Monday, May 31, 2010

Great Egret in Flight

Great Egret in breeding plumage, Ardea alba, Mission River Preserve. I never tire of looking at these stunningly beautiful birds. I particularly liked how the sun shone through the wings. When they are breeding, the straight plumes on the back of the egret extend down past the tail (you can see them streaming out back of the bird here).

Bird trivia. How do you tell a great egret from a snowy egret? Of course, a great egret is much bigger at around 38 inches in height versus 20-27 inches for a snowy egret. However, in a photo without a size reference, you can easily tell by the color of the beak and feet. Great egrets have yellow beaks and black feet. Snowy egrets have black beaks and yellow feet (and fluffy plumes on the head for mature birds).

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Royal Tern, Sterna maxima, San Diego, California. Royal terns on the hunt for fish. They glide up and down the surf zone, diving from the heights to catch small fish which they carry back for their young.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Last Thing Some Fish See...

California Brown Pelican scanning for food! Shot overhead with a Tamron 500mm zoom. Indeed, these are not small birds!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flourescent Epiphyllum!

Epiphyllum hybrid blooming in my back yard. This photo was taken at night (yes, a little creepy in the back yard in the dark) with a flash. However, if you take photos at night with a flash, you will never need a black velvet background.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iolani Place Etched Glass

Etched glass in relief off the front doors of Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii. Iolani Palace is not a grand castle but perhaps, on the order of a decent mansion of the time. This is where the Kings and Queens of Hawaii kept court. The etched glass harks back to a more innocent time, a time of hula and of trust and naivete. It saddened me a little, looking at this etched glass for it speaks to the innocence of days of old, an innocence that has long since been lost. While Hawaii has gained much by becoming a part of America, there is also undeniably much of the culture and ambiance of the islands that is forever lost. Change is like the wind upon the mountain peaks, forever eroding the landscape and leaving little trace of what once was.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Toothy Smile

Female Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus, Critically endangered. Now is that a toothy smile or what? That's enough to keep me out of the water!

In case you haven't guessed from the name (think Ganges), Gharials come from India. This is one of three crocodile species found in India, the others being the Mugger crocodile and the Saltwater crocodile (all equally scary looking...). Their reduced weight, bone structure and musculature versus other crocodile species allows increases speed (but reduced strength), an adaptation to their diet of small fish (I'm still not going in the water with them...). The Gharial's ancestors parted from the main line of crocodiles (morphology, etc.) in the Cretaceous. They are supposedly not maneaters (although they have been found with jewelry in their stomachs!).

Monday, May 24, 2010

One of My Favorite (Local) Ducks

Cinnamon Teal, Anas Cyanoptera, Mission River, San Diego, California. Not a big duck but makes up in color what it lacks in size! Truly a little charmer. In San Diego, I typically see them in pairs as opposed to Ruddy Ducks (for instance) which are quite social.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mandarin Duck

Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata. Mandarin ducks are closely related to the American Wood Duck but are from Asia. In China and Korea, Mandarin Ducks (yuan yang) symbolize marital fidelity and bliss. Like wood ducks, they nest in holes/boles in trees near water.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Father's Love

Father and son watching a diver clean the shark tank, Waikiki Aquarium. Being a kid's not all that bad eh?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rare Yellow Form of Monkey Flower

The Monkey Flower is in bloom. Normally they are red or orange but this one is a rare shade of yellow!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cover Your Eyes if You Don't Like Creepy Crawlies!

Giant South American Cave Roach, Blaberus giganteus. Saw these at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and they are, true to their name, quite large. This one was perhaps 3 inches long. How's that for a creepy crawly. Luckily, they only live in caves in South America (so far anyhow).

According to the Giant Cave Cockroach page (yes they have their own web page), "This cockroach is the largest species in it's genus, and is one of the largest species of cockroaches known to man! The Giant Cave Cockroach is closely related to the cockroaches living in the Carboniferous coal forests 200 million years ago. They have been common lab animals since the 1950's."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit, Limosa fedoa, feeding on bugs in the lush Spring foliage near the Mission River, San Diego, California. Ever wonder how many birds receive those odd sounding names? You guessed it, it's often based on the sound of their call. The Godwit has a call that sounds like kerwhit!..or alternately, godwit! Similarly, the Curlew (another long beaked shorebird) has a call that sounds like curleeeeeeuuu... It's weird seeing bird calls spelled out (complements of the Peterson's Guide) but, ironically, when I say it out loud, it does indeed remind me of the real thing. Who would have ever thought...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Agave americana var. albomarginata, Ocean Beach. Uncommon variegated form of Agave americana. Quite nice!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Head Grunion Greeter

The grunion saga continues! Here is a picture of our illustrious grunion tour guide, Scripps Aquarium employee, and head grunion greeter herself, Caitlin guessed it, a DEAD grunion! I was wondering if someone stepped on the poor thing, stumbling around in the dark trying not to scare off the spawning fish. As for Caitlin, she was very entertaining and as incredibly and contagiously enthused as the rest of us. She's currently applying to study at the Scripps institute and is hopelessly addicted to studying marine life.

Waiting for Grunion

Apparently the grunion send out "spotters," male grunion that swim up the beach and check for birds, people and other hazards. If the male "spotters" return unharmed, the spawning begins! Thus,the who batch of us Grunion Greeters (just for the night anyhow) are waiting in the dark or with little red lights so as not to scare the fish away. Once they get going, however, flashes, flashlights, etc. are fair game!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grunion Jr.

Grunion fry (a.k.a. baby grunion hatchlings, not fried grunions...). Apparently, grunion eggs are programmed to swell and hatch when the water level reaches them and the waves stir them around. This plastic cup had damp sand in it and no apparent eggs to the naked eye. Yet, when you added water, the eggs all plumped up and when you agitated the cup, they all started to hatch! They just popped up seemingly out of nowhere. Nature is an amazing thing.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mrs. Grunion

Female Grunion laying eggs in the sand, La Jolla Shores. The grunion come in on the high tide after the full and the new moon. The females dive into the sand to lay eggs and are surrounded by males. The eggs stay above the water line until the next high tide where the hatched fry make a bee line for the water.

Friday, May 14, 2010

No Need to Color Saturate!

Epiphyllum Radian Fire, A flourescent red Epiphyllum, in the back yard... Some things have no need of extra color saturation! Here's a partially backlit Epiphyllum that's blooming out back on the stone wall. I bought the originall cutting for $1 at the Epiphyllum Society sale in Balboa Park. Hard to beat that!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Beach Evening Primrose

Beach Evening Primrose, Camissonia cheiranthifolia, Ocean Beach, California. One of the loveliest wildflowers in the area. It's roots achor the sand dunes and create a stable environment for birds and other animals. It blooms from April through August.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Raku Turtle

Raku Turtle by Juried Potter - Pierre B., Pottery by Pierre. Note, the black areas are unglazed and gain their black coloration through the raku after burning process.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crystalline Ice(plant)

Crystalline Iceplant, Mesenbryanthemum crystallinum. The crystalline iceplant is native to Africa, Western Asia and Europe and is quite salt tolerant. The leaves are edible and are covered with tiny bladders that sparkle in the sun like dew drops [click on the picture for a closeup that shows the little bladders]. In California, they have become aggressively invasive along coastal bluffs and along the beach, likely having escaped from ornamental gardens.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shaking Out the Ears

Gizmo and I went out to dog beach on Sunday to give him some exercise. For a little dog, he sure does like water. He's shown here shaking out his ears.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Poppies in the Breeze

Poppies in the Breeze. There's normally a light ocean breeze that finds it's way up the canyon. The sun was bright enough that it didn't blur my picture and, instead, just gave the flowers all a little tilt to the left. The wildflower experiment worked better than I had ever expected and the back yard is awash in color!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Seal Nap

Harbor Seal Napping on the beach. If there is one thing seals and sea lions like to do, it's nap. This seal is no exception!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mutant Ninja Squirrel!

Mutant Ninja Squirrel in motion! California Ground Squirrel, Santa Rosa Plateau, California. Have you ever noticed how amazing, unnoticed details show up when you review your pictures on the computer? I snapped this photo way back in March. This was just a CA ground squirrel back then. On closer examination, I found that the little guy has a forked tail! Now squirrels appear to communicate both through their chirps and through active tail shaking. So, does a forked tail work any better? More intimidating perhaps? This guy was rushing off to confront another squirrel competing for the territory so perhaps...hmmm...beware squirrel who speaks with forked tail?! (If you didn't get the joke/slash reference to early American history, never mind...).

Monday, May 03, 2010

Coots in Motion

Coots taking a running start to get up in the air... Mission Bay, CA.

A quick picture for you all and then back to studying for finals...