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Coelioxys cluster

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Last night, Catherine and I were out again all night, performing what was ultimately a futile spider experiment on Cordova Spit (TIXEN in the SENĆOŦEN language). The one thing that did go right was that the dawn had some decent light, so I set out early to try to get some photos of sleeping hymenopterans.

I did not end up shooting very many, as I found this absolutely lovely cluster of Coelioxys which were just begging to be shot. These parasitic megachilids are wonderful subjects, and seem to sleep in small aggregations, sometimes with Ammophila wasps.  Their preferred perches are the dried seedheads of the Puget Sound Gumweed (Grindelia integrifolia), a fragrant seaside plant that is a good place to find halictids in the daytime.

Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took this morning!

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Shot with the 100 mm macro, this shot shows the mixed cloud of dawn, and the dew collected on the bees

The same bees shot with the A720IS, in the wideangle macro style.

The same bees shot with the A720IS, in the wideangle macro style. This gives the bees more of a bugeyed look!

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A lone Ammophila shot with the 100 mm. These wasps are so elegant!

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A similar view of the Ammophila with the A720IS. With this wide a shot you can really see the extent of the sky

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I turned around with the A720 to show the vegetation of the spit to the north

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As usual, when I find a great subject, I try to frame some up in portrait orientation, just in case I get the call for a National Geographic cover!

 

Figuring out the A720….

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I am continuing to tinker with the Canon A720IS for wide angle macro, as it seems this will be the only machine I have for the purpose for he forseeable future….I now have a method of holding the camera and the slave flash, but would like to do some more tinkering before I lay it all out. Today I was up at Mt. Tolmie again, where I waited in vain for a glorious dawn…But I did see a spectacular moonset!

Click the image below for a larger version.

moonset pano

 

The subjects of my macro experiments were snakeflies and some Nomada cuckoo bees. These relatively inactive subjects proved ideal for my tinkering, and I managed a good many angles for each. If you have any thoughts on these compositions, please let me know….I was constrained a bit by ambient light, as it was near dawn, but in the future I want to let the landscape show through more.

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Snakefly on dead camas. I kept the sky dark here, which is kind of a fashion cliche from a few years back, but I like the brooding atmosphere

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This is kind of full ventral, but the light is not “believable”…

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This is kind of cool, as the insect is descending…I do say that I “chose” these compositions, but with the shutter lag of the ancient compact, I get what I get!

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This shot of a Nomada is pretty straightforward. I kept the sky and tree dark to keep the brooding atmosphere.

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Here I have tried to get some background vegetation other than trees, but the grass actually resembles a tree!

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This is a peeekaboo shot of the cute face of the bee.

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The one shot I got that worked out of the cloud-obscured sun with the bee. I really like this one, even with the spittlebug below

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Another view of the Nomada while sleeping.

OK, now for some comparisons, here are some shots of the same subjects with the 100 mm macro on the DSLR

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Not as much interest in this background.

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What I like about the 100 is how I can maneuver everything precisely o get a clean composition…That being said, maybe it is a bit stale.

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This shows the stiffness of the sleeping bee’s posture

And in other news, check out this beautiful bee fly I found!

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The tip of the abdomen is orange at certain angles

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A cool fly from any point of view

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And a bit wider to show more of the perch

 

 

 

Experimentation with sleeping bees and wasps

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This morning Catherine and I tried something different with our spider observations: instead of going out at night, we would get to the beach before dawn, to catch the tail end of spider activity. Turns out, as soon as any light is in the sky, the widows are out of sight, presumably to avoid dawn-foraging birds. So that meant I had a bit of time for some photography!

I really wanted to try out the small Canon A720IS I had used on the alligator lizards in the context of capturing wide angle closeups of sleeping bees at dawn. I did manage some shots of Ammophila wasps and Coelioxys bees, but I am not entirely sure I am pleased with them. Perhaps the strength of the camera lies in wide angle macro in better lighting conditions. Anyway, it made for some neat images, which I share below.

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Ammophila, all lit up by a surprisingly well-behaved slave flash, the beach habitat stretched out behind.

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An in-your-face view of Coelioxys, with a bit of colour in the sky.

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Coelioxys with a bit more of the trees toward the beach showing.

Now we move onto dawn shots of the same subjects shot with the DSLR and 100 mm macro. We also found some cuckoo wasps!

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Sleeping cuckoo wasp! I wish I had brought my diopter for better magnification!

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Another chrysidid on some dead grass.

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This little cuckoo is waking up.

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It stirred around for a few moments, then went dormant again.

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Chrysidid after a brief rain shower.

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Head-on view of Coelioxys. Note the clamped mandibles.

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Coelioxys with a bit of lens flare from the sun.

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Coelioxys after the rain shower.

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A tower of Ammophila

A couple of Sunday outings

IMG_1197As I mentioned in my last post. Catherine and I are working late nights observing black widow behaviour, so I do not really get the opportunity to go out at dawn as much as I normally like to. We have begun to take Friday and Saturday nights off, however, so assuming I can get my sleep schedule quickly reorganized, dawn shoots are possible!

This morning, I went out to Mt. Tolmie, in the hopes of seeing a spectacular dawn. Unfortunately, the light and colour were a bit subdued, but I did manage to get some snakefly photos with some colour in the sky.

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Imagine this, but with a blazing orange sky, and some direct sun peeking through the wings….Someday!

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I also found a fat male snakefly!

Snakeflies were about all that was on offer at Mt. Tolmie, so after breakfast I headed down to Dallas Road, on the shore near Beacon Hill Park. I knew of an Anthophora bomboides colony, and hoped to get some pics of them waking up.

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Anthophora bomboides makes these little turreted nest holes in the eroded banks above the sea.

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On a steeper slope, the nest shave no turrets, presumably because incoming rain and debris are not a problem. I found a few bees poking their heads out, but none sunning or getting ready to fly until…

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Right in front of me, a male grabbed and attempted to copulate with this female. I didn’t get the male in the shot, but here is the female looking stunned on the ground.

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The female is recovering from her whirlwind romance.

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You can see where hey get the specific name “bomboides“, as they look very similar to local bumblebees.

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Picking my way along the shore, I came upon my first sleeping Coelioxys of the season!

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These sleeping bees make fine subjects, as it takes them a long time to warm up.

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Above the cliffs, in the Garry Oak meadow, I found this bristly tachinid fly.

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I also found one of my favourite elaterids, Selatosomus edwardsi.

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These beautiful click beetles are large and robust.

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In a snowberry bush I found this beautiful and delicately coloured Araniella displicata.

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And to cap off a very productive morning, I ran into one of my favourite running crab spiders of all time, Tibellus oblongus!

 

Hawks at Palos Verdes

IMG_4662Catherine and I are out in California right now, in the midst of a cross-continental journey we are calling #SpiderTrip2016. This trip has taken us down the east-central part of the country to Austin and further south, where we collected some very colourful black widows  for Catherine’s research.

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Catherine examines a guard rail in southern Texas, where we found black widows in abundance.

 

Right now we are in L.A., where we have been for several days to attend a wedding in Redondo Beach. As the wedding was Sunday night, on Monday morning we went out to find a park to have a picnic and see what we could see. We ended up on the cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a region of L.A. that neither of us have visited. This peninsula has some soaring cliffs and beautiful views of the ocean, as well as a great interpretive centre at Point Vicente focused on natural history.

 

As we were eating lunch, the screams of a rapidly diving Peregrine Falcon alerted us to check out the cliffside. While I tried in vain to get a shot of a diving falcon, we clued in to the fact that the falcon was harassing a pair of Red-tailed Hawks nesting on the cliff ledge below.

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This was the best I could manage of these amazingly quick falcons…I did see several dives against the flying hawks, which they countered by rolling and presenting their talons to the approaching falcon. This is not just idle harassment on the part of the falcon either, as they are known to kill hawks during these high-speed attacks. 

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A Red-tailed Hawk, presumably incubating eggs on the cliffside of Point Vicente.

These hawks are well known to the local birders and photographers, and it isn’t hard to see why. Their activities are well in view from the top of the cliffs, and they come very close to the walking path as they provision their nest and ride the updrafts from the ocean winds striking the cliff face.

Anyway, here is a selection of photos I managed to get during a couple hours of watching this incredible specatacle:

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This was the incredible first flyby I managed to shoot of the female Red-tailed Hawk looking right at me as she flew by.

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The contrast of the red tail and the blue sea behind is really quite striking

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Some local birders told me this individual with the broken tail feathers is the male, and it makes sense, as the incubating hawk had an intact tail.

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We saw one of the hawks grab some vegetation from the crown of this palm several times. They would also retrieve sticks from a shrubby slope beneath the cliff.

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The female heads back to the nest with a stick.

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I didn’t know it at the time, but I suspect this dramatic dive was the beginning of a successful rabbit hunt on the shrubby slope. I did not see the kill get made, as it occurred below the cliff.

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One of the pair is engaged in tearing the fur off of the rabbit that they killed. 

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The views of these hawks just cannot be beat, and with falcons, seals, pelicans and more thrown into the mix, you could do a lot worse than to spend some time at Point Vicente! If you are in the L.A. area, I highly recommend it!

 

Serious gull baths

20151231-IMG_2691Catherine and I went to Beacon Hill Park yesterday, and were delighted to see some gulls having a pre-New Year’s bath in one of the ponds. With the winter sun making good highlights, the shots were a natural choice for pictures. What really strikes me about these bathing gulls is how they seem so serious about their hygiene routine. I suppose with the cold winter weather it helps to have maximum floof potential in your feathers before a long cold winter night.

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A fall ramble: High Park and Humber Bay

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Because Ontario is harsh, and the invertebrates are quickly going to ground, I decided to do two days of outings this weekend! In addition to our trip to Leslie Spit on Saturday, I went out alone to High Park on Sunday to see what I could find.

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The herbaceous vegetation was mostly dead, with very few insects out and about.

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I found these Leptoglossus occidentalis (western conifer seed bug) behind some boards, getting ready to overwinter. These were not present in Toronto when I was a kid.

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Behind the same boards I also found a Agelenopsis on an egg sac. I replaced her carefully after this shot.

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This very orange Araneus diadematus was also on an egg sac. She also posed, and then I put her back on her sac. It is doubtful the adults ever survive the winter here.

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This Phidippus audax was much more orange than others we have found so far.

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Not sure why it was missing a palp, but it will probably regrow, as this one was still small.

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At Humber Bay, I found some hungry wasp queens. Luckily I had a vial of honey on hand. This one ate so much she could barely fly afterward, but it should fatten her up for the winter.

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Yum!

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I was delighted to find this brown snake, AKA Dekay’s snake (Storeria dekayi) moving along a fence.

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I encountered these small snakes often when I was a kid. The juveniles of this species are quite beautiful,and the adults have their own subdued charm.

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These snakes are natricines, related to garter snakes. They occur in Eastern N. America all the way down to Guatemala.

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This shot shows the faint iridescence of the scales

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All in all, I was glad I went out! This kind of break from the downtown chaos will hopefully keep me sane!

Country living

IMG_0567So Catherine and I are enjoying a stay deep down south in Langley. We are about 200 m from the US border, and are house, dog, cat, and mouse sitting here for Sofi and her partner Brian. The animals, being motile, homeostatic organisms, are quite easy to care for. The plants, during this ridiculous heatwave and drought, are suffering, even with daily watering!

Anyway, this is our home and family until Saturday, and we plan to make the most of it!

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Callie, the dog, is one of our companions during our county sojourn.

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Misto the cat looking elegant. What you can’t see is his special butt-hair trim that will spare us the pleasure of cleaning his rump daily.

Oreo the cat, an escape artist, has successfully broken out 3 times during our residency. We used a camera to document his route, and sealed him in for good.

Oreo the cat, an escape artist, has successfully broken out 3 times during our residency. We used a camera to document her route, and sealed her in for good.

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In the back 40 are some rabbits, deer, and coyotes. Here is a baby bunny that lives near the woodshed.

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Familiar faces are to be found here too: there are lots of cellar spiders!

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Here is a common house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) with a great brood of eggsacs.

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Out on my morning walk with Callie I found this gorgeous Misumena vatia (goldenrod crab spider) with a big catch.

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Here is some more successful predation, this time an Enoplognatha ovata with a crane fly.

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There are a bunch of Rufous Hummingbirds here, many of them brood of this year.

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Again, out for a morning walk with Callie, I shot this gorgeous Tibellus oblongus (a type of running crab spider) with an egg sac! I really took a lot of pics of this beauty, so let me know what you think!

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Mixing in dawn light is one of my favorite techniques at the moment.

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Against blue sky, because why not?

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A Meet your Neighbours style shot.

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Probably my favourite, this one against the hazy dawn sky (there are forest fires nearby!)

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This one is shot with the YongNuo 35 mm with a Raynox DCR250.

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Another with the 100 mm. 

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To round out this post, here is another crab spider, this time a male of Misumena vatia, with spider prey. I believe the spider is a sac spider (Clubionidae).

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Dawn shots

IMG_7608This morning, I got up before dawn to take some pictures out near Iona Beach. I have not been getting out much recently, and so I thought I would change my routine a bit.

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I was out for sleeping insects, and dawn is the best time to find them. It also allows me to mix ambient light with flash illumination in a pleasing way!

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Small changes in the angle of the shot result in massive differences in the background. Compare this shot near the sun…

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To this shot a few degrees away.

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I am always excited to find new things. Here are a couple sleeping bees I have never seen before!

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They sleep like many bees I have seen; gripping the vegetation with their mandibles.

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I have no idea what these are, so if you have ID suggestions, let me know!

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Whatever they are, they are gorgeous!

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A bit of nudging got this one to grip the top of the flower.

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Of course I could not have a dawn shoot without a Coelioxys!

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I found this garter snake under a log.

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A closeup with an unusually cooperative model.

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I like to donate blood to those in need. This is Aedes dorsalis

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There were a bunch of these red clover casebearer adults (Coleophora deauratella) hanging out. I assume they must begin mating before dawn.

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For some reason, it is really hard to get a photo to convey their bright metallic wing scales! I will keep working at it!

 

 

Coyote Pups!

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Adjacent to my work site yesterday were some coyote pups! They were coming out of their den to sun themselves and play in the weeds. I do not really know what to say about these, other than that they were cute! I wish I had my 300 mm, but did not bring it, so these are all taken with the 100 mm. I was surprised by how dimorphic they were, with the dark one looking a bit dog-like. It is common for urban coyotes to have some dog admixture in their heritage, so perhaps that explains it.

I had been doing work at this same site in the fall, and would often look up from my ant nests to see an adult coyote watching me from a short distance away. The adult coyote never even tried to steal my lunch, although that would have been easy. It seems these coyotes have learned to coexist with humans relatively well.

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Oh my. What does he have there?

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Uh oh. Looks vaguely cat-like!

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Not super hungry, obviously, the pup was just transferring this morsel to safety (maybe he thought I liked eating cat butt).

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After a little while, the tan pup comes out.

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Dawww! This one looks much more typical. 

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Lets go over here!

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These pups had lots of debris to play around in.

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And a brief patch of sun to lie in.

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teh cute.

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Taking time to smell the flowers.

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The pups grimace as a vehicle approaches.

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The dark one scratched a whole lot.

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Ahhh. Coyote pups at work! What could be better?