Starling in a Snowstorm

Starling in a Snowstorm – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Storms are hard on everyone, but none more so than the poor birds which have very little shelter from the wind and cold. I saw a photo today of a very defeated cockatoo in Australia sitting amongst fallen branches, wet and with most of his feathers blown off by cyclone Debbie. Thankfully he was rescued by the photographer and I hope he will make a speedy recovery. The bird in these photos was weathering out a snowstorm in New York two weeks ago (hopefully our last one of the winter) and was grateful that I provided some breadcrumbs. Actually in truth I am not sure that the bird was grateful because grumpy is its permanent facial expression. I cannot blame him as I’d be grumpy too if I was locked outside in a snowstorm with no socks to keep my feet warm.

Grateful but naturally grumpy – Photograph by Laura Lecce
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Friday Flower – Brassia orchid

Brassia orchid – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This beautiful Brassia orchid is one of my favorites because it possess so much character. Every Spring it sends out a long flower spike with numerous colorful and fragrant flowers each with their very own unique and bold pattern (if you look close enough you will see that every splash of brown is a slightly different shape). These orchids which are mostly native to Mexico and Central America are also called spider orchids because their long thin petals resemble spider legs. If you need to be convinced – click here for my post on the St Andrews Cross spider. Have a happy weekend everyone!!!

Showmanship is everything

The proudest peacock – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I had never really imagined what it would be like to meet a peacock, perhaps because I never thought I would ever actually meet one. However this beautiful male was strutting his stuff in a park in Malaysia and putting on the performance of a lifetime for anyone who was interested in watching. They are a fairly large bird, perhaps the size of a turkey, but with over 200 tail feathers extended they are about 6 feet (2 meters) wide. In the world of birds there is certainly a lot of pressure placed on males to outperform competing males with brighter colors, more feathers, and complex mating dances. Female peahens will prefer a male with  larger sized and greater number of eye spots, as this will likely result in larger and fitter peachicks. One stunning male will have a harem of rather plain looking females and will play no role in raising the young. This is probably for the best as it helps the well camouflaged females raise their young by safely blending in with the scenery.

For other bird posts please click here.

When science mimics nature

Science mimics nature - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Science mimics nature – Photograph by Laura Lecce

For this Friday instead of a flower I wanted to show you this photo I took of a brittle winter shrub I came across in Utah. I was attracted to the geometry of the branches, the different layers of focus and the contrasting segments of color that come together to form a very beautiful abstract image. Many things that scientists do can resemble this kind of picture. Some examples are the drawings of chemical structures consisting of different atoms and their bonds, or cells branching out to each other in a culture dish. This kind of picture reminds me that nature, science and art are intricately linked. I hope you can also appreciate the beauty in each of those. Happy weekend everyone!

Bighorn Sheep (which looks more like a goat to me)

Bighorn Sheep - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Bighorn Sheep – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This dainty female bighorn sheep lives in Zion National Park in Utah. Zion has the perfect landscape for these sure-footed animals which gracefully hop around on very treacherous-looking cliff faces with incredible ease. They can navigate these terrains even as little lambs because pregnant mothers seek higher ground to give birth which is safer from predators. However, the areas that are safer from predators are less favorable for growing sufficient vegetation, so as soon as the lambs are agile on their feet they will follow their mother back down the cliff faces to find food. These animals are native to North America and their numbers suffered greatly with the introduction of domestic sheep which carry pathogens that are easily spread to wild populations. To me these bighorn sheep look more like goats and equally amusing to me, the white and fluffy mountain goats look more like sheep.  Zion has a herd of over 400 sheep and is a great location to see these gorgeous creatures which are most often spotted between the tunnel and east entrance to the park.

For other posts about Zion National Park please click here.

Friday Flowers – Daffodils

The daffodils are coming - Photograph by Laura Lecce
The daffodils are coming – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I feel like this is the bright and sunny photo from the end of a advertisement for allergy medication (when the person can finally enjoy the flowers because of anti-histamines). It’s as though the flowers are standing proud, chests puffed out and determined. This photo was taken last year at the very start of Spring. I had gone to the New York Botanical Gardens to see the orchid display in the glass conservatory. It was an incredibly icy cold day where the wind cuts right through you and it is painful to be outside. I spotted this gorgeous hill covered in hundreds of daffodils and couldn’t pass without a photo, even though I was absolutely frozen for doing so. I love that this photo gives the absolute opposite feeling of the reality of that day, it shows a perfectly sunny day with bright blue skies and warm yellow flowers. Daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus along with jonquils. They are commonly associated with the myth of Narcissus – a man who fell in love with his reflection in a body of water and realizing that his love would never materialize he died of his sorrow. Narcissus the plant then appeared at the place of his death (Sorry, I didn’t mean to get so dark). Instead, I will end by saying that the weather is warming, and soon these very cheerful flowers will be appearing all over Central Park. Happy weekend everyone!!!

Spotted Eagle Ray

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Spotted Eagle Ray – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This week I wanted to continue the theme of spotted sea creatures. This is a spotted eagle ray, also seen while snorkeling off the beach in Jamaica. They live in tropical waters and have one of the longest tails compared to other sting rays. Unlike most other fish they give birth to live baby sting rays. I must apologize for the bad photography, this ray did not make things easy for me at all. He instantly knew the second I had spotted him (pun intended) and took off so fast that I had to channel my inner Olympic swimmer to get any photo at all! These beautiful underwater creatures are named eagles for a reason, they truly do appear as though they are flying underwater with no resistance at all…. the absolute opposite of my clumsy thrashing and getting nowhere at all.

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Spotted Eagle Ray in Jamaica – Photograph by Laura Lecce