A break in the monsoon circulation late last week had allowed me to set up the scope in the back yard for some astronomical projects, for an upcoming post! But while you think the summer nights in Tucson are dull, when humans retreat inside to their air conditioning, you would be wrong! When carrying scope parts into the yard from the van (where they usually reside), I found lots of distractions from my project.
While our summer monsoon rains have officially started, we've not gotten much moisture in Midtown. Despite that, a couple nights ago our potted Trichocereus surprised us with a bloom. It was likely triggered by the water I gave it in its pot a couple weeks ago. I've posted about it before - for such a thin, columnar cacti, it sure gives off a spectacular flower! At left is a night time shot of the flower with the on-camera flash (it doesn't even start to open until well after sunset). And at right, as I've been doing lately, I include a 3D anaglyph, for which you will need your red/cyan glasses to see depth in the image...
Outside the front door we've got a porch light (fully shielded so as not to contribute to light pollution!), and when I look out to check for our small feral cat population (we don't put out food unless the cats are there), I often spot a surprise! Outside our security door, I see ghostly lizard shapes... You can't get much of a view through the door, so I've been sneaking around the side gate to see what we've got there. Turns out there are a colony of geckos feeding on the insects drawn to the porch light! And while Arizona does have a nocturnal Western Banded gecko, what is interesting is that these are Mediterranean Geckos - they are not native to Arizona, but likely sold in pet stores, released and live in urban areas doing just what I've observed - feeding on bugs near porch lights! These are pretty small, only about 3 or 4 inches long including the tail.
Both of these images were taken with my new technique using the close-focus of a 300mm telephoto (plus extension tubes to focus even closer). At left is a focus-stack of 2 frames that each happened to have different parts in focus (don't forget I'm shooting in the dark with the on-camera flash). The telephoto plus extension tubes weren't auto-focusing, so used a flashlight to approximate focus, and lucked out with 2 frames, with different parts in focus, without the gecko moving between them. I thought it came out great! At right is another lizard peering out from a 1/4" gap around the door frame, and the shot happened to have the eye pupil and interesting foot pad details visible. This is shown at full camera resolution "plus", where I've added about 50% more pixels to the image and added a little sharpening for another what I think is a cool image. Another comment is that both these images were of the geckos peering out from a vertical surface, otherwise the flash would have cast a shadow from the door frame. So I took the shot vertical, but then rotated it horizontally to put more pixels across the image.
The eyesight of the geckos is extraordinary! You can't be within 20 feet of them without them scampering for a crack or crevasse to hide. So I've not been able to watch them hunting for bugs. There certainly have been a wide variety to choose from, but I suspect that a 3" gecko can't eat something approaching it's body size! At this phase of the monsoon season, I've seen 4" long palo verde beetles (and rescued a few from the feral's water bowl), June bugs, and a few cicadas too. I like to image anything that will hold still, and cicadas are great for that - interesting in the close-up view and mild mannered enough to pose for minutes at a time. What is not to like - their little grappling hooks for feet, whisker-like antennae, bug-eyes and 5, count-em' 5 eyes! And, of course, another 3D anaglyph image shown at right... I think these are Diceroprocta apache, the apache cicada...
So there is some interesting stuff going on if you leave the cocoon of A/C. Of course, my little astronomy project was to do that, but these other goings-on served as distractions too.
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Credit where credit is due...
All photos are by Dean and Melinda Ketelsen - even the really cool astrophotography ones. Granted, some pics have come from the Internet...such as pictures of actors, or of Miss Tohono O'odham, etc. However, the astronomy pics, as well as the bird pics are all original - compliments of Dean, and sometimes Melinda too! Layout, editing, and continual tweaking (I think they call that "desk top publishing"), well, that would be the work of "I know I can make this better" Melinda!