Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Hunting Here!

Today was the first day of Fall, but still not a lot of color here in Illinois. The weather has been cool, but humid - temps in the 70s feel pretty good after a Summer in Tucson! The Johnson Sisters have been keeping me busy the last couple days, but over the weekend I got out a couple times to the local bit-o-nature, the Tekakwitha Forest Preserve. Armed with the macro lens Melinda got us for our anniversary, there are a gazillion potential targets, and presented here is part one of my favorites so far.

A walk along the river trail showed that there hasn't been any flooding through the summer. Four months ago, the Fox River was up a bit and the rain made the trail impassible, so it is nice to hike along it, seeing the few leaves that are showing some yellows and reds. With a glance off the trail, this web was literally glowing from a direct shaft of sunlight near the darkened forest floor. A few steps through some brush got this shot, including the spider and its shadow at center, as well as one or two prizes caught in the web. But the precision and light of the web is what got my attention and makes this a cool photo for me.

While I was waiting in the bush to take the above photo (I was waiting for the sun to return from behind a bank of clouds), I noticed just a few inches from my face this Daddy Long-Legs. In checking my facts before posting, I've found that, in fact, it is NOT a spider, but is in the arachnid family. Called a Harvestman, it has a single body segment, while spiders have two. This fellow was cleaning off the tip of one of his legs - note that it is his second leg, which is longer than the others and is also used as an antenna. I'm still learning the use of the macro, but you might notice that I used the camera's built-in flash for this shot. With the flash you can typically use a smaller lens opening and get more depth-of-field, always a premium when doing closeups!

This fellow is as yet unidentified. Found in the deep shade of the Hickory-Oak forest of Tekakwitha, he blended in well with the greenery, and is pretty small, only about 1cm (.5") long at most. He didn't seem too frightened, but seemed to move away in slow motion, as if to not show himself by his movement. Once I took a shot or two and was able to zoom in to examine him, I spotted his red eyes, which are rather unusual. I need to stop into the nature center at the Preserve and see if he is one of the featured insects in their collection.

On the upper reaches of the Forest Preserve, away from the Fox River, there are a good 15 acres or so of open prairie, which this time of year is brimming with Goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace, Milkweed and Aster. Most of it is 6' (1.8 meters) high or so and would be mostly impassible, but fortunately, the staff run a lawn mower along a path at regular intervals to make a stroll in the prairie a pleasant experience. A lot of the flowers are still thick with various pollinators, and this honeybee was an easy target with so many sources of pollen available. Normally it is difficult to get a quickly moving target in focus, and this was about the only one of many that is near perfect with the bee and flower in reasonable focus, no movement by insect or photographer. You can easily spot the wad of pollen the bee carries on his rear leg.

There are more from a second walk, and I'm hoping to get out a few more times, so stay tuned if you like bugs!

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