Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Samuel Alburn Dodson

As you folks know from previous postings that throughout the months our developing grandson was seen on our blog in 3D ultrasound and in various other standard ultrasounds. We now can officially welcome into this world Samuel Alburn Dodson!

He was born last Friday (May 26, 2006) at approximately 10:15 PM in United Hospital Center, Clarksburg, WV. It was proclaimed that Samuel was the most handsome boy ever born at that facility! (OK- that is grandpa talk!) Samuel weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and was 21 inches long.

Mom and son are doing great (along with Dad Jeff)! This brings to two the number of grandkids in our fold. Flora will be four years old this October.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

Today I was cleaning out the filter on the pond when I looked down to see one of my favorite insects. I immediately misted it with a hose so that I could take a few photos before it was able to fly off. It was the marvelously colored Six-spotted Tiger Beetle. If anyone is familiar with these critters, they know that they are rapid fliers and the misting technique is one learned after many years of teaching entomology. I have also had several students throughout the years try to catch the beasts in their hands. OUCH! The students soon learned that this beetle has a pair of powerful mandibles that can give a quality pinch.

Tiger Beetles are fairly small, growing about 1/2 inch long. They are easy to identify with their bright metallic green body. The outer wings, called elytra, each have three to five white spots. Since the beetle has two elytra, it could actually have a total of six to ten spots. Legs and antennae are also bright green.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetles can be found in open woods, and along paths and streams.
These beetles usually live alone and only get together to
breed. They can be seen from April to August. After mating, the male beetle rides on the back of the female for a while, so it can keep other males from mating with her.

Female beetles lays eggs in June or July. Each female digs holes in the ground and lays one egg in each hole. She uses her ovipositor to lay the egg, then covers up the hole with dirt.
When they hatch, beetle
larvae (called "grubs") burrow tunnels down into the soil. To eat, a larvae pops its head out of its tunnel to grab prey. It then pulls the prey down into its burrow.

Tiger beetle larvae eat ants, spiders, and other small prey it can grab. This species has a 2 year lifecycle.

Hope you enjoy my photos of this entomological gem!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Premium Nest Fodder?

For the past week a strange occurrence has been happening on our back porch. As you can see that when I sit in the rocker and sip Highlander Grogg coffee, my hairy legs are exposed in their glory.

The first event occurred last Monday as I watched a tufted titmouse fly to the edge of the porch. The bird watched me with great interest. It immediately flew to my shoes and started pulling on my wool socks. The bird did not stop there but then began pulling the hairs of my legs. Yes, my avian friend was intent on extracting my leg hairs. He even left little bill marks on my legs.

The bird repeated this process throughout last week. As soon as the bird discovered that I was sitting on the porch, the avian hair extractor would fly to me and then pull the hairs from my legs. The bird would even climb my legs trying to discover new unexplored territory and would end up sitting on my knee! I am not certain what is the stimulus for this behavior. The bird has certainly not gotten sufficient material to build a quality Meads leg hair nest!

My good wife watched this process and was amazed at the tenacity of this bird in wanting to pull my hairs. We love to watch the birds. I give my wife a hard time and when the tufted titmouse arrives I say, “Here comes the crested nipple rat!” I know- I have a strange sense of humor!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Pond Guys

Yes, in the spring of 1999, a group of biology students created our backyard pond. Superb pond technicians Brandon Craft and Mark Ferrell headed the team. Other team members included Jason Brown, Jeff Lancaster, and David Tingler.

The folks found the soil to be clay and rocks so the digging was difficult. After excavating the hole and forming shelves of 1 foot, 2 feet, and then the deepest at 3 feet, the pond and waterfall was lined with old carpet padding. Finally the liner was placed on top.

Once again, thanks guys for a job well done!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Pond

What a great place of meditation and relaxation that we have in our backyard! Several special students worked so hard in establishing a pond where only hillside exited before. They did an amazing job and they could not have presented our family with a better present. I will share some photos of the pond development in another posting.

It is a joy to watch the koi and goldfish feed. They will
meet us at the edge of the pond for food once we start walking toward the water. We also have an albino catfish that can really suck down the floating fish pellets! The pond is a haven for spring peepers (tree frogs) and even a small water snake appeared last week.

We are blessed to be able to rest in such a tranquil place!