Saturday, May 31, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Jacaranda Trees

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday,
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Over the Memorial Day weekend, we drove down to Los Angeles to visit with Susan and Howie. To our surprise, Los Angeles was festooned in street trees covered in clusters of five-lobed purple trumpet flowers. We learned that these trees are called jacarandas and they are native to Central and Southern America, Mexico and the Caribbean. They are common in the American Southwest as well as in Pretoria, South Africa (known as "The Jacaranda City") and in Brisbane, Australia. Although we have been to Los Angeles on many occasions, we previously never had seen the fleeting glory of the jacarandas.

Jacarandas flanking the main street through Culver City in Los Angeles, California

A cluster of flowers on a jacaranda branch

Seed pods on a jacaranda tree

Jacaranda flowers

As always, we had a great time in Los Angeles with Susan who is an incomparable hostess. When we left, Howie bade us farewell on our drive back to Northern California.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rambling Around Stow Lake III - Perching Birds

As mentioned in my prior posts here and here, I went on a birding walk around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park on May 10, 2008 followed by an early morning walk on May 15, 2008. In addition to the fabulous great blue herons, other waterfowl and turtles described previously, I saw several perching birds. The male brewer's blackbird hid in a shrub by the walking trail at Stow Lake with its characteristic shining bright yellow eyes. The adult black phoebe lingered on a branch near its mud nest under a bridge across to Strawberry Hill at Stow Lake and dipped its long tail very quickly.


Male brewer's blackbird (euphagus cyanocephalus)


Adult black phoebe (sayornis nigricans)
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rambling Around Stow Lake II - More Waterfowl and Turtles

As mentioned in my prior post, I went on a birding walk around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park on May 10, 2008 followed by an early morning walk on May 15, 2008. In addition to the fabulous great blue herons, I saw a number of other waterfowl.

First, I observed the lovely but common male and female domestic mallard (anas platyrhynchos)


Male domestic mallard (anas platyrhynchos).

Second, I saw a bizarre large duck-like creature that I had never seen before. In reviewing bird books, I learned that it was a domestic muscovy (cairina moshata) which interbreeds in city parks and produces birds with a wide variety of sizes, plumages and colors. This particular bird aggressively shooed away the domestic mallards.


Domestic muscovy (cairina moschata).

Third, I spotted the pied-billed grebe (podilymbus podiceps) on Stow Lake. These birds are usually solitary. The adults have a distinctive black bill ring.


Juvenile pied-billed grebe (podilymbus podiceps).

Adult pied-billed grebe (podilymbus podiceps).

Finally, I spotted four Canadian geese (branta canadensis) and nine chicks. The naturalist from the San Francisco Nature Education speculated that two pairs of Canadian geese and their young merged into one larger group. I also spotted many turtles posing in the sun on logs in Stow Lake. The turtles were so immobile that at first I wondered if they were statues. Here are some of the turtles on a log with one turtle barely visible at the end of the log struggling to climb up from the lake.


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Rambling Around Stow Lake I - Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Since 1994, great blue herons (ardea herodias) have been nesting at Stow Lake in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. San Francisco Nature Education offers several bird viewing and nature walks during the heron nesting season. On May 10, 2008, I went on one of those walks around Stow Lake and then went again to Stow Lake very early on May 15th (a very rare sunny and hot day in San Francisco). The great blue herons are beautiful birds and it was extraordinary to view their nests perched high in the trees with their chicks who resemble Dr. Seuss characters. Here are some of my photos from these two outings.


Adult great blue heron.


Flying adult great blue heron.

Adult great blue heron feeding two chicks on nest.

Adult great blue heron and two chicks on nest.
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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Iris

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday,
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Completed in 1893, Stow Lake is a wonderful oasis in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. An island named Strawberry Hill is in the center of the lake. Early in the morning this week, I captured a shot of this yellow iris and its reflection in Stow Lake.


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Friday, May 16, 2008


May 17, 2008 Theme: Candy

Reflections in the window of a candy store in the Battery Point area of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Bleeding Heart

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday,
visit As the Garden Grows for more information
It is a foggy and wet morning in San Francisco's Golden Gate Heights neighborhood. Mount Sutro and the iconic red and white Sutro Tower which is usually visible from the garden is hidden by the fog. But, I managed to capture a shot of a lovely pink flower on a ground cover plant in the garden planted by the prior homeowner over 8 years ago. I have seen this plant in Bay Area nurseries but do not recall the plant's name. Perhaps someone can tell me? Thanks to a GTS member, I now know that this is Bleeding Heart (Dicentra).


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Saturday, May 10, 2008

PhotoHunt: Share Any Photo

May 10, 2008 Theme: Share Any Photo

A Snowy Egret intrigued by her own reflection on February 17, 2008 in the marsh at Chrissy Field, San Francisco.

Link to larger image. For more information on the Snowy Egret, click here.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Rhodies

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday,
visit As the Garden Grows for more information.
It's early May in San Francisco and the San Francisco Botanical Garden had its 41st Annual Spring Plant Sale this weekend just down the hill in Golden Gate Park. I was able to pick up two new clematis ("Arabella" and "Dutchess of Edinburgh"), a mite-resistant fuchsia ("Dr. Mahoney") (mites have been a huge problem in Northern California fuchsias -- read more here) and two huechera hybrids ("Amethyst mist"). Whenever it's time for the Annual Plant Sale, the rhododendrons are always blooming and this year was no exception. The rhodies in front of the house are in rare form.



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Thursday, May 1, 2008

PhotoHunt: Time

May 3, 2008 Theme: Time


The Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia resides in warehouses built in the 1830s and 1840s by convict laborers. It is well known that England sent many criminals from England to Australia in the first half of the 19th Century. Tasmania was home to several prisons for these convicts, including Port Arthur, a large tourist attraction today about 50 miles outside of Hobart. Some of the male criminals worked on chain gangs to build Tasmania's roads, bridges and other projects including the warehouses on the Hobart seafront. These convicts engaged in grueling physical labor including quarrying and then cutting sandstone by hand to shape blocks and then using the blocks to construct the warehouses. Most of the sandstone was taken from local Hobart quarries; however, some of the sandstone may be recycled ballast from ships that originated in San Francisco. The warehouses successively were utilized over the years by merchants, whalers, a fruit jam factory and then finally an arts center.
Above is one of the rear walls of the Arts Centre seen from Kelly's Lane (a narrow lane and staircase climbing from Salamanca Place to the Battery Point neighborhood). This photo evokes "time" in two ways. First, the wall was constructed over various temporal periods evidenced by brick and stone striations. The layers begin with the sandstone blocks at the bottom topped by old wooden beam remnants, to smaller non-uniform rocks marked by an old roof line, to a top layer of bricks and the current roof. Second, it evokes "time" in the manner of its construction by English convicts "doing time" in Tasmania on chain gangs.

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