Monday, November 30, 2009

Cattleya amesthystoglass, my greenhouse. This is a polyploid variety of amesthystoglossa. At least, the parents were counted tetraploids. You can see the ploidy difference in the incredible thickness of the flowers and the added width of the segments. You can see a normal amesthystoglossa at As to which is actually prettier or whether we should be tampering with the genetics of nature, that's a personal thing. However, man's been tampering with genetics for as long as civilation has existed. Ironically, that's how we created those cute, cuddly little dogs and cats and those uber-huge cows, turkeys and chickens. It's also how we created disease resistent and more productive strains of wheat, corn and potatos. In recent years, man's become a bit more efficient and creative about genetics which raises some ethical issues. A mixed bag, I suspect, but most things are.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bandit the Biker Dog

Harley advertising for Bandit the Biker Dog, San Diego, California. Only in California... You've probably seen cars with URLs adverstised on their rear windows. This, however, was the first motorcycle with a URL advertisement on it that I've seen (noted photography benefits of being a passenger; my apologies for the jitter). I was curious enough to actually go to to see what it was all about. It's a sentimental memorial for Bandit the Biker Dog, RIP, and a fundraising page for various charities, the humane society, police and firemen included. Clearly, there's more to this Harley rider and his dog than the movie stereotypes would have you believe. I think it would be fun to talk to some Harley riders and find out more about why they ride and what it's all about. I suspect that bikers are as varied as the rest of us. I'd also bet that many of the answers are sitting right at our fingertips here online.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grebe Chasing Fish

Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis, San Diego Bay, California. This little grebe was zigging and zagging underwater with amazingly rapid speed and agility as it chased a school of fairly decent sized fish. It is very different from the wait and surprise technique used by herons and egrets. I could almost imagine ancient pleiosaurs zigging along in similar fashion but after the titanic fish of the time.

Having trouble seeing the bird and the school of fish? Click on the picture for a slightly larger view.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Resting on the Foundation of Giants (literally)

Huge Statue of Sailor kissing a Nurse during shore leave, San Diego Bay, San Diego, California. Okay, so it's not the most profound art but it does kind of fit in with the huge Naval presence in San Diego Bay as well as the miscellaneous maritime museums. One family (lower left) felt that it was an equally nice place to sit down and have lunch. So it's useful too! ...even if only as a park bench. I don't mind it too much. It's kind of a curiosity. Of course, I really don't want to know how much the government spent to fund it. No, I really don't want to know lest I be tempted to suggest that they spend that money on keeping people employed instead. Although I suppose the artist was employed and countless crane operators and site preparation people so maybe they really did intend to spend the money to keep people employed. Hmmmm....?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher, Ceryle alcyon, Mission River, San Diego, California. I saw this guy sitting on a tree overlooking the Mission River. He promptly took flight and hovered in mid-air as he eyed the water below for fish!

Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all, best wishes for warm, joyful holidays spent with those you love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Architectural Wonder

The Grand Hyatt Shanghai, Jin Mao Tower, 88 Century Avenue,Pudong New Area, Shanghai, People's Republic of China. One of the most beautiful hotels in Shanghai, the Hyatt actually starts in the middle of the hotel (somewhere around the 40th floor if I recall...) with businesses down below. The core is hollow and you can look all the way down to the lobby from the interior hallway adjacent to your room. At night, they light the whole thing up and it goes up so high, you can almost not see the top. If you enjoy architecture, Shanghai is full of awesome buildings from the Asian inspired to the ultra-modern to old European. There is lots to do, lots of shopping and lots to see.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Claire and Her Amazing Lizards

Claire Tietje and her amazing ceramics. Claire said the lizards and rock were all ceramic and that she created that really cool, rock-like finish with a sponge. If not for the hole on the top, I would have sworn it was a rock. The lizards were very realistic too! Wow... See more from Claire and her equally talented husband Gerry at

Natatorium WWI Memorial

Natatorium World War I Memorial, Waikiki, Hawaii. This is the entrace to the Natatorium, a salt water pool created along the beach by dredging out an area and building a pool wall around it. The water in the pool was salt water in free exchange with the ocean. It's been closed for years but they are finally starting to repair and restore it after some twenty years of neglect. I hope to see it open again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talmadege Art Show

Hanging Orb by Kelly Zijlstra, Still Lily Designs. There were all kinds of fun, artsy things at the Talmadge Art show in Hillcrest. This one is a hanging garden by Still Lily Designs.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Abalone by Morning...

Abalone on Glass. If you look close, you can see the rough plates or radula, a mollusks equivalent of teeth, that the abalone uses to scrape algae off the rocks. These poor little guys are in decline due to over harvesting, pollution and other issues.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Great Egret

Great Egret, Ardea alba, Mission River Preserve, San Diego, California. These large birds are generally a little shy and will take to wing if you get within a hundred feet or so. They are fun to watch, however, as they stalk through the shallows looking for fish and crustaceans.

Curlew with Crab

Curlew with Crab. I thought Curlews ate worms but they are apparently quite adaptable in their eating habits. This one caught a crab and systematically removed both pincers and most of the legs before, at an almost leisurely pace, gulping down the carapace as one tasty morsel! I snapped pictures in sequence that show the Curlew first grabbing the hapless crab's left pincer, shaking (off goes the left pincer), then grabbing the right pincer, shaking (off goes the right pincer), shaking off a few legs and GULP. We seriously don't give animals anywhere near the credit they deserve for being uncannily smart and adaptable. As for the crab, what a way to go. Ouch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long Nosed Wrasse

Long Nosed (Bird) Wrasse, Gomphosus varius, Honolulu, Hawaii. These fish use their long snouts to reach into coral crevices to pull out the small crustaceans that they eat. The males are green and the females are black and white (dimorphic).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whoa, Duck for Cover!

Ruddy Duck, non-breeding colors, Mission River Preserve. The ducks are back! Every fall about this time the migratory birds come down from Alaska and Canada to bask in our considerably warmer waters. They're not out in huge numbers but the migration has definitely started. There were ruddy ducks, brandts, stilts, plovers, buffleheads, willets, curlews, godwits and widgeons out lounging on the river muching on crustaceans, seaweed and whatnot. I saw a godwit take out a small crab. Fascinating sight. The bird actually took off the claws one at a time, eating each, and then gulped the carapace. They are smart little guys. Gosh but it's tough being on the lower rungs of the food chain!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres, La Jolla, California. Huge flock of Ruddy Turnstones going in and out with the waves like a swarm of insects. It was absolutely mesmerizing watching them rush rhythmically in and out with the waves. At one point a hawk flew over and they all burst up into wing and, even then, zigged and zagged evasively in unison. An amazing sight to see if you ever get the chance.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Cardinals

Cardinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodi. These were discovered by Dr. Axelrod way back when are in the characin family. They are from the Rio Negro in Brazil where the waters are nearly black (hence the name) from decomposing organic matter as the rains flood the Amazon jungle. They are annuals in the wild but live up to 7 years in captivity. They are easily distinguished by the more common and somewhat hardier Neon tetra by the length of the red stripe which extends the full length of the body in Cardinals but only about half way in Neons.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Electric Blue Ram

Microgeophagus ramirezi var Electric Blue, Electric Blue Ram. A quick picture from the aquarium. These Electric Blue Rams do quite well in the acidic water in my aquarium. It turns out that the logs with the Java fern on them make the water very acidic. That means that South American fish, from the slow moving, acidic Amazon waters, do quite well. It also means that African cichlids from the great rift lakes (Mozambique, Tanganyika, Victoria) find the water pretty much unbearable.

I had a breeding pair of Golden Rams when I was a kid. Cichlids are fun to watch as they guard and tend to the nest and then guard the babies. I have three of the Electric Blues so we'll see if any of them pair up.

Ironically, they've changed the genera on dwarf rams since I was a kid. They used to be called Apistogramma ramirezi. While these little guys were split off of Apistogramma, there are apparantly still over 50 species of dwarf cichlids in Apistogramma.

Okay, I did a little looking around and here's what I found out. Microgeophagus Axelrod, 1971 is the name accepted by most taxonomists. Thus, Dr. Axelrod, of TFH fame, appears to be the guilty party (and apparently the one that felt that these little cuties bear semblance to their larger Geophagus cousins). Kullander, on the other hand, contends that the name Mikrogeophagus (with a "k") Meulengracht-Madsen, 1968 is the oldest valid name and should be used for the genus. Either way, they are beautiful, largely peaceful fish with a lot of character.

Oh, and if you're wondering, the little fishes looking on in the background are glass tetras.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shade-loving Africans!

Aerangis luteo-alba var. rhodosticta, blooming in the greenhouse. Aerangis is a family of shade-tolerant, monopodial orchids from Africa and Madagascar. They are relatively easy growing and are nicely suited to growing mounted. Aerangis luteo-alba var. rhodosticta is one of the few with bright orange color, the rest being white or white with a light blush. They are likely pollinated at night by moths and all have the telltale nectary. Aerangis luteo-alba var. rhodosticta hails from the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo, Zaire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in shady, riverine forests at around 3000-6000 feet.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The Whitehouse from the Mall, Washington, D.C. I had the telephoto resting on a fencepost with a long exposure to snap this picture. You can see the lamp posts along the mall lighting the way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's in Your Aquarium?

A kid and his dad watching the scuba diver clean the shark tank; Waikiki Aquarium, Waikiki, Hawaii

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pictures from Afar

Chandelier in the lobby of the Century Hyatt, Tokyo, Japan.

Flash Averse

Dog squinting at my flash. It's getting hard to get the dog to pose now that he's figured out what a flash is!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Stanhopea platyceras

Stanhopea platyceras blooming in the greenhouse. Huge, freckly flowers with a not overpowering scent blooming a little late.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Persimmon Season!

Fresh Fuyu Persimmons! It's persimmon season again! I've acquired a taste for these uber-sweet fruit in the last few years, probably because they grow well in Southern California. While my little tree has yet to bear fruit (maybe in a year or two), they show up in the local Mexican grocery store for a measly 79 cents a pound (really cheap!). I have these set out to ripen as persimmons are a) a bit puckerish; and b) not good for you if you eat them green. Apparently, some persimmons have significant amounts of tannin in them that can coagulate into a mass if eaten green. The FuYu Persimmon is relatively low in tannin and is a little firmer than it's cousin, the Hachiya, which requires thorough ripening and tends to be really squishy by the time it is ready for eating. The wild persimmons native to North America also tend to have high levels on tannins if eaten green and are not generally recommended. To learn more about persimmons, click here.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Corn Hung to Dry

Corn hung up to dry; Dombes, France. Thinking to myself that they must not have squirrels in Dombes!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Underwater Garden

Underwater Garden with freshwater shrimp, Aquarium Society Show, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA. When you mention shrimp, most people think of the saltwater shrimp that you buy in a bag at the grocery store or get with cocktail sauce at the restaurant. However, the prawns that you buy are largely freshwater or brackish in origin. There are, as you might expect, a nice variety of freshwater custaceans that you can have in your aquarium in a wonderful assortment of colors. The same holds true for freshwater plants in a whole menagerie of shapes and colors. Keeping your fish from eating both your shrimps and your plants, however, may be challenging.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Beautiful Blue Beta

Beta splendens, Aquarium Society, Casa del Prado, Balboa Park. A stunning blue Beta Splendens with a striking white picotee/halo around his fins. These have certainly come a long way from the fish that lived in mud puddles in Southeast Asia.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Casa del Prado Theater

Casa del Prado Theater, Balboa Park, San Diego, California. The del Prado illustrates a fanciful re-invention of Spanish Baroque and Churrigueresque towers based on 17th and 18th century Spanish Baroque architecture.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Have you seen a Ghost?

Ghost Catfish, Kryptopterus bicirrhis. These little guys come from Borneo and Indonesia. They are transparent because they have no pigment and no scales (most catfish have no scales). They prefer the shade of caves, plants and logs and may be finicky eaters, preferring live food.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Holy Ghost

Peristeria elata, the "Holy Ghost Orchid" or La Flor del Espiritu Santo. This is the national flower of Panama, where it is protected. It is nicknamed the Holy Ghost Orchid due to the alabaster white column and petals that resemble a white dove. It is also called the dove orchid. If you have a chance to see one of these, stop to smell it's wonderful fruit-like fragrance which is every bit as notable as its beauty.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

White's Tree Frog

White's Tree Frog, Litorea caerulea, at the Aquarium Society Show compliments of Pet Kingdom! What a stunning turquoise! These guys are native to Indonesia and Australia and can live for up to 15-20 years of age! They are hardy and make good pets. They are also nocturnal, spending their days in one long siesta.