Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As we reflect back on 2011, some of you no doubt have fond memories; others would rather forget 2011; most of us have both. Regardless, here's to wishing you all a happy, healthy and successful 2012!

Hawaii from the Air!

On a nice clear day, you can see a long, long ways. While we're still missing Oahu and Kauai, you could see most of the major Hawaiian islands on this nice, mostly clear day.

Foreground, from left to right: the islands of Molokai, Kaho'olawe and Lanai.
Background, from left to right: the islands of Maui and Hawaii.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Hawaiian Monk Seal Strikes Again

Hawaiian Monk Seal, Monachus schauinslandi, on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Now what's the chance of running into an endagered Hawaiian Monk seal, not just once in a lifetime, but twice in a week? This time it was a few miles to the East on Waikiki Beach. The seal apparently arrived at 10am and lounged around the beach until around 4:30pm whereupon it waddled slowly into the sea, perhaps to catch a quick meal of fish from within the marine preserve before sunset.

Monday, December 26, 2011

How Much Does a Beachfront Home on Kailua Beach Cost?

View of the big houses on Kailua beach from a kayak on Kailua Bay. They're not quite as big as those HUGE houses on Diamond Head but they're still plenty pricey... There were none listed for sale but I'd guess they're upwards of $10M. Not too shabby.

At the Base of the Baobab Tree

Baobab Tree, Adansonia digitata, Foster Botanical Gardens. The Baobab tree grows in Madagascar where it thrives in wet Summers and dry Winters. Ironically, this Baobab has grown to huge proportions in Hawaii where it likely treats the warm wet year round weather as one extended, unending growing season.

Do Surfers Take Christmas Off?

Surfer at Sunset Beach, Christmas Day, 2011. Okay, so it wasn't totally packed at Sunset Beach but it did take a while to find parking.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Eating Fish Through A Straw

Coronetfish, Fistularia commersonii, or nunu peke in Hawaiian, live on the shallow reef where they feed upon smaller fish. Their long snout allows them to access small holes and crevices where they use their long snout and vacuum-like suction, caused by rapidly opening their snout, to "suck in" their small prey.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Did You Do On Christmas Eve?

School of Weke Ula (Yellowfin Goatfish), Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, off Waikiki Beach. It was a little rainy but the fish were still there. What did you do on Christmas eve?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples

A tranquil moment at the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

The Ever-Elusive Hawaiian Owl

The Hawaiian Owl or Pueo, Asio flammeus sandwichensis. These are endangered on Oahu and are becoming sparse throughout the major Hawaiian Islands. As opposed to most owls, the Hawaiian owls are diurnal, preferring to hunt during the day. They nest in open fields and are subject to predation by mongoose, feral cats and wild boar. Note that Hawaii also has a modest population of barn owls that nest in trees and hunt by night.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Star Gazing or Spotting a UFO?

Black Pond Turtles, Siebenrockiella crassicolis, gazing off into the distance. Exactly what they all spotted remains a mystery! These little turtles are from the Southeast Asian rainforests where they spend their days in the mud, waiting for fish, shrimp, frogs, snails and other tasty prey.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Napping Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian Monk Seal, Monachus schauinslandi, napping on the rocks, on Oahu, Hawaii. Hawaiian Monk Seals are solitary, endagered, earless seals and, due to development and environmental degradation, are largely restricted to the Northern Hawaiian Islands. They are the only native seal in Hawaii and one of only two surviving species of Monk seals in the world. Hawaiian Monk seals are rarely found on the major, inhabited islands. This one, however, was napping on the rocks on Oahu, the most populated of all the Hawaiian islands. Quite a treat indeed!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hawaiian Monk Seal Plays Peak a Boo

Hawaiian Monk Seal Playing Peak-a-boo! Cute, isn't he?

Body Surfing Flip Acrobatics

Body Surfing Flip at Sandy Beach, Oahu. This surfer did a full flip and landed it perfectly! He was also doing 360s in the waves!

Brown House Gecko

Brown House Gecko. There used to be a lot of these on the plate glass windows at night catching bugs when I was a kid. Now, there are much fewer. I suspect that it has to do with competition from and predation by other later introduced gecko species such as the Madagascar Day Gecko. There are still a few around although they are albeit a bit camera shy. This one is doing his best to blend in with the wood he's on; unfortunately for him, the wood is long dead and painted white...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bufflehead Duck Eating Clam for the Holidays!

Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola, attempting to scarf a clam that's way too big for his beak! You have to give him credit for effort!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Ducks are Back!

American Wigeon, Anas americana and two American Coots, Fulica americana. The wigeons Summer up in Alaska and Canada but come down for the Winter. They've been here since the beginning of December. The coots are here pretty much all year round.

Mormodia Painted Desert 'SVO' HCC/AOS

Mormodia Painted Desert 'SVO' HCC/AOS taken at Fred Clarke's yesterday. These beautiful, long lasting red flowers are blooming just in time for Christmas and are delightfully fragrant. They result from a cross of Clowesia Rebecca Northen and Mormodes sinuata.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Laelia anceps

Laelia anceps, a native of Mexico with a rambling habit and beautiful flowers on tall arching stems.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Western Grebe on the Prowl

Western Grebe on the prowl for small fish in the Mission River. As I watched the grebe swim just under the surface of the water, I wondered if ancient pleiosaurs swam like it and if this little grebe was a link back to a magnificent past where the pleiosaurs ruled the seas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

American Orchid Society San Diego Awards - December 6, 2011

Fdk. Desert Tennor 'Sunset Valley Orchids' FCC/AOS

Cld. Jumbo Freedom 'Sunset Valley Orchids' AM/AOS

Zga Adelaide Oval 'Windflower' HCC/AOS

Morm Jumbo Bacia 'Sunset Valley Orchids' AM/AOS

Monday, December 05, 2011

Lava Arch and Hawaiian Geology

Lava Arch near Mele Kohola on the Big Island of Hawaii. You can tell a lot about the geologic history of a place by looking at its cliffs. Cliffs often cut through multiple strata and the depth, composition, angles, etc. of those strata tell you how an area was formed. For example, whether it was sedimentary ocean bottom thrust up through seismic activity (Coastal California) or whether it was littered with polished stones from glacial activity (parts of Colorado).

One afternoon, we went for a walk down the coast along the steep lava cliffs. We were heading North from Mele Kohola (on the Hawaii Paradise Park coastline), ostensibly looking for the black sand beach (which turned out to be several miles away). Along the way, there were all sorts of lava caves and arches to view and study. This one illustrates the different eruptions very nicely. You can see how layers of lava and ash stack on top of the other like a stack of pancakes. Some layers are harder (lava) than others (ash) and, as the waves erode them at different rates, this results in caves and arches. Other caves result from lava tubes where the lava cooled around a flow and, as the flow emptied into the sea, left an open tube. You will not see the little pancake layers if it was formed by a lava tube.

Note, lava is also composed of different minerals, often each rising or sinking into different layers (within a given flow), depending on the mineral's relative weight, viscosity, etc. Silicon floats to the top, leaving a glossy mirror-like sheen on the top of some lava. As shown here, there are also iron-rich layers that turn reddish brown as they oxidize (think rust or red cinders). If reddish brown is from iron, what is that pink rock composed of? As it turns out, the "pink rock" is actually where the lava is covered by a thin layer of pink coraline algae. While most algae is soft, coraline algae deposits onto the rock in a hard mineral-like layer. As it is a living sea organism, you only see it at and below the water line.


A wall of anemones at Point Loma National Park at low tide.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Greater White-Fronted Goose

Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons, Lake Cuyamaca, California. This greater white-fronted goose was happily swimming along with the Canada Geese and what appeared to be a white barnyard/domestic goose with whom it seemed particularly friendly.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Check Out Those Chickens!

A pair of Belgian Bearded d' Uccle Feather Legged Bantams munching on tomato seeds on a doorstep in Julian, California.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pacific South American Orchid Society Judging Award Winners

There were three awards granted at the American Orchid Society Judging in Long Beach, California on November 28, 2011, including one FCC to Fred Clarke! The flowers are shown below. The pictures were taken by your very own wayward Hawaiian.

Cycnodes Spotted Hornet 'Sunset Valley Orchids' FCC/AOS

Laelia anceps variety veitchiana 'Blue Angel' AM/AOS

Cattleya (Sophronitis) coccinea variety aurea 'Yellow Diamonds' AM/AOS

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tis the Season for...Pie!

The weather warmed up again. Today it was in the low eighties, albeit with a chilly breeze. Warm enough, however, to head to Julian for some apple pie at the Julian Pie Company. Yummm.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Canada Goose in Southern California

Canada Goose, Branta canadensis, wintering at Lake Cuyamaca, California. I've never seen them at sea level this far South. However, there's a small flock that apparently Winters up around 4,000 ft. at Lake Cuyamaca.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Least Tern Working for a Living

Least Tern, Sterna antillarum, in Winter colors, as it emerges from a dive into the water after small fish in the Mission River Preserve.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey On the Go

Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo variety intermieda (Rio Grande Subspecies), Julian, California. It's Thanksgiving! Needless to say, this turkey was in a bit of a hurry to get away.

Wishing you and your loved ones all a wonderful Thanksgiving, regardless of what graces your table tonight.

Great Blue Heron Having a Bad Hair Day

Great Blue Heron hanging out on a buoy on a windy day in the Mission Bay Harbor. Bad hair day? ...or perhaps a bad feather day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fin Whale Washes Up on the Rocks of Point Loma

A 65 ft. Female Fin Whale, on the beach at Fiesta Island, San Diego, California. This female fin whale washed up on the rocks of Point Loma, just below the waste treatment plant roughly five days ago. A life guard boat was used to drag it to Fiesta Island, shown above, where it would be dissected to determine its cause of death. A young fetus was also present, ejected as the whale began to decay, at the point loma site; however, it was apparently lost in the process of towing the mother to Fiesta Island.

A large grading tractor was used to attempt to pull it up the beach and out of the water. However, after a large strap and two large chains snapped in a most spectacular fashion in the attempt, it was decided to process the whale where it lay. As the scientists started to cut open the whale, the smell, as you would expect, became rather extreme and this photographer left, generally relieved to not be living down-wind of the carcass. However, a small crowd of onlookers remained to watch the process. Apparently, samples are being brought to the Scripps Institute for further research.

Post script: The scientists reported today (11/24) that the cause of death appeared to be a collision with a boat that fractured several of her vertebrae. As fast as these mammals are, you would think that would never happen, but perhaps curiosity lured her in a little to close...

Osprey, No Not the Bird, the Tilt Rotor!

Osprey flying outside of Point Loma. I've wanted to take a picture of one of these ever since I saw them in Halo (good job military PR). Really cool if a bit expensive... For those of you not familiar with tilt rotors, these little beauties take off like a helicopter and then tilt the rotors down into a lateral alignment to fly like an airplane, allowing them to land and take off in tight spots but extends their range and flight speed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Orange Aggregating Anemone

An orange aggregating anemone species in shallow water at Cabrillo National Monument. Anemones are animals and can even travel like snails do, when they are dissatisfied with conditions at their current location. However, as with corals, many anemones are capable of multiplying both sexually, by ejecting sperm and eggs into the water, and asexually, by budding (similar to how a plant would generate new sprouts at its base). If you look closely, you will notice smaller anemones budding at the base of the larger parent anemone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

American Kestrel at Cabrillo National Monument

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, California. I drove out to Cabrillo National Monument to see a Fin whale that washed up into a cove just outside the Point Loma Waste Treatment plant. It turns out, however, that the waste treatment plant wasn't having anything to do with lookie-loos and crazy photographers. In fact, they didn't even let their own security guard go down to the cove to see the whale. However, since I was at Cabrillo, I paid the entry fee and made a day of exploring Cabrillo National Park. I started off photographing the tide pools followed by taking pictures of the bird colonies on the cliffs and then by photographing the succulent species growing in the coastal scrub...which is what I was doing when this little guy popped up. He was flying into the stiff, cool breeze, flapping just hard enough to hover over the coastal scrub, looking for lizards, bugs and small animals. Every now and then he would dive down at some prey and then bob right back up into the sky. He (you can ID male American Kestrels by the grey on the top of the wings -- not shown in this photo) continued to hover and swoop for over 15 minutes, providing for some excellent shots including the one above.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycotidor. This little heron was perched on the railing of a nearby boat. As I stepped carefully, one foot after the other, closer to get a more detailed photo, he ever so slowly turned away from me to face his body away from me (to allow him to launch into the air towards a nearby tree), his head and eyes remaining ever vigilant on my progress, while his legs stepped slowly, one after the other, along the railing. Still, he remaied on that railing, having been there early in the morning when we arrived for the whale watching trip and remaining there when we returned, several hours later.

At first, I thought this was a green heron or else perhaps some other heron that I had not seen before, his color being so different from the adult black and white plummage of a Black-Crowned Night Heron, and his presence in broad daylight outside of the cover of a tree being somewhat uncharacteristic of the Black-Crowned Night Herons which frequent Mission Bay. Luckily, however, the National Geographic Field guide I was perusing included pictures of juvenile birds. Hence, the hopefully correct ID above.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fin Whales

We went out whale watching off Point Loma and Mission Bay. Sometimes you'll go whale watching and seeing very little and at a great distance. However, today there were fin whales everywhere! See for yourself!

Fin Whale blow hole

Another fin whale showing the characteristic tiny fin just in front of their tail.

Fin whale leaning over to take a peak at us.

Fin whale swimming directly towards the boat.