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Moths in Panama

After a long day searching for butterflies, Linda, our guide says,  “I am putting up a white sheet and leaving a UV light on all night to see what moths we draw to the light.”  Later that night we go out to check and there is a weird collection of shapes on the sheet. They don’t even look like moths … rather they look like creatures on a Star Wars planet. Trying to photograph them, we discover we need one person to hold a flashlight while someone else points the camera at them. Here are a few moths … not content we all vow to get up early, early (5 am) and troop out to see what else flew in.  So Many! So Varied!  Linda takes photo after photo and we never see two of any moth … each new one stranger than the last. An unexpected bonus on this butterfly trip.

A 3 inch moth flew in and hung from a post. He looked like a dead leaf.

This moth has a secret

This moth has a secret

Then he fluttered to the ground and opened his wings to scare us … two large “eyes” stared at us …

Surprise! Did I scare you?

Surprise! Did I scare you?

if we were an ordinary predator maybe we would reconsider taking a bite of something which might have a large face behind those eyes. Maybe? Another question to think about …

Zapata Swamp

The Zapata swamp in Cuba is home to the Zapata Wren who sings his melodious song in this 1600 square mile wetland. Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2000 this astonishing place has swamp prairies, tidal pools, and mangroves. Going into the swamp on a small boat, poled silently thru the waterways, is like returning to a primeval world. With over 1000 plants species and 23 of the endemic birds of Cuba found here it is a rich treasure. That rare thing, silence, can also be found here deep in the heart of the wetlands Sanctuary … shelter for the soul.

These two paintings reflect my memory of the few hours we spent in the swamp.

Don’t judge a book by its covers … this applies to the entire country of Cuba.Walking down the gray streets of stone in Trinidad, I thought how cold stone is visually. Suddenly, like magic, it was time for the cafe owners, the shop keepers, and people in general to open their shuttered tall windows and doors, and color appeared. Before I took a photo of an interior I asked the person there if it was permitted to do so. They all gave me a “go ahead” smile and here are the results: a living room, an art gallery, a hat shop, a restaurant … and this was only one block! Some are sumptuous, some are restrained, but all show a great deal of thought has been put into form and color. Enjoy the ebullient feel of Cuba!

 

Walking through the landscaped grounds of a resort we see a robin-sized bird hopping around the corner of a building. Snapping to ALERT we begin sneaking slowly toward the corner. Carrina and I put our heads around the edge and a Red-legged Thrush comes into focus.

Red Legged Thrush

Red-Legged Thrush

Our Cuban guide said he is hard to see as he is usually lurking in underbrush. Here he is in an open area with the sun shining on his red legs. They are neon red!  His matching red eye is clearly outlined. We high five and glance around … there are three chambermaids, loaded with sheets, standing still with their mouths open and their eyes wide in concern looking at us. We wave and gesture at our cameras and try to reassure them we are harmless. They relax, smile, and scurry on to their jobs. Our sneaking must have been convincing!

The Cuban Tody

The Cuban Tody

The Cuban Tody

In contrast to the Bee Hummingbird, the Tody weighs 2 ounces. It is approx 4.3 inches long. This elusive little beauty hangs out high in trees … at least he did when we tried to get a photo of him. They are difficult to see but patient waiting will pay off handsomely when you spot this vibrantly colored bird.  He is endemic (native and restricted to a certain place) to Cuba and a few islands around Cuba.

 

 

 

Bee HummingbirdBee Hummingbird

Bee Hummingbird

Having seen this minute bird for myself it is still hard to believe that it weighs from 0.056 to 0.071 ounces.

Less than an ounce and still it zooms thru the air sipping nectar from flowers with abandon. His name in Cuba is Zunzun or better yet Zunzuncito. He sports iridescent feathers called a gorget hanging from his throat.

Sr. Bernabe

Sr. Bernabe

I am at the house of Sr. Bernabe who hosts the international visitors who come to visit the Zunzun and to watch them sip from the flowering tree in his back garden.

Bee Hummingbird

Bee Hummingbird

He graciously fills a feeder and holds it up so the Bee Hummingbird comes to eat and is available for photos. A mesmerizing hour is gone in a flash and we must leave. What a treat!  Gracias!

 

As summer winds down, the butterfly finds fewer flowers to sip from and, when the first hard freeze arrives, it is preserved in ice to be discovered the next spring. Such a contrast from the sunny days of summer when this fragile-winged creature flits through fields of flowers completing its life cycle and assuring new generations of butterflies. The revolving wheel of life!

 

In the time of dinosaurs (150 million years ago) there lived the ancestors of the modern butterflies called Lacewings. When the impression of a Lacewing was discovered pressed into stone the finder/scientist cleverly took tiny bits of the stone and ground it up to examine it and determine the color of the eye spot and wings. Here is my imagined re-creation of the lacewing based on his findings along with a  photo of the Red Admiral butterfly currently seen in the Rio Grande Valley.

Recent Paintings

Red and Yellow Honeycreepers

Red and Yellow Honeycreepers

Hawaii was surprisingly forested on the “wet side” of the Big Island.  We hiked into the Forest Reserve hoping to see the Red and Yellow Honeycreepers. With luck and patience we saw them in the tops of the O’hia trees. In order to see the tops of the trees, Carrina hiked into an old crater which over the years had filled in with trees down in the bottom … as you stood on the lip of the crater looking down into it you saw the O’hia tree tops with birds sipping on the O’hia blossoms. This painting reflects my impression of Hawaii.

Desert Orangetip

Desert Orangetip

A continuation of my butterfly paintings inspired by the Desert Orangetip seen at the top of the Sierras … he must be lost as this is not desert but there he was!

Hoary Comma

Hoary Comma

Flitting around the Red Currant bushes was a gorgeous Hoary Comma with his lacy wing edges. He lit … he posed … a click of the camera and I could examine him in detail. Beautiful markings.

Landscape of Stark Choices

Landscape of Stark Choices

A consideration of time is what this painting is about. It is titled “landscape of Stark Choices”. There is a fossil shell and a living butterfly connected by eons of time.

Done!

Done! Finished!  They say only the painter can tell when a painting is finished … well … for me that moment occurs when I am heartily sick of looking at the #*%$* painting.   So here they are.

California Buckeye Tree

California Buckeye Tree

D.L. and I scouted up and down a remote country road in order to find the California Buckeye Tree … pinched off some leaves which were rapidly turning brown and beginning to drop. This native tree has a clever strategy to defeat the dry, dry summer. When the hills become parched in June or July it drops all of its leaves and concentrates of developing its seed pod. The crispy leaves are graham-cracker colored – the seed pods are enclosed in a leathery yellowish covering which splits as the summer progresses and releases the glossy orange/brown seeds. The seeds are spectacular !

Iridescent Beetles

Iridescent Beetles

Painting 2 is a fantasy of the iridescent beetles emerging from a pot … a sort-of still life with drapes and two umbrellas.

Foothill Reeds

Foothill Reeds

Painting 3 is a flowering reed which grows around ponds in the California foothills. In order to see the blossoms you must kneel in the soggy soil and look close … and it must be in the two weeks the reeds put out their peculiar flowers.

O.K. ….Tha … that’s all for now folks! … as my favorite roadrunner says.