My friend Kevin teaches ecology lab on Thursday’s. I had some unscheduled time during the middle of the day yesterday, so I tagged along to see if I could get photographs of the critters they caught… better than sitting in my office working!
The field work for the lab takes place in Wyman’s Meadow, a parcel of conservation land near campus. I arrived at the meadow about 10:45, a half hour before Kevin and the students, and was treated to the sight of a red-tailed hawk lazily circling high above the fields… too high for photographs. I watched “him” make three circuits of the fields before heading off. There were also a large number of dragonflies (mostly darners) moving rapidly and feeding fifteen or twenty feet off the ground in the warmth of the bright mid-day sun; also too high, and too fast, for photographs.
I stalked dragonflies and butterflies while waiting for Kevin and his students to arrive and got a couple of shots of a female common whitetail and some other small insect sitting on a milkweed pod. I also got a few shots of some of the vegetation… although the harsh mid-day light was not ideal.
The day’s task for each group of students was to lay out two distinct 24 square meter plots of ground and to sample the insects in each area three times. Sampling insects involves rapidly sweeping a large net back and forth through the vegetation and collecting whatever is caught in a zip lock bag. If preying mantis are caught, their presence (and number) is noted but these insects are released; the other insects caught are taken back to the lab for further analysis.
The students did sweep up a number of preying mantis and I did get a few shots… the combination of the harsh light and the fact that these critters were fairly well “spooked”, having just been swept up into a budding scientists net did not make for ideal conditions… but then again, one rarely gets ideal conditions when photographing wildlife! Any way, I did get a few usable frames.
After a couple of hours, I headed back to my office for a 1 PM appointment and Kevin did the lab a second time with another group of students.
As I was packing up to head home around 5 PM, I had passing thought of heading back out the Wyman’s Meadow on the way home just to see what was there and expecting better light, at least for a short while. Feeling tired and noting the heavy overcast, I decided just to head home.
I was headed out the front door of the building, I ran in to Kevin who about to return the van he used to shuttle students around all afternoon. He informed me that he had tagged a milkweed plant covered in engorged aphids if I wanted to try to get some photographs. I guess that my “second wind” must have kicked in since I pointed the truck in the direction of Wyman’s Meadow instead of home. I spent less than an hour there in the fading light, but I did indeed find the plant Kevin had tagged and got some interesting shots of the aphids.
As I packed things back into the truck a few minute after six, I noticed a few raindrops on the windshield. A few minutes after I arrived home (it is a very short ride, five minutes at most) the rain began in earnest.
Anyway, here are the day’s photos: