This has been a pretty weird winter weather-wise. We have had fifty degrees and minus five so far in January. I’ve had snow, rain, sleet and hurricane force winds all on the same day. There have been torrential rains followed by bright sun. Weird. And now just to show you that I’m not the only one who’s confused our local Barred Owl has switched into a daytime critter. This bugger was in a tree branch right outside my living room window and scarfing down mice right before my eyes. Their ability to turn their heads one hundred eighty degrees is pretty bizarre. But if staying up all day means he won’t be serenading me at two a.m. then count me in on the program. These Barred Owls have one of the weirder sounding repertories among the “Children of the Night” in my neck of the woods.
I happened to have my camera there but it was equipped with the Sony 55mm f\1.8 lens. I took a bunch of shots through a double glazed window and here they are cropped and resized out of all sanity.
If you look real close you’ll see something hanging from his beak. In the rest of the shots you’ll understand the whole story
Later on in the day he showed up again and I got outside to try and take some shots with my 200mm macro. The effort was only partially successful but it will be the bulk of my photo of the day efforts for the next few days. Now what accounts for this nocturnal pest suddenly becoming a diurnal pest is beyond my weak powers of deduction. Just one more sign of the apocalypse I suppose.
One of the regulars here (Tom) was recently commenting on a post and attached a link to his street photography. I was so impressed with this shot that I asked him if I could link to it. I said I thought it was iconic and could inspire a book or a movie. Well, he reminded me of a song instead. “Me and Bobby McGee.” Perfect. Anyway, enjoy and I recommend clicking on the link and checking out Tom’s gallery. Lots of good stuff.
Camera Girl is a great naturalist. She likes being called Hawkeye because of her sharp and discerning vision. She uses this keen sense mostly to see what it says on the speedometer in order to tell me I’m driving too fast. But she also is adept at spotting interesting flora and fauna in the great wide world of our back yard. She spots monarch butterfly caterpillars and hungry foxes and great blue herons and all kinds of birds around her feeders. She discovers muskrats and minks and turkeys and turkey vultures, hawks and deer and coyotes and all kinds of flowers wild and garden. Last year at about this time she spotted some unusual white plants sprouting underneath a conifer on the edge of a heavily wooded area of the property. I thanked her for her find and proceeded to acquire a nice collection of mosquito bites crawling around on my belly trying to get a shot. Here is the plant.
I thought it a very interesting plant and assumed it was white only because it was in a darkly shaded area. I thought no more about it until this year. In the last few weeks we have had some extremely hot and also some extremely rainy weather. So even though it is August my “lawn” is a verdant carpet of crab grass. And at the same time a great variety of different species of mushrooms have appeared in the yard, especially close to some wooded areas of the property. Camera Girl knows I like to use mushrooms as subjects for close-up and macro photography and so she provides me with info on the best new mushroom sightings. This year was no exception so I have managed to photograph a goodly number of interesting fungi. But what was different was her discovery of additional specimens of the sprouting white plants. I was able to use the superb magnified focus of my new Sony A7 III to very good advantage on these plants.
And because the places I found the plants was not as dark as last year’s location I decided that their coloration was not a fluke of location. They really were white. Using all the resources of the interwebs I was able to identify these unusual plants. It is known systematically as Monotropa uniflora but commonly it is called Indian pipe, ghost plant and corpse plant. It has no chlorophyll to allow it to produce sugar from carbon dioxide and water. Instead it steals its food from underground fungi of the family Russulaceae.
This condition of lacking chlorophyll and living parasitically off fungi makes the Indian pipe what is known in botany as an obligate myco-heterotroph. And it gets even more complicated than that. The fungus that Indian pipe is mooching off is simultaneously in a symbiotic existence with underground tree roots of beech and other woodland trees. The tree roots allow the fungus access to sugar and the fungus breaks down decaying material in the soil so that the trees can absorb the nutrients it could not obtain on its own. In fact, the tree roots and the fungi form an interface called a mycorrhizal network in which the cells of the roots and the fungus interpenetrate each other to allow nutrient materials to flow in both directions to the mutual benefit of both. So it was no coincidence that Camera Girl discovered the Indian pipe while scouting out new mushrooms. The torrential rain and torrid heat of the last few weeks is what triggered the sprouting mushrooms and the Indian pipe bloom. And now I see the even closer relation between these two life forms. The mushroom is the victim of the Indian pipe thief.
So, this is the kind of weird stuff that I am interested in. This doesn’t really belong solely in photography or current events and definitely not in science fiction or reviews. That is why photog’s Corner was made, for this kind of weird stuff. Caveat lector, let the reader beware.
A fox den was established in the woods next to me in the spring. Last time I had the 150 – 600 mm Sigma Sport lens I never got a good chance to shoot the male rooting around in our compost pile. Two weeks ago the parents and now large kits stopped showing up around the area and I assumed I’d lost my chance. I rented the 150 – 600 mm Sigma Contemporary for my vacation this week to compare it to the Sport. Today the male fox was spotted a couple of times. So I set up near the compost pile at 6:30 pm and sure enough he showed up. The lens behaved well and I took a bunch of shots. But stupidly I didn’t even notice I was shooting at 150 mm! I was shooting macro all day with the Sony 90 mm macro and I was completely used to shooting everything in the magnified setting so doing it now felt natural. Well, the crops are okay, but that’s got to be the most bone-headed and frustrating mistake I’ve made in at least an hour. But I’m sure to do something stupider soon enough and then I’ll feel better about this one.