Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summer 2014 Tidbits

California Pitcher Plant - Darlingtonia californica
I sketched these earlier in the week when we were just north of Florence, on the Oregon coast.  These wonderful pitcher plants have heads on them that are as large as medium sized oranges.  Inside their stems they brew up a chemical cocktail that attracts insects and digests them.  

Summer is flying by.  I’m working on three posts, all of which need more work … and so, just so you don’t think I’ve forgotten about posting, I’m going to do a quick and easy ‘tidbits.’

Yesterday's field sketch of a hummingbird who visited us while we were eating lunch.

Yesterday is a good example of why I’m too busy to get all my writing done.  Early morning we headed upriver (the Umpqua River, Oregon) hoping to find something of interest.  I got to do a little sketching; Dale photographed more than I did.  Among the species we photographed were a few flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, robber flies, a toad, a flicker, a crossbill, and nighthawks.  I got to draw a hummingbird, goat’s beard, a spider, and false Solomon’s seal.

Goat's Beard

Common Nighthawk

A sky-full of hunting nighthawks

Common nighthawks gave us a big thrill.  The shadows were long and we were finally heading home.  At 6:40 PM we came upon at least 100 nighthawks, maybe 200.  The sky was full of zipping and tilting and fluttering. They were hunting tiny insects in the sky above us.  We stopped and enjoyed this late summer treat for twenty minutes before resuming our two hour drive home.  

Here is another example of how easily sidetracked I get.  This sweet little insect turned out to be a nymph of a ‘bush katydid’.  Dale and I had just started picking blackberries when I spotted him.  I immediately ran to get my camera and pointed him out to Dale.  Pretty soon we were both photographing instead of berry picking.  …. and then, once we got home, I still had to figure out what it was.  Fortunately there is a wonderful web site called ‘Bug Guide’ where anyone can get help identifying what they’ve found.  

Two views of the Bush Katydid
Wool-carding Bee -- see how she is rolling up a ball of white fuzz.

Here is another of my recent insect finds — an European wool-carding bee.  I’d never heard of such a thing before.  It’s a small bee, smaller than a honey bee.  I was busy trying for some wasps and butterfies that were visiting a small patch of pearly everlasting.  This little bee kept flying in low and then I realized it was harvesting the fuzz off the top side of the pearly everlasting leaves!  When she had a nice ball of fluff she flew off.  On the internet I learned they were introduced to this country fairly recently.  The fluff is used to line their nest chambers in old, rotten wood.  When my friend Cris asked me how I found this little bee I had to chuckle at myself.  That patch of pearly everlasting is only about 4 x 4 feet.  Three days ago I stared at that patch for one and a half hours.  I stood some of the time, but most of the time I sat right on the shoulder of the road, in the hot sun, waiting for one insect after another to come along.  Some people might think me a little addled.

A quick field sketch of false Solomon's seal.  Our daughter, Lita, recently gave me a brush pen.  Using it is like skating on very slick ice, but the results are striking.


  1. Sitting around waiting for insects to pass by sounds like fun to me. Clearly by your sketches you are not addled. FuN

  2. Love your Darlingtonia pitcher plants!! Did you know you can grow them here in the Pacific NW. Also any of the Sarracenia pitcher plants, which are the tall trumpet-like plants. Here in Seattle, I've been growing them for 5-6 years. They remain outside year round. Best kept in their pots, which must sit in a basic of water.
    When you grow your own, you can sketch them anytime!! Enjoy!!

  3. Wow. I saw some of these in person but not all. Fun to see the night hawks. Who knew so many flew together. You find the most interesting subjects to sketch and photograph even if in a 4x4 area. Lol that Bee still fascinates me. :))

  4. Your hummingbird on the stick with lichens is really great, Elva. And the wool-carding bee is fascinating! We have some wild pearly everlasting in our woods here in NW Montana - I may have to sit and watch it, too!

  5. Fascinating collection! Well done, Elva, as usual.

  6. And love the attitude that little nymph has staring out at you!