Posted tagged ‘insects’

The Bird Carver’s Daughter (Part 6: Habitat Shots)

April 26, 2013

Guest post by Kari Jo Spear, Photographer, Novelist, and Daughter of Bob Spear

“Take a shot in that direction.” My father pointed down toward the brook through some hemlock trees. “Good ruffed grouse territory.”

“Okay,” I said. My job was to take an interesting photo. So I crouched down, trying to get into ruffed grouse mode, going for an eye level perspective. If I was a grouse, I’d lay my eggs right under the trees. Of course, I wasn’t a grouse, and this was another of my father’s crazy attempts to get me into his “carve all the birds in Vermont” project. He thought it would be helpful to have a plastic sleeve hanging from each display case with some facts about the bird and a photo of its nesting habitat. I thought all the leaves and flowers and stuff he was putting in the cases would be enough to clue people in, but he wanted photos, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if I took them?

Well, I liked taking photos, and my father’s fancy Nikon with interchangeable lenses was pretty cool. But nesting habitat was not exactly an exciting subject to photograph. We’d been hiking for hours, and I’d been dutifully taking shots of deciduous trees, evergreens, moss, and even dead stumps. That part wasn’t really so bad. The real problem was that habitat shots had to be taken in the spring when the birds were nesting. The birds needed to take advantage of insects, who were also doing their multiplying thing. Right now, every black fly in Huntington was taking advantage of their favorite food source—me. They didn’t care about my artistic endeavor, they didn’t care that I reeked of insect repellant, and they didn’t care that I was allergic to them. My eyes were going to be puffed shut tomorrow, I knew it.

I am a grouse, I thought. I snapped two more shots down toward the brook, even climbing into the brush to get a nice, curving limb to frame the top.

“Okay,” my father said. “Now I want to go to a farm up the road. There’s a pair of cliff swallows building under the eaves of the barn. We can get barn swallow habitat inside. And all the apple trees are in bloom. They’re real pretty, and they’d be good blue bird habitat.”

Anything to get away from the buggy brook. I swatted my way out of the woods—flies never seemed to bother my father—and scratched my way up the road to an old farm that looked as thought it had been there since the glaciers moved out. I liked the way the buildings nestled into the hillside. Sure enough, there was a small colony of cliff swallows building their funny little jug-like nests under the eaves. I didn’t even ask how my father had known they were there. While he chatted with the farmer, I photographed the eaves, then some rafters inside where some barn swallows were busy irritating the cows, and then I wandered around the apple trees in full bloom and thought about how nice a big bee sting would look right between my puffy eyes. Maybe some poison ivy to set it off. Then I tripped over a branch buried in the new spring grass and landed in a woodchuck hole, twisting my ankle.

My father got the car and drove me home. Fortunately, I wasn’t bleeding—my father was not good with blood—and the camera was okay, so there was no harm done. “An old war horse,” my father said, seeing me looking at it on the seat between us.

I didn’t think he was referring to me. A young warhorse, maybe.

“You may as well keep it,” he added.

“Until next weekend?” I asked, wondering if my ankle would be up to more traipsing around.

He kind of shrugged. “Till whenever. If I need it for something, you can bring it back.”

“Oh,” I said, it slowly sinking in that he’d just given me a really nice camera. On a kind of permanent borrow.

“Might as well take the lenses, too.” I noticed that they were in the back seat. A 300mm lens and a wide angle.

“Thanks,” I said, meaning it.

“It’s a good camera,” he said. And that was that. Then he added, “But we need to get the film developed right away.”

“What’s the rush?”

“Montpelier.”

Right, I thought. The state capital.

“Library,” he added.

“You’re going to carve books next?” I’d believe anything.

He shot me a look. “No. Going to have the carvings there next week.”

“What?”

“There’s an art gallery upstairs in the library,” he said patiently. We’re going to have a big opening. Newspapers will be there.”

I looked at him, wondering how he’d known how to set up something like this. He’d probably enlisted Gale. He didn’t even look nervous. I’d be frantic.

“We’ve got to start getting people interested in the project, you know,” he went on. “Need to find someplace to house them.”

At the rate he was carving, he wasn’t going to have room to breathe in the shop much longer.

“There’ll be a reception. With food.” He looked at me hopefully.

“Of course I’ll be there,” I said. And not just for the food.

“Good,” he said. And then he smiled, just a little. “It’s upstairs. Your ankle will be better by next weekend, right?”

Of course it would be. Who wouldn’t want to get all hot and sweaty lugging bird cases to an upstairs gallery? I heaved a sigh. I’d never figure out how he managed to talk me into getting deeper and deeper in this project of his.

The next morning, I limped into school with my eyes puffed mostly shut, my arms and legs sunburned and dotted with red spots, and my left ankle wrapped up.

“What happened to you?” my homeroom teacher asked. All around us were kids with honorable injuries, acquired by heroically sliding into home plate or after bursting through a finish line. Everyone turned to me, waiting to hear my glorious tale.

I dropped into my desk with a sigh. “Wood chuck hole.”

Everyone’s eyebrows went up.

I nodded wisely like this was a big deal. Lowering my voice, I said, “Okay. Let me tell you guys about… habitat shots.”

Author’s Note: Visitors to the museum will notice that there are no photographs hanging from any of the cases. My father finally realized, as someone had tried to tell him, that people would get the idea where the birds nested from all the leaves and flowers and stuff in the cases. The habitat shot phase passed quickly, but to this day if I take a photo with no apparent subject, my father will look at it, smile a little, and say, “Looks like a habitat shot to me.”

And I still have the camera, tucked away somewhere safe. Permanent borrow: thirty-five years and counting.

Kari Jo and Bob Spear, examining "Habitat Shots"  1981,  Photographer unknown

Kari Jo and Bob Spear, examining “Habitat Shots”
1981, Photographer unknown

Kari Jo Spear‘s young adult, urban fantasy novels, Under the Willow, and  Silent One, are available at Phoenix Books (in Essex and Burlington, Vermont), and on-line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Previous posts in this series:
Part 1: The Early Years
Part 2: The Pre-teen Years (or, Why I’m Not a Carver)
Part 3: Something’s Going On Here
Part 4: The Summer of Pies
Part 5: My Addiction

Bob Spear, Founding Director + Master #C

August 14, 2012

Bob Spear, Founding Director + Master Carver, is the featured member in summer Vermont Entomological Society News!  (The article was written by current Executive Director, Wildlife Biologist Erin Talmage.)

The PDF of VES News is here: http://vermontinsects.org/vesnews/VES%20News%20-%20Summer%202012.pdf [5 Mb PDF]

More newsletters can be found here:  http://vermontinsects.org/newsletter.html

Highlights of July 8th Butterfly Walk

July 10, 2012

We could not have asked for better weather during the July 8th ButterflyWalk. Clear blue skies and comfortable temperatures welcomed the eighteen nature lovers that joined Vermont Entomological Society naturalists and entomologists for an exploratory stroll on the Birds of Vermont Museum grounds.  Make sure to check out the list of the many butterflies, insects, and other miscellaneous critters participants got to experience up close!

To learn more about the Vermont Entomological Society check out their website, where you can find gorgeous photos and information about the society.

Atlantis Fritillary similar to the one above were sighted during the July 8th Butterfly Walk.

Butterflies, Insects, and Misc. Critters viewed on July 8th:

Butterflies:

  • Atlantis Fritillary Butterfly
  • Clouded Sulphurs Butterfly (male)
  • Dun Skipper Butterfly
  • Monarch Butterfly
  • Question Mark Butterfly
  • Azure Butterfly
  • Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly
  • Red Admiral Butterfly

Moths:

  • Sod Grass Veneer Moth
  • Mottled Snout Moth
  • Gypsy Moth (caterpillar)
  • Plume Moth
Misc. Flying Species:
  • Enallagma Skimming Bluet (blue damselfly)
  • Bright Green Damselfly
  • 12-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly
  • Red Dragon Fly
  • Dragon Fly (exoskeleton)
  • Crane Fly
  • Scorpion Fly (female)
  • Serpent Fly (mimics wasp)

Beetles:

  • Click Beetle
  • Japanese Beetle
  • Whirligig Beetle
  • Case-bearing Leaf Beetle

Other Species:

  • Bush Katydid
  • Grey Grasshopper (gripped and turned a dime – VERY IMPRESSIVE!)
  • Large Tan Spider(male)
  • Crab Spider (3 sited, 1 was eating another insect)
  • Water Boatman
  • Water Scorpion
  • Frogs & Tadpoles
  • Leeches
  • Salamanders
  • Raven (heard)
  • Black Billed Cuckoo (heard and sighted)
Interested in identifying butterflies in your own backyard? Check out “Gardens With Wings” for help identifying butterflies by their shape, wingspan, opened and closed wing color, common name and family name.

Come to the Fall Festival, Saturday October 9

October 5, 2010

Come to our Fall Festival Saturday, October 9, 2010Enjoy our Fall Festival with Woodcarvers — Live birds — Used Books/Garage Sale — Nature Journal Workshop — Insect Info — Birds!

Woodcarvers will be demonstrating their art in the workshop.
Carol Winfield returns with live birds at 11:00.
Find something wonderful at our Used Books/Garage Sale.
Heather Fitzgerald offers a Nature Journal Workshop.
Rhonda Mace from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture will answer questions about Invasive Insects.
Kids activities and games, nature walks.

Celebrate a great year!
Free!
Fun for Everyone!

A beginner’s notes from the Annual Butterfly Walk

July 11, 2010

post by Kir Talmage, Museum Program Coordinator

I’ve just come back from the Annual VES Butterfly Walk.  Thank you so much to Bryan Pfeiffer, Trish Hanson and many others for sharing their knowledge! We had about 35 guests or so on the walk, ranging from young kids to grandparents, new explorers to professional (and retired) entomologists.  I’m a new explorer, practically a rank beginner with bugs.  I love it.

You’ll no doubt get much more by coming on a walk, going outside, and paging through field guides. I went out with my  just my notebook and camera, though. So, from my notes:

Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies

Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies on today's VES Butterfly Walk

About observing tools: Water nets and butterfly nets are not the same. A butterfly net (for field insects, etc.) is longer, cone-shaped, and of a very fine soft mesh. The longer shape (compared a vaguely trapezoidal water net) allows one to “flip” the net closed, so the insect won’t escape while you are examining it. That’s less of an issue with a water net; water beetles and dragonfly nymphs aren’t so likely to fly off.

About Butterflies: Lepidoptera — the order that contains butterflies — means “scale(d) wing”, for the thousands of tiny, often iridescent scales that cover the wings.  We found a clouded sulphur female (Colias philodice). One way (of  several) to tell this was a female was because she had spots in the dark margin of her upper wing.

Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand

Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand. This one is an "old lady" -- about a month or so!

About Dragonflies and Damselflies: When identifying them, look at where the color is on which segments of the abdomen — look very closely! Also look at the profile of the claspers at the end of the abdomen. The different shapes (hook, c-clamp, straight, knobby, etc.) helped in identification.

About Daddy-long-legs:  I had never noticed how the mouth parts fold so neatly, making such a even oval profile of their bodies. Lovely.

Here’s a cool online resource I just found too, for comparing multiple pictures of butterflies (and others): http://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?guide=Butterflies What are your favorite online resources for Insects and Arachnids?

Young Entomologist

Young Entomologist on the VES Annual Butterfly Walk

Bug Walk: July 5th

July 2, 2009

This Sunday, July 5, 2009, the Vermont Entomological Society will hold its FREE annual Bug Walk at the Birds of Vermont Museum, 10:30 – 12. Join Vermont naturalists and entomologists in a first-hand experience of seeing Vermont’s butterflies and other insects up close.

Participants will have free admission to the Museum that day, so come join us on the only day this week guaranteed (er, highly likely) to be sunny! The fields across the road will be swept with butterfly nets to find all kinds of miniscule critters and butterflies, and maybe some surprises. Feel free to bring binoculars and an insect net if you have one.

Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it. There are picnic tables by the Museum and one more at the pond–where you can see tadpoles, frogs and salamanders (maybe a turtle), not to mention all sorts of water insects.

Should be loads of fun! If it is raining on the day of the walk, call the Museum (802)-434-2167 to see if we’ve rescheduled.


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