Archive for October, 2011

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (male)

October 30, 2011

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A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans), one of the larger skimmers, perched on a twig. Notice that the Great Blue Skimmer perches on four of six legs, with the two front legs curled around its head. This individual is a male, as indicated by its blue coloration. (Females exhibit brown coloration.)

I spotted this dragonfly during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park, a 1,425 acre wetland area in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Tech Tips: The preceding photo was post-processed using Apple “Aperture,” a professional-grade tool for organizing and adjusting photos.

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Magnolia tree – fruit and seeds

October 28, 2011

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Magnolia tree (possibly Magnolia grandiflora) “fruit” (seed pods) and seeds. The blue plastic circle, used to show the relative size of the specimens, is ~3.5″ in diameter.

Habitat: Landscape planting in a residential community, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

California coneflower

October 26, 2011

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California coneflowers (Rudbeckia californica), a species of flowering plant in the aster family, spotted during a photowalk through the Children’s Garden, Hollin Meadows Science and Math Focus School.

Tech Tips: Photos 1 and 2 (of 3) were cropped using Apple “Aperture,” a professional-grade tool for organizing and adjusting photos.

Dodder (parasitic plant)

October 24, 2011

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Dodder (Cuscuta sp.), an orange vining plant spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. With little or no (green) chlorophyll, Dodder is a parasitic plant that is dependent upon host plants for its nutrition. According to Project Noah spotters “ScottRasmussen” and “KristalWatrous,” the host plant in my photo is Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Good eyes, guys!

Related Resources:

Photo © Copyright 2011 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved. www.wsanford.com

Duskywing Skipper butterfly

October 21, 2011

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A Duskywing Skipper — a brownish-black, medium-size butterfly — feeding on Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea sp.). I spotted the butterfly during a photowalk through the Children’s Garden, Hollin Meadows Science and Math Focus School. This butterfly is either a Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) or a Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius). According to Ken Larsen, a well-known local butterfly expert, timing is everything:

The Juvenal’s is an early breed (until June or July) and the Horace’s is a later breed (July or later). If the picture were taken in July, then it is anyone’s guess.

Since the photos were taken on June 20th, it seems more likely this is a Juvenal’s Duskywing.

Photos 1, 3, 5, and 7 were cropped to highlight the butterfly; Photos 2, 4, 6, and 8 are the original photographs.

Tech Tips: Apple “Aperture,” a professional-grade tool for organizing and adjusting photos, was used to crop and adjust Photos 2, 4, 6, and 8 during post-processing.

Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (males)

October 19, 2011
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I spotted several red dragonflies (males) during a photowalk through “Paul Spring Park,” one of seven small parks owned and maintained by the Community Association of Hollin Hills, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I wasn’t sure whether the dragonflies were Golden-winged Skimmers or Needham’s Skimmers. I consulted Richard Orr, renowned Odonata expert, for help in identifying the red dragons I saw. According to Richard, …

If you were on the [Atlantic] coastal plain the chances are that you were seeing Needham’s Skimmers and not Golden-winged [Skimmers]. However that does not work 100% of the time.

A range map for Needham’s Skimmers supports Richard’s speculation. “Needham’s Skimmer” (Libellula needhami) is named after James Needham, author of the out-of-print classic reference book, Dragonflies of North America (see Photo 6 of 6, shown above).

Habitat: Paul Spring, a small stream that flows through Paul Spring Park year-round.

Photos © Copyright 2011 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved. www.wsanford.com

Monarch butterflies on Butterfly Bush (white)

October 16, 2011

During a photowalk through Milway Meadows, a residential community in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, I spotted several Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) feeding on the white flowers of a Butterfly Bush (Buddleja sp.). I have never seen so many Monarchs in one location — I estimate anywhere from six- to 10 butterflies were feeding on the same bush! I wonder whether the butterflies I saw were part of a larger group migrating south for the winter.

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The preceding gallery features copies of the original photos (shown below) that were cropped and adjusted using Apple Aperture. Photos 11 and 12 were annotated using Apple Preview in order to highlight one or more butterflies that you may have overlooked. The photos in both galleries appear in the same sequence.

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Tech Tips: The gallery (shown above) features some of the better photos from a batch I shot using my Apple iPhone 3GS after cell phone service was de-activated. (I just upgraded to an iPhone 4.) I was curious to know whether the de-activated 3GS would still geotag photos taken using its built-in camera. As it turns out, the de-activated iPhone 3GS (essentially the same as an iPod touch) did in fact geotag all of my photos. The accuracy wasn’t as good as usual (for details, see “The ABCs of A-GPS“), except in the case of the photos I shot while standing in the same place for a long time — I guess the phone’s GPS chip was able to get a better position fix when I was stationary for a while. I used Apple “Aperture,” a professional-grade tool for organizing and adjusting photos, to geolocate all of the photos correctly during post-processing.

AutoStitch Panorama app — new and improved!

October 14, 2011

With the recent release of AutoStitch Panorama Version 4.0 ($1.99), the best mobile panorama photo app just got better! Among several new features, the one that is most appealing to me is panorama photos now include geolocation data in the EXIF/IPTC info.

In order to test the new geotagging feature, I re-stitched a 21-image panorama photo of a field of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) spotted during a photowalk through the “Wildlife Sanctuary,” one of seven small parks owned and maintained by the Community Association of Hollin Hills, Fairfax County, Virginia USA; the resulting composite images are shown in the following gallery. Photo 1 of 2 is a cropped version of the composite image; Photo 2 of 2 is the “raw” composite image. Image 3 shows the FxIF Data (see “Related Resources,” shown below) that verifies the re-stitched composite images are in fact geotagged; Photos 4 and 5 show two views of the FxIF Data Map Link.

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The following gallery shows the original composite images that were not geotagged by the older version of AutoStitch Panorama. Photo 1 of 2 is a cropped version of the composite image; Photo 2 of 2 is the “raw” composite image. Image 3 shows the FxIF Data (see “Related Resources,” shown below).

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Related Resources:

  • Panorama photo app showdown: Field of Jewelweed (one of my recent Posterous posts)
  • FxIF is an add-on for the Mozilla Firefox Web browser that allows the user to view EXIF info — including GPS info, when available — by simply right-clicking on a Web page photo and selecting “FxIF Data.” The user may set preferences for coordinates (e.g., decimal degrees) and map display (e.g., Google Maps); for details, see the section entitled, “Configure me” on the FxIF Web page.

(Common) Buckeye butterfly

October 12, 2011
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(Common) Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) is a medium-size brown butterfly with bold eyespots on the upper surfaces of its wings, feeding on Marigold flowers (Tagetes sp.).

I spotted the butterfly during a photowalk through the Children’s Garden, Hollin Meadows Science and Math Focus School. Photo 1 was cropped to highlight the butterfly; Photo 2 is the original photograph.

Tech Tips: Photo 1 was cropped using Apple “Aperture,” a professional-grade tool for organizing and adjusting photos.

Copyright © 2011 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fossil sea snail shell

October 10, 2011

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Fossil marine gastropod mollusk shell (Ecphora quadricostata) collected at the Texasgulf Aurora Phosphate Mine, Aurora, North Carolina USA. The word “costa” means “rib,” derived from the Latin word “costae.” Notice that the shell of Ecphora quadricostata has four costae (ribs). Photo 1 of 3 was annotated to highlight the four costae; Photo 2 of 3 is the original photograph.

Habitat: A relatively “shallow” sea that existed along the east coast of the United States an estimated 10- to 15 million years ago, during the Miocene Epoch.

The Aurora Phosphate Mine, formerly owned by Texasgulf Inc., is currently owned and operated by Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PotashCorp).

Editor’s Note: Are you a keen observer with eagle eyes? Did you notice I used “North Carolina” quarters to show the relative size of a fossil from North Carolina? That’s a subtle detail you may have overlooked.

Tech Tips: I just added another photo to this post. AshleyBradford, professional graphic artist and fellow Project Noah citizen scientist, used Adobe “Photoshop” to adjust the original photo after I asked about “white balance.” With a little post-processing by a pro, Ashley’s version (Photo 3) looks than much better mine (Photos 1-2). Thanks for your kind assistance, AB!


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