Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)_3_1
True story.

It was senior day at the zoo, by which I mean, the seniors from the local high school were forced to go to the zoo for their Biology class. As I was taking this photo, three young men walked up. Two of them were white, one was African American. They were all dressed in what suburban people call “urban”, but what I am led to believe that urban people call “clothes”. Their pants were loose, they had over-sized sneakers, and everything was fairly worn. They didn’t seem to want to be there.

One of them saw this critter in the tree and looked at the sign. He pointed, and said to his friends “That ain’t a red panda.” Another said “No, it ain’t.” Then the African American guy looked at it and at his friends and said “I believe that is an opossum.”

Then, as his friends stared at him, he said. “Well excuse me for speaking English!” Then they laughed and walked away together.

And that is why you shouldn’t pre-judge people.

Butterfly Tongue

DSC_4643
Butterflies have long tongues that they use to dig deep into the base of a flower instead of crawling all the way into the flowers themselves like bees do. This is because the butterflies have long spindly legs and, as the saying makes perfectly clear, only the bees have the knees.

Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus)

Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus)_10
It’s time for another game of … Really? Are you sure?

To play this game, take a close look at this photo. Look at the large ears, well suited to listening. Look at the thin legs and paws, that could be used to make rapid turns while running quickly. Look at the stripes, often seen in stalk-and-ambush predators.

Give yourself at least 30 seconds to look at the photo.

Now ask yourself … “What does the aardwolf eat?”

Now Google it.

Thank you for playing this installment of Really? Are you sure?

Hope to see you next time.

Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda)

Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda)_7
The Fennec Fox is a difficult animal to photograph. They’re rarely on exhibit and, when they are, they like to sleep in a burrow or, in a heap in the back of their enclosure. I’ve taken many a photo of a big ball-o-fox and they always just turn out a bit fuzzy. For this shot, several things had to happen. First of all, I had to be a member of the Phoenix Zoo, because members get in an hour early. This means it’s an hour before kids arrive and bang on the glass, which sends the foxes underground. (If you have kids, don’t let them bang on the glass. If you are a kid, don’t bang on the glass. It’s not fun for anyone.)

Then, the light had to be just right. A fox that’s in shadow isn’t going to come out as nicely and one that’s half in/half out isn’t going to come out at all. Finally, you have to not have any obstacles in the way. This is particularly hard at zoos, because your positioning is often quite limited. To get this shot, I had to use my tripod to position the camera at the very bottom of the glass, focus through a bunch of branches and take the picture. After getting there, and getting this shot, the fox got up and walked away. I had about three minutes to work with, and had I not visited the zoo previously, would never have known the constraints ahead of time and couldn’t have made it.

It was a lot of work, but I think the ears make it worth it. Such awesome ears.

Atlas moth (Attacus atlas)

DSC_4632_v2_2
It’s easy to tell butterflies from moths because butterflies have straight antennas and moths have furry antennas. This is because butterflies communicate on the LF to MF bands (153 kHz to 1.6 MHz) and moths communicate in the HF to UHF bands (about 3 MHz to 3 GHz).

Throwback Thursday!

DSC_8276
Even though I don’t know what it is, I’m going to take a wild guess and say “It’s got weird looking antenna parts, a bizarre mouth, strange spindly and spikey legs and it spends its time making out with flowers. Whatever you’re thinking, don’t eat it. Throw it back!”

Travel

DSC_8371
I never used to like to travel. Far away places were hard to get to, annoying once you got there, and didn’t have any cats. Moreover, you could only the books you brought with you or, if you bought more books, you’d then have to schlep them back home.

Years later, as my allergies got under control and I began to realize that when you traveled, you didn’t have to visit buildings about dead people (sorry Mom, I still don’t care as much about history as you do.) So I started visiting zoos and parks. It really started about ten years when I had to travel for work and found myself bored in a new city after work stopped but before it was time to go to bed. Then, inspiration struck as I was looking at online maps for nearby things to do and I saw a bit of green listed “preserve”. I visited and it was a completely different experience.

Since then, when I travel for work, I try to use the time between 5pm (when work usually ends) and about 8pm (when parks usually close) to get a feel for the land. I go walking around, see what there is to see and take photos until the sun either goes down or I get too hungry to wait. Some parks are amazing, some, well, not so much.

If you’re in Las Vegas, and don’t care much about gambling or entertainment, it can get somewhat unpleasant. There are three areas I’ve found that make up for that. There’s the Valley of Fire State Park, the bird viewing area in the water treatment facility in Henderson (really), and here, Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon is, at its simplest, a loop drive in an area of the desert that has lots of interesting rock formations and great slopes that you can lose your balance on, sliding down 20 feet and dislocating both your knees. On this particular trip (unlike the one previous), I avoided the latter. This is partly because I am older and wiser, but mostly (I’m afraid) because it’s a lot hotter in the desert in May than it is in March and I left when the sun got too high.

This visit consisted of one moderate hike (three hours) and a drive around the loop to stop and take pictures with my new wide angle lens. This particular photo was at mile ten of the loop drive (go on, guess how I know that). What I like about it is how clear the sky is and how the lens picked up the difference in light scattering. If I had had a polarizer, this difference would be even more stark. I also like how you can see the two mountains that have been thrust up from the earth, but seemingly from the sides, as the strata pull together in the middle.

Geology has always been interesting in the abstract. When I’m out in the desert, I don’t often notice stuff like that, but once I get back and am processing the photos, things that I never noticed suddenly become obvious. The desert is full of color. It’s just not where you normally look for it. The sky, the rock, the dirt … all beautiful. All missed, though, if you’re just looking for trees and birds.

Photos, Stories, and Lies