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.

Friday/ look! a mousebird

Here is a mousebird that I spotted in a tree across from my  second-floor Airbnb apartment.

Per Wikipedia: Mousebirds are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers. They are arboreal (live in trees) and scurry through the leaves like rodents, in search of berries, fruit and buds. This habit, and their legs, gave rise to the group’s English name. They have strong claws and reversible outer toes (pamprodactyl feet). They also have crests and stubby bills.

The mousebirds are Coliiformes (their order). They could be considered ‘living fossils’, as the 6 species existing today are merely the survivors of a lineage that was massively more diverse in the early Paleogene period (up to 23 million yrs ago) and Miocene period (up to 5 million years ago).

The White-backed Mousebird (Colius colius). Check out its long tail-feathers. This species prefers scrubby dry habitats, such as thornveld, fynbos scrub and semi-desert.

Thursday/ torching the Amazon

And the world had to watch: Catastrophe for the climate – wildfires devour the Brazilian rainforest, says the front page of the Tagespiegel newspaper.


I cannot bear to watch news coverage of the torching of the Amazon rainforest. The Bolsonaro government of Brazil is defiant and doing nothing to stop it.

This is what happens when nationalistic dictators get into positions of power, and there is no one to stop them. Does this even register on the radar screen of the Trump Administration? Bah. Forget about it.

Friday/ bushtits

There was a bunch of little bushtits in the camelia in front of my house this morning, and I took a few pictures.

Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus) are tiny little drab-gray birds that are very active and social. They do not migrate, and are found year-round on the west coast of Mexico and North America, all the way to the Pacific Northwest.
Their diet consists mostly of larvae and insects, as well as spiders. They do eat seeds, berries, and fruit — in seasons when insects are not as abundant.

Tuesday/ hey, aster, aster

Ai, aster, aster,
vat my hand en druk my vaster,
want my kop voel deurmekaar
as ek na jou skoonheid staar*

*a rough translation: (young man to his girlfriend)
‘hey aster, aster,
take my hand and hold me faster,
for my head is humming,
you are so stunning’.
– from the 1970’s Afrikaans folk song ‘Ai, meisie, meisie’ by Jan de Wet


The aster in front of my house is flowering. Its genus is Kalimeris, from the sunflower family. It was first described in 1825 by the French botanist Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassini.

Friday/ we had a little earthquake

Newspaper front page after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

I woke up to a shaking house at 3 a.m. this morning.
The shaking went on for only a few seconds, but I was sure it was an earthquake. It turned out there was a magnitude 3.5 quake, and the one I experienced must have been the 4.6 quake that followed just two minutes later.

The epicenter of the quake is about 26 miles from my house.  No real damage or injuries in the Puget Sound area or from elsewhere, were reported.

P.S. The Nisqually earthquake of 2001 near Olympia was several orders of magnitude stronger, at 6.8. It damaged the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the dome of the State Capitol building in Olympia, and Starbucks headquarters in Seattle.

Map and information from U.S. Geological Survey

Thursday/ a double rainbow

Here’s a beautiful double rainbow, that we saw on Wednesday night from my friends’ house in the Mt Baker neighborhood.

P.S. Yes, it’s not your imagination, there really is a second one above the first!

A double rainbow is seen when sunlight is reflected and refracted into its different wavelengths twice (in the suspended drops in the atmosphere). So the observer sees two different reflections, coming from different angles.

Monday/ a June beetle

June beetles are about 1 in. long when fully grown like this male. It uses its antennae to detect pheromones from females.

Here’s a ten-lined June beetle (sometimes called the watermelon beetle), that had landed on my porch.

They don’t bite, but they hiss and squeal when handled, I read online. (Handled? Who does that with a scary-looking bug? I flicked it off the porch with a piece of paper).

Saturday/ woodpecker visit

Here’s the woodpecker (northern flicker/ Colaptes auratus), that I see now and again by my house, searching for ants and bugs in the paving, and in the tree. This one is a male, with its bright red cheek.
They eat fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts, but their primary food is insects. Ants alone can make up 45% of their diet. [Source: Wikipedia].

 

Wednesday/ ‘Christmas roses’ in July

My hydrangea’s flowers are starting to appear. In South Africa we call them krismisrose (‘Christmas roses’) in Afrikaans.

Hydrangea is a genus of 70–75 species of flowering plants native to Asia and the Americas. Most hydrangeas thrive in rich, porous, somewhat moist soils.

Monday/ a Canadian lynx

Happy Canada Day!
Here’s a Canadian lynx being a ‘cool cat’, to celebrate.

The Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis) is slightly larger than the bobcat, with which it shares parts of its range, and over twice the size of a typical domestic cat. They can weigh up to 40 lbs (18 kg).

Tuesday/ the Nile monitor

I am still scanning old pictures from my shoebox to add to my online photo albums.
This picture of a Nile monitor (Afr. ‘Waterlikkewaan‘) was taken in the early 1990’s close to my grandfather’s guest lodge in Botswana’s Tuli Block district.
I knew the spot in the rocky outcrop where the monster had been hiding, and had to wait patiently for it to make an appearance.

The orange in the map of Africa shows how widespread the distribution of the Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) is. They like water,  and are found on the banks of the Nile river all the way up to Cairo. 

Friday/ summer solstice in the North

It’s the official start of summer here in the North today.
We have had mild temperatures (68°F/ 20°C) and not much rain in June, tracking at about 50% of the month’s average.
Sunset tonight was at its latest for the year, at 9.11 pm here in Seattle.

I walk by these neon pink flowers on their silvery gray stems almost every day, and finally looked it up: they are rose campions (Lychnis coronaria). They bloom in late spring and early summer, and like full sun and drained soil.

Saturday/ weed or not a weed?

Whoah .. is this a giant weed? It looks like one, I thought, as I walked by it tonight.
I looked it up and it’s the great mullein or common mullein. Mullein itself derives from the French word for soft, and yes, it’s a weed – kind of.

The Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has giant, soft, hairy leaves and can grow to 6 ft tall.  It’s not so aggressive that it’s a problem in agriculture, but it can crowd out native grasses and herbs. It hosts a number of insects, some beneficial – but it can also host some fungal diseases. [Source: Wikipedia]
This one I know: it’s foxglove (genus: digitalis). Pretty, but don’t mess around with it, or chew on it! since the entire plant is poisonous from the roots up.

Wednesday/ hello, Steller’s jay

Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri). This must be a juvenile bird, with the fluffy feathers on its chest.

Here is a Steller’s jay that sat for a few minutes on the fence here at my house.

My camera’s 200 mm-equivalent zoom lens is not quite up to the task to get a tack sharp picture, but that’s OK.  I’m not ready to splurge on a 500mm lens just yet.

Saturday/ a rabbit invasion?

I found this wabbit* right here on 17th Avenue on Capitol Hill tonight. He was not too skittish. In fact, he rolled around for a bit in the flower bed dirt after he had spotted me.
*It’s an eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus).

I see on the message boards that long-time residents think there is a bit of a rabbit invasion going on – an influx into Capitol Hill from other large green spaces such as the one around Husky Stadium.

Says one commenter: ‘Rabbits are a pest and an invasive species’. I think that is correct; they are prolific breeders.
‘People are an invasive species’ retorted another. I think that is a true statement as well.

Thursday/ three bears, breakfasting in style

Here’s a cute picture (taken in the late 1950s) of three black bears ‘having breakfast’ at Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada.
The black bear is the North American continent’s smallest and most widely distributed bear species.

Picture from National Geographic Society’s ‘Wild Animals of North America’, published in 1960. I picked up the book at a second-hand bookstore in Port Townsend.

Tuesday/ birds, bugs and more

Here are my bird and bug pictures of the weekend, with pictures of Mr Squirrel as well.

This little fella was venturing out from under its rock on the beach, and it is all of an inch or so wide. It is a green shore crab (Hemigrapsus oregonensis), very common in Puget Sound.
Mr Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) is eating his pine cone, while keeping me appraised. The little squirrels collect and hoard large numbers of pine cones in single or in multiple locations. The squirrels we have in the city are the bigger Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus).
Done eating, the squirrel dropped the pine cone core to the ground, and is still keeping an eye on me. (Nice little black whiskers).
Paul’s hummingbird feeder was buzzing with activity. This is a female Anna’s humming-bird (Calypte anna), a medium-sized hummingbird with bronze-green feathers above and gray below.
Here is the male Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna), with a beautiful iridescent red on its head and throat.
Here’s the male rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) in its browns with white on the chest.
The female rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus).
This is an orange-rumped bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus), sometimes called the black-tailed bumble bee. It is native to western North America from British Columbia to California, and as far east as Idaho.
This is a large white butterfly (Pieris brassicae). It has two black spots on top of each of its forewings but I could not get a picture that shows the spots. This is on the same bush that the bumble bee visited, near Point Hudson in the Port Townsend area.
Ladybugs belong to the insect family of Coccinellidae, a widespread family of small beetles ranging in size from 0.8 to 18 mm.  We call them liewenheersbesies in Afrikaans, which has a literal translation of ‘little bugs of the dear lord’.
A two-tailed swallowtail butterfly (Papilio multicaudata) on a rhododendron. This one, we spotted in Hansville. This is a big butterfly: their wingspan can reach reach 6.5 in. (16.5 cm).

Sunday/ a bed of sand dollars

There was a whole bed of black sand dollars on the beach late Sunday afternoon.

Sand dollars in the shallow water, using the incoming tide to catch food particles with their fuzzy spines. Tiny hairs (cilia) ferry the food particles along their bodies to a central mouth on their bottom side.
Sand dollars are flat sea urchins called echinoids.  Dead ones lose their spines and the skeleton becomes white, bleached by the sun.
This is the meadow by Shorewoods Beach. It is on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula. There was an osprey in the treetop on the left (too small to see in the picture, though).

Wednesday/ an earthworm, for dinner

I took my big camera with the zoom lens tonight with me on my neighborhood walk, and was rewarded with catching this American robin (Turdus migratorius), catching an earthworm. The bird saw the worm wriggle into the grass sod, and ran up and pulled it out.