Obey the Sign

I bought a new radio alarm clock today, and being from the “old school” I did read the instructions:


O.K. so far…


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A Winter’s Day

It is cold today and the wind just cuts through.  But I saw some geese in the water on Beaver Creek when I drove across the bridge.  I went back home and got my camera.

The geese are not spooked by moving cars, but if you stop and walk to the edge of the bridge they get scared off.  I took a few pictures then left them alone.


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Maybe in a Few Weeks

The temperature hasn’t reached freezing today, and the weather forecast has below freezing temperatures for highs for the rest of this week.  But we are half-way through February.

Every year I like to photograph the first flowers I see.  Judging by the dates of my photos, the first bloom might be coming up soon–anywhere from three weeks to eight weeks from now.



I took this picture on March 9, 2012.  Other first bloom dates were March 14, 2010, April 3, 2011, March 29, 2013, and April 10, 2014.

It does not seem like it so much now, but the flowers will be blooming soon.

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Under the Weather

Our bird feeder is, as they say, a little under the weather.


But another six weeks or so and winter will be gone.


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What is your State Butterfly

A number of the states here in the U.S. designate state birds, state flowers, and even state soil types.  Some have either state butterflies or state insects (or both).  Iowa does not currently have a state butterfly, but some folks from Reiman Gardens have proposed to the state legislature that we designate the regal fritillary as ours.  And it is a great choice.  It is a large colorful butterfly.  It is generally considered a prairie obligate butterfly.  It was once widespread across the United States, but now is only found in a few places with good prairie vegetation.


I looked at a list of state butterflies.  Slightly more than half of the states have a state butterfly or designate a butterfly as the state insect.  Six states have monarch as their state butterfly.  Five have the eastern tiger swallowtail.  Arizona designates the two-tailed swallowtail, and Oregon designates the Oregon (old world) swallowtail as their butterflies.  Both of those bear striking resemblances to the eastern tiger swallowtail.

Fourteen states have butterflies that are not monarchs or resemble the eastern tiger swallowtail.  All of those are unique butterflies.   Kentucky has the viceroy (possibly to make fun of all the states with monarchs as the state butterfly).  Maryland has the Baltimore checkerspot, Florida has the zebra longwing.  No other state has the regal fritillary.

I think all butterflies are beautiful.  Each has its own degree of charm.  But the regal fritillary has a razzmatazz that most other butterflies can only dream of.


If caterpillars wish they were butterflies, most ordinary butterflies wish they were regal fritillaries.

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Looking out the Window

I feel extremely fortunate to be able to live in a rural area.  We get to see the night sky.  We have five species of frogs on our property, and they will start calling in a few short weeks. We have 56 species of butterflies that have been sighted on our property.  And occasionally, I can look out the window in the morning and see this:


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Winter Shots

I find myself out of shape and out of practice with my camera.  We have had an unusual winter this year–very cold in November, and very cold for the first few days of January.  Today it is warm, however–barely above freezing now, but predicted to get close to 50 degrees F.  (That would be 10 degrees C for those of you who have measurement systems that make sense).


These are the seed heads of foxglove beardtongue.  I did not quite get the sky color I wanted.  There is a balance between position (to get the best sky color) and fill flash balance that I did not quite get right here.


This seed head to pale purple coneflower was better.


And, I just love the colors of the asters.  They are magnificent when in bloom, and just as magnificent when in seed.

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Farm Supplies

A local farm supply store included this flier in the Sunday paper.


Really?  30 round magazines?

Guns are not toys.


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2014 Butterflies

When I can I take a walk over my lunch break at work.  And in the summer I count the butterflies I see.  Here are my results for 2014.

2014 survey results

This chart represents the number of butterfly observations per hour.  I threw out observations on some days–for example, if it was misty or windy or too cold, I disqualified the data.

I tallied a total of 888 butterflies over the season from that survey route.

species compositon

This is the species composition.  Three fourths of the observations I made were of three species:  orange sulfur, eastern tailed-blue, and clouded sulfur.

The survey area is chosen because it is where I like to take my walks.  It is not particularly good butterfly habitat.  The habitat consists of some trees and turf grass.  The only flowers are “accidental” flowers–flowers that are still in the grass in spite of efforts to eliminate them.  Flowers include dandelions, some clovers, and even fog fruit on a particular stretch of the walk.

I also did some surveys on my home property–I entered those results into ebutterfly, but I did not track them on my spreadsheets.

Butterfly survey results are better than casual observations because there is a tracking of the effort involved.

My surveys found 25 species in this fairly poor butterfly habitat at Camp Dodge. Throughout the summer I was able to photograph 51 species in Iowa (and I am not counting the unconfirmed photograph of what I think is a phaon crescent).

2014 was not such a bad year for butterflies.

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A Year in Review

The end of 2014 has turned out to be pretty busy for me–not so much time left for my photography.  But I did have some time this morning to review the photos I took, and I came up with some to feature.

Here are what I consider my top ten.  Some made the list because I liked the results of the photographs.  Some made the list because I enjoyed the experience of taking the photograph.  I hope you enjoy them.

On May 30, I took this photo of a male mosquito.  I posted it to bugguide, and though it looks like it should be pretty distinctive, it was never identified to species.


On June 14 I took this photo of a cicada from the 17 year brood.  The photo was OK, but what I really remember was the magic of the emergence of these magnificent singing insects.  I did not realize before I tried to identify my insect that the brood consists of 3 species, not just one.  I don’t know which one this is–you have to turn them over to ID them.  The generic name Magicicada is appropriate.


On June 21 I attended a bioblitz at Whiterock Conservancy.  Adults and children interacting with a frog–also magic.


The fifth of July should have been a good time to find some of the rarely seen hairstreaks.  I took a short trip to Jasper County–Jacob Krumm Nature preserve, in hopes of finding some, as they had been reported to be there in the previous years.  Banded, Edwards, and striped hairstreaks should have been possible there.    However, the weather did not cooperate.  There were several inches of rainfall earlier in the day and on the previous day.  I only found one or two butterflies, and they weren’t hairstreaks.  So instead I photographed some of the lifeforms on the bark of a burr oak tree.  The jumping spider and snail (Vallonia pulchella) were found on the wet bark of a single tree.



On July 6th, I went to Medora Prairie in southern Iowa, hoping to find some of the same rare hairstreaks, and also the regal fritillary.  I had hoped to photograph the regal on a flower, possibly butterfly milkweed.  I did find coral hairstreaks but not some of the others I had hoped for.  I got one poor photo of a regal flying, and went back to the access road feeling defeated.  When I saw some regals mudding, I did my best to get a good photo.  I was happy with the result, but I think I can do better, so hopefully I will try again next year.


Sometimes you go to exotic locations, sometimes you find the exotic in your driveway.  The question mark butterfly is common, but I think it is pretty magnificent.   I took this photo on July 12 in my driveway.


We have a small patch of reconstructed prairie near to our house.  Gorgone checkerspot is occasionally found there, and on August 17 I found one that stayed and posed long enough for me to take a bunch of photos.  I particularly liked this one.


For reasons beyond my control my chances to pursue photography slowed down toward the end of the summer.  The last butterfly photograph I took was on October 25.  I was kind of happy with the results, although this is the very common orange sulfur on an equally common dandelion.


I got a late start to my annual chore of splitting wood, and found this colorful crane fly, Limonia annulata, in the middle of a hollow log.  I included this photo not so much because I like the photo, but because I like the bug.  This photo was taken August 26.


Three months or so from now I will start taking macro photographs again.  Cold winter weather is not so good for bugs or bug photographers.  Until then, I can only look at the past photos and dream of photos yet to come.

Happy new year.

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