Saturday, August 31, 2019

Cicada Exuviae Trios, Additional Exuviae at Odd Hang Spots

I've seen some odd places that cicada nymphs chose to park their shells and extract themselves. My spotting of the recent trio and solo at odd places inspired me to find other oddball exuviae discard locations I'd taken pix of. FWIW, some places might not seem so odd; that a few nymphs chose the same place around the same time is. (My previous article is about the seven exuviae on my house in a recent three-week period.)

The First Trio

The first cicada exuviae (exoskeleton) trio was at a rain shutoff device, spotted Sunday 8/18 elevenish. I might not have considered it unusual for one exuviae. Three, however, made me chuckle because they were so close to each other. I thought about threesomes—Three Stooges, Three Amigos, Three Musketeers, Kingston Trio, ….

The Rest of the Exuviae Hangups

Coincidentally, only a few minutes later at another part of the yard, another exuviae caught our eyes. While trimming some branches, the other co-trimmer thought one limb end had a particularly ugly cut. Looking closer, it turns out an exuviae was hugging it. This one might have been hanging out for awhile; closer look shows dust and tree debris. (In contrast, the trio looked pretty "clean" and shiny.)
In July 2017, a cicada molted and abandoned its shell at the front door step. The following other oddball spots were from July 2018:
  • On a sidewalk curb
  • On a car tire that faced the street (two different shells on two consecutive days)
  • On a sago plant (another trio)
Followup Visit to The First Trio

The other day, I saw that only one exuviae still hung out at the rain shutoff device—clinging to the wire. The other two shells apparently fell off. The remaining shell looks like a good example of a nymph having found a great item to clutch in preparation for self-extraction. It successfully implemented strategy that "Photo Essay: Cicada Nymph Molts into Adult" describes:
they find a place on a tree to grab hold and ‘affix’ themselves … Beginning around dusk the Cicada nymph crawls out of the ground and up a tree to affix itself to a sturdy part. This nymph circled this branch, feeling for a strong hold. Molting is quite a process and they’ll be there awhile, so they want to make sure not to fall during the process.
Nevertheless, I used a twig for positioning the two other exoskeletons and taking additional pix for the video.

Search for more articles about cicadas with "cicada" in the search box at the upper left of this window.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Hangout for 7 Cicada Exuviae 7-11 Through 8-01 2019

This year's been a huge year for cicadas. I wound up with images for seven different cicada exuviae that hung at the house between July 11 and August 1, a three-week period. I've differentiated them with phonetically alphabetishmonikers. (Oddly, no exuviae were at sides nor back of house, and none at the curb.)

Date Name Comment
July 11 Ayy Upside down at the porch overhang, seemingly to hug it symmetrically while defying gravity—no "glue" involved.
July 21 Bea At a vertical part of the porch, head toward the sky. (One pic, taken with the flash on, resulted in a coppertone face-like image.)
July 24, 25 Cee Initially at a porch column corner, head angled skyward; July 25 pix shows profile and belly-up views (porch surface). Definitely see no "glue" residue.
July 27 Dee At porch surface and brick wall intersection, but also featuring the cicada itself on porch surface.
July 31, Aug 1 Eee At a brick wall edge, head skyward, with nearby ant and spider.
Aug 1 Eff Upside down at porch overhang, similar to exuviae Ayy.
Aug 1 Gee Similarly positioned as exuviae Cee, but at a different porch and near the overhang.
The video shows more and closer details of these "visitors".
My first exposure to cicada exuviae, was in 2016, when I posted a pic (a beaut!) to LinkedIn requesting ID help. Shortly thereafter, I posted "Closeup of Molted Cicada Exoskeleton (and More Info)". A cicada exuviae (exoskeleton), imho, is fascinating for its split-back opening that displays much of the inside of the abandoned shell and inside-out "appendages". View a great, 34-second time-lapse video of a cicada emerging and vacating its shell.

One commonality of most exuviae I've spotted was the skyward position of the head. For some other exuviae, I thought it odd that they hung upside down parallel to the ground. I wondered if cicada nymphs applied some type of glue before attempting self-extraction. "Photo Essay: Cicada Nymph Molts into Adult" explains cicada nymphs' strategy for attaching their exoskeletons onto something before shellbreak:
they find a place on a tree to grab hold and ‘affix’ themselves … Beginning around dusk the Cicada nymph crawls out of the ground and up a tree to affix itself to a sturdy part. This nymph circled this branch, feeling for a strong hold. Molting is quite a process and they’ll be there awhile, so they want to make sure not to fall during the process.
Note a pic on its website and accompanying caption: "a cicada attached itself to another cicada nymph who was about to emerge."

"Bug of the Week: Cicada Nymph" complements the Photo Essay site for emphasis on the nymph stage. It also might shed light about those "appendages" I mentioned earlier.
In the back where the skin has split you can often see tiny white threads. Those are the reminants [sic] of the cicadas breathing tubes, called trachae.
My most fascinating cicada/exuviae experience was spotting a cicada emerging from its exoskeleton—"Molting Cicada Visitor at My Doorstep". It was a periodic monitoring of pic-taking and videorecording that spanned several hours. (So proud of the video I created!)

Search For more articles about cicadas with "cicada" in the search box at the upper left of this window.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Webworm Nest at Tx Black Walnut Tree

At a city park in June, I noticed a conical item high on a Texas Black Walnut tree. I took some pix and a zoom-in/out video. Although details weren't great, the item looked "aerated". Returned with someone else who brought a monopod and higher-resolution camera. Over about a week, posted some images and zoom-out video to LinkedIn for gathering opinions on what the item could be. Speculations: Web belonging to webworms, tent worms, gypsy moths, silkworms. Responses included advice to destroy the web/nest.

Webworms, Tent Worms, Gypsy Moths, Silk Worms, Oh, My!

Someone mentioned tent worms and their affinity for pecan trees. However, someone else mentioned webworms and provided "Fall Webworm", which nudged me towards webworms.
Caterpillars (larvae) of the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) feed on over 100 different species of deciduous trees. Walnut, hickory, pecan, persimmon, sweetgum, ash, maple, oak, poplar, redbud, and willow are commonly damaged.
Poking Around the Web

"Bagworm, Fall Webworm or Eastern Tent Caterpillar?" provides clarification because of food preferences between web worms and tent worms.
Tent caterpillars like to feed on crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash, flowering cherry, and other trees and shrubs in the rose family. … Fall webworm feeds on over 120 different species of deciduous trees including crabapple, ash, oak, elm, maple, hickory, sweet gum, and black walnut.
"Webworms feeding in a tree near you this fall" from Aug 2016 differentiates the two worm types as does the Illinois site: "Not to be confused with the Eastern tent caterpillar, which shows up in the early spring, the fall webworm is prevalent in late summer through the fall."

Coincidentally, a friend blogger (Steve Schwartzman) posted an item very recently about webworms "A world all its own" and cited the same scientific name—Hyphantria cunea, linked to its entry in Wikipedia. As Steve's photo is of a raindrop-covered webworm web and bears no resemblance to my "airy" cone, Wikipedia's pic of a webworm nest looks similar to my images.

Regarding the possibility of gypsy moths, I did a Google image search for gypsy moth webs. They don't resemble the structure I'd pic'd, but more like the image at "Why are there so many creepy webs on the tree branches over your head?"

As for maybe silk worms, floated by another commenter, "What to do When Your Trees Are Full of Silk Worms" states, "true silkworms feed solely on the leaves of white mulberry trees. If you have a few in your yard that are covered in webs, silkworms are the culprits."

Bugged out? Ready to battle? A possible difficulty in destroying the nest I spotted, besides it being on city property, might be the height. I estimated the height to be about 40'. View my short video, which might provide idea of distance relative to height.

Some Timely Resources (within the Last Couple of Months)

"What to do in your garden this week - Care for chrysanthemum, fertilize and monitor for webworms." published this month.
Monitor mulberry, oak, pecan, poplar and willow trees for webworms. Heavy infestations over several years can weaken trees as the caterpillars feast on the foliage. If the egg masses on the leaves are accessible, simply remove and destroy them. Tear open the webs so natural predators can access the larvae. If the webs are growing, rip them open and spray the foliage, top and bottom, with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
Another very current source came in mid-June: "Webworms are hanging out in Central Texas trees this year in greater numbers than usual"
Webworms — or Fall webworms or Hyphantria cunea — are young moths who live out their time as caterpillars in silken enclosures they spin in plants. … Webworms start off as eggs, and when they hatch, they begin spinning their silken webs.

If you want to get rid of webworms, [entomologist Wizzie] Brown said that a good option is simply opening up the web to allow for lizards, wasps, or birds to get in and eat them. You can also prune the infested parts of the tree away or use a high-pressure water spray to get holes in the web.
The article includes embedded link to YouTube video "Webworms are hanging out in Central Texas trees this year in greater numbers than usual".

Additional Resources in IDing and Battling Webworms and their Web Nests

"Everything that You Need to Know About Webworms" from July 2018 contains info, with excellent video that differentiates webworms,bag worms, tent caterpillars, and bag worms, and controlling these pests, including those in high trees.
These webworms make a webbed nest in the hardwoods of the deciduous tree limbs (mostly alder, willow, cottonwood, elm, walnut, apple and peach trees). Webworms can be further classified into Web worms, and Eastern Tent Caterpillars.
"How to Deal with Webworms in Your Trees" from Oct 2018 advises "If possible, open up hole(s) in the nest with a stick, pole saw, or high-pressure nozzle. Then use appropriate insecticide."

"Creepy-looking web sacks are popping up all over Georgia" from August 2017 states, "trees are covered with what look like huge spider webs". The site includes a video with close-in views of web and caterpillars, and UGA agricultural agent breaking open a web bag.

"CATERPILLAR NEST REMOVAL IN PECAN TREE 9-14-12" shows one person's method for getting rid of a webworm nest that was about 40' above the ground, but with different logistical considerations than the one in my images.

"How to Control Webworms High in a Tree" from Aug 2018 is a short and sweet video, with text and narration. Although it has very little imagery. The emphasis on text and narration is good for reinforcing other sites' how-to info.

Circling Back to Texas Black Walnut

The tree with the nest greatly resembles the tree that was at street level that I blogged about last year. Visit "Texas Black Walnut--Lookalike to Deadly Manchineel". The article includes embedded link to its associated YouTube video.

Webworm Nest and Cooper's Hawk Together

The webworm nest makes a cameo in my video.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Fawnzies and Deering Does

It took only about half an hour to capture does and fawns one morning (June 23). Two does and their twin fawns were two separate families. One of the does of twins had a Sharpie-pen-like horizontal mark at its left flank. One additional doe had a single fawn near it. One snippet showed two fawnless does. This season, I have rarely missed spotting deer during neighborhood strolls (multiple times weekly.)

Feed Me!

A previous video I'd uploaded included a clip of a doe standing one hind hooves to reach some tree leaves (~5 minute mark). In this blog's video, I managed to capture a mom feeding her young'uns. Or maybe it's more like the young'uns insisting to Mom, "Feed me! Feed me!"

Thinking of the, uh, food order, my mind meandered to the entertaining musical version of "Little Shop of Horrors". Audrey II, the mutant plant, is terrifying and amusing at the same time when "requesting" food.

Piqued About Fawns?

Numerous sources inform about youthful spots, importance of not touching these babies, and fast maturity.
An interesting way to obtain fawn info is entering a curiosity question about them in Google, such as "how much do fawns weigh at birth". Google displays loads of questions and answers.

One evening in 2005, I'd spotted a fawn lying among jasmine. Hadn't thought of any other time to work the pic into previous article. Not likely it is still around.

"Whitetail Deer Facts & Trivia, Information & Photos" says, "Few whitetail deer live more than 5 years in the wild. Some whitetails have been found to be up to 11 years old in the wild, and domesticated deer have lived up to 20 years."

More recently than way back then, I spotted, recorded, and blogged about a buck we spotted New Year's Day. It had several points on its antler; was older than a juvenile.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Critter Shootin' Near Mid-June 2019

Previously, I blogged "Lotsa Bloomin' Mid-May Near Mid-year 2019", regarding a neighborhood stroll—flora and fauna images from May 16, 17, 18. This neighborhood stroll video includes only animals; the walk took less than an hour. What a collection of critters!
  1. Cooper's Hawk and mockingbird
  2. Doe and two fawns
  3. Red June bug
  4. Doe and two fawns (Initially unsure if a second family or the same one.)
  5. Caterpillar (June bug larva)
The Cooper's Hawk perched atop a foliage-free branch group. A mockingbird kept dive-bombing it. Trying to keep the camera steady at the distance and zoom challenged me.

I wasn't sure that the doe and fawns were the same family until reviewing the video clips. In the second footage of deer, they were much more energetic than in the first footage.

The June bug might have already been dead; I didn't want to prod it to find out. Incidentally, I'd uploaded the bug to LinkedIn with request for ID. The color and pose didn't resemble any of the three olivy green/brown June bugs I pic'd last year ("So How Cute ARE June Bugs?"). Maybe I should have ensured the reddish bug had its total back upward.

The caterpillar resembled several that I'd shot in April. The undulation movement intrigued me, as well as its prolegs. It took some poking around Google images to find some that resemble my "capture"; I finally found enough info to declare the critter a June bug larva. "Life Cycle Process of a June Bug" shows a basic diagram. "Turfgrass - May/June Beetle Grubs" links to a January-through-December image. Grubs don't sound good to have around. "How To: Get Rid of June Bugs", section "PREVENT DAMAGE FROM GRUBS" has a large image with caution and recommendation: "grubs that will get your grass. Lose the larvae …". Another anti-grub resource: "Grub Worm Identification and Treatment".

This year has been very good for abundant blooms, new-growth plants, and wildlife. View some via the index. Also, I'll be posting more strolling image items to share.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Lotsa Bloomin' Mid-May Near Mid-year 2019

This year, May has been an especially eye-popping year for blooms. This blog and accompanying video represent sightings simply from short walks in and near the neighborhood on May 16, 17, and 18. (Includes coupla non-bloom subjects.)
While strolling in the 'hood one day,
In this kinda wet month of May,
Many blooms, so picturesque,
E'en a non-bloom piqued me, yes,
I meandered and pic'd another couple of days!
Acknowledgement to Ed Haley's "Strolling Through The Park One Day" music and lyrics. Want to sing along to the original?

The following subjects caught my eye:
  • Two different prickly pear colonies with varying bloom stages (Dig those toes!)
  • Small flattened snake with an intriguing pattern (to me) that looks even more interesting at the head
  • Two different Mexican hat colonies, one trail with loads of color variations, one patch with a blink-and-and-you'll-miss-it bee
  • Creek, somewhat vertically zigzagged
  • Shoal Creek Chaste Tree, blooms sparse and pale so far this year
Prickly pear plants were predominant in this stroll. Some prickly pear references: "Prickly Pear Cactus", "Prickly pear cactus, our state plant". Mexican hat blooms were also prominent. Visit "Mexican hats el 5 de mayo, no mas el 7 de mayo" for more eyefuls and references.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mexican hats el 5 de mayo, no mas el 7 de mayo

To bee'd

Or not to bee'd

During a short walk on Sunday, May 5, I took a few pix of some small clutches of Mexican hat flowers. (I hadn't actually thought of the date coincidence as a Mexican theme.) Two days later, I had hoped to show them to someone else. ¡Ay caramba! They were nowhere in sight! Where'd they go? Did someone pluck them? To take inside? To take them somewhere else? To throw them away? Eh, I wasn't going to be brave enough to knock on the homeowner's door to ask.

Separate places in the past (May last year, May 2014) bloomed wildly with Mexican hats, but nada on the 5th or 7th this year. Fortunately for me, more recently, I did manage to spot additional crops of Mexican hats and took pix and video. My compilation videos (bee'd and beeless include Mexican hats from four different areas (shot May 5, 16, 17, and 23). Hope you yourself spot such striking cute blooms where you live, work, play, or wander!

A few online resources to visit—
  • "Upright prairie coneflower Ratibida columnifera" is a good starting point, with very basic description and some images.
  • "Ratibida columnifera" lists "Mexican Hat, Red-spike Mexican Hat, Upright Prairie Coneflower, Prairie Coneflower, Long-headed Coneflower, Thimbleflower" as common names. The website has more extensive information and a link to almost 200 images.
  • "Wildflowers of Texas", besides providing its image of Mexican hats and short description, also includes similar thumbnail info on other Texas wildflowers. (Note: Because of inconsistency in vertical placements of images near flowers' descriptions, it helps if you already know some of these specimens.)
    Mexican hat (Ratibida columnaris)—Blooms May to July, later with favorable weather. Common throughout most of state. Named for its resemblance to the traditional high-crowned, broad-brimmed Mexican sombrero.

    Seeing both "Ratibida columnifera" and "Ratibida columnaris" terms confused me. I've not been able to find much to clarify the difference. "Ratibida columnifera" shows up a lot more in hits, even when searching for "columnaris". "Mexican Hat / Ratibida columnaris / 500+ Seeds Perennial" indicates both terms are acceptable. (Prices look a lot more economical than some other sites that sell seeds and plants!)
  • "Ratibida Species, Mexican Hats, Thimbleflower, Upright Prairie Coneflower Ratibida columnifera" caught my eye for a pic that shows a striking batch of yellow-only petaled blooms.
  • A friend blogger Steve Schwartzman's blog collection of Mexican hat flowers reflects different times of years that he's caught 'em.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Blue Heron Sighting, Swans, and 12 Days of Christmas Connection

During this morning's walk, we spotted a pair of birds flying overhead. Companion speculated swans. A nearby homeowner who also spotted them declared they were blue herons. I had figured "swans" was not feasible. "They don't fly," I thought. Or do they?

A few years ago, when some relatives visited, we walked into a hotel that had swans in a pond area. View "Embassy Suites Austin TX - Arboretum", starting about 2:10 to see some swans in the lobby. A nearby sign mentions something about feeding (or not). My recollection was seeing a sign that said they swam only and did not fly. (I'm not making a special trip to the hotel to confirm no-fly swan zone.)

Swan Flights

From "Swan Facts for Kids", "swans can actually fly. They are among the largest flying birds out there and need about 30 yards to become airborne". "Flight Profiles and Take Off" describes flight and communication methodologies among trumpeter and tundra swan flocks.

"Swan Migration" provides details about migration of trumpeter and tundra swans.
Two swan species are native to North America. In summer, both migrate to the Arctic for breeding and nesting. Male trumpeter swans, one of the world's largest water birds, can weigh up to 28 pounds, with females a few pounds lighter; tundra swans are less than two-thirds that size. … trumpeters have all-black bills, while most tundra swans have a yellow patch on theirs.
12 Days of Christmas, Swans, and Additional Birds

During my mind meandering about swans, I thought about "12 Days of Christmas" and the line about seven swans a-swimming. Then I recalled several gift references to different bird types. Yet, how many younger people know what these birds are? Partridge? Turtle doves? French hens? Calling birds?

For a starting point about lyrics, visit "The Twelve Days of Christmas Traditional" to view all lyrics in one place. Want to know how many total birds? Visit "How Many Birds Are In The 12 Days Of Christmas Carol?".

View two entertainingly illustrated videos are "12 Days Of Christmas | Kids Songs | Super Simple Songs" and "Christmas Songs for Children * 12 Days of Christmas * Kids Songs * Christmas Carols for Kids". BTW, those images might be unhelpful with identifying actual birds in the lyrics. View real bird pix accompanied by descriptions at "The bird songs behind 'The 12 Days of Christmas'".

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

DIY Red-light Head Light

You might ask, "Who would want a red-light head light?" Well, amateur astronomers, for hands-free seeing at night, especially if they're carrying or handling equipment, such as telescopes. Other night-sky observers might want to wear them for being able to walk around without bumping into people or items, and they can retain night vision while viewing objects, whether through telescopes or binoculars at night-sky watching events.

You might wonder why it's important to use red light at night to see with instead of using other-color light. Red light helps illuminate dark areas without adversely affecting night vision. Eyes need time to adjust to dark surroundings. At night, when someone turns on a non-red light, such as car headlights or white-light flashlight, sky objects become less visible and vibrant until the eyesight becomes re-accustomed to darkness.

A red light head light is a modification of an off-the-shelf elastic headband lamp. (More on acquiring the lamp and similar later.) The bulb itself is white—suitable for normal uses. For astronomy purposes, the light needs to be red.

Step-by-step Modifying Regular Headlight to Red Headlight

The video shows items needed, procedure, and white lightcircle next to red light circle. Items required:
  • Head lamp (Western Safety brand) or similar elastic-band lamp with center bulb
  • Red automotive tail light tape, available at auto parts stores
  • Scissors
Note: The tape should be wider than the diameter of the lamp's screw-on transparent cap. For example, the tape I used was 1 7/8" wide, and the cap was 1 5/8" across. (Ruler in video is for tape width reference.)

  1. Unscrew the retainer ring with clear cap from the rest of the lamp.
  2. Separate the clear cap from the ring.
  3. Cut a squarish piece of red tape that overlaps the cap with a reasonable margin all around. In my case, the tape was wider than the cap diameter by only 1/4".
  4. Firmly place the center of the flat part of the cap onto the sticky part of the tape.
  5. With scissors, snip the red tape's corners and sides up to the cap's edge.
  6. Fold and evenly press each of the snipped tape corners to the cap's edge, pressing at opposite corners for evenness in stickiness and surfaces.
  7. Press the retainer ring back onto the cap.
  8. Screw the retainer ring and cap onto the lamp.
For contrast, the video shows red and white flashlight circles side by side.

Getting an Elastic-band Headlight

Western Safety manufactures a headlamp commonly available at Amazon and Harbor Freight. Amazon's price is $1.79, and Harbor Freight's list price is $2.99. HF often offers freebie coupons for walk-in purchases. (Buy something, get lamp free.) For additional types of headlamps, visit Google image offerings.

Some Caveats of the Western Safety Headlamp

You might run into at least one of the following situations if you get headlamps that this company manufactures. The first two items have workarounds.

  • Slots for straps might be wide; straps might loosen from the unit. (Tape the strap pegs together.)

    Related: Contrast two styles of strap retainers and slots.

  • Straps might be short (tight fit) for the wearer. (Stitch an extender, such as a piece of a lanyard or wide ribbon.)

  • Switch sometimes doesn't turn on reliably.

  • Battery cavity can be slightly undersized and batteries not fitting well.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Nandina Domestica—Good, Bad, not Ugly

Out on a walk early February 4, I spotted a plant with striking red berries and vibrant leaves, making me think of Christmas and holly. It was growing wild in a shallow ravine just behind a guard rail.

The weather around that time was surprisingly moderate—mid-60s to 70ish, no precipitation. For that matter, January and February this year seemed mostly pretty springy, with February staying moderate except for about February 8 and 9, when wintery weather came for a short visit.

Took a few pix, then created a composite. Being pretty ignorant about plants, I posted the image to LinkedIn and requested ID help. Happily for me, a connection shortly replied and IDed it as "nandina", enthusiastically embracing its ever greenness and presence in her yard.

That enthusiasm and ID at that time sent me off web-hunting A Google search for "nandina" returned numerous hits that allude to poisonous and invasive properties. Hmmm, maybe nandina has both fans and haters. More on that later.

About a week or so ago, I ran across a copy of native plant species that a blogger friend of mine provided for one of the annual nearby nature walks. One item was "Nandina, heavenly bamboo — Nandina domestica", in the category of "Some Alien Invasive Plant Species ...". ("Alien" and "Invasive" in the same breath don't sound complimentary to me.)

"What Are the Different Types of Nandina Shrubs?" provides a good overview of the plant.
The shrubs are also called heavenly bamboo due to their upright shoots, which resemble those of bamboo, but in fact they're no relation. In U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, where nandina shrubs grow year-round, they can become invasive. ... To help prevent nandinas from taking over your yard, grow nonfruiting varieties. … Nandina leaves and berries are toxic and may be harmful to birds, humans, grazing animals and cats.

"Nandina domestica Heavenly Bamboo" provides both positive and negative points. (BTW, the site's pic at the left side shows just the berries and leaves that are very similar to my pic.)

Good and not Ugly (Upside)
Nandina spreads slowly by underground stems, providing attractive clumps for entryways, containers, or as specimen plantings in a ground cover. They also add an accent to the front of a shrub border when planted in groups or clumps.

Nandina is a low maintenance shrub, requiring only one pruning each year to control plant height, if needed.

Bad (Downside)
Plants have been reported as invasive into selected natural areas in Florida and other southern states.

"Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo)" echoes a similar downside sentiment: "Native to Japan, China and India. Plants tend to be invasive in some southern states".

"Nandina (Nandina domestica)" is a two-minute video that provides good basic description and images of the plant. It, like several resources I've run across, mention the invasiveness.

"Heavenly Bamboo" provides description, pictures, and care information. No downside info. Wonder why? It's a plant vendor. Gave me pause to see the price—$69, considering the one I spotted was growing wild and free.

Additional Resources
  • "Nandina domestica Heavenly bamboo" heavily describes the plant's physical characteristics, propagation means, toxicity to some animals, and difficulty in controlling it. Note the website's name includes "invasives".
  • "Why nandina berries and certain birds don't mix" provides good basic info about nandina with a bit more specifics about the cedar waxwing bird's eating habits that make the berries more dangerous for them than most other animals. The embedded video describes the berries and leaf shape and configuration for those of us curious non-botanists.
  • "Just Try To Kill Nandina!" is an entertaining article that the author seems to both grudgingly admire the nandina for its beauty, yet also disdain the plant's tenacity for survival and propagation.
More Recent Composite, with Flowers

Three months after having taken the February pix, saw flowers and no berries. From "Nandina domestica" WRT order of flowers/berries, "8-15 in. erect panicle of white flowers in early summer; panicle of 0.3 in. bright red berries fall into winter". Panicle's a new term for me! Wisegeek's "What is a Panicle?" explains, "A panicle is a cluster of flowers which grows on the end of a branch or shoot."

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Reaching Past Pasta Ads that Feature La Donna E Mobile

Every now and then, I've tried finding a TV commercial that advertised pasta and used a particularly catchy classical piece. I've long since forgotten the name of the pasta and most of the pasta words. I had never learned the name of the music until a few weeks ago. With some further effort beyond doing a playlist lookup for my local classical music radio station, I narrowed it down to "La Donna E Mobile" from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto. ("La Donna e Mobile" is a 43-sec instrumental autoplay audio that loops.)

I figured it would be easy to find the TV ad on YouTube, but it wasn't so. I expanded my searches. I've wracked my brain and looked all over the web. I posted to a forum requesting help in finding the ad. My inquiry included my feeble recall of lyrics that mention pasta shapes, such as mostaccioli, vermecilli, …. It seems the singer mentioned about 20 pasta shapes.

A couple of suggestions were close, but not correct. "The Pasta Song" has loads of pasta shapes in both lyrics and images. Not the correct song, however. Be forewarned that the images are mouth-watering and maybe hunger inducing! "Leggos ad by Grey Melbourne" starts out with a charming choreography of dancing tomatoes, and ends with their total destruction into sauce. Integration with music equipment is fascinating! Right music, incorrect lyrics.

I had an interesting journey seeking the ad. Besides encountering some nice performances, the following resources helped provide some overview of the opera plot.
Deeper curiosity about the plot led me to "Rigoletto Synopsis The Story of Verdi's Rigoletto", which provides info about the composer, characters, and summary about the entire play.

My curiosity about pronunciation percolated. "How to pronounce La donna è mobile" and "'La donna è mobile' Verdi (Rigoletto)" seem sensible resources.

The following links describe the popularity of La Donna e Mobile for various products—Doritos, tomato paste, Dancing with the Stars, Nestle Choco Crossies (cookies), AXE (body spray), …
I have almost totally given up on trying to find the ad (eh, from maybe early 60s). I suppose someone's parent or older friend who worked there AND spotted this resource or my article could specify the company name. Long shot, I think.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bur Oak Acorn, Walnut-sized Nut

I spotted the curious-looking bur oak acorn just before Halloween. The acorn had a bushy cap, like a short-dreadlocks hairstyle. The acorn itself seemed about the size of a walnut. After I took it home, I found that the cap easily detached. The composite shows the acorn and cap with measuring stick.
I needed help with IDing the acorn; I made a composite picture with measuring stick, the acorn, and some live oak acorns for acorn-size comparisons.
Mama mia! Like imagining a bunch of munchins grouped near Jabba the Hutt!

I posted the comparison image to LinkedIn with a request for ID help. A LinkedIn connection kindly IDed it as a bur oak acorn and provided a link that redirected to Etsy’s “Popular items for burr oak acorns”. What an eyeful!

TexasSmartScape’s “Bur Oak Details” provides a general-interest description suitable for would-be tree owners. The acorn size info confirms largeness—“The acorns can be up to 2 inches in size”. The cap description is “thick mossy”.

"What Is This Thing? Bur oak acorn cap" goes into great detail about the cap. The site shows some pictures of size variations of one tree’s acorns and leaves. (Other comparison pictures show acorns and caps for bur oak against some other oaks.)
gargantuan, monster acorn caps from the bur oak tree (Quercus macrocarpa) … weird because of the shaggy ornamentation encircling the cap. … Caps in the southern portion have long fringe hairs while others at the far north of its range are much smaller and barely have any shag at all. … The shagginess and the size of the cap are the reason for one of the tree's other common names: mossy-cup oak. … The Latin name macrocarpa translates to "large fruit." The acorns of bur oak are the largest of all the native oaks.
"How to Identify Oaks Using Acorns" was helpful in identifying the smallish acorns I collected in the yard. These are shiny, stripey, and sleek, and matched pictures of live oak acorns on the site.

Although I also have Texas red oak trees (Quercus buckleyi)—or trees closely related to them, the site’s pictures of red oaks' acorns more resemble the nuts I’ve seen in spring sproutings. (I’d actually transplanted a few over the years. I kid about squirrels burying such nuts and forgetting about them later.)

How to Identify Oaks by the Acorns” is another source for identifying oaks by their acorns. The websites’ approaches are different, but helpful with content and images.

Are you ambitious enough to try to process acorns for consumption? “Foraging for Acorns: Identification, Processing + Acorn Recipes” is loaded with how-to information.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Raking Leaves Ain't Hard to Do (widescreen)

My previous article about parodying "Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" included info about raking leaves chores and implements, and parts collection for the music videos. (It points to the YouTube video that integrates content, scrolling lyrics, and vocals.) This article, besides pointing to the widescreen video, describes some of my processes and the lessons learned for picking, creating, and integrating items into both video versions.

After deciding that raking chores were both fun and not fun, we decided Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" would be doable for music and lyrical twists. For refamiliarizing myself with the music, I poked around YouTube for instances of both vocal and instrumental versions. It took me a few tries of writing leaf-rake-theme lyrics, with occasional recent tweaking, to mimic Breaking's rhyme scheme and meter.

In December, I shot videos of mostly leaf blowing and stills of items I thought might be usable. In January, I shot videos of myself with leaf-raking implements. Over time, I took and edited screenshots and scans—sizing, placements, enhancements.

I compiled an initial video using clips. For creating the scrolling-lyrics version (narrow-screen), I then recorded a widescreen mid-section, but with the action area to the left and a blank area to the right. I then severely edited out dead-action sections of the narrow-screen video. Afterward, I revisited the initial video, editing and matching clip durations of the narrow-screen version.

The vocals were challenging. I've not sung in a group for, uh, a long time. Singing melody's easier than singing harmony. My range and timing are not so hot; I'm not planning to go pro anytime soon.

Initial Distortion Issues and Resolution
Major lesson learned was recording of the vocals. (I used the microphone in my Canon PowerShot.) Some of my recording attempts resulted in distortions:
  • Recording with the camera too close to the speaker (~15 inches away).
  • Having the speaker volume too high.
I resolved the issues by being sure to mount the camera on a tripod, about a yard away from the speaker, high enough for me stand and sing while holding the lyrics sheet. Because the earlier recording also showed the background in viewfinder, I was able to position the camera in the same place the next day.

Takes, Vocals Timings
I created multiple tracks of instrumental sections—intro, which also served as the song ending, verse 1 and 2 together (v1v2), and bridge with verse 3 (bridgeandv3). I sang into these tracks to emulate multiple takes to lessen the number of start/stop times. After reviewing recordings, I could hear problems—hurrying, lagging, mispronunciations, off-key notes. Audio graphs made me think of marching band members that are out of step.

I had recorded separate soprano and alto sections for v1v2 and bridgeandv3. Attempts to mesh each song part resulted in awfulness. Subsequently, recording multiple takes of soprano during playback of alto worked reasonably well.

The initial integrated videos amounted to a little over 2 minutes. The audio, consisting of intro, v1v2, bridgeandv3 twice, and intro again, amounted to almost 2 1/2 minutes. (The final audio drove the videos.) To align the story telling, I duplicated appropriate visual parts for matching lyrics, varying speed rates of clips and durations of images. Lyrics follow.
Raking Leaves Ain't Hard to Do

Do do do darn, lots of leaves are down!
Come on, get the rakes and leaf bags now,
Come on, get the blower, chute, and dust pan, too,
Raking leaves ain’t hard to do!

Don't bellyache, complain to me.
Don't you think it's time to rake the leaves?
If you leave, then I'll feel blue,
Coz raking 'lone's no fun to do.

Remember when you'd nag me times,
That we had a lot of leaves in sight?
Think of bags that we've gone through,
But raking wasn't hard to do.

You often say that raking's a drudge to do,
Now you know it isn’t quite true,
Don’t grump or be in a funk,
Instead of feeling dreary,
I wish that we were being cheery.

I'm telling you, we'll have good fun,
Movin' leaves around and raking them up,
Sacking, packing bags in rows of two,
Raking leaves ain't hard to do.

[Repeat bridge and subsequent verse.]

Do do do darn, lots of leaves are down!
Come on, get the rakes and leaf bags now,
Come on, get the blower, chute, and dust pan, too,
Raking leaves ain’t hard to do!
If you prefer, you can view lyrics in the YouTube video "Raking Leaves Ain't Hard to Do (with scrolling lyrics)".

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Raking Leaves Ain't Hard to Do (with scrolling lyrics)

Early December, raking chores inspired me to parody "Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do". I wrote and sang (not greatly) words to go with "Breaking Up" instrumental music. This article points to the YouTube video that integrates original content, scrolling lyrics, and vocals.

For working items, I shot videos of blowing leaves using a blower and holding up equipment (rakes, leaf bags, blower, leaf chute, and dust pan). For still images, I shot pictures, created and edited images. I created widescreen and narrow-view videos. This narrow-view version shows scrolling lyrics at the right side.

Note: The resolution is less sharp than with original video clips. I had displayed and recorded the clips so the visuals would show up narrow and offset, with a solid section to the right for later addition of scrolling lyrics.

"Raking Leaves Ain't Hard to Do (widescreen)" links to the widescreen version, which shows no scrolling lyrics, but more of the backgrounds. It also describes some of the lessons learned for picking, creating, and integrating items into the two video versions.

I've pasted part of the parody lyrics; the rest are available at the YouTube video.
Do do do darn, lots of leaves are down!
Come on, get the rakes and leaf bags now,
Come on, get the blower, chute, and dust pan, too,
Raking leaves ain’t hard to do!

Don't bellyache, complain to me.
Don't you think it's time to rake the leaves?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

An Earl of Sandwich at a Blue Baker

Over several years of patronizing Blue Baker (Austin), I'd occasionally glanced at wall artwork—mostly food items and an Earl of Sandwich.

Blue Baker's painting of the Earl of Sandwich conveys a lot of basic info, starting with the banner above him with name and title. He sits with his arms almost folded, holding a card hand in his right hand. Behind him at his right shoulder is a sandwich. A nearby scroll displays short text about his sandwich association.

About a month ago, I took closer note of the card hand. He held the ace of diamonds, king of spades, queen of hearts, jack of clubs, and ten of hearts. I got to thinking about card hand ranks. "Poker Hand Rankings" shows images and text for the 10 ranking poker hands. Because the earl's sequential cards (ace high) are not in the same suit, the hand is not the highest ranked royal flush, but seventh-ranked straight.

The sandwich part of the image piqued me to consider single-hand foods. On one hand, impractical sandwiches—sloppy (Sloppy Joes), oversize (triple burgers), utensil-required open-face sandwiches. On another hand, dough-enclosure foods that totally envelop fillings.

Awkward Sandwiches

Sandwiches can be drippy and messy, such as sloppy joes. How about open-faced sandwiches that go against the earl's intent of one-handed eating? How about a Dagwood, which "Dagwood Sandwich History" describes it as "a mountainous pile of dissimilar leftovers precariously arranged between two slices of bread"?

Seems that more recently, several eatery chains offer up sandwiches that are as thick as they are wide. Examples include triple-patty burgers and submarine sandwiches with multiple items and options for extra meat servings. Do a Google image search for "thick sandwiches" for eye-popping pictures.

Dough-enclosure Foods

Maybe Earl of Sandwich was capable of eating a sandwich while playing cards. More convenient hand handling foods would seem to be dough-enclosure foods like piroshki, savory kolaches, bierocks, and Chinese pork buns. With apparent similar feature of keeping fillings inside, empañadas are smaller hand-held turnovers.

"Baked Piroshki (Russian Stuffed Rolls)" explains the stuffed pies and mentions similar hand-held foods. It also points to "Bierocks (German Stuffed Rolls)". I'd not heard of bierocks before, but they sound similar to piroshki. Both sites include cultural info, pictures, and recipes.

"The Czech Pastry That Took Texas By Storm, And Keeps Gaining Strength" explains that kolaches are Czech-origin, but savory ones started in Texas.
While traditional kolaches are fruit-filled, a Texan twist evolved when they were made with sausage, cheese and jalapeños. Irwin, a self-proclaimed kolache purist, maintains that these are not true kolaches, but rather what her father called a "klobasniki."
"Pork Buns" shows seven types of pork buns—baked, fried, steamed, with links to recipes.

Ahhh, I'm not much into bread dough labor, even though I have both a tilt-head mixer and bread maker. I use them in spurts. Pizza recipes make my eyes glaze over. My favorite way to get these fresh, doughy foods is to go to ethnic eateries. Or think about other things till the yens subside.


In the distant past, I had prepared a sandwich that evolved from BLT. The initials were good reminders of the ingredients, excluding condiments. A BLEATCH sandwich is labor intensive, and easier to assemble if ingredients are prepared and parceled out ahead of time.

Initial ingredients (Prepare with consideration for bread size you'd use.)
  • Bacon (couple of cooked slices)
  • Lettuce (a leaf)
  • Egg (yolk broken and cooked after egg flip, or stir then pan-fried as though for an omelet)
  • Avocado (a layer. It'd be BLETCH without avocado.)
  • Tomato (a layer)
  • Cheese (a slice or more)
  • Ham (a slice)
Lightly grill or toast two slices of bread. Spread condiments. Assemble initial ingredients between the bread slices. Your stacking order may vary.

Another Early Look

For more details and images of the Earl of Sandwich, visit "The sandwich was named after an 18th century earl who didn’t want to take a break from gambling to eat".

Friday, January 11, 2019

2019 New Year's Day Buck

On January 1 about 4:30 PM, I spotted the buck during a neighborhood walk. Those antlers were the biggest I've seen in a residential area. I wondered What kind of deer I recorded? Based on several sources that indicate loads of white-tailed deer in Texas, and confirming concentrations in Central Texas, I'd say he was a white-tail buck. Also, he resembles several pix I've run across in websites. From "What Kind of Deer Are in Texas?":
Two species of deer are native to Texas’s vast and varied countryside: the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the mule deer (O. heminous). … one of the largest populations of whitetails in the country: close to four million. … White-tailed deer, the most widely distributed and evolutionarily ancient deer in North America, get their common name from the snowy underside of their tails, which they prominently flash when alarmed.

The Texas whitetail (O. v. texanus) occupies the broadest range, found across most of the central and western portions of the state. … Compared to whitetails, mule deer -- named for their outsized ears -- have a much smaller native range in Texas. … According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, the state likely harbors between 150,000 and 250,000 mule deer.
Visit "A QUICK GUIDE TO DIFFERENTIATE MULE DEER FROM WHITE-TAILED DEER" for good content and side-by-side pictures to contrast these two deer types.

"5 Facts About Texas Deer That You May or May Not Know" states that 3.6 million white-tailed deer are in Texas (as of November 2017 publication). Regarding size, "South Texas produces the biggest white-tailed deer, due to the protein in the brush that the deer eat there." (The three white-tail deer in the group picture resemble my neighborhood buck.)
I wondered about antlers. "How Do Deer Antlers Grow?" provided rudimentary info.
Deer antlers are growths of bone that deer and similar animals produce for mating season. Only male deer produce antlers, and few deer keep their antlers for long periods. Contrary to popular belief, the size of the antlers and the number of points do not indicate the age of the deer.
I wondered further: How fast do antlers grow? What happens to shed antlers? More details about the velvety fuzz on antlers?

For a really in-depth read, visit "About Deer Antlers". Interesting factoid—"antler growth is one of the fastest known types of tissue growth in mammals, and a deer’s antlers can grow at a rate of 1/4 inch per day".

From "What Happens to a Male Deer's Antlers in the Winter?"
they eventually drop off sometime between December and March -- not always at the same time -- and are left behind. The skull bleeds and scabs over, healing so the antlers can grow back in the spring. In the meantime, the antlers that he shed are eaten by smaller animals like squirrels, who benefit from whatever calcium remains.
"White-tailed Deer" provides more details about antlers.
antlers are shed each year after breeding season and must be replaced with a new set grown the following year. … Shedding takes place from mid-January to mid-April, but most mature bucks in good physical condition have dropped their antlers by the end of February.

Unlike horns, antlers are solid bone and are grown only by members of the deer family.
For very detailed descriptions of the antler process, accompanied by stunning images of bucks' heads, visit "Whitetail Deer Antler Growth Process". As for velvety antlers:
Most northern bucks will have completed their antler growth by the 10th of August, … For the next 20-25 days the antlers will harden. During this time … the velvet covering the antlers shrinks as the blood flow slows. Sometime in late August through mid-September most bucks will peel the velvet from their antlers.
I thought about additional curiosities about deer, such as speed, odd head noises, and jumping.

"How Fast Does a Whitetail Deer Run?" states "White-tailed deer can sprint at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour."

Have you been close enough to hear deer snort or make other weird head noises? "Bleats to Grunts – Deer Sounds and What They Mean" contains lots of authoritative content and videos.

Wonder about deer jumping capabilities? A company that sells fence kits describes the relationship between deer vision and fence jumping. From "FACTS ABOUT DEER AND FENCES: WHY DEER JUMP":
They have real trouble seeing the fence top. Deer see best in the yellow, deep blue and certain ultraviolet portions of the spectrum, …. In addition, deer have limited depth perception. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads (for wrap-around peripheral vision to spot predators), so their binocular vision is sacrificed and their 3D sense (especially for nearby objects) is weak. Thus, they have difficulty telling where your barely visible deer fence leaves off and the trees or sky begin.
Another company that sells fence parts also describes deer vision and fence jumping. From "How High Does a Deer Fence Need To Be?":
Deer can jump an average of 8’ high, but will not risk the jump if they are uncertain because they have poor vertical vision … both plastic deer fencing and PVC-coated steel hex web mesh deer fence poorly reflect these wavelengths.
For more info about fences and other means to resolve deer problems in your area, the following sites provide suggestions. (The fourth website more emphasizes using plants than fences.)
I myself don't see deer sauntering near my own home, and have very little in the way of a salad bar that attracts deer. The buck was a happy accidental spotting to start my year off.