Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Hiraeth Publishing and my Short Story

Hiraeth Books is going to publish my short story, "Stashed Away," in their September 2020 sci-fi anthology. The working title is "Martian Wave." I'm excited to read it.

If your quarantine reading stack is getting low, check out their other offerings:

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Buckeye Butterfly

Spotted on a hike near Wickenburg, Arizona:

I don't think it's a common buckeye, since they generally have a cream strip on their forewing, stretching down around the "eye," but this one's strip is orange. I believe it is, instead, a tropical buckeye.

What a beautiful creature.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Creosote Gall

Something interesting: This is a creosote gall I found. I didn't know what it was, so I researched. It's an old, dried-up one, but once it was green and leafy. Creosote galls are caused by gall midges from the genus Asphondylia. Midges are little fly-like insects. They lay their eggs and the gall forms around them to provide nutrients for the larvae.

I wondered if the plant formed the gall to keep the hungry larvae in one place. To...shall we say...slow the spread. Something I'm sure none of us have heard anything about recently. But it looks like most galls that form in response to insects are actually controlled by the insects. The larvae inject a chemical which induces the plant to involuntarily form the gall (though some may rely on mechanical damage to induce the growth). So, the little midges restructure their environment to suit them.

The whole process doesn't benefit the creosote bush, but neither does it seem to cause serious harm. Nature is amazing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Butterfly Visitor

Look who posed for me in my back yard:  

I believe this is a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), a common migrating butterfly that winters here in the Sonoran desert.  

I can't help but think its coloring and patterning could be Batesian mimicry, where a perfectly edible species mimics the appearance of a poisonous or nasty-tasting species (in this case the monarch butterfly), thus deterring would-be predators.  

Whatever the case, it's beautiful.     

Monday, April 13, 2020

Hummingbird Nest

While obeying stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to take a trip to Frontyardia.  There I discovered an absolute delight:

I'm not sure what species she is, but one of my most knowledgeable birder friends believes she's a black-chinned hummingbird mama.  Hopefully all will go well and we'll soon see little beaks sticking up out of that nest.  

Monday, April 6, 2020

Backyard Birdwatching

Staying at home during COVID-19 lock-down, I've been doing a lot of backyard bird-watching.  Keep in mind that I live in central Arizona, where we have birds all year long.  I know some of you have not yet been reacquainted with your birds.  If this is the case, I hope they arrive soon.  As for me, here are a few of my favorite shots from the last couple of weeks:

Gila woodpecker:

Same bird?  Different day:

Hummingbird (Anna's hummingbird, I believe):  

Another Anna's hummingbird, I think (the bib looks purple here, like a Costa's, but it looked more pink in real life):

Okay, not a bird:

Okay, not in the backyard, but along the canal near my house:

Four of the eleven ducklings:

If you're staying home and not working during lock-down, I advise using some of that time to watch birds (or whatever nature is available to you at the moment).  If you're out there working hard to keep things afloat, thank you so much.  But I still advise taking some time to watch birds...or snowflakes...or trees.