Missouri’s Night Wanderers – The Striped Bark Scorpion

Glowing Death (If You are a Bug)
Glowing Death (If You are a Bug)

For today’s post I am presenting a few photos taken of a very common arachnid found in glades and drier forests of southern Missouri – the Striped Bark Scorpion.  No, there is no reason to fear these secretive scorpions; they are only dangerous if you happen to be an arthropod smaller than they are.  They are, however, much more common than I ever would have expected.  Steve and I had much success finding them in the glades of Hughes Mountain Natural Area this past summer.  Wait until the sun has well set, turn on your blacklight and walk around for a while.  We were finding them easily every few steps.

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The Striped Bark Sorpion

The photo above shows what they look like to the naked eye (illuminated by flash).  These guys are extremely fast as well as stealthy.  The use of blacklight is almost mandatory to efficiently find them.  These lights as well as a typical flashlight/torch brings all sorts of other arthropod visitors to the glade top as well.

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So, why do they glow under ultraviolet light?  This is an interesting question that has not yet been satisfactory answered by those who study these creatures.  Hypothesis range from helping to attract prey, to aiding in their ability to see and sense light.  I took the photo above soon after we watched this guy sprint approximately a meter towards us in the blink of an eye.  At the time, Steve and I assumed it was a defensive run (or lunge) in reaction to us being near it.  It was not until days later that I discovered  what the real purpose of that dash had been…

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Can you see what that reason was?  Here’s a closer look…

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Yes, I believe its dash was in capturing a prey – this small wolf spider – probably the only other predator that might be as common or more common than the scorpions themselves in this nocturnal food web.

Thanks for visiting…
OZB

 

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An Evening at Hughes Mountain Natural Area

I’ve discussed Hughes Mountain Natural Area a few times in this blog.  There is still so much I have yet to discover and photograph here, that I am always keen to pay a visit.  Typically, plants go quickly dormant and animals become hard to find during summer’s dog days.  The cooler, wet summer we are had this year provided an extended window of activity for many of the residents of this glade-covered knob.  These images were taken during a July evening as Steve and I paid a visit to one of our mutual favorite destinations.

For a while now, I’ve know of the first citizen I’d like to introduce to you.  Because I often have troubles slowing down and looking around, I had never actually seen one of these guys until this summer.  Of course, they are everywhere you look.  I am speaking of the Lichen Grasshopper, a species perfectly adapted at blending in with the lichen-covered exposed rocks on igneous glades such as those found at Hughes Mountain.

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Lichen Grasshopper
 

As I was destroying my delicate knees and elbows trying to get a shot of these weary grasshoppers I happened across this gal, a mamma Wolf Spider, out for a stroll with the kids.  She didn’t seem to mind the paparazzo activity.

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Mamma Wolf
 

The Fame Flower, a member of the succulent tending, Purslane family, is also known as Rock Pink and Flower-of-an-Hour, due to the ephemeral flowers opening late in the afternoon.  The flowers of this magnificent little plant are suspended on fine, wispy, leafless stalks (scape) many times longer than the short, succulent leaves.  Any small breeze sets these warmly saturated blooms swaying back and forth, bringing difficulty to obtaining a nice photograph.  Bravos to Steve for identifying this one!

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Fame Flower
 

Finally, I wanted to provide a “habitat shot” that exemplifies where these organisms can be found.  Hopefully next time I can show you some of the other kind-hearted citizens of the Ozark Glades, like the Tarantula, the Black Widow and Scorpions.

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Moist Times

Fast Action Photography

No, I do not mean catching a bird on the wing or some split second sports action in camera.  Sometimes the landscape photograph has equal timing requirements and this one will serve to remind me of what could have been and to be ready and prepared whenever in setting.  I hiked to the top of Hughes one early spring evening with the full kit.  Arriving at the top, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of clouds for a potential sunset shot, but I can never be in the dumps at this location no matter what nature is presenting.  So I just decided to sit and enjoy the silence and see what may come my way.  Not paying much attention I suddenly noticed a fairly small, beautifully pastel-colored cloud popped out of nowhere and was positioned in the perfect place, just in a perfect frame along with blooming Service Berry in the foreground.  Of course the gear was where it was nice and safe – all wrapped up in the camera bag.  I could tell this cloud was ephemeral and sprang into action.

Pulled the tripod off and extend the legs, unzip, pick lens, attach lens to camera, attach polarizing filter, attach shutter release cord, attach camera to tripod, shoot, I forgot the graduated neutral density filter, which one do I need, OK, how to compose?  Compose? Just hurry up!  By the time I had everything ready and was hitting the shutter the cloud has diminished by more than three fold and lost all of that wonderful color.  I then identified that irritating high pitch noise I was hearing.  I was screaming.

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A Very Vernal Venture

Happy Sunday everyone.  Don’t get too excited, Monday is just around the corner… 😉

Compared to the past several years, spring was a bit tardy coming around.  However, on the trails of the northern Missouri Ozarks, she showed in full splendor this weekend.  I started off yesterday morning wanting to visit a few places in the Steelville/Salem area and first stopped at Red-Bluff recreation Area along the Huzzah Creek.  I hiked the trail and listened to the Parula, Yellow-throated Warblers and Black and White Warblers as they advertized their newly forming territories.  I checked out the bluff and looked in vain for the Davidson Natural Bridge nearby.  If anyone has any information to pass on concerning how to find this feature, I’d appreciate it.

From there I headed to Zahorsky Woods, an approximately 50 acre, high-quality wooded lot owned by TNC.  I was having some trouble finding the trailhead I was looking for when a friendly man named Bob stopped and helped me out.  He explained he was one of the owners of the neighboring Wildwood Spring Lodge, and invited me to park on his property and use the trailheads not only to Zahorsky Woods, but to the trail network that runs on his property.  He gave me a quick description and directions to some interesting features, including Steelville Natural Bridge that sets nearby the Meramec River.  Thanks Bob!  The views from the bluffs on both of these properties were very nice and the flood plain within Zohorsky was full of ephemeral wildflowers and other interesting things to see.

My next stop was Sutton Bluff, which rests along the Black River.  Very birdy and a nice hike.  The view from the top leaved a bit to be desired due to the fact that the very nice campgrounds filled most of the valley!  It should be quite a site from below during autumn, however.

Photos from these location will follow in the near future.  My final stop was to Hughes Mountain near Ironton for a sunset and attempts at some “nightscapes”.  Steve joined me after his long shift at the hospital and kept me company on top of this windy Ozark peak.  The image below is probably my best from what I attempted last night.  Not terrible for my first serious attempt, but far from perfect.  Being reared and still residing in the big city, every time I can see a night’s sky like this is extremely special for me.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to see this on any clear night.  I can’t wait to try this some more!

You can find my, hopefully exhaustive, list of wildflowers in bloom and bird list below the picture.  I am still waiting to find a Brown Creeper in 2014.. 😦

Please enjoy your spring.  Like childhood, they do not last long enough.

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“Sky Envy″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG, ISO 640,  f/3.2, 30 sec

 

Wildflowers

White

·         Cutleaf Toothwort (on the backside of their season)

·         Harbinger of Spring (almost done)

·         Spring Beauty (in the spectacular peak of their season)

·         Pussytoes

·         Rue Anemone (in their peak.  Is there anything more precious than a bunch of these buds immediately before opening?  )

·         False Rue Anemone (near the peak)

·         Bloodroot (only a few remaining)

·         Dutchman’s Breeches (getting a nice start)

·         White Dogtooth Violet

·         Long-leaved Bluets

·         Leavenworthia

·         Saxifrage

·         Pale Violet

Yellow

·         Hoary Puccoon

·         Large Bellwort

·         Celandine Poppy

·         Yellow Violet

·         Buttercup (Ranunculus)

Red/Orange/Pink

·         Indian Paintbrush

Blue/Purple

·         Bluebells

·         Round-lobed Hepatica

·         Blue Phlox

·         Bird’s Foot Violet

·         Johnny Jump Up

·         Blue Violet

 

Birds

·         Canada Goose

·         Wood Duck

·         Mallard

·         Great-Blue Heron

·         Turkey Vulture

·         Red-tailed Hawk

·         Red-shouldered Hawk

·         Broad-winged Hawk

·         Cooper’s Hawk

·         Sharp-shinned Hawk

·         American Kestral

·         Barred Owl

·         Whip-poor-will

·         American Woodcock

·         Belted Kingfisher

·         Red-headed Woodpecker

·         Downey Woodpecker

·         Hairy Woodpecker

·         Pileated Woodpecker

·         Red-bellied Woodpecker

·         Northern Flicker

·         Eastern Pheobe

·         Great-crested Flycatcher

·         Eastern Kingbird

·         White-eyed Vireo

·         Yellow-throated Vireo

·         Red-eyed Vireo

·         Bell’s Vireo

·         Blue Jay

·         American Crow

·         Fish Crow

·         Tree Swallow

·         Bank Swallow

·         Carolina Chickadee

·         Tufted Titmouse

·         White-breasted Nuthatch

·         Carolina Wren

·         Ruby-crowned Kinglet

·         Golden-crowned Kinglet

·         Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

·         Eastern Bluebird

·         Mourning Dove

·         Hermit Thrush

·         American Robin

·         Northern Mockingbird

·         Brown Thrasher

·         Grey Catbird

·         European Starling

·         Northern Parula

·         Chestnut-sided Warbler

·         Yellow-rumped Warbler

·         Yellow-throated Warbler

·         Pine Warbler

·         Black and White Warbler

·         Louisiana Waterthrush

·         Ovenbird

·         Worm-eating Warbler

·         Kentucky Warbler

·         Eastern Towhee

·         Chipping Sparrow

·         Dark-eyed Junco

·         Song Sparrow

·         Swamp Sparrow

·         Field Sparrow

·         White-throated Sparrow

·         Northern Cardinal

·         Red-winged Blackbird

·         Common Grackle

Crystallofolia & Armadillos: Hawn State Park Presents its Inspiration at Every Season

I spent a fantastic Saturday hiking and making images in the Missouri Ozarks yesterday.  Any day, even a bad day, in nature beats about anything else I can think of doing.  Some days I barely take the camera out of the bag, instead concentrating on hiking, birding, botanizing, etc…  Other days, like yesterday, it took me close to six hours to hike the North loop of the Whispering Pine Trail of Hawn SP because I stopped so often to set up the camera or observe some wildlife.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/13 sec

My primary photographic subject turned out to be these exquisite crystallofolia, or “frost flowers”.  I have wanted to get some pictures of these things for a while now but they can be quite difficult to find, needing specific requirements to form.  I could spend a few paragraphs attempting to explain this mysterious and ephemeral natural wonder.  Instead, I will lead you to the well-written document by Missouri’s own Ted MacRae.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, ISO 100,  f/18, 1/6 sec

As the title of this post suggests, Hawn SP is a destination of mine at least once a season.  I have rarely visited this spot in Ste Genevieve County and gone home without seeing something new, something extraordinary or at least come away renewed.  There are no shortages of photographic potentials and it is one of the closest spots to St. Louis where I really feel I have gotten away from it all.  Even on the busiest days it is rare to come across other people on the trail.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, ISO 100,  f/18, 1/3 sec

Getting near the trailhead on the way back I heard some rustling in the leaves.  I followed the sound to what at first looked like a large opossum.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it was an armadillo!  This was the first live armadillo I’ve seen and photographed.  When I came across this guy my camera was of course attached to my tripod and strapped to my pack.  I had Canon’s new 100mm f2.8 macro L lens attached at the time.  I did not think I had much time before this guy slipped up and over the ridge she was heading up where I would lose her to the poor light on the north-facing side.  Therefore, I did not try and swap lenses to something a little more useful for this type of encounter such as the 70-200mm or 400mm.  Of course when focus is sharp, this lens has no equivalent in sharpness and image quality; however, autofocusing this lens under this situation was challenging to say the least.  I’ve read reviews saying this lens was a slow dog for autofocus, but that’s not what we buy macro lenses for, is it?  Anyway, besides a larger portion of focus failures than I’m accustomed to, I guess I managed to grab a few images that I am relatively happy with.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, ISO 320,  f/4, 1/250 sec

Like many small mammals in the Missouri Ozarks, Armadillos have poor eyesight and must rely on their hearing and smell.  The section of the trail where this took place had a fair number of Oaks and of course at this time of year the forest floor was covered with a noisy blanket of dry fallen leaves.  I made enough of a racket running up the hillside that she was definitely aware someone was following her.  She often stopped and listened and as the previous image shows, she would raise up on her hind legs to get a good whiff of the potential predator on her tail.  Thankfully, I’ve been told I smell almost exactly like an armadillo, so she probably was not too alarmed by my presence.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, ISO 320,  f/4, 1/800 sec

As usual, I reluctantly left Hawn in the early afternoon and proceeded to my evening destination – Hughes Mountain Natural Area, which is another place that never disappoints (although I still haven’t had too many interesting skies like I hope for).  I knew there would be a full-moon rising shortly after sunset and had a few poorly conceived ideas about what I wanted to do.  I took some images of the sunset and watched as the brightest, reddest and coldest moon I have ever seen rise almost directly opposite the sky from the sun.  In the end, it got too cold too quickly.  I played around with the moon in some images but I doubt I got anything I’ll be happy with.  I believe this image is showing the four hills that make up Buford Mountain and Bald Knob to the South-west of Hughes Mountain.  I’m still not close to have the sunrise/sunset images I’m looking for from Hughes Mountain.  One of these days everything will line up and I will hopefully get closer to what I am after.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 65mm, ISO 160,  f/11, 3.2 sec

Overall, another fantastic day.  I’ll be trying to rest my legs today.