Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fireworks, Natural and Otherwise

These clouds date from our "post office walk" on June 29. Four days later I walked through nature's fireworks, near the close of a hike that came to somewhere between six and seven miles. I was on my final leg, the two miles between the library and home, when a few warning drops swelled to a deluge. It was over in about ten minutes, but during that time I was seeing lightning and hearing thunder almost simultaneously -- mentally preparing myself to drop to the ground and cover my ears if I felt any tingling in the air.

Mary, who had been out doing her own errands, told me when I got home of the National Weather Service advisory for our area, which reported frequent lightning strikes. I probably should have said yes to one of the two people who offered me lifts. But by then the lightning was moving off, and the rain felt good -- and, for better or worse, my sense of adventure was high....

Near the beginning of my walk I'd greeted a trio of ibises sailing overhead, but the ponds belonged to the cattle egrets. I was passing the water earlier than usual, so wondered if the egrets and ibises had a natural timeshare arrangement for the space. It still didn't explain why, last Thursday, an egret was moseying through our local Winn-Dixie parking lot.

Bubulcus ibis, Family Ardeidae (Herons and Egrets). This female is in full breeding coloration: buff feathers on her head and back, and yellow legs. Were she not breeding, she would lack the buff coloration and her legs would be black.

I'd been pulling into the Winn-Dixie parking lot around 6 PM, to get groceries at the same supermarket shown at night in "The Home of Frog Chorus No. 2". The egret explored one foliage island and the next, until she took off for the bank.

Cattle Egret at the Winn-Dixie Mall (0:38)

Neither had I seen an ibis (Eudocimus albus, Family Threskiornithidae) sitting in a treetop before. I have no idea what the object is to the left.

Yesterday the egrets at the post office pond had congregated relatively close to the road, so I didn't stay. On prior days, when exploring the water's edge, I'd spotted a female Eastern Pondhawk. A member of that species visited our yard last year, but this was the first time I'd seen one at the pond.

Erythemis simplicicollis, Family Libellulidae (Common Skimmers). Also called a Green Jacket. According to Bugguide.Net, these range throughout eastern North America and the Great Plains (excluding the northernmost part), south to Texas, with spotty distribution in Arizona and New Mexico. "Among the first and last dragonflies of the season in a given area." The Dragonfly Society of the Americas places this as a subspecies of the Common Pondhawk, which includes the Eastern Pondhawk (E. simplicicollis simplicicollis) and the Western Pondhawk (E. simplicicollis collocata).

I've also posted a top view.

Mary's latest at-home innovation has been a special viewing tunnel for the cats. During the day we often have our thermal curtains closed, both to keep out the heat and to afford privacy. At the same time we don't want to deprive the cats of a good show. By using a large binder clip to attach the curtain to the sheet we've draped over the couch, Mary has created a cat tunnel. Below, Daisy tries out the concept.

Our evening walks have afforded a variety of treats.

Pawpaw Sphinx. Dolba hyloeus, Family Sphingidae (Sphinx or Hawk Moths).
The Rustic Sphinx has similar markings but is considerably larger than this individual, whose wingspan measures about 4.5 cm.

According to Bugguide, the Pawpaw ranges throughout Eastern North America and is more common in the south. Its season is June-September. Along with hollies, blueberries, and sweetfern, the pawpaw is one of the plants on which the larvae of this moth feed.

I saw this one shortly after 11 PM on the wall of our local strip mall. More of its furry self is shown in the large view (click the magnifying glass). I've also uploaded a crosseye stereogram.

Sitting on a window around the corner from the Pawpaw Sphinx was a moth I'm still trying to ID, though I believe it's some kind of Geometrid.

Will update when I have more info. More detail is in the large view.

On Saturday night we visited the post office pond to hear the frogs and got more than we bargained for. Half a block away, our neighbors set off fireworks, a little early for the Fourth of July while they had guests in town. Mary and I stood at the pond, backdropped by green treefrogs, barking treefrogs, and squirrel treefrogs (and likely others) in full chorus at a bit after 10 PM. Luckily, I had my tripod with me.

Fireworks and Frog Songs.

We subsequently went over and introduced ourselves, and had the extra thrill of standing underneath bursts that occurred perhaps 100 feet up: the closest either of us has ever been to fireworks. On Sunday night I brought over a CD with several movie files I'd taken of the lights and we exchanged contact info. A neat way to get to know more of our neighbors.

We've spent a fairly quiet day. I'm on the third of three jobs and will soon make a brief jaunt to the market, which is holding regular hours. Happy Fourth to those who celebrate it, and Happy Tuesday in any case.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can almost see the Old Man in the Mountain here. You know the one in New Hampshire that recently fell apart! It's as if this is his spirit.

12:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home