Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Purple Honey Creeper

Purple Honey Creeper, Cyanerpes caeruleus, is native to Trinidad, Columbia, Venezuela and Brazil. It uses its long, curved beak to feed on nectar from bromeliad flowers. This one is the latest resident of the hummingbird house at the San Diego Zoo.

It is amazing how similar the purple honey creepers, members of the tanager family, Thraupidae, are in form and diet when compared to the Hawaiian honey creepers who are members of the finch family, Fringilidae. Both have evolved long, curved beaks for accessing nectar from long curved flowers. In the case of the purple honey creeper, the primary food is nectar from bromeliad flowers. In the case of the hawaiian honey creepers, it was nectar from members of the lobelia family. Fascinating how birds from different families located thousands of miles apart, relying on different totally different plants, with, ironically enough, similarly shaped flowers, could evolve in a parallel manner.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stanhopea inodora 'Pt. Loma' HCC/AOS

Stanhopea inodora 'Pt. Loma' HCC/AOS. This outrageous looking orchid is pollinated by large bees and hails from Mexico, Belize and Nicaragua at around 2000-5000 feet. While most Stanhopea are known for their powerful fragrances, Stanhopea inodora has very little fragrance, hence, the name. It also tends to last a little longer than most, probably because it is not under the stress of pumping out massive amounts of fragrance.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Holy Rootbeer Batman! Stanhopea gibbosa

Stanhopea gibbosa, blooming in the greenhouse. I had this one identified by Rudolf Jenny. These are native to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and have a strong fragrance of rootbeer!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Are You Out of Formation? Pelicans on Thermals

California Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, flying in lazy formation over the thermals along the cliffs of Laguna.

Hummingbirds in Laguna Beach

Anna's Hummingbird sipping on the copious nectar from an Agave in full bloom along the cliffside in Laguna Beach.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Romance on a Paddleboard

Couple sharing a romantic afternoon on a paddleboard, complete with rose and rowing service!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's in Your Tide Pool?

A glimpse of the life in one of the tide pools in Laguna Beach.

The Striped Shore Crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) is locally abundant in the tide pools and lives at the edge of the tidal zone. It lives off of the film of algae and diatoms on the rocks as well as various detritus and carion.

Black Turban Snail (Tegula funebralis) (shown on the lower left) also lives in the tidal zone and is found all up and down the Pacific coast of North America. This snail is an algae eater.

Nassarius species (lower right, upper left). I'm not sure of the ID of this species. I suspect it is a Nassarius of some sort and is a carnivore, boring into the shells of other shoreline gastropods for a quick meal.

Green Surf Anemone (Anthopleura xantogrammica) (center). The green color arises from symbiotic photosynthetic algae that provide nutrients to the anemone. The anemone also uses stinging cells called nematocysts to paralyze larger prey such as snall crabs or fish. The anemones are themselves preyed upon by sea stars and nudibranchs.

Keyhole limpet (Fissurella species?): Upper left. These little molluscs rasp the rock for algae.

There were many other things in that little pool, some in view, some cropped out. The amazing thing is that most people will walk by and never notice any of the tremendous diversity in these tiny little pools. A few will stop and see some of it. A very few will stare long enough to notice that there are more things in those pools than you and I can ID in a quick blog. Fun or just a little nerdy? You could, after all, lie on the sand with the other 95% of the people with much less effort! Hmmm...?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, California, panorama shot from the seaside cliffs. It was a hot and sunny day for most of the day. As you would expect, the beach was packed. However, around 4pm or 5pm, the clouds came in and the weather cooled dramatically. Ironically, the huge crowds started to leave in droves when the temperature dropped.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

San Diego Pride Parade 2012

The Cheer Squad was doing summersaults and twirls in the air!
Dachshund enjoying the good weather and a free ride.
Seamen watching setup in the early morning.
One of the many parade celebrants. This year's parade was bigger than ever.
San Diego Derby Dolls!

Stanhopea tigrina var. nigroviolacea 'Predator' FCC/AOS: Nearly Black!

Stanhopea tigrina var nigroviolacea 'Predator' FCC/AOS blooming in the back yard under shade cloth. Stanhopeas are generally pollinated by bees, the bee being species-specific (i.e., each Stanhopea species has a different bee that pollinates it!). As you would thus expect, each Stanhopea has a different fragrance, likely tailored to be irresistable to it's bee pollinator. Stanhopea tigrina var nigroviolacea has a powerful, sweet fragrance that can be detected some 10 or 20 feet away. Variety predator is a particularly dark (nearly black) clone of nigroviolacea, many others being a beautiful red-brown.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Psychedelic Black Swallowtail Caterpillar!

The Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, in the 5th instar, is just about done eating and will soon head off to find a safe place to form a chrysalis. This little caterpillar is soon to be a gorgeous velvety black butterfly! It was on display at the San Diego Botanical Gardens on Saturday.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Three-toed box turtle, Terrapene carolina triunguis

The Three-toed box turtle, Terrapene carolina triunguis, is one of the easier turtles to keep as pets. It ranges throughout the South Central United States where it is also the official state reptile of Missouri.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Going Batty? How About a Painted Bat?

Painted Bat, Kerivoula picta. These little bats are found in Southern China and throughout Southeast Asia where they live in little family units of a father bat, a mother bat and yes, some "kiddy" bats. If that isn't enough to drive you batty, someone, perhaps in China or Vietnam, is catching them and mounting them into little glass cases for sale over the Internet. Talk about home breakers...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Echinopsis Nancy Scott

Echinopsis Nancy Scott, blooming in the back yard. Most times, you see the white or pink Echinopsis species in the Nursery and not much else. However, there are all sorts of Echinopsis hybrids out there in a host of different colors. In fact, I just caved in and bought a yellow one a few days ago. The Echinopsis have been blooming over and over all Summer long and I am feeling thoroughly spoiled by them. It's like having a small botanical garden in the back yard!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

10-lined June Beetle

Ten-lined June Beetle or Watermelon Beetle, Polyphylla decemlineata. This member of the scarab beetle family feeds on plant leaves and roots. When threatened, it forces air between its wings and back, making a hissing sound.

Least Tern Nests Washed Away

There is smooth sand and washed out nests and shelters where a thriving nesting colony of endangered Least Terns existed just a week ago along the shifting sands of the Tiuana National Estuarine Research Reserve. The water is gone, but the smooth sand is a sure sign that that the ocean washed up and over the entire nesting area. The terns were gone, parents and all. There will be no second try. Where just two weeks ago, there were a whole string of least tern nests being aggressively guarded from predating seagulls, now there is just sand. Smooth, water washed sand.

I had been timing my return, hoping to see lots of least tern chicks, the eggs having been in the nests for about 2-3 weeks. They should have hatched in the last week. In three more weeks, the fledgling terns would have been able to fly.

It is truly sad seeing a whole generation of terns wiped out, even if by natural causes. In a discussion after the fact, I asked a conservationist staffer on the beach when it happened. She noted that there was a particularly high tide a few days ago which was probably the culprit. She also noted that they are not set up or funded to rescue the eggs from the tides into the safety of incubators. There was simply nothing they could do. Thus, those weeks of erecting protective signs to keep people and pets out from the nesting area, of carefully labelling each nest with popsicle sticks and of building little wood shelters to protect the chicks from marauding gulls ultimately were for naught.

It is tempting to point to global warming and increasingly fickle, tempermental weather and tides or to all those condominiums on the beach that have relegated the least terns to the shifting, somewhat polluted sands of the Tijuana Estuary, a last bastion that developers simply do not want to build upon. Perhaps, it is just nature giving and taking away as it has always done. There is, I suppose, always next year.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sea Lavender

Sea Lavender, probably Limonium californicum, Ocean Beach, California. The genus Limonium is found worldwide. However, Limonium californicum is found largely in California coastal marsh areas. This is also sometimes called Marsh Rosemary although it is in the family plumbaginaceae

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Drooping Prickly Pear

Drooping Prickly Pear, Opuntia monocantha, blooming along the path at Dog Beach - Ocean Beach, California. This robust and beautiful cacti is native to South America where its range extends from Brazil to Argentina. It has been naturalized in the Southeastern U.S., Australia and Southern and Eastern Africa where it prefers savanna and coastal sage scrub habitats.

Rusty But Elegant Fountain Fish

The rusty base of an old, but elegant, metal fountain at the Hungtington Gardens in Pasadena was cast in the form of four opposing fish, each spewing water in a graceful arch into the fountain.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Echinopsis Syncopation

Echinopsis Syncopation, a beautiful, pink Echinopsis hybrid blooming on the back patio. This is the first time it's bloomed for me so this is quite the occasion for both me and the bees as well.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Anguloa cliftonii 'Huntington' AM/AOS

Anguloa cliftonii 'Huntington' AM/AOS was awarded on July 7, 2012 at the Orchid Digest Corp. Speakers' Day. This is a huge plant, seemingly the size of a small palm tree, with seven or so large, tulip-like flowers with extraordinary wine-colored markings. This orchid is a native of Columbia where it is found at around 3000-5000 feet blooming in the Spring and Summer. The flowers are powerfully fragrant.

Epi Beppy Gouda

Epidendrum Beppy Gouda HCC/AOS, i.e., Epi. cristatum (a.k.a. rainiferum)x Epi. cnemidophorum (a.k.a. pfavii), was awarded at the Huntington on July 7, 2012.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Mystacidium braebonae

Mystacidium braebonae or Braebon's Mystacidium. This tiny, floriferous orchid is a native of Northern South Africa where it grows in deciduous forest on thorn bushes and ficus trees.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Umber Skipper

Umber Skipper (Poanes melane) taking a sip of nectar on Ice Plant (Gasoul crystallinum). The caterpillars feed on grasses and sedge. The adults on nectar. Dog Beach/Ocean Beach, California.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

San Diego American Orchid Society Judging July 3, 2012

Ctsm Karen Armstrong 'Sunset Valley Orchids' HCC 76pts

Encyclia alata v parviflora 'PTO' AM 83pts

Encyclia Coral Miss 'Nitz' HCC 76pts

Laelia Pecavia 'Carla Mae' HCC 77pts

Odm cordatum 'La Jolla' JC (commented for having three anther caps on each flower).

Odm Hallio-crispum 'La Jolla' AM 83pts

Paph Prince Edward of York 'Sue' AM 81pts

Paph Robinianum 'La Jolla' AM 80pts

Bulb pulchrum 'La Jolla' HCC 75pts

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Fourth of July Fireworks Freak Accident in San Diego

Fireworks Explosion over downtown San Diego as a freak accident results in all of the Fourth of July fireworks launching at the same time.  The "Big Bay Boom" was targeted to be San Diego's biggest fireworks display ever, with multiple, synchronized launching barges timed to music broadcast on a local radio station.  The organizers have promised to put on a replacement show at their own expense.
The light of the fireworks became so bright, you could eventually see nothing but the exploding fireworks, as they lit up the cloudy skies above.
The fireworks in Mission Bay/Beach also went off at the same time in synchronized explosions.  Shown here, the smoke from the fireworks, still undispersed by the light breeze, literally glows with the explosions from the succeeding launches.  It was quite spectacular, if admittedly brief.

Galapagos Tortoise

Feeding the Galapagos Tortoise on the fourth of July!  Everybody is having a good time!  They apparently like neck rubs too.

The Western Bluebirds are Moving to Town!

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana), one of a pair of Western Bluebirds living in a large Ficas macrophylla in Balboa Park (talk about adaptation to foreign introductions!). Perhaps the fig berries or the plentiful tree cavities among the ficus roots proved to be an enticing home. Perhaps the insects attracted by the fallen fig berries were the main feature.  In either case, these beatiful birds of the foothills normally nest in tree cavities made by woodpeckers; in pre-human Southern California, they were therefore restricted to the foothills where the arid sage scrub gave way to pine forest. However, the extensive planting of large trees in urban areas has resulted in an urban migration of these beautiful birds. You can attract them to your yard by providing bluebird nestboxes and a source of water. Berry-bearing bushes/trees such as Toyon berries help too.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Royal Tern Tete a Tete

Royal Terns, Sterna maxima, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, flying straight towards the camera.  There must have been a thousand birds up in the air cutting hairpin turns in unison!  This giant flock flew right over my head (thankfully not leaving any gifts on my baseball hat) and out over the ocean where they turned and bobbed over the waves.  I cropped this photo so you can see the details of the individual birds although it doesn't have the same effect as the original photo which captured hundreds of birds flying directly at the camera!

California Brown Pelican Diving for Dinner

California Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, diving after fish far below.