Who Said Toads Were Ugly?

Golden Eyed Toad - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Golden Eyed Toad – Photograph by Laura Lecce

If you can find it in your heart to look beyond the belly fat and brown pimply skin you will see the golden glistening eyes of this glorious toad. Living in a luxurious resort in St Lucia, this toad was clearly the queen of this pond, each night posing proudly atop the lilies. St Lucia is one of the homes of the cane toad (Rhinella marina) also known as the giant neotropical toad. On average they grow to about 10-15cm (4-6 inches), but have been recorded as large as 38cm (15 inches) and weighing 2.65kg (5.8lb). This toad was introduced into northern Australia as a predator to combat the beetles which were eating sugar cane crops. This turned out to be a futile endeavor since the beetles kept to the top of the sugar canes and the toads have poor climbing skills, so instead the toads outcompete many Australian reptiles and frogs for food which is easier to access. So as beautiful as they may be under that brown pimply skin, they should have stayed at home.

Flower Friday – Pink Speckled Phalaenopsis

Pink Speckled Phal - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Pink Speckled Phal – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Actually the proper name for this orchid is Doritaenopsis Ackers Sweetie ‘Dragon Tree Maple.’ It is one of my favorite hybrids to grow at home, mostly because the flowers were so big (the size of my palm) and so interesting to look at. Every time I look into the pink speckles of this flower it looks like a huge colony of bats flying away from the cave in the center and getting further and further into the distance as they fly away. Maybe I just have a vivid imagination, but either way the pattern on this flower really does come alive! Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

If you’d like to see more Flower Friday posts, please click here.

Orangutan Sanctuary

Orangutan - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Orangutan – Photograph by Laura Lecce

One of my most memorable wildlife experiences was visiting an orangutan sanctuary at the Rasa Ria Nature Reserve in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia. This reserve provides protected space where orphaned orangutans are rehabilitated and hopefully reintroduced into their natural habitat. Here the orangutans are taught the skills they need to eventually live an independent life. Orangutans are native to Indonesia and Malaysia and are currently found only in the rainforests of Borneo (island shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei) and Sumatra (Indonesian island). Watching juvenile orangutans is such a heartwarming pleasure. They are intelligent, playful, inquisitive and tactile animals, that it brings sadness to remember that they are at the sanctuary because of poaching and deforestation. Though it is because of these sanctuaries that people are made aware, educated and hopefully interested in actively saving these precious animals.

To see my other posts with primates click here.

Pod of Pelicans

Pod of Pelicans - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Pod of Pelicans – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Pelicans can be found in many countries around the world, but none of them quite compare with the strikingly beautiful, black and white feathered, pink billed features of the Australian Pelican. For a medium bodied pelican, it actually possesses the largest bill size of any bird in existence. Quite common in Australia, these birds are a icon of the Australian coast. This photo was taken in Western Australia, and this pod of pelicans are patiently waiting for a feed from a local fisherman who is cleaning his recently caught fish to the right of this photo. These graceful birds which are usually quite polite and not overly aggressive for their size, feed on fish, insects, yabbies and shrimp, but should not be underestimated, for even small dogs have been swallowed by these large billed birds.

Click here for other posts from Western Australia.

Flower Friday – Dragon Fruit

Dragon Fruit - Photograph by Salvatore Venuto
Dragon Fruit – Photograph by Salvatore Venuto

Todays post includes some photos taken by my dad of one of the plants he is currently growing in his garden at home. Pitahaya (more commonly known as dragon fruit) are the edible fruits which grow on several species of cactus. The particular fruit in this photo are from the species Hylocereus undatus which are red fruits with edible white flesh on the inside. The flowers of this cactus (which are in the photo below) are a brilliant white, very large and fragrant. They open mostly in the evening due to their main pollinators such as bats and moths being nocturnal, although my dad said these opened during the day and only lasted a day or so, possibly a difference in climate from their country of origin. If you’d like to see more photos from my dads garden or the gardens he looks after (as he is an amazing and truly talented gardener) you can visit his Instagram page @salvenut.

Happy weekend everyone!

Dragon Fruit Flower - Photograph by Salvatore Venuto
Dragon Fruit Flower – Photograph by Salvatore Venuto

Teddy Bear Crab

Teddy Bear Crab - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Teddy Bear Crab – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This furry little creature is called a Teddy Bear Crab because its body and legs are covered in fur (setae). You can imagine my surprise to find a crab covered in fur, but there are actually many different species of this little crab. I took this photo in a very shallow reef off the coast of Vanuatu (a pacific island nation about 3 hours flight from the east coast of Australia). This shallow reef was partly exposed each day at low tide and was a great place to observe and photograph many weird and wonderful sea critters. This particular crab is covered in fur to trap sand and sediment which help it camouflage itself on the sandy floor. Some species of this crab have been seen carrying around mini stinging anemones in their two front claws to present to any potential threats it might encounter. A very ingenuitive way of forcing other marine creatures to be portable body guards.

For other posts on underwater creatures click here.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Hiding in Plain Sight – Photograph by Laura Lecce

If I were a bug and there were frogs around trying to make a meal out of me, between the eyes is exactly where I’d be sitting! When I was young I was painfully shy. I was strictly an observer who hated being observed and was mortified if anyone noticed I existed. I was so much happier being invisible but still wanted to be part of the action…exactly what this bug must be thinking. I eventually had the courage to leave that shy child behind and grow into a much more confident adult.

Flower Friday – Bromeliad

Bromeliad - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Bromeliad – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I just love this photo of a bromeliad flower. The fiery red stem, pretty purples and pinks of the flower bases against the lime green leaves, what a gorgeous display of intense colors. Bromeliads are quite a well known plant with a huge variety of colors and sizes. The smallest one being Spanish moss, and the largest one, Queen of the Andes reaches 3 meters (almost 10 feet) tall, with a flower spike of 9-10 meters (32 feet) tall! Most of you would have at some point eaten a bromeliad…the pineapple (which will no doubt appear in a future post). Have a bright and colorful weekend everyone!


Existence - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Existence – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This Buddha head enveloped within a tangle of roots belonging to a banyan tree is one of the most recognizable images in Thailand. It is located in Wat Mahathat (a Buddhist temple ruin) in the city of Ayutthaya (the ancient capital of Siam). A temple that was built in the 14th century but later ravaged by invading Burmese which destroyed many of the Buddha statues by lopping off their heads. To me this sacred site is a symbol that even things seemingly destroyed can endure and continue to have a meaningful existence beyond the ruins they have become.

Clownfish Quirks

Clownfish Quirks - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Clownfish Quirks – Photograph by Laura Lecce

So these little fish are more amazing than I ever knew. They live amongst anemone tentacles protected by a layer of mucous that covers their body. This symbiotic relationship means that clownfish are protected from predators, and get left over scraps of food from the anemone. In exchange the clownfish drive off intruders and keep the anemone clean of parasites. Interestingly all clownfish are born male, but the largest clownfish in a group is female. If she dies, her mate increases in size and transforms into a female and subsequently mates with the next largest male. It is thought that because adult clownfish rarely stray from their homes, this evolutionary trait ensures that there is always a female and a male in the small group.

For my other post on clownfish Click here.