Saturday, January 31, 2009

Camera Critters #43

I have a love-hate relationship with this week's featured critter.

It's spiders!

Yes, those eight-legged freaks also known as arachnids.

You see, I love it when I come across one outside.  But hate it when I come across one inside...especially in my house.  I do everything I can to remove the critters presence from my dwelling.

This desire to remove any and all from my home, comes from waking several times with a spider walking across my body.  One time, even, the spider was tickling my lips as I slept, and this was in Honduras.  I have no idea what kind it was, or whether it was poisonous or not.  I didn't like where I found it and flicked it somewhere else in my room with my finger.  

Several weeks after that incident, I was participating in an training exercise crawling around under hootches where the nastiest of Honduran spiders resided and they weren't bothering me at all.

So, several years ago when I was visiting my sister, I noticed an Orb Weaver web high in a Juniper tree and added the creatures to my list of photo subjects.  If you look closely on the right hand side of this photo, you can see the web owner sitting in wait for its next victim.  

Also at my sister's, I came across another Orb Weaver spinning a home in the eaves of their garage.  I guess this little fella didn't like me getting as close as I did and took off for its hidey-hole moments after the image below was taken.

However, the best place for me to find an arachnid of any type is on the High Desert.  I don't often come across them, but when I do, I find their variety, size and look very interesting as the next two Orb Weavers show.

I was actually looking for a flying insect which landed somewhere on the spider side of the plant, when I noticed this large creature.  I thought the markings on it were fantastic and fired off a couple of shots.

On another trip into the desert areas around town, I came across the Orb Weaver below.  It was extremely busy at the time building its web and I watched it for several minutes as I snapped shot after shot of it.  The differences between the critter below and the one above is easily seen.  There are more than 2,800 different species of Orb Weavers worldwide and approximately 180 species in North America.

During a trip to San Antonio a couple of years ago, I was wandering around the Mitchell Lake area when I noticed a Jumping Spider scurrying down the stalk of a nearby weed.  This one being different from most of the spiders I had previously seen, I couldn't help but get a photo.  And "a" photo is all I got, as it leaped into the low weeds and disappeared as quick as it appeared.

Finally, one of the more interesting arachnid species is the Daddy-long-legs spiders, also known as Cellar Spiders.  I crossed paths with the one below at a wildlife refuge near Braidwood, Illinois.  I was surprised to see one in the middle of a marshy area, as I had always thought of this species being the type which hide in dark areas such as basements and attics.  But I learned something new that day.

Whether or not any of the above arachnids have more specific common names, I don't know.  My reference material on spiders is limited, and it is slow searching the net for additional information.  Similar looking spiders can be two different species based on the number of bands on the legs, or the number of eyes in clusters, or the design of the critter's mouth.  But I am always doing what I can to improve my knowledge of what I see and shoot in what I like to call, Ashrunner's World.

If you enjoyed (really...I enjoyed bringing it to you) my installment of Misty Dawn's Camera Critters Meme this week, go to her page located here.  There you'll find other players.  And, if you're inspired, join in the fun.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Camera Critter Meme #42

Several years ago, when I began walking the Dry Canyon Trail in Redmond, Oregon, I came across a small ranch.  Looking around, I didn't see anything worthwhile to photograph and I continued on my way.

A couple of days later, I went by the ranch again and this time, found a female Osterich sitting, possibly on a nest.  So I shot a few photographs.

As I stood there watching the bird, I became aware of a thumping sound to my left.  Turning in that direction, I saw a male Osterich thundering in my direction.

He continued heading my way, and I continued shooting him as he got closer.

And closer...

And closer...

And closer...

And the point I felt him near me.

After I shot the photo above, I lowered my camera just in time to see the head and beak of the bird coming straight for me.  I jumped back from the fenceline and then watched the obviously upset male start flapping his wings while wagging his head back and forth in front of me.  Either he was trying to get me to come closer so he could nail me with his beak - hehe - or he was just trying to warn me off the female - most likely.  Either way, I was a still a little freaked from what I saw when I lowered my camera, that I snapped a few shots and continued on my way.

A week or so later, I again went by the ranch and this time the female was near the fenceline, the male far enough away not to be a problem and I was able to get a nice portrait shot of her.

If you liked my critter photos, head to Misty Dawn's Camera Critterpage and check out some of the other entries. And if you have the time, join in on the fun!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Camera Critter Meme #41

A few of the people who read my blog, know my nickname is Bear. It's a name I was given in the Air Force, and it evolved over time. The first time anyone called me "Bear," was in 1972. I was stationed in Michigan at the time, and was with some friends when I got an itch on my back. So I did the natural thing...I rubbed my back against a corner and scratched it. Someone said, "You think you're a bear now?" and everyone laughed.

A few week later, my girlfriend and I were with the same friends and she told them I was her cubbie bear. Someone jokingly said, "Yeah, right...a hairless bear." To which she replied, "He's got lots of hair...but it's blond and you can't see it."

Well, years went by and different nicknames came and went, until I landed in Alaska for a second time. It wasn't long that people who knew me there, started calling me Kodiak. Seeing that my last name is Sobkoviak, it fit. From there I transferred to Illinois and Kodiak followed me, but was one day changed to Grizz (for Grizzly Bear) due to my "nasty" disposition.

Months later, I was again reassigned, this time to Clark AB, Philippines. When I arrived there, I joined a couple of intramural softball teams and before I got my team uniform, I wore a jersey top from my previous assignment which listed my #26 and nickname...Grizz. Well, I personally never liked Grizz, so when I was asked the number and name I wanted on my jersey, I said, "Number 26 and Kodiak."

However, my boss, a lieutenant colonel, decided he like "Bear" better and started calling me that. I figured since he out-ranked me, he had the right. But when the two-star general on base, along with six or seven full colonels started calling me Bear, I decided I wouldn't attempt any correction. It even got to the point that the brass on base abandoned normal radio practice and when they needed me, they simply said, "Bear," and I would answer.

Well, I still go by that nickname. Many people around here call me that. Even a web author who did a webpage about me, called me Bear in it. You can see that page here.

So, naturally, when I started to get to know people online, I would tell them I am "Bear." Most people know me as either Bear, or my online moniker of Ashrunner. But Bear is what I prefer. So the other day while I was out on a fruitless safari, I came across an image I just had to take for this meme.

I found this wood carving sitting in front of all places, the newest restaurant in town, the Black Bear Restaurant.

If you liked my critter photos, head to Misty Dawn's Camera Critter page and check out some of the other entries. And if you have the time, join in on the fun!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Camera Critter Meme #40

Last week, I presented my favorite images from 2007.

This week, it is 2008.

While going through my images from last year, I actually had a hard time deciding which I would pull for this post. I'm not patting myself on the back (well...maybe I am a little), but I finally got a some shots I like for one reason or another. Some of you may have already seen a few of these shots, but favorites are just that.

So, with as much fanfare as your imagination can conceive, here are Ashrunner's favorites from 2008.

Early one spring day, I walked the trails of the Dry Canyon in Redmond, Oregon and came across a family of Yellow-bellied Marmot, or Rockchucks as they are known locally. As I approached, the young ones disappeared into their holes. When I finally got into position, I chucked a stone out off in the distance and the two youngsters popped their heads up and I got this image.

Fireman's Pond is another spot in Redmond, Oregon I enjoy shootings. Once in a while, it proves worthwhile when I see a large bird. Often, it is Ospreys fishing the pond. However, a Great Blue Heron also shows up now and then. I like this particular image simply because of the birds pose. It may be facing away from me, but I like it.

One morning, a friend of mine and I decided we would go to Tumalo Falls, located west of Bend, Oregon near the Cascade Mountains. After seeing the falls (Tumalo and several other Oregon waterfalls I have visited, can be seen here), we were heading towards the parking lot, when I spotted this Lorquin's Admiral land nearby. At the time, I had been trying to get a photo of this butterfly for several years and here was my best chance yet. The butterfly turned out to be a good model and I finally filled a checkmark under this species.

After shooting the butterfly above, I was giddy with joy. I was able to shoot a butterfly I stalked for several years. But little did I know what was waiting for me at the parking lot. After my friend and I had walked down to the river and quenched our thirst in the cold, running waters, I was looking around, admiring the view, when a butterfly I was unable to identify flew by. I watched it land on the branch of a pine and as I approached, it moved off and out of sight. I was upset as that butterfly was gorgeous and something I had not seen before. Glad I was able to get the admiral photo above, I headed towards the car. Just as I was putting my camera inside, another of the butterfly I had just seen and lost my chance at, flew by and landed across the road from me. I grabbed my camera, darted across the road (to the consternation of an incoming visitor) and after scanning the area I thought the lepidoptera landed in, found this Pale Swallowtail posing perfectly in the sunlight.

The next two shots appear so similar, that one might think they are of the same critter. But careful examination will show the one below is a White-tailed Robber Fly. I found this bug along the eastern fence line of the airport in Redmond, Oregon.

A couple of days later, I was at the same spot near the airport when saw the Robber Fly below on a similar stalk, in a similar pose as the one above. Although they object the two are on, looks the same in each photo, and the bugs also look the same, they are both different weeds, and different, though the bugs are probably closely related.

Contrary to the belief of a certain someone who runs this meme, I didn't post this image because of the purple flower...though I remember thinking when I shot this photo that she would most certainly like it. I shot this photo because the Bumble Bee crawling up inside it to get to the pollen cracked me up. It still does. 8v)

Finally, those of you who regularly follow my Camera Critter posts know that last year, I became a huge fan of the local reptile population. I absolutely love shooting them. The poses they provide and their looks make any photo look great. This Western Fence Lizard, also known locally as the Blue-bellied Lizard, made a striking sight when I saw it, and and even more striking image after I shot it.

I have many more photos I would consider good shots, and some even better than these. However, these are my favorites for one reason or another. I do hope you enjoyed viewing them as much as I enjoyed shooting the photos.

If you liked my critter photos, head to Misty Dawn's Camera Critter page and check out some of the other entries. And if you have the time, join in on the fun!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Camera Critter Meme #39

It's 2009 and that means a new year of nature photography for me.

I always look forward to a new season of shooting, as I am always trying to get that perfect shot.

But I have had good shots in the past, and for Camera Critters this week, I present my top 10 shots from, not 2008, but 2007. I selected 2007 as that is the year I really began to get serious about my photography.

Next week I'll present my best of 2008, but for now, check out my top 10 favorites from 2007.

You might ask why I like this Yellow Warbler photo. Well, the simple fact is, I like it because the critter is framed nicely in the branches and is looking off to the side, giving me a nice profile of his head.

This Roseate Skimmer was the first one I had seen during a trip to Texas that year. It was gorgeous and I had to get a good shot of it. I followed it around and when it landed on a weed with a small stream as a background, I knew I would get a good shot of it.

I was seeing Flame Skimmers throughout the area where I took this shot. But most of them were too far away and to get closer meant trudging through some mucky ground cover which I wasn't keen to do. But then this one landed 10 feet away and gave me not only a nice profile, but a nice background also.

These Flower Beetles are nothing special, and the photo is nothing special, but I like it. The yellow of the Cactus Flower, the darkness of the background and the bugs combine to make it something special in my mind.

This Gulf Fritillary was sunning in the perfect shaft of sunlight for a photo. The upper wing surface was well lit, while the background ranged from green to dark, highlighting the subtle colors of the critter.

I was leaving my yard, heading off on another photo safari when this Juba Skipper landed on one of the dark Irises in our garden. I couldn't help being struck by the color contrast and took this photo. I still pause and smile at it every time I see it.

I had just arrived at my favorite spot of Fireman's Pond when I noticed something strange happening to one of the cattails near the water's edge. As I approached, this green Sweat Bee came around the side, digging like crazy, tossing particles everywhere. I tried to capture the moment as it was happening and even though this photo doesn't do it justice, I like the shot.

I had seen large Thread-waisted Wasps in the Dry Canyon of Redmond, Oregon many times, but was never able to get a good shot of one. So one day, I decided I would go in search of this elusive creature and found a patch of sage where six or seven of the critters were working over. Though not the best shot, I like it mainly for the way the wasp stands out from the background.

I was walking along the badlands between a road and the old golf course in Redmond, when I noticed this Tule Bluet flying nearby. It suddenly streak in near me, made a quick course change and darted off to the end of nearby dead twig. As I approached, I saw the reason for the critter's rapid movement as it was enjoying a meal it captured near me. I was able to get a lot of shots of the bluet eating and this is one my favorites.

Finally, this Braconid Wasp looked out of place in this golden field of much so, I had to prove it by shooting the scene.

If you liked my critter photos, head to Misty Dawn's Camera Critter page and check out some of the other entries. And if you have the time, join in on the fun!