Saturday, May 8, 2010

Out and About With The Macro Lens

It is deep into Spring now in Arizona, finally breaking 90F (32C) for the first time on the 4th, and has been solidly in the mid-90s since. But as I tell everyone, 90F is really pretty comfortable with single-digit humidity! In my excursions through Tucson last weekend, I realized it had to be just about the peak of the Prickly Pear blossom season. The example shown is a couple blocks from the house, and it was just aglow in the afternoon sun. Of course, the honeybees were working overtime. This bee, while covered with pollen, isn't carrying the pollen sacs (normally looks like yellow purses attached to his legs) you can sometimes spot.

I finally took the neighbor's advice down the street and cut off a couple pads of his cactus and stuck them in the ground in front of our house (talked about towards the bottom in this post). That is all you do for Prickly Pear - stick one in the ground and they will root and form a new plant. The two pads are shown here, covered with flower buds. They've even flowered, even though there isn't a root system to support much activity yet... Interestingly, while digging the little hole to plug them into, I found this cicada! While some species back east have a well-known life cycle of 13 to 17 years, those found in the Southwest only spend 2 -3 years underground. This fellow might actually have been coming out in a month or two when I interrupted his feeding. Didn't see that I caused him any damage, so I reburied him when I planted the prickly pear pad.

Since I've been routinely using the macro lens (this is the Canon 100mm F/2.8 Melinda got us for last year's anniversary) it is interesting how you pay so much more attention to the tiny things around you. After spotting the aphids on the neighbor's cactus last month, I've also been watching them feeding on new shoots of a Rhus Lancea (African Sumac) tree in our back yard. On a breezy afternoon last weekend, they were taking shelter between some shoots to stay out of the wind. You can even see a little "sap ball" that the largest is carrying like a canteen. Click on the image for the full size view. Note the white forms that are the discarded exoskeletons they've molted! Thanks to UA entomologist Carl Olson for his assistance and comments on the creatures I've been catching...

The last shot is a 3-D image of a Spring-blooming fishhook barrel cactus in our front yard. As mentioned a few posts back, you need to view one image with each eye, in this case, crossing your eye slightly to view the left image with your right eye and vice-versa. If you get it, click on the image for the full-size view. Taken from slightly different perspectives they show the flower "popping up" from the cactus spines, with some spines towering over the blooms. Melinda doesn't want me to overdo my 3-D images on this blog, so I'm in the process of starting another blog of the more offbeat stuff. Will have a rollout of it in a week or so! Stay tuned!

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