Monochrome Flashback: Eagle River Valley, Alaska; 07 February 2009

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Eagle River Valley, photographed in the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska; 07 February 2009. Click image to enlarge.

Note: Our next few posts will feature monochrome images from Alaska and the western United States. We’ll keep the text quite short and succinct this upcoming week. I will, however, post at least one image a day.

Eumetopias jubatus, the Steller Sea Lion, near Resurrection Bay, Alaska; 25 May 2008

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Eumetopias jubatus, the Steller sea lion, photographed in Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska (25 May 2008).

We’re launching into a far-out-west series of sorts on Dust Tracks. I’ve got a bit of wanderlust in my heart right now, but with the fall term fast approaching I won’t be doing much traveling anytime soon. So, we’ll simply play around with some images and memories from 2007 through 2011 — from when we lived in Alaska, as well as the epic trans-continental roadtrips that bookended our time in the Great White North of Alaska.

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Anisomorpha buprestoides, the Southern Two-striped Walking Stick, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 08 August 2014

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Anisomorpha buprestoides, the Southern two-striped walking stick, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (08 August 2014).

As I’ve noted before on Dust Tracks, we don’t have nearly the population density of arthropods in our Ormond Beach, Florida neighborhood as we did in Valdosta, Georgia from 2011-2013. In Ormond Beach, we’re closer to “town,” so we’re more in the thick of bug control and all that development jazz. In Valdosta, we were off on the edge, somewhat isolated; the bugs were everywhere. Not so much the case here in Ormond… at least not in our backyard. Sure, we still have more bugs than some might consider comfortable, but it’s not enough bio-diversity and -density for a cat like me.

One arthropod we don’t seem to lack, however, is the Southern two-striped walking stick, Anisomorpha buprestoides, featured on this post. I see these behemoth tanks of Order Phasmatodea fairly often, though not quite on a weekly basis.

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Neoscona crucifera, the Hentz’s Orbweaver Spider, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 02 August 2014

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Neoscona crucifera, the Hentz’s orbweaver spider, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (02 August 2014).

In this post, we’re flipping the two Neoscona species featured in our last post. Here we see larger images of Neoscona crucifera, Hentz’s orbweaver, with an inset of a Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured spotted orbweaver. Both spiders were photographed in Bulow Creek State Park (Volusia county, Florida) in early August.

People have all kinds of reactions to spiders in the wild, not to mention spiders in and around the home. Those reactions often lean toward fear, which is unfortunate but unsurprising. Ever since I was a wee kid scampering about in central Florida and central Oklahoma, I’ve loved spiders, but that’s not to say I’ve always been impervious to the Fear Factor. I’ve had my share of freak outs with spiders, if I’m to be entirely honest with you…

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Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured Spotted Orbweaver, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 01 August 2014

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Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured spotted orbweaver, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (01 August 2014).

In this post, we have two similar species of Neoscona orb weavers commonly seen throughout central Florida (and elsewhere): Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured spotted orbweaver, and Neocona crucifera, the Hentz’s orbweaver. Between the two, N. crucifera is a bit larger, and N. domiciliorum is typically more striking in its coloration and figure-ground contrast. Both are commonly seen, however — and can easily be confused with one another by casual observers. I’ve certainly seen no shortage of the two species in recent months. I come across them often by both day and night.

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Nephila clavipes, the Golden Silk Orbweaver, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 02 August 2014

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Nephila clavipes, the Golden silk orbweaver spider, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (02 August 2014).

Expect a series of quickfire posts in the next few days — specifically of the arachnid variety! I have a small series of spiders I really want to visit on Dust Tracksor, more accurately, revisit–, but I don’t want to spend an entire week in SpiderLand. Know what I mean? So, let’s get to it and spin some webs! We’ll start with one of the largest and most recognizable spiders found throughout the Floridian peninsula (and elsewhere): The Golden silk orbweaver, Nephila clavipes.

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Sunset Over Boardman Pond and the Ormond Loop; Seeking Balance

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Bulow Creek State Park, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (29 June 2014).

As I type this, August 2014 has already rolled into town. I’m not even sure what happened to July; it came and went so fast, I never even heard it say goodbye, much less hello. There was a time –when I was younger, trimmer, and had more hair– when summer days felt like they’d never end. Each day seemed like a universe of exploration and discovery, of boundless energy and activity. This summer’s been a different story for a number of reasons.

On top of work and family, I’ve been doing a little dance with my thyroid. I am hereby medically certified to have a lovely case of hypothyroidism. I almost feel like I should receive an officially-printed certificate or something. Other than a rather nasty vehicular accident shortly after my 21st birthday (and that time I drank a gallon of paint thinner when I was three and a half), this is the most significant biological “event” in my life. Overall, I have been a very lucky person health-wise, despite a few decades of moderately harsh abuse (smoking, drinking, Wayne’s World, the Macarena, and so on). Still, I can’t really call this a crisis because it simply isn’t. Of all the biological hiccups a lumbering hominid can suffer in the early 21st century, hypothyroidism is a fairly minor one. At least once you figure out what the hell is going on and start working on treatment.

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words and images by Janson Jones