or show, let me post a prettier placeholder here. Normally, I bore you all with Latin names, but honestly, I just plain forget what this is. It's not a daisy. I bought it in the spring at the nursery; I think it's a perennial, the flower petals are rosy, purple, blue or white, all on the same plant, and the centers are all this great navy-blue.

Oh, wait! I found out. It's an osteospermum, probably the cultivar "Passion Mix." Should be perennial. Anyway, it's very pretty all season long here in zone 7; I recommend it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

It's Giant Spider Season

Late summer brings out webworld's big boys! Thanks to Ken for the scale-providing half dollar.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Key West Final (People and Other Critters Edition)

The streets were lively at night; this man had music playing as he cruised the main drag:

Oh, Peter, you should have gotten a teaching license to fall back on...
Michael and Alex with a stormtrooper:
We also saw some pretty strange sights during the day.
This is a conch eye:
and this was the spider that changed my mind about walking down that particular "nature trail;"

Monday, August 31, 2009

Time For Another Insect Closeup

Look what I found on the tomato plants this evening! A tomato hornworm, parasitized by the cocoons of brachinid wasps. I've read about these, but this is the first time I've seen one in real life. He's a goner now; a luckier hornworm would have eaten all the tomatoes and tomato leaves he could hold, then metamorphosed into a sphinx moth. You can see from these photos that the tops of the little white cocoons are mostly all open, so I guess the wasps have emerged already, and all the excitement's over.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Olivia Does Key West, Part 1

Ken let Olivia drive the last leg of the trip into Key West. (I thought it set a bad example for the boys, what with her being unlicensed and all, but she brings out the scalawag in everybody!) He had to work the gas and brake, of course.
It turned out Olivia was well-know in the southernmost city; here, Ken and Alex give her a boost so she can pose next to her name on the street sign:

Well. I can't begin to tell you how excited Olivia was when we arrived in Key West to find out her name was all over town. She was pleased as punch to have so many photo ops, but I confess I didn't do a very good job of lighting her in the street scenes. Mea culpa, sweetheart. We'll shoot more in the daytime next trip.

Olivia Does The Keys, Part 2

Our pale-pigskinned beauty does not (perish the thought!) have a tanned hide, as you know, but the beach at Bahia Honda was so beautiful, Olivia couldn't resist a brief go at sunbathing:
She basked in the sunshine on Ken's T-shirt for a few glorious, golden moments, until the delicious aroma of bacon began to draw a crowd...
then everyone cooled off with a little snorkeling:
Sooner than we thought, it was time to head home.
Olivia kept the boys entertained with all sorts of rascally antics during the long drive back to the airport.
Despite a few diva-licious moments that I promised Olivia were forgiven and forgotten, she once again proved herself a hardy, adaptable little traveling companion who plays well with others.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Shameless Huckstering

Come on out to the Vibe Lounge in Rockville Centre, this Friday night, that's the 28th, two days from now - and check out the newest blood on the rock and roll block. 60 N. Park Avenue. $10 cover.

Tell the guys at the door you're there to see Vacancy. They come on about nine.

You won't regret it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Key West (Butterflies and Bird Edition)

A surprise hit with the teenagers: The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Myself, I never pass up one of these places. I was thrilled that everybody else liked it, too. This one had a lot going on in the nursery, where pupae and chrysali and whatnot were hanging and hatching and drying their wings in plain view. Not to mention, button quail chicks = so cute. But it was hard to take photos of that because of the glass and the lighting. (It's always some excuse with me, isn't it?) So no chrysalis photos, sorry.

Lunchtime. Overripe banana, anyone?
This very fancy finch fit right in. A few varieties of finches and Chinese Button Quail live in the huge aviary as well.
Recently hatched, wings now fully inflated and dried, this one was later brought outside to join the big boys.
Blue morphos, from South America, win my vote for Most Disneyfied Look, as they often fly in groups of three or more, following each other in an erratic, cartoon-y line through the air, right past your nose. At rest, they usually fold their wings to display the dull brown pattern of the underside. This one below, who's more than a little ragged, was quite lethargic, too tired maybe to fold up, so we were able to get a good look at its metallic blue coloring. So that's my recommendation: take the kids, even if they're old, jaded teenagers. I'll bet they like it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Key West (Floral Edition)

Key West in August is very warm, very humid indeed. On the bright side, everything's in bloom.
Ken took the shot above, the one below, and the one below that, the banana tree.
Look up there! Bananas!
I think this one of the fan palm is his, too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Key West Chickens

Chickens were far more visible than cats last week in Key West. They were all over the streets near our inn. It seems unfathomable, I'm sure, that I never obtained the iconic crossing-the-road shot that would have made the whole trip worthwhile, but the chickens would all wait, quite cannily, until I let go of the camera and then they'd dart out! in front of us, into the road and on to the sidewalk across the street. Go ahead, ask the others if that didn't happen.
See those chickens? See that road? They crossed it, I swear. I just didn't get it down in pixels.
This one here is mocking me.