Who are you?

On many occasions I’ve mentioned the difficulty in identifying insects.  More than 80% of all known species are insects.  They vastly outnumber plants and animals combined to a degree most people can’t fathom.

For example, more than 900,000 species of insects have been identified, while slightly more than 4,000 species of mammals have been identified—humans among them.

Truth be told, scientists believe more insect species have yet to be identified and named than already have been categorized.  That’s a stunning realization in that it means this single type of living creature is far more numerous than all other living things.  By orders of magnitude beyond comprehension, mind you.

The current estimate is that there are up to 30 million insect species in the world.  All other life combined would scarcely represent a tiny fraction of that, and it demonstrates a ration of 200 million insects for every individual human.

Consider that there are more species of dragonflies alone than there are of mammals.

So is it any doubt that identifying them can be tremendously difficult?

Hardly.

With that said, allow me to introduce to you a moth I encountered on January 20.

Perched atop a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), it seemed dwarfed by a small flower that otherwise would pass unnoticed for most people.  Not me, however.

This winged mystery remained absolutely motionless while I invaded its personal space trying to take presentable photographs.  Not once did it flinch; not once did it bat a wing.

Perfectly still, perfectly small, it lay on a golden bed while I stooped and leaned and clicked.

Unidentified moth perched atop a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (20080120_01566_c)

The angle of light and camera washed its markings away in a sea of dazzling reflection.  Nevertheless, the scale of the thing can be seen in this version of the same picture.

Unidentified moth perched atop a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (20080120_01566)

When I placed myself betwixt the moth and sun, a different view came into focus.

Unidentified moth perched atop a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (20080120_01568)

I still can’t offer a positive identification.  Regrettably, none of the photographs I took that day proffer a sound image with “This is me!” plastered all over it.

That failure notwithstanding, however, I can guess it’s a Eudonia moth (no common name; Eudonia heterosalis) by its coloration and markings.

But I could be wrong.

Too many moths fit this description, look like this in other pics.

So I ask: Who are you?

The first walk (Part I)

My new camera arrived in late December 2007.  Because my naiveté with its functionality meant the date had not even been set correctly, I can’t truthfully say when I first held this splendid piece of magic in my grimy paws, nor can I tell you the actual date these photos were taken (as the EXIF date is incorrect, although it’s only off by 12-24 hours from what I remember).

Nevertheless, I can tell you this: Perhaps taken Christmas Eve or the day before, perhaps taken Christmas Day even, these images represent my new Canon S5 IS’s initial performance at White Rock Lake, its debut as my photographic companion at the urban oasis I love.

So welcome to the first walk, to be presented in parts since there’s lots to see.

Two American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) perched on a submerged branch and preening in morning sunlight (IMG_0091)

Two American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
and a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
perched on a submerged branch and preening in morning sunlight.

A broad view of White Rock Lake from Sunset Bay (IMG_0092)

Taken immediately after the previous photo, I zoomed out to give some
perspective on where I stood when I snapped that picture.  This is
facing west from Sunset Bay.  You can see my shadow in the lower-
right corner of the image, and the pelicans and cormorant can be seen
just right of center.

A pair of juvenile ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) standing on a submerged tree stump (IMG_0111)

A pair of juvenile ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) standing on a
submerged tree stump, sometimes preening, sometimes looking around
as though trying to determine what to do with their morning.

The confluence in Sunset Bay crowded with teeming waterfowl, from an American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) to American coots (Fulica americana) to brown and white Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan geese; Anser cygnoides) (IMG_0127)

The confluence in Sunset Bay crowded with teeming waterfowl, from
an American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) to American coots
(Fulica americana) to brown and white Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan
geese; Anser cygnoides).

A covert of American coots (Fulica americana) milling about in the shallows near the shore of Sunset Bay (IMG_0139)

A covert of American coots (Fulica americana) milling about in the shallows
near shore, some eating, some preening, some wandering aimlessly.

A veritable flotilla of ducks swimming upstream from the lake, including two male, one female, and one unidentified pekin ducks (a.k.a. domestic ducks, white pekin ducks, or Long Island ducks; Anas domesticus), a male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), two male Indian runners (Anas platyrhynchos), and a male crested Indian runner (Anas platyrhynchos) (IMG_0149)

A veritable flotilla of ducks swimming upstream from the lake, including
two male, one female, and one unidentified pekin ducks (a.k.a. domestic
ducks, white pekin ducks, or Long Island ducks; Anas domesticus), a male
mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), two male Indian runners (Anas platyrhynchos),
and a male crested Indian runner (Anas platyrhynchos).

That’s it for now, but there’s more to come in future installments.

Allow me to finish with this:

It took me years to realize my Canon PowerShot S50 had a macro setting, let alone what that could do for me.  It took me years to develop any level of proficiency with that piece of equipment, my first digital camera.  It took me years to feel comfortable with it, to feel confident with changing the settings to fit the conditions.  It took me years to start taking respectable images.

My sincere hope now is that it won’t take me years with the S5 IS.  I love photography.  Something about capturing the moment as I see it means a great deal to me, whether the pictures are just for me or for public consumption.  My newest camera, although certainly not a professional piece of equipment, offers tremendous power and advantage when compared to its predecessor.  I’m trying to learn its ins and outs as quickly as possible.  Considering these photos were taken the first day I had it, I hope I’m making more rapid progress than I did before.

[Next]

Weirdo

Larenti has some of the weirdest sleeping habits I’ve seen in a cat.  Sure, he sleeps on his back from time to time, but so do Kako and Vazra.  Lots of cats do that, which makes it anything but unusual.

I’m talking about positions that don’t even look comfortable, let alone restful, positions that seem accidental rather than intentional.  You might remember seeing one such pose last November while he was still living outside.

I thought at the time that he looked as though he was taking a bath and fell asleep before he finished.  Now I know that really happens.  Like this:

Larenti sleeping in the same position he was in while taking a bath (IMG_0018)

And this:

Larenti sleeping in the same position he was in while taking a bath (20080126_01650)

I’ve seen him do that regularly all about the house.  It starts innocently enough with normal feline hygienics, but somewhere in the middle of the process he grows tired and simply goes to sleep.  Without lying down or changing position.

I can’t claim this Buddha Belly demonstration resulted from the same mid-bath unconsciousness, yet I do know he wound up propped against the bed rolled forward such that he had to hold himself up with his front paws—while he slept!

Larenti sleeping while propped up against the bed with his front feet holding him up (IMG_0036)

All I know is that this cat is a true weirdo.  He certainly came to live in the right house…

Considerations, intentions, dispositions, and formulations

From an e-mail I just sent to Mom:

On the subject of my shadow, al-Zill, I intend to rescue and adopt him.  […] I now feel confident that he does indeed have neurological damage.  I suspect it’s from a coyote attack, although I could be wrong.  A car might explain the wounds and problems.  Then again, maybe not.

His wounds have healed with a great deal of effort and care.  He still might need additional treatment depending on the severity of the damage, but I can assure you the infection is gone, the wound is healing nicely, and he’s in much better condition now than he was six weeks ago.

I said on the blog that I don’t need seven cats.  Nevertheless, I can’t ignore the situation.  He won’t survive without intervention.  And I won’t leave him behind knowing the fate bearing down on him without my protection.  I can’t do it.  I can’t be that callous, that heartless, that uncaring and unnoticing.  So I’ll mess up my finances even more by tending to his needs, getting him healthy, and giving him a home.

He’ll cause more chaos with the other six cats, I know, but I consider myself an expert at this now.  I can do it.  He’ll fit in fine, he’ll make friends, he’ll be safe, and I won’t carry the scars of inhumanity that haunt me for every life I can’t save, every bit of mercy I fail to show.  That’s not the person I am and it’s not the person I want to be.  So I sacrifice, I give in to my better nature, and I curse those who look at me crosswise simply because they can be vile and ghoulish without blinking, they can be selfish sans a bit of care for those hurt along the way.

That’s just not me.  It hasn’t been, isn’t, and won’t be.  Ever.

From a recent telephone conversation with xocobra:

xocobra: “What if he’s critically wounded?  What if he can never be healthy and happy?”

Me: “Then so be it.  I’ll give him the life he can enjoy while he can enjoy it.”

“What happens if the doctor says he needs to be put down?”

“I’ve always erred on the side of quality versus quantity.  If he can’t have a comfortable, happy life, I’ll make the decision that needs to be made.  I’d rather he wallow in some goodness for a short time than suffer through agony for a long time.”

“Thank you.  Thank you for saying that.  Thank you for being that way when it comes to what matters.”

Truth be told, however, I fear for what Randy said in his latest missive:

And at the same time, I think you know that you are perilously close to having someone […] show up at your door for harboring too many animals.

How so very accurate an observation.

Seven?  Too many?

Perhaps.

But I can’t ignore compassion.  Benevolence is my way, I’m afraid, and I must do what I must do.

Scheming and plotting a capture now appear the necessities of the day.  To secure, to evade, and to provide.

I’ll go from there.

Runner at dusk

Dusk.  Our familiar star settles below the horizon, yet neither light nor dark rule our planet.

Nothing less than otherworldly, the twilight hour defined by a mingling of giants: night and day.

Weak light bends through the air to offer sight in still darkness.  Not too much vision, mind you, but enough.

Amongst the foraging creatures stands a runner.  Tall, upright, obvious.  He towers over his feathered brethren.

Indian runner duck (a.k.a. Indian runner or runner; Anas platyrhynchos) amongst other waterfowl at dusk (20080222_01972)

I stagger at his presence, his defiant stance above his kind, his station.  What empowers him to be so different?

Indian runner duck (a.k.a. Indian runner or runner; Anas platyrhynchos) amongst other waterfowl at dusk (20080222_01975)

Gravity.

It’s no more complicated than that.

With legs placed further back than other ducks, his center of gravity rests near his tail.  This forces him and his kind to stand up.

And to walk like they’re running.

Indian runner duck (a.k.a. Indian runner or runner; Anas platyrhynchos) amongst other waterfowl at dusk (20080222_01976)

Or marching.

While gabbing ad infinitum with a diatribe meant for the gods.

Still, even in this late hour when daylight and darkness combine, his presence remains unmissable, unmistakable.  Even if you’ve seen his kind before, a runner at dusk is a magical thing indeed.

Indian runner duck (a.k.a. Indian runner or runner; Anas platyrhynchos) amongst other waterfowl at dusk (20080222_02011)

[male Indian runner duck (a.k.a. Indian runner or runner; Anas platyrhynchos); also seen are American coots (Fulica americana), mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), and pekin ducks (a.k.a. domestic ducks, white pekin ducks, or Long Island ducks; Anas domesticus)]