A Wanderer

Wandering spiders.

Late summer, and it’s time for male spiders to find a mate and leave their imprint on the world. It’s a last-ditch effort. Winter is near and it’s now or never.

Nice embolus!

This is a grass spider, probably  Agelenopsis potteri. The black curved structure located at the end of the palp is called the embolus. It is used to inject a sperm packet into the epigyne of a female, where it can be stored to be used at a later timeA video on a earlier attempt to photograph a grass spider can be seen at Grass Spider: ID by Emboli.

It seems to have been a good year for the sheet weavers, with more of their webs around the garden than I am used to seeing in other years. This male fell into my moth trap one night, and I photographed it on a white plastic tray before releasing it back into the garden. May his search be fruitful.

(Image info: In the home garden, Edmonton, 14 September, 2014. Canon 5D Mk IICanon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens on a Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DGX 1.4x AF Teleconverter. Lighting with a single diffused Canon Speedlite 270EX II.  ISO 200, 1/160 sec. @ f16. Image cropped and processed in Lightroom 5)

Posted in Agelenidae, Alberta, Arachnid, Araneae, arthropods, Behaviour, Bugs, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, garden, macro, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , |

Survey Results: more Cow Bells, less Argyle Socks

I always thought it strange that bloggers would survey their readers with the intent to mold their blog to satisfy outside opinions. Like one of my survey respondents said, “I tend to think of websites (incl. blogs) as highly personal and a reflection of the mind behind them… Splendour Awaits is the product of your interests, knowledge and creativity.” However, as Splendour Awaits now also serves as a front for business, I thought I would give a survey a chance, to get a better idea of how the blog aligns with readers.

As the success of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ has grown, blog posts seem to be receiving less and less comments, so outside of bare stats (I get about a thousand visits per week) it is hard to know the level of involvement. From experience I know that a number of people who appreciate the blog, but, for various reasons, will never comment. The survey allowed me to get a better idea of the interests of  the people who visit and if they were involved enough to check what the survey was about. 40 people connected to the post directly (while others may have found it through the Home page) but only 20 went on to complete the survey.

My analysis of the results?

  • Thankfully, almost everyone appreciated the bug photography! The one exception both liked and disliked it…perhaps one of us is inconsistent…
  • As for least liked posts,  15% of respondents didn’t like the “Weekly collection of links to entomology and macro photography articles” (a feature I dropped months ago) and another 15% didn’t like the few posts where I wax nostalgic. 35% didn’t dislike anything.
  • No one offered suggestions on how to improve the blog, and a whopping 35% implied that it is satisfactory as is.
  • 70% of respondents have noticed the menu bar, but only 50% have actually gone there.
  • When not adequate (5%) or boring (5%), my writing is good (65%) with occasional doses of scintillating (10%), fun (5%) and brilliant (5%). At least one person was speechless. Thankfully, no one thought I needed more ‘F-words’ sprinkled about, because that is one thing I will not do on this child-friendly blog. (Besides which, there is only so many times that you can see F***le-d***le before it wears thin…)
  • Most people don’t care that I have advertising, and the remaining 30% think that the advertising is useful. That’s good news!
  • Suggestions for what people would like to see more frequently were varied. Leading the suggestions was more on photographic technique and photo-walk stories, with some requesting more on natural history (I’m working on that) and “less well-known invert groups” (which I would love to do, and need to spend more time searching and researching!) More videos were also requested, and that is something I have meant to do, and that I will work on this winter.
  • Thankfully, no one dissed me on the donation button. Your understanding is appreciated.
  • While the length of time people have visited this blog ranged from ‘first time’ to ‘forever’, it was interesting that, while visits from the US outnumber Canada 2:1, almost 50% of the survey respondents were Canadian, and only 20% were willing to admit they were from the US. There was also responses from Australia and Thailand.

So do these results add up to influencing any changes to the blog?

Yes, a few…

  • 5% of responders thought I needed more cow-bells, so I will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a trip to Switzerland forthwith.
  • The same 5% wanted less about Argyle socks, so I now promise that, when posting on socks, they will be Anything But Argyle.

Seriously though, while no major changes will take place, my direction is now is clearer. Thanks, all those who took the time to contribute, and a special thanks to those who left extra comments (and more), I do appreciate it!

Posted in Fun, macro, Updates Tagged , , , , , , , |

First ‘Splendour Awaits’ Survey

You can influence the future of this blog by filling out a short survey. Thank you!

cropped-bugblog-2.jpg

Seems so long ago…

Posted in Blog, Diversion, Education, Overview, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , |

The End is Near

Bronzed Tiger Beetle, Cicindela repanda

Late summer: shorter days and cooler nights. This week we’ve had frost most nights, and it’s still not the middle of September.

Last week, a walk along the damp sand and stone shoreline of the North Saskatchewan River found me overlooking a sandy opening up on the riverbank. a clearing in the shoreline tangle of plant growth about one metre up on the first terrace above the water. Beneath me, half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies darting over the sand, were about a half-dozen tiger beetles.

How to get sand in your lens…

A closer look at the open area revealed a scattering of the D-shaped holes that typify those used by Cicindelids. Leaning over the terrace, and carefully scanning the holes, I first found two with tiger beetles waiting near the entrances, just within the shadows. The darted back into the darkness as I drew near. Other holes showed more activity…the reversing rear-end of a beetle as it swept sand out-of-the-way before disappearing down the burrow again.

This is the end!

And the holes were relatively deep, judging from the time that it took for their little butts posterior abdomens to become visible again, their legs sweeping out still more sand. These are the tunnels for winter hibernation, and at some point in the season when the days remain too cold, they will stay down there. Before long the shifting sands will cover the holes, and tiger beetles will become just a memory until they, conditions permitting, emerge again in spring. Kinda sounds like me…

(Image info: North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton, 5 September, 2014. Canon 5D Mk IICanon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens on a Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DGX 1.4x AF Teleconverter. Lighting with a single diffused Canon Speedlite 270EX II. All photos ISO 200, 1/160 sec. @ f16. Image cropped and processed in Lightroom 5)

Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Cicindelidae, Coleoptera, Edmonton, Insect, macro, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

One-shot Wednesday….Macro Kismet

It happens often.

You’ve spent minutes stalking your subject, crouching and crawling to set-up the perfect shot and, as you click the shutter, BANG–your subject moves, leaving you with a blurred and useless image.

In this case, I was kneeling and photographing a wasp that was eating a blueberry, when a bee landed on a small spray of asters beside me. Turning to that side,  I leaned over and I snapped a hurried shot …

halfmoon20140827_0070

Male bumblebee, flying into focus.

(Image info: Halfmoon Lake Natural Area, 27 August, 2014. Canon T2i , Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens on a Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DGX 1.4x AF Teleconverter. Lighting with a single diffused Canon Speedlite 270EX II. ISO 200, 1/200 sec. @f16. Image cropped and processed in Lightroom 5)

Posted in Alberta, Apidae, Apinae, Bugs, Canada, Hymenoptera, Insect, macro, One-shot Wednesday, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

How to face a tiger

Deep in the jack pine forests of Alberta, a tiger prowls. Flitting from spot to spot, always wary, almost unseen. Unless you are willing to go to make the effort, you may never truly see them at all.

Easier to find when on the vastness of the sands, in the needle-strewn woods these pincer-clad beasts blend in with their environment. They prowl on the edge of the open sandy path and the cluttered forest floor, venturing into both areas in search of prey.

Long-lipped tiger beetle, Cicindela longilabris

Long-lipped tiger beetle, Cicindela longilabris

The tiger beetles can be a real pain in the knees (and elbows) to photograph. They are predators, a hunter on scrub-lands, beaches and sandy open spaces. Photographically they are a challenge because they are relatively small (averaging about 15mm), often well camouflaged, fast as blazes and highly attuned to movement. They almost always spot me before I spot them, and it is when they are in the act of flying away that they gain my attention. On occasion the numbers have been high enough that their movement scurrying across the sand is noticeable, but for me it’s usually their flitting departure that hooks me. That’s when I stop, slowly crouch and then make my way in their direction. Once I am close enough to try a photograph (keeping in mind that I may have to stretch out full length) I slowly lower myself to my knees. The next stage is delicate: if I have a right-angle viewfinder, I can lean forward–ever so slowly–until my camera is almost touching the ground, and then move in slowly to focus on the face-to-face shots. If I don’t have a right-angle viewfinder, I will need to stretch-out on my belly on the sand and elbow myself into position.

The difficult part is stalking without taking your eyes off the subject so that you don’t lose its place completely. They may flit off again at any moment, rendering your efforts useless. Even if you manage to get close enough, they may not face you!  But if you persist, you may eventually manage to find yourself peering in the face of the elusive tiger beetle.

For more information on approaching and photographing wary insects, be sure to check out master tiger beetle photographer Ted MacRae and his recorded webinar: Tips and Tricks for Field Photography of Wary Insects.

(Image info: Halfmoon Lake Natural Area, 27 August, 2014. Canon T2i , Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens on a Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DGX 1.4x AF Teleconverter. Lighting with a single diffused Canon Speedlite 270EX II. ISO 200, 1/200 sec. @f14. Image cropped and processed in Lightroom 5)

Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Canon, Cicindelidae, Coleoptera, Habitat, macro, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , , , |