I was looking forward to seeing the total lunar eclipse early this morning. I haven’t seen one for many, many years. I even stayed awake two hours later than normal to catch it, but I didn’t get to see much of the eclipse due to cloud cover. The thunderstorm prior to the eclipse beginning was pretty spectacular, though! The video is grainy and edited for the best lightning strikes that I captured. You’ll hear me say, “I smell a skunk.” When David said, “You’re shorter,” he was handing me the umbrella to protect the camera from the rain. One of these days, we’ll learn to keep quiet while taking video, haha!

I really didn’t get any noteworthy photos of the eclipse. My camera simply does not have the capabilities to photograph the moon well. Last night, it was more about the experience of witnessing the eclipse. The clouds broke briefly enough around stage 3 to 4 of the eclipse for the following two images, but they’re the best I got before the clouds overtook the moon again. And by that point, I was ready to go to sleep!

 Full Hunter's Moon Eclipse (around stage 3 - 4)Full Hunter’s Moon Eclipse (around stage 3 – 4)

Full Hunter's Moon EclipseFull Hunter’s Moon Eclipse

No, this next photo is not the sunrise. Before I headed in to go to bed, I snapped one last photo of the light pollution in the distance. The light had a much more eerie feel than the photo captured.

Light PollutionLight Pollution

Much earlier in the evening (last night), I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the moon as it rose high in the sky. I shared these last night on Flickr and Twitter. I meant to add them here, too, but got sidetracked. I’ll include them now since the theme of this post centers around the moon and the night sky.

99% Full Hunter's Moon99% Full Hunter’s Moon

99% Full Hunter's Moon (8 second Long Exposure)99% Full Hunter’s Moon (8 second Long Exposure)

Both are similar, yet I thought the second photo was interesting due to the blur created by the movement of the clouds. Sitting staring up at the sky with the clouds moving as quickly as they were, created an optical illusion, making the moon and stars appear to be moving at twice their normal speed. It was kind of dizzying to watch.

I’m not sure when the next lunar eclipse will be. I’m just glad that I took the time to enjoy the night sky even if I didn’t get to watch the entire eclipse. Our universe is truly an awesome wonder.

Orange Caterpillar #2Orange Caterpillar #2

Sorting through images today, I noticed that I have several with a similar color theme, orange. I thought I would do these all together in a photo-dump since I’m so far behind in posting. These first two are a couple of my favorites, but I have no idea what species of caterpillar this is. Help with IDs are welcomed as always.

Orange Caterpillar #1Orange Caterpillar #1

Orange Capped MushroomOrange Capped Mushroom

Small Orange ButterflySmall Orange Butterfly

Orange BugOrange Bug

Fossilized StoneFossilized Stone

Orange EyeOrange Eye

Orange WaspOrange Wasp

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #4

I have held onto three and a half months of five-lined skink photos, hoping I would capture better images of a juvenile. I finally got the chance this past Sunday. They’re incredibly fast making it difficult to get decent images. These little critters have provided so much entertainment and amusement over the past few months that I will miss them when they go into hibernation.

During the couple of weeks while we were cleaning the trailer and preparing to move, I generally kept all the windows and doors open while I was there to air out the house. One day I noticed this adult five-lined skink in the hallway by the back door. It must have walked right in to escape the sun. After the first few weeks here, I realized that those back steps are a favorite hangout for these skinks to sunbathe.

Adult Five-lined Skink #1

Unintentionally, I terrorized this poor skink trying to coax it back outside. After a few minutes of chasing it through the house to no avail, I decided to give it a break to catch its breath while I grabbed my camera — keeping an eye on its whereabouts. The house was still completely empty, so that wasn’t too hard. After taking this photo and calmly talking to it, it finally scampered out the front door with little effort from me.

In the next few weeks, I only saw the juveniles. Many times I walked out that back door only to have one fall on my head as I opened the door. Yes, I squealed every time, but immediately laughed at myself and the silly skinks who I would swear were trying to make “contact.” After observing them for the past few months, I’ve reached the conclusion that they must be curious creatures.

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #1

Several have ventured into the house. Moses brought my attention to one as he quickly darted under my desk in pursuit of an intruder invading his territory. Luckily, I managed to capture it and released it out in the woods away from the house. I did this with two others as well. One of which hitchhiked into the house in my hair! That particular day, I was trying to photograph the little bugger when it must have climbed into my hair without my realizing it. My hair is down to my waist now, so it had the perfect ladder. When I couldn’t find my subject that I was trying to photograph, I walked inside to use the restroom and happened to brush through my hair, brushing it out. How I didn’t feel it there I’ll never know.

One wasn’t so lucky. I apologize for the gruesome nature of the following photo. I almost didn’t include it, but I wanted to mention a piece of folklore that is prominent here in the South.

The Perils of Cats vs. Prey

Folklore: In the South, the skinks, especially the adult male broad-headed skinks are sometimes called ‘scorpions’ and some people believe their bite to be poisonous.  Herpetologists formerly scoffed at this folklore, but as is often the case with animal myths, this belief may be rooted in some degree of truth.  It is now known that if a juvenile still exhibiting its bright blue tail is eaten by a cat, serious neurological symptoms such as a loss of balance, crossing of the eyes, paralysis and even death may follow.  This would indicate that the bright coloration and markings of the young skink are actually warning colors similar to that displayed by the poison arrow frog.” [Source: "Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens." Jacksonville Zoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.]

When I was a child, my family had a beloved Persian cat named Socks. One summer day, he became very ill, showing the exact same neurological symptoms listed above that eventually led to his death within a short period of time. At the time, we also discovered the blue tail from one of these skinks. We, of course, concluded that the skink was responsible for his death. Ask anyone in my family today, and we’ll still swear that this is true. In my research on skinks and other lizards, I’ve read several accounts like this.

However, I’ve also read numerous statements from scientific sources stating that these skinks are neither poisonous nor venomous. A few years ago, I did run across one article that stated something to the effect that skinks could carry bacteria that cause these neurological symptoms. I’m afraid I can no longer find the source to back that up; but it’s possible that when pets eat a skink and have a bad reaction like that of our cat, Socks, they could be suffering from an extremely bad case of food poisoning. Don’t quote me on this. I’m simply sharing what I’ve read. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about the toxicity of skinks to pets; and some veterinarians have even claimed that there may not be enough research to prove one way or another what exactly is going on.

Back to the image above, none of our cats got sick. Whoever killed that poor skink, never showed any symptoms. I never did find that skink’s blue tail, either. I still wouldn’t risk my cats’ lives by allowing them to “play” with a skink should I know one is in the house. I also have a heart. If I can rescue a critter from our perfectly capable hunters, I will. It’s just unfortunate that I missed this one.

It wasn’t until August 21st that I saw another adult five-lined skink. I just happened to glance over at this tree while sitting outside when I noticed this one. I slowly crept up on it as I snapped this first one.

Adult Five-lined Skink #2

After getting closer, it ran circles around the tree before finally calming down in my presence. This allowed me to get a second shot as our eyes connected for the first time. There is no doubt in my mind that there is intelligence in the mind of a reptile.

Adult Five-lined Skink #3

On September 3rd, I tried my best to get a good photo of this juvenile. Unfortunately, this was the best that I got. Still not nearly as good as I would have liked in a photo.

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #2

Which brings me to this past Sunday, September 28th. These have to be my absolute favorite photos of a five-lined skink that I’ve taken all summer. The day before while I was busy weeding the area around our back steps, I found (pretty sure it’s the same one) this skink under a flower pot. I must have startled it pretty good because it froze in fear. Since I had on gloves, I reached out and picked it up, inspecting it closely before telling it to run along so it didn’t get hurt by the shears. I didn’t take the time to release it down in the woods.

On Sunday, I noticed it hanging around on the steps. For some reason, this particular skink was very docile and tamer than others I’ve encountered. I went inside to grab my camera. As I was coming out the back door, it somehow landed on me, hanging on for dear life.

I'm A Skink Magnet

Yes, I giggled in glee; but had the presence of mind to snap a photo. I cautiously walked over to the lawn furniture, not wanting it to fall off and get stepped on. It hopped off onto a chair and allowed me a wonderful photo shoot.

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #3

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #5

Even with the great number of five-lined skinks that I saw over the summer, there should have been more since a brood of eggs can be as high as 15 to 18! I enjoyed interacting with them. As the weather will undoubtedly be cooling off soon, I’m sure I won’t be seeing much more of these little characters. I will look forward to their return in Spring. :)

Early Autumn Sunsets Are the Best

I realize that my last post was also a sunset photo. I apologize for redundancy, but these evening skies lately have been something else! This was the perfect ending to a long day of yard work. Now, I’m going to relax for a bit. I’m wore out!

Gorgeous Sunset 9.25.14

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Looking Forward to Autumn

I’m looking forward to seeing how the landscape changes around here. The chill in the air today was perfect for this first day of autumn. (I’m finding mixed messages online about the autumnal equinox. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says September 22nd at 10:29 pm EDT, and Google and others say September 23rd.) Unfortunately, I didn’t take a spectacular photo to commemorate the day because I was busy playing with a new toy, an acoustic guitar given to me by a friend over the weekend. Oh, JOY, I’m loving it! Truly, I am. I had one years ago, but never got around to learning to play it well. All I can really do is pluck out a tune, one string at a time. Luckily, there’s plenty of how-to videos and websites around to guide me through. I still say playing a piano is much easier, though. My fingertips are so sore!

I took these photos a week ago Sunday, 9.14.14. I’m pretty sure the insect is a Margined Blister Beetle, Epicauta funebris. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. It caught my eye as it was an insect I had never seen before. It was a pretty smoky grey and black and kind of fuzzy. I’m not finding a whole lot of information about this beetle. Given the word “funebris” in its taxonomy, I’m left wondering if it is part of nature’s clean-up crew, one of the insects that feeds on dead animals or something (?). Educate me if you know. :)

Margined Blister Beetle

And Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Green June Beetle Feeding on Blackberries

Until this summer I had no idea that green June beetles fed on blackberries or black raspberries? I’m not entirely sure which; all I know is that they are yummy for humans, too! The berries are plentiful around here; so the June Bugs, as we call them here in TN, had their pick. These insects were one of my favorites from childhood, probably because of the stories my mom told my sister and me about her and her siblings tying thread to June Bugs’ legs and letting them fly all around their heads. These stories made me laugh; but no, I never tried that. Now that I think about it, that sounds kind of mean.

Photo and short video clip from July 15th.

Pearl Crescent - Phyciodes tharos #2

I’m backtracking a bit to a couple of photos I captured of a Pearl Crescent butterfly, taken on July 17th.

Pearl Crescent - Phyciodes tharos #1

I’m a little disappointed in myself for not spending more time sketching over the summer. For the last few months, though, I’ve barely sat down at my computer, let alone taken the time to sit and draw. This July 17th sketch is one of the few sketches I did all summer. My routine is anything but since the move. Hopefully soon, I can get back into a “work” schedule that allows me the time to spend creating.Pearl Crescent - Phyciodes tharos Sketch

Unknown Coneflower #1Unknown Coneflower #1

I really enjoy taking walks along the fencerows on my way to the mailbox. I took my time on this afternoon’s walk to snap a few photos along the way. The skies here have been overcast all day with chilly temperatures that remind me autumn will soon arrive. I’m not convinced that these first two flowers are wildflowers. They may have been planted purposefully by previous renters as they are quite lovely. At first I thought Black-eyed Susans or Gray-headed Coneflowers, but I also found one called Purple-headed Sneezeweed (funny name) that looks similar. It could be a cross-breed of any number of flowers. Feel free to venture a guess.

Unknown Coneflower #2Unknown Coneflower #2

I’m pretty sure we have both Ladysthumb and pale smartweed growing out here, but I’m not certain enough on the ID to label this next photo with either. In researching the two, I did find out that “the two species can hybridize.” I’m not one to judge a weed harshly. These add a nice touch of color that I find attractive.


There is plenty of Goldenrod growing along the fencerows. These are one of my favorite wildflowers for its bright yellow splash of color. The scent is light and fragrant and attracts a wide variety of insects. This Double-banded Scoliid was busily at work on this one.

Double-banded Scoliid on GoldenrodDouble-banded Scoliid on Goldenrod

I could probably do a post on nothing but morning glories growing around here. We have purple ones, orange ones, white ones — you get the picture. I’m trying to coax one into the latticework off the back steps of our place; but wouldn’t you know, it’s the only one I’ve seen that is not flowering! Maybe it’s just a late bloomer.

Morning GloryMorning Glory

I’ll leave you today with two more photos of a Black-and-Yellow Argiope. This is the smaller of the two that I spoke about in last Sunday’s post, Sunday Spider. For all I know, it could be a different one completely because if it is the smaller of the two, it grew a lot in the past week. The huge one is still there, but had its web built in a briar patch that I couldn’t comfortably reach.

Black-and-Yellow Argiope #3 Black-and-Yellow Argiope #4

Resting Bee

Image  —  Posted: September 9, 2014 in Insects, Photography
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