October 6, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Photo gallery extreme makeover

In terms of weather, September 2010 was one of the best months I can remember. Day after day, we had clear blue skies, just perfect for taking photos. (If my bicycle were in working order, that is, if I were motivated to maintain it properly, I would have ridden quite a few miles.) In any case, I took advantage of the ideal conditions while I was out watching birds to capture the scenic beauty of this area on my digital camera. The results of my efforts can now be seen at the brand-new Autumn 2010 photo gallery. For now it mostly contains photos of downtown Staunton, but there will be others of fall foliage in the weeks to come. I would say my favorite photo on that page is the camera Blackfriars Playhouse, home of the renowned American Shakespeare Theater. My second favorite would probably be camera McCormick's Mill, during an Augusta Bird Club field trip in mid-September.

But that's not all! Also I belatedly added three photos to the Summer 2010 photo gallery, including a rather spectacular camera Swoope view, showing Great North Mountain and railroad tracks heading off into the distance.

As part of the ongoing comprehensive reformatting of this Web site, a project that is several months underway and far from finished (!), the navigational system on the main Photo Gallery page has been radically simplified. There are now five categories, and clicking on any of those titles opens a drop-down menu (denoted by the hand point down icon) containing either links to particular photo gallery pages, or else a set of links to lower-level drop-down menus, in a hierarchical scheme. Click once to reveal the drop-down menu, and click a second time to hide it again. Some of the title-links trigger a change in the montage, as a preview of what that photo gallery page (or group of pages) contains. It's a much cleaner and more efficient system, and will hopefully make it easier for visitors to find the photos they want to see. There is also a new, improved general photo montage. The view of Machu Picchu from above (which was taken in 2004) is the same as before, but all the other photos are from 2010.

Photo montage

Clockwise, from top left: Amanita Umbonata mushroom, Machu Picchu, country road in South Dakota, Scarlet Tanager, and Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (dark morph female).

Butterfly photos

Over the past couple years I have become increasingly interested in butterflies, and this time of year one can see dozens of bright orange Monarchs flying south almost every day. I recently bought a beginner's field guide to help me identify some of the ones I've been seeing, many of which are on the Butterflies (and Moths*) photos page.

Butterfly montage

Clockwise, from top left: Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Spicebush Swallowtail, Monarch, Rocky Mountain Parnassian, Great Spangled Fritillary, and in center, Orange Sulfur.

Roll your mouse over the image to see a normal (yellow) Tiger Swallowtail, and click on it to compare it to a female, dark variant of that SAME species! Move the mouse away from that image to return to the original butterfly montage.

I was amazed that the male and female Tiger Swallowtails look so much different, but that dark variant apparently only occurs in some regions. You can see many more examples at butterfliesandmoths.org.

* One of the more astounding, and unexpected, nature sightings during my trip to South Dakota in July was a huge moth, almost the size of a hummingbird. During one of the heavy rain storms, I saw something in the grass being attacked by a Robin in the back yard, and went out to investigate. It turned out to be a huge moth that was too soaked to fly, so I rescued it and released it the next morning. I had to rescue it once again after a House sparrow attacked it. It seemed very sluggish, and I thought it might be nearly dead, but the afternoon sun seemed to reenergize it, as it flew away very rapidly when we released it a second time. At the butterfliesandmoths.org Web site, I was able to identify it as a camera Five-spotted Hawkmoth, a species which had never been sighted in Clay County, SD. So, I submitted the photos I took to the proper authorities, along with a description of the circumstances.

Last week I was pleased to get a response via e-mail from Silka Kempema, Wildlife Biologist in the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. She confirmed that it was a Five-spotted Hawkmoth, and that it was the first one ever reported in Clay County!

Other insect photos

Every once in a while I come across some strange or colorful insect and manage to get a decent photo. Some of the photos in the insect montage were taken as long as two years ago, so I am finally getting caught up with that. Those photos, and others, have been posted on the Other insects photo gallery page. I don't have any reference field guides for insects other than butterflies, so some of the species shown below may remain unknown for some time.

Insect montage

Grasshopper, ?, ? beetle, Ruby Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly, ? yellow fly, Praying Mantis, and in center, Periodical Cicadas (from the "plague" in 1987).

More mushroom photos!

I posted the Mushroom montage below on Facebook a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to post it here on this Web site, but I have been just too busy to identify the various species in it. Well, I think I have identified most of them correctly now, so I have posted several separate photos on the Mushrooms photo gallery page. When you roll the mouse over the image below, it reveals the mushroom montage I put together in June, which was almost as varied and colorful. This has truly been one of the best years for mushrooms ever!

Mushroom montage 2010 Aug

Top right: Amanita Cokeri; Bottom right: Amanita Umbonata; Center: Lycoperdon Pulcherrimum; Top right-center: Clavulina cristata. Other species are yet uncertain...

Ballpark panoramas

And finally, for baseball fans, there is a new Ballpark panoramas photo gallery.