Friday, July 8, 2011

Change of Venue!

As an amateur nature watcher, Tucson has been in the doldrums this Spring. With nothing but traces of rain since last October (!), it has been a bad season for even spotting any Arizona insects, and cactus blooming season seamed ultra-brief by anyone's standards - blink and they were dried up husks!
But Wednesday we arrived in Illinois for a visit and man, what a difference! There are seemingly infinite shades of green, and even a short walk no more than 40 yards from the house brought a host of photo subjects. First up was a huge Queen Anne's Lace plant growing among some shrubbery where we park. The white flower was about the largest I've seen - over 8 inches diameter. While circling for alternate views, I spotted a Candy Striped Leafhopper, resting under one of the buds. I've come to love these guys combining several featuring a face only a mother could love with an outlandish color scheme. Whenever I spot one (or more), I waste lots of time taking pics!

Our house here has flowers around it. Most every house in the Midwest does. There is a huge business in nearly every major parking lot in selling bedding plants. It seems almost a get-rich scheme with the growers - pay your bucks every season for annuals that only live out the growing season, then repeat next year. There is also an abundance of perennials that come up every year on their own - a much better deal if you ask me! But those blooming seasons for tulips, iris, peony seem much too short, and we missed all of those in the 3 months since we've been here. But the lilys! They were just starting to get active our last trip, but they are still abundant now and will continue to bloom through the summer, not only in yards, but almost as a pest weed along roadside ditches as well. We've always had them growing up in Iowa and now you see some spectacular color combinations. This closeup was taken yards from our house of a standard Tiger Lily...

There are some great stands of milkweed this year. I love to search them out and inspect them closely because of the colonies they support. Besides the Monarch Butterfly, which feeds on them exclusively, there are also Milkweed Beetles and Milkweed Bugs. At first I didn't spot much, then found this old soldier, who had evidently been through a few battles as he was missing a front leg, as well as some weirdnesses on his feet! He might well have survived the last winter as he is too old to have been born recently. According to the Wiki entry on Milkweek Bug, winter survivors come out and mate when the plants are large enough to provide shelter... No signs of eggs or babies yet - will have to explore the prairie sections of our local nature preserve as our stay progresses. Meanwhile, I finally did spot another bug, this one not missing any parts that I could see.
We're on the road for the weekend, but stay tuned for more entries!

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