Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowflakes


We received a few inches of snow yesterday and early this morning. So I have been trying to get the illusive fabulous snowflake picture. Obviously this one isn't it. I want the individual flakes to stand out more, but the conditions have to be just right, and the snow had settled a bit, before I was able to get out and work on capturing it.

I did like this one for starters and when I found the following poem, I thought they went well together. Have a Happy (last) Monday (of 2009)!



Check out some other macro monday shots at Lisa's Chaos

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ding Dong Merrily on High

Have you heard Celtic Woman. Their voices are angelic and harmonies heavenly! My H took me to go see them in concert a few years ago. It was beautiful. They were beautiful!
Here they are singing, Ding Dong Merrily On High.

The composer of the song, is unknown, but the Carol is said to be French, dating back to the 16th century. The text was originally, Latin. One of my favorites from college days!



Here are the Lyrics:

Ding dong merrily on high,
In heav'n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riv'n with angel singing.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

E'en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And "Io, io, io!"
By priest and people sungen.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Squirrels, Black Walnuts and a Laugh


I admit, I do have a tiny bit of wildlife that crosses my path here in the suburbs of Western New York. You know how thrilled I was to get the pictures of the Red Tailed Hawk, and more recently the deer. There are of course the myriad of bird varieties, the ground hog, the american mink, and the silly chipmunks. But I guess the most common form of wildlife I get visiting my yard is the squirrel.

We have grey ones:


And red ones:
Flying ones ... (okay so I am kidding with that one!)

Mustache and Beard squirrels ...


I admit I take too many pictures of squirrels.



But when they get on my bird feeders, I get a little upset.


Besides eating the bird seed I set out for ... the birds ... squirrels love to collect berries and nuts to store for the coming winter. Unfortunately, one of the nuts they collect is the Black Walnut. Here is one of the Black Walnut trees we have in our yard. Yes they are beautiful, but they are as pesky as the squirrels!

I know, they are a most valued tree. I remember my dad talking about how beautiful the wood was. But did you know they are also extremely toxic. We have tried to grow many things in our flower beds, year after year only to be disappointed that everything died. We did discover the culprit, but alas, as frustrating as it is, you cannot cut down every tree on your property!


Believe it or not, the nuts are annoying as well. How pretty they look on the trees. But as the leaves fall, so do the nuts. They are messy, they are loud, and they are many! Oh there is nothing like being woken in the middle of the night, during a cold and blustery October/November, to the sound of golf balls being thrown at your house, or landing on your roof and rolling off.

But they are helpful in feeding the squirrels. The squirrels chew the green hull off to get at the nut inside. They don't worry about the dye that is inside the shell, that is indelible and very messy. You need to be very careful when picking them up from all over the lawn (so they don't get caught in the lawn mower) that you don't get the ink on your hands. But those squirrels are very messy eaters! Never picking up after themselves.

Black hull with the nut inside ...

The outer shell of the nut ...

Turn it over to find that the nut has been chewed out ...

So where, perhaps you are asking, does the laugh come in on all of this. Well, it's the squirrels. I said that they hide away the nuts for safe keeping, so they will be able to eat thru the winter. It's just ... well ... they hide them in the most ridiculous places. Take a look for yourself, I swear, they were placed in these photo's by squirrels. I have found them in planters, under railings and under chairs but these three places made me laugh this year.


Okay, so maybe this one is my fault, I didn't get out to brush the leaves off of the seat cushion on our uncovered back deck. Do you see the nut in the chair?


Perhaps this one is a little more easy to find. I kid you not ....

But this year, I have a favorite. We tried (unsuccessfully) to grow tomatoes with those upside down hanger things. We didn't get any tomatoes, but we did provide the squirrel with a hiding place. This picture was taken from my family room picture window.
I hope to be around when he comes back to get it. At first I thought it had fallen from the tree and made a perfect landing, but the fact that there is not one other nut laying anywhere around on the ground, makes me think that this one was hidden ... although it is.. in plain sight!



Monday, September 21, 2009

Sedum, Stonecrop, and Live Forever ... They're All The Same

I found it interesting that so many folks had never heard of the plant I blogged about last week. I am not sure if it grows prolifically around the country, but there sure is a lot of it here in the Western New York area.

The pictures I posted were actually from a plant that probably was not as healthy as it could be. Sedum is a succulent, and stores its water in its thick green leaves. The plant I photographed had very bright leaves. The healthier ones have very dark green leaves. Below was the plant about July. Flowers were just beginning to bud.






The colors vary from plant to plant. Some are very pink, some purplish and burgundy as well. The next two shot are from my flower bed.



You can see the leaves don't look all that healthy. I read that if it turns this bright green color, it means it is getting too much water. I have several other plants that are not quite as drought resistant, and so I guess it has gotten a bit too much water from the others being cared for.

Below is a plant from over at our town hall. The flowers are much darker and so are the leaves. I wonder sometimes if it has anything to do with the make up of the soil, kind of like the hydrangea. (Just a guess, I don't know for sure).


The next two pictures are from my neighbors plant near her mailbox. It's pretty interesting that the same plant can come in so many different shades. I read that most of the flowers have 5 petals and 2x the number of stamens as petals. They are so beautiful, and do look completely different in a close up, than from far away!








And my favorite of the colors:
They surely are a hardy plant. Perhaps something to think about for next year? Have a great week everyone!



Monday, August 24, 2009

Monarch Butterflies Part II

Here they are! The pictures of the emergence of our first butterfly. I am so glad that I took it to the dentist's office. Wouldn't you know right there in the waiting room it decided to come out. Coolest thing I have ever seen. When the dentist came out from taking care of the boys, he found me on the floor in his waiting room taking pictures. I was too excited to be embarrassed. (Old one wasn't, he was very embarrassed by my crazy behavior. He couldn't believe I was taking the 'gross things' into the waiting room).

If you have seen this before, how lucky for you! It really is an amazing transformation. I know it's just a bug - but wow! How intricate and detailed and ... I just don't know what to say it was so cool.

I recently read that when the caterpillar changes into the chrysalis, it becomes liquid inside. How amazing to see the transformation to solid again and even the colors emerging thru the shell.


At about 1015 it began to break free

The head comes out first

Then the wings

I love this picture of the proboscis. To think that two straws come together as one to create the 'mouth/nose' with which our butterfly will drink nectar. You can actually see the split in this photo.

It hangs on with its legs as the thorax drops.

Sorry some of these are blurry. We learn as we go. First off, sitting on the floor in the dentist office is not the best place to be taking pictures - although he has a great floor to ceiling window which provided some good light as I hate to use the flash.

Secondly I have come to learn that after I get my camera repaired (oh such a long sad story! I never change CF card, but when we had a tournament this summer I bought a 4GB to make sure I would have enough space without having to run home and get them off the camera. The first time I took the card out, I couldn't get the other card in. I knew better than to force it so I put the other one back in, but it was going in really tight. I ended up taking it to the camera store where they told me I have a bent pin. It will be $200-300 to fix. So I put the card back in, (the guy told me not too, but I had to try.... I have been shooting on grace these last few months. Never taking out the card!)

Anyway - I am sorry I digress. Once I get that fixed, my next lens needs to be a macro. I love up close photography of tiny things and want to get better at it. So I guess that is the direction I will need to go in. Then ... perhaps I will start to think about lighting issues.



Back to the butterfly, doesn't she have tiny wings? There are actually 4 wings.






Ok, I missed quite a few shots in between here. We left the dentists office and since I was already out, I needed to stop at the dollar store for some plastic table cloths for my bulletin boards at school. (Much cheaper than paper and since I don't get any money from my building for that, well I have to find it as cheap as I can. ) Oh sorry I went off on a tangent again!

Anyway while I was in the Dollar Store, she just hung there and let her wings dry out. As they dried they got longer. They also began to leak this orange liquid. Yeah kind of gross, but I wanted to share it with you too.




Finally we got home and thought it was time to take her out of the box. Young One volunteered to hold her for some more photos.





I read today that Monarchs are actually poisonous. You see they only eat milkweed when they are in the caterpillar stage, which is poisonous as well. They store it in them somehow as they transform and then use it as a protection of sorts. If a bird takes a bite of them, the bird gets very sick and will never do that again (so I have read).


Yeah he got tired of that fast. Kind of a weird feeling as they have a tiny claw on the feet that hold on to you. I guess they are called a tarsus, and it has a tiny organ on it that lets them taste the nectar.

We put her on an echinacea (pink/purple coneflower) flower. Mine are almost all past their prime, I wasn't sure I would be able to find one that was suitable, but we did, and she hung out there quite a while.

It must have been quite a site for my neighbors to see me sitting in my flower bed in my lawn chair, waiting and taking pictures, but I didn't care. What I won't do for the sake of a picture.
(Well if you know me there are lots of things I won't do - so let's just leave it there.)

The proboscis is so cool!


Yeah, here you can see my flowers are really waning .....

Meanwhile the wings continue to dry and get longer. I actually went in and did my 2 miles on the treadmill. I came out and she was still there.


Finally we saw the wings open up. If you notice, I have been calling this butterfly a her. You can tell the difference between butterflies by the round black dots that the males have on the bottom (hind) wings. If you look at the adult butterfly in my header there are not dots so she is a female. Comparing this picture to that one - the hind wings are not yet fully out, but I think there is enough to see that there are no black dots.

A few hours later she flew off the flower and up into the pine tree in our front yard. I had to go to school for a while and work in my classroom, and when I got home she was gone.


Well I had a real lot of fun watching this process and learning about butterflies. If you have never done this with your kids, it is something they should all experience. So very amazing, but then we have an amazing God who has created all of these intricacies in our lives for us to enjoy and learn about. If you want to see all the pictures I took of the butterfly process, you can find them on flickr:


You might want to check out my different flower series or nature shots

Thanks for sharing this with me. I hope you liked the pictures.