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Middle Patuxent River Scenes

August 31st, 2007

After work today, I decided to take the dogs on some trails near my house that follow along the Middle Patuxent River. I like these trails because they’re not paved, and once you get on them, you rarely see anyone else along the way. You can still hear some of the traffic from the major highways surrounding the area, but for the most part, you have the illusion that you’re lost in nature.

Middle Patuxent River

Today, I was fortunate to see 6-7 deer out on the trails. They didn’t stick around long enough for me to take their picture, but they are quite magnificent creatures, especially the males with their large antlers. I’m not sure what the true rating of cleanliness for this river is, but I’m often encouraged when I see several frogs, water bugs, and freshwater asiatic clams in the riverbed. Of course, the clams themselves are introduced, but that’s for someone else to worry about.

Middle Patuxent River

The aquatic vegetation is not very rich in this waterway. I suspect that is due to a combination of too much shade, and too little still water to allow plants to get rooted. I have spotted what appears to be a species of Polygonum, both in the water and along the banks, but little else of interest. Nevertheless, it really is a beautiful river that I enjoy visiting. I hope you enjoy the pictures as well.

Middle Patuxent River




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54G – Updated Photo

August 30th, 2007

I wanted to post an updated picture of my 54G, anubias, java fern, and crypt tank. I’ve really let this tank go wild, partly because I like that look in some tanks, but largely because I’m gearing up to really downgrade the maintenance requirements for some of my tanks. That means that I’m going to go back to tanks that are largely free of stem plants requiring frequent trimming. So, at the past few GWAPA meetings, I’ve tried to stock up on crypts, and guess where they’ve been going to grow out?

54G - August 29th, 2007

The anubias in this tank may not be pristine, but they’re actually looking pretty good. I have four separate plants flowering right now, so that’s never a bad sign. Just as a reminder, this tank does not use CO2 (infact I run an airstone), and I only occasionally add a few milliliters of my own PMDD mix of trace, K, and P. I figure the fish provide enough N. Finally, it’s a corner, rounded front tank, so the pictures never truly reflect how it looks. The curve in the glass seems to distort the picture, removing a lot of the depth that’s in the tank. Comments are welcome.

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GWAPA Meeting – Multitank Systems

August 28th, 2007

On Saturday, GWAPA had its August 2007 meeting out in Braddock Heights, MD at Robert’s house. Robert maintains two circulating ranges in his fish room, which means that he has multiple tanks chained together creating a much larger shared water volume than if each tank were separate. The plumbing involved with this is very impressive, and a little chaotic, if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Robert did an excellent job dispelling some of the mystery during his talk. You can find a summary of his talk on GWAPA’s website.

Part of Robert’s setup is a prominently displayed Crinum veggie-filter. The water is circulated through this tank, where huge Crinum root-balls suck up nitrate from the water. With so many siphons and pumps, it’s impossible to use CO2 injection, but nevertheless, Robert maintains some very nice low-tech tanks with anubias, val, java fern, etc… He also sports one of, if not, the oldest American colonies of Melanotaenia praecox dwarf neon rainbows, being one of the first purchasers of females in the United States from Germany.

Crinum Veggie Filter

And beyond that, our meeting had another great mini-auction, including many rare plants, and even a few aquarium setups this time. I was happy to be able to give away a few copies of The Aquatic Gardener (TAG), featuring my very first published cover image and article about GWAPA’s recent Florida collecting trip.

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Limnophila aromatica Flowers!

August 25th, 2007

Along with the Ludwigia that’s flowering, my Limnophila aromatica has been flowering for almost a month now outside in my pond. Each stem sends out a number of flower buds at each node. Then, the buds open to reveal these pretty little purple flowers. The flowers themselves are only about 3/4″ long and about 1/3″ from petal to petal, with the tiny little hairs that you can see in the picture. I often see some of the smaller bees visiting these flowers.

Limnophila aromatica Flower

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Ludwigia Flower in Pond

August 24th, 2007

While in Peru, the pond foliage has absolutely exploded in quantity. The frog bite has claimed 100% of the water surface, while what I think is Ludwigia brevipes is creeping along the edge of the pond. Much to my delight, it is also flowering with these pretty little yellow flowers.

Ludwigia Flower

The flowers themselves seem quite delicate and don’t last more than a day or two, especially with the rain we’ve been having the past couple of days. To give you an idea, these flowers are probably smaller than a U.S. dime in size. I’ve never had a Ludwigia flower underwater, so I’m quite pleased to be able to see it emersed. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Ludwigia Flower

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Amazon Trip: The Lizards (and other reptiles)

August 23rd, 2007

Around our camp in the Amazon, all sorts of lizards could be seen scurrying about. Often times, all you’d see is the flash of a tail, and then it would be gone. This pretty little lizard below was in our tent, and all around the camp.

Amazon Lizard

And of course, besides your harmless little lizards, there were also black caymans around. This particular guy was brought to us by some of the local villagers nearby. It’s really amazing how long these creatures will stay in a single pose. I suppose they’re in defensive mode or something, but once they get set, they’ll barely flinch a muscle for 10 minutes straight. That’s great for long exposures in dim light!

Amazon Black Cayman

Look at the claws on this guy below. Can you tell that he’s found in the trees? It may not be as apparent in this picture, but look to the next.

Amazon Lizard
Pretty well camouflaged, isn’t he?

Amazon Lizard
This was my wife’s favorite guy. He has a very beautiful blue ring around the inside of his mouth, and didn’t seem ashamed to show it. I think he’s actually a little iguana, but then again, what do I know?

Amazon Lizard
And, just like the various insects, there are lizards that look like leaves down in the jungle. This lizard is about 6-8″ inches long, and if you weren’t looking closely, you’d likely miss him on the forest floor.

Amazon Lizard

Here’s a semi-aquatic, semi-terrestrial turtle that was brought to us. He doesn’t look much different from a lot of the turtles we see in the United States, but still very cool. And unlike some of the turtles around me, this guy would not stay put in his shell. I had more trouble getting him to sit still then I think I’ve ever had with a turtle. Aren’t they supposed to be slow?

Amazon Turtle

Finally, we were fortunately to locate both a male and female of the same species below. Of course, I don’t remember which is which, but you can see how the patterns on their back are entirely different.

Amazon Lizard

I think I prefer the spotted pattern of the one below, to the barred one above, but they’re both pretty darn fun to look at. And check out their eyes!

Amazon Lizard
Oh, and their teeth! This might be my favorite shot from the trip. I hope you like it.

Amazon Lizard

Besides a few odds and ends that I might throw in, I think this is the last set of nature pictures I’m going to post from our trip. If you’d like to see more general descriptions of our travels, you can read about them on my wife’s blog.

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Amazon Trip: The Snakes

August 22nd, 2007

Before I went to the Amazon, I was always one of those people who said they were afraid of snakes. Growing up, the worst we had to worry about were copperheads, but I think the fear that something so tiny could put you in a world of hurt was scary. Right before the trip, I had to help my mom remove a harmless black snake from their deck. Just handling that snake, you could feel the strength that they have. In the Amazon, I witnessed far more deadly snakes than the copperhead, but also saw even more strength in the boas, and more beauty in the coloration of some of these creatures. I hope you enjoy my snake photos.

Amazon Boa
The snake above is a standard tree boa constrictor. These snakes are so strong, and really coil up around a tree in an instant. Below is its much prettier cousin, the rainbow boa. One of the other photographers happened across this beautiful snake during one of his afternoon walks. With every movement, the iridescent blue shimmered one its skin.
Amazon Rainbow Boa

Micrurus putumayensis, below, was quite drab looking in the shade. In the sunlight, blue undertones started shining from its dark patches. A really nice looking snake.

Amazon Snake

Next is the famous fer-de-lance. This snake is very lethal, and is not afraid to strike. While our guides were handling this snake, it struck multiple times at the handling tools, causing venom to drip down the metal surface. They told us about one unfortunate previous guest who accidentally stepped on one of these, got bit, and needed over four months to finally get back to normal. He nearly didn’t make the first day. Scary stuff, but definitely a snake to respect.

Amazon Fer-de-Lance

Here is a vine snake that we found on one of our night walks. I kind of like how his head is disproportionate to his body.

Amazon Vine Snake

Another pretty snake. Unfortunately, I don’t remember whether this one, the next, or both are vine snakes, or varieties of coral snakes. If anyone has any insight, please comment and set me straight.

Amazon Snake

Again, not sure what kind of snake this is, but isn’t it pretty with the orange and black checkerboard pattern?

Amazon Snake

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Amazon Trip: The Frogs

August 21st, 2007

While in the Amazon in Peru, we saw (and heard) a huge variety of frogs in the rain forest and at the river’s edge. If you looked close, you could see huge frogs on the river banks. Their eyes would shine as large globes in the night when you flashed your light at the bank. Reeds growing from the river would be home to multiple color forms of a single species of frog. In the forest itself, frogs would inhabit trees and undergrowth alike. At nighttime, you would hear bird calls that were really frog sounds, and vice versa. Since frogs have always been one of my favorite subjects to photograph, and just marvel at, I had a blast taking these pictures. I hope you enjoy them as well.

IMG_6928

Above is one of the large frogs that we found sitting on a riverbank. He was not one to stick around for long. He got up into this tree, and this was the only shot I was able to get of him before he scurried up the tree out of sight. It’s hard to tell how big this frog is from the picture, but he’s probably a good 8-10″ from head to foot, with a bit of heft to him.

IMG_7342

This frog above and the one below were both found in reeds by the river’s edge. If my notes are correct, they are both the same species of frog, but are obviously slightly different color morphs. Both are sitting on water hyacinth as is their natural habitat.

IMG_7329

This tiny frog was sitting on this log during one of our afternoon forest walks. Not much larger than a half dollar, I wouldn’t have spotted him if it wasn’t for our guide’s sharp eyes.

IMG_6579

Below, we were trying to adjust one of this frog’s legs up on the reed, when it slipped off. I liked the pose, and he held it, so I got this picture.

IMG_6940

And finally, the next two are of my favorite frog on the trip. We were out collecting specimens at night, and stopped at a local village’s pond, full of grasses (and cichlids and even a coral snake). One of our guides spotted this little guy. For the pattern on his back, they call him a Giraffe Frog.

IMG_6967

Could he be any more cooperative with the camera? I mean really, how awesome is this frog?

IMG_6993

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Amazon Trip: The Bugs

August 20th, 2007

The Amazon plays hosts to a multitude of insects. While we were there, we saw new bugs everyday, especially when we did night hikes through the rainforest. At night, bugs come out from their cover of leaves and sunlight, and are a macro-photographer’s dream. They’ll often just sit there, through multiple flashes. Please don’t expect any expertise on these guys, but I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Amazon Moth

There are some absolutely jaw-dropping beautiful moths and butterflies constantly flying around the forest. Pretty much every color of the spectrum is represented, but unfortunately, getting pictures of any of these specimens is a test of will, as they rarely stop moving. Above is a moth, resting at night. Of course, all of these moths/butterflies have to come from somewhere, and so there is also a large variety of caterpillars munching away at the foliage.

Catapiller

It’s near impossible to know for sure which species these caterpillars are without fully allowing them to complete their life cycle. These two guys below wouldn’t sit still much at all. They were constantly munching on leaves as you can see in the picture.

Amazon Catapiller

I was told that the caterpillar below can leave a nasty sting if you handle his spines. Nevertheless, I thought the little guy to be quite pretty.

Amazon Catapiller - Poisoneous

If there’s anything that never stops in the forest, it’s the leaf cutter ants. These guys will march right over your foot if you put it in their path. When you find a trail, it seems like it goes on forever. These ants truly are magnificent workers.

Amazon Leaf Cutter Ants

Not exactly a bug, I know, but we saw a few examples of snails in the forest, so I wanted to fit them in somewhere. Nothing too exotic, but pretty neat.

Amazon Snail

Spiders, spiders, spiders. There are so many different types of types in the forest. Wolf spiders, tarantulas, tons of different spiders in webs. Fortunately, they make great pictures!

Spider

I like the yellow on this guy’s legs. Probably means he’s dangerous or something.

Spider on Web

This is a really interesting catydid below. The white feathers on its back end are made of a waxy substance that turns to dust if you touch it. It’s used as a defense mechanism, much like how a lizards’ tail disconnects, allowing it time to get away from a predator.

Catydid with Waxy Tail

There are quite a few odd shaped bugs in the forest.

Amazon Bug

Here’s another odd-shaped one. He blends in nicely with the tree though.

Amazon Bug

Then there’s a whole smattering of leaf-camouflaged bugs out there. Here’s one catydid. That notch at the top is not a bite or injury. It’s naturally like that so that they blend in better with the other broken leaves on the ground.

Lead Camo'd Catydid

This is another camouflaged grasshopper. This is one of my favorite shots that I got — even his eye is camouflaged!

Camo Grasshopper

Then there are more brightly colored catydid, such as the one below with a bright yellow line down its back. I often had to cut out their long antennae from the photos because they were so long.

Catydid

Another catydid that I thought was very pretty.

Catydid

Of course, there is a darker side of the rainforest. Where damp environments are, so are fungi, and parasitic nasties. This particular grasshopper had the unfortunate luck of getting infected by a parasitic fungus. It slowly grows inside its host, and eventually breaks through the skin, killing its subject and feeding on its remains. Fun, huh?

Grasshopper with Parasites

Here’s some sort of beetle that I found interesting. All of the mosses on the trees provide ample habitat of a wide variety of bugs.
Amazon Bug

These millipedes were all over the trails in various places. If you startle them, they will ball up into a tight little ball, protecting their soft underside with their hard armored exoskeleton.

Millipede

This nasty looking thing is called a whiptail scorpion. While looking quite terrifying, it’s actually completely harmless to humans. Infact, we took turns putting this guy on each other’s faces to get that “make mom scream” photo for the trip. We basically considered them really ugly daddy long-legs.

Whiptail Scorpion

And of course, the Amazon has wasps just like any other place.

Amazon Wasp

I hope you enjoyed my bug pictures. Please don’t use any of them without my permission first. Thank you!

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Amazon Trip: The Birds

August 19th, 2007

The Amazon is a bird watcher’s paradise. You wouldn’t be in the Amazon if you didn’t hear the loud squawking of mccaw parrots as they flew overhead. It’s really amazing to see these colorful birds out in the wild, as opposed to in a pet store cage. As loud as the mccaws are, the green parrots are even noisier, particularly when you’re trying to sleep!

Amazon Mccaw Parrots

Besides parrots, I think the toucan is the quintessential Amazon bird that everyone knows. This may be in large part due to Fruit Loops marketing campaign, but nevertheless, there’s no wonder as to why people admire these birds. This particular bird below flew up to this tree, about 50 feet away from the platform I was standing on, about 5 stories from the forest floor. It then proceeded to fly overhead to a different tree where 2 other toucans squabbled with each other before all 3 took off. What colorful animals!

Amazon Toucan

There are numerous birds on the water that prey on fish or other critters that become vulnerable on the water’s edge. I haven’t a clue what this bird is below, but we saw a fair number of this type around.

Amazon Bird

Even the Amazon has a common duck. While these ducks are slightly different than the common ducks all over North America, their general behavior is the same.

Amazon Ducks

These yellow-bodied birds can be seen all over the Amazon. We saw especially large numbers of them when we were on the boat, making the trip down the Amazon river to the Rio Orosa.

Amazon Bird

With all of the insects in the Amazon, it goes to figure that there would be plenty of woodpeckers around.

Amazon Woodpecker

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