Last year’s big Christmas present was a new macro lens, which I didn’t get around to using until spring, because frankly it was too cold to try macrophotography outdoors last winter. Apparently, I didn’t use it very much even then, because it was much easier to select the top ten “small things” photos than it was for the birds. But here they are — the top 10 macro shots of 2014, chosen for their color, variety, and potential biological interest.
That’s not its name of course — it’s the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe. We usually see this moth hovering over flowers (see previous post on this species) as it seeks out the nectar inside, but I had a rare opportunity to view the moth at rest the other day. The view through the clear wings looked a lot like stained glass.
These moths have been much more common in the backyard garden this summer, as have the butterflies and bees, but it’s unusual to see them sitting still instead of busily flitting about.
What a great diversity of habitats we encountered on our extended field trip to the northern reaches of Minnesota this past weekend. One of the first stops just north of Virginia, MN, was the Laurentian Divide, which I had never heard of. This modest rise of granite divides two watersheds: north of the divide rivers empty into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean, while south of the divide, rivers drain into the Atlantic, either via the Mississippi River or the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
The granite of the Laurentian Divide is part of a huge formation called the Canadian Shield that comprises the ancient core of the North American plate and today underlies most of Canada and part of the northeastern U.S. The exposed rock was formed approximately 2.7 billion years ago! during a series of volcanic events that resulted in upheaval of a vast area of rock that may have reached 39,000 feet elevation (12,000 m), but is largely eroded to modest hills today.
This boreal forest area of Minnesota is a composite of granite knobs, forested slopes, and boggy lowlands, each with their unique fauna and flora. In places where the land flattens out over river flood plains, there are expansive grassland hayfields, suitable only for grazing it seems.
There is much to see in this northern boreal forest, but hikes are not really a pleasant experience right now with all the mosquitoes and flies that attack bare skin. Maybe that’s why the warblers like it here — lots of flies to eat.