Braided smoke

This plume emerged from a fire not listed among the controlled burns. We hope the fire is under control.

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE -- A large wildfire plume stands against a fiery sunset.
BRAIDED -- Ropes of smoke from a wildfire to the west weave themselves into an airborne braid.
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All the buzz

The goldenrod was full of wasps of all sorts, honeybees, carpenter bees, moths and a slender blue insect I’ve never seen before.

EXOTIC -- While the Hawaiian beet webworm sounds exotic, it's actually common all around the United States.
GREEN -- This delightfully playful looking cucumber beetle was among the many insects enjoying the goldenrod.

New interchange

Workers get ready to pour concrete atop a pillar that will carry traffic between Interstate 430 and Interstate 630 in west Little Rock, a project being called the Big Rock Interchange*. They probably had the city’s best view of the morning commuters. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department posted this YouTube animation to show what might be when the earth movers and orange barrels are gone.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION -- Construction workers atop a pillar being poured as part of the I-430, I-630 interchange improvements.

*Not sure if “Big Rock,” is a play on Boston’s tunnel project, the “Big Dig,” or a nod to “Big Rock Township,” a governmental subdivision created in 1823. The townships are largely antiquated and have very little in terms of political function. We think the only office Big Rock has is the elected constabulary.

Fall color III

Hardwoods don’t have a monopoly on fall color. Sometimes, you just have to look a little more closely at the landscape.

TORTOISE SHELL -- No doubt the reddish spots are some kind of fungal disease, but when backlit, this blade of Johnsongrass looks almost like tortoiseshell.
PURPLE -- Johnsongrass seedheads mellow into a deep mauve.
COLD COLOR -- High altitude ice crystals are the prism for this rainbow.
FALL FLOWERS -- Late purple asters live up to their name, still blooming in early October.

Tree tribbles

These tree tribbles are actually oak galls caused by a parasitic wasp. Galls can be fuzzy or hard-shelled, but they all shelter developing larvae. Unlike the ravenous and fast reproducing fuzzies in Star Trek’s “Trouble with Tribbles,” these fuzzles really don’t hurt anyone.

OAK FUZZ -- Fall is a big time for tree tribbles.
MYSTERY CONES -- These are probably some kind of insect larval casing, but don't have an idea what.

Behind the office

I’m blessed to work in an office surrounded by trees, despite being in the middle of the city. Coleman Creek runs behind the building, an oasis for wildlife well adapted to urban settings such as possums and raccoons. Part of the greenbelt includes a native persimmon tree. Despite the summer’s drought, the tree produced abundant fruit. Some of the ripened fruit drops naturally; but others come down complete with leaves and twiglets — probably knocked out of the tree by raiding raccoons.

There is some grassroots weather lore that goes along with persimmons. If you open the fruit and split the seed, the white shape that appears is a predictor of the severity of the coming winter. Check out Uncle Ray’s story by nephew and columnist Robert Seay here.

TART -- These unripe fruits re a favorite of raccoons and coyotes.
ONES THAT GOT AWAY -- Persimmons the raccoons missed.

The office backyard also has a few volunteer flowers. In spring, naturalized daffodils light up the leaf litter. In fall, surprise lilies, also known as naked ladies, also crop up. I was a little late in finding these ladies, but they still had a certain photographic lure.

SURPRISE -- No one was more surprised to find these surprise lilies behind the office than I.
PAST ITS PEAK -- Even as a lady of a certain age, this naked lady lily is still beautiful.

Butterfly paradise II

The saltbush is beginning to fade while the goldenrod comes into its own, so with warm, dry weather, we may yet receive visiting monarchs. Until then, gray hairstreaks, clouded sulphurs, pearl crescents, fiery skippers and American ladies will keep the virtual shutter clicking.

TIGER AND HIS TAIL -- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail gleans nectar from blossoms outside the office window.
FIERY -- Single fiery skipper visits saltbush flowers, his unfurled proboscis buried deeply into the blossom.
ON FINAL -- Wasp joins two fiery skippers in the saltbush.
OPEN WINGS -- A pearl crescent butterfly rests in the afternoon sun.
BLACK AND ORANGE -- Fiery skipper stands out against the shadows.

Random Oct. 3 photos

Was hoping to catch more butterflies in pixels today, but only managed a smudgy shot of a monarch outside the office window. It is exciting to see the varieties of golden rods continue to mature. We hope their beautiful chrome yellow blooms will attract monarchs as they make their long flight south.

The slanting fall sun caught the tops of a couple of native plants and later, there was a plume of smoke that arose straight up, framed by the darkening red of the sunset.

MONARCH -- Monarch visits flowers outside the office window.
BRIGHT -- The tops of these plants catch the last of the afternoon sun.
PLUME -- This plume resembles the volanoes of the imagination of my childhood, except for the slight leftward lean.
HELLO -- Fence lizard peers back at the photographer.