Enduring the Rain

We have had cool rainy weather here for at least four days.  It is getting pretty old.  This afternoon the rain quit for a while and the sun came out, but it was still cool.  I walked around a little with my camera.  I photographed the wet lichens on a tree trunk.


I did not see the springtail until after I uploaded the picture onto my computer.


It is hard to notice the flowers blooming when we see constant rain.  This is dame’s rocket, an alien weed that is often included in wildflower mixes.

I did not get my recommended daily amount of macro photography, but I did at least get the knees of my jeans wet.



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I got into a discussion with some co-workers about dandelions, and the value of spending time removing them from lawns.


They expressed that it gave them pleasure to remove all of the dandelions from their lawns.

I spent some time on my dandelions yesterday.




I did not end up with a uniform green lawn.  But I had a pretty good dandelion break.

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They are Putting an Illegal on the Twenty Dollar Bill

They are planning on putting the face of an Illegal on the twenty dollar bill.

She was not a citizen.  She crossed borders illegally.  Not only that, she recruited others for her illegal activity.  She snuck around at night committing her crimes.  It is not known if she actually killed anyone, but she did threaten people with a gun.

She was a human smuggler.

She did not follow the rule of law.  She aided and abetted John Brown in his armed insurrection.

Her legal status was “property.”

She is replacing Andrew Jackson.

And it is about time.



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Henry’s Elfin

I chase butterflies.  There are some I have chased for years and have not yet seen.  Until last year, Henry’s elfin, Callophrys henrici, was one of those butterflies.  This butterfly might not be rare, but it is rarely seen.  It emerges as an adult in mid-April, and lives as an adult for only a week or so.  Its host plant in Iowa is redbud.

Last year I hung out by some redbud trees in Cordova Park, near Lake Red Rock, Iowa.  I saw a couple, and was able to get a photo that when enlarged showed the distinctive hind wing of the butterfly.  The butterfly could be identified but the photo was not especially good.


Aaron Brees had blogged about finding the species in another park, Elk Rock State Park adjacent to Lake Red Rock, and gave me a hint about where to look.  So this year I took his information and went there.  I don’t think I found the spot he mentioned, because I saw no redbuds or the sand prairie.  I did, however, find several individuals of my target species along a horse trail in the park.

They are tiny butterflies and they appear black when flying.  Typically they land on the edge of a branch or a stick adjacent to the trail, and bask at a right angle to the sun.  When they encounter another individual they fly off in a circling chase and eventually return, sometimes to the same spot.


I think what I saw were males exhibiting a sort of territorial behavior.  I saw up to three at a time, and I think there were about a half dozen in the small area.

They were difficult to photograph because of the wind, but I increased my chances by taking fifty photos.  A few good ones were mixed in with the not-so-good.


I also saw a couple of cabbage whites and too many red admirals to count.

This was a good butterfly day.

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First Butterfly of the Year (For Me)

We have had reports of butterflies here in Iowa since the last week in February–unusually early.  I did not see my first butterfly until yesterday, however.


Yesterday I saw red admirals.  There were at least three, and they chased each other around the yard.  I even got a few photos.

I am happy to see them.

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The Eighth Annual Day of Insects

Yesterday and Friday I was able to attend events associated with the Eighth Annual Day of Insects, put on by Reiman Gardens, which is a public garden associated with Iowa State University.

Robert Dana

The event has gotten to be pretty big–there were around 130 participants this year.

Essentially it is a meeting of the insect enthusiasts  of the area–there are a mix of dedicated professionals but mostly citizen scientists and insect photographers.  It is in Iowa, but there were attendees from Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and probably other states as well.

The main session on Saturday was fifteen different speakers giving a short talk (the length of each was tightly controlled to be 20 minutes) about their field of interest.

Brendan Dunphy

I have been to this event every year it has been held, and it just gets better every year.

Special thanks to Nathan Brockman, Anita Weshphal, the rest of the Reiman Gardens staff, and M. J. Hatfield for putting it together.


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Easter Photos

I took a few photos yesterday.  I still feel like my camera skills are rusty from the long winter of not using them.


The forsythia bushes are blooming.  They are about the only thing blooming right now.


And of course I had to turn over a piece of bark.  I found this European sowbug, Oniscus asellus,  underneath.

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Photo Euphoria

Every year when spring comes I go out and look for the first crocuses to bloom.  But I wasn’t ready this year.  They are up now, but I think I missed the first bloom by several days.  Spring came early and I have been busy.


My photography skills are very rusty.  I am physically out of shape, and I am having a painful sciatic nerve problem.    It was difficult to crawl around on the ground like I usually do.  It will get better, but will take time.

Still, there is a particular form of enjoyment that I get from photography.  I felt it today because I have been away from it for so long.  Still, it was not as natural as it was last year at the end of the season.

The euphoria that comes from the exercise cannot be denied.

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Early Signs of Spring

It is a cool day today–42 degrees F.  To those of you on the more logical scale, that is 6 degrees C.  Winter is taking its own sweet time leaving us.

I wanted to take some pictures of some critters so I turned over some logs to see what I could find.


A small slug was wedged into the bark.  It could be a Deroceras species.

I found about half a dozen snails of various sizes.  I think they were all immature individuals of Euchemotrema fraternum.  I placed them all on a leaf and waited for some action.


Only one individual seemed interested in his surroundings.  He poked his head out and checked the environment.

(Land snails of this group are hermaphroditic.  They have both male and female reproductive organs.  I would rather use “he” or “she” than “it”.  All of those would probably be correct anyway).


Once he had his bearings, he stretched out and grabbed onto the leaf.3-4-160023

With a little effort he could right himself.


Then he made a mad dash to the edge of the leaf.


He inspected it a little before plunging over.


Then he went over and hung on the underside of the leaf.

This seems to be a fairly natural position for snails to stay in.  If you turn over a log, the snail will be on the underside of the log.  There is often a gap between the log and the ground, so the snail is, in fact, often hanging upside down there.

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On the Pledge of Allegiance

One of the local school districts has decided to require that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited by all students, k-12, at least once a week.

I recited the pledge often as a child–at school and at events for certain social clubs.  I consider myself patriotic.  I love my freedom and democracy.

But sometime when I give the pledge my mind wanders and the voices in my head start asking questions.  The pledge uses archaic terms–not really the language we use in everyday life.


“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America”

I am making a solemn promise to be true to the flag of my country.  But am I being forced to make that promise?  I know that the courts have held that people cannot be forced to make the pledge.  But if I don’t will I get in trouble?  Will the other students ridicule me?

Am I being coerced into making this solemn promise?

When I see hateful people wrapping themselves in the flag and yelling at minorities have I pledged allegiance to that flag?  When the Bundys took over the Malheur Refuge they waved American flags.  Am I making a pledge to them?

“And to the Republic for which it stands”

Why use the term republic and not democracy?  Lots of nations are republic.  The “R” in USSR stood for “republics.”  Iran is a theocratic republic, for heaven’s sake.

“One nation, under God, Indivisible,”

There it is–“under God”.  The United States in not a theocracy.  We have separation of church and state, and that is a good thing.  Why is that in the pledge?  Is it because some people want us to become a theocracy?

“With Liberty and Justice for all.”

Why the term liberty?  Liberty and freedom have similar meanings.  But liberty is something that someone gives you–maybe even doles out to you.  Freedom is something you take.  You own your freedom, someone else gives you liberty.

I could not stop the voices in my head.

But I gave the pledge.  Maybe because I did not want to disrespect those in authority, or maybe because I did not want to create any waves.

What, exactly, did I learn?


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