Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I grew up with wolf spiders and daddy longlegs in Washington, got to know cockroaches in Taiwan, and now I'm being introduced to a whole new set of creepy-crawlies: beetles, crickets, and scorpions. Crickets are good.

This handsome fellow is a palo verde beetle (or borer). He flew onto the patio last night as my mom and I watched Nora practice cannonballs in the pool. I saw something big and black fly (although "scurry through the air" would be more accurate, visually) out from the darkness beyond the wall and land behind a basket of pool toys next to me. I immediately thought of bats -- it was big, black and awkward. I moved aside a pool float and suddenly it was fluttering, floundering, towards me and then under the bench I was sitting on. I bolted, quite honestly, because I'm fond of neither large insects nor bats. My cool-as-a-cucumber mom, though, gently laid her jacket over it and then went to get a glass with which to trap what we could now see was a very large beetle.

Thanks to Cole's practiced Google skills, we soon learned quite a bit about our little friend. Palo verde beetles live underground as grubs, munching on the roots of palo verde trees, for up to three years. They emerge during monsoon season (which is right now) and are known for being clumsy in flight, attracted to light, and drawn for some reason to fly towards people's faces. I feel no shame now for fleeing from it as it headed my way. I'm going to chalk it up to good instincts; call it fear if you must. The glass it's under in this photo is a large drinking glass, 16 oz or so. The beetle is about three inches long, has a lovely set of mandibles and a glossy black carapace. He's not full grown; adults can be six inches or more. The thought of a six-inch bumbling beetle hurtling towards my face... well, let's just hope monsoon season wraps up soon.

I haven't run into any scorpions yet, although one was found dead in the pool a few weeks ago. (Still waiting on the coroner's report.) I've seen crickets here and there, which I love, but scorpions love them, too, so their Jiminy charm is tempered. Still, I adore their beefy little legs and sprightly jumps; they make me want to give a little whistle. Insects are not my thing, but they too are part of the pageant. I'm doing my best to get to know them and try to make friends, because like it or not we're neighbors now.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I'm looking through the photos I've taken these last few weeks and seeing some definite themes: birds, clouds, and most of all, sky. Clear skies, night skies, cloudy skies, sunsets... I can't seem to get enough. If you've spent any time at all in Kaohsiung (or any other smoggy Asian city of three million) you probably understand. I'm a Northwest native, and cloudy skies are all right by me, but dull, grey lifeless skies, where you have to chew the air and force yourself not to think about what comes in with every breath... those just take the joy out of being outdoors. I love the brilliant outlines of cumulus clouds on a hot, hot day, and the wet, wispy trails of clouds at sunset when it's been raining. I watch vultures circling high and nighthawks swooping low, quail families that blend in with the terrain and cardinals that stand out like, well, a cardinal in a desert. It's a pageant set against a constantly changing backdrop, and as I get to know the regular characters in this show I'm also getting to know this place.

Next time we'll talk about bugs....

Just like a white-winged dove...

Palo verde trio

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The neighbors


Cactus wren, I presume.

And this would be me...

This is not my first blog. This is, what, my fourth? That's a little insane, considering I don't even make time for the others much anymore, but a new locale means new things to photograph, and there's no sense in posting pics of Arizona on Formosa Fix, is there?

Living in Taiwan made me a better student of small things: beauty is in the details, and I'm trying to dive into Phoenix lens first, capturing things while they are still new to my eyes. Let me know what you think.