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.

Monday/ a freaky little fish, for World Oceans Day

The deeper you go, the stranger things get.
– Dr. Bruce Robison, marine biologist, of voyages into the Monterey Canyon and beyond (Monterey Canyon is a sub-marine canyon in Monterey Bay, California).

One of the 13 species of the bristlemouth, a bony little fish that is about as big as a human finger.

It’s World Oceans Day.

Scientists agree that there are still hundreds of thousands of undiscovered species of animals and plants in the oceans.

More and more has been discovered about the bristlemouth : easy in a way, since they are everywhere in the oceans — the world’s most prevalent vertebrate, by far. There may be a quadrillion – 1,000,000,000,000,000 (1015) – of them, all told. They live in the middle depths of the ocean where there is little light. They have bioluminescent spots that glow in the dark, and can open their mouths extraordinarily wide, baring needle-like fangs.

Many of them have another trick up their sleeve: start life as a male, and later, switch to become a female. Scientists call it protandrous — that is, a male-first hermaphrodite — a phenomenon also seen in certain worms, limpets and butterflies.

A mouth full of needles: a bristlemouth, which is the most plentiful vertebrate in the world. [Photo Credit: Rudie Kuiter/]

Thursday/ geranium & germanium


a herbaceous plant or small shrub of a genus that comprises the cranesbills and their relatives. Geraniums bear a long, narrow fruit that is said to be shaped like the bill of a crane.


The chemical element of atomic number 32, a shiny gray semi-metal. Germanium was important in the making of transistors and other semiconductor devices, but has been largely replaced by silicon.

I found some geranium (cranesbill) flowers on my walk around the block tonight (had to do an image search on Google).
Just for fun, below is a picture of a chunk of germanium.

Ultrapure chunk of polycrystalline germanium, 12 grams. Source: Images of Elements


There was sun this afternoon, after a few days of on and off rain (64 °F/ 17 °C).
It was good to escape from the house for a bit, and take a few pictures of birds and bees and blooms.

Friday/ the ‘ghost dog’ of the forest

Today is the 15th annual Endangered Species Day.
Check out this picture of the ‘ghost dog’ of the Amazon rain forest.

A haunting still image of one of the Amazon rain forest’s most elusive and enigmatic mammals. It’s a short-eared dog .. or at least a type of dog. It is the only member of the canine genus Atelocynus, and also called the short-eared zorro (Atelocynus microtis). Researchers only learned of the species when it made cameo appearances on camera traps deep in the forest, that had been set up for other animals. At present, some 50 researchers are unraveling the creature’s habits and characteristics, hoping to be able to better protect it from extinction. [Video Still by Daniel Rocha. Information from the Science section in the New York Times, May 4, 2020].

Monday/ the season’s first rose

When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose
– first recorded by Bette Midler for the soundtrack of the 1979 film The Rose, lyrics by Amanda McBroom

The first rose from my garden this year

Monday/ poppy flowers

I found these beautiful poppy flowers in a scruffy back alley here on Capitol Hill.
From Wikipedia:  Ancient Egyptian doctors would have their patients eat seeds from a poppy to relieve pain. Poppy seeds contain small quantities of both morphine and codeine, which are pain-relieving drugs that are still used today.

Sunday/ a plump little thrush

This little pot-bellied thrush came and sit on my garage roof last night at dusk. It sang a song or two before leaving. I believe it is a hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus). In French: grive solitaire, the lone thrush.

Tuesday/ a broken tulip?


Here’s a tulip from my walk around the block tonight.
It might be a broken tulip: one infected with a plant virus called a potyvirus. The virus infects the bulb and breaks the single color in the petals. Bars, stripes, streaks, flames or feathers of different colors can be the result.

Unfortunately the virus is not benign — it eventually kills the bulb. The Semper Augustus with its fine red and white stripes was a broken tulip, famous for being the most expensive tulip sold during tulip mania. It is now long gone, and growing broken tulips (except under supervision) is illegal in the Netherlands.

Sunday/ robin egg blue

We had gusty winds on Saturday. The wind blew a robin’s nest out of the tree in front of my house – at least I think it’s a robin’s nest. Other birds lay blue eggs as well. As far as I can tell, there were no chicks that came down with the nest.

The startling blue color of robin eggs is the result of a pigment in the eggshell, called biliverdin. The first recorded use of robin egg blue as a color name in English was in 1873, but nowadays is considered to be a shade of cyan.