Saturday, January 26, 2013

American GoldFinch (Spinus tristis)

American GoldFinch (Spinus tristis)

Each July when the Goldfinch broods fledge, my garden is visited by family groups of Goldfinches.  The bright yellow males are the first to be noticed.  He perches on the tall stems of the Shasta Daisies, surveys the undergrowth for stalking urban leopards, house cats. The all-clear call is given and the rest of the group moves in to feed. In the background of the photo above can be seen the compound leaf of an Indiana Black Walnut, a tree that was once common through out Indiana before the forests were clear cut and burned for agriculture. The squirrels plant these trees, at one time I believed what I was told, squirrels bury tree seeds to hide for their next meal. After watching squirrels burying maple seeds one after another in my garden and the fact that the nearest walnut tree is a city block away from my yard, I tend to think that squirrels are distributing the tree seeds to replenish the forest habitat. After all no trees no squirrels.

July in my perennial wild flower garden.  The wild flowers were planted about twenty years ago, from bag and canned wild flower seed mixes.  I just turned the soil, broadcast the seed mix and let nature take its course. Every now and then, I'll root out the grass that invades from what little lawn that I have.  No ferts or pesticides, dividing the root clumps is a no-no also. Basically, no maintenance is the rule, I just let it grow. When I see plants taking hold that I do not want I just pull them out by the roots.  The deadheads are left on the stalks to re-seed, provide food for the visiting birds and shelter for the overwintering insects.

Margined Blister Beetle

I was first introduced to the Blister Beetle in the mid 70's. In a way that I would not wish upon my worst enemy or best friend( in creationist science your best friend is your worst enemy, talk about weird science, lol). Back to the point. I was strolling down the street, was a beautiful summer's eve, when I felt something crawling on the back of my neck. I reached back, gave it a whack and picked it off my neck. First glance I was relieved that it was not a hornet, yellow jacket or bee. I thought only a beetle,  good.  As I continued my stroll and examination of this unknown beetle, I observed a reddish fluid on the beetle and my fingers.  Suddenly, my neck and fingers began to burn, as if a hot comb was pressing against my skin. The back of my neck and fingers blistered something awful but the pain became scientific bliss when I realized that I had my first Blister Beetle.

The beetle in the photo is the Margined Blister Beetle (Epicauta pestifera). Common in the eastern USA. These beetles are vegetarians as adults. The eggs are laid in the soil, upon hatching the instar (nymphs) seek out grasshopper eggs for food.  During a drought, when grasshopper eggs are few, they substitute ground nesting bee larva for their food. Some consider them parasitic but they are actually insect predators(insectivores). The blister agent is secreted by the males and given to the females during mating.  She puts the fluid on the eggs.  This makes the eggs poisonous and repels any creature that finds the eggs. The toxic chemical in the fluid not only burns but it also kills horses, grazing animals and humans when the beetles are eaten. Old timers out there, remember the aphrodisiac "Spanish Fly", well, the ground up beetle was it. Now banned around the world because it is a deadly poison. If you ever wondered what a  Spanish Fly looked like, here it is.          

Metallic Green Bee and Predatory Wasp

I was focusing on the Metallic Green Bee(Agapostemon) feeding on a purple cone flower when the small predatory wasp entered my camera's field of view.  Since all my photography is hand-held, no tripod, I was able to ever so slightly adjust my camera position to include the wasp in the focal plane. I depressed the shutter button and got this image but before I could take a second shot, the wasp attacked the bee and both disappeared into the unknown.

Metallic Green Bee and Predatory Wasp

The Metallic Green Bee is a native solitary bee and they pollinate our flowering plants. I must admit I am a bit confused concerning the wasp. Is it a wasp or is it a wasp-mimicking Hoverfly. I tend to think it is a wasp because of the short-blunt antennae, the constriction of the thorax-abdomen junction and the point at the end of its abdomen. Without a hands on examination, I can't be certain.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama Rolls Eyes

Have you heard that the First Lady Michelle Obama rolled her eyes at Boehner because of something Boehner said to the President. "Professional" lip readers were called in to analyze the video and "read his lips". All a bunch of Fourth Estate(news/press) disinformation to discredit and degrade the First Lady of these United States. Yea, I've got proof. look at the photo compilation below.

At 3 seconds of the video, Boehner inappropriately "slaps" the First Lady on her arm while she is eating to get her attention. At  4 seconds of the video, the First Lady glances at Boehner in, what I see as, disgust. Boehner and "the press" owes the First Lady an apology and he should learn to keep his hands to himself.

Boehner slaps First Lady's arm.
First Lady Michelle Obama glances at Boehner after he slaps her arm.
Images from MS/NBC video

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Early Morning Fire - Gary, Indiana

Sunday January 6th, 2013, at about 5:00 in the morning we were awakened by the sound of sirens from a Fire Truck of the Gary Indiana Fire Dept. A house across the street from mine was a fully involved infernal. The first fire company at the scene initiated an aggressive attack on the burning structure. The Engine Company flowed more than 500 gallons of water into the burning house, but the intensity of the flames and heat rendered the water almost useless.

Fire Scene in Gary, Indiana 
( Click on Any Image to See Slide Show)

The second wave of responding fire units were delay by a train and the attack pumper used all of its tank water.  

Fortunately, the residents of the home were not there. The on-scene firefighters could only watch the fire grow out of control.

Open flame vented from every opening in the building. In a matter of minutes the fire had burned through the roof.

Knowing that a water supply would soon be there, the Firefighters donned their air supply and prepared to attack  the burning structure with hand lines. 

But before the water supply was secured, the fire had consumed the rafters and the roof came crashing down. Once connected to a fire hydrant, the Gary Firefighters extinguished the fire in a matter of minutes. 

After two hours of interior overhaul with hand-lines, axes and pike poles, the secondary search was completed and all hot spots were extinguished.

The final act at the fire scene was to flood the structure with water to assure that no smoldering hot spots remained that could cause a rekindle later in the day.