Monday, May 22, 2017

Gervase #1 and Picotee

Up today are two amaryllis, both rebloomers from last year.

Amaryllis #30 for the year is Gervase #1.  This variety is known for its random streaks of red over a pink background.  The amount of red streaking can vary wildly between blooms on a single stalk, and on the same bulb between years. 

This exact bulb bloomed out much redder this year than last year.  Here's the first flower this year:

Amaryllis Gervase #1

And here's the second flower on the same scape this year.

IMG_4148

Such variety!  I like the single solid red petal.  So jaunty.

Amaryllis #31 for the year is Picotee.  Unlike the Gervase, this one has less red than last year.  The thin red piping around the edges of the petals is there, but much thinner this time.  The petals are also narrower this year.

IMG_4143

Both these bulbs only put up one scape this year, and only two flowers on the scape.  While somewhat disappointing , it wasn't unexpected.  Gervase has three big scapes last year, and Picotee had two.  Blooming that much on newly-shipped bulbs without roots takes a significant toll, and it can take a while to build up their reserves.  I expect that next year will be better.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

White coral bells, upon a slender stalk...

This is the pot of lily-of-the-valley that I planted in 2015, starting out with just five scrawny little starts from the clearance rack at BiMart.  This is the first year they have bloomed!

Lily of the Valley, first blooms two years after planting!

They are so pretty, pure white and beautifully fragrant.

Lily of the Valley, first blooms two years after planting!

I wish I had a whole drift of them.  But the pot is filling in nicely, and my vision of the cobalt blue pot with white lily-of-the-valley is coming true.

Lily of the Valley, first blooms two years after planting!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 Ladd Marsh Bird Festival

Today was the 12th Annual Ladd Marsh Bird Festival.  This is the 11th year that I've been here for it, and I have to say, it's one of the highlights of my year.

It starts off with a music program and guest speaker on Friday night, and this year the speaker was Mark Obmascik, who is a journalist and author of The Big Year.  It was great fun, and when we left we were treated to this amazing sunset.

Sunset on Bird Festival Eve, La Grande, OR

I was also somewhat more excited than usual, because I made a purchase at the program!  This is new-to-me spotting scope, a Vortex Viper HD. 

New-to-me spotting scope!  Vortex Viper HD

I've been saving my pennies for several months to upgrade my scope.  You may remember that last year I was given a Bushnell Spacemaster II scope (I still can't believe that).  While I like that one, I frequently found myself wishing that the optics were a little better, so the image could be a little brighter and a little clearer.

The owner of the local bird shop had this one for sale at the Friday night program.  It has been gently used, and other than a cosmetic scratch on the casing is in perfect condition.  He gave me a good deal, and now it's mine!  The tripod is the one I bought last year, so Yay! I'm set for a while!  I'll probably hang on to the Bushnell, since it's a good scope.  Maybe I can convince Emma to go birding with me.

The Vortex has a larger lens (80m vs 60 mm for the Bushnell), so it's much brighter, and has a higher magnification (20-60x vs 15-45x for the Bushnell), though I will say that the image quality and brightness significantly decrease at the higher zoom levels.  This is to be expected with a zoom lens, and happens with both scopes.

I was able to take a couple bird shots with my iPhone 5 through the new scope, and it did well.  This one of a coot on a nest came out the best.  This is taken from about 100 feet away.

American Coot on a nest, Ladd Marsh, La Grande, OR

I have a hard time lining up the camera with the scope lens properly, and holding the camera steady enough to get a clear picture.  It will take practice, but I also may or may not be ordering a phone-to-scope adapter mount to be able to get clearer images. (Hint: I already did.)

Ladd Marsh, La Grande, OR

The marsh part of the Bird Festival weekend was great fun, and we saw 67 species of birds in six hours at my station.  That's fewer species than normal, but the water was really high in the marsh this year, and we didn't get the suite of shorebirds that we usually do. My prize for the morning was a wood duck.  They're so fancy!

After lunch, Anne and I went birding on our own around the valley, and added another handful of species to our lists for the day.  My highlights for this part of the day were Western tanagers and a lazuli bunting.  Beautiful!

We drove up and around High Valley Road and a couple side roads, between Cove and Union on the southeast side of the Grande Ronde Valley, which is one of my favorite bird routes.  The views along this drive never fail to take my breath away.

High Valley Road, Union County, Oregon

All in all it was a great day.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stillness

Gearing up for the 12th Annual Ladd Marsh Bird Festival.  I can't wait.

Ladd Marsh, La Grande, OR

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Silken

Another beauty today, Mammillaria bombycina.  This species is native to central western Mexico, growing on slopes and cliffs in high elevation oak forests.

I absolutely love the fringed edges on the petals.

Mammillaria bombycina

This is the first cactus I ever bought with hooked spines.  For the first couple months after I discovered cacti, I very smugly said that I was I only going to get the more non-lethal species with flatter spines.  Hooked-spine varieties are much too annoying, and I don't see why I would every get any of those, I said.

Then Emma and I were in TriCities last spring and I saw this one in a Lowes, and once I saw the beautiful clusters of white spines I decided that hooked or not, this plant needed to come home with me.  It hooked my thumb quite painfully before we even got back to the car, but I didn't care.  It was pretty.
Mammillaria bombycina

This is its first blooming for me, and the plant itself has almost doubled in size in a year.  I'm very proud of it.

Mammillaria bombycina

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ammocharis coranica

I have another non-amaryllis bulb blooming today... not an amaryllis but an amaryllis cousin.  This is Ammocharis coranica, native to grasslands of South Africa, often in or near depressions that are seasonally wet.

I got this bulb in February, as a completely un-rooted, un-leafed bulb.  I potted it up and watered sparingly, and within two days I started seeing leaves growing.  In its native habitat, this bulb goes dormant during drought, and is able to "wake up" and start growing leaves within hours of a rain storm.  I didn't expect it to bloom for at least a year.

I brought it to work and watched it growing a cool fan of leaves for a couple months, and then last Monday I came in after the weekend and was dismayed when I saw what I initially thought was one of the leaves turning yellow.  I thought I had killed it with too much water, but then I looked closer and saw that it was a flower spike!!!  I swear this spike was not evident the previous Friday, though I may have just overlooked it since it's behind the leaves a bit.  Either way, it grew fast!

This is it on Monday, 5/8/17.

Ammocharis coranica

And this is it on Wednesday, 5/11/17.  The spike is a bit longer and the buds are starting to open.

Ammocharis coranica

And this is yesterday, Monday 5/15/17, just one week after I first noticed the flower spike.  About half the flowers have gone by and the leaves are starting to yellow.  This is a fast-lane plant that is well-adapted to take advantage of any available water in a dry region.

Ammocharis coranica

The flowers are very pretty, and are fragrant, smelling sort of like sharp powdery orange oil.  Or, as I realized when I made my after-lunch beverage, actually a lot like an Earl Grey tea bag just as it first hits the hot water.

Ammocharis coranica

This is a relatively uncommon bulb in the houseplant trade, but I really like it.  I played bee with the flowers today, and I can't wait to see if I get any seeds.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A tiny orchid

One of my tinier orchids is blooming now, Specklinia grobyi, formerly known as Pleurothallis grobyi.  I actually have two plants of this species, from different sources.  This one is from Andy's Orchids, and has a much paler flower than the one I got from Ecuagenera, which bloomed last fall.

Specklinia (Pleurothallis) grobyi

They are so tiny and delicate, and now looking at the pictures on my computer, I see that I broke a flower while photographing!  Boo!

Specklinia (Pleurothallis) grobyi

Each flower is about 8 mm long (less than 3/8 inch), on a six-inch spike. The reddish thread right above my finger in the last picture is the base of the spike.

The whole plant is such a tidy little package.

Specklinia (Pleurothallis) grobyi