Saturday, September 23, 2017

Brandt's Cormorants

In January, the male cormorants select nesting sites and begin work on the nest. Then they dance: 

Eggs are incubated by both parents, using the feet: 

Baby cormorants hatch out featherless and altricial: 

Over a few weeks, they grow rapidly and develop fuzzy down, though the head remains bald:

Feed me!

More dancing

Go away! 

Friday, September 22, 2017


I saw these pink blobs on San Diego beaches last autumn and winter.

After asking around online turned up no answers (though it did lead to getting my work on Wikipedia), I sent my photos to researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who were able to identify them.

These are juveniles of the "sweet potato sea cucumber," scientifically known as Caudina arenicola or Molpadia arenicola. Normally found in deep water, they sometimes wash up during storms.

Gulls, not caring about taxonomic distinctions, happily eat them:

These would be at home in the weird "superfood" ads that were all over the web a few years back. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Last month, I saw this juvenile crow at my apartment complex--note the chipped beak:

I fed it, and the other crows, some nuts and peanut butter pretzels. Then, for a few weeks, I didn't see the crow with the chipped beak at all-- until this week:

 The crow's neck feathers have grown in nicely, and its beak appears to have healed slightly but still have a distinctive indentation. (According to crow expert Kaeli Swift *, broken beaks can regrow if the breakage only affects the outer keratin cover, not the underlying bone, as seems to be the case here.)
The same crow amid aeoniums
* An ornithologist named Swift is a fine case of nominative determinism. I also know of a marine biologist named Helen Scales, a TV weather forecaster named Dallas Raines, and (my personal favorite) a 19th-century psychologist named Sir Henry Head. 

Monday, August 22, 2016


These may be some of the last photos I take at my neighborhood park for a few months, since I'm moving to another county for graduate school.
Teeny lizard


Adolescent bluebird in the process of molting


The drying creek

Silkfloss tree containing the birdbox from
 which several young bluebirds fledged, including this one.

Western Tanager

Feral parrots; the one on the left was feeding its companion