Monthly Archives: January 2013

A morbid little digression

The story you are about to read is true, names have been changed, and the story has been reformatted to fit your viewing apparatus.Thoughts about death

Hooray for bad photographs!!

A certain friend of mine continually emails blur-tastic photos of various natural history subjects, the

Hippodamia convergens

Hippodamia convergens

photographs are merely to communicate and do that job well. Another friend takes excellent photographs that discourage most people from ever picking up a camera but inspire entomologic love. There are many sites that will tell you how to take good photographs, but today I am going to encourage you to take bad photographs and share them. There are numerous citizen science projects like: BAMONA, Odonata Central, and Lost Ladybug Project that would be very pleased to share your very bad nature photography. I know that

Coccinella septempunctata

Coccinella septempunctata

Rebecca at the Lost Ladybug Project seems to be absolutely thrilled to get the data (and eyestrain) from my terrible photos.  These photographs are really bad, but they are good enough to serve as documentation. Some readers will be appalled that I would take, post, and encourage bad photographs – I should strive for excellence. Actually, I have a limited amount of excellence and I am saving it for something really important.

Sometimes your photos will be so poor as to be

Olla v-nigrum

Olla v-nigrum

useless. For me these are typically taken during Christmas Bird Counts and serve as the documentation for a rare bird report. I have also taken really bad photos of dragonflies for Odonata Central and some real stinkers of moths for BAMONA – I bet I can take bad photos of almost any taxon. Sure bigfoot-quality photographs may not be the most pleasing to look at, but they can be valuable assets to citizen science projects. An additional benefit to taking lots of bad photos is the practice may eventually help you to take decent photos.

Harmonia axyridis

Harmonia axyridis

I used to use my cell phone for 95% of my picture taking. Now I use an old compact camera with sand in the lens mechanism that requires use of a knife to pry the lens in place to begin shooting. I took all of the photographs in this post with my cell phone and submitted them to Rebecca at Lost Ladybug Project. Rebecca was able to confirm the identity of the insects in the photos (because of her super powers) and now these photos are part of the data set. (Were you able to identify all of the ladybugs?)

There is a big wide world out there in need of photo documentation, so get out there and take some really bad photographs. AND don’t forget to share your photos with citizen science projects, they really do benefit from your bad photos. In my role as Idaho State Coordinator for BAMONA, I have seen some really bad photos that have been identifiable and have seen some really good photos I could not identify. I look forward to seeing your bad photography in the future, and won’t be too disappointed as it improves with practice.

The value of dragonflies

As usual, true story. There could be a long explanation, but that would be long and boring. Let it suffice to say that I have a good deal of frustration with people who shown a wild orchid or rare moth say: “but what good is it?” In this instance my response wasn’t respectful, but it was from the heart. the value of dragonflies

The aquatic underpants of Mississippi County

The story you are about to read is based on real events, involved real people, and is as old as the human race. I have debated on the best way to tell the story: graphic novel, movie, a scientific paper in PNAS, opera, or epic poem – in truth the story will eventually be told all these ways.  Currently, the story is part of the oral tradition of Dorena – a small community in Mississippi County Missouri. This is a story of happier times, before the Army Engineers blew up the levee and flooded the land, way back in 2007…


Like many epic entomology stories, this story involves Ted MacRae and the sorts of things that happen in the field that you simply can’t invent. This is the first public telling of the story in print.

Ted and I were looking for Cylindera curistans, but The Mississippi River was high and some of the habitat was flooded. There was a small area of beach at the Dorena ferry landing that was not flooded and we decided to see what tiger beetles might be using this area. A father, son and daughter were fishing in the swollen river adjacent to the beach. The son was about seven years old and was immediately drawn to what we doing. When he found out we were looking for beetles he got right in Ted’s face and explained to him: “the beetles on this beach are really fast, you get up close to them and WHOOSH they run away”. I really enjoyed watching one of North America’s top tiger beetle guys getting schooled about tiger beetles. Ted thanked the youngster for the information and after some polite small talk went back to searching the beach for beetles. Watching entomologists work is about as exciting as watching paint dry, so the son went back to fishing after pronouncing chasing tiger beetles to be weird.

Soon after picking his fishing rod up, the son had a bite and set the hook – fish on! The kid’s fishing rod was bent as he excitedly reeled in line. His sister and dad prepared to help him land this leviathan of the river. As the fish was nearing the shore, it wasn’t quite right. When the kid brought his hook out of the water, there attached to the hook was underwear with a Superman insignia that looked to be just about the kid’s size. The kid took the underwear off the hook, but before he could release them back into the Mississippi, his father said: “Son, you caught ’em; now you got to wear ’em.” The son started crying and his sister started laughing.

And the poor kid thought chasing tiger beetles was weird…