Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fishing Spiders, Again

I usually check for fishing spiders on my way home from work. Normally they are close to the water and quite hard to spot. I expect to have to search for them. But this time there was a large one out on the pavement instead of down by the water. I backed away slowly so as not to scare it away and got out my camera. I started by taking some shots from a distance, with the telephoto, in case it took off when I got close.

fishing spider

Unfortunately it was sitting right in the shadow of the reeds. But that was probably deliberate on its part to make it less obvious. I've never seen them out in the open like this before. I wonder what brought it out?

I then switched to macro and slowly approached. I took a bunch of photos without scaring it away.

fishing spider

I even got away with moving my shadow across it to get a better background.

fishing spider

In fact it ignored me so totally, and didn't move at all, that I started to think it must be dead. But when I poked it with my finger it finally ran away!

This was a large adult with a body about 2 cm long. There were also numerous small juveniles less than a centimeter. (I counted 10 in a small area.) I wonder how long it takes them to grow? The babies that I saw last time were very tiny, less than a millimeter.

fishing spider

I also wonder what the biggest factor is in their mortality. They go from hundreds of babies, to tens of juveniles, to one or two adults. Is their population controlled most by availability of food? Or by predation? Or something else? I wonder what eats them? It seems like the koi would eat anything, but they seem too slow. A dragonfly might be fast enough to catch them.

See all 6 photos as a slideshow or overview

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bug of the Day

I was just about to leave the house to walk to a dentist appointment when I realized I didn't have a camera with me, and you never know when you might see something worth photographing. I happened to spot this caterpillar in the park.


It's hard to tell which end is the front, which is, of course, the intent. I assume that means it's more likely to survive having its tail bitten than its head, otherwise there'd be no point to the deception. The long hairs also make it a less appetizing mouthful. Some caterpillars have hairs that can be quite irritating if you touch them. (And in rare cases cause allergic reactions.)

I think this is Lophocampa maculata or Spotted Tussock Moth. It's supposed to feed on poplar or willow leaves but it comes down from the trees to find a place to pupate, which might be why this one was in the grass.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Montana Critters

I didn't see a lot of wildlife on this trip but there's always small stuff. There were a few shorebirds around the lake like this sandpiper.

Least Sandpiper (?)

The Kildeer were noisy but hard to spot against the pebbled beach, which is surprising since they're not particularly camouflaged.

spot the Kildeer

I spotted more insects than anything else. My entomologist father would have been proud of me :-) These grasshoppers (one of his specialties) were also hard to spot, since their coloring matched the dirt and brown grass well. The trick was to track them when they flew and try to catch where they landed. Even when you did spot them, they were quite skittish and hard to get close enough to photograph.


On the other hand, this spider's orange color stood out against the plant it was on. And it wasn't bothered by me getting close to take its picture.


These bees were loaded with bright orange pollen, which matched the pollen on these Mullein flowers.

bee in flight

And there were bumblebees around as well:

bee on thistle

On our walk in the Missouri Headwaters State Park there were a ton of grasshoppers. As you walked along the path you were surrounded by grasshoppers jumping around. It reminded me of popcorn popping! There were a few different kinds


And also a lively chipmunk.


On our hike in the Lewis and Clark National Forest there were quite a few butterflies around but they were distinctly uncooperative. I only managed a few photos.

butterfly on thistle

This fly was a little easier to capture. I think it's a Tachinid fly. Apparently they can be important pollinators higher in the mountains where bees are scarce.

Tachinid fly ?

It was fairly early in the morning when we walked through Gibson Park in Great Falls and there were bees "sleeping" on the flowers, waiting to warm up enough to fly.

bee on flower

And yet more grasshoppers:


Lots of ducks on the pond in the park:


And a few swans. This one seems to be studying its reflection.


The ubiquitous gophers (ground squirrels) made us feel at home:

gopher (ground squirrel)

For more of these photos, see all 26 as a slideshow or overview

Monday, August 22, 2016

Montana Flowers & Plants

I enjoyed photographing the prairie plants around Canyon Ferry Lake. At first glance all you could see was brown grass with the occasional sagebrush and juniper. But looking closer, the sagebrush was flowering:

flowering sagebrush

and wildflowers like these blazing stars were hidden in the grass:

Prairie blazing star

Prairie blazing star

I'm not sure what these next plants are, they were about four feet high with "furry" leaves and grew closer to water, not on the dry prairie.


You had to watch where you put your feet since there was a lot of cactus in some places. Mostly prickly pear like these

Prickly pear cactus

It was past flowering, but there were some fruits left.

Prickly pear cactus

These next cacti weren't as common and were often half buried making them harder to spot. I'm guessing some kind of Escobaria or pincushion cactus, maybe spiny star.


Lately I've been trying to find some blue gamma grass to photograph. These were the only ones I spotted.

Blue gamma grass

The heads curl up attractively after the seeds are gone:

Blue gamma grass

After camping we spent the night at the historic Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks to get cleaned up. The next day we went for a short hike at the nearby Missouri Headwaters State park.

backlit flower

Anyone know what these next flowers are?



We also went for a hike (actually more of a bushwhack) in the Lewis and Clark National forest where the Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers were blooming.

Indian Paintbrush


On our way home we spent a night in in Great Falls and went for a walk in Gibson Park where there were lots of flowers.

Purple coneflower

even some blue globe thistles:

Blue globe thistle

For more of these photos, see all 32 as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Montana Abstracts

I took too many photos in Montana to post all at once, so I split them up by "type". Feel free to skip these abstracts if they're not your cup of tea. I imagine if you don't like them, they all look boringly similar. Personally, I love the infinite variety of shapes and colors and patterns.

reflections of clouds

There was just enough of a breeze to make interesting ripples on the water. Black and white emphasizes the patterns. (The eye is easily distracted by color.)


Here's the pebbled beach

pebble beach

Of course, I always like the reflections of the trees combined with the ripples in the water


A lucky shot as these birds flew by over the reflections of the sunrise

birds  over water at sunrise

And sunset reflections at the other end of the day

sunset reflections

When I first walked by this rock outcropping I scared a tiny rabbit that hightailed it out of there before I could take its photo. I went by there a half dozen times more but never saw it again. The lichens growing on the rocks were a more cooperative subject.

lichen on rocks

I always enjoy the early morning light, and especially backlit subjects.

backlit grass

I wasn't sure whether to categorize some of these as abstract or not. In theory abstract shots shouldn't be immediately recognizable, and many of these certainly are. But to me it's a question of whether it's more about the shapes and light than the actual subject.


In this next one I was trying to capture the feel of the blinding sparkling sun reflecting off the river around the bush.

bush against sparkling water

This one seemed to naturally fit black and white

b&w ducks

For more of these photos, see all 25 as a slideshow or overview

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Montana Scenery

More photos from our recent trip to Montana. We had a great sunset one evening. I had to combine multiple photos into panoramas to get the whole sunset in.


It started off slowly with not much color but some interesting clouds.


Later, the color reflected strongly in the lake.


We also had an interesting sunrise one morning.


The people taking the paragliding course took the tow boat to the next bay where they were flying. I walked over and took photos. (Lots more photos to come from those walks.) The lake (dammed section of the Missouri river) was calm early in the morning.


Away from the reservoir it was grass, sagebrush, and juniper prairie. One afternoon we had some threatening clouds accumulate but they never amounted to much.

threatening skies

For more photos see all 20 as a slideshow or overview