Friday, August 20, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Just got back from a week away, visiting first my daughter's family on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, and next my husband's brother and his wife in the tiny central Massachusetts village of New Salem. We had a really grand time, swimming and boating with the grandkids for two days and then enjoying the beautiful New England countryside with our dear in-laws. But jeez, you'd never know it from the vacation photos I took. Where are the postcard landscape views and the snaps of frolicking grandkids? Not in my camera, I'm sorry to say, which I found was full of pictures, mostly, of bugs!

Okay, I did find one of my daughter standing on the shore of the lake. Those clouds soon lifted and we had glorious weather all the time we were there.

Here's a photo of the moon glittering on beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee on a warm summery night.

And here's the loon that floated in front of our beach the entire day on Tuesday. And I mean ALL day long, as if it were anchored out there, like a decoy. I never even saw it dive under to catch a fish. Just kept bobbing out there in the waves even as the sun went down. By Wednesday it was gone.

I have not a single picture of my cute grandkids. But I did get one of my cute granddog! His name is Samson and he's a Bernese Mountain Dog, the most amiable breed there is.

As I mentioned before, I also took pictures of bugs. While paddling about in the warm shallows, I almost gulped in a mouthful of the thousands and thousands of flying ant corpses that were floating on the water near the shore. I wonder what would cause such numbers of ants to die off all at once?

I also have a shot of a spider that was lurking in a goldenrod spray, just about to attack that Japanese Beetle hiding among the florets. Or maybe the two were just sharing the space for the night. Since I don't know what kind of spider this is, I can't be sure of its hunting habits.

Update: The folks at came through again! This is a Marbled Orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus), a spider whose abdomen may come in many different marbled colors, but which always has a reddish carapace and striped legs. Since it captures prey in a web rather than by stalking, perhaps spider and beetle were together only by happenstance. Although I suppose the spider might take advantage of the situation. Or do Japanese Beetles taste bad?

I do know the name of this spider, since I found a photo of one just like it in Spiders of the Northwoods by Larry Weber. It's a Zebra Jumping Spider, and I have no doubt about its hunting habits, since I watched it jump on this tiny fly that it's grasping in its palps. It was quite a tiny spider, less than half an inch long, zipping about the porch post of my brother-in-law's house in New Salem. And boy, did it move fast when it spotted its prey!

Just a few doors down from my brother-in-law's was a barn full of alpacas. When I peered in over the fence, these little ones emerged from the barn, curious to take a look at me. I'm afraid their mother is telling them not to get too close, so I never got to sink my fingers into that deep soft fur.

I did manage to get pretty close to these Small Milkweed Bugs hanging out in some Common Milkweed pods. In fact, they had a hard time escaping my eyes, since they seemed to be joined at the rear, and when one tried to scurry away, the other one scurried in the opposite direction, so they got nowhere.

Is this a typical mating position for Small Milkweed Bugs? To find out, I googled "milkweed bugs mating" and discovered that yes, this is indeed how they do it, and also that they can stay attached for as long as half an hour. The male Milkweed Bug is smaller than the female.

I found those bugs while botanizing along the roadsides in New Salem, where in years past I've found a number of interesting weeds I've yet to find at home in New York -- Rattlesnake Weed and Orange Grass, to name just two. But not this year. This hot dry summer has rendered most of the roadside plants already withered and spent, and many shrubs were already turning color. This Staghorn Sumac frond was especially vivid.


Ellen Rathbone said...

Are you sure you didn't photoshop that sumac? :D Just kidding! Looks like a great vacation!

greentangle said...

Nice vacation. Glad you're back to show us pretty photos.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! You're back! We missed you. Glad to hear that you had a great vacation, but we're looking forward to more of your great posts.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comments, dear friends. I, too, am glad to be back, especially to my high-speed internet service. It's mighty hard to blog in areas where it takes a full minute to download one photograph. It was certainly fun to visit with folks I dearly love and experience the natural beauties of New England. But I also love my own backyard and the natural wonders that surround me here at home.

As for the sumac: is there any shrub with leaves as vividly colored? I actually had to reduce the saturation a bit to keep the photo from looking totally fake.

Virginia said...

Haha,I got a kick out of you taking pictures of everything even the dog, but not the kids! I'm sure your daughter is used to this and not insulted :-)