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African Birds, Aequorlitornithes

Here are portraits of birds of Africa from the clade Aequorlitornithes. The Aequorlitornithes include all shorebirds, waterbirds, flamingos, grebes, gulls, tropicbirds, penguins, including pelicans, ibis, and heron.

The cover picture is a Yellow Billed Stork (Mycteria ibis). It is feeding along the shore with the hippo lying inches away. The hippo provides a sense of scale. Additionally it shows that the animals of differing species cooperate unless they are direct predators.

Be sure to look at our post of portraits of the Inopinaves in a previous blog, African Birds, Inopinaves.

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EGRET & HERON

Great White Egret (Area aigrette). This appears to be identical to the Great White Egrets of the Florida Everglades. Its ancestors along with those of the Western Cattle Egrets were probably blown over to Florida by some ancient hurricane.
African Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Okavango Delta. Botswana
African Jadcana (Actophilornis Africans) AKA: Lilly trotter

—-+—-

STORKS

Marabou Stork (Leptopilos cruminifer) Chobe Botswana
Yellow billed stork (Mycteria ibis)
Marabou Stork (Leptopilos cruminifer). These shadowy figures are backlighted by the sunset as they settle down for the night.
Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Botswana

—-+—-

DUCK

Spur Winged Goose (Plectropterus gembensis). Largest duck in Africa. Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Okavango Delta, Botswana.
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen egyptiaca). Actually a duck; there are no true geese in Africa. They are usually found in pairs. Not a well focused photo, however, with a hand held camera from a distance of ~ 450 meters it will get the task done. Why did the duck cross the Mara river?

—-+—-

OTHER FOWL

Rhynchops
Afican Skimmer (Rhynchops flavirosteris) Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Okavango Delta. Botswana
Pied Kingfisher (Cercle rudis), Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Okavango Delta. Botswana. I captured this image of the Kingfisher as he was hovering, perfectly still, 10 meters above the river surface waiting for the right moment to strike. He fell like an arrow and he had his fish lunch.

There were many other birds which I observed but did not photograph because of poor conditions. These include Western Cattle Egret, Quella and Red billed African Oxpickers. Several varieties will be mentioned when showing the birds cleaning or riding on the ungulates.

I highly recommend participation in the Cornel Lab of Ornithology found at eBird. It a great resource for identification and information. To understand the naming of birds used in this blog site check out the previous discussion on bird identification in the Everglades Ark posting. When you go to the Okavango in Botswana, Africa, there I recommend a very useful field guide. It may be purchased online or at the Chobe National Park Lodge.

“THE CHOBE COMPANION”, Hancock P, Randall R, Sandor Books Ltd, Maun Botswana, 2014. ISBN 978-99968-0-247-8

#Africa #birds #ducks #geese #kingfisher #storks #ibis #stork #Jadcana #Okavango #Maasai Mara #Botswana #Kenya

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African Birds, Inopinaves

Here are 22 birds portraits. August is not necessarily the best time for birding in the places where we were. Large flocks of varieties of European and North African migratory birds fill the Okavango Delta of Botswana during the “green season”. The best time for this is October through April. The Maasai Mara reserve is most noted hosting the largest bird species, Ostriches. This area is a major destination for migrating birds between November and February. From June to July the Mara River is filled with weaver birds and bishops. We saw only the weaver nest remains from the last season. The Okavango claims 475 confirmed species. Kenya claims 1145 confirmed species.

The cover picture is a male ostrich. He was herding his flock of female birds and would occasionally trot around them with great powerful strides.

The Inopinave clade includes all land birds and songbirds, including raptors, hawks, owls, toucans, falcons, parrots. For conversation in this publication, I subdivided this clade into raptors, hornbills, scavengers, guineafowl, general bush birds and ostrich. To understand the naming of birds used in this blog site check out the previous discussion on bird identification in the Eeverglades ark posting.

RAPTORS

African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)We have seen this example in a previous posting and we will see more of him in a later posting specifically about his behavior
Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapx) Maasai Mara
Long Crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis), Maasai Mara
Gabar Goshawk (Micronisus gabar). Found in open woodland of Chobe Okavango, Botswana
Secretary bird (Accipitriformes, Sagittariidae) Maasai Mara. Preys on small ground animals. It does fly.
Pearl Spotted Owl (Glaucidium perlatum) This was photographed at night with near total darkness and a handy flash attachment. We were returning from viewing a Wild Dog pack hunting and while we stopped for a stampeding nerd of buffalo crossing out path I caught this

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HORNBILLS

Bradfield’s Hornbill (Tockus bradfieldi) Maasai Mara
Southern Yellow Hornbill ( ) Maasai Mara
Southern Red Hornbill ( ) Maasai Mara
Southern Ground Hornbill ( ) Maasai Mara

—-+—-

SCAVENGERS

White Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) Okavango. These birds were working on a buffalo carcass that was taken down by lions two days previous to this scene. More on these vultures later.

—-+—-

GUINEAFOWL

Vulture guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum) Groups of 50 to 100 of these beautiful birds trotted like turkeys across the floor of the scrublands in the Maasai Mara.
Helmeted Guineafowl (Numidia meleangris)
Africa yellow necked Spurfowl (Pternistis leucoscepus). AKA Yellow-Necked Francolin. Picking seeds from elephant dung
Red Crested Korhan (female ) (Lophotis ruficrista) . Botswana

—-+—-

GENERAL BUSH BIRDS

This image of a Lilac-breasted Roller (Caracas caudates) is just breathtaking in color when you consider the relatively monochromatic nature of the Maasai Mara. I took more than 90 images over many days of searching to get just the right image.We will see more images of this species because of its color. Maasai Mara.
This Little Bee Eater ((Merops pusillus) was also difficult to photograph. Okavango.
Grey Go-Away-Bird (Corythaioxides concolor). Gets its name from its song.
Yellow Bellied Greenbul (Chlorocichla flaviventris) looking for insects in the bush of the Maasai Mara.
Superb Starling (Lamprotornis superbus). Sweetwater lodge at lunch time
Caped Wheatear (Oenanthe pileata) Sweetwater lodge at lunch time.

—-+—-

OSTRICH

Common ostrich (Struthio camelus). This largest of birds is flightless and is found in the Maasai Mara. They have powerful legs for running and fighting. According to National Geographic: “Ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand—they wouldn’t be able to breathe! But they do dig holes in the dirt to use as nests for their eggs. Several times a day, a bird puts her head in the hole and turns the eggs. The Common ostrich is an interesting example of evolutionary stasis. The present Struthio camelus belongs to palaeognatha which apparently branched out as neognathous birds about 50 Mya. Check out the quantum analysis

Aequorlitornithes are presented in a following posting. They include all shorebirds, waterbirds, flamingos, grebes, gulls, tropicbirds, penguins, including pelicans, ibis, and heron.

There are so many bird species in these two countries. Many of them are migratory and can be found in Europe and Northern Africa. I sorry to have missed the best of the birding season. Perhaps another trip just for birds and insects would be another adventure. Unfortunately the season for birds is coincident wit insect seasons. I’m not sure that my allergies to biting bugs would appreciate that exposure.

I highly recommend participation in the Cornel Lab of Ornithology found at eBird. It a great resource for identification and information.

#Africa #birds #Inopinaves #raptor #hornbill #bush birds #Spurfowl #guineafowl #scavenger #ostrich #starling #Lilac-breasted Roller #Okavango #Botswana #Maasai Mara #Kenya

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One response to “African Birds, Inopinaves”

  1. Hairstyles Avatar

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Elephants

Elephants are so complicated. They live a long time and remember a lot. They have multi generational, socially interactive lives. Their social structure is matriarchal. They are the largest terrestrial animal and spend most of their time eating. They are herbivores that need a large ranging territory with water, grass and trees for grazing and drinking. They maintain their dispersed social interactions by communicating great distances using growls that are at very low frequency. Most of this vocalization is inaudible to humans.

Featured image is a rogue male elephant showing his stuff.

There is a mixed opinion regarding the ecological impact of elephant herds. On the small scale when elephants crash through a small village or hut the residents are not amused. They want the animals out. When the elephants tear up the trees on the sparsely vegetated savannah the plants are demolished and can’t reproduce. Conversely the elephants help to propagate the trees and other plants by eating the tree fruit and, after digestion, they drop the undigested seeds with nutrients along their paths. Hence they promote new growth. Survival of plants and animals comes down to population density and environmental pressure. The poachers are a terrible plague on the animals of these areas. The local game rangers pursue this criminal behavior in the park areas armed with high powered rifles. Outside the parks the issue is more complicated. The people in the near park areas depend upon tourism. They know that it is in their best interest to cohabitate with the animals. Progressive seasonal drought is another problem for the elephants. They may need to travel long distances from the vegetated areas to water. During this search for food and water the weak may succumb to predators such as lions or to dehydration. This is the reason that Okavango Delta is a high value breeding area for elephants.

In the Maasai Mara elephant families wade and drink in the riverbank just afternoon. Notice the lack of ground vegetation along the way to the water.
Young elephants learning to use their trunks. Maasai Mara
Two of six male elephants in a bachelor party out of the heat of the day feeding on grass in the late afternoon shade. Maasai Mara
Reaching for the succulent leaves just like the giraffes. Okavango Delta
Elephant portrait. Chobe, Okavango Delta
Young elephant hiding in the Okavango marsh grass.
Protective elephant cow just a few steps away

You might notice the difference between the two reserve areas. In the Okavango the elephants can easily stand in the marshlands feeding and drinking. In the Maasai Mara the elephants live on the savanna and need to go to the rivers and drink from the shore where they are less protected.

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5 responses to “Elephants”

  1.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    Thank you for posting the fantastic pictures. It’s always amazing seeing animals in their natural surroundings.

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    1. John Knapp Avatar

      Im happy that you like the photos and narratives. There are more to come with birds, lions and hippos.

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  2. Hairstyles Avatar

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  3. Mark Luria Avatar
    Mark Luria

    Gre

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#Africa #elephants #Okovango #poachers #drought #Maasai Mara #

Wild Africa – A Trip In the Plan for 30 Years

An overview:

The previous posting on Africa showed the photographic preparation for the trip. This posting is an introduction to the upcoming blogs which will feature the animal and plant wildlife in more detail. This photo safari was planned for thirty years. It has been postponed three times. At last, this was the opportunity to go. Botswana and Kenya are the two countries we visited in sub-Saharan Africa. The reasons to go there were their diversity of wildlife, ecosystems, and safety. The month of August was selected to be timely to see the greatest density of animals in the most clement season. It was also an opportunity to look for the similarities and differences of the comparable African and US locations. Here are thoughts, impressions and recounting of the two weeks of experience there.

The title sunset image is typical of the African sky. The beautiful sunset red comes from sand and minerals of the desert suspended in the air and refracted by the light. These same sands which are blown across the Atlantic Ocean color our Floridian sunsets too.

This lengthy monologue is only a rudimentary description of a very large subject. It is intended to help understand and appreciate the reasons for these features seen on this expedition and to summarize the complexities of the climate, geology, the flow of water on the land, the interdependency of species and some similarities to areas in the USA. The two major eco systems were marshlands and savanna. In Botswana the wetlands of the Okavango delta were the focal point. In Kenya the savanna of the Maasai Mara section of the Serengeti was of greatest interest. The Okavango delta ecosystem has some similarities to the wetlands found in the Southwest Florida Everglades National and State Park systems. The Maasai Mara is more like the grasslands of Montana where, 250 years ago, buffalo, antelope, elk, and wolf roamed in their own great migration.

Climate and Geology:

The Okavango delta is 19 degrees south of the Equator. The Florida Everglades are 19 degrees north of the equator. They receive approximately the same amount of energy from the sun. The marshlands of the Okavango delta and the Florida Everglades are both essentially inland dispersions of fresh water. The Okavango is a unique feature of the Kalahari Desert. This delta is deep in the interior of the land mass and the climate is continental. Unlike the Everglades, it does not have the moderating exposure to a neighboring ocean. It has a soil basis of sand that averages 200 feet deep. On top of that is a soil of a few inches depth with mixtures of soil brought by wind, flood, and a thin organic compost. The average elevation is 3100 ft. The delta has three biome types that include savanna, woodlands, and swamp. The Okavango River supply is derived from the confluence of the Cubango and Cuito rivers in Angola. The annual flow reaches the delta between March and June with maximum flow in July. Additionally, there is seasonal 18-inch rainfall in the Okavango from November to February which adds to water shed. 

Floridian Everglades are at sea level and are founded on petrified sea bottom called sedimentary rock with a high calcium carbonate basis called limestone. The Florida Everglades topsoil is an average 17-foot-thick layer of marl (calcitic mud), peat and muck. The Everglades are subtropical wetlands whose freshwater system begins near Orlando in the Kissimmee River. The average annual rainfall is 60 inches. The Everglades have a maritime weather with tropical storms and moderation of climate. Climatically, there are no hurricanes in the Okavango and in the Everglades there is no drought.

In support of the science of plate tectonics. The Americas and Africa were one land mass 200 million years ago.

The concept of moving plates of the crust of the earth suggests that at a distant time in the past the assembly of the plates separated into the various land bodies. The shapes of the land mass fragments seen today can be manipulated as puzzle pieces into a larger land mass that fits together quite well. This particular assembly is called Pangea. If this is how the continents formed then there is a strong relationship between the eastern geology of the Americas and the western African geology. This fit is not entirely perfect, however, when considering the length of time for the division to transpire it is remarkably good. This has been supported by substantial evidence of rock formations that span the continents.The science is based on continental fit, matching rocks, fossils, corals, mountains, glacial striations, magnetic lineages and direct measurement of the movement.

Plate tectonics

Comparison of ecosystems:

Water and Land:

About 98% of the water that goes into the Okavango delta is eventually lost through evaporation and transpiration.  Transpiration results when water moves through the plant and evaporates from leaves and flowers. Despite the subtropical sun generating intense evaporation, the delta’s water is fresh, not salty. I was surprised by this because non circulating ponds of water in the middle parts of the islands have very high chemical and salt concentrations. This chemical concentration occurs in thousands of islands. The reason the water is fresh is that trees on the edges of the islands create a barrier of natural filters between the inner part of the islands and the floodplain. The second reason is a process of transpiration caused by trees. Water flows into the delta and carries with it silica and soluble minerals like sodium carbonate. As the water is lost from the trees, the silica and salts remain to build islands. The center of the islands concentrates the accumulated salt and as a result the vegetation dies from dehydration leaving a central bare white mineral spot. Termites facilitate island formation when they build nests of organic material, fungus, soil and water. These mounds of soil and nutrients promote tree and other plant growth.  When the seasonal water rises the termites build skyward forming islands. Eventually the nest is abandoned to form a new colony. The mound then collapses from animal invasion and erosion. Termites are the keystone species of the Okavango. Without them the delta would be like the desert. Water would be lost, and life would be less dense and less diverse.The Okavango has no palm trees and pines are also nearly absent. 

Pond in center of a large island in the Okavango delta. Salt has accumulated in the water causing the trees to dehydrate and die.
Okavango Savana, for centuries built from sedimentation and termite mound building. Trees in the center of the island died from dehydration caused by salt accumulation. Grass is a monocot and is salt tolerant. The termites moved out and the mound is vacant.
Intermittently flooded lowland in the high water season of the Okavango delta
Freely flowing fresh water in a branch of the Okavango river. The plant is Pampas grass (Miscanthus juncos).

The vegetation in Florida also plays an important role. The ocean barrier to salt invasion are mangroves which are salt tolerant. These mangroves are key to prevention of back flow of the salty ocean and hold the soil preventing erosion. Some fresh water flow does reach the ocean creating a relative partial positive pressure. The soils of the Everglades are rich in nitrates and farmers increase the nitrogen of a large portion of the Everglades. This has resulted in an overgrowth of a complex of bacteria species which feeds on the nitrates and deplete the nutrient value of the topsoil. The Everglades have no Acacia trees and lots of mosquitos.

The Kenyan savanna is climatically and geologically very different from the Okavango savanna. Kenya is at the Equator. It is a mile high in altitude and the soil is volcanic in origin. It is more like the area around Denver CO. It is surrounded by hills and mountains and has two rivers flowing through it. The major river flow is the Mara. The other is the Talek. It is part of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem spanning Tanzania and Kenya and has been geologically very active with ancient and recent rock formations. It is in the Great Rift Valley. It is in this valley that the million-year-old petrified remains of very early hominoids have been found. 

High planes savanna of the Maasai Mara portion of the Serengeti plane. Mt Kenya is on the right horizon.
River cut into the Mara plane providing water to the vegetation and wildlife. This is a spot where the Wildebeests would cross during their migration. They would climb the banks of the river during a stampede. The animals are subject to the risks of death from the crocodiles that ply the river during the crossing.
Igneous rock formation on exposed hill side in the western Mt Kenya highlands.

The plants and animals are widely different in speciation in these three areas but they have similar behavior. This may be the result of adaptation to similar geologic and weather conditions. The apex predators of all locations are big cats. All have eagles, egrets, large carnivorous reptiles and cats and lots of grass.

Human impact:

The effect of the behavior of large numbers of modern people on the Florida ecosystem is dramatically different from the African locations. The Everglades water flow is highly engineered and not necessarily for the best. Southward flow of the Florida delta is interfered by highways and farms to the point that it does not meet the sea as it original did. The Okavango delta also does not meet the sea. In Africa the observed locations have relatively low populations and have been benignly neglected or protected from hunting, industrialization, mining or drilling and farming so that the plants and animals have survived basically unchanged for centuries or even millennia.

Romancing Wild Africa:

We went to see the animal life of Africa and did not go to see the cities, towns, or villages. We did not have much contact with the people of the areas we visited. Africa is a huge, populous, resource rich continent with a history that dates to the origin of most species. There is great wealth and great poverty. Too many people have nothing. They live an impoverished stone age existence in the space age. I acknowledge that many of these are desperately poor and politically persecuted to enslavement and/or death. The NGOs, like CARE, work to help many but must be careful to manage their limited resources. They also try not to support the migrant people in camps to a better level than the local people. The native residents also live by subsistence on gardening, raising a few cattle, contract farm working, tourism, and crafts. Some also engage in a variety of illegal endeavors such as poaching and grazing their animals on park land. You can read the newspapers for details of other antisocial behaviors such as intertribal warfare, abduction, extortion, theft, civil insurrection etc. Desperate people do desperate things.

The wilderness of the savanna of Africa is nothing like anything in eastern US. There is no sense of luxury to the plants or the soil. Much of the topsoil is sand deposited by wind and water. The stark beige color varies little by the source of volcanic mineralization. The organic content is not a rich loam of plant breakdown. It is thin and the organic content is from the sparse droppings from animals or the occasional bush or more rarely from a tree. Animal droppings are recycled by the life on the planes and provide an episodic line of trees from incompletely digested seeds. The brilliant emerald green plants, startling blue sky and the breathtaking color of twilight is such a relief from the monotony.

Next:

We will look in greater detail at the findings of this two-week photo expedition in the following blogs. They will focus more on species than locations. 

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#Africa #Okavango #Botswana #Kenya #Everglades #transpiration #Maasai Mara #salt #tectonics #transpiration #evaporation #Tanzania #marsh land #savanna

Local Results of Hurricane Ian

Here is a short video clip of the neighborhood after the flood waters have subsided and residents have discarding the water soaked and contaminated contents of their houses. This is repeated across thousands of neighborhoods in the entire storm flood ravaged coastline.

Ian was a category 4.5 hurricane with a storm surge that washed over our community and much of the western coast line of Florida up to Clearwater. The worst hit community was 25 miles north of us called Fort Myers Beach. Much of that community is gone. In our county of Lee more than 50 people died. The storm demolished thousands of homes and 45000 automobiles. It devastated the lives of thousands of people who are now dependent on the government for temporary housing, food and water. Just now electricity is returning and damaged bridges and highways are in repair. Millions of tonnes of trash piles the streets and dumps with the remnants of the storms damages. The news is filled with pictures and stories of the experiences of the traumatized communities and people.

I bicycled out to see more of my favorite observation sites and made some photos of these places for comparison to their condition prior to the storm. Much of the plant life is damaged, missing or dead. The winds uprooted trees and broke branches The storm surge did much more. The direct force of the water uprooted plants and swept away the wildlife. The after effects of seawater compounded the result of the surge spreading toxic levels of salt and bacterial contamination. It is difficult to survey the animal life because or the tangled deadfall of trees. The plant life is easier to assess.

May 2022. Check out the identifying markers of the center palm tree and the two framing palm trees
September 2022 same location as above. Note the center palm tree as a reference.

The two photos above are from a location in a swamp area photographed 4 months prior to and 10 days after the storm. As seen the photos, the plants that best survived were the monocotyledons and those with the ability to bend with the wind. Hence the palm trees are managing ok. The dicotyledons with deciduous leaves and thick stiff branches have suffered the most.

The butterfly garden showed below will need to be replanted.

Butterfly garden where all flowering plants attracting butterflies died.
Butterfly garden 10m days post flood.
Butterfly garden pathway
Sea water contamination. This shows the effects of salt at a concentration of 4% in dicot hardwood tree. It lost leaves after 10 to 14 days.

What is wrong with sea water?

Unlike mangroves, plants that are not specially adapted to sea water may die from dehydration when flooded by storm surge. The salt introduced into the difusion driven circulatory system of plants causes water from the cells be pulled out of the cells because of a process called osmosis. When there is a semipermeable barrier separating salt water from fresh water the dynamics of the condition promotes a balance of both sides. The semi permeable cell wall will not let salt in but water can pass freely through in both directions. Therefore water in the cell is depleted in an effort to dilute the salty water. The imbalance is so great that cellular water is exhausted and the plant dies from dehydration. Additionally this introduces plant stress which inhibits photosynthesis and protein synthesis. No synthesis and no water = no growth.

Some places had 4 to 9 feet of water in their living g rooms. If the water had risen two more inches we would have had water in the house. We are thankful that we did not experience the extent of damage shown above.

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#Osmosis #saltwater #hurricane #Ian #storm surge #semipermeable

Orchid Propagation by Division

The orchids have been very prolific in flower production during the growing season this year. I believe that this was the result of a dedicated automated watering system, consistent generous fertilization, control of direct sunlight and pest control. In addition to the production of flowers, the leaves, air roots and stems have multiplied. This has put some of the plants outside of their designated boxes. The air roots have attached to their boxes, trellis and the wall of the house. The stems have extended themselves into the walking space and often times the blossoms overgrow one another obstructing the view. To bring some order into the orchid garden I tried something new. There are many choices to propagate plants including germination of seeds, plant division and budding/grafting. In this instance I have started two new plants by division. Below is a photo record of the process I followed.

Example one shows a phalaenopsis orchid with devision at a level well above the base of the plant. In this area, at a node, the plant has sprouted a group of air roots and three new leaves. These are substantially separated from the root and leaf ball of the main portion of the plant. Using a razor I sectioned the stem from the base of the plant and trimmed away all remaining portions of the stem system leaving just the roots and leaves.

Ex.1a The secondary root and leaf section started at an area just distal to a node on the stem. a portion of the original stem was lost and this is the secondary growth result.
Ex.1b It is easy to see the conflicted growth of this area. The excess stem growth was cut back to form a more organized growth start point.
Ex.1c Exposed stem above the root ball and below the new air roots.
Ex.1d Sectioned stem just distal to a growth node.
Ex.1e Here is the trimmed plant section
Ex.1f The plant section is fastened into box and stem covered with rubber mulch.

Example two demonstrates a cattleya orchid. The growth has a clearly defined section with air roots and three leafs at the base of the plant. This area of the Cattleya is relatively new and had a well defined stem. Using a razor blade I sectioned through the stem and removed the segment.

Ex.2a Plant in crowded pot. It needs to be replanted into a box. Blue arrow points to cut point.
Ex.2b Before repotting the entire plant I elected to thin the growth. Blue arrow points to cut point.
Ex.2c Sectioned through the root stem with a sharp blade.
Ex. 2d The cutting is placed into a box with the air roots protruding through the wooden slats. It is held in place with ties to facilitate anchorage
Ex.2e Anchored and air roots protruding
Ex 2f Plant section fastened into box with mulch.

Both new plant segments were placed into appropriately sized boxes with some of the air roots protruding through the wooden slats and gently fastened to the sides of the box for stability. The base of the box was lined with Sphagnum moss and the remainder filled with shredded rubber mulch for stability and appearance. I have found that the rubber mulch retains some moisture but does not decay. This also reduces the possibility of mould and insect growth.

The new specimens were replaced into the orchid garden and will be treated in the usual routine. In time we can check the viability and growth of these new cuttings. If successful, they may provide new blossoms for the next growing season. I feel that the new plants are a return on investment for the good care provided to the orchids.

If you like it, click like! Enjoy it? then share it! If you have experience say it in comments!

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#orchid #division #propagation #cattleya #phalaenopsis #

Mushrooms Are Not Plants

Mushrooms are not plants or animals . They have a classification all their own. They are fungi. This is a sample of a local SWFL mushroom that should start a discussion on fungi. The purpose is to provide a vocabulary for description and to show the various forms of these fungi. The growth that is seen above ground typified by this example is the fruit of the fungi. From this fruit spores are shed to facilitate reproduction. Below the ground is the bulk or the working organism. This undergrowth is very extensive in both size and spread. The undergrowth also provides a network of communication for further reproduction and communication with plants that share the same environment. Showed here are both the macroscopic and the microscopic structures.

From this you will also see that fungi are not plants but are a completely different life form. When entering data in the Epicollect5 database be sure to use the fungi classification and not the plant option.

Fig. 1 Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera)
Fig. 2 Gross anatomy of mushroom fruit
Fig. 3 Mushroom gill structure where you can see the spores dusting the sides of the gills.
Fig.4 Mushroom cap divided to show internal anatomy of gill structure.
Fig. 5 Spore on mushroom gill. 100x magnification.

Note in

Fig. 6 Ball of soil, tree roots and fungal mycelium. 4X magnification
Fig. 7 Deep network of entangling mycelium. Magnified 40X
Fig. 8 Mycelium encompassing root tip of tree.This provides an opportunity to communicate with and exchange communication among neighboring plants.

Fungi form a vast, complex part of the floor of the forest, grassland, sloughs and savanas in almost all environments and on all of the continents. Unfortunately they are rarely seen or discussed. I hope that we have the opportunity to explore them in greater detail in the future,

References:

Mushroom species Look up

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Mandarin Ducks and Chinese Costumes

The Mottled Ducks which we described earlier in our pond departed for the north, however, there are captive ducks which are noteworthy. My favorite is the Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata). They are originally from Asia and are very colorful. Perhaps they were named after the elite Chinese former imperial civil service. The name Mandarin may actually be derived from Portuguese.

I saw these in Central Park on Manhattan 45 years ago when I was working at the Sloan Kettering Institute. I was so surprised by their rich color. Due to the female’s lack of vibrant color I did not recognize them. The Mandarin ducks shown here are at the Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, FL. They are fun to watch and I was allowed to enter the restricted area with staff help to make these photographs.

The female is on the left and male is on the right. The couple is almost always together.
Backlight male shows the raised collar and sail.
Front lighting on the male. Those turned up amber tail feathers are so easy to spot.
Chinese quick-mask dancer wearing a traditional l旗裝 (Qizhuang) costume. Did they get the idea from the ducks?
Male showing off the high collar of spiked golden feathers.
Female in full color. Obviously, it has a less dramatic coloration and almost looks like the native Floridian Mottled Ducks whose the beak is yellow.

There is an extensive complex history of traditional formal clothing in China. They were not only fashionable, but also highly regulated by the Manchu who conquered the Han, but were eventually assimilated by them. The Qizhuang design was originally developed to facilitate horse riding and archery. It evolved over the 4000-year history of Manchu influence on the Han and Qing dynasties. It is a highly stylized formal clothing form worn in multiple variations by both men and women. They can be remarkably ornate and colorful.

This is an example of a Qizhuang or Cheongsam worn by women during the Qing dynasty. These are remarkably beautiful costumes yet true to the traditional style. Note the left to right closure of the upper half of the garment to facilitate archery, the pants to facilitate horse riding, the loose sleeves to provide unrestricted use of spears and swords and high collar to protect from the weather in long hunting or combat expeditions. She looks wonderful and so unlike the female Mandarin duck. Both the male quick-mask dancer and the costumed woman shown in this post were among the performers that I saw in Nanjing at the State opera. Apparently the costumes were not derived from the ducks but, like the dancers, they are all fun to watch.

References:

Why Mandarin Doesn’t Come From Chinese

Mandarin Duck

Eight Colorful Facts About the Mandarin Ducks

Traditional Chinese Clothing

Costume in the Qing Dynasty

Changing of Chinese Traditional Clothing

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#Cheongsam #Mandarin #duck #clothing #China #clothing # bird #feathers

Plumeria

I really paid attention to the Plumeria when we visited Hawaii 25 years ago. The flowers are used to make leis as a garland worn around the neck especially during a greeting ceremony. There are alternate names for the plants. A common name is “frangipani”. The scientific name is Plumeria Apocyanacea. The following adage apples to my experience in finding them in Florida. “If you don’t look for them you don’t see them”. While biking I noticed a tree that was remarkable for its lack of leaves and flowers. Now my eyes are open and I see them everywhere. Plumeria plants are native to Mexico and Central America.

In the fall the tree starts out with a very unbecoming aspect. It seems to be from another planet. I wondered why anyone would have such a strange looking tree dominating their front yard. Check out previous references to these trees in this blog Blooming Trees of Spring and Trees of Christmas.

This Plumeria tree in late fall is leafless and has no blossoms. It looks very strange and gives no hint to its potential colorful future. This is almost like the story of the ugly duckling.

In mid summer the Plumeria are in full color and the trees are spectacular. The trees that I found here are better than the trees which is saw in Hawaii. They thrive in the heat and full sunlight therefore many of the transient winter visitors may never see the blossoms.

Yellow Plumeria
White Plumeria with just a blush of color
White Plumeria with hints of pink and yellow. You can see the petals unfold in a spiral fashion from a tight bundle.
This variegated plumeria is dominated by the pink color with hints of white and yellow.
This deep pink Plumeria is my favorite. These are the blossoms from the tree which is shown in the first image of this post. The chroma is so intense and the velvet texture increases that appearance. There is no apparent pistol/stamen complex however I may have missed that stage in their development. I have not seen an orange blossom tree however while walking around the tree in bloom I did not miss the very fragrant odor.

As you would expect with a name of Apocyanacea, the sap of the plant is toxic.

#Plumeria #frangipiani

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Duck Duck

These Mottled Ducks (Anas fulvigula) are commonly found in my back yard. They are spring residents in most of the local ponds of the community. They are fun to watch especially when the chicks follow the hen. Sometimes these birds are difficult to photograph because they are always on the look out for the Red Hawk which resides near by. The featured photograph is a mated Mottled Duck couple with female on left male on right.

What does this guy want with my spot? Juvenile little blue Herron in water with spotted white feathers changing in color to blue
Those pesky neighbors need to be chased away. Mottled duck drake and hen.
Sharing the shore with a hungry ibis.
Hen taking shelter in the high grasses
Are they gone yet? The bill of the female has a black with yellow tip
My hero! It’s OK honey. They’r gone.
The new clutch on a late afternoon trip
The chicks getting bigger.
“Watch out got the hawk, turtle, eagle, snake, alligator” … “OK mom”
The Red tailed Hawk that rules the pond.

These mottled ducks are very similar to the Mallard ducks in Michigan with which I am familiar. They are easily distinguished by the yellow bill.

Mottled Ducks form pair which bonds earlier than most other duck species. They typically pair in November well before the breeding season which starts the following spring. Male Mottled Ducks tend to remain with their mate well into the incubation period and sometimes later.

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#ibis #little blue heron #red tailed hawk #mottled duck #duck hens #drake #duck chicks #Anas fulvigu

Orchid Season Ends With a Price to Pay

The solution for low production is: light control, frequent water, fertilizer and pest control.

I worked diligently to encourage the orchids to grow this year because of the very poor performance of the last three years. Until last November all 12 of the vandas died. We explored the use of soap applied to control pests. The cattleya stopped all activity and what was left were leafless vertical branches. The phalaenopsis bloomed but minimally. In the face of this discouraging result I developed a new strategy. I gathered all of the plants in a protected but bright area in the courtyard with no direct sunlight and no rain. I replumbed the area to allow a garden hose attachment. I installed a timed, directed mist water spray system and I began an aggressive fertilization program. I used a soap spray to reduce the probability of pest growth. The results were prolific beyond my expectations! All of the plants grew doubling the size of the plants with new stems and leaves. In the home courtyard there are 20 phalaenopsis and 13 cattleya orchids. Most of the season has favored the phalaenopsis species where the plants have simultaneously provided at least 145 blossoms with a maximum production of over 220 during the three months. The cattleya have been growing but less prolifically with episodic blooming from some plants yielding about 30 blooms. They may still produce for the next two months. The cover picture is a cattleya with its second yield this season.

The phaleanopsis in the lanai orchid garden. You can see the irrigation lines leading to the plants.

The plants were watered with an automated misting system timed to 5 minutes on alternate days. They have been generously fertilized on alternate weeks. The first blooms came in early February and have persisted until now where I expect all to be lost in the next two to three weeks. The peak blooming period was one week before Easter (approximately March 14).

The Price of Production:

Now that the wet season has begun the watering is reduced and just in time. One plant has its first outbreak of mealy bugs (Coccoidea). These showed up on the crotons on the other side of the yard about two weeks earlier. I removed the crotons from the yard and sprayed them with an insecticidal soap. None the less here we are with an infection showing up on two of the phalaenopsis plants.

I first cut away one leaf that was highest infected and explored the specimen using the microscope. After identifying bugs accurately as mealy bugs. I treated all surfaces of the plants and the surface soil with a thorough spray of 70% alcohol.1 Orchids have succulent leaves and tolerated this treatment. After the alcohol evaporated I followed up with a spray of insecticidal soap.

Use as a direct aerosol spray from bottle.
Put into water solution and apply with sprinkler can
Mealybug eggs
Cotton like nest protecting the bugs
Ants are attracted to the sugary exudate from the bugs. The flying ants help to transport the eggs to a new location.

Plan for next season:

I think this has been a fair trade. Pest control is necessary to counteract the high fertilizer and water schedule. The ants are attracted by the mealybugs’ sugar, therefore, lowering the bug population will lower the attraction of the ants and reduce the spread of bugs. For the summer I have reset the watering timer lowering the watering rate. This is for two reasons. The plants have recovered from their earlier experiences and are now lush. The rainy season will begin soon with humid days. I also reduced the fertilizer concentration but I keep the same schedule. The plants need to rest. This will reduce the growth of the bugs. I will continue the alcohol and soap on scheduled basis to kill any remaining bugs before and during their next hatch. For next season I will Introduce new plants into the colony including dendrobium and cattleya orchids.

References:

  1. Home remedies for orchid plants

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#orchid #mealy bug #isopropyl alcohol #ants #mealybug #nest #fertilizer

Blooming Trees of Late Spring

There are a few stragglers from the early spring flowering trees. See the previous post on Spring tree blossoms. We now have a new collection of flowering trees that have captured my attention because of their spectacular blooms. These trees are not seen by the seasonally migrating residents nor by the tourists because they have returned home to their residences in the northern States. These are the next group of trees preparing for the new summer season.

I have included five flowering trees present along the streets of the city of Naples. It is difficult to express the overwhelming verdant, colorful canopies stretched over the avenues. A later post will specialize on plumeria varieties.

The cover image is a sample of a Southern Magnolia showing the leaf, bud, blossom and seed pod.

Flamboyant Royal Poinciana Tree (delonix regia). This huge tree is approximately 45 feet in height and width. The leaves are small almost like a locus tree. I found three variant colors of this species; red. orange and yellow.
Flamboyant Royal Poinciana tree blossom detail. This is the most vividly colored tree that I’ve ever seen.
The classic five petal flower of the Poinciana similar to the Bauhania and the Trees of Christmas
Here is a yellow variant of the Poinciana. It is native to Australia and Malaysia. This specimen is about 40 feet tall.
These yellow blossoms are so densely packed it is difficult to isolate only one as an example.
Cassia tree (Senna polyphylla) along the road side as I was bicycling along.
Desert Cassia tree blossoms before the tree leafs develop.
Pink Shower tree (Cassia javanica). This is one of a group of these trees at an entrance to one of the local subdivisions. Really spectacular but still delicate, it is breathtaking. Yes you can side trip on bicycle from the Ark.
Pink Shower blossoms. Pretty in pink with a touch of white and highlights of yellow stamen.
The blossom of the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
Large blossom and evergreen shiny leaves are distinctive characteristics of this one of five Magnolia varieties.
Magnolia seed pod. It has such strange morephology.
Here is a small version of one of many very large magnolia trees.

There is a constant change in tree blooms throughout the year here in SWFL. The beauty and adventure of discovery adds delight in the journey. This is the third in a continuing series of blooming trees. All of these are located on the Everglades Ark Epicollect5 data base.

Thanks for your interest. I hope that you enjoy the trip through my eyes. Look for the Plumeria show in a post that is still to come. “Like” if you like it. Comment as you wish.

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# magnolia #poinciana #cassia #late spring #blossom #desert cassia #pink shower

Plant Pest Control

Plant paracites are inevitable in the garden and may result in leaf damage and defoliation of the plant. In the past I used chemical agents such as Chlordane, DDT and Sevin. Subsequently I have seen the light and use much less toxic agents such as soap. The active ingredients are potassium salts of fatty acids also known as soap salts. This solution is not toxic to the plant and breaks down without leaving toxic residue in the soil. The soap works only when wet and loses its effectiveness after it dries. Plant watering washes away most of the residual soap. As you will see it is effective in controlling soft bodied insects and pests like these mealybugs. Mealybugs are insects of the Pseudococcidae family.

Croton leaf with mealybugs overwhelming the plant.

Plant mealybugs terminated after one application of soap solution. (~ 40X magnification, incident lighting)

How to make soap insecticide for insect control at home:

Make your own solution at home. Purchase a bar of unscented lye soap. (About $3.50) Grate about one third of the bar and add it to about double the volume of hot water. Gently stir until dissolved as much as possible. This makes 12 oz (1200 ml) of saturated solution. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t all dissolve. Place this into a storage container with a cover for further dilution down to 1 to 2% solution. For application use an 8 oz (700 ml) hand held spray bottle fill it nearly full of water and add a teaspoon (5 ml) of the saturated soap solution. Spray the plant on all sides with the diluted soap solution once per week or as needed. Repeat once per month for maintenance. Replace equal volume of tap water into the concentrated solution as it is deleted until any undissolved soap disappears. Remake the concentrated solution when the supply is exhausted. Depending on the amount used, this supply of solution from one bar may take years to deplete. There are numerous home recipes on the internet but the main ingredient is soap.

This shows the soap bar wrapper.

Discussion:

Before treatment look to see if the problem is the result of a soft bodied pest. I use the microscope. You can use a magnifying glass. This observation is made because the soap will do nothing against bacterial, fungal, viral or other parasites. The first line of defense may be to hand remove the pest. Trimming a leaf with early signs is easy. When hand removal is not possible then other agents may be used. Horticultural soaps also known as biorational pesticides can be used. These include horticultural oil and insecticidal soap sprays. Biorational insecticides are typically used to target soft-bodied pests like caterpillars, mealybugs, whiteflies, spider mites or aphids. They provide a relatively non-toxic alternative to conventional insecticides, with few ecological side effects.They can be used on indoor and outdoor plants, including vegetables. Before eating be sure to wash your produce. There are commercially available plant-derived insecticides like neem oil and pyrethrum, and microbial pesticides like Bt.  Even with commercial agents, repeat applications may be necessary to get the best results. Obviously I can check the leaves with microscopic observation to see the efficacy of the application. Again, you can use a simple magnifying lens. Be attentive to the weather conditions and the time of year. Cold will also act to control these insects.

Pesticides in home gardens

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#biorational #pesticide #soap #pests #aphids

Calling Birds by Clades

The featured images illustrate only one portion of the great complexity in the organization of bird orders. A problem arose when searching for an acceptable naming system that would be meaningful and easy to use. Classically there are thousands of bird varieties with more than 40 orders. This is obviously not going to work for citizen scientists unless they are essentially ornithologists. Alternatively, I selected a new method of ordering birds. Naming of the birds is built on bird “clades” * . This method is based on Avian DNA and evolutionary periods. It covers almost all of the post Cretaceous epoch until today.

For management of the Everglades Ark database I needed to call birds by names to distinguish one from another. I searched the internet resources for a simplified method of naming the birds without individualizing each animal. I decided that this could be done in a two-step fashion. Step one is field observation where a reduced drop down list could be used for organized sorting. The second stage is to enter the common name and scientific name after the field observation.

There is a continuing discussion regarding the classification of birds and which order belongs in which clade. Despite these discussions the organization is sufficient for our purposes. On the Everglades Ark Epicollec5 site the new list of avian clades puts most orders into five major clades listed here:

  • Strisores — nighthawk, frogmouths, diurnal swifts, hummingbirds other nocturnal birds
  • Columbaves — pigeons, sandgrouse, turacos, bustards, cuckoos, mesites
  • Gruiformes — cranes, rails, crakes, Sungrebe, flufftails, others
  • Aequorlitornithes — shorebirds, waterbirds, flamingos, grebes, gulls, tropicbirds, penguins, including pelcans, ibis, heron 
  • Inopinaves — all landbirds and songbirds, including raptors, hawks, owls, toucans, falcons, parrots.

This is based on the following scheme published in Science News:

Fig 1. Top half
Fig 2. Bottom half

This illustration shows the organization of the bird orders and their partitioning into subgroups called clades. The illustration continues from Fig 1 lower left to Fig 2 upper right.

Phylogeny of birds:

“The five major, successive, neoavian sister clades are: Strisores (brown), Columbaves (purple), Gruiformes (yellow), Aequorlitornithes (blue), and Inopinaves (green). Background colors mark geological periods. Ma – million years ago; Ple – Pleistocene; Pli – Pliocene; Q. – Quaternary. Clade numbers refer to the plot of estimated divergence dates. Illustrations of representative bird species are depicted by their lineages.” **

It is easy to see that the “green” Inopinaves have the largest number of orders mostly from the Quaternary period. The “blue” Aequorlitornithes has the second largest number of orders and they are from the Pliocene period. I expect that the greatest number of observations will be these two clades.

Because of the DNA portions that each clade share I can speculate that related clades will suffer from virus diseases that attach to the similar DNA and RNA sites. I will surveil the literature over time to see if there are corresponding connections.

References:

A higher classification of modern birds (June 28, 2019)

ITIS

Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds

* Clade – a natural group

** Image credit: Richard O. Prum et al., doi: 10.1038/nature15697

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#Strisores #Columbaves #Gruiformes #Aequorlitornithes #Inopinaves #bird #period #order

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