A couple of months ago, in the first days of July 2022, when the photographs shown in this post were taken ...
... the weather was hot and dry most of the time. But near the end of the night and early in the morning, before the disc of the sun is visible above the horizon, the air was surprisingly fresh, bordering on being cold ...
... and the meadows were covered with dew.
It was still dark when I left the house. I drove fifty or sixty kilometers and stopped in the rural area around the small town called Zminj.
Once in the meadow, this Euphorbia nicaeensis spurge was the first plant that caught my attention.
I mounted the macro lens to take a look at the intricate details of the small flowers.
They looked great decorated with many minuscule pearls.
On one of those flowers, I found a very small crab spider.
And then, on the top of some dried-out plant that grew with the grass around the spurge, I noticed another one.
These are both juvenile Thomisus onustus spiders.
The one on the dry stem started descending it when this photograph was taken.
Just like the tiny flowers ...
... the ants were also covered with droplets. They probably spent the night there, guarding the aphids. If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you may notice a bunch of minuscule aphids in the area between the two ants. They are also covered with dew and some droplets are almost the size of an aphid. Now, this is a good moment for a cheap pun. Or something that can resemble a pun. The presence of aphids makes it clear that the ants are here for the dew. Not the morning dew, of course, but the sweet droplets produced and secreted by the aphids - the honeydew.
These are the Formica rufa ants. A species that can't be found in my seaside area, fifty or sixty kilometers south of here.
As the sky above the scene was getting brighter, the ants started to move, but they were still very slow when I turned my focus to another interesting insect.
Always on the same plant, but on another cluster of flowers, I noticed this mantis.
A young wingless nymph of the European mantis (Mantis religiosa)
The insect was there, near me, the whole time, but it looked like a piece of some dry plant material that somehow ended up on the flower, brought by the wind or by falling from some taller plant near the spurge.
Like many other insects in the meadow, the mantis was waiting for the sun that will quickly dissolve the crust made of droplets.
The Euphorbia nicaeensis was still in the shade when I started exploring the mostly dried-out vegetation around it.
Soon I found another crab spider. The Runcinia grammica. In the following series of four consecutive shots ...
... the spider has assumed a more active pose.
The European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) was still sleepy. When it comes time to take a long nighttime rest, these bees bite the top of the grass and remain in that pose until the morning.
This is the nymph of the common straw grasshopper (Euchorthippus declivus). Since that light was pretty low in the shade, it was easier for me to use the camera with the flash on. But some details look much better when seen in the subdued ambient light ...
... so I took the time to get a couple of relatively long exposure shots. Here you can see the same grasshopper in a different light.
When I turned my focus back to the spurge ...
... the sunlight has reached that area of the meadow.
For these close-up and macro shots, I used the minimum strength of the flash in combination with normal daylight exposure.
The flowers of spurges are very different from a typical flower. They don't have sepals, petals, or nectar to attract pollinators, but other non-flower parts of the plant have an appearance and nectar glands with similar roles. Like all members of the Euphorbiaceae family, the Euphorbia nicaeensis have unisexual flowers.
In spurges, flowers occur in a structure called the cyathium. Each male or female flower in the cyathium has only its essential sexual part, in males the stamen, and in females the pistil. If you compare this Euphorbia nicaeensis portrait with the photographs taken earlier, when the plant was still in the shade, you'll notice that the number of droplets has dropped significantly. As the sun was getting stronger the small pearls were evaporating, and that was a pretty fast process.
Half an hour later, it was hot again.
Dry grass was swaying in the gentle summer breeze ...
... and all the signs of humidity disappeared.
The surface shown in this photograph can be easily mistaken for the red soil of this area, but when you take a look at the following picture ...
... it becomes clear that the earth-like material is made of spores inside an old puffball mushroom.
Calvatia utriformis is the name of this pretty large puffball species.
While walking through a small oak grove, more or less in the middle of the vast meadow ...
... I found two butterflies on the lower branches. A mating pair of Brintesia circe butterflies.
This species is pretty hard to notice on the bark of the tree.
This Eryngium campestre plant ...
... was photographed under the tree.
I arrived at half past five, and at seven AM, I was still rambling around the meadow. I passed by many Euphorbia nicaeensis spurges ...
... and among them ...
... I photographed these Teucrium capitatum plants.
When I saw this moth, at half past seven - eight AM, it was already very hot and I was ready to go back home to spend the rest of the day in the deep shade of my room. I tried to get a quick shot, but the moth flew away and stopped five or six meters further.
This situation has to be repeated four or five times before I was able to get three solid photographs.
While following the moth, I came across these elegant eggs attached to the grass. They were produced by the female green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea).
And now, in the end, is time to reveal the moth's identity. This is the Idaea ochrata, a species from the Geometridae family.
The following links will take you to the sites with more information about some of the protagonists of this post. I found some stuff about them there.
AND THAT'S IT. HOPE YOU ENJOYED THE EARLY MORNING ATMOSPHERE. AS ALWAYS IN THESE POSTS ON HIVE, THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE MY WORK - THE END.