Tag Archive | bugs

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Letters G or H

The letters for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week are G or H and, keeping to my chosen theme of nature and more specifically animals, bugs and the like, I didn’t have too hard a time coming up with the goods.

The patterns on this giraffe make for great camouflage among the leaves at Brookfield Zoo.

Despite being stripped of his brilliant color by the b/w treatment of this image, a greedy goldfinch in our garden still makes a good subject for the letter G.

A giant grasshopper; at least it appears that way thanks to this close encounter at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

A hopeful hen looking for food and a handsome horse waiting to do a little light work at the Volkening Heritage Farm in Spring Valley Nature Center, Schaumburg.

A hungry hawk making short work of a hapless sparrow.

This picture of a huge hippo was taken back in the day when Brookfield Zoo still kept a number of large mammals.  Somehow the whole zoo-going experience just hasn’t been the same without these giants.

For more on Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge go to https://ceenphotography.com/2017/03/23/cees-black-white-photo-challenge-letters-g-or-h/



Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Letters C or D

Continuing the alphabet theme for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge, this week’s letters, C & D provided several images from the nature photo files.

The king of the cats; a lion catching a few rays at Brookfield Zoo.

cautious chipmunk, ready to run at the first sign of danger.

We always stop off to visit the contented cows in Volkening Heritage Farm when we go walking at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.

A darting dragonfly taking a break at Springbrook Nature Center in Itasca.

A rescue dog visiting the old Randhurst Shopping Mall in Mount Prospect; part of a winter festival that also featured snow sculptures.

A daring duck paddling in the fast-flowing waters of the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For more on Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge go to https://ceenphotography.com/2017/03/09/cees-black-white-photo-challenge-letters-c-or-d/



Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Crawling and Flying

Cee is certainly putting us through our paces as she has us crawling and flying for this week’s Fun Foto Challenge.  For some, like this great blue heron taking off into the sunrise just outside Mackinac City, flying comes naturally…..


while most of us need a little help, like this plane coming in for a landing at O’Hare Airport in Chicago………


And others just launch themselves down a hill and hope for the best, like this ski jumper in Fox River Grove.


Crawling takes a bit of practice, as our granddaughter demonstrates.  How quickly they grow up!  Now she’s swimming, bike riding and doing gymnastics.


And here’s something we found crawling up the wall at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center in Ashland, Wisconsin.


For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to https://ceenphotography.com/2017/02/07/cees-fun-foto-challenge-crawling-or-flying/

A Golden Day

What better way to celebrate the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series than a leisurely stroll around Spring Valley Nature Center on a sunny, 65 degree day in November!  Yes folks, miracles do happen!  After all the baseball hype and excitement of the past few days, it was nice to get away from it all yesterday and just relax, if you can call walking about for two hours relaxing.  For some of us it is, especially when you’ve been sitting on the edge of your seat for what seems like a lifetime, waiting for the Cubs to finally win the big prize.




And it seemed like Mother Nature was celebrating with us, everything basking in a golden glow.  Finally we could take a deep breath and enjoy life after all those years of torment.




It’s been a couple of months since I was at Spring Valley but apart from the new children’s play area that is being built near the entrance, things are pretty much the same.  The farm will probably be closing for the winter soon, so I was glad to be able to make one last visit there this year.  One of the horses, that had an abscess in its hoof, was being attended to by the resident veterinary technician who kindly let me stay and watch the proceedings. She did an amazing job and the horse didn’t seem the least bit bothered as she applied some gooey green stuff to the hoof.





After that, I went on to the farmhouse where I met a young lady in costume who kindly posed for me. Everyone at Volkening Farm is very friendly and helpful.  I would have visited the house but unfortunately the immediate area was being patrolled by a ruthless band of chickens and as many of you will know, I have a terrible fear of birds, and chickens in particular, so I stayed well back and used the long lens, glancing around me every few seconds to make sure none of them were creeping up behind me.


Leaving the farm, I walked past the track to the arboretum and headed towards the cabin that used to be the old visitor center.  A nice surprise was awaiting me on the path, two deer that stayed just long enough for me to take a couple of pictures.





Leaving the cabin, I went along the road to the pond and found several frogs making the most of the sunny day.  There was a handy bench by the water’s edge so I got comfortable while a duck paddled over, thinking there might be something to eat in the offing. It soon realized there was nothing doing and steered away to the other side of the pond.   A dragonfly landed nearby, blending in nicely with its surroundings.




I would have stayed longer but time was getting on so I bid goodbye to the frogs, (I’ll swear I heard one of them croak “Go Cubs!” as I left) and made my way back to the parking lot. There most likely won’t be too many more days for strolling around but, as we always used to say with the Cubs, “Wait till next year!”




Travel Theme: Hidden

Ailsa’s Travel Theme challenge this week on Where’s My Backpack at http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/09/06/travel-theme-hidden/ is Hidden.


Whenever I go in search of wildlife at nature centers or forest preserves I find that most things usually manage to stay hidden. Many creatures in nature are masters of disguise, it’s a necessity if they want to stay alive, and it sometimes takes a keen eye and a considerable amount of patience to spot them in their native habitat.


It was quite a while before I found this toad sitting on the dry bed of the Wabash River in Lafayette Indiana, last summer. We had been told there were hundreds of them, by a family returning from a walk along by the river, but this was the only one that I managed to discover hiding in plain sight.

snake 6b

These garter snakes were well hidden among the autumn leaves at Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington, Illinois, until I almost stepped on them and they naturally became somewhat agitated.


The praying mantis always presents a challenge when I’m looking for him in the garden. He blends in so well with the surrounding foliage. This is what makes him such a formidable predator and butterflies or, in this case, bees had better beware.

Mantis egg case

Their egg cases are equally well-camouflaged as they wait through the autumn and winter months to release their precious contents in the spring.


Frogs usually keep fairly well hidden as I approach the water’s edge at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg and it’s not until I hear a startled “peep” or the more full-throated “burp” of a bullfrog as they leap back into the pond, that I realize they’re there.

elk 1

This elk seems to blend in well with it’s woody background. Here in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, the elk prefer to remain hidden among the trees during the hot summer weather. I can’t say I blame them.

Badlands 161c

Another place that can get extremely hot during the summer months is The Badlands in South Dakota, where thousands of these prairie dogs scurry about, doing whatever prairie dogs do, until a warning call sends them running for the nearest burrow where they stay hidden until it’s safe to return to the surface.

Woodchuck 3b

The art of staying hidden is an essential part of life for most creatures in the wild but every once in a while we are lucky enough to discover their hiding places, however, we should always respect their privacy and hopefully leave them as we found them.

For What We Are About To Receive……

The praying mantis is a weird and wonderful insect. I read somewhere that it’s quite beneficial to have them in the garden since they eat bugs that might be injurious to plants, but there is a down side. They don’t discriminate between good bugs and bad bugs. They eat butterflies and ladybugs.  But, as with everything else in nature, it’s all about survival so one can’t blame them too much.

And for someone who is interested in all things ‘nature’ they make an interesting subject for study. Apparently the larger species will not only eat other insects but birds, mice, frogs and fish. I’ve only seen the ones in our garden eating bugs, usually flies, butterflies and small bees or wasps. Even another mantis isn’t safe since they occasionally indulge in cannibalism especially when they first hatch out or at mating time. What a life!!

The mantis is amazingly good at camouflage and once situated will sit for hours waiting for its prey to come within grasping distance. They can move at an extraordinary speed and don’t waste any time when it comes to consuming their catch, eating the victim alive or biting off the head first and finishing the rest at leisure.  I’ve noticed that with butterflies, they leave the wings, and I can usually tell when there’s a mantis somewhere in the garden when I find these on the ground.

Mating normally takes place in autumn which is when I start to hunt around for the frothy-looking egg cases, usually attached to the stems of shrubs or plants. I’ve found them on buddleia, chrysanthemums, autumn clematis and spirea so far.   The female will lay anything from 10 to 400 eggs and will in some instances guard the case although very often these bug nurseries are left to their own devices and fall victim to other insects.

I brought one indoors last autumn and kept it in an old fish tank overwinter, in the hopes that I would be able to capture some images of the nymphs hatching out in the spring.  Naturally one can’t stand watch 24/7 so of course they emerged last evening while I was watching “Inspector Lynley !” I think I only missed the big moment by a matter of minutes but, even then, the light wasn’t good so I had to position a flashlight and hold the camera close to the glass of the aquarium in order to get pictures.

The nymphs are only a fraction of the size of the adult mantis and there were dozens of them crawling all over the tank.  I was doing some praying of my own, hoping they wouldn’t escape through the fine wire mesh on top of the aquarium but there didn’t appear to be any escapees so all was well.

Later I took the tank outside and left it, open and on its side, beside the autumn clematis, liberating the tiny occupants, allowing them to make their way into the big wide world.  Hopefully some of them will survive long enough to provide more opportunities for photos this summer.

Bugs We Have Known.

I have, over the years, been the recipient of numerous phone calls from all three of our daughters, mostly late at night, that have gone something like this;
Me: “Hello.”
Daughter: “Mum?” (On the verge of tears.)
Me: “Hello dear. What’s wr………?”

Daughter screams, shrieking down the phone in decibels guaranteed to pierce the ear drum.
Me: (Frantically) “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

Is there an intruder in the apartment? Has she accidentally cut off an extremity while slicing vegetables? Has she received this month’s phone bill?

Daughter: “IT’S CLIMBING UP THE WALL!!!!!” (More screams)
Me: (Frantically) “What? What?”

Has she given the houseplant too much liquid fertilizer? Could it be the neighbor’s boa constrictor on the loose again or …..even the neighbor? Or is it some grotesque alien monster that has landed on Earth and made my daughter’s apartment its first port of call?

Daughter: “A BUG!!!!!”

Now I’m the last one to be judgmental in matters of this kind. Goodness knows I have my own phobias so I completely understand where she’s coming from on this one. I therefore offer maternal sympathy and helpful advice.

Me: “Hit it with a shoe or something.”

Pause as sounds of something substantial crashing into the wall come down the line.

Daughter: (More screams) “IT WON’T DIE!!!!!”

Good heavens! Is it some mutant strain of earwig, able to withstand the merciless beating of a size nine Dolce & Gabbana platform shoe? Perhaps I could take pictures; flog them to National Geographic.

Me: “Well, alright. Just come home and I’ll sort it out in the morning.” Or words to that effect.

Usually, by the time I arrive the following day, the offending item has packed its bags and left, probably saying to itself “I’m not staying here with all this racket going on,” although the last time I was called in, to witness an infestation of termites, the little beggars were still there. I took pictures on that occasion. (I thought the landlord would be interested to see them.)

Usually though, most of my photographic experiences with bugs have been much less fraught with drama.  There was, for instance, the time  a praying mantis took up residence amongst the chrysanthemums late one summer. It was very obliging and posed for endless shots (when we could find him; he blended in so well with the foliage) whilst preying on other inoffensive and innocent bugs that carelessly wandered too close and were snapped up as light refreshment. It was really quite entertaining.

Although, sadly, we seem to see fewer butterflies now, every year we  scour the garden for swallowtail’s eggs, so tiny you practically need a magnifying glass to see them. Once located, we consign them to an old empty fish tank and watch as, over the weeks, they turn first to wiggling, black little bits of thread, then rapidly expand into brightly striped caterpillars. The metamorphosis from this to the beautiful butterfly that eventually emerges from its chrysalis is nothing short of miraculous and I have frequently sat up till the wee hours waiting to catch this extraordinary phenomenon on film.

One such vigil was well rewarded when we repeated the process, this time with a giant polyphemus moth that happened to hatch out right in the middle of one of our family parties. It probably took one look at all the paper hats, happy birthday banners and brimming glasses and thought to itself, “How kind. Fancy going to all this trouble just for me.”

I seem to remember we drank to its health and wished it “bon voyage” as we released it ceremoniously into the night. The resulting pictures weren’t bad, although the camera wasn’t quite as steady as it might have been. I can’t think why.

The Audubon Society Field Guide states that there are nearly 100,000 insect species in North America alone, which probably explains why my photo albums are overflowing with pictures of darting dragonflies, spinning spiders, buzzing bees and cavorting crickets. I even have some rather risque shots of a couple of grasshoppers, if anyone’s interested.