Happy 4th advent! Wishing you all happy holidays!
Here’s a picture I took a few days ago; The NEMO science museum here in Amsterdam. The building was designed by Renzo Piano who’s also famous for designing Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Chard in London, and The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
The bicycle bridge leading to NEMO is called ‘Mr. J.J. van der Veldebrug’ (bridge number 1939), and this year it’s part of the Amsterdam Light Festival. The artwork was made by Dutch artist Peter Vink.
Happy 3rd advent!
The annual Amsterdam Light Festival has begun. I haven’t had time to check out all the art pieces yet, but here are two of them that I photographed the other day – “Two Lamps” and “Spider on a bridge”.
Hello December 🙂 and Happy 1st advent!
This afternoon I was in Muiden, a cute little town about 15 km south-east of Amsterdam. Weather conditions weren’t great for photography, but a friendly sheep posed nicely in front of the Muidersloot 🙂 This castle was built in 1280 but demolished in the year 1300, then rebuilt about a hundred years later. (If you’re interested, you can download free ebooks with more information here.)
The beautiful sunny autumn weather we enjoyed last week is gone. Amsterdam is grey and cold now… Winter is coming!
Week 44! A couple of days ago, I attended a workshop called “Moonlight with owls”. It was really nice, although a bit too dark to take pictures. But I got to see and hold a few owls, they’re such impressive and beautiful birds. Here’s a picture of Bean, a beautiful Bengal eagle-owl (Bubo bengalensis)
This pretty little butterfly is called Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) in English, “Small Fire butterfly” in Dutch, and “Small Goldwing” in Swedish. I’m not sure, but I think (guess) one reason why it’s “gold” in one place and “copper” in another is because the colours of this butterfly varies slightly depending on where it lives.
I was lucky to find one sitting in the warm sunlight (usually they’re very active in bright sun) and was able to shoot it (I mean photograph) slightly backlit which really brought out its beautiful colours. Notice that the orange at the tip of the antennae also matches its wings, very stylish!
Update: Last week, WordPress didn’t recognize my weekly post as a post, thus it didn’t show up in the Reader of those who subscribe to my blog. Luckily, this issue seems to be resolved now!
Week 32! No exotic or unusual butterflies today, but happy to see them just the same 🙂 Have a nice week!
Update 8/13: According to WordPress, this blog post from yesterday doesn’t exist and this site was last updated 8 days ago. Therefore, this post doesn’t show up in the WordPress Reader either 😦 …. If you read this, thank you for visiting my blog.
Today I’ve been photographing dragonflies in Diemer Vijfhoek 🙂 I still don’t have a macro lens; these were taken with XF18-135 and all are cropped. Anyway, here are four beautiful dragonflies and some brief information about them. Hope you’ll like!
(1) Vagrant darter (Sympetrum vulgatum) – male
Quick fact: It hovers and then, as the name suggests, darts out to surprise its prey. Then they take their catch to a favoured perch to eat it. Very similar to the Common darter (Sympetrum striolatum), but it has a “hanging” mustache.
(2) Black-tailed skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – male
Quick fact: It’s a narrow-bodied, medium-sized, straight-sided dragonfly. It can be seen flying low over the bare gravel and mud around flooded gravel pits and reservoirs, before landing on the bare shore to rest in the sun.
(3) Migrant hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male
Quick fact: It’s not a particularly aggressive species, and may be seen feeding in large groups. Hawkers are the largest and fastest flying dragonflies; they catch their prey mid-air and can hover or fly backwards, although the Migrant hawker is smaller than other hawkers.
(4) Black-tailed skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – I’m not sure, it’s either an immature male or a female
Quick fact: They breed in very large number in newly flooded gravel pits. (See also above.)
Damselflies! Click to view slideshow:
Dragonflies and damselflies are closely related, both are part of the insect order Odonata. However, they are not the same! Odonata includes about 5,900 species of which about 3,000 are dragonflies (suborder Epiprocta, infraorder Anisoptera) and about 2,600 are damselflies (suborder Zygoptera).
Here are five differences to look for:
★ Size: Dragonflies are generally much larger. The most common dragonfly in The Netherlands (Ruddy darter) is 3.4-3.6 cm long and has a wingspan of 6 cm. The most common damselfly in The Netherlands (Blue-tailed damselfly) is 2.7-3.5 cm long and has a wingspan of 3.5 cm.
→ Fun fact: the largest extinct dragonfly had a wing span of 70-75 cm (roughly 30 inches)!
★ Eyes: Dragonflies have much larger eyes than damselflies, their eyes take up most of the head and they are wrapped around from the side to the front of the face which kind of makes it look like dragonflies are wearing snow goggles. Damselflies also have large eyes, but the eyes are clearly separated and appear on each side of the head. →See picture below!
★ Body shape: Dragonflies have bulkier, stocky bodies that appear shorter and thicker. Damselflies have long and slender bodies.
★ Wing shape: Both dragonflies and damselflies have two sets of wrings, but the shapes are different. Dragonflies have hind wings that broaden at the base, which makes them larger than the front wings. Damselflies have wings that are the same size and shape for both sets, and they taper down as they join the body, thus becoming quite narrow as they connect.
★ Position of the wings when resting: Dragonflies hold their wings out perpendicular to their bodies when resting, so they look like small airplanes. Damselflies fold their wings up and hold them together across the top of their backs, from a distance they kind of look like a very thin safety match.
Here’s a picture of a Map (Araschnia levana), the butterfly best known for having two forms: levana (spring brood) and prorsa (summer brood). levana individuals are primarily orange in colour, and prorsa individuals are mainly black with some white markings. This here is a summer brood showing off its beautiful underside (a map like pattern which look the same in both broods)-
Here’s a picture I took during my vacation in Sicily, a beautiful Violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea)! This bee is huge, about 3 times the size of the biggest bumble bee we have here in Holland. Unfortunately I only had an old iPhone at hand, in real life its dark blue-purple colour was much nicer.
Week 26 = we’re half way through 2018 already!
Today I want to share some pictures of a Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album), I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s a summer generation of sub-species (f.hutchinsoni).
In most languages this butterfly is called something with a reference to the white mark it has on its side, e.g. in English it’s Comma, in Spanish it’s C. Although in French it’s called Robert-le-Diable (“Robert the Devil”) because of its jagged wings. The scientific name also refers to the mark: “c” + “album” (which means white).
This butterfly has very good camouflage, both as a larva (mimicking bird droppings) and as an adult (mimicking a dead leaf).
PS. I’m off to Sicily so there won’t be any updates the next coming weeks!
Today I want to share FIVE FUN FACTS about dragonflies 🙂 A beautiful Common darter lady (Sympetrum striolatum) kindly agreed to demonstrate the facts in my pictures!
★ FACT 1: They were the first insects to inhabit this planet – 300 million years ago! In other words: they’ve had a looong time to perfect the art of flying and hunting.
★ FACT 2: They’re flat out terrifying if you’re a mosquito or other kind small bug, because they don’t simply chase down their prey but they snag them from the air with a calculated aerial ambush! Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of a prey target, and they’re so skilled they have an impressive 95% success rate when hunting.
★ FACT3: They can fly in any direction, including sideways and backwards! (How cool is that!) Plus, they can hover in a single spot for a minute or more. But that’s not all. They’re also fast – some species reach almost 30 km/h (18 mph) – and one species (Globe skimmer) flies almost 18,000 km (11,000 miles) during migration which is the world’s longest insect migration. (Compare this with the famous Monarch butterfly migration of 2,500 miles.)
★ FACT 4: Both dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata, which means “the toothed ones”. When hunting, they can catch the prey with their feet, tear off its wings with their sharp jaws (so the prey can’t escape) and scarf it down – all without needing to land. In short: Their ability to rip apart their prey takes their predatory prowess to another level.
Update: It should be noted that dragonflies don’t bite humans and they don’t have any stinger! i.e. they cause no harm to humans. (Thanks for pointing this out, Greta)
★ They have nearly 360 degrees vision! The enormous compound eyes contain 30,000 facets and they can see the world in colors we can’t even imagine. (In depth read here)
Update: It’s also worth mentioning that dragonflies have a significant, positive ecological impact. In its nymph stage, they eat harmful aquatic organisms and thus help keep our waters clean. The nymph can contribute to the ecosystem for up to five years before becoming a mature adult! As adults, they mainly help humans by eating mosquitoes and other insects that spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, anthrax, etc.
The Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella) is quite common here in The Netherlands, and always a pleasure to see!
At first glance it could be a bit tricky to distinguish the Azure from a Common blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) damselfly, but if you look at the antehumeral stripe (that’s the long blue section on the thorax), the Azure’s blue stripe is narrower than the black stripe beneath it, and there’s an extra black line, a “spur” extending from the wing base towards the legs. The Common blue’s antehumreral stripe is broader than the black stripe beneath it and there’s no “spur” on the thorax.
Another thing to look at is the second segment of the males’ abdomen (just behind the thorax): both are blue but the Azure has a black U-shape and the common blue has a black mushroom-shaped mark.
And now I need your help! Please take a look at the second photo below, it’s not a great shot but I hope someone can help me identify this little damselfly.. I’m doubting if it’s either a Variable damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) or perhaps a female Azure in blue form. If you know which one it is, please leave a comment below!
The cardinal beetle is actually three different species of beetles. The most common one is the Red-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa serraticornis), which is an orange-red beetle with a – duh – read head. It’s about 2 cm long and easy to spot as it kind of glows (in the closeup shot below you can see the color is kind of red metallic). The Black-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea) has a – uhm – black head and is rarer, slightly larger and its body has a deeper blood-red color. The third kind is the Scarce cardinal (Schizotus pectinicornis), it also has a black head but is less than 1 cm long.
Cardinal beetles prey on other insects, while their bright red color prevents them from being targeted by other predators because red usually means toxic in the bug world.
If you see a beetle with red wings and black underside and wonder if it’s a cardinal beetle or not, the easiest tell is to look at the antennae: Cardinals have toothed antennae. It’s often confused with the Scarlet lily beetle, which is smaller and usually found eating lily leaves.
Two different takes on two different kinds of butterflies-
(1) Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), photographed today with Fuji 18-135 mm + Raynox 150. Goal was to get close to the butterfly and capture as much detail as possible. Picture not edited except it’s been slightly cropped.
(2) Green-veined white (Pieris napi), photographed with Pentacon 50 mm. Goal was to capture the moody light in the forest, not so much details in the butterfly (although enough to determine that it’s a female spring brood). Picture not edited or cropped.
Would you do me a favor and let me know which one you prefer? Not saying one is “better” than the other, but just curious to know your preference. You can use the voting buttons below! Thanks 🙂
Things aren’t always what they seem –
Cute little fallow deer (Dama dama) I saw in the Waterleidingduinen outside Amsterdam today 🙂
It’s wet and quite cold here in Amsterdam.. Here are some of the last mushrooms of this season, helicopter view 🙂 I especially like the turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) from this angle.
(Versicolor means ‘several colors’, which reliably describes this fungus that displays different colors.)
Things you need to take good mushroom pictures: A tripod, flash + reflector, a macro lens, and post-processing skills. Dutch photographer Daniel Laan is very good at all of this, check out his portfolio on 500px!
Unfortunately, I have none of this but that doesn’t stop me from photographing anyway 😉 Here are some pictures from today’s walk-
Small Mycena mushrooms on a sunny autumn day 🙂
Mycenas are hard to identify to species and some are distinguishable only by microscopic features such as the shape of the cystidia. Over 33 species are known to be bioluminescent, creating a glow known as foxfire (sometimes called “fairy fire”). I’ve never seen it in real life but you can read more about it in this article published by University of Chicago.
A Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) sitting on a waste basket. Isn’t he beautiful! Look at those coloured feathers and intelligent eyes.
Magpies are often maligned as pests, but they’re actually very interesting birds that are usually overlooked for both their beauty and their intelligence. They are closely related to crows, jays, and ravens; thus among the most intelligent family of birds (Corvidae). And after studying them, I’m convinced that magpies have a great sense of humour too! 🙂
Because magpies are often misunderstood, here are 3 interesting facts about them:
(ii) Magpies recognize themselves in mirrors. European magpies have demonstrated the remarkable ability to recognize their own reflections in mirrors, something that was once thought to be a defining characteristic belonging only to humans. This might not sound that amazing, but out of countless species tested, only four ape species, bottlenose dolphins and Asian elephants have demonstrated this ability.
(iii) A group of magpies is called “a parliament”. They earned this title from often appearing in large groups, looking stately and cawing at each other.
And a little flower…
Week 43! Two photographs of Grey heron (Ardea cinerea), the first one shows a juvenile individual and the second one an adult.
The grey heron is very common here in The Netherlands, also in urban environments. Here in Amsterdam, they are ever present and well adapted to modern city life. They hunt as usual, but also visit street markets and snackbars.
Week 42! Autumn is definitely here… 5 pics:
(i) Composition by mother nature
(ii) Soaking up as much light as possible
(iii) Last bee of this year?
(iv) Unedited flower shot
(v) Same shot – Heavily edited version; fun, but not my style
Week 41! Today I photographed some mushrooms (no idea what kind!), and a small fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster?) who was sitting on one of the “rooftops” 🙂