Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pink Cattleheart or Transandean Butterfly... December, 2010

pink cattleheart butterfly on Pentas blossom cluster
After quite a bit of "googling" around, I believe I've identified this as Parides iphidamas whose common names are Pink Cattleheart or Transandean. As near as I can tell from having studied several different web sites and images, this is a female of the species.

There seems to be quite a bit of variability in the coloring and markings of this species and I'm by no means an expert! So I trust someone out there will correct me if I've misidentified this one. :-) It is resting on a Pentas blossom cluster... and I do know that Pentas blossoms are a favorite of butterflies everywhere they bloom so have vowed to have more of them in my garden in 2011. (Unfortunately, they are an annual flowering plant and are fairly expensive but I simply must find ways to attract more butterflies to my garden and don't have the room for a butterfly bush!)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas baking... a family tradition!

holiday treats
I've been making two of the four cookies pictured here (slightly smaller than actual size) at Christmas time (missing a few years here and there for some reason or another) for over 50 years and others of my family also make these annually. The recipes date back to when my mother discovered some recipe suggestions for Christmas baking, tucked into a bag of Gold Medal flour. She thought a couple of the recipes sounded like fun and would be delicious so we set out to make them.

My mother suffered from eczema and could not do the "hand mixing" that was required of both recipes (in the time before food processors came along). From the time I can remember, I was Mom's kitchen helper, doing most of the chores requiring "hands on" when she could not do those chores. So until my siblings were older and could help, Christmas baking fell to me with Mom assisting with chores that didn't require her to touch the ingredients.

Pictured above are Cherry Coconut Bars, Cream Wafers, Chocolate Truffles, Spiced Pecans and Russian Tea Cakes (or Mexican Wedding Cakes). The Cherry Coconut Bars and Cream Wafers are the two "family" recipes that I've been making off and on ever since I was a young girl... and once I discovered that the "hand mixing" could be done better and more efficiently using a food processor, I've been making them almost every year since. The other items are more recent additions with the Russian Tea Cakes being made for the first time this year.

Recipes for the Cherry Coconut Bars, Cream Wafers, Chocolate Truffles, Spiced Pecans and some other holiday treats not pictured here may be found on my other blog starting with Holiday Baking - Part 1 and I share ALL my secrets for simplifying the recipes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Greetings of the Season... Winter, 2010

collage of (clockwise from top left) Poinsettia, female cardinal, male cardinal, robins in Holly tree (all birds in snow storm)
Here's hoping everyone has a joyous holiday season ... whatever holiday you celebrate! This is my first experiment at creating a photo collage. (next experiment will be to figure out how to make "live links" to allow you, if you are so inclined, to click any one of the images in the collage to show a "full size" of it in a new window)

With thanks to Ginnie of In Soul for the hint to use Picnik to create photo collages. :-)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Three views of a Leopard Lacewing butterfly...

Leopard Lacewing with proboscis curled
It would be very nice if the folks at the American Museum of Natural History would post the names of the butterflies on view in the Butterfly Conservatory. That said, there is a certain satisfaction to be had in poking around on the internet to compare my photos with others out there and to see if I can find an ID on my own... in the case of these three images... mission accomplished! It took the visual guide downloaded from the Pacific Science Center plus a search of Wikipedia for Lacewing to find the common name of Leopard Lacewing and the species name of Cethosia cyane for this beauty.

I captured quite a few images of it trying to find the "sweet spot" for drinking nectar from these tiny Pentas blossoms the one above is during a pause in the action with the proboscis tightly curled up. (and note the ladybug on the leaf below the butterfly... not the point of focus but definitely visible once the image was out of the camera and viewed on a big monitor!)

Leopard Lacewing, wings folded
This view shows the underside of the wings... in this species... the underside is perhaps more beautiful than the top side of the wings.

Top view of Leopard Lacewing
Another topside view... and another miss while trying to find the flower center!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Atlas Moths mating... Do not disturb... Butterfly Conservatory at the National Museum of Natural History`

Atlas Moths mating
I'm a bit laid up with a bum ankle so am posting this as my apology for not visiting your blogs as I'd promised. I hope you all are having a better week than mine has turned out to be after falling yesterday and banging myself up… the sore ankle is making it quite difficult to do much of anything other than lay around! (although I may lay around WITH my laptop this afternoon and see how that goes because it could work to allow me to keep my feet up while on-line via wireless)

The Atlas Moth Attacus atlas) is believed to be the largest species of moth with wing spans that may reach 25–30 cm (10–12 in). We were told by one of the guides at the Conservatory that they mate for hours... they have no mouths so cannot eat... they do nothing except mate, lay eggs and then die. The female is the larger of the species and is mostly hidden behind the male in this close view that shows the lovely, feathery antennae of this species. Refer to Wikipedia for additional information.

I visited the Butterfly Conservatory of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, NY twice to get this picture... the first day we were there, they were mating on a glass window too far away for capturing and I didn't have my macro lens anyway. The next day, they had relocated (maybe it was even a different pair) to a MUCH better location AND I had my macro lens with me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Excuse me... I was here first! Sparrows at my feeder... December, 2010

It's kind of sad that the sparrows have mostly driven away the other birds that used to visit my feeders... and this morning, this feeder was the only one with any seed left in it before I went out to refill all of them. There were at least 30 sparrows sitting in a neighbor's rose bush and taking turns at the feeder... some were more polite than others but mostly it was a feeding frenzy!

I know this isn't the best in terms of sharpness of the image... in addition to the motion of the feeder due to the sparrows fighting over perches, there was a fairly stiff breeze blowing things around.

I'll be mostly off-line for a few days but will visit soon. I'm enjoying comments and promise to return your visits soon if I haven't already!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A trio of Hydrangea images... which one do you prefer?

antique effect on Hydrangea blossoms
I love my Hydrangea blossoms when they are in bud, or bursting into bloom... and even when they are faded at the end of the blooming season. I keep hoping for frost so I can get some images of the faded blossoms kissed by frost.

In the meantime, I use iPhoto on a Macintosh computer for simple editing when I'm too lazy to do anything complicated with Photoshop. I upgraded recently to the very latest version... while poking around to see what new items were available for tweaking images, I discovered "antique" and "boost" effects, both of which were used to give interesting effects to the Hydrangea blossom you see above with the "antique" effect applied. Scroll down to see the SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) image followed by the image with the "boost" option at 2. I like them all ... which one do you like best?!

unretouched Hydrangea blossom
SOOC image of faded Hydrangea blossom.

Hydrangea blossom with color boost set at level 2 (using iPhoto on a Macintosh).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Late fall visitor to late blooming Blanket Flower... November, 2010

sweat bee in blanket flower
Because I was expecting visitors for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to go out and do some garden cleanup (dead/dying tomato plants and some other dead growth) so I wouldn't be embarrassed at the condition of my garden. Imagine my surprise to find this charming sweat bee exploring a Blanket Flower in search of pollen.

The weather has finally turned colder so I doubt I'll have any more opportunities to photograph insects in my garden until spring!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Two Confused Camellia blossoms for your viewing pleasure...

white camellia with a touch of pink
This time of year, thoughts turn to the weather because the garden goes dormant and we have to wait until spring for color in the garden. BUT, our weather this fall has been unseasonably warm and my spring blooming Camellia has decided to bloom now instead of waiting until spring. It's quite lovely with white, bi-color pink and white (as you see here with just a splash of pink, but sometimes much more pink than white) and even a few solid pinks now and then. I fear this means I'll have no blossoms in spring so I've been out photographing a few this past week to have the images to enjoy now and again in spring.

pink camellia with a touch of white
I don't normally post two images but as I was typing the above image caption, I realized maybe you'd like to see the mostly pink blossom as well as the white and I have WAY more images than I have time to post them! The pink image is a touch out of focus because those blossoms are in a spot where I have to balance precariously in order to photograph them.