Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beginnings of a Monarch

Caterpillar from the Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed (Crown flower). While Monarch Butterflies in the Continental U.S. migrate, in Hawaii they have a wonderful time breeding and feasting on Crown flower all year round. This striped beauty will soon become a full fledged monarch, being just about ready to go into the chrysallis phase.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Trigger This

Rectangular Triggerfish, Humuhumu nuku nuku a'pua'a, Balistapus rectagulus, Waikiki Beach. This one came right up to my camera. I was not sure if it would focus that close but, if you snap enough pictures, every now and then one comes out. Thank goodness for digital! These used to be the state fish of Hawaii. There has been some argument since then and I suspect the poor thing was deposed. However, they are the state fish I grew up with which is good enough for me (keep politics out of fish and wildlife).

Red Footed Booby

Red Footed Booby, Sula sula, Makapuu, Hawaii. While reknowned for being clumsy on the ground, these Red Footed Booby birds are nothing but graceful as they dance above the waves. I had never seen them in Hawaii before but found them flying just outside of the Makapuu lighthouse and then again off of Makapuu Beach. They are a wonderful sight to behold. These birds live up to twenty years and can be up to 30 inches wing to wing!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hawaiian Domino Damselfish

Hawaiian Domino Damselfish, Waikiki Beach. The Hawaiian Domino Damselfish is endemic to Hawaii. They typically nest in pairs and agressively guard the brood. This one was about 100 ft. offshore from Waikiki Beach!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Australian Black Swan

Australian Black Swan, Cygnus atratus. There is also a South American Black Swan. The Northern Hemisphere Swans are largely white. This one is getting a free handout of bird/fish food at the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe, Oahu.

According to Wildlife Warriors, "the Australian Black Swan was first discovered on the west coast of Australia, on what is now known as the Swan River, by the Dutch in the year 1697. They eventually took three live swans back home with them."

Black Swans nest in a heap of plants and weeds on or along the water. The baby swans, the Cygnets, are a fluffy, grey-brown. Male swans are generally larger. Also, females bills and irises are lighter in coloration than the males.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian for Merry Christmas)

Flying Gurnard, Dactyloptena orientalis. Do reindeer really fly? Perhaps not. However, here is a picture of a flying gurnard who looks like he ought to be able to fly with those huge pectoral fins. In fact, the gurnard uses the front rays of the pectoral fins as a rake to shake up the sand and stir up food which, once uncovered is promptly eaten. It's quite a treat to watch. I could have watched this Gurnard all day long, however, I eventually got so cold floating in the water watching, that I retreated to the warm sandy beach. While gurnard are reportedly shy, this one was quite complacent about the audience (a.k.a., me), going about his foraging uninterupted by my presence. He even kept on eating when the flounder showed up, hoping for a free meal off of the gurnard's efforts.

So, hopefully, Santa as nice to you all and the new year is looking nothing but up. Happy Holidays. WH

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Moorish Idol. These beautiful omnivores are ever present on the reef, using their narrow snout to find small crustaceans in crevices in the reef.

Meanwhile, it looks like two days of feastig for Chrismas and Christmas eve. Eat now and diet later! Have a wonderful Christmas.

Find the Fish!

Here's a picture of a Panther Flounder, Bothus pantherinus in the sand off of Waikiki beach in about 3 ft. of water. Can you find the fish? Hint: look for the circular markings on the lower part of the photo; eyes are on the right; mouth on the upper right; tail on the lower left. This Panther Flounder swam up to me while I was watching a Flying Gurnard, Dactyloptena orientalis, (picture for another day) dig in the sand for crustaceans. My guess is the flounder was hoping to snag something stirred up by the Gurnard (as if it wasn't hard enough to find a decent crustacean as it was! LOL).

Oh yeah, it's Christmas eve!! Merry Christmas! May you all spend your Christmas with those you love and may the day and the year to follow be filled with warm and lasting memories.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hungry Duck

Mrs. Mallard, Lake Miramar. Don't you hate it when they beg? Aw, but she's so cute... How could you refuse a look like that?

Cosmopolitan Duck

Cosmopolitan Duck, Lake Miramar. Probably a mix of Mallard and Peking Duck, both of which are bountiful at Lake Miramar. So, if ducks can get along so fabulously, why shouldn't people?

Happy holidays from Hawaii, gentle readers. Hopefully you are all having a wonderful holiday season with friends and family.

On the Wing

Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus, Lake Miramar. These range all the way down to Peru. This one was at Lake Miramar and was hanging out looking for a quick snack near the pier from the crowd there feeding the ducks. I love that name! It sounds so exotic. GRACKLE... It just rolls off your tongue. The name has a nice ring to it. You could almost write a little song to it. Beware the great-tailed grackle. He has a sinister cackle. (pah dum pah dum pah dum) Grackle. Grackle. Graaaackle. (Chuckles)

Meanwhile, I'm off to make my way through the holiday crowds to visit Mom. It's kind of a tradition. More pictures when I can... The great news, of course, is that finals are done!!! Yay!!! The bad news is that tuition is due for next semester (ow). Grin. Where is that rich uncle anyhow? Oh wait, maybe I was supposed to be him? I'd better graduate soon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sea Lions

California Sea Lion pups, La Jolla, CA. As opposed to the harbor seals who nabbed a nice sandy beach, the sea lions contented themselves with a large rock or two along the shore. In the seals' defense, you will note that Sea lions flippers extend downwards like feet making them a little more mobile on dry land than seals who have rear flippers that extend backwards.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2 Down, One to Go!

Harbor Seal, La Jolla, CA. It's pupping season again and the harbor seals are out on the beach. They are soooo cute, especially when they're still furry. There's a big lawsuit going on with some people trying to kick the seals out of "children's pool" so the kids can swim again. Now, I'm all for kids swimming but there are all sorts of beaches in San Diego and all sorts of swimming pools and just one tiny little beach with seal pups. I wonder if Santa can deliver a lawsuit verdict in favor of the seals?

Meanwhile, I just finished my second final for this semester. One more to go tomorrow night. Cross your fingers for me. This one's going to be tough.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One for the Zen Birdfeeder

Hummingbirds at the feeder in the evening. Hummingbirds are quite territorial. However, just before the sun goes completely down, they all make a dash for the hummingbird feeder and seemingly ignore their territorial tendencies. There was a crowd of about 8 at the feeder and they were mostly unfazed by the flash (suggesting that they were quite hungry and stashing food for the evening).

One question for the Zen Birdfeeder (if you're reading this...). I've put up other feeders which all seem to come with plastic reservoirs. However, they are largely ignored and the birds all end up coming back to this trusty old feeder with a glass reservoir. Any idea why?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Blossoms

Nothing like the arrival of the Christmas Cactus flowers in December to brighten up those darkened skies. So there I was at the nursery, innocently looking for a tangerine tree when this brilliant red Christmas Cactus catches my eye. I admit, I've got quite a few but I couldn't resist getting just one more when I saw that delicious red color. It's already earned a spot in the house, at least for Christmas anyhow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hidden Among Us or Tyrannocricket Rex

Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket, Stenopelmatus new species "mahogany". One of the newer species of Jerusalem Cricket. It appears these little buggers live underground and live on roots. This particular species is found in Southern California, largely around Orange County, but apparently finds its way South. Dr. Tod Reeder is doing a genetic study on these flightless insects to see if habit isolation (yes, dear reader, caused by people carving up the landscape for homes and roads) is leading to genetic isolation and perhaps even speciation at some point. I quote the good Dr. Tod (Reeder), "We are gathering sequences from the Mitochondrial Cytochrome Oxidase I gene, a commonly used molecular marker for both population genetic and species-level phylogenetic studies. Preliminary results suggest that there is a high level of genetic population differentiation among the populations sampled." If you're familiar with these things, you'll remember that mitochondrial DNA is what was used to attempt to trace all human lineage back to a single female hominid ancestor in Africa.

I, for one, am amazed that something that big (about the size of a large roach) and with so many appendages can exist underground. It seems sensitive to light (as you would expect), covering its eyes with it's forlegs to block the sun, even on this cold, misty day. I suspect that the myriad little spines on the end of each leg are for digging. I have no idea why this one chose to pop up out of the ground for our viewing pleasure.

I am also amazed that something like this can live hidden in an urban area for so long. I've lived here for ten years and this is the first one I've ever seen and maybe will be the only one I'll ever see. Fascinating. Makes you wonder what else is lurking under those flowers and veggies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

La Cote Bleu et La Redonne

SCUBA tour boat heading out near La Redonne, France along the Blue Coast (La Cote Bleu) in the south of France. It was a particularly large tour boat with over 20 divers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blue Winged Teals in a Daze

Three male Blue Winged Teals, Anas discors, following one popular female Blue Winged Teal. Those Blue Winged Teal females sure are POPULAR! Whoever said that ducks mate for life? Indeed!

Meanwhile, back in my boring life: one final down and two more to go next week and then it's the home stretch to Christmas. I haven't written a card yet little less bought gifts for the family. Doggone finals just get in the way, don't they? Back to studying...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow in San Diego?

Snowy Egret, Egretta thula. These little birds will walk in the shallows, using one foot to shake the reeds, keeping a beady eye out for any fish or critters that would swim out into the open. It seems like some are right footed and some are left footed but I didn't watch any given bird long enough to be certain that they never shifted the foot that they used as the "bush-whacker." I snapped this at Sunset, hence, the deep water hues and sunset tones.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Smells Like...Andes Mints!

Stanhopea occulata blooming in my greenhouse. The flower spikes of these orchids burrow down through the bottom of the basket to bloom. They are really exotic in tones of cream with red spots! Better yet, they smell like Andes Mints.

Monday, December 08, 2008

F-18 Crash In San Diego

Above: AP News photo from the crash site. Below: Smoke from the F-18 Crash taken with my camera phone from the office window. The F-18 was on approach to Miramar Airbase (think Top Gun) when it crashed in University city, about 1 mile short of the runway. There were 2 confirmed fatalities and 2 missing in the impacted house; a mother, 2 children and their grandmother were reportedly in the house. The pilot safely ejected.

Overall, while it is a lot of fun watching the F-18s fly over the office (and I could watch them for hours), incidents like this bring home an awareness that low flying military jets over civilian areas comes with risk. This is the first military jet I recall crashing in a residential area within San Diego. However, a PSA passenger jet crashed in North Park in 1978 with horrific results. Another military jet crashed in 2006 in an uninhabited area perhaps a mile from Scripps Ranch.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Banners People Fly

Its kind of amazing the banners people fly behind little planes. They used to fly beer ads at the football games. Then there were people doing marriage proposals. I had to admit that I wasn't sure quite how to react to having a sign for a strip club flying up over our residential neighborhood. At first I was amused; but the more I thought about it the more it seemed inappropriate. On the other hand, I'd also guess that they know their customer base pretty well and those "nice" residential neighborhoods are where their customers come from. Do you suppose? In their defense, they were flying really high so it wasn't overtly visible although clearly not too high for my telephoto lens.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Strikingly Miniature

Eulophia paniculata. This little orchid gives huge sprays of tiny half-inch flowers that seem really unobtrusive until you get up close and notice that they are wonderful, gaudy little creatings full of candy stripes and grape colored veining. Wow. Better yet, they grow outdoors here. This one is growing on my retaining wall in the front yard.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lc Jalapa

Lc. Jalapa. This orchid just bloomed today in the greenhouse. In the sun, it is a stunning, waxy wine-red. It has eight flowers and the breeder says up to 25 flowers when it grows older. Wow.

Butterfly Days

This little Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui, flew away as I was walking along the path and then flew back and landed right next to me. There were quite a few of them flitting in pairs along the path but this is the only one that posed! Perhaps he just had a long day or maybe he was being friendly and photogenic. Either way, here he is.

These little butterflies spend the winter in the desert (I guess San Diego qualifies as semi-arid) where they lay their eggs. As caterpillars, having feasted on the Spring foliage, turn into full fledged butterflies in the Spring, they migrate North in search of fresh food and breeding grounds. They may fly as far North as southern Oregon and their offspring will fly on to reach British Columbia before heading South to the California desert in the Fall.

G'night...and happy Friday.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Creepy Crawlies Can Be Pretty Too?

Spider burrow. Mission trails park. There were three of these right next to each other. No sign of the spider. Perhaps if some bug popped in. In any case, the webs were coated with dew from the recent misty, rainy nights we've been having and I thought it was rather pretty if a bit prickly for passing bugs. Whatcha think? Jeebies or awe and wonder? Both?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Long Dry Summer

Yucca seed pods after a long, dry Summer. Sometimes there is beauty even after the flowers have faded. Or, perhaps, the setting sun just makes everything glow a little nicer.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Misty Afternoon

San Diego from the top of one of the peaks in Mission Trails Park looking West. You can see the fog start to roll in and can almost imagine that you were not in the middle of a huge city.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lichen or Not...

Lichen, glowing gold in the late afternoon sun after a Winter rain. Lichen is a pioneer plant, growing on rock that sets the process going towards creating organic matter for other more complex plants to grow in.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beauty Everywhere

Prickly Pear Fruit, Mission Trails Park. I saw these growing along side the road on the way back from a short hike. The concentric rings on the end of the fruit, likely where the multitude of petals on the prickly pear flowers used to attach, fascinated me as they were highlighted by little concentric shadows by the setting sun.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey, Not Duck!

Two male Cinnamon Teals, Anas cyanoptera. The boys were taking a spin together. Mrs. duck (not shown) was following close behind. I love the way these Cinnamon Teals just glow orange in the setting sun. The beauty of the birds, the quiet and tranquility of it all made a nice end for Thanksgiving and a please post rain break. They say the rest of the weekend will be sunny!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monja Blanca, The White Nun

Lycaste skinneri variety alba, also know as Monja Blanca, the white nun, in it's native habitat of Guatamala. It was proclaimed the national flower of Guatemala in 1934 by the dictator Ubico and is found in Alta Verapaz, in the northwest of the country. It is fragrant and showy, but difficult to grow; commercial use is prohibited in Guatemala. It is said to symbolize peace, beauty, and art.

It's still raining here. We hit a 100 year record of about 1" which, for this semi-arid climate, is quite a lot. Perhaps it will put off water rationing for another year. Meanwhile, this Lycaste is one of the many orchids blooming in the greenhouse that makes the rainy weather that much brighter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Birds for Miss Birdie

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae with droplets from last nights rain. It rained last night and the air smells oh so fresh (for once). No smog in sight. Just droplets of rain on everything, that wonderful, moist, clean air and a fresh, bright new crop of bird of paradise! In the background is my trusty fig tree...

According to our friends at Wikipedia, Strelitzia reginae is indigenous to South Africa where it is pollinated by Sunbirds! When the Sunbird perches on that bright blue spathe to drink the nectar, the spathe opens to cover his/her feet in pollen. How's that for co-evolution. It means that they don't get pollinated here very often. No Sunbird, no pollination. The scientific name, Strelitzia, commemorates Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen consort of King George III.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good Times for an Old Dog

There's nothing sadder than watching your dog grow old and not be able to run along with you. This guy found a nice way to take the aged dog along and still get his exercise. Not a bad life after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Raining Terns

Caspian Tern, Sterna caspia and Far Eastern Curlew, Numerius madagascariensis. Oh, call me crazy but that long, long beak looks like a Far Eastern Curlew. Probably more likely a Bristle-Thighed Curlew in these parts but hey, you never know. Anyhow, I'm snapping a picture of the Curlew and the Caspian Tern just falls out of the sky right in front of the Curlew. Feeling photogenic perhaps. They exchange glances (like in, hey, nice of you to drop by...). The Tern grabs a little water weed and flys off. Weirdest thing I ever saw. What did you do this weekend?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Willet or Not...

Willet, Catoptrophorus semipalmatus. I saw this Willet ducking under an overpass as the low rays of the setting sun lit the waters at a low angle. It made for a dramatic shot with the water appearing almost black! Now if only I could get him to turn around and smile!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Object D'Art

I was mussing around with the photo editor just for chuckles. Here's what I came up with. I can't say it's prettier than what I started with but it's kind of fun anyhow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

By Special Request

A Great Blue Heron, by special request, for our wonderful Miss Birdie! This Heron was hanging out by the water. It wasn't napping as you can tell by those beadie little eyes that were watching me carefully. It wasn't looking for fish. It appeared to just be relaxing in the sun. I, as you can imagine, used the opportunity to snap some 40 shots from different angles and with different depth of field just to make sure that some of them came out nice!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oooooooooh, Aaaaaaah

Stanhopea candida blooming inside my greenhouse. Spectacular, fragrant, dainty, pure white flowers! They only last a few days but the plant blooms multiple times. Beautiful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Great Egret

Great Egret, Ardea alba, taking wing at the Mission River Sanctuary. The Great Egrets are beautiful, graceful birds but they are a little photo shy and normally don't let you get close enough for a really great picture, even with the big, big lens!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wouldn't A Pet Osprey Be Nice?

Osprey with Flounder, Mission River Preserve. I was looking for my favorite Osprey at the Mission River Preserve. He normally hangs out near the overpass, sometimes on a stick in the middle of the river. I was walking back, wondering if he (she?) had left us when, what should I see flapping by with a flounder in tow, but our favorite Osprey. I have to admit, besides being pleased to see him, that I was most impressed that a bird that size can carry a fish that big up into the air. There's some serious strength in those wings! Or...it's a major bummer to be a fish in shallow water, even a decent sized fish! Wow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pelican Days

Pelican flying low over the river. This pelican was hunting for fish at the surface and would periodically dive into the river with some crazy, neck wrenching, giant splash.

Sometimes it's just nice to hang out and watch the birds. No stress, no craziness, just the sun sparkling on the water and the birds doing what birds do.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Duck and Cover

The ducks are back! It's my favorite part of fall as the huge flocks of every sort of species of duck and waterfowl converge onto our San Diego waterways. Shown is a large flock of ruddy ducks in their dusky fall plummage.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas in November

Christmas Cactus. They are all blooming in a wonderful rainbow of colors. This one was a lovely shrimp-color when I bought it years ago. It turns out that the flowers in the sun are lighter and the ones in the shade, like this one, are darker.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Hot Weather Is Back

The weather is back in the 80s and 90s. The windows are open and it's time to head to the beach! Unfortunately, the hot fall weather brings fires as well and Santa Barbara is having a rough go of it. Still, it's a shame to waste some good beach weather.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Got Elephants in Your Tea?

Elephant teapot. Potter's Guild Show, Balboa Park. There were two of these and they were really cool but...they were around $300 each. In this economy, that was just a little too pricy for my pocketbook. So, the picture had to do. Cute little buggers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Potter's Guild; Color Addiction!

WOW! Call me a color addict but this piece of pottery with the pomegranate within just jumped out an hit me with the brilliant colors and intricate patterns. I'm thinking I should have bought this one. Maybe next time...

MSNBC Keith Olberman on Proposition 8

Click here to view MSNBC Keith Olberman on Proposition 8. It is a moving plea for compassion and love.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Potters' Guild

The Potters' Guild had their show in Balboa Park on Sunday. There were all sorts of wondrous and beautiful things. This mug was one of the moderately priced items but with lots of character! There were others with crystals that sparkled gold in glowing glazes or rough textures that looked like wood.

While it was sunny, there was a strong, gusty wind that was whipping up table cloths, knocking over tents and crashing an occasional ceramic. Not the best thing during a pottery show. Nonetheless, I managed to complete most of my Christmas shopping in a whirlwind of pottery shopping. I just need to figure out how to get them to Hawaii!