Monday/ so long, summer

It’s the last day of summer here in the North.
Summer will swing by again next year, of course .. but for now we need the rain and cooler temperatures, so that the fires that still char up the West coast can be put out.

These flowers are from my walk yesterday.
From top to bottom: garden cosmos, English marigold, African daisy and dahlia.

Saturday/ rain, and clean air

There was rain this morning, and more tonight, and the weather system that swept in from the Pacific, brought in fresh air as well.
Man! it’s great to be able to go outside and breathe clean air.

Mr Spider from my garden – European garden spider (Araneus diadematus). There are still plenty of spiders active outside, but I’m sure they will curtail their web-spinning activities soon. It’s a myth that outside spiders come into the house when it gets colder in fall. They stay outside, slow down and search for hiding places to survive the cold of winter. Some species go into hibernation, but not all.

Thursday/ canola fields forever

Here’s a beautiful bird’s eye* view of the canola fields just outside Durbanville, South Africa. Look for Table Mountain and Lion’s Head to its right, in the distance.
*Picture was taken with a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone.
[Photo from ‘Die Burger’ newspaper, submitted by Dirkie Heydenrych]

Thursday/ a little welcome rain

There was a little welcome rain this morning, with mild highs later on (70 °F/ 21 °C).

Pinks in the sky tonight, and in this hollyhock flower (genus Alcea). Alcea is a genus of about 60 species of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae. This one is about 6 ft tall.

Monday/ toasty

There was nary a cloud in the blue sky today, and at Seattle-Tacoma Airport a high of 94°F (34.5 °C) was recorded.

My asters (genus: Kalimeris) don’t seem to mind the heat.

Sunday/ a flower, aflame

It’s going to be warm (for Seattle, that is) this week — 87 °F (30.5 °C) on Monday, and slightly cooler on Tuesday.

Whoa .. is it a flameball? Is it a flower? A dahlia, that I found here on 18th Ave.

Saturday/ a glimpse of the comet

I went out after sunset tonight to find a spot here in my neighborhood that would enable me to look over the trees for Comet C/2020 F3 (Neowise*).
I found it with the help of my binoculars, and got a somewhat decent look at it.  The sky is definitely not an inky black here in the city!

*Neowise stands for Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, the space telescope from NASA that had discovered it in March.

The comet is on its way back to 715 astronomical units, or AU, from the Sun. (For comparison, Earth orbits at 1 AU, Jupiter at 5 AU, and Neptune at 30 AU.) The comet takes about 6,800 years to make one lap around its long, stretched-out orbit .. so it won’t visit our inner solar system again for many thousands of years.

Arcturus is a giant red star and among the brightest stars that can be seen from Earth. Polaris is also called the North Star. The Big Dipper (middle of the diagram) is very helpful to locate the comet. The Big Dipper is a large asterism (star pattern) consisting of seven bright stars of the constellation Ursa Major. Comet Neowise is visible below it, and its position will be slightly higher every day for the next few nights. 
[Source: NASA Skywatching tips ]

Friday night stroll

I walked down 19th Ave after dinner.
A few people were lined up, socially distant, for ice cream at Hello Robin.
Zeeks Pizza had a smattering of diners inside, as did Monsoon, the Vietnamese restaurant.
No Friday night music and dance at the Russian Community Center; its doors were shut.
The No 12 bus rolled by. Its scrolling letters now say ‘Masks Required’— an upgrade from ‘Essential Trips Only’, I guess.

The gladiolus (sometimes called ‘sword lily’) by the little preschool on 19th & Republican. The pandemic is roiling the ability of school districts to open their doors to students. Everyone agrees kids need to go back to school for all the benefits it will bring them and their parents. That will not be possible in many school districts in states such as Florida, Texas, California, Alabama and Georgia with spiking infection numbers.

Saturday/ summer days

We have had a mild, average summer so far, with temperatures in the high 60s or 70s (18 to 24 °C). The sun still sets after 9 pm .. so even after dinner, there is still lots of time to go for a walk or to water the garden.

In the South and Southwest of the United States a phenomenon called a ‘heat dome*‘ has developed, which will lead to historic high temperatures the next few weeks. It is possible for Phoenix, AZ, to see 120 °F (48 °C).
*A heat dome occurs when strong, high-pressure atmospheric conditions trap hot ocean air like a lid or cap.

‘Garden Party in Wonderland’ .. postcard from Germany, circa 1930. I found it on a website called AbeBooks. 
P.S. That would be .. apple juice, that the jovial guy in the apron is serving up?

Friday/ mystery bird: solved

I had to scroll through hundreds of Botswana bird photos to identify this white-crested helmetshrike, that I took a picture of long ago. (Googling ‘White bird with orange-ringed eye’ and several other similar attempts, did not do it).

We call a shrike laksman (sayla- ks-mon’) in Afrikaans: literally, executioner. The crimson-breasted shrikes in our garden in South Africa would find frogs or big insects, and impale them on the thorns of a bush before devouring them!

White-crested helmetshrike (Prionops plumatus), Tuli Block, Botswana, Jul. 1988.

Thursday/ hydrangea time

A lot more flowers are blooming on my hydrangea this year, compared to last year. They are as always a deep pink (which means that I have neutral or slightly alkaline soil).
A neighbor right around the corner has beautiful blue ones (acidic soil).

Hydrangea is a genus of 70–75 species of flowering plants native to Asia and the Americas. By far the greatest species diversity is in eastern Asia, notably Korea, China, and Japan [From Wikipedia].

Thursday/ memories from Botswana

I cleaned up some pictures from my old 35 mm negative scan archives.
These were all taken in the nineties in Botswana’s Tuli block⁠ — the eastern tip of the country wedged between Zimbabwe in the north and South Africa in the south.

Picture from 1993. Giraffes are the tallest terrestrial mammals. Taxonomists have gone back and forth debating how many species and subspecies there are. Giraffes are native to Africa only, and this one is the Southern giraffe (G. giraffa).
The bush buck (Tragelaphus sylvaticus) likes forests, savanna bush and woodland. Picture from 1994.
This is a giant rock scorpion (Hadogenes troglodytes), native to southern Africa. These scorpions are not poisonous and sold on the exotic pet market. Scorpions are arachnids (eight legs), and their evolutionary history goes back to the Silurian period 435 million years ago. Picture from 1994.
Bibron’s thick-toed gecko (Chondrodactylus bibronii), also called Bibron’s sand gecko or simply Bibron’s gecko, is a species of lizard in the family Gekkonidae. The species is native to southern Africa. Picture taken in 1994.
The Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus). They are found throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa and along the Nile. I knew they in this outcropping of rocks, hiding from me. So I waited patiently for them to come out. Picture taken in 1988.
P.S. See if you can spot a second shy lizard in the picture!
The impala (Aepyceros melampus) is a medium-sized antelope found in eastern and southern Africa.
This picture was taken in 1990. We had to manoeuvre through a herd of elephants on the way in to the camp. It made this African elephant (Loxodonta africana) angry enough that he chased after us for disturbing them.
This white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) is approaching its nest. I see they are now listed as Critically Endangered. Picture from 1993.
One of the rangers at the camp took me to this hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) that was basking in the sun on the banks of the Limpopo river. I had a telephoto lens to catch it as it jumped up and bolted into the river. Hippos are surprisingly agile and extremely dangerous. Picture from 1994.
The most memorable picture I took in Botswana, no question. There were eight of us locking eyes with the big cat from an OPEN Jeep. The ranger might have had a firearm – I’m not even sure. His confidence made up for the lack of a weapon. My dad had a piece of metal pipe that he had grabbed as we piled into the Jeep to go find the lion (Panthera leo). Picture from 1997.
A southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas). They are common and wide-spread in southern Africa. They use their bills to forage for seeds, small insects, spiders and scorpions on the ground.

Tuesday/ only in Florida

I saw this old news clip from 2016 on Twitter. A 99-year old woman in Miami woke up with a strange animal sleeping on her chest: a kinkajou (Potos flavus).

Luckily, says the veterinarian that took care of the kinkajou, it was a ‘domesticated’ animal. (They did track the owners down. Kinkajous cannot really be domesticated, but the animal was obviously used to humans).

Still from the Miami TV station’s video that reported the kinkajou incident. I object to the language the reporter used:  ‘Imagine waking up to THIS (thing) sleeping on your chest’.  Hey: it’s an animal that should not have been taken out of its natural environment.

Wednesday/ a juvenile jay rescue

A Steller’s jay made such a ruckus in the tree in front of my house last night, that I had to go investigate. Sure enough, there was a second one on the ground, unable to fly. Oh no, I thought, I’ll have to do something.

I put the struggling bird in a shoebox, and left a message for the wildlife rescue center in Lynnwood. They called back in the morning.  I texted them these pictures, and they said to bring it in.

They found an injury below its left eye; could have been the work of a crow. It was also a little thin and they were going to take care of it for a while and set it free. What could also be going on, is that the bird is just learning to fly, said the bird expert. Most fledgling birds don’t fly straight out of the nest. They spend a day or two on the ground flapping their wings (and hope they don’t catch the attention of predators), and then get going.

I only noticed it was a juvenile in the morning (fluffy feathers on the sides).
The youngster started squawking loudly when I opened the box outside on my deck. Soon another jay showed up – possibly a parent. Jays are intelligent birds with complex social systems and family bonds. They can live up to 16 years of age.

Sunday/ birds from Kitsap county

These bird pictures are from Saturday, from around our friend Paul’s house in Hansville. (Hansville is in Kitsap County, north and west from Seattle, across the Puget Sound).

A bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), far away below us, on the beach exposed by low tide, was eating a fish or a crab.
These are two very young chestnut-backed chickadees (Poecile rufescens). They are still being fed by their mother, even though they are out of the nest! She is at the bird feeder nearby, out of the picture.
The spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus) is a large New World sparrow, about the size of a robin. The towhee has eyes that glint bright red in sunlight.
This is an adult male of Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna). Even in the weak sunlight, the scarlet iridescence from its collar flashed now and then, as it turned its head.
This is probably a juvenile Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna), with the white on its throat.
A Western osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in flight. They are superb fishers, dive-bombing into the waters to catch fish with their sharp talons.
This is a red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), that also likes to visit the feeder. This one is probably a female. They are bossy and make the little chickadees scatter when they come to the feeder.
Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) at the hummingbird feeder.

Saturday/ hello summer

The summer of our discontent has arrived. Our city’s traditional Fremont Solstice Parade to celebrate it, has been cancelled this year.

At least the sun still rises, and sets, as if nothing on Earth had changed.
Daylight time here (sunrise at 5.11 am through sunset at 9.10 pm) is at its peak, now just shy of 16 hrs, at 15:59:17.

There was a little rain this morning. This Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) had a red berry in its beak, and swallowed it before taking off from the rail by my back deck.

Wednesday/ flowers

Here are flowers that I had found on my walk after dinner.
The first picture is of a single clematis, the next of pink and white rose campions, with their gray-green stems.
I believe the little yellow flowers in the last picture are damianita daisies.