Sunday, January 31, 2010

Forget Me Knot

Banyan tree root, Waikiki, Hawaii. Someone tied a know in one of the Banyan tree aerial roots along the beach in Waikiki. It will probably keep on growing until it's another trunk with a knot in the middle. The tree, at least, will not be forgetting that knot any time soon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One for the Bird Lovers

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Dendroica coronata, Mission River, San Diego, California. These breed way up in Alaska and Canada but Winter in the Western U.S. and down to Guatemala. We're lucky enough to get a lot of the migratory birds spendng their Winters here in San Diego. As you might expect, these are the Winter colors on this little Warbler, having a bit more yellow (on the head and above the tail) in the Spring.

IDing these little guys takes a while. It kind of started off like this --> Brown, is it a Sparrow? Little pointy beak, is it a vireo? No, too small and spots on the chest. Is it a fly catcher? No, body's a little too robust. Bit of yellow...could it be a Warbler? No yellow patch on head/rump (aka, didn't quite match the picture but real close) but has the white halo around the eye; could it be a juvenile? Awk, wrong time of year... Oh, Winter, duh. Dull colors in the Winter and, okay, Yellow-rumped Warbler with Winter colors.

On the photo... I have a lot of trouble getting pictures of these little guys. They tend to not let you get as close as say a duck would. They also tend to hide in the middle of the bush rather than perching where you can snap a picture. Typically, I hear them and see little flashes of brown and that's the end of it. Even if you can see them in the middle of the bush, getting an autofocus camera to focus on the middle of a bush is like pulling teeth! So, while not the flashiest little bird, I was pretty happy to get his picture. Now, if only I could get a picture of a vireo...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Paddleboarding Mission Bay

Newbies Paddleboarding in Mission Bay. We were laughing about whether I would tip my kayak or he would fall in first trying to get that picture.

...and then there's paddleboarding. Not to be tried by beginners... Sure looks like fun though.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Black Tip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus limbatus. Not a man eater I say. Seriously, they're not...mostly small fish, squid, shellfish...and an occasional bird or two. They might accidentally bite someone wading in shallow water, but only by accident. Hmmm...what does limbatus mean anyhow? ;-P

They are fished for meat, liver oil and fins and are considered "near threatened." It is one of the more common sharks you'll see swimming over deeper reefs although I've never seen one in shallow water. Of course, that might have something to do with people eating them and the fact that they are somewhat territorial [takes a while for a new shark to move into a given territory].

The Shark Boat

The shark boat with willing, paying volunteers onboard as it heads out of Haleiwa Harbor. Note surfers in background. Now, if you were a surfer, would you be anywhere near the shark boat when they started to chum for sharks? No #$% way, right?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Food for Thought

Shark Tours! [Haleiwa harbor, Oahu, Hawaii] You pay these guys to take you out on a boat, toss you in a cage and chum the water for sharks! Oh boy! Do you think these guys are insured? ;-P

...stay tuned.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Big Waves

Surfer on huges waves at Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii. I thought about doing a little zoom and crop on this one but I figured I'd leave the whole wave there to help you see what it was really like on the beach that way. The waves were HUGE. They were even bigger the day before.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Got Milk?

Great Blue Heron with feather on beak. This picture reminds me of the mild ad! He probably just pulled his head out from under his beak. It's kind of a bird version of hat hair! (Beak feathers?)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mr. Owl

Athene cunicularia hypugaea, Western Burrowing Owl, Tijuana Slough Preserve, California. This little own is under extensive pressure throughout its range in California, especially on the coast where housing development has eliminated much of its habitat. This particular owl is living in the lawn of a local military airbase where they have graciously posted sign posts to warn off would be lawn mowers and vehicles from their burrows. That helps us photo-bugs figure out where to snap pictures. As the airbase is fenced in,however, this is the best picture I was able to snap. Ironically, I shot the picture of the base of the sign from perhaps over 150 feet away with a 500 mm lens. It was so far away, I didn't even see the owl until I was able to review the picture on the computer. Ironic or perhaps serendipitous.

These owls range from Southern Canada south through Central America. They typically reside in old ground squirrel holes and live on small rodents, lizards, grasshopers, crickets, prickly pear fruit and miscellaneous small prey.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Bird feather on Prickly Pear. Ouch!

Mailbox Art!

Turtle Mailbox! I saw this mailbox on the side of the road on one of my hikes on Oahu. I thought the turtles were really cool so I snapped a picture! Notably, the turtles failed to stop the nightly Hawaiian mountain rains from rusting out the rivets...

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Goatfish or Weke (pronounced veh keh in Hawaiian), Waikiki, Hawaii. No idea why they call these goatfish but they have these cute little whiskers or "barbels" that they use to dust through the sand and scare up crustaceans for dinner. They normally hang out in little schools of 5-20 fish.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frigate Birds

Frigate Birds, Makapu Lighthouse, Oahu, Hawaii. Frigrate birds are normally seen gracefully gliding high overhead, their huge wings like kites in the thermals. These seabirds can be found nesting in large number on Molokini off of Maui. They're also found in greater numbers off of the hot, Waianae coast. The Hawaiians used to say that large numbers of frigate birds overhead meant that someone had died. However, as opposed to vultures, Frigate birds live on fish! ;-P

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Royal Hawaiian

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki, Hawaii. Waikiki used to be the beach where Royalty surfed. Nice, gentle, predictable waves... The Royal Hawaiian Hotel was pretty much the only hotel on the beach and up and down Waikiki, there were coconut palms in profusion. The low lying area surrounding Waikiki was fairly swampy. Since then, Waikiki has filled up with high rises and shoping areas and the swamp (much to the chagrin of the native ducks) was drained via the Ala Wai Canal.

Monday, January 18, 2010

First Dragonfly of the Season

Variegated Meadowhawk (male), Sympetrum corruptum, (Dragonfly), Mission Trails Park. Okay, it's confirmed. This is a variegated meadowhawk. This little dragonfly is the first one I've seen for 2010; apparently, these overwinter. Pretty and very photogenic as well. I just wish the day was a little sunnier.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Little Squirts

Sea Squirts under the pier, Mission Bay. Sea Squirts are Tunicates, underwater sack-like filter feeders. These were growing on a rope under the pier. When the rope was lifted out of the water, they all squirted out water like a little squirt gun and then sealed shut, ending up looking like masses of brownish jelly. I suppose that is how they got the name sea squirt. Ironically, they are classified in chordata (very primative vertebrates, apparently). According to Wikipedia, Tunicates "evolved in the early Cambrian period, beginning c 540 million years ago. Despite their simple appearance, tunicates are closely related to vertebrates, which include fish and all land animals with bones."

Some sea squirts are spreading their range aggressively and are listed as noxious pests (these CA Sea Squirts are apparently spreading up into Washington, for example). Oh, it would be such a drag (literally) to have to clean those off the hull of a boat, wouldn't it?

Friday, January 15, 2010

No Cell Phone, No Laptop, No Books, No Worries

Yours truly out kayaking in Mission Bay. I will admit, I was a little worried that the huge sea lion I paddled up on (about 5 feet away), might take offense to my bothering his leisurely sunning at the surface but clearly not worried enough to not take a picture or three.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus, Mission Bay, San Diego, California. The cormorants hang out on the buoys lining the bay by Sea World hoping to snag some free chow from the festivities. This little guy hopped into the water right next to my kayak. Oh I was wishing for my trusty Nikon...but the portable Canon in the water-proof case would have to do.

Cormorants dive for their food and propel themselves underwater with those huge flipper-like feet you see out behind. Other birds, like penguins, make much use of their flipper-like wings.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snuggled up with the Toys...

Dogs life... Don't dogs have it great? Surround by toys and a nice warm blanket on his very own lounge chair! It doesn't get any better.

Empty Beach All To Yourself?

Kualoa Beach with Mokoli'i Island (Chinaman's Hat) in the bay, Hawaii. Empty and oh so quiet...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Opah (Moonfish) at Tamashiro Market in Honolulu on sale for new years. According to Wikipedia, approximately 35 percent of an opah's weight is consumable, with the remaining 65% being bone and thick skin. They live largely on squid and krill and inhabit fairly deep water, occasionally swimming with Tuna.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hanging Out in Waikiki

Group of friends just hanging out on the beach in Waikiki. More shots of warm weather just in case you're stuck in the frigid temperatures we've been having this winter... As for me, vacation's over and it's back to the books! It is nice to see all my friends again. Ah, that school thing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sea Lion Fin-basking

Sea Lion Thermoregulating, Mission Bay. What does thermoregulation have to do with holding a fin up in the air anyhow? Apparently, Sea Lions have a lot of capilaries close to the surface in their flippers (not intuitive by any means). To heat themselves, they will hold their flipper out in the sun. To cool themselves, they will dip the flipper in the water and then put it back up in the air for evaporative cooling. Pretty nifty huh?

We decided to go kayaking on Mission bay to celebrate an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day. I, of course, decided that this would allow me to get a little closer to the birds and other sea critters I enjoy photographing from shore. I used my little hand-held pocket digital camera and a case to avoid worrying about it getting wet. Unfortunately, compared to my trusty Nikon, the pocket digital camera pictures are decidedly grainy and not the best in low light. A few came out, particularly if I didn't use the digital zoom but I deleted a lot of them. The above sea lion was perhaps 5-10 feet away and not real worried about my kayak drifting up on him. Of course, one flick of the tail and he would have been far away again so there was no reason for him to have been worried. Dare I bring my Nikon next time? We shall see...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Blenny on the Rocks?

A Blenny poking his head out of the coral to check out his surroundings and wait for food passing by. He actually stayed in one place while the waves washed me to and fro past him several times before getting spooked and diving back into the rocks. Dad used to call these o'opu, opu kai or skip jacks...

Friday, January 08, 2010

How Orchids Start

Orchid protocorms on agar media. Orchid seed is very fine and has no notable cotyledon/food matter to support it in the first days of growth. For example, on a lima bean or a peanut, you have two starchy halves (dicotyledon; orchids are monocots) or in corn, a fleshy kernal surrounding the tiny plant start. In contrast, orchids depend on a symbiotic fungus to provide initial nutrients. However, in artificial cultivation, better yields were achieved by putting the growth nutrients into sterile agar media, bypassing the need for a fungus culture.

In the photo, the little green spots are new orchid protocorms starting to germinate. In some crosses, you may end up with thousands of protocorms. However, the more dissimilar the parents (different genera, for example), the less plants/protocorms that will germinate. This cross ended up with only a few protocorms which is perfectly fine for me but perhaps not great for commercial growers who need volume.

Too nerdy or kind of interesting? Thoughts?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Strawberry Crab!

New Crab species, Neoliomera species closely related to the straberry crab in Hawaii/Indo-Pacific. I found this little crab and thought it was so bright and so cool that I blew it up big for you. Just click on the picture. Interestingly enough, the eye sockets pop up (apparently) through the carapace rather then on the edge of the carapace like most crabs that I've seen.


Weirdest thing. After all this time and thousands of blogs, I've been spammed for the first time. There was a comment that consisted of Chinese characters linking to what appeared to be a malicious site. Not sure what to make of it but I turned on comment moderation to protect you guys & gals from similar malicious sites, at least if I catch them, and deleted that post. I had figured that the verification letters you need to type in on comments would have prevented such things but apparently, not completely. For our faithful audience, please keep the comments coming and don't let the moderation disuade you from chiming in.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Amazing Wave-Fetching Dog

Golden Retriever fetching a stick in big waves, Sunset Beach, Hawaii. You can see the wave looming in back of him. This was one "can do" dog, often leaping high to get over the waves and fetch his stick. I was pretty impressed. You wouldn't have gotten me in those giant waves to fetch a stick...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

His and Her Matching Kayaks

His and Her Matching Kayaks, Mission Bay, San Diego, California. It looks like fun. Healthy exercise, open space, no crowds, all good. Although, perhaps not isolated enough to get away from the Honey-do list. ;-)

Monday, January 04, 2010

What Did You Do on 01/01/2010?

Old Biplane flying over Imperial Beach. This fellow was up flying around in a vintage biplane. Looks like fun although, from the looks of him, it's pretty nippy up there. There were actually several biplanes up in the air taking off from the Military helicopter airbase. Apparently, they support more than just helicopters.

I, on the other hand, was walking down below in the nature preserve, hoping to burn off some of those holiday calories by hiking and carrying a big, heavy camera and lens. There were some burrowing ground owls and the usual contingent of ducks and waterfowl. The biplanes were a bonus treat (and much easier to photograph than the birds).

The funny thing about the burrowing ground owls is that they are actually on the military airbase in the grass along the access road. The military has little signs that say owl below, no pesticides, it's easy to spot the burrows. They are, however, far enough away and small enough that it is hard to tell if you've really seen an owl or not! Of course, it is fenced in as well. So, I snapped a few pictures of the sign and the grass below it, thinking I'd just get empty grass and t he own signpost. Low and behold, when I looked at the pictures, there was a tiny owl in the pictures staring right out at me from the grass. The wonders of digital photography. Maybe grainy burrowing owl pictures tomorrow.

What did you do on New Years day?

Trivia: the 2nd was a pallindrome (same backwards as forward) - 01022010

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Oh Don't You Wish You Were in Hawaii?

Hanging out in the shade of the coconut palms on Sunset Beach. Not everyone was watching the waves. Some people were just enjoying the mostly empty beach outside of a cluster of people watching the surfers by the parking lot.

Yes, I wish I was still in Hawaii too. Although, it's nice to get back to the wonderdog who missed us horribly. Still, I will miss the family time, the beautiful beaches and the snorkling for photos.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get things ready for next semester. School starts in a week so one more week to clean up all the school stuff scattered around the bedroom from last semester, get the bills all paid, clean the house, water the plants, sort through the piled up mail, buy books and start reading for next semester's classes. Sadly, they've already assigned homework. However, the bookstore has been closed until the 4th so this one last weekend (now one last day), at least, is still play time.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

American Kestrel

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, Tijuana Slough. These small hawks are about the size of a jay. They Winter in the Southern United States and Summer up North. This one is relaxing on a cholla cactus (how do they do that?).

Friday, January 01, 2010

Ringing in the New Year with a little Fishy Humor

Koi. Just a Carp eat carp world, isn't it? LOL. Wait a minute, something's fishy about that quote! LOL. Love the expression on the carp in the middle. He's definitely committed to getting some carp chow.