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

Reg-eyed tree frog

Red-eyed tree frog - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Red-eyed tree frog – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This glossy and colorful red-eyed tree frog lives in the jungle of Costa Rica. While visiting I attended a frog spotting tour which taught us how to listen for frog calls, spot the glistening eyes in our torch light and hopefully find the tiny frog making so much noise. It was harder than I thought! These frogs are very well camouflaged when they want to be. By tucking their orange toes under their belly and closing their eyes, the entire frog is as green as the leaf they’re sitting on. You can’t see it in this photo, but these frogs also have a fair bit of blue along the side of their body and upper arm which gets hidden when they tuck in their limbs. Their beautiful coloration and comical face makes them a very popular subject in animal photography. The bulging red eyes are great for startling predators who think they can make a meal out of a sleeping frog, and also signaling that this frog is not as tasty a meal as a predator might think. The eyes also help the frog swallow larger mouthfuls, this is done by pulling the eyes inwards which pushes the food down into their belly. I definitely had a great time observing some of the night activity that is usually only heard by humans.

For other posts from Costa Rica please click here.

Friday Flower – Phalaenopsis as a shimmery sunset

Phalaenopsis - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Phalaenopsis – Photograph by Laura Lecce

When nature created this orchid it was aiming for something truly special. This is an unknown phalaenopsis hybrid whose flowers each year were a highlight amongst my collection. The simultaneously soft and yet bold colors of a sunset radiate from the center to form a backdrop for the branching pink veins across the petals. Soft shimmery glitter peppers the surface and adds an extra touch of magic and awe to an already perfect flower. Nature is the most inspiring of all artists. Happy weekend everyone!

Click here for other orchid posts.

Hawk eating pigeon for lunch

Hawk eating pigeon for lunch - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Hawk eating pigeon for lunch – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Living in Manhattan, Central Park is my wilderness. I often see squirrels, ducks, geese, raccoons and turtles, but this weekend I was treated to something extra special. This stunning hawk who at first I thought was injured or had been in a fight (due to the bunch of feathers all over the ground around him), had in fact caught a pigeon for lunch and was in the process of shredding it. This red-tailed hawk, along with a few others often hunt in central park, but this is the first time I got to see this magnificent bird at  close range. Female red-tailed hawks grow larger than their male companions, and both are known to be monogamous in their relationship. Eggs and chicks are primarily looked after by the female hawk while her male partner provides them with food. It sounds like she has him well trained.

Flower Friday – Echinacea

Echinacea with a Bee - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Echinacea with a Bee – Photograph by Laura Lecce

These lovely, pink, cheerful flowers are just one type of Echinacea, in which there are 9 different species. I took these photographs in the Spring of last year and on this particular day the bees were in out in overwhelming numbers. This made for some easy macro photography of these busy bees because all I had to do was point my camera at a flower and click. Echinacea may sound familiar as it is a herb said to have numerous health benefits such as cold prevention, boosting the immune system, anti-inflammatory effects, mental health improvement and many more. However, even though there are some studies which may show it is has beneficial effects, there are others which say that these effects are yet unfounded. Regardless of whether Echinacea is good for us, it is definitely beneficial to your garden to grow such happy looking flowers which encourage the bees to come and visit.

Echinacea flowers make the bees happy – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Flower Friday – Edible Dahlias

Pink Dahlia - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Pink Dahlia – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I’ve posted some interesting facts about Dahlias on my blog previously (click here), but did you know they’re also edible? You can eat both the flowers and the tubers (bulbs/roots), with different types having different flavors and some varieties being tastier than others. Another very gorgeous and also potentially yummy addition to your garden!

Check out James Wong’s very interesting post about edible dahlias here.

Happy weekend everyone!

A Happy Pig

My Glorious Mud Bath - Photograph by Laura Lecce
My Glorious Mud Bath – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Lets start 2017 off with the happiest pig I’ve ever met who lives in a swamp in New Orleans. Her name is Oreo because her dark head and rump are separated by a cream colored middle. I met her on an alligator swamp tour in which I did not see any alligators. This is expected in winter months as the weather gets colder, alligators will go into brumation (which is when they slow down metabolic activity and lie submerged in their burrows only surfacing to breathe). This makes for a very happy swamp pig who can now safely wade through the mud without having to be afraid of becoming an alligators lunch. She even gave me her “sexy eyes” sultry pose for one of my photos! Here’s to a happy and carefree 2017 for everyone!

My Sultry Pose - Photograph by Laura Lecce
My Sultry Pose – Photograph by Laura Lecce