Archive for the 'Backyard' Category


DipteraI found this dead fly inside the convoluted head of an organically-raised cauliflower from Salinas, CA, with its brain-like flowerets. Brassica! Diptera! The first day of spring!

Cepaea nemoralis

Cepaea nemoralisSlicking up the back door. Faster than you think.


We interrupt this progression of posts on the faraway sublime to bring you a bit of sublime closer at home.

I was breaking down a head of broccoli and had gotten to the best part, the stem, which unfortunately was hollowed out by rot, when this one scootled across the chopping block for the cover of cleaver on its side. What the hell, I thought, good luck, spider. Later, though, it started up the wall and looked out of place so I captured it and released it into the Back 40.

Back to the great Southwest tomorrow.


rootsI don’t know what it is, but it makes an absolute rug of roots, mostly horizontal. This is the kind of stuff that held the prairie in place.

Spring Cleaning Snails

snailsThree different specimens of our old friend Cepaea nemoralis.snail2snail3snail4The snail’s “foot,” which gave rise to the name for this whole class of Molluscs, Gastropoda, which means simply stomach-foot (and is anatomically incorrect; the stomach is in the portion of the animal that is inside the shell).snail5Just a size comparison with some other snails found during this clean up. The mm ruler looks bent because the macro lens distorts at the edges, either that or the omphalos of the shells draws gravity in like a black hole.snail6Unknown species on the left;Discus rotundatus on the right.

Once More, With Feeling

mag1mag2Arbor Day draws to a close. This evening’s sunset lit up this backyard Magnolia out beyond the Back 40. It’s a late bloomer, shaded from much of the afternoon sun. Two fences away, snagged with a big plastic bag, and evidently uncared for, it beckons like a dream.

Spring spider

Last week, on the first day of spring, a spider found itself in the tub.Parasteatoda tepidariorumAn American House Spider (I think), Parasteatoda tepidariorum. I got close with the camera and somehow brushed a line of silk, so that when I moved away, I inadvertently pulled the spider with me: it danced like a tiny puppet at the end of that invisible line. Sorry! And then I noticed, that being in a tub, which is designed to shed water, it was having some difficulty in getting out. So I used a small scallop shell, typical bathroom equipment in this house, to gently move it. As some of the guides noted, it played dead for a while but was soon on its way. Wherever it wanted to go.

It’s the heat, stupid

back40People, politely called “climate change deniers,” who reject the basic rules of physics and chemistry parade their stupidity with a militance. In their willful ignorance, they like to parrot the line that the planet can’t be warming because we still have winter — even though winters are measurably warmer than they were just half a century ago.

A warmer planet means warmer oceans, and warmer oceans mean more moisture in the warmer, more moisture-friendly atmosphere, which means more rain. In winter, this moisture can mean snow if the air temperature is low enough. The Atlantic is a substantial 5 degrees warmer than usual. When all that moisture meets frigid air rushing from the Arctic, as it did in this storm, it leads to… snow. back40(Click on images to get full panorama effect. Second Dr. Seuss-esque image made by moving camera off horizontal during pan.)


Periplaneta americanaThe American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), a.k.a. American Waterbug, and, incorrectly, as the Palmetto bug. The “American” is also a misnomer; they originated in Africa and been here since the 17th century. They are FREAKIN’ HUGE. (Sorry, my entomological sympathies are strained by the Blattodea.) 4cm or 1.5″ long. Distinguished from the smaller house invader commonly known as “roaches,” Blattella germanica, by size and head pattern and habits and numbers. One waterbug making noise behind my lintel postcards not so bad, a bunch of roaches scurrying when the light goes on, now, that’s ugly, and luckily not something I have to deal with. In looking the roaches up, I see there’s a Death’s Head Roach (Blaberus craniifer) in Key West and the Caribbean. Lucky them. The Waterbug moniker comes from the fact that they frequently enter apartments through the drains. Years ago in another apartment on a very, very hot and humid night, I saw these things flying, slowly, ponderously ~ atavistically horrifying.

Ailanthus Webworm

I was working my way up to taking a picture of the Ailanthus sapling that appeared this summer in a crack in the concrete in the Back 40. I was looking forward to a tree growing in Brooklyn, at least until the landlord saw it. But the Ailanthus Webworms got to it before I did. And they did a number on it. Atteva aurea is another of the communal caterpillar species who cover their handiwork in silk.

This is the adult moth:
Ailanthus altissima is of course a tree native to China. The moth seems to be native to Florida and the tropics; it has adopted to using the tree as a host plant for its larvae.


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