Smile! The world is a beautiful place (^_^)

nature

2018-26

Week 26 = we’re half way through 2018 already!

Today I want to share some pictures of a Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album), I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s a summer generation of sub-species (f.hutchinsoni).

In most languages this butterfly is called something with a reference to the white mark it has on its side, e.g. in English it’s Comma, in Spanish it’s C. Although in French it’s called Robert-le-Diable (“Robert the Devil”) because of its jagged wings. The scientific name also refers to the mark: “c” + “album” (which means white).

This butterfly has very good camouflage, both as a larva (mimicking bird droppings) and as an adult (mimicking a dead leaf).

PS. I’m off to Sicily so there won’t be any updates the next coming weeks!


2018-25

Today I want to share FIVE FUN FACTS about dragonflies 🙂 A beautiful Common darter lady (Sympetrum striolatum) kindly agreed to demonstrate the facts in my pictures!

FACT 1: They were the first insects to inhabit this planet – 300 million years ago! In other words: they’ve had a looong time to perfect the art of flying and hunting.

Pioneer

FACT 2: They’re flat out terrifying if you’re a mosquito or other kind small bug, because they don’t simply chase down their prey but they snag them from the air with a calculated aerial ambush! Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of a prey target, and they’re so skilled they have an impressive 95% success rate when hunting.

Hunter

FACT3: They can fly in any direction, including sideways and backwards! (How cool is that!) Plus, they can hover in a single spot for a minute or more. But that’s not all. They’re also fast – some species reach almost 30 km/h (18 mph) – and one species (Globe skimmer) flies almost 18,000 km (11,000 miles) during migration which is the world’s longest insect migration. (Compare this with the famous Monarch butterfly migration of 2,500 miles.)

Wings

FACT 4: Both dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata, which means “the toothed ones”. When hunting, they can catch the prey with their feet, tear off its wings with their sharp jaws (so the prey can’t escape) and scarf it down – all without needing to land. In short: Their ability to rip apart their prey takes their predatory prowess to another level.

Update: It should be noted that dragonflies don’t bite humans and they don’t have any stinger! i.e. they cause no harm to humans. (Thanks for pointing this out, Greta)

Jaws

They have nearly 360 degrees vision! The enormous compound eyes contain 30,000 facets and they can see the world in colors we can’t even imagine. (In depth read here)

Eyes

Update: It’s also worth mentioning that dragonflies have a significant, positive ecological impact. In its nymph stage, they eat harmful aquatic organisms and thus help keep our waters clean. The nymph can contribute to the ecosystem for up to five years before becoming a mature adult! As adults, they mainly help humans by eating mosquitoes and other insects that spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, anthrax, etc.


2018-23

Some random pictures I’ve taken with the Pentacon 50 mm lens… Have a nice week everyone!

Helophilus pendulus literally means “dangling march-lover”

The Donacia clavipes has amazing colors!

HUGE eyes…. and a goatee!


2018-22

The Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella) is quite common here in The Netherlands, and always a pleasure to see!

At first glance it could be a bit tricky to distinguish the Azure from a Common blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) damselfly, but if you look at the antehumeral stripe (that’s the long blue section on the thorax), the Azure’s blue stripe is narrower than the black stripe beneath it, and there’s an extra black line, a “spur” extending from the wing base towards the legs. The Common blue’s antehumreral stripe is broader than the black stripe beneath it and there’s no “spur” on the thorax.

Another thing to look at is the second segment of the males’ abdomen (just behind the thorax): both are blue but the Azure has a black U-shape and the common blue has a black mushroom-shaped mark.

And now I need your help! Please take a look at the second photo below, it’s not a great shot but I hope someone can help me identify this little damselfly.. I’m doubting if it’s either a Variable damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) or perhaps a female Azure in blue form. If you know which one it is, please leave a comment below!

Male Azure damselfly

Female Azure damselfly in blue form (?)


2018-21

The cardinal beetle is actually three different species of beetles.  The most common one is the Red-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa serraticornis), which is an orange-red beetle with a – duh – read head. It’s about 2 cm long and easy to spot as it kind of glows (in the closeup shot below you can see the color is kind of red metallic). The Black-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea) has a – uhm – black head and is rarer, slightly larger and its body has a deeper blood-red color. The third kind is the Scarce cardinal (Schizotus pectinicornis), it also has a black head but is less than 1 cm long.

Cardinal beetles prey on other insects, while their bright red color prevents them from being targeted by other predators because red usually means toxic in the bug world.

If you see a beetle with red wings and black underside and wonder if it’s a cardinal beetle or not, the easiest tell is to look at the antennae: Cardinals have toothed antennae. It’s often confused with the Scarlet lily beetle, which is smaller and usually found eating lily leaves.

Black-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea)

Red-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

Orange-red metallic

Those toothed antennae

A failed attempt of photographing a flying cardinal beetle, but ended up with an interesting bokeh shot instead


2018-20

Two different takes on two different kinds of butterflies-

(1) Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), photographed today with Fuji 18-135 mm + Raynox 150. Goal was to get close to the butterfly and capture as much detail as possible. Picture not edited except it’s been slightly cropped.

(2) Green-veined white (Pieris napi), photographed with Pentacon 50 mm. Goal was to capture the moody light in the forest, not so much details in the butterfly (although enough to determine that it’s a female spring brood). Picture not edited or cropped.

Would you do me a favor and let me know which one you prefer? Not saying one is “better” than the other, but just curious to know your preference. You can use the voting buttons below! Thanks 🙂


2018-19

A little Jet ant (Lasius fuliginosus) enjoying a beautiful day in the forest… Photos taken with Pentacon, this lens is about 45 years old (made in East Germany), and really nice to use. It’s not super sharp when shot open wide at f1.8, but that wasn’t the purpose of these shots anyway. 😉

“Sharpness really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in my book. I’d rather look at an image with soft gloomy highlights with aberrations all over the place, than a clinically perfect super shot. It’s the same with human beings. It’s our flaws that make us unique. It’s these flaws that enhance beauty by giving us an immediate reference through presence of the less-than-perfect.”
Jonas Rask – official Fujifilm X-Photographer

The plant is known as cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), it’s a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant in the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae).


2018-18

Week 18! I’m very excited to share these images with you, they’re taken with a very old lens: Pentacon 50 mm f1.8. It’s got an M-42 mount so with an adapter I can use it on my Fuji camera. And I *love* this lens! Really, it has everything I’d ever wanted in a lens: It’s sharp where it’s supposed to be and soft where it’s supposed to be (with very nice, kind of dreamy bokeh).

Modern lenses are usually big and heavy because of their autofocus functions. Old lenses don’t have autofocus, thus a fraction of the size and weight even though they’re made of metal and not plastic. You can find this fantastic little lens at flea markets or charity shops for  20-25 Euro. I kid you not! If you see one, please do yourself a favor and buy it because that’s a purchase you’ll never regret.

If you’re worried about shooting in full manual mode, please don’t be. See it as an opportunity to become a better photographer! Nowadays, everyone’s snapping away with cameras that have several automatic settings and autofocus. Shooting in manual mode means you have to take the time to really think about what you want to photograph and how to do it; You have to set the focus, aperture, etc. manually and soon you’ll have a much better understanding of light and composition as well.

Pictures taken in Amsterdamse Bos today. I don’t want to post too many pictures at once, so I’ve selected only 3 examples of what this lens can do. No filters or photoshopping has been done, besides adding a small signature, these pictures are straight out of camera.

Red forest ant

Bubble bokeh

The Map (Araschnia levana) is a beautiful but skittish little butterfly. The most unusual fact about this butterfly is that its two annual broods look very different. The summer brood are black with white markings, looking like a miniature version of the White admiral and lacking most of the orange of the pictured spring brood.


2018-17

Week 17! Two green pictures: one bug and one flower.

First, a picture of a Green dock beetle (Gastrophysa viridula). They have a shiny, metallic sheen that’s primarily green but also gold, bronze and brass colors depending on their age and which light you see them in. If you see a metallic green little beetle and wonder how to identify which one it is, you can look at the legs – Green dock beetles have metallic green legs while most others have all black legs. This one was only 4 mm long so I think it’s a male (females are bigger).

(More info and pictures of a female dock beetle here)

Garlic mustard flower (Alliara petiolata) is a biennial plant, i.e. it’s a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In its first year it forms clumps of round shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves, that when crushed smell like garlic. In the next year it produces these beautiful cross shaped white flowers in the spring.


2018-16

Today I saw several Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterflies! They usually fly from the beginning of April until the end of October – in three overlapping generations! Because they are able to overwinter in two totally separated development stages (Note 1), they have a complicated pattern of several adult flights per year.

Note 1: They enter the caterpillar stage between half May and half September. The growth speed differs significantly between them and some caterpillars grow as much as 3 times faster than others! Those will overwinter as pupae. The ones that emerge from the egg stage and become caterpillars in mid-August will spend the winter as half-grown larvae.

These butterflies are very territorial, and most of those I saw today were males engaged in battles (Note 2). This happens when one male has claimed a nice spot of sunlight that pierces through the trees and another male flies through his sunspot. Note that this only happens if the other male is of the same species, if a male of another kind of butterfly enters the spot he’s totally ignored. If a female flies through the sunspot, the male flies after and tries to mate with her. But otherwise he’ll remain in the same sunspot until the evening (he’ll follow the sunspot as it moves across the forest floor) and then spend the night high up in the trees.

Note 2: If you’ve never seen one of these battles and are now trying to picture what it looks like: to be honest, it looks kind of lame. The “resident” male flies towards the intruder, and then the pair flies upwards in a spiral pattern (no body contact). The one that keeps at it the longest wins. It’s usually over in a few seconds, but the longest documented battle between two male Speckled Wood butterflies went on for 94 minutes.

PS. One of my photos has been published on Natuurfotografie, the #1 platform for nature photography in The Netherlands and Belgium. If you can read Dutch, please take a look here.