Journal archives for December 2015

December 01, 2015

Observation of the Week, 12/1/15

This Dynastor darius ssp. stygianus butterfly seen by magazhu in Yelapa, Mexico is our Observation of the Week!

Raised in a bilingual household in Mexico City by an American “chemical engineer/researcher/pianist father and a Mexican translator interpreter/Flamenco dancer mother,” Cheryl Harleston (@magazhu) has always had an interest in animals, and worked with Bengal tigers and as a large species veterinary assistant. However it’s her sighting of a butterfly, Dynastor darius ssp. stygianus, and its tiny eggs and larvae, that is our Observation of the Week.

Since 2003 Cheryl has been living in the remote town of Yelapa, in Mexico’s Jalisco state. After falling ill last year she forced herself to take walks around the untouched jungle of her backyard. “Thanks to the very slow steps I had to take I could notice many more things than usual, so to make it more interesting I started shooting anything I encountered with a cheap little camera I had,” she says. Her natural curiosity about the animals she encountered led her to iNaturalist, where she has uploaded over 2,800 observations in just over a year!

On November 12th she noticed a large butterfly laying eggs on some pineapple plants, so she posted photos of it to iNaturalist. NaturaLista lepidoptera curator Hugo Alvarez (@hugoalvarezg) identified it as Dynastor darius ssp. stygianus and, according the records he’s been able to find, this is the first record of it in Jalisco. He asked Cheryl to photograph the eggs and larvae so there would be documentation of this butterfly’s lifecycle - you can follow all of her photos and observations of it here. A very cool example of iNaturalist’s abilities to link naturalists of all interests and experience levels. 

(Oh, and check out the awesome snake mimicry of Darius dynastor ssp. dynastor, another subspecies of this butterfly, in its pupal phase. Whoa!)

“Thanks to iNaturalist I've also discovered that we have many protected species in this area, and even some rare ones...This has led me to work on some projects to educate the people here about our fauna,” says Cheryl, and she has begun to make informational posters to put up in her area, like the one above. “I find it very rewarding to be able to learn so much about all my animal ‘neighbors,’ and at the same time to be contributing my ‘grain of sand’ to science...it has been very exciting to follow up on [this butterfly], and I hope I'm able witness and register the complete cycle!”

- by Tony Iwane

Hey, iNaturalists! See something that blows your mind? Click ‘Add to favorites’ so it can be considered for the Observation of the Week!

Posted on December 01, 2015 10:17 PM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 10, 2015

Observation of the Week, 12/8/15

This Mosquito pupa seen by grahame in Christchurch, New Zealand, is our Observation of the Week.

Personally I’m often too busy waving away mosquitos to really take a good look at them, which is what makes this beautiful close-up of a mosquito pupa so compelling. Look at the crystalline beauty of the compound eye and the delicate structure of its breathing tube (also known as a “trumpet”) - so cool. Even an oft-reviled animal like the mosquito (check out an adult mosquito below) can be stunning.

Grahame, the man who took these pictures, describes himself as “a photographer with an interest in fauna, rather than a natural historian with an interest in photography,” and it took his artist’s eye and innate curiosity (not to mention some hard work) to to come up with such a great image. Grahame’s been working with cameras for over fifty years now, and says “very rarely do you find me without a camera and close up gear in my bag.” He has over 1500 observations on NatureWatchNZ, iNaturalist’s sister site in New Zealand, and says NatureWatch “has been great for getting IDs of critters I don't know and just for the fun of flicking through others’ observations to see what they've found and try and learn a few more species.”

To get the image of the mosquito pupa, Grahame took three images (handheld) and focus stacked them to give the image greater depth of field.  That, however, was an easy shoot - other focus stacks can be “50+ images in the studio.” He’s also a passionate bird photographer, which obviously requires a totally different mindset and method. “Hopefully I haven't run out of new techniques and toys to play with,” he says.

Here’s to always learning new things and appreciating all forms of life!

- by Tony Iwane


- Grahame’s Photo Website.

- Cool video showing the mosquito lifecycle.

Posted on December 10, 2015 12:09 AM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 19, 2015

Observation of the Week 12/17/15

This Crested Caracara seen by brennan3909 in Denton County, Texas, is our Observation of the Week!

While this Crested Caracara observation took place in Texas, its story begins in Arkansas, where this bird was first found - injured and far out of its normal range. After being rehabilitated and radio tagged, it was released. Dr. Joan Morrison began to track the bird’s movements via GPS data and saw that it was headed to Texas.

The folks at Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA)  in Texas were alerted to the bird’s presence in their area, and volunteer Michael Fox (MchlFx) put out the word to a dedicated group of local photographers and iNaturalist users, who searched for the Caracara and came up with two sightings - the one featured here by Larry Brennan, and one by Michael Fox. As Larry tells it, “[the Caracara] was flying west to east just above the tree line when I caught the first glimpse. The bird turned around quickly when it saw all the fishermen at the river and came back west when I got the shot through a window in the trees. The whole incident lasted about 10 seconds.” Michael’s observation (below) even showed it feeding, which was great information for Dr. Morrison.

As Erin Taylor, LLELA’s Nature Programs Coordinator, tells it, this kind of quick and dedicated response doesn’t happen overnight. Erin calls Michael Fox their “iNaturalist Evangelist,” and she considers herself one of his converts. Spurred by Michael’s involvement, she says LLELA has developed a community of iNat users through “giving workshops and inviting photographers, Master Naturalist chapters, and the general public to learn more about iNat and become our citizen science eyes on the ground. He's helping us create a dedicated, growing troop of naturalists who are hungry for knowledge and passionate about protecting wildlife.”

Using iNaturalist and their citizen scientists, LLELA would like to gather enough data to determine trends in the area - “we know there’s more depth to be explored.” With its growing iNaturalist community, they’re well on their way.

Check out LLELA’s iNaturalist Project.

- by Tony Iwane

Posted on December 19, 2015 12:01 AM by tiwane tiwane | 1 comments | Leave a comment

December 28, 2015

Observation of the Week, 12/24/15

This Periclimenes sagittifer shrimp seen by scubale in Italy is our Observation of the Week!

Alessandra (aka scubale), is a photographer and divemaster in Italy who discovered SCUBA diving in 2007, and her eyes were opened. “Before that,” she says, “I could not imagine how many amazing creatures inhabit the sea.” Although she loves all of nature, it is to the sea which she feels she “deeply belongs,” and always carries a camera with her when she can, to show others “how many wonders can be observed in nature.” Not content with just observing and exploring nature, Alessandra helps protect it by biking or taking transit, collecting waste and trash when diving or at the beach, and does her best to avoid products which are harmful to the environment. 

One of her favorite places to dive is off of Italy’s Tremiti Islands. “The wealth of fish species and plants of the marine park, the striking shape of the seabed make the underwater panorama of rare beauty, making it ideal for scuba diving,” she says, and it was off of Capraia, one of the five islands of the archipelago, where she found the Periclimenes sagittifer shrimp pictured above. Alessandra “remembers perfectly” looking for shrimp within the undulating tentacles of an anemone when “my eyes moved sideways. This allowed me to notice it while it was moving out of the anemone, walking on the rock.”

The Periclimenes sagittifer shrimp is one of many species in the Periclimenes genus, members of whom live symbiotically with other sea creatures. Some are known to live with sea cucumbers, corals, and even nudibranchs, but the majority live within sea anemones, making them difficult to find. Cool fact - while it’s impossible to know why this shrimp was off its host, P. sagittifer and other anemone-hosted shrimp must leave their anemones each time they molt, as they’ll temporarily lose their mucus-based protection from the anemone’s stinging cells!

“I think we know too little of nature and we do not have enough respect for it,” says Alessandra. And although she’s only recently begun to upload her observations to iNaturalist, she plans on continuing to add more, “for mutual enrichment of knowledge and to sensitize others to find out how many and what wonders inhabit this special world...nature is the best thing we have and we always have to respect it and cherish it.”

- by Tony Iwane

Posted on December 28, 2015 06:40 AM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment