Journal archives for August 2017

August 01, 2017

A Waiting Move

In chess a situation may arise where the best move is a non move, something that doesn't attack the opponent, something that doesn't damage the position of the pieces, perhaps a simple pacing back and forth of king or queen or rook. This procedure is called a waiting move. Most often this stalling tactic is employed while waiting for the opponent to commit a pawn or piece to a certain plan and reveal something of their future plan.

This idea finds uses in our day to day lives as well. There are many examples. And today it occurred to me that a waiting move has application to wasp watching as well. Locating the nesting sites of the hunting wasps is the first step. Being present and witnessing the wasps returning with their prey requires a little luck and a lot of patience. Practice from earlier wasp-watching vigils paid off today, as I was able to witness three different kinds of hunting wasp return with their prey. First, at a sand pile, amid a swirl of Four-belted Stinkbug Hunters, one wasp out of the dozens present dropped out of flight and landed directly in front of me carrying a stinkbug. Second, while stalking back and forth across the gravel base lines and infield of a practice field, keeping an eye on the various active nests, one of the Buprestid Hunters landed near its nest with a large Buprestid beetle. Third, a Cicada Killer returning to it's nest with a Dog-day Cicada.

The latter observation was something I'd been wishing to see for some years. I suspected I'd been missing the return flight of these large hunting wasps because I visited their nesting sites too late in the day, after their labors were complete. Today I arrived early, at 10:00 AM.

Posted on August 01, 2017 03:42 by scottking scottking | 4 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

August 02, 2017

Polytypic Species

Having grown up in northern Minnesota I was familiar with White Admiral butterflies, with their large, white-margined black wings. After moving to Northfield, in the southeast corner of the state, I was delighted to discover the large iridescent-blue Red-spotted Purple butterflies, then dumbfounded near disbelief to learn that they were the same species.

The southern subspecies of this polytypic species mimics the Pipevine Swallowtail, a large poisonous butterfly.

Curiously, another species in this genus, the Viceroy, is also a mimic, replicating the look of the Monarch, another large poisonous butterfly.

Posted on August 02, 2017 03:03 by scottking scottking | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 03, 2017

Wild Cucumber

Posted on August 03, 2017 02:09 by scottking scottking | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 04, 2017

Micro-fishing

After reading the recent journal posts by @cosmiccat on micro-fishing, my first reaction was one of consternation with myself; How could I not have thought to pursue fishlings and minnows in this manner!? As a child turning stones, I marveled at the stitlings found hiding beneath some of the stones. During my teen years I pursued game fish using ultralight tackle. More recently, over the last several years, I've enjoyed some random encounters with native minnows and stream lampreys, usually while searching for dragonfly nymphs. How did I not think to try fishing for them?

The idea is even embedded, in a way, in the opening stanza of one of my favorite poems, 'The Song of Wandering Aengus' by William Butler Yeats.
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

It made perfect sense when I read that the sport of micro-fishing is big in Japan, the culture that has given us origami, haiku, and bonsai trees.

Emblazoned with the notion of micro-fishing, I decided to give it a try. I sought out the smallest hook in the tackle box and crimped the barb to make it easier to release any small fish caught on it. And using a short length of low test monofilament I tied a quick snelled hook. Then headed for the local stream.

While not being able to follow up on the Yeats poem by using a berry for bait, I did however have some success with several unusual micro-baits. A Touch-me-not flower bud, resembling a small kernel of corn, caught a Bluegill. An Eastern Forktail damselfly landed a minnow-sized largemouth bass. A single Swamp Milkweed floweret enticed a Green Sunfish to the hook. I enjoyed catching these tiny game fish, but found myself wondering How can I catch something smaller? No doubt the mantra of many a micro-fisher.

Posted on August 04, 2017 04:51 by scottking scottking | 3 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

August 05, 2017

Doorway to Autumn

Posted on August 05, 2017 03:05 by scottking scottking | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 06, 2017

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Posted on August 06, 2017 04:06 by scottking scottking | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 07, 2017

Quidditas

Net in hand, I went to the prairie to look deliberately for Ruby Meadowhawks. At the edge of the prairie, I netted a male White-faced Meadowhawk. Farther out on the prairie, several hundred yards from the last trees, I netted a male Ruby Meadowhawk. I've found them here every year for the last eight years.

This preference in habitat for open prairie contributes to their quidditas, that which makes it the kind of thing that it is. This is just one of a combination of characters and behaviors that makes the mature male Ruby Meadowhawks recognizable in the field. They are also noticeably larger than the closely related White-faced and Cherry-faced Meadowhawks. On the open plains west of the Mississippi River, the wings of the male Ruby Meadowhawks have extensive amounts of color in the basal halves of their wings. This makes them easy to identify, instantly recognizable. Though I must admit I often feel I'm alone in this opinion; most everyone else professes that meadowhawk identification is intractable, not worth the trouble.

I, too, battled an early bewilderment with the red dragonflies. The first Ruby Meadowhawk I caught I submitted to the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project as a Band-winged Meadowhawk (because of the color in the wings). The path forward wasn't clear. For instance, the guide book I used at the time contained mistakes and misidentified images: of the three photographs on the Ruby Meadowhawk page none were of Ruby Meadowhawks! Luckily I had a net, a microscope, and steady populations of red dragonflies nearby to study.

Posted on August 07, 2017 03:39 by scottking scottking | 3 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

August 08, 2017

The Tangled Bank

There had been for several years a sandy approach to a pool on Spring Creek, an artifact from a large flood. Visiting the spot today, I found it completely overgrown. Saplings, raspberry canes, waist-high grasses, and stout burdock plants obscured and blockaded the previous path. Here was an unhappy version of Darwin's "tangled bank." A weedy wall, more in the spirit of the threatening riverside vegetation depicted in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness, a kind of living deterrent, "as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders."

I fought through to the edge of the water. A bullfrog, the largest I've ever encountered, lurched off the back and splashed into the slimy backwaters as though someone had kicked a flat football into the water. I turned and crawled back through the green wall.

Of the rare occasions when I've felt dismay or distress outdoors, most involved a struggle to find a way through dense, tall vegetation. A hillside forest of Stinging Nettle were all the plants were seven to eight feet in height. The monotonous slog through seemingly endless cattail swamps. The shudder that comes with the sudden ascension of the knowledge that we are not where we want to be. An unwelcome claustrophobia under acres of open sky.

Posted on August 08, 2017 03:40 by scottking scottking | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 09, 2017

Prairie Days

Posted on August 09, 2017 04:03 by scottking scottking | 19 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 10, 2017

Think of the Poem

Posted on August 10, 2017 02:23 by scottking scottking | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment