Saturday, June 30, 2012

California Least Tern Eggs

California Least Tern Eggs, Sterna antillarum browni, hatch at 3 weeks.  The eggs are laid in a small depression, in this case, in the sand, and blend in perfectly.  Fledglings can fly at 4 weeks.  Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. 

The Amazing Bodysurfing Dog!

Bodysurfing dog fetching balls out of the waves at Imperial Beach, California.  One cool dog!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Rhycholaelia digbyana 'Mrs. Chase'


Rhycholaelia digbyana 'Mrs. Chase' blooming in the back yard.  These smell like fruit loops!  They're native to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica and are responsible for many of the frilly lips in modern Cattleya alliance hybrids.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some Things Just Make You Smile...

Smiley Face on Car Window.  If you're not going to wash the car windows, why not decorate?

Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

The lake at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.  Shown: one seemingly lonely mallard duck.  Not shown: the sizeable flock of very tame Canada Geese next to the lake.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Encyclia alata

Encyclia alata, blooming in the greenhouse.  These are native to Mexico through Costa Rica in low elevation forests.  This one has particularly nice color for the species as a result of line breeding.

Cape Sundew, Drosera capensis, in Bloom in the Back Yard

Cape Sundew, Drosera capensis, blooming on the back porch.  The flowers are borne high up above the sticky, deadly, carnivorous leaves, likely so the pollinators don't end up as lunch.  I have a pot of these two types of Drosera capensis, one red dewed and one clear dewed, mixed in with Drosera spathulata and bladderworts.  I fill up a plastic tray with RO water once a week that I set the pot into.  The little gnats that they eat do the rest.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

A passing male House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, sharing a morning greeting with me.  House Sparrows are strongly associated with humans and generally avoid extensive woodlands, grasslands and deserts in favor of co-habitatation with humans.  This is probably the most widespread bird species in the world!  It lives mainly on grass seed and grains with an occasional insect. 

Woodland skipper (Ochlodes sylvanioides)

Woodland skipper, Ochlodes sylvanioides, pausing for a rest on a spike of Aloe buds at City Farmers.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Common House Finch Eating Succulents

Common House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, eating leaves off of a succulent growing in the sand dunes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus, molting

California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus, It appears to be spiny lobster molting season.  There were empty lobster shells all over the beach.  It is really amazing that they can pop open their shells and just crawl out, given all the flippers, feet and antenna. 

The lobster molts by struggling out of their old shells while simultaneously absorbing water which expands their body size. This molting, or shell-shedding, occurs about 25 times in the first 5-7 years of life. Following this cycle, the lobster will weigh approximately one pound and reach minimum legal size. A lobster at minimum legal size may then only molt once per year and increase about 15% in length and 40% in weight per year. either way, it's amazing they can get back out of there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Snowy Plovers Benefit From Nearby Least Tern Nests

Juvenile Snowy Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus, possibly part of this years chicks.  Apparently, more snowy plovers hatch and survive when the snowy plover nests are near least tern nests, due to the active protection of the nesting area by the least terns.  The terns will swoop/dive at and defecate on predators, dissuading at least some of the predation.  Snowy plovers are threatened due to habitat loss.

California Ground Squirrel Immune to Rattlesnakes?


A California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) out getting some sun while keeping a keen eye on the tourists.  California Ground Squirrels over one month in age are partially immune to rattlesnake poison.  The females are also known to chew on rattlesnake skins and lick themselves and their pups to disguise their scent.  Photo taken at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Monday, June 18, 2012

California Least Tern, Sternula antillarum var brownii

California Least Tern, Sternula antillarum variety brownii, is the smallest tern found in San Diego, at about 22 cm in length.  These tiny little birds glide on the coastal breezes, seeming to hover until they dive at great speed into the shallow waters along the shoreline or in river estuaries to snatch minows and other small fish from the surface.  These lovely birds are under habitat pressure in their native Southern California, San Francisco Bay and Northwestern Mexico, where much of the beach has been utilized for human developments.  The California Least Tern (variety brownii) was listed as an endangered species in 1972 with only 600 pairs in existence.  That population has since rebounded to around 4,500 pairs.  This one here is nesting in a little patch in the sand at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in Imperial Beach, California.  They appear to have recently laid eggs.  This particular nesting area is subject to floods, high tides and shifting sands, resulting in varying levels of nesting success from year to year.  From the looks of it, this year is turning out to be a pretty solid year.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

White Echinopsis and The Bee Backstroke

The bees were doing the backstroke in pollen in my Echinopsis the other day.  Better yet, there were about eight flowers open!  There were so many bees that I ended up shutting the patio door to keep them out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mind Over Matter, Ant Style

Ant pulling a piece of chocolate cake that is bigger than he is, Vernegues, France. This little ant has figured out that, if he tries hard enough and really sets his mind to it, life can truly be all sweets and chocolate. Ah, but the ants have no bread you say. They are hungry... "Let them eat cake." Chocolate cake, at that!

Charlotte Framboise

Charlotte Framboise in the display case at the bakery/patisserie in Lauris, France. Just in case you feel the urge to make one of these or some facsimile thereof, here's a recipe.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Cannibalistic Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, stealing a chick, Parc Ornithologique, France. I had the camera focused on a little patch of ground out of a blind when this egret dashed by with a chick, apparently dead, in his beak. Who would have thought Egrets were cannibalistic?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Speckled Wood Butterfly, Pararge aegeria

Speckled Wood Butterfly, Pararge aegeria, in Vernegues, France. The wing spots are apparently to cause predating birds to go after the edge of the wings, distracting them from the soft body within.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Aglais urticae

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Aglais urticae, high on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, France. There were a lot of these beautiful Tortoiseshell butterflies; however,they would typically close their wings for better camoflage when they landed. I finally found one with his wings open, as shown in this shot.
This beautiful butterfly is found throughout Europe, Asia, Siberia, China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. It's larvae apparently feed on stinging nettles in at least part of its range.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Green Scarab Beetle, Chiloloba acuta, in Vernegues, France

Green Scarab Beetle, Chiloloba acuta, munching on a fresh rose flower in Vernegues, France. I would check the roses every morning to see what new critters the floribunda roses had attracted for me to photograph! I was never disappointed! Ironically, it was just this one particular floribunda rose bush. Perhaps it was the fragrance that attracted the insects. In any case, the large-flowered hybrid tea roses did not get anywhere near as much insect traffic. Now for the really mind-boggling part. The amazing, glossy green color results, not from green pigment, but from the prismatic microstructure in layers of chitin in the beetles outer shell. The beetle is essentially a glossy green mirror. Thus, while normal organic pigments would fade over time and exposure to the sun, the prismatic green of the scarab beetles is remarkably durable.

Adonis Blue Butterfly, Lysandra bellargus

Adonis Blue Butterfly, Lysandra bellargus, on wildflowers high up in the hills above the source of the Vacluse spring waters, Vacluse, France.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Yellow form of California Poppy

California Poppy (yellow form), Eschscholzia californica aurea, blooming in a Vernegues garden. These plants faithfully open in the morning and then close for the evening. In milder climates, they are perrenial, coming back year after year. Most are a dark orange; however, this one, out of a seed mix in France, came out yellow.

Vernegues Goat Farm

Goats at the Verneques Goat Farm. These adorable and friendly little goats are the source of some of the most wonderful goat cheese. They come right up to the fence, extending their necks through the fence, for you to pet and rub them.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Mighty Ragodin!

Ragodin (French), Coypu (native name in South America), or Myocastor coypus (Latin name) at the Parc Ornithologique at the Camague, France. These beaverlike rodents have become quite numerous in the Camague where they are becoming a bit of a pest, as they eat the native vegetation with abandon. They are easly detected by their large tunnels through the foliage and mud. They were originally brought to Europe for fur farming and have since naturalized into the Camague (as well as in Louisiana, apparently). Care to wear a Ragodin coat, my dear?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wild Daffodils in France

Double Bloom on a Wild Daffodil, Narcissus poeticus, in a medium-sized colony growing in the middle of a meadow high up on Mont Ventoux, France. The same meadow is used as a ski run in the Winter while in summer it is covered in yellow buttercups (not shown).

Monday, June 04, 2012

Northern Gannet, Morus bassanus

Northern Gannets, Morus bassanus, with chick(s) (second not shown), at Carry le Rouet, France. While Northern Gannets range south to the Mediterranean, they normally nest far to the North, for example, on the rugged coasts of Britain, Ireland and Quebec. These chose to nest in a pile of old fishing rope near the dock in Carry le Rouet along the Mediterranean, a rare sight indeed.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Gordes, France and Apricot Ice Cream

Gordes, France, in the department of Vaucluse. We stopped by Gordes, a city high up on a cliff, on the way back from the Fontaine de Vaucluse, a huge natural spring. The the steep cobblestone streets criss cross the city through narrow alleyways with the occasional small car traversing them. The city is full of art museums, art shops, restaurants and various eateries (bakeries, ice cream shops, sandwich shops, etc.). Of course, we had to partake. Notably, there was a little ice cream shop in an alleyway that had the most flavorful apricot ice cream! Click here for an Apricot Ice Cream Recipe

Epipactis helleborine in Vernegues, France

Epipactis helleborine, growing alongside the road in Vernegues, France. I was literally lying along the side of the road to get this shot, hoping that nobody would roll me over (I was wearing blue after all). As it was a cloudy day, this was taken with a flash. These are one of the more common wild orchids in the Mediterranean region; however, they come in all sorts of variations. The color varies from green and white to nearly red. They also vary from quite cuppy to nearly flat. The leaves vary from heart shaped to more lanceolate. The blooming plants also vary in height from about 2 inches tall to about 2 feet tall. It's a lot of fun to see all the genetic variation and luckily for me, they bloom in late May. The ones closer to the road, i.e. those getting more sun, tend to bloom sooner.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Nostradamus' Tomb

Nostradamus' Tomb in the Church of the Cordeliers of Salon, Salon de Provence, France. A very nice lady gave us a tour of the Church including Nostradamus' Tomb. She noted that only some of Nostradamus' bones were in the tomb. Apparently, were moved twice, the first time by the mayor (to a larger more prominent crypt) and the second time, by soldiers in the revolution. She claimed that both the mayor and the soldiers died shortly after moving the body. She also claimed that superstitious peasants had stolens some of the remains and hidden the bones, fearing that Nostradamus was a sorcerer, thereby explaining why only some of the bones are in the tomb. A quick search of the internet came up with the following Nostradamus quote. In Century 9, Quatrain 7, Nostradamus predicted: The man who opens the tomb when it is found And who does not close it at once, Evil will come to him That no one will be able to prove. Notably, the tomb is now securely placed within the very thick stone walls of the church.

Centauree de Salonique, Centaurea salonitana

Centauree de Salonique, Centaurea salonitana, Vernegues, France. These little thistle-like plants remind me of a dandelion flower glued on top of a spiny artichoke. They have a unique charm with lots of texture to photograph. These were blooming in a nearby field and are native to the central Mediterranean region. I'm guessing they were named after Salon de Provence.