Birdbath (7)

The original idea behind exploring water from a birdbath was to see if it contained any Rotifers. The fourth slide answered that question in the affirmative. Most Rotifers are between 100 um and 500 um long when completely extended. Although, in extreme cases, they can measure 50 um on the short side and 2,000 um (2mm) on the long side.

2014-0819aThis Rotifer, measuring about 250 um in a partially contracted state, would be on the large end of that scale.

Rove Beetle

Rove Beetle - Family: Staphylinidae

Rove Beetle – Family: Staphylinidae

This is only the second insect of its type that I have encountered. This is somewhat surprising since, with 58,000 species in thousands of genera, they are the largest family of beetles. They are, however, rather secretive; living mostly under rocks and in the deepest layers of leaf litter.

They are a very primitive looking group of insects that can be mistaken for the larvae of some other critter. Their eletra (wing covers – orange in the above image) are very small and cover only a very small portion of the abdomen. Virtually all other beetles have eletra that extend over the entire length of the abdomen.

Not only do Rove Beetles look primitive, it could easily be said that they are primitive. Fossil Rove Beetles, virtually identical to today’s specimens, have been traced to the Triassic period, 200 million years ago.


Altai Scarp

Six times a year the A.L.P.O. Lunar Section assigns its members a lunar feature, or group of features, to observe and photograph (or draw). The current assignment is the Altai Scarp, a 315 mile long line of steep cliffs that was created when a section of the lunar surface collapsed.

Altai Scarp

Altai Scarp

The Altai Scarp shows as a bright line running diagonally down to the crater Piccolomini.

If you would like to participate (you do not need to be a member) go to the link below for submission guidelines. Shortly after the first of the month the same link will take you to the report written on the subject, using images submitted.

The Lunar Observer


Asian Lady Bugs

Lady Bugs are perhaps the most “popular” beetles in North America. They are very numerous and easily recognizable. They are also quite varied (46 genera, 400 species) but most people ignore their details and just lump them all together as a single type.

Without attracting much attention one of the more common native Lady Bugs, the Nine-spotted variety (Coccinella novemnotata), is being forced out of its natural habitat by several invasive species. The most likely “villain” appears to be the Asian Lady Bug (Harmonia axyridis). Although it feeds on aphids (a plus in many people’s minds) it is destructive to many food crops, most notably grapes.

Although I have not made a concerted effort in this field, it is significant to note that none of the Lady Bugs I have photographed in the last several years have been Nine-spotted. All have been the same invasive Asian species.

Asian Lady Bug - Harmonia axyridis

Asian Lady Bug – Harmonia axyridis


Butterflies and Moths

Haploa Clymene

Haploa Clymene

Butterflies and moths are very closely related; they make up the entire order of insects known as Lepidoptera. They are also very similar in appearance, sometimes rather difficult to tell apart. There are, however, two classic rules-of-thumb that are very helpful.

(1) Butterflies are active during daylight hours while moths are almost always nocturnal.

(2) Butterflies have long slender antennae while those of a moth are usually short and feathery.

When I photographed this colorful critter it was around 11 o’clock in the morning (check), and I immediately noted that its antennae were long and slender (check). When I looked it up on the internet I found that it was Haploa clymene – more commonly known as a Haploa Moth. Yes, a moth! What can I say? Rules-of-thumb are simply that, no more.

Birdbath (5)

I have not found Amoebas to be as numerous as some popular literature would have us believe. Nor are they particularly easy to find when they are present; some say that it is like looking for a drop of water on a piece of glass. With this in mind I considered myself lucky when I found a nice specimen on only the second slide of water from the birdbath.

2014-0809aBeing a rather small Amoeba it does not have the classic appearance of an Amoeba Proteus we are all familiar with – a rather round organism with dozens of narrow pseudopods extending in all directions. It is more of an oblong mass whose entire body changes shape as it moves along. Although it moved slowly enough to make single exposures possible, only a video can do justice to this fascinating shape-shifter.


See video at:

Birdbath (4)

The real attention getters in any sample of “living” water are the protozoa; simply because they move. It would probably do well to mention that protozoa (first animals) got the name because they apparently were very primitive and obviously were animals. Eventually, as our knowledge of living chemistry grew it became clear that, although primitive, they were not really animals but needed to be placed in their own kingdom – Protista.

One of the larger protozoans was of the genus Colpoda; and it was moving just slowly enough to be captured in a single image (after a half dozen unsuccessful attempts).

2014-0807aAnother large protozoan was still in its encysted state and so it was easily photographed but could not be properly identified.

2014-0807bThe majority of the protozoa were both smaller and much more active. In order to make a complete record of the sample’s inhabitants I will be capturing them on videos. Video is one of the most important tools available to the modern microscopist. Even those who prefer to record their observations with drawings will find it invaluable. It is quite useful to first make a video of an active organism and then keep replaying it to pick up additional details with each viewing.


Birdbath (2)

The birdbath water exceeded my expectations. Not only was it full of algae, as evidenced by its color, it was teeming with a number of other organisms.

Some of the filamentous algae on the first slide are shown below. It would be wise to point out that all algae are single celled. Even the algae that show themselves as long strings are not multi-celled organisms in the true sense. They are independant single celled organisms that are linked into colonies but have no metabolic connection with each other.

The alga directly below was the most numerous on the first slide. The other more clearly shows the loose association of cells that form algal filaments.