Friday, July 21, 2017

A Walk Through The Jungle Part 2

It's All About The Orchids

They were amazing and intricate and full of ants.  Here you go:

Pink lip with white ruffled edge
Palest of pale yellow lip with no ruffled edge.

Brighter yellow tongue.

Dark fuchsia with white edges.  Young seed pod with remains of dried flower on the end.

Reaching for the sun.  These are epiphytic orchids, but this one got so heavy it broke the tree branch it was growing on and it rests, branch and all, on the ground.  Makes it easy take photos.

A closer look at the flowers from the same plant. Pale pink lips with a white edge on these flowers.

Dark fuchsia covers the entire lip - no white edge.

Same flower from the side.  Perhaps the loveliest of all.
Next time we will complete the walk with a look at some trees.  It was way too much for a single post.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Walk Through The Jungle With Nolbert And Barnie

My young friend, Nolbert, is visiting his step grandfather's friend (and also my friend) Craig, just up the beach from us.  You may remember Nolbert from a post I wrote last year - "The First Adventure of Green Shanks and Yellow Legs" describing a little sea trip Nolbert and I made in our green and yellow kayaks.  We had the kayaks out again Friday morning and then in the afternoon we went for walk through jungle.  Nolbert kindly had Barnie on a leash so I could be free to take photos without Barnie's "help".  Below are a few of the photos from the first part of our walk.

First up is a very delicate orchid Brassavola nodosa, known as Dama de Noche.  I only was able to take 2 quick photos because ants had gotten into my socks and demanded immediate attention.  Some moderate cursing may have been involved.  Good thing Nolbert had Barnie out of earshot!  Back to the Lady of the Night.  Although she is delicate and ephemeral in appearance, the flowers stay beautiful for about 3 weeks.  They seem to glow in the dimness of the mangrove swamp.
Brassavola nodosa, AKA as Dama de Noche
Once the ants were dispatched, I continued on, catching up with Nolbert and Barnie.  This part of the path is on a man-made raised walk that goes westward toward Black Creek.  On either side of the raised path is mangrove swamp that is home to lots of wildlife.
Nolbert leading Barnie down the path to Black Creek.
See those roots growing across the path above?  They are a real tripping hazard when running in the damn dim dawn light.  My shoulder still aches from that spill.  A little farther along is a vanilla orchid that I first spotted 3 years ago.  Back in March, I was showing it to a friend visiting from the US and we saw a vanilla bean pod on the vine!  I have been keeping an eye on the pod and will harvest it soon.  Another, more robust, vine is about 20 feet away.  I am keeping an eye on that one in hopes to spot it in bloom and and see more beans in the wild.  I'll need to see it in flower before I can determine which species it is.
Protruding vanilla bean in all its rude glory. 
The most dramatic orchid we see around here in Englishtown is Myrmecophila tibinicus.  This orchid hosts ant colonies in its pseudobulbs and the ants swarm all over the flowers, as you can see in the image below.  There is some variation in the color of the bottom lip of the flowers.  This particular stalk has lips of the palest pink.  Others, which I will show in future posts, are fuchsia, pale yellow, or white.
Myrmecophila tibinicus, with its attendant ants.
Nolbert, Barnie, and I backtracked to return to the coastal path that goes from our place in South Englishtown, through Central Englishtown, and finally ends in North Englishtown at Craig's place; a whopping 0.6mi as the pelican flies.
The sea is just to our right on the coastal path.
Spider lilies love growing near the sea; you often find them just above the high tide line.
Spider lilies.
They have the most amazing smell - very lily-like, but not as cloying and oppressive as many other lilies.

 Each flower last only a day, but the flowers on a given cluster open over the span of about a week.
More from our walk in the next post.

Apologies to my readers for my long absence.  I was completely devastated by Trump's election.  Enough said about that.  But I want to offer a thank you to my friends and blog readers who have encouraged me to write again - I appreciate it very much.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dawn in Three Parts

I was just reading Midmarsh John's latest post Friday morning with his photo of a gorgeous dawn sky holding a crescent moon and I realized that some 7 or so hours after he had taken his picture, I had taken some of the same crescent moon at dawn over here on the other side of the Atlantic.  The sky in John's photo has flaming orange clouds with a slim crescent above.  Be sure to check it out.  The image below is more sedate with rosy fingers reaching for the moon over a dove grey sea and clouds. The rays that converge on the sun like this are called "crepuscular rays".
Part 1.  Slim crescent moon chased high into the sky by the rising sun.
Ten minutes later, the sun was high enough to illuminate the grey clouds.
Part 2.  Coral lining in grey clouds.
I turned to the west and saw that dawn had reached across the heavens with sunrays converging at the spot opposite the sun.  Rays like this are called "anticrepuscular rays".  Here is nice website that talks about sunrays and how to see them best.
Part 3.  Dawn sunrays in the western sky.
I took the last 2 photos above from the sunset balcony, yes the very balcony that has been the site of the 2 most recent projects.  The photo below shows the sunset balcony with the upsidedown roof underneath it and the sunshade above it.
Come on up!
 I am really pleased with how the sunshade turned out.
Sunshade extending from under the eaves out to the rail of the balcony.
Just look at all that nice shade.
Twenty-eight minutes past high noon.  The shade is quite pleasant.
The hot-glue gun worked like a charm to hem the edges of the shade cloth.
I wrapped the cloth under the frame on the south (here) and north ends, and secured it to the frame using eyehooks and carabiners.  The hardware is stainless steel to minimize corrosion in the salt air.
I like how the shade cloth lets some light through, so that it doesn't make the inside of the cabana too dark.
View to the west.
Below is a detail showing the hemmed end with the butterfly clip, carabiner and the eyehook screw.
The carabiners will make it easy to take the cloth down if a storm comes up.  I can reach all 11 carabiners without a stool or ladder.  I really don't want to be standing on a ladder with the wind whipping around!
It took us not quite 3 days from start to finish for the sunshade project.  Amazing how quickly it can go when you have the materials at hand.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gimme Shelter

Shelter - We seek shelter from the sun, from the rain, from the wind, from the cold, and from all the ills of the world.  (Cue music here.)  I mentioned a couple of posts back that our latest project was to install an upside-down roof under the sunset balcony to shelter us from the rain blowing in from the west.  It is now complete except for a little caulking to be done where the metal meets the support posts.
Under the Upside-Down Roof.  The screws go up through the zinc into lapboards on the upper side.  It works really well!  A bit of standard roof is seen at the far end for comparison, with the rafter and the lapboards on the underside.
When one project ends, there is always the next.  Next is building the frame for the shade cloth over the sunset balcony to give us shelter from the afternoon sun.  This is directly above the upside-down roof, and is the same odd shape.
Tiger and Pascal measuring for the supports to hold the frame.
This took them only 4 or 5 hours to build.
The Coolaroo shade cloth will go over the top of the frame and will be secured with carabiners and eye hooks so it can be easily taken down in preparation for hurricanes.
Even though this is pressure treated wood, we still use a penetrating oil on it that provides UV protection and helps keep it from drying out too much.  In the photo below, you can see how the frame tucks up just under the eaves.  The center ridge doesn't go all the way to top of the gable.  Instead it is just beneath the vent fan, which is currently covered by a piece of zinc until hurricane season is over at the end of November.
Tiger beginning to apply the Flood brand penetrating oil finish. 
We draped the bolt of Coolaroo shade cloth up over the frame so I could get a good measurement for the length and do a rough cut in place.  The bolt of shade cloth is 12 feet wide and the balcony is only 10 feet wide, so the cloth is plenty big.  I brought the rough cut piece down to the veranda to square it up using a square (as you do), a long level as a straight edge, and a sharpie to mark the line.  The standard sewing aids here in Englishtown.
Squaring the ends.  The 12 ft wide fabric is folded in half to make it more manageable.
The final piece is just over 16 ft long.  I will use a hot-glue gun to hem the ends.  Sort of a soft carpentry or a sturdy sewing project.  The Coolaroo fabric is made from recycled polypropylene (think soda bottles) and is perfect for the harsh conditions on the balcony.  I brought the bolt of Coolaroo down to Belize 4 years ago in a BIG duffle-bag.  The bolt was a cylinder 4 ft long and about 15 inches in diameter.  We have used it for other projects, too, but there is still about a third left.  I'll post photos of the shady balcony once it is complete.

Turns out that we are providing shelter for unwanted visitors - ANTS!  We have a huge invasion in the new cabana.  We put out some poison bait (Combat brand) that we hope they are taking back to their nest.  They lap this stuff up!
Just a hundred or so of the THOUSANDS OF ANTS that are marching across the countertop!  We put the bait in small plastic lid and also soak the paper towel with it too.
Fortunately the ants don't bite and they are just little things.  I think the wet weather has driven them inside.  But too bad, they need to find other shelter.


Monday, October 24, 2016

What Lurks Beneath

This is the rainy season, but we have had some fabulous days that call us out onto and into the water.
Morning view across to Greater Monkey Cay, 0.8 miles distant.
Our new dock gate.
We had to put a gate on our dock.  You will soon see why.
Standing on the dock looking north.  Greater Monkey Cay is just of view to the right of this shot.  When it looks like this, the kayaking is great.
I have learned to get the kayak ready from the dock rather then on the beach, clipping in the seat, positioning the live vest, stowing water bottle, snack, and camera.  This is much easier without help from Barnie!
Poor Barnie can't come through the gate onto the dock.
It got worse for Barnie, too.  Before I got in the kayak, I put her on the chain in the shade of the seagrape so she couldn't swim out after me.  I could hear her howls of despair across the water as I paddled out.  Sorry, Barnie, until your new CFD (canine flotation device) arrives, you are not allowed to go so far from shore.

I had unearthed my old underwater housing for a little Canon PowerShot A95 camera.  My old and well-used PowerShot fritzed out some time back, but Dennis had found a refurbished replacement on eBay and squirreled it away for later.  As eventually happens, later became now.  I got it going with new batteries (thanks, Dennis!) and decided to try it out by just holding under the water.  What better place than the corals around Greater Monkey Cay.  I took the following photos by holding the camera down into the water while leaning over the edge of the kayak.  I basically shot blind and wound up with lots of worthless images.  But I did get a few keepers to show what lurks beneath.
Hard and soft corals near the cay.  The water is a little murky.
The PowerShot does OK.  It has a very small chip, so you can't crop the shots very much.  It does have an underwater setting that seems to work all right.  I still have to white balance the shots after the fact.
In bright sunshine and with minimal ripples on the water's surface, it does pretty good.
The fish moved too fast for me to get any good shots of them, but there were lots around.
Sea fans and brain corals. in dappled sunlight.
Now I must get busy learning the names and types of corals.
I was fairly pleased with the results.  I will take it snorkeling next.  This will be a good way for me to learn more about the local sea-life while getting more experienced with underwater photography.  Not sure if I will upgrade to better equipment or not; underwater camera gear is quite expensive.  For now, I am enjoying this setup very much.

My dog-loving blogging friends will be happy to know that after this trip I went back for Barnie and we spent about an hour paddling along in the shallows.  She is getting better behaved with each trip.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dawn Rainbows

I know, I know -you're thinking "Not more rainbow and sunrise photos!"  But I think these are really special.  I glimpsed this most magnificent rainbow through the bathroom window while groggily brushing my teeth.  Grabbed the camera and ran up to the sunset balcony to try to get some shots. Then turned around and saw the sun newly risen above the sea and peeking through the rain clouds. The show was over in less than 3 minutes.
Never seen pink rain falling from a rainbow before.
Golden sunrise.
These shots are not enhanced - just cropped a little and darkened a bit to compensate for over-exposure.  I was still half-asleep and didn't even have my glasses on yet; yea for autofocus!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Groove Me, Ani

It's all groovy here in Englishtown, and some days are groovier than others, such as when the Groove-Billed Ani pays us a visit and stays for a photoshoot.  (Listen to the groove of Etta James by clicking here.)  The Groove-billed Ani is an easily overlooked medium sized black bird.  It is surprisingly snazzy when you catch it in good light.
Groove-Billed Ani - Crotophaga sulcirpstris.  The short fluffy feathers on its head are rather mane-like.  Take a look at the iridescent gold-green edges of the feathers on its shoulders.  
It was making some rather sweet sounds, which is what caught my attention at first, because it sounded different from the Great-Tailed Grackles with whom it was keeping company.  The grackles are very vocal, verging on raucous.
Great-Tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus.  This female emerged from inside the canopy of the tamarind long enough for me to get some good shots.  Their eyes are a startling yellow. 
Other excitement, at least for Barnie, was Joy cleaning fish out on the dock.  Barnie was beside herself, just waiting for fish guts and trimmings.  I am amazed that she didn't jump up on the dock, but she managed to behave.
Waiting for an escapee.
The dawns continue to be beautiful.  The sun rises so quickly, I have to be on the ball to catch these images.  No time for do-overs!  Until tomorrow, that is.
White ibises (Eudocimus albus), flying north from their roost on Little Monkey Cay.  5:58am.
A lone Great Egret (Ardea alba), also heading north from Little Monkey Cay. 6:01am.
Homo sapiens, heading south. 6:05am.
We have a little construction project going on.  I call it the upside-down roof.  We are putting a roof under the decking of the sunset balcony.  Too much rainwater was winding on the ground under the cabana, and that is space that we use for an outdoor workshop and storage area.  Our hope is that this will keep the rain out of the area.  The new roof will have gutters, so we can direct the water into collection vats.  I will post more as it progresses, but here is a shot of today's work.

The underside of the sunset balcony. The balcony tapers at the north end.  The crew have put up some of the boards that the roofing metal (aka "zinc") will be screwed into from the the underside.
The light colored horizontal piece is a metal flashing that is secured behind the ledger board of the balcony.  We have one small section remaining to install.  It has to have a hole cut out of it for the whitePVC vent pipe on the right to go through.  The rafter and some lapboard equivalents are already screwed into place on the tapered section. It will be literally (in the true sense of the word) groovy when finished!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Falling On My Head Like A New Emotion

We could see it coming ...
6:30am - here comes the rain again.
6:54am - falling on my head like a memory.
7:00am - falling on my head like a new emotion.
7:00am - Rain over Black Creek to our west.
Blue-grey tanager getting wet in the tamarind tree.
7:06 - sun shining down on the eastern horizon.
7:27am - rainbow beyond Black Creek.
7:28am - A flock of white ibises flies across the rainbow.
Tamarind flowers in the rain.
Young pods mixed in with the flowers.
The flowers are orchid-like in appearance, but they are legumes related to peas and beans - as you might guess based on the seedpods.
The series of photos above was taken in the space of an hour during which a quarter of an inch of rain fell.  The day is now bright, sunny, and fresh with a light breeze.