Yesterday I went on a quest to find some oak trees. Oaks aren’t really common around my part of town, but I had a hot tip that there was a small grove of them in a area of forest not far from where I live. Once I got there it only took about 15 minutes of hiking around to find them: a group of big, beautiful old oaks. And underneath them I found what I was really looking for: two big handfuls of oak tree leaf litter. I took my booty and headed home.
You may now be wondering why I was looking for oak tree leaf litter. Those of you who know me well may have guessed that I was planning to search the leaf litter for interesting critters to photograph. That would be a good guess—I do enjoy rooting through leaf litter! But in this case, you would be wrong: I was actually looking for oak tree leaf litter to feed my new millipedes. Well, technically they belong to my 5 year old son. But when he asked me to get him some big millipedes I was (no surprise) more than happy to oblige.
The critters in question are specimens of Narceus annularis, sometimes called worm millipedes. These animals reach a length of approximately 10 cm and are—as far as I know—the largest species of millipede native to Canada. They range from the United States north into Southern Quebec and Ontario. They are apparently common and abundant in areas of oak and elm tree forest where they can be found in rotting logs and leaf litter. These millipedes compost the forest floor by eating decaying vegetation—including (you guessed it) oak tree leaves; hence my quest to collect leaf litter.
These animals are gentle, reclusive and (relatively) slow moving. But they are little bit tricky to photograph as they have the tendency to hide their head (a good defensive strategy); plus they are smooth, shiny and tubular shaped. That means (as you will see from the accompanying photos) that no matter what angle you shoot from, if you are using a flash you will get noticeable reflections. When I get the chance I will take one outside and try to get some nice photos using natural light.
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Settings: manual exposure (F16 @ 1/125 sec)
Lighting: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (TTL)