Here lies…

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve decided to let this blog die it’s slow death, even though this decision makes me feel terribly sad and lonely. I’m taking it as a sign from the universe that I have once again fallen into my same old habit of “over-sharing”.

I started this blog quite a few years ago to spare family members and friends from having to hear my silly stories over and over again (because I love telling stories and just can’t help myself from wanting to share my adventures), but in retrospect I think it was just a way to dodge the ultimate reality that I am an over-sharer. To avoid dealing with this fact, I just set up a pseudonymous blog where I wouldn’t have to feel bad about over-sharing. And where my family wouldn’t constantly complain that I talk too much, haha.

But now I do feel bad about over-sharing, about taking up too much space and too much time with my dumb jokes, terrible writing, and blurry photos of bird butts. I need to embrace reality and work on learning to listen better and share less.

I had a lot of fun with this blog, but I guess it was always pretty absurd, in retrospect.

Anyway, I just want to express my gratitude to all the readers and commenters here on WordPress…I’ve tried over-sharing on a lot of platforms and this is definitely the friendliest and most supportive group out there. Honestly, that’s what always made blogging so fun! So kudos to you guys, you’re the best.

I don’t think I will actively delete my own content (that would be painful after all the hours I spent writing posts and taking/editing/posting photos), but Flickr will start deleting photos after 1 Feb 2019. They didn’t really explain the process, they just said they will start deleting photos from “oldest to newest”, but I don’t know if they will delete them all in one day or slowly over time. Either way, there will be at least 5,000 broken links on the blog soon, so sorry about that.

Bury me with my macro lens.

Yours truly, Lying Down in My Field

So Much of the World

So much of the world exists

without us

the mountain in its own steepness

the deer sliding

into the trees becoming

a darkness

in the woods’ darkness.

So much of an open field

lies somewhere between the grass

and the dragonfly’s drive and thrum

the seed and seedling,

the earth within.

But so much of it lies in someone

standing alone at the edge of a field

with a life apart

feeling for a moment

the plover’s cry

on the tongue

the curve and plumb

of the apple bough

in limb and bone.

So much of it between

one thing and another,

days of invitation,

then of release and return.

– Gregory Djanikian

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Where in the world is SOIMF*?

That’s right reader(s)…I’m still traveling! In fact, I’m in the middle of five weeks of consecutive travel. Four countries, five cities, so expect at least one more quiz after this if the scenery is fun. See if you can guess where I was last week. I think this one will be more recognizable than the last, but still a challenge.

This is all travel for work so I don’t have much extra time for photo taking (especially as the days get shorter), but I did manage to snap some photos around town.

where in the world
Lots of vineyards in the area, here are some right behind the train station
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Lots of beautiful parks in the city
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View from on top of the hill
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Another view looking down on the city centre
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I love the house architecture here
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Lots of solar panels (and wind turbines)…in fact this is a country that gets roughly 50% of its energy from renewable sources
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City centre
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where in the world
Castle on the hill
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Ornate gates
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where in the world
where in the world
Attractive graffiti
where in the world
where in the world

*StandingOutInMyField

Three poetic deaths for Samhain

Samhain is the Celtic harvest festival where the doors to the Otherworld are opened and the spirits and souls of the dead can return. The date for Halloween (or All Hallow’s Eve) was originally chosen to align with this Celtic festival, and they are similar in a lot of ways. Or, in the words of wikipedia, “It is widely believed that many of the modern secular customs of All Hallows’ Eve (or Halloween) were influenced by the festival of Samhain.”

Anyway, in honour of these festivals, here are three “poetic” deaths I observed this year. They are poetic in the sense that they are mysterious, and yet somehow elegant. I never was one to romanticise death (unlike some of my friends in school), and I never really celebrated Halloween growing up…but something about these deaths captured my imagination. Normally, I would think these are too creepy to share, but hey this is a day when we respect the spirits that have passed…

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A dove(?) who met an untimely end at a train station…now covered in moss

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A honeybee dead in the flowers…there are any number of ambush predators ready to nab an unsuspecting bee, so this is the least mysterious of the three, but still…

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The most mysterious of all…I found this jackdaw a few meters away from the nearest tree, head down, feet out in front of him. No sign of any injury or disturbance, just dead.
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It looks like he fell out of the sky like this…maybe a heart attack?
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Photos from Gembloux, Belgium

Gembloux
Bienvenue!

Ah yes, the answer to my Where in the world quiz is Gembloux, Belgium! I visited Gembloux to learn from researchers at the agricultural university here, because they do some very cool research there and I wanted to learn their methodology. But I admit that a lot of people looked at me like I was crazy when I told them why I was visiting. The lab I was visiting took it all in stride, even though I don’t speak French, and we had a productive, if awkward, week of trying to figure things out in each other’s languages.
Gembloux

I like that the cars stop for pedestrians in Gembloux, unlike in Dublin where I swear they are trying to see if they can nab you. Also, like a lot of European towns, Gembloux has very interesting and eclectic architecture…and a fun jogging trail!

Anyway, here are some more photos from the town. Definitely try to know some French if you’re going to spend time here, otherwise, it can be pretty awkward.

Gembloux
The interesting front room to my “hotel”, which was also like someone’s home in which they rented out the rooms. Anyway, their dog and I bonded, as I speak fluent dog.
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Another expat…a tulip tree (N America), on the campus of the agricultural university. I never did figure out whether these were ship anchors or plows on the front lawn…I oscillated back and forth my whole stay. They look more like anchors, but it is an agricultural university so shouldn’t they be plows? And plows are used elsewhere on campus…
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Like here…if I understood correctly, this statue is meant to be the “symbol of Gembloux”, where the mind and the earth are connected through the plow.
Gembloux
A lot of agriculture in the area of course, and I found this field with a *huge* beautiful flowering border, which I assume is for pollinators and natural enemies. When I asked at the university, my colleagues just shrugged, so impossible to tell if they didn’t know or didn’t understand my question.
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Lots of bee friendly plants though, borage, phacelia, echium etc.
Gembloux
The lovely trail for jogging
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The campus had a gorgeous tree collection, sporting trees from all over the northern hemisphere
Gembloux
Another N American representative, the sweet gum…this tree also sports some of my favourite autumn colours
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Eastern hemlockkkkkkkkkkkk* and beech trees
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Cute male Bombus pascuorum (common carder) on a chilly day. I put him on a flower but he had a fit and fell off haha silly bee
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Inky cap mushies…edible but why
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Trail…
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Cool old broken down building near the tracks…in this part of the world you never know if if got that way naturally or if it was a result of the war(s). I like this photo because you can see the rising sun through the broken windows.
Gembloux

*My favourite eastern N American tree you should know by now, geez

Links to share

More nature photography awards: Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award

I have a friend who is a parasitologist and she always posts the most interesting stuff! The intestinal parasites of King Richard III

Great post by Manu Saunders explaining the recent paper showing declines in insect biomass in Puerto Rico: Insect declines: pay attention

Here’s a direct link to that paper (open access). I agree with Manu’s interpretation…we should be paying attention to studies like this. Are the declines necessarily caused by a warming climate? I’m not convinced of that…it seems like there is any number of human impacts that could be related (eg my work on pesticides is showing me just how ubiquitous they are in the environment): Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web

I just discovered this fun Irish entomology blog…focuses a lot on parasitoids, but with lots of fascinating info on various Irish insects. Here’s a good example post on a parasitoid wasp that builds a “podium” under an aphid host: More parasitoid behaviour

Everything you never knew you needed to know about jay spit: You need to know more about jay spit

A paper just out showing no reduction in the pollinator abundance in “undisturbed” montane habitats in the Mediterranean. I think it’s neat that this paper shows how variable and unpredictable pollinators are. Also, wow, two decades of research with nearly 3 million minutes of watching flowers…can’t beat that! Complex long‐term dynamics of pollinator abundance in undisturbed Mediterranean montane habitats over two decades

Flies that parasitize poor bumbles, turning them into zombies…still a relatively minor threat compared to human impacts: The Parasite That Forces Bees to Dig Their Own Graves

I continue to enjoy the blog posts by this grad student at Trinity College Dublin, Fionn Ó Marcaigh…this one is about myths about zoology: Medieval Zoology

How native birds help farms: Native birds bring more benefits than damage to crops, orchards and grazing land, research finds

Tiny bats that hibernate in snow dens…adorable!

Where in the world is SOIMF*?

You’ll never guess where I’ve been this time! No, really I think that this quiz is pretty much impossible, unless you happen to have visited this city yourself. It’s a small town, not a tourist location, not well known, and without any diagnostic features that make it easy to recognize. I think continent will be easy, maybe even country, but I will be amazed if anyone knows the city!

Here are some photo clues:
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*StandingOutInMyField

Tiny mining bees, and Upon the Bee, by John Bunyan

Mini miners
I was in love with these teeny tiny mining bees (sometimes nicknamed mini-miners) at one of my field sites this summer (prior to death of macro lens RIP beloved lens).
Mini miners
To give some idea of relative scale
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Male and female next to one another (female is larger and has pollen brushes)
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Mini miners
Mini miners
Mini miners
Male mini miner
Mini miners

Ireland has three species of mini miners (Andrena semilaevis, Andrena subopaca, Andrena minutula) and they are hard to distinguish from one another without looking through a microscope.

Mini miners
love the bright yellow pollen on her legs

And here’s a poem about honeybees. Mining bees do not make honey and cannot sting humans, so sometimes we call them tickle bees! They are great pollinators, and completely harmless, and so beautiful. Please do not spray them with insect killing pesticides.*

Upon The Bee

The bee goes out, and honey home doth bring,

And some who seek that honey find a sting.

Now would’st thou have the honey, and be free

From stinging, in the first place kill the bee.

Comparison.

This bee an emblem truly is of sin,

Whose sweet, unto a many, death hath been.

Now would’st have sweet from sin and yet not die,

Do thou it, in the first place, mortify.

John Bunyan

*Number one thing I argue with people on the internet about sigh