a Little Bird Said: Go Star-Gazing!

I woke to the calls of a brilliant red sentinel Cardinal sitting up in the tops of the Mulberry Tree..  Today I’m planting out Nasturtium seedlings into pots and then  working on tonights Observing session for CREW Land and Water Trust.  Jim is busy adding a new Telrad to the LaVigne  10″ Dobsonian telescope for tonights use.

If you miss this evenings (Feb 9) Public Observing Session (Registration for tonight is closed)  at CREW we will offer another observing opportunity March 9th so if you happen to be in South West Florida visiting, or you live here, consider signing up via this link to attend our Family Star Gazing session.    

What will we see?  Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, various Star Clusters.. Galaxies M31 and M32 as well as pointing out numerous constellations and bright stars as well as telling some star-tails from CREWs beautiful Dark-Sky observing site I simply call Star Gazers Field.  If you go to the above Star Gazing link it will give you all the information about what you need to bring (don’t forget the blankets!) as well as where CREW Gate 5 is located.  Pre-Registration is required so check your calendar for March and include the Night Sky – Star Gazing, in your next family adventure into the Wilds of South West Florida! 

Sentinel Cardinal

Sentinel Cardinal

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Make time to see the Stars..

A Star Gazing moment.
South West Florida, All times are in EST.

a Color Star Chart for January to Print out.

 

With the mayhem of the Fiscal Cliff and the rush of the Holidays OVER  (at least for now)  it’s time to make time and do some things to de-compress…  Things like.. take a walk in the woods at a favorite nature preserve, visit a museum, or perhaps just take time out to go outside and look up at the night sky.  Yes, just walk over, turn off that blithering TV, and go outside and look up and relax in a lawn chair or on the ground.  

If you don’t have a good view of the night sky where you are, consider visiting a Planetarium, a State Park, or a local Observatory to Star Gaze from.  Go outside around 8pm and look East you’ll see three bright stars that make up Orion’s Belt all arranged neatly, (from our perspective anyway) in a row.  They are from bottom to top, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. The bright visibly reddish looking star in the shoulder of Orion is Betelgeuse.  Betelgeuse is one of the largest stars known, with a diameter over 650 times that of the Sun! (It’s overhead by 11pm.)

By 7:30pm as the evening has progressed and these constellations rise higher in the sky go outside again and look for another bright star Sirius, in the Constellation of Canis Major – this is Orion’s dog. Sirius is also called the Dog Star. An easy way to find Sirius is to take the belt stars of Orion and draw a line down toward the horizon. Bright Sirius is overhead by midnight. At 9:49pm the brightest “Star” overhead from Orion is not a star at all but the planet Jupiter nestled up in the V shape of the horns of Taurus the bull.

Below Star Chart image credit is SkySafari for the Mac.

Orion Taurus Jupiter

 

New overnight surprise in the labyrinth.

Fall is coming!   another sure sign is this little Stinkhorn (Order Phallales)  that popped up in the Labyrinth overnight.  Stinkhorns are found October through March from North Carolina to Florida, to along the Gulf Coast as well as in Mexico.  I love mushrooms, in all of their variety, both canned or grocery store fresh on my pizza as well as along the trails that I wander.  

Stinkhorns are comprised of several columns that are fused at the top.  Supposedly they stink and are “fetid”  although I didn’t get down-that-close to see if it had an odor to it  (getting up would have been another matter. )  

However I did notice that it had ants under its cap and if you click on this image, you can see the fungus up close, along with the ants.  These strange little guys rise out of the ground from a body or “egg” that is hidden underground.   Long cords help to form the arms that reach skyward with the interior of the arms covered with a slime.  It’s this slime and the smell, which attracts flies, that helps to disperse the spores.  

I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this one today to see how it’s getting along.    Just another reason to always be looking for the little things underfoot.  What’s happening in your yard today?     This is an iPhone4S image taken with ProHDR

Dragons of the Air and Water

 

 

On the grand scale, Tropical Storm Isaac just missed us but on the smaller scales of things.. insect scales?  it was rough for the insects.  Butterflies are easily affected by high winds and rain.  To survive, they find areas in your yard or woods that are sheltered from winds and driving rains.  Around the house an insect may find a quiet corner to stay in, maybe go up under the eves or anywhere that takes them out of direct wind and rain.

This White Peacock Butterfly is lying down, almost flat in the green dog fennel bushes along the canal at Harns Marsh, here in Lehigh.  How’s that for avoiding bad weather?  Make like a leaf.  At first, I thought I was looking at a leaf!  Insects are affected by subtle changes in heat and even barometric pressure, everything from the smallest ant, to the largest butterfly is affected by heat, light and moisture among other things.

This Peacock Butterfly is weathering high winds by hiding out and laying low in a dog fennel bush.

 

Watching Summer dragonflies buzzing over our backyards, ditches and empty lots, we see a species dependent on the ability to respond to temperature changes in its environment through Thermoregulation.  Thermoregulation is regulating ones internal body temperature even when the surrounding temperature is different.  These animals are also referred to as being ectothermic or just ectotherms – a more common description would be “Cold-Blooded.”  Reptiles, fish and yes, even insects have to regulate their temperatures in order to function and they have learned to do it quite well, not being at the total mercy of their environments.  We see alligators moving in and out of heat and cold to “get just right” or “regulated” internally.

Alligators and lizards have the ability to regulate their internal temperatures by moving around in their environment to cool off in the shadows, or to get warm on a log or bank.   One way for dragonflies to keep from overheating on a hot sunny day is to become less active.  I’m sure you’ve seen a dragonfly perched with its wings pointing forward and down – this is a dragonfly that is regulating its body temperature  by positioning its wings so that they are absorbing less of the suns rays and that dragonflies internal temperature?  around 110 degrees F.

an Ornate Pennant Dragonfly perches on a Blue Butterfly bush in my yard. He’s hunting for other insects to catch on the wing – He’s also conserving energy.

 

Watching dragonflies, we see another highly efficient hunter capable of catching their prey – mosquitos, butterflies, moths etc.. on the wing.  They like to land or “perch” on a stalk to devour their prey.  If they have devoured a moth or a butterfly, all you may see left over on the ground are the wings.  Have you watched a dragonfly eat?  They don’t waste any time and the prey is quickly reduced to wings.  Summer brings us two Dragons to watch, one of the air, and one of the water.

Alligators and Crocs have been around for 200 million years and Dragonflies around 300 million years.  Both of them share similar adaptations that have allowed them to survive in their environments despite being Cold-Blooded.  That’s pretty cool!

 

Tropical Storm Isaac – Needed Rain.

 

As I write, Tropical Storm Isaac is moving along off our South West Florida Coast.  While thankfully not producing the damaging amounts of high wind and tornadoes expected from the initial computer models (we were looking at a Cat 1 predicted above) for my location, Lehigh Acres, which is a part of Fort Myers.  

Tropical Storm Isaac has provided some much-needed rain for our natural areas.  The rains come in occasional squalls and will probably continue to do so throughout the rest of our evening and into part of Monday.  I’ll go hiking this upcoming week and re visit the marsh  to see what wildflowers are blooming thanks to Tropical Storm Isaac.  

Composite image of ” Doves on a Wire” taken today, in my backyard.  Combined with a TV map of the Tropical Storm.
iPhone4S image, processing done in AwesomeCamera and with Pictwo app.

 

Pink Hibiscus Monday

 

It’s a Pink Hibiscus Monday here in SW Florida!   Well, at least from my Backyard Universe it is.
This Hibiscus is sporting two brilliant red and black, harmless seed eating insects, Jadera haematoloma 

Sorry but no photos of the Perseid Meteor shower from me.  It stayed cloudy and rainy the whole day
and overcast all night.  Which is a good thing as like many places, we need the rains.

Nikon D5100 image.

 

a favorite route to travel

 

             yeah, this is an   iPhone4GS   image from a truck

My favorite route to travel into Lehigh Acres from Fort Myers Florida, is along the Daniels Parkway corridor beginning from the Gateway turnoff, and heading East, into Lehigh.  Few other routes can take one through as many lush areas consisting of beautiful towering cypress domes, upland and marsh habitats.  Driving this nature corridor through out the year you may get to see:  wildflowers, turkeys, deer, hogs, alligators, otter as well as various wading birds, eagles and osprey.  Parts of this roadway have designated Panther Crossing signs at either end of it with separate day and night speeds so be aware.  During our fall and winter tourist season I often see other photographers up and down the corridor.

According to Greater Fort Myers Real-estate:  “Stretching from Gateway and Southwest Florida International Airport on the East to US-41 and the Shops at Bell Tower on the West, Daniels Parkway has emerged as Fort Myers’s  new “Main Street.”    I think of it more as the gateway to places like  CREW Land and Water Trust  and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary   Both part of the Corkscrew Watershed of which CREW alone comprises 60 thousand acres of protected watershed through Lee and Collier counties.

Should you visit Fort Myers Florida this Fall and Winter, consider spending some time along this scenic Daniels Parkway corridor.  Don’t forget to bring your camera and pack a lite lunch.  There’s allot to see and photograph for the patient imager.  And when you want more, go explore the offerings at CREW Land and Water Trust, and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (links above.)    You won’t be disappointed!!!