Monday/ Anna’s hummingbird

A hummingbird visited my backyard today, attracted by my cold-hardy mahonia’s bright yellow flowers.
(There was a little more snow on the ground on Monday morning, but not enough to make too much trouble on the city’s streets).

An Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna), sitting in the light snow on a tree branch in my backyard. These are medium-sized hummingbirds, native to the west coast of North America. The bird was named after Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli (from France) in 1829.
I hope the hummingbird found a little nectar in the mahonia flowers. Those amazing little ‘motorized’ wings are powered by special muscle fibers — called fast glycolytic fibers —that respond rapidly to nerve impulses, and are fatigue-resistant.

Friday/ unpacking my bags

My bags are unpacked.
As usual,  I dug out several items between the layers of clothes in my suitcases that I had ‘acquired’ during my visit to Tokyo and Perth.

I admit I may have gone a little overboard this time with my animal figures, but they are all great additions to my collection. Clockwise from top left: Giant Sable Antelope, Black Wildebeest, Eland, Three-toed Sloth, American Bison, Bald Eagle, Raccoon, baby Polar Bear, Scarlet Macaw.
And I added three small cones (aluminum, brass, copper), and three spheres to complete my collection of geometric shapes. These are from the Tokyo Hands craft store.

Wednesday/ sharpening its beak

Alright .. one more picture of the pink and gray cockatoo called the galah.
This one was in an eucalyptus by the tennis courts here in Bull Creek.
It is steadying itself, while sharpening its beak on the hard bark of the tree trunk.

Sunday/ a beautiful eucalypt

This beautiful eucalyptus tree is by the tennis courts here in Bull Creek.
I am still trying to identify the specific name of it. The term ‘eucalypt’ includes some 900 species in the three genera Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora.
And where is its bark?

In almost all types of eucalyptus, the bark dies every year. It comes off in flakes, curls or long strips. This might be the tree’s way of shedding harmful mosses, lichens, fungi and parasites that live on the bark.

An eucalyptus tree with very little bark on its trunk and limbs. A strip of brown bark is visible on the left, from the back of the tree, but not much else.

Thursday/ another honeyeater

Here is the New Holland honeyeater.
They are found throughout southern Australia.
I found a picture of one on the wall at the Stockland shopping center, and the real McCoy in the Ron Carroll Reserve green space.

The New Holland honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) was one of the first birds from Australia to be scientifically described. large They have a large yellow wing patch, and smaller white earpatches and whiskers.
Large mural artwork of a New Holland honeyeater at the Stockland shopping mall.

Christmas Eve

The ‘boab’ Christmas tree at Perth airport. Boab (Adansonia gregoriiare) are found in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and east into the Northern Territory.

Monday/ a flock of western corellas

I ran into a flock of western corellas (Cacatua pastinator) across from the little shopping center here in Bull Creek. The white cockatoos were eating the seeds of a cypress bush and did not mind me too much, as I came closer to them to take some pictures.

By some estimates the number of these birds have increased tenfold in the greater Perth area over the last 20 years. The city council is mulling how to control their numbers, and has called on bird lovers to refrain from feeding them, as a start.

 

Friday/ for my stamp collection

I stopped at an ‘Australia Post’ post office today.
I had the poor clerk behind the counter flip through the big album, full of sheets of stamps, so that I could pick out colorful and interesting stamps to buy. She was very patient with me!

Top to bottom & left to right: Set of freshwater crayfish stamps by naturalist and zoologist Roger Swainston | ANZAC Day 2019 (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) mini-sheet | Celebrating marriage equality (the law was passed two years ago, Dec. 2017) | Little penguins, the smallest penguin species, found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand | 50th anniversary of the moon landing | Snorkeling, windsurfing, kite surfing and just old-fashioned board surfing, at Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a remote territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean.

Thursday/ the pink and grey

Here’s a galah (cockatoo) depicted on a wall at the Stockland shopping center here in Bull Creek, Perth. I have seen them around, but have not gotten close enough to one, to take a picture.

The galah /ɡəˈlɑː/ (Eolophus roseicapilla), also known as the pink and grey, is one of the most common and widespread cockatoos, and it can be found in open country in almost all parts of mainland Australia. [Source: Wikipedia].

Wednesday/ a wattlebird

I found this western wattlebird (Anthochaera lunulata) in the Ron Carroll Reserve, a green space here in suburban Perth.
The bird is a large honeyeater, long and slender, with dark grey-brown upper-parts.
There are pale streaks and spots on the neck, chest and belly.
They have ‘brush-tipped’ tongues, with which they eat nectar from flowers. They do eat insects as well.

Wednesday/ a lioness, for my collection

I finally bought the lioness figure at the Red Balloon toy store nearby, to add to my animal collection.

When it comes to lions, it is almost exclusively the females that go hunting. Their prey are usually faster than they are, so they have to first creep up to a close distance from different sides and then sprint towards their prey. Then when the prey had been caught, the males are always the first ones to eat.

Amazing detail in toy maker Schleich’s hand-painted lioness animal figure (it’s 2 in. tall, 4 in. long).  Disclaimer — or my attempt at one: after watching a devastating documentary on how the planet is being poisoned with plastic packaging & products, I guess I should boycott plastic things .. but at least this is not a single-use item, and it should not end up in the ocean or in a landfill any time soon.

Saturday/ Steller’s jay

The neighborhood’s pair of Steller’s jays visited my backyard this afternoon.

The Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is a jay native to western North America, closely related to the blue jay found in the rest of the continent, but with a black head and upper body. [Source: Wikipedia]
It’s sunny, but cold. The down feathers on the bird’s chest and belly are plumped up to keep it warm (birds are warm-blooded, same as mammals). 

Sunday/ the giant red ones are here

They did come up: the giant red fly agaric mushrooms, in my backyard. Those other paler, smaller ones from earlier in October might be a different species or subspecies of mushroom. I made sure I took a few pictures before the squirrels took large bites out of it, the way they do sometimes.

Here’s a very large fly agaric (Scientific name: Amanita muscaria), the iconic ‘toadstool mushroom’, with its bright red cap and its white spots. This one is about 9 in. (23 cm) across.
A peek from below, revealing the fine white gills. Spores for propagating the mushroom are produced by specialized cells called basidia on the flat surfaces of the gills.
There he is: Mr Squirrel*, eyeing me from his perch in the Douglas fir above the mushroom. ‘Please don’t fall on me – we will both squeal like squirrels’, I thought. *Western Gray Squirrel (Scientific name: Sciurus griseus).

Tuesday/ more gilled mushrooms

Another type of gilled mushroom has appeared in my backyard, and as far as I can tell, these are Amanita gemmata. (No touching! These are poisonous).

Just last week, so-called ‘death cap’ mushrooms (Amanita phalloides), were found on the campus of the University of Washington here in the city. A gardener found 40 mushrooms on the east side of Benson Hall and confirmed their identity with a campus mycologist.

This is a mature Amanita gemmata with its cap flattened out. The gills are closely spaced and the flesh is white.
The cap on this specimen is about three inches across, sticky and it has white ‘warts’. The more poisonous Amanita phalloides ‘death cap’ mushroom has a smooth flecked cap with no warts.

Saturday/ why the truth is so hard to find

‘We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are’.
– from Seduction of the Minotaur, by Anais Nin (1961)


The entire Sept. issue of Scientific American is dedicated to the topic on the front page in bold letters: Truth, Lies & Uncertainty: Searching for Reality in Unreal Times. The articles are heavy on science and general philosophies about what is real and what is virtual. For example: to this day, philosophers cannot agree on whether mathematical objects (say, the number ‘7’) exist, or are pure fictions.

A summary of the article by Prof. Anil K. Seth that goes with the picture below, goes like this:
‘The reality we perceive is not a direct reflection of the external objective world. Instead it is the product of the brain’s predictions about the causes of incoming sensory signals. The property of realness that accompanies our perceptions may serve to guide our behavior so that we respond appropriately to the sources of sensory signals’.

So throw in Presidents that lie every day, greedy corporations with profit incentives, and worldwide social media networks ⁠— and holy cow: it’s more important than ever before to try to verify if something uncertain or new that we come across, is ‘true’.

Our realities are constructed by our brains, and no two brains are exactly alike.

Sunday/ another weaver

This is the southern masked weaver.
I found it in the green space adjacent to my AirBnB aparment, today.

The southern masked weaver (Ploceus velatus) is common throughout southern Africa. It eats insects, seeds and nectar, and weaves its nest from reed, palm or grass.

Friday/ sunbirds and sugarbirds

I caught several beautiful birds on camera while roaming the gardens during my visit at Kirstenbosch.
The most striking ones were sunbirds and sugarbirds.
Sunbirds (family Nectariniidae) are not hummingbirds ⁠(family Trochilidae) — even though both have sharp, curved bills and iridescent feathers.
Hummingbirds are native to the Americas and are related to swifts.
Sunbirds are native to Africa, Asia and Australia and are related to swallows.

An orange-breasted sunbird (Anthobaphes violacea) on a pin-cushion protea. These birds are found only in fynbos. They love flowers such as tube-shaped heaths, pin cushion proteas, pagodas and cape honeysuckle.
The male southern double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus) has a brilliant red band across its chest, and a narrower metallic blue band below its green neck and head.
This is a female Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer). Males have really long tail feathers. Their diet consists mainly of nectar, but also of small insects.
A male Cape batis (Batis capensis) with its striking eye-mask, white throat and black chest pattern, taking a bath at a water fountain. These are small but stout insect-eating birds.
A Cape white-eye (Zosterops virens) in the cycad garden in Kirstenbosch. They eat insects, soft fleshy flowers, nectar, fruit and small grains.
A Cape bulbul (Pycnonotus capensis, Afr. ‘Kaapse tiptol’). They are active and noisy, and tend to perch at the top of a bush.

Wednesday/ here’s Kirstenbosch

It is spring in South Africa, and I just had to stop by Kirstenbosch: one of the world’s finest botanical gardens.

All kinds of Namaqualand daisies are in bloom in September and October in Kirstenbosch, on the southeastern slopes of Table Mountain.
These are Livingstone daisies (Cleretum bellidiforme), also called Bokbaaivygie (Afr.), a flowering plant in the family Aizoaceae, native to the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.
I love the soft pinks, whites and yellows of the tassel heath (Erica coccinea). It’s a type of fynbos native to Potberg north of Cape Town.
The bees and the birds do it .. and so do long-horned beetles!
Pincushion protea (genus: Leucospermum), one of some 48 such species with the flowers in variations of oranges, reds and yellows. The plants are evergreen upright or creeping shrubs.
Here’s a red-eyed fly on a common pagoda (Mimetes cucullatus). This is a type of fynbos found on the Cape Peninsula.
The king of all the proteas, the iconic and beautiful King Protea (Protea cynaroides). It has the largest flower head of all the proteas.
This could be a scene from 200 million years ago on the slopes of Table Mountain. Most of these plants are Eastern Cape Giant Cycads (Encephalartos altensteinii). The dinosaur is a model of Aardonyx celestae ‘Earth Claw’, fossils of which were discovered in 2005 in rock in South Africa. Aardonyx was 7 m (21 ft) long and 1.5 m (5 ft) tall at the hips.
Here is the Tree Canopy Walkway, new-ish addition to Kirstenbosch (May 2014) of a curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum.
Here is the Conservatory by the main entrance to the gardens, with Africa’s southern-most boabab tree specimen.
The Conservatory houses a large collection of Namibian desert plants. This one is a Kobas (Cyphostemma currorii).
The curators have also gone to great lengths to cultivate a number of the weird and wonderful Welwitschia mirabilis desert plant. The enclosures are heated, as is the soil, so as to mimic desert conditions. Some specimens in the Namib desert are estimated to be 1,000 to 1,500 years old.
Heath (genus Erica) type fynbos vegetation. Fynbos (‘fine bush’) is a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Tuesday/ more feathered friends

Here are some more feathered friends, spotted from my apartment’s balcony in the trees nearby.

The rosy-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis), is a species of lovebird native to arid regions in southwestern Africa such as the Namib Desert. They are very social and constant chirpers, and like to congregate in small groups in the wild. The coloration can vary widely among populations, but plumage is identical in males and females.
A little lovebird kerfuffle on the tree branch? ‘Hey! Watch it!’ the middle one seems to say, while the one on the right is looking on.
Here’s the Cape weaver (Ploceus capensis) working on its nest. The nest makes it hard for predators (especially snakes) to get to the eggs or the chicks. Their diet consists mostly of flowers, small fruits and seeds.
The ring-necked dove (Streptopelia capicola) is also known as the Cape turtle dove or half-collared dove. Here’s one with its feather coat all fluffed up to ward off the chilly morning air.
And it seems a little later, that it felt it was OK to go back to ‘ops normal’ with its feather coat.