Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Desert is in Full Bloom at Borrego Springs!

We drove out to Borrego Springs to view the wildflowers and then to Julian for some fresh apple pie.  The desert was just awash in flowers!  Here are a few of the flowers (before I got really tired of hunting for flower and bug IDs).

Arizona Lupine, Lupinus arizonicus, after taking a serious drubbing from the caterpillar invasion.  It appears that the thorny hairs were not enough to totally dissuade the caterpillars from their meal.


Whispering bells, Emenanthe penduliflora var penduliflora

Miniature Lupine species, unknown ID

Desert chicory, Rafinesquia neomexicana

Bearded Cryptantha, Cryptantha barbigera

Beetle pollinating a desert dandelion

Brown-eyed evening primrose and Sand Verbena

Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose, Camissonia claviformis

Caterpillar for the White-lined sphinx moth, Hyles lineata.  These were EVERYWHERE!  Apparently, there are hawks that migrate in every year and eat these voracious little buggers.

Desert grasshopper, unknown ID, blending into the sand

Desert Lily, Hesperocallis undulata


 Desert sunflower, Geraea canescens

 Dune Evening Primrose, Oenothera deltoides


Purple Phacelia, Phacelia distans

Sand Verbena, Abronia villosa aurita

Smooth Desert Dandelion, Malacothrix glabrata

Furry caterpillar, Unknown ID

Dune Sunflower, Helianthus niveus

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cattleya aurantiaca

Cattleya aurantiaca is a native of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicuaragua, and Costa Rica.  This perky little plant typically produces nice clusters of waxy, orange flowers.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cattleya amesthystoglossa

Cattleya amesthystoglossa, a lovely and brightly colored native of Bahia, Brazil, where they grow high up on palms, rocks and tree branches in bright sun.

Stuff blooming in the sunroom: Rhynchostylis gigantea 4N

Rhynchostylis gigantea 4N, this is a tetraploid albino version of this lovely, fragrant, Thai orchid.

Tijuana River Estuary Research Reserve

The weather's been in the 80's and sunny which makes for good walking weather.  The birds are out as well and the ducks are still here for Winter, which makes for some good bird watching.  Here are pictures of a few of the birds and critters that were out and about at the Tijuana River Estuary Research Reserve.

 Black-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus californicus.  These guys are bigger than a small dog and admittedly looked pretty fierce.  Although I don't suppose the hawks care one way or the other.

 Brush rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani.  These are true rabbits, as opposed to the afore-mentioned jack rabbits, and are as cute as can be.  This one was keeping a keen eye out for hawks.

 Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola.  These little diving ducks live on small crustaceans that the root for in the mud and sand.

 Caspian Tern, Sterna caspia, showing its Winter colors.

 A female American Kestrel, Falco sparverius.

 Northern Harrier, Circus cyaneus.  There were several of these large hawks cruising low and slow over the brush, looking for rabbits, squirrels and lizards.

 Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus.  Normally you'll find these in the marsh.  However, there was a pair of them stalking the low ground cover for bugs.
Willet with Winter Colors

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Allen's Hummingbirds are Back

I decided to spend a little "me time" on the back porch with the hummers this morning.  I was pleased to see that the Allen's Hummingbirds are back in full force!  While I love the Anna's, it's quite a treat to see the Allen's at the feeder.  They moved in about three years ago and have apparently decided to stay!

 The Allen's Hummingbirds were typically found out in the chapparal.  However, during the dry summers of the last three years, they have increasingly relied on residential feeders and floral plantings for food.  They are a little smaller than the Anna's but make up for size by being really feisty!

 Female Anna's Hummingbird taking flight.

 Female Allen's Hummingbird.

 Female Allen's Hummingbird.

 Female Anna's Hummingbird with a beak full of pollen.  Hummingbirds are significant pollinators.  In fact, some plants, such as the Heliconia, have long, tubular flowers specialized for being pollinated only by Hummingbirds!  Notably, my Heliconia, here in San Diego where we have lots of Hummingbirds, are almost 100% pollinated while, in Hawaii, where there are no Hummingbirds, are almost never pollinated.  As you would suspect, there are lots of Hummingbirds in South and Central America, where Heliconia are native.  In fact, Columbia is the most likely origin of hummingbirds from where they continued to speciate and spread throughout both North and South America.

Male Anna's Hummingbird, showing the bright red gorget for which they are famous!  When chasing other hummingbirds, they flare the gorget like a lion's mane, making look particularly large and fierce.  Only the males have the large, brilliant gorget.  Both females and juveniles lack the large gorget, possibly making them less threatening to the males, allowing them to co-exist in the same territory.

On a side note, you might ask whether these are really Allen's Hummingbirds or whether they might be Rufous Hummingbirds or both.  The difference between the two rests on some small differences in the tail feathers which are not apparent when the tails are not spread.  Thus, it's pretty hard to tell, to say the least.  However, given that these pictures are all taken in San Diego during February, it's far more likely to fit into an expanding Allen's Hummingbird range that into the Rufous Winter range.  Of course, I'm keeping an eye out for pictures with the tail open but, if you've ever tried to take pictures of hummingbirds in flight, you'll know that it's a lot harder than when they're perched so...we'll go with the assumption that these little guys are Allen's, based on range, for now at least.

What's Blooming?

 The Aloe are in full bloom!  This is a closeup of Aloe ferox.

Aloe ferox.  Also known as the bitter aloe.  This Aloe has distinctive red spines and wonderful, branching flower spikes.  The sap of this plant is sometimes used as a laxative and to treat arthritis.  This particular plant is blooming for the first time and is about 5 years old.  It's main source of water has been natural precipitation with an occasional watering during the hot San Diego summers.

 Mexican Sage is a favorite for both the bees and the hummingbirds.

 Aloe speciosa in full bloom.  Aloe put out a lot of nectar when they bloom, attracting bees for days!

 Cattleya loddigesii

Slc Katherine Clarkson X Blc Suncoast Sunspots

Family Beach Day

 Bufflehead trying to shake a clam out of its shell.

A lot of running for those little legs 

 Great blue heron

Getting off all that wet sand...

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Osprey Nest

Osprey live on fish and generally nest close to lakes and estuaries, typically high up on a palm tree, park light pole or telephone pole.  These two were nesting on a telephone pole at Lake Murray.


 Osprey hopping up to move position in the nest.

Osprey pair in the nest.  Still no sign of chicks/fledglings.

Ducks Mix it Up or a Little Manky Panky...

Mallard ducks have been known to hybridize with other duck species, on occasion.  The hybrids are sometime referred to as "manky" ducks and people have often named the different manky varieties!  Here are two mixed duck pairs at Lake Murray in San Diego.




 A Mallard drake and a Duclair duck.  The duclair is probably a hybrid between a mallard and the white Pekin duck.

An Indian Runner drake and a female mallard.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cassin's Kingbird, Tyrannus vociferans

Cassin's Kingbird, Tyrannus vociferans, Santee Lakes.  This delightful flycatcher is quite the singer, as evidenced by it's Latin name.