Thursday, August 16, 2007

Florida Is For Lubbers

Lubber in a Loquat Tree
Large view

Lubber grasshoppers are considered pests. I think they are stunningly beautiful and psychedelic creatures. The adults, that is. The juveniles get their coolness from racing stripes (as in this photo I took of the young'uns back in April).

Ever since I got my good camera, I've been on the lookout for an adult to photograph, and early Wednesday evening I finally got my chance. This one was hanging out in the loquat tree in our yard. I was scouting around the place, waiting for Mary to get ready for our post office walk....

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea guttata, Family Romaleidae (Lubber Grasshoppers)) is the only species of lubber in the east. These grasshoppers are flightless and move slowly. "Coloration is aposematic (warning), apparently this species is distasteful to vertebrate predators," says Bugguide.Net. "When disturbed, it will spread its wings, hiss, and secrete a smelly fluid from its spiracles."

Lubber in a Loquat Tree

(Can compare with the video of juvenile lubbers here.)

How much do I love the markings on these critters? I made this "rug" from a digital snippet.

Lubber Rug
Large view

I was already groovin' on the cool breeze and some terrific cloudscapes, which made up for seeing how very sad our volunteer cherry by the garage was. In a single day all of its leaves had turned from green to brown, though its bark still looked and felt quite healthy. The first thing I checked was the surrounding foliage, which also looked fine -- because if foliage in an area suddenly dies back it could mean a sinkhole. Our other volunteer cherry is still sprightly and happy.

Mary thinks it may have been lightning. When I was at the library on Monday, she'd heard a very close crack during that day's fairly impressive storm. She wonders if our toad got toasted. Not "our" toad, really, but one that likes to hang out around the house. We agreed that "Frosted Flakes -- with Toasted Toad!" is a very nice if somewhat unsettling alliteration.

Here are a few of the cloudscapes. These are all uncropped, straight out of the camera.

Clouds 7
Large view

Clouds 13
Large view

Clouds 14
Large view

Clouds 18
Large view

Clouds 21
Large view

An orbweaver (orchard orbweaver, I think) had spun a web in my holly.

Orb Weaver
Large view

We spotted a daddy long-legs (species TBD) over at the mall.

Daddy Long-Legs
Large view

I've sent in my galley corrections and list of potential reviewers. As I read through the galleys in the library on Monday I was joined by this little buddy, whom I photographed through one of several floor-to-ceiling picture windows. It's about a half-inch long.

Library Frog
Large view

I finally was able to get a decent photo of Mars in Taurus.

What A Difference A Year Makes

I took the photo on the left on August 22, 2006, at 3:37 AM (EST) (The unlabeled version of last years's shot is originally posted here). I took the photo on the right on August 13, 2007, at around 5:13 AM (EST).

This year, Mars has joined the picture. More detail is in the large view.

I've labeled Aldebaran (the brightest star in Taurus, representing the "bull's eye"), the Pleiades, and (in the right-hand photo) Mars, plus I've outlined the head of Taurus.

My camera is not geared toward astrophotography. In both cases I aimed pretty much blind through my viewfinder and used my longest exposure of 4 seconds. I tweaked both photos in MS Photo Editor to bring out brightness and contrast. Between that and changes in atmospheric conditions, I suspect some of the dimmer "stars" on the right might be noise. Noise also accounts for apparent changes in star brightness from one photo to the next.

For several days the sky had been too hazy for me to catch Mars being clearly visible in Taurus. But we had a strong wind on the previous night that blew much of that haze away. Seen with the naked eye, Mars and Aldebaran are both reddish objects, with Mars being the brighter of the two. They were rising toward and pretty close to zenith when I took the shot on the right. I wanted to get in a photo of Mars especially after receiving an e-mail with this hoax.

Finally, after we've done without A/C for four weeks now, someone is coming by later today to measure for the new unit. Hurrah!


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