15 October 2021

Superb sand art in a bottle

Two examples of the work of Andrew Clemens.
Andrew Clemens (1857 – 1894) was a sand artist from Iowa in the United States. Clemens formed his pictures by compressing natural colored sands inside chemists' jars to create his works of art.

He would collect naturally colored grains of sand from an area in Pikes Peak State Park known as Pictured Rocks. At Pictured Rocks, the basal portion of the sandstone near the Sand Cave is naturally colored by iron and mineral staining. Clemens separated the sand grains into piles, by color, and used them to form the basis for his art... 

To create his art he inserted the presorted grains of sand into small glass drug bottles using homemade tools formed out of hickory sticks and florists wire. His process utilized no glue and pressure from the other sand grains alone held the artwork together. When Clemens completed a sand bottle he sealed the bottle with a stopper and wax...

Andrew returned to McGregor [Iowa] to live year-round after a fire at the State School for the Deaf destroyed the dorm where he had lived... Clemens showed his work at the Saint Paul Dime Museum in 1889. He earned an invitation to demonstrate his work at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, which he declined due to his failing health. His artwork sold for $5–7 at the time...
Image via.

Another (expensive) example found by reader shiningrobes.

Punctuation (only)

Miss Cellania posted at Neatorama on online tool that allows one to remove all text letters from a passage, leaving behind only the punctuation marks.  I applied that tool to the longest entry I've written for TYWKIWDBI, with the result seen above.

That particular post involved artificial page breaks (*****) and a lot of citations from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, so I tried the tool again on a two-page letter I wrote earlier this week -

- which obviously included a number of URLs.

I wrestled with the question as to whether these images contain punctuation since the symbols don't separate and define any text, but the etymology of punctuation is from the Latin punctuo ("to mark with points"), so I guess it's o.k.

Slow-motion moth flight

Fascinating to watch.  It always amazes me how a creature that has spent its entire life crawling around on a plant can then come out of a cocoon and know how to do this.

I have previously featured life cycles of two of these moths in TYWKIWDBI: the Polyphemus in 2012, and the Virginia Tiger Moth in 2010.

Via Kottke, who notes that "the rest of Smith’s AntLab videos are worth looking through ."

12 October 2021

There is NO RED COLOR in this image

It does look like there is a red letter and a red background on the other flag, but those are optical illusions - illustrated with closeups at Neatorama.

What's eating the mullein ? Solved - it's Paracorsia repandalis

We occasionally find mullein (Verbascum sp.) growing next to our driveway, mixed i with the milkweed and shrubbery.  It's not something we plant, so is technically a weed, but we tolerate it because it can grow to such magnificent proportions.  The photo above is from 2013.

This year mullein appeared in the same general area, but met a sad fate.  The central "spear" was persistently attacked and eaten, not by the rabbits, but by some insect.

I found some semilunar cuts reminiscent of what Monarch cats do to milkweed -

-  but never found a caterpillar under the leaves (it might feed only at night).   I let the process go on its own for most of the summer, then this past week decided to dig into the central mass.

What I retrieved is a generally formless mass of plant fibers liberally admixed with frass.  I didn't want to remove all of it, but I did finally dissect the "mass of frass" to find this little fellow -

- a semitranslucent larva that doesn't resemble any butterfly caterpillar I'm aware of.  It could be a moth larva, but the overall appearance frankly looks a bit more like a beetle larva than a lepidoptera species -

It looks not unlike the "grubs" that my mom and I used to dig out of rotting stumps in the woods up at Leech Lake to use for fishing bait back in the 1960s. (the color a bit inaccurate in my available-light photo; it was more yellowish in real life).

I have no idea what it is.  It currently is residing in a container with some of that chewed mass plus some fresh leaves in a closed container on our screen porch.  Given the season I would expect it to pupate in anticipation of winter.

A brief internet search didn't yield an answer for me.  Googling mullein + caterpillar results in numerous hits for a "mullein moth" that is native to Europe.  A 1904 article "What ate the mullein?" in Elementary School Teacher didn't offer a definitive answer.

I'd be delighted to hear any suggestions.  Is this important?  Not at all.  Just that curious minds want to know.

Addendum:  SOLVED by reader Kniffler, who found the moth Paracorsia repandalis at the Maryland Biodiversity Project, where these photos were posted:

Credit for all photos to Peter Coffey.  Apparently what I referred to as a "formless mass of plant fibers" was actually composed of trichomes from the leaves (admixed with an abundance of frass).

I'll check in a few days and see if I can find the pupa.

Addendum:  Here's a good article about mullein found by reader Crowboy.

And also I'm wondering if the "cotton" in the bee nest I found in a window back in 2019 was comprised of these trichomes from mullein.  Looks very similar.

Volcanic hydrochloric acid production

The toxic soup of volcanic gases (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide) is familiar to most everyone.  Today I learned about a new one being produced on La Palma in the Canaries:
One river of lava reached the ocean near Playa de Los Guirres on Sept. 28. It poured off a 300-foot-tall cliff into the seawater below, prompting authorities to urge residents to remain indoors with their windows closed to limit the entry of outside air. When lava enters the ocean, it heats up seawater extremely rapidly, splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen ions. Some of the hydrogen combines with chlorine ions in the seawater to form hydrochloric acid and produce a gas that is toxic when inhaled.
You learn something every day (though hydrochloric acid shouldn't exist as a gas - perhaps they mean hydrogen chloride, or else the HCl is aerosolized as inhalable droplets).  

Image cropped for size from the original. 

A new cryptocurrency

Redeemable in ice cream.  Explained at Neatorama.

White supremacy presented as religion

"In rural Minnesota, a fringe Heathen group known as the Asatru Folk Assembly has purchased a local church – and membership is strictly whites-only. They worship Nordic, pre-Christian gods and they call themselves a 'folk religion' that only accepts those with northern European ancestry. Their racially exclusive ideology is protected by the first amendment

Amudalat Ajasa visits the church to understand how it is gaining influence across the country and to meet the anti-racist Heathens fighting back to reclaim their religion."
I couldn't watch this all the way through, but I'll post it because it's important to know about the existence of groups like the Asatru Folk Assembly.

Yarns dyed with pigments derived from mushrooms and lichens

Information about these natural dyes at the Cornell Mushroom Blog.  Image via.
Tyrian purple, the desired color, was originally extracted from a marine mollusk, and initially, lichen dyes were used only as underdyes. However, as the mollusk population was depleted, lichens became the primary source of the valuable purples, for they also were found to have a natural affinity to woolen and silk textiles...

The techniques and knowledge for making orchil lichen dyes were great secrets in early times. The earliest known description of the preparation of orchil was given by Roseto in 1540. The process generally consisted of obtaining the desired lichen, adding it to stale urine and slaked lime, and waiting...

I also found this re the history of purple dyes

"Citizen Hearst" trailer

This four-hour PBS presentation from the American Experience series is an excellent documentary, because even though most people are vaguely familiar with the overall story via Citizen Kane, the details re Hearst's life are fascinating.

Available for viewing online (not in libraries yet, AFAIK).

10 October 2021

Impressive migration of a bee-eater - updated

"A female European Honey Buzzard was fitted with a satellite tracking system in Finland and was of particular interest to South African locals because it spent the most austral summer (our winter) around the town of Reitz in the Free State in South Africa. She left Reitz in SA to start heading north on 20 April and on 2 June she finally reached Finland where she will probably spend the boreal summer before probably returning again this autumn to South Africa."

The photo shows the data received from the tracker which plots the route that she took to head north... so, in just 42 days, she covered over 10,000 km at an average of more than 230 km every single day!  

Had to look up the bird:
The European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus), also known as the pern or common pern, is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae.

Despite its English name, this species is more closely related to kites of the genera Leptodon and Chondrohierax than to true buzzards in Buteo. The binomen is derived from Ancient Greek pernes περνης, a term used by Aristotle for a bird of prey, and Latin apivorus "bee-eating", from apis, "bee" and -vorus, "-eating". In fact, bees are much less important than wasps in the birds' diet. Note that it is accordingly called Wespenbussard ("wasp buzzard") in German and similarly in some other Germanic languages and also in Hungarian ("darázsölyv").

It is a specialist feeder, living mainly on the larvae and nests of wasps and hornets, although it will take small mammals, reptiles, and birds. It is the only known predator of the Asian hornet. It spends large amounts of time on the forest floor excavating wasp nests. It is equipped with long toes and claws adapted to raking and digging, and scale-like feathering on its head, thought to be a defence against the stings of its victims. Honey buzzards are thought to have a chemical deterrent in their feathers that protects them from wasp attacks.
Wish we had one in the back yard to control the yellow jackets.

Reposted after totally rewriting the post based on information from the source, which was located by reader Lones Smith.

Addendum:  Gotta share this awesome photo found by reader Crowboy -

08 October 2021

White sage on a Wisconsin hillside

Photographed this week on the West Knoll of the Grady Tract of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, while on a hike with the Friends of the Arboretum.

I always prefer to hike and photograph on cloudy or overcast days when the diffuse light offers better images (IMHO) that those taken in bright sunshine with stark contrasts of light and dark.  (This is not a high-res photo, but it will enlarge nicely with a click or two).

Intermixed with the sage are some young sumac plants sporting their October colors (parent plants in the background).  The hillside is a remnant prairie.

This sage is, I believe, a species of Artemisia, which is a bit different from the shrub-sized salvia in California - also referred to as "white sage" - which has been the subject of a report in Vice entitled The White Sage Black Market.

October is prime leaf-peeping season in Wisconsin, so I hope to continue with some additional posts in the weeks ahead.   This particular hike was a three-hour exploration led by Michael Hansen, the Arboretum's land care manager, who

discussed the glacial morphology of the land and explained what the University is doing to combat invasive species such as the bittersweet vines and the everpresent buckthorn.  "Rewilding" two hundred acres in the center of a city is not an easy task.

Gorilla dies in the arms of her human

"The Virunga National Park said in a statement Tuesday that Ndakasi died on Sept. 26 after battling a prolonged illness and “took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma.” The statement is accompanied by a photo of Bauma, who befriended the gorilla when she was just 2 months old, holding Ndakasi shortly before her death at the park’s Senkwekwe Center, where she had lived for about 12 years.

Bauma, who was not made available for an interview, said in a statement that it was “a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature.”

“It was Ndakasi’s sweet nature and intelligence that helped me to understand the connection between humans and Great Apes and why we should do everything in our power to protect them,” he said. “I am proud to have called Ndakasi my friend.”..

Her life started with tragedy. In April 2007, rangers at the Congolese park found a 2-month-old Ndakasi “clinging to the lifeless body of her mother, gunned down by armed militia hours earlier,” park officials said in a statement. Her mother’s death was part of a series of massacres of gorilla families in the region that led the park to strengthen the protection of its mountain gorillas, they added.

Understanding how dangerous it would be to leave the mountain gorilla by herself, vulnerable to people with guns and human encroachment, rangers brought Ndakasi to the park’s rescue center. It’s there that she met Bauma.

“All night long, Andre held the baby close to him,” the park said in a statement."
And as a reminder, this gif of a silverback attempting to console a small child who had fallen into a gorilla enclosure.

Time-lapse of Covid-19 in the United States

Pretty much as everyone remembers this unfolding, but I have to say that the second recent peak is rather startling.  Via Kottke.

"Covid toe" reported

The skin condition known as Covid toe may be a side-effect of the immune system’s response to fighting off the virus, according to a study.

The symptom results in chilblain-like inflammation and redness on the hands and feet, with the condition sometimes lasting for months at a time. It typically develops within a week to four weeks of being infected and can result in toes and fingers becoming swollen or changing colour...

Concerns were raised in the opening months of the pandemic that so-called Covid toe was one of the non-recognised symptoms of infection, after patients in several countries reported the condition even though, in some cases, they displayed none of the usual symptoms...

Dr Veronique Bataille, a consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, said Covid toe was seen very frequently during the early phase of the pandemic, but had been less common in the current Delta variant wave.

She said that might be down to more people being vaccinated or having some protection against Covid from past infections. “Presentations after vaccination are much rarer.”
Basically a peripheral vasculopathy.  Worth emphasizing that this is a complication of coronavirus infection, not a side effect of immunization.  More information at the Guardian source and the British Journal of Dermatology.
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