Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Orchid That Smells like Chocolate Mint!

Stanhopea occulata, blooming in the back yard. This somewhat variable orchid species is named for the red eye-like spots that cover the flowers. I can alway tell when there's an occulata blooming as there is a powerful chocolate-mint fragrance that carries a good 20 feet. The pendent flowers sometimes get caught in other baskets or in the growing media as they attempt to burrow down to hang below the plant (in nature, below the branch that they are growing on). This one was stuck in another basket. I would have never even known it was in bloom had that powerful chocolate-mint fragrance not alerted me to the blossoms. I feel kind of like an orchid sniffer dog...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Spotted Spreadwing, Lestes congener

Spotted Spreadwing, Lestes congener, resting on a banana leaf in the back yard. These little carnivores live near still water and, not being especially strong fliers, are often found resting on nearby foliage.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Orb Weaver Spider

Orb Weaver Spider, possibly Neoscona crucifera, devouring a wasp. I was wondering how the orb weaver catches the wasp without getting stung or bitten. It appears that it waits for the wasp to fully entangle itself in its web and then get exhausted trying to break free. Once the prey is too tired to fight back, the spider comes in and casually wraps it in silk before the prey rests enough to resume the struggle. What a way to go, eh?

Maneki Neko Cats

Maneki Neko Cats crafted by the Seto Kiln in Japan. These are on display at the Mingei Museum. These Maneki Neko were modeled after tricolor Japanese bobcats. Today, many people collect Neko cats as a symbol of financial good fortune.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Peter Cottontail

Cottontail Rabbit. These are the most common rabbit species in San Diego. They breed between December and June. In that 6 month timeframe, a mother rabbit can have between 2 and 4 litters of 1-6 young per litter! I guess the old phrase, breeding like rabbits, was well earned. This happy little rabbit was relaxing at the San Diego Botanic Gardens.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dracula cordobae

Dracula cordobae blooming in the arboretum at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. These are from wet, Ecuadorian cloud forests at around 3000 feet.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dendrochilum kopfii

Dendochilum kopfii. This lovely orange Dendrochilum species is blooming in the greenhouse. It tends to grow a little cooler and a bit slower than many of my other Philippine Dendrochilums but it makes up for it by being quite striking.

Tweety Bird Bubble

Tweety Bird Bubble. A guy was creating gigantic bubbles with two large ropes on a stick in the light breeze at Coronado Island. This one looked kind of like tweety bird.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Snowy Egret with Blenny

Snowy Egret, Egretta thula, with what appears to be a small green blenny that it snapped out of the seaweed along the tidal zone. These beautiful little birds appear to be quite smart and somewhat opportunistic. This one was roiling the sand with his feet to scare up small fish and shrimp. I've seen others going through the cast off sand that fishermann scatter when digging for worms. Still another was attempting to steal fish out of a school being driven in front of herding mergansers. Others hunt for grasshoppers in newly mown grass. I even saw one particularly aggressive bird carrying off another bird's chick.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wentletrap, Epitonium Indianorum with Egg Cases and Host Anemone

Wentletrap, Epitonium indianorum with Egg Cases and Host Anemone at low tide; San Diego County, California. This Wentletrap is attracted to the anemone by scent. The Wentletrap feeds and lays eggs onto the host anemone. Both are found in the intertidal zone.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hot Days and No Escape at the Beach

Angler with Shovelnose Guitarfish, Rhinobatos productus, at the Ferry Landing at Coronado. It was HOT yesterday, over 100 degrees in many places. Normally, when it gets hot in San Diego, you can escape to the coast to bask in the cooling ocean breezes. However, even the coast was heatstroke hot, with only the slightest of breezes, making the airconditioned malls and larger stores really popular places to be!

On a side note, Guitarfish, while ray-like in form, are in their own family. They largely feed on crustaceans and other invertebrates as well as carrion (dead fish, etc.) that can be foraged out of the sand. The Shovelnose Guitarfish is found from central California clear down to the Sea of Cortez. They apparently have magnetic particules in receptors in their head (the vestibular receptors); it is not known if these particles assist in detecting prey or are for more general orientation purposes.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Leafhopper Assasin Bug Nymph

Leafhopper Assasin Bug Nymph, Zelus rendardii, waiting for prey in a hibiscus on Coronado Island. These bugs are generalized predators of other bugs (i.e., not just leafhoppers). Toxins in their saliva enable them to bite and paralyze their prey while bristles and other adaptataions enable them to hold their prey as they inflict their bite.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From Nymph to a Brand New Dragonfly!

Dragonfly nymphs emerging from the water (left, under the lily pad leaf), having shed their nymph exoskeleton and airing out their new wings. Oh what a glorious thing it must be to fly for the very first time, having spent their entire lives thus far underwater! On the right, a skipper butterfly rests in a lily flower.

Close-up on the juvenile dragonflies as they wait for their wings to dry and their exoskeleton to harden.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Red-eared Slider Taking a Lily Break

Red-eared slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, taking a lily break at the reflecting pond in Balboa Park. While native to the Southern United States, these adorable little turtles have become naturalized in many areas, such as California, where they are crowding out the native western pond turtle.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sumatran Tiger Frolic

Sumatran tiger, Panthera tigris sumatrae, at the San Diego Zoo. It was a hot, humid day and the tiger cubs sought out the comfort of their private pond. The tiger cubs were playing hide and seek and roughhousing in the water, oblivious to the fact that there are only about 500 Sumatran Tigers left in the world.

Award Winning Vase at the Clay Associates of San Diego Show

Pink Marble Vase by Pierre Bounaud, an award winner at the Clay Associates of San Diego Show.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Yellow Water Lily

Yellow Water Lily, Reflecting Pool, Balboa Park. There was thousands of dollars of damage done to the lilies/lily boxes in the reflecting pool caused by a rogue late night party in the park but, after some donations of new lilies and a lot of work, the reflecting pool is back and better than ever!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa

Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa, at the San Diego Botanic Gardens. When seen with its wings open, this butterfly has deep brown-red wings with a yellow picotee and blue spots. However, when its wings are closed, it could easily blend into lichens on tree bark or on an old stone. The caterpillars feed on elm, poplar, birch and hackberry. These fascinating butterflies are found in both North America and Europe, extending from the edges of the arctic all the way down to central Mexico and Japan.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Lc. Autumn Fest 'Hierarch'

Lc. Autumn Fest 'Hierarch', a hybrid between Cattleya bicolor and Lc. Adelaide Waltmann. The strong, tongue-like lip is a strong indicator that Cattleya bicolor is a parent, and will carry through a generation or two of offspring.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

American Orchid Society San Diego Judging September 4, 2012

Bc. San Diego Spice 'Tall 'N Spicy' AM/AOS 82 pts

Cycnoches Martha Clarke 'SVO' AM/AOS 80pts

Lc. Merle Brandon 'Mahogany Hawk' CCM/AOS 86pts

Lc. Merle Brandon 'Mahogany Hawk' HCC/AOS 78pts

Phrag. Sue Omeis 'La Jolla' HCC/AOS 76pts

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Phalaenopsis violacea var coerulea 'Arnieberry Blues'

Phalaenopsis violacea variety coerulea 'Arnieberry Blues' in bloom at this very moment! The typical form of violacea is a pastel lavender-pink shading to light green on the ends of the petals and sepals. Years of selective breeding have resulted in some very dark "blues" such as the one shown as well as some nice wine-red clones. The old timers will recall that what is now the species Phalaenopsis violacea used to be referred to as the "Sumatran form" of violacea while the larger-flowered "Borneo form" was moved to species status as Phal. bellina.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Robber Fly: Stenopogon Species

Robber Fly, Stenopogon species, Imperial Beach. I had a tough time figuring out which genus this little robber fly is in. I started off with the genus Omnatius which came up in my online searches for Robber flies but are largely limited to the East Coast. However, Jim Berrian at the San Diego Natural History Museum kindly suggested the genus Machimus and Stenopogon, both of which have been found in Southern California. After some comparing of antennae, carapace shape and foot structure I'm convinced it's a Stenopogon (not that our Gentle readers really care but it gives me a feeling on completeness, go figure).

They are apparently called Robber flies because these capable little carnivorous flies catch other bugs on the wing. Think of it like robbers catching a coach on the trail. They bear some superficial resemblance to dragonflies which also snag food on the fly, no pun intended (Ar, Ar...). How they eat that food is, however, quite different. Robber flies inject saliva and disolve their food (think of it as liquid food on the go). Dragonflies use large mandibles to chew and ingest their food. In fact, Dragonflies are in the order Odonata, meaning "toothed jaws."

Side note: apparently, there was a large sewage spill off of Tijuana Beach (Playa de Tijuana) last week, leaving the Tijuana Estuary Beach largely deserted and peaceful. There were a few people strolling down the long strand of white sand. Otherwise, there were just the passing flocks of pelicans and the occasional shore bird. Overall, it was nice and quiet, with a gentle (and smell-free), cooling ocean breeze, which is a real find on a hot, Summer day during the Labor Day Weekend. While we stayed out of the water, there was no obvious evidence that a spill had happened just a week prior. There was just empty beach out to the horizon.

Deppea spendens

Deppea spendens, is now extinct in the wild. This member of the coffee family was collected in Chiapas, Mexico in 1981 by Dr. Dennis Breedlove. The native habitat has since been cleared for farmland and no other specimens have been found since. This specimen is growing at the Huntington Botanical gardens. There are others at the San Francisco Botanical Garden and also available for sale via San Marcos Growers and Annie's Annuals. Avoid heat and freezing temperatures if you attempt to grow this beautiful plant.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Paphiopedilum lowii x Paphiopedilum Bengal Lancers

Paphiopedilum lowii x Paphiopedilum Bengal Lancers, blooming at the South Coast Orchid Society monthly meeting. Bengal Lancers is parishii x haynaldianum, although this cross leans heavily towards lowii.