July 4, 2011 Bugnadoes

A bit of up front info on this, this rare catch. The first few images aren't from the encounter on the 4th, but some lead up days. Generally to catch some of these crazy sights, it took some fashion of effort. This all started this year on the way home from a chase in nw MO. I was north of Council Bluffs when I spotted what looked like crazy smoke running down the interstate. This was after sunset into a lot lower lighting. There had been flooding from the 2011 Historic Missouri River Flood. Actually I was to be one of the last cars through I29 north there as cops were setting up to close it. So it was flooded around this area and well bugs like water. I finally see that that smoke looking stuff was bugs, miles of bugs hanging out over I29 in weak tube forms. I only got some crappy driving shots, as I was ready to get home. I was going to go back but saw the cops setting up at the interchange to close it and said screw it, figuring they'll probably keep doing that, nightly bug formations in other areas of standing water.

Highway 30 was starting to flood on either side, mostly south side at first. So I soon found myself over there every few nights trying to see it again and capture it. Problem is, it often doesn't show itself till after sunset and often not in the same spot. The image above is June 27th at Desoto Bend's entrance. There was an amazing number of dragonflies zipping around eating the bugs. After I left there I caught some bugnado action at the bridge, but it was mostly too dark then. So the next night I went over again and only found them at the bridge again.

So now this was at the bridge on June 28th. Chris was up from Omaha this time. We didn't have much luck till we came back to the bridge.

Just a few bugs in those.

They liked to do much like what I saw that night at Council Bluffs. Like they come in from the water or wherever and hang out over the highway. The deal is these are much like driving towards fog or smoke. If you are further you can see it, but you get closer and it tends to vanish. You'd be driving down the highway seeing them, but the closer you get the more you lose them. This was as cool as I thought it got and all I ever really expected in the numerous times I went looking. Then the encounter on the 4th of July happened.

If you weren't out multiple times looking, it's unlikely you'd be there when this crazy deal happens. And that is the key on all things chasing...better go a lot. And in this case, I was heading over to the flood waters to shoot the fireworks above them(flood waters). I thought I might as well head over early and look for bugnado action. Some days the tops of the trees look like they are smoking. Can't remember if I was seeing much of that on the way there. That is usually a good way to tell if there are many around.

I pull into the Desoto Bend NWR entrance and about crapped. It was before the above photo was taken. I pull in there and out of the corner of my eye I noticed something really obvious. It looked like something kicked up a whole lotta fine dirt. I thought, what the hell is that above the grass over by the highway. I soon saw it was all bugs. Oh crap, hurry hurry hurry shoot mode kicks in, something very untypical is happening, catch it before it is gone. The entire area there was full of a huge bug swarm, the likes of which I've never seen before. Then it quickly puts on this absurd show, a very long lived and stationary bugnado monstrosity. I absolutely love these moments. Moments you are there for and you can't believe what you are seeing is happening. And it's bugs of all things in this case. Consider between this above picture and the last on here, 14 minutes have passed and it's still right there. And consider the shapes below in that time frame.

Pretty cool while it was not extending upwards very high, but nothing beat those upward extending vortex formations. The motion is a lot more intense and fast than I'm sure the images lead onto. They are much like dust devils in their motion and changes. It's sorta crazy bugs or anything living could form something that nature makes, like a perfect vortex.

Going up.

And up.

It would usually mess around between this height and the thicker low size. It was always like one living breathing entity. And notice the location near the ground it's at. It is crazy this went on over 15 minutes with the biggest vortex here being right there in that location. There were a lot of other bug swarms in the immediate vicinity too, but none going as crazy as this one. It's odd to realize the length of time it was doing this and being in that one location given all the others around I guess.

The whole time I was in keep shooting this mode, not even thinking I'd have time to snatch the tripod out. It was really low light so it took the 50mm at F1.8 which made focus a bit of an issue. Anything in front or beyond the focus point was going soft fast at F1.8. I also shot video with the T2i. Got 3 decently long clips of this with it. Briefly moved over to the south of it as it was sorta spread out for a bit.

Back on the west side of it, while it was still kinda spread out.

And there she goes again, tightening up into the vortex again, same spot.

Simply freaking crazy! The thing I learned after this, is it wasn't terribly hard to find small almost tornadoes. The ditches would sorta be fanned with bug swarms. Least for a while, eventually it's as if these tons of birds now in the area have eaten most of them. But what I can now rather strongly attest to, is that this deal here is not easy to get lol. I first thought I'd just head back over there some more nights and find this again and shoot it better maybe. Wrong. Was pretty hard to even find the bugs some nights. And the fading light issue is always there as they are starting to come out like they do. I finally gave up trying to see this again. Mostly now thanks to those many birds you can see in this flooded area. The last couple times was hard to even get bug splatter on the windshield over there. Like they are more or less gone...eaten. And I say eaten by those birds because the bird swarms were noticed during this time of not finding many bugs now.

Just look how high the damn thing goes. The video around this time is rather freaky. The crappy part is I had to stop taking stills to shoot some video. So I don't have images at the same time as the video and vice versa.

And above is an image 3 weeks after the crazy bugnadoes on the 4th. All the dark spots are birds. They have to be what have done such a number on the bugs. Out of the various weather and nature related things I've seen, I just don't see topping this vortex again with some better version. One of the few things I can probably say that on. I tried several nights over there and wasn't remotely close and more often than not, not finding any bug swarms. So a 15 minute+ stationary, 20+ foot vortex made of bugs...well a sure treat and something I don't think I'll see again.

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