20150705 Moose Hill   Leave a comment

I improvised a new macro photography rig (more on this later) and wanted to test it out. I had about half an hour to spend at Moose Hill Mass Audubon. The macro photography worked great, and there were some insects I found absolutely gorgeous.

This fly was beautiful, from the strange abdomen to the bizarre bulbs to the plume antenna.

From 20150705_moose_hill

This fly had eyes of the purest ruby red. Love it.

From 20150705_moose_hill
From 20150705_moose_hill

What a beetle. This probably is the Net Winged Beetle, family Lycidae. According to this source not too much is known about it. And yes, the bright coloring is aposematism. On the other hand, I’m not certain how to distinguish this from a glowworm, which is also a possibility.

From 20150705_moose_hill
From 20150705_moose_hill

A rather startling dash of color (no editing, by the way):

From 20150705_moose_hill

Posted 2015-07-05 by gaurav1729 in Uncategorized

20150702 Devil’s Rock   Leave a comment

Again, half an hour to spare at Devil’s Rock while my son had guitar lessons.

Do flies have leks? The four flies on the same plant would seem to be trying to mate. I’d love to know the answer.

From 20150702_devils_rock
From 20150702_devils_rock

This Robber fly is from the genus Laphria, I believe. Pretty much every time I see a Robber fly, it has prey. They have to be really successful hunters. Or maybe I only see them when they land, which is what they do after they capture a meal.

From 20150702_devils_rock

I found a web full of baby spiders, newly hatched. They were too young to have pigmentation, so they had a ghostly apparition, brought out because the flash also gave them a dark background. Not sure what kind, but the eye pattern is visible in this photo. Perhaps Linyphiidae?

From 20150702_devils_rock

Posted 2015-07-02 by gaurav1729 in Uncategorized

20150630 Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter   Leave a comment

A good test for the night mode of my Sony A33. Venus and Jupiter were about 1/3 of a degree apart.

From 20150630_conjunction

Posted 2015-06-30 by gaurav1729 in Uncategorized

20150623 After the tornado   2 comments

On June 23rd, we had some fantastic weather (it was fantastic because nobody got hurt and there was no damage). We saw plenty of action, and some conical clouds that did not touch the ground; but a couple of towns over, in Wrentham, there was a documented tornado at around 6 pm. Sunset, around 8:30, was spectacular.

This is a good time to remind everyone that I try to minimize the photo processing on my photos, because in the end I want to go back to nature and see the patterns where they live. This particular set has no post-processing at all. (An exception, of course, is black and white photos, where I feel justified in playing with the contrast — it’s an honest form of lying.)

From 20150623_after_tornado
From 20150623_after_tornado
From 20150623_after_tornado

Posted 2015-06-29 by gaurav1729 in Uncategorized

20150620 King Phillip’s Cave   2 comments

Cast the photo black and white, crank up the contrast, and pray for atmosphere:

From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips

Love Odonates! Especially love to get them flying, which is tough.

From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips

It was a big day for beetles, too:

From 20150620_king_phillips

Ground beetle? Tiger beetle? This seems an awkward angle:

From 20150620_king_phillips

This is genus Calosoma, ground beetles (Carabidae). Looking at this shell with and without flash was interesting — see where the color comes from?

From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips

What a gorgeous scarab beetle (June bug, Phyllophaga nebulosa?).

From 20150620_king_phillips

I turned over a rock, and saw a sowbug killer spider (Dysderidae); in fact, I’ve pretty much only seen these spiders when I look under rocks. Also some interesting unidentified ants.

From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips
From 20150620_king_phillips

And finally, plenty of very mysterious insect signs:

From 20150620_king_phillips

Note that in this next photo, the twigs were only on top and did not pass through the leaf. Perhaps from the bagworm, Psychidae.

From 20150620_king_phillips

A very shiny egg sac for somebody:

From 20150620_king_phillips

This is the cocoon of a parasitic wasp. There is a shrivelled caterpillar somewhere in this mess that has been eaten away by the wasp larvae.

From 20150620_king_phillips

Posted 2015-06-22 by gaurav1729 in Uncategorized

20150616 droplets   4 comments

A wet morning. The droplets on the grass and bushes were too inviting, so I took some time to take some photos.

I find it tough to properly frame and crop photos like these, as they are composed of an accumulation of lots of small but interesting elements. There’s not always a well-defined focus or flow to them. When you see an opportunity for a good photo then, go and grab it!

From 20150616_droplets
From 20150616_droplets
From 20150616_droplets
From 20150616_droplets
From 20150616_droplets

What I’ve noticed about photographing water droplets is that it’s critical to consider what’s behind the droplet, in terms of both background (flowers and leaves are nice!) and sunlight. Still trying to get better at this.

From 20150616_droplets
From 20150616_droplets
From 20150616_droplets

Finally, this one is the one that got away. I was really looking forward to showing the blades of grass skewing in all directions, each with its strand of droplets — unfortunately, I didn’t calculate for the foreground piece out of focus.

From 20150616_droplets

Here’s the best crop I could recover from it:

From 20150616_droplets

Posted 2015-06-16 by gaurav1729 in Uncategorized

20150528 Devil’s Rock Wasp   2 comments

Another half an hour to kill while my son had guitar lessons. A trip to Devil’s Rock was the obvious choice. I saw a lot of wasps flying around, but they were very tough to photograph in flight.

I followed this particular wasp for almost the entire half hour. The long ovipositor identifies her as a “she”; she’s probably a Braconid wasp, and probably of the genus Atanycolus. No surprise, she spent a lot of time walking around a rotting log; no surprise, I followed her everywhere she went, trying to get a shot of her laying her eggs in the wood. Sadly, it was no dice.

From 20150528_devils_rock

What was she doing? While I don’t know anything about Atanycolus in particular, I have some general ideas of Braconids and Ichneumonids. They are parasitoids, and try to lay their eggs in beetle grubs, caterpillars, and other insects. Some Atanycolus species are wonderful at controlling the Emerald Ash Borer, which would mean a lot, since that is a major pest of our forests.

From 20150528_devils_rock

The beetles react by laying their eggs deep in the wood. The wasps fight back by growing long ovipositors and developing the almost supernatural ability to detect grubs deep in the wood and managing to aim their ovipositors directly into the grubs.

They tend to walk along the wood, tapping with their antennae, listening for sounds that indicate that there is something in the trunk that’s not wood, and searching for the smell. Being able to drill into the wood is very impressive — they’ve evolved to actually have metal in their ovipositors. Yes: you can call them bionic.

From 20150528_devils_rock

Here’s a closeup of the ovipositor, a little hairier than I expected!

From 20150528_devils_rock

It’s sometimes not pleasant to think of parasitoids laying their eggs in living creatures. But let’s not superimpose human standards onto these wonderful animals, and instead take the time to admire their amazing abilities.

Posted 2015-05-29 by gaurav1729 in Uncategorized

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