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.