Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not a good day for this barbet


While working outside sometime ago, I heard a loud bang as something knocked into one of our house windows. When I went to have a look, I found this poor bird unconscious in a flower pot. It had flown directly into the tinted window (which reflected the very bright outdoors like a mirror since it was such a sunny day),... crashed and fell into the flower pot. I think it's a male Gaudy Barbet (Megalaima mystacophanus).


Good thing it fell into the pot too, as my cats were on the prowl! I hung up the pot out of reach of my cats. Slowly, the bird recovered from the concussion and after about an hour, it flew off.


The characteristic "took took took" call of barbets are often heard during the fruiting season in my area. They are especially fond of "jambu bol" (water apples) and, along with starlings and hanging parrots (lorikeets), are frequent visitors to our tree every year. Sadly, our tree is dying, affected by borers and termites.

Invisible stars circling its head… still recovering.

About an hour later, he’s about ready to fly off.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Engkabang – Shorea spp.



Engkabang (illipe nut) is the local name of the fruits of Shorea trees. These tall dipterocarp trees produce winged fruits which are often collected by locals either for local consumption or for sale.




Here in Sarawak, villagers, particularly the Dayaks, collect the fruits to make engkabang oil which is mixed with hot white rice for a smooth buttery taste. The prepared oil is not in liquid form but in solid form at room temperature (about 27 degrees Centigrade).



Discarded “wings” – collected by locals, the fruits have been removed.



Dried engkabang fruits in a rattan winnow. The big white sack on the right contains fruits ready to be sold off to a middleman or buyer. Photographed in a Bidayuh village.




Commercially, the fruit is processed for its oil used in the making of chocolates. Look up the research paper entitled “Engkabang (illipe) - an excellent component for cocoa butter equivalent fat” by K. Nesaretnam and Abdul Razak b Mohd Ali if you’re interested to read more about this fruit and its uses in making cocoa butter.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Habenaria species (in situ)


This Habenaria species could be H. elatius but I am not 100% sure.



Flowers aren’t that big, about an inch across. I should probably take measurements when photographing plants in the wild but that’s extra work and takes up more time than we already have when out snapping photos in the field.



A seedling, possibly that of a small shrub or tree, sprouting from a seed that had fallen into the core of a Habenaria plant.



The inflorescence bears several flowers.



Typical habitat of this species of Habenaria. There are two or three plants in the above photo, can you spot them? They grow in pockets of decaying organic matter trapped in crevices in the limestone. Some grow on near-vertical cliffs so photographing them may be quite a challenge.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A “fishy” outing




Went on another photo outing, this time to catch and photograph peat swamp fish species.



Carinotetraodon sp., possible Carinotetraodon salivator.



Carinotetraodon sp.

These tiny little puffers are sooooo cute. One puffed up into a tiny ball as big as a marble and I was fortunate to have my camera ready just then!



Puntius hexazona



Puntius hexazona


It was also my first time seeing the beautiful six banded barb, Puntius hexazona as well as another colorful rasbora.



Rasbora sp.


Still waiting for my fish guru to ID that one. I made up a name for it in the meantime, the "Rainbow rasbora" as it appears to have colorful bands running the length of its body.



How sad that more and more streams are turning into smelly polluted streams. We visited many places in the countryside to look for blackwater rivers and peatswamps to explore but runoffs from poultry farms, pig farms and vegetable gardens have done a lot of damage.




It was only after driving around and exploring for several hours that we eventually found a stream still nice and unspoiled. *sigh*



Photographing a juvenile pikehead.



A Luciocephalus species, predatory pikehead.

Far away in the countryside, we also had the good fortune of spotting a hornbill in flight. Not the large greater hornbill but a smaller species. I couldn't change lenses fast enough so no photo of that hornbill. Maybe a “birding” or bird watching trip next time!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tiny freshwater pufferfish

This tiny one, about 1.5cm long, just ate an insect larva and is looking for more.

This species of freshwater pufferfish, believed to be Carinotetraodon salivator,  is the cutest little puffer I’ve ever seen. Pretty interesting to observe them swim around in a tank, eyes moving about searching for prey.

The large one is about an inch long and the small one is about 1.5cm long. Before I took these photos, I fed them damselfly larvae and soon as I dropped the larvae in, both started going after them. Some of the larvae hid among the Egeria densa leaves but the puffers eventually got to them.

There was a big dragonfly larva too, as big as the smaller puffer and the larger puffer kept nipping at it. By night, it'll probably be fishfood.

The larger, 1 inch adult “stalking” a damselfly larva.

Besides insect larvae, they also feed on small snails and fish. So they are a good choice to naturally control a small snail infestation in a freshwater tank!

Photo quality is pretty poor cause the water is dark, stained with tannins and I'm shooting at 800-1600 ISO through plastic. Here are more photos of this little fish:


Carinotetraodon_freshwater_puffer_fish_4 fr


Friday, April 16, 2010

Severe spider mite infestation


The aftermath of a spider mite infestation.


Spent the entire evening salvaging whatever's left of my once very healthy orchid seedlings, many of which have reached blooming size. In fact, many have already started to bloom. I do not know for sure where the mites came from. Perhaps it's from the goat pellets (any of my fellow growers have any bad experiences with spider mites after using natural goat pellets?) or from an affected plant with dormant eggs introduced from elsewhere.

The damage is severe. I lost some very expensive primary hybrids such as Phalaenopsis gigantea x P. bellina (which were growing handsomely!), P. cornu cervi and P. pantherina primary hybrids and many more. Along with the phals, I also lost countless slipper orchids, I do not wish to even start counting as it's too heart breaking. Many of my large vanda seedlings are also affected, but vandas are hardy plants and the stricken plants should come back nice and healthy after some months. I do not hold much hope for many of the phals and paphs. :(

I soaked all the plants in the nursery area for 10-15 seconds in a natural/organic mite killer by Yates called Natrasoap. Anyone familiar with this? Hope it does the trick in eliminating those nasty microscopic parasites! 
I know that spider mites hate water, and since the nursery area is sheltered from the rain, perhaps this is why the infestation could spread like wildfire.  

Total damage? I don't even want to come up with an estimated figure. I refuse too. Too painful to even think about.  *sigh*


Two pictures are included here, the first one was taken this evening, showing the terrible damage done. Who knew such minute creatures could wreak so much havoc.



The second photo above was taken in January, showing the green and healthy seedlings, some coming into bloom.


When I first spotted the mite infestation, I sprayed the plants with pesticide, wrong thing to do, I know. But it’s hard to find miticides here. Plus, I really do not like to use any sort of poisonous chemicals on my plants. So I then resorted to only water, spraying the plants hoping to dislodge the mites and destroying any eggs. The mite problem seemed to be settled but soon came back. The recovering phals which were putting out new shoots were quickly overwhelmed and many dried up and died.


I have tried using neem oil and a mild soap solution before. Didn’t work too well to keep the bugs away. Some friends swear by it, but I haven’t had much success with it. I’ve also tried serai wangi (lemon grass extract), can’t say for sure if it works.


For now, I'm going to shift all of the seedlings outside, if they survive, they survive. If they don't, I'll have to cut my losses. I don't want to stress over them too much anymore. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cameras in the field

These “wild things” are easy to photograph as they remain stationary and aren't people shy. All are originally Japanese species but have been introduced and naturalized in Thailand, the Philippines and China. I'd rather they all stayed in Japan, the naturalized ones just aren't as hardy and are prone to diseases.



The Pentax KM uses 4AA batteries and is a very small and light camera (by SLR standards). Not a fan of the pictures it produces straight out of the box though. Perhaps a better lens and more tweaking would bring out better photos. Not mine so can’t play around with it. The Nikon d90 on the right is significantly larger and heavier but is a great versatile camera. Costs about twice as much as the Pentax besides it. The Pentax is assembled in the Philippines if I remember correctly while the Nikon was put together in Thailand.


Olympus_e510 (2)

Olympus e510. My favorite shooter, small and light and a superb easy to use “super menu” for making quick changes to different settings. Great colors straight out of camera. Unfortunately, it is also the most prone to failure among all SLRs I have used (that includes a Canon 350d, not pictured in this post). This Olympus has been into the service depot twice, and after 3 years is now acting up (flash not popping up and not firing sometimes).



Oly in the wild. Waterfall at the back. The Oly’s viewfinder is the smallest vf I have ever come across on an slr and frankly, am tired of squinting. Liveview helps but is painfully slow. I hope the next new model (not the e620) will have a larger vf and better dynamic range.



Sony Alpha 350. Love Sony’s liveview system, works really well and is very fast. Not a fan of the colors out of camera though but some tweaking and pp should fix that. And not a fan of the menu system either. Accessing certain things like flash intensity requires one too many clicks.



Olympus e510 and Sony A350.


Other cameras I have used but not pictured are the Canon 350d and the Nikon d80 which I still use every now and then but is too heavy to bring hiking. I am searching for a new compact slr now, the Olympus e620 is tempting esp with an articulating LCD but I’ve had enough of squinting thru tiny viewfinders. Considered the Pentax KX but google produced too many reports of problems with the anti-shake system. So the wait continues…

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Phalaenopsis corningiana


Nearly missed this one as it’s hidden by the large leaves of the mother plant. Just one single bloom is enough to fill the shade house with a wonderful fragrance. Most of my plants bloom once year and always in the month of April. The flower above is the most current bloom but here are some other photos taken from previous years (all bloomed in April).



This particular one is not mine but the photo was taken in April 2008.



This one was photographed in April 2009 but the date on the file reads May 09 as my camera was mistakenly set a month forward at the time. Thankfully I keep records of all blooms by month and year.



Two plants of the same species, but the flowers have very different markings. Photographed in April 2009.


The flowers last for about a month and then it’s another long wait for the next flowering period. I am sure they only bloom in April for me or in my geographic location (depending on the weather or change in weather from wet to dry). A friend in Germany who keeps them indoors says that his plants bloom in the fall.


If only this species bloomed more frequently for me, it'd be my favorite phal because I do not know of any other phal with a fragrance so agreeable!


I have a seed pod about ready to burst which I hope to send off to be flasked in the coming days. Then I’ll have lots of Phalaenopsis corningiana seedlings. The last attempt was not successful as the flasks were contaminated by fungus.



A big and healthy Phalaenopsis plant found in the deep jungles of Borneo.


Today, beautiful and healthy clones are easily found in many nurseries and suppliers throughout the world. Even so, it is extremely important that wild stocks be protected as the gene pool is vast.


Sadly, these beautiful wild orchids are greatly threatened by loss of habitat (plantations and development). Their numbers have also been greatly reduced in the wild by collectors and poachers. Perhaps one day, with greater appreciation for nature and the world around us, we won’t have to depend on botanic gardens or zoos just to see something “wild”.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Renanthera elongata (in situ)

This widespread species grows to a really large size and needs plenty of space. The one pictured below is several feet long and flowering on the longest “vine” on a tree. A friend once found it growing as a terrestrial scrambling across an open exposed area so it’s been found both as a ground orchid as well as an epiphyte. The small red flowers are borne on a multi-branched inflorescence and last for roughly two weeks.







Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nepenthes reinwardtiana (in situ)

Came across "fields" of these growing in large messy clumps in Kalimantan one time. Was surprised to find it again in my "backyard" hugging exposed, disturbed cliffs of sandstone and clay. Reinwardtiana is easily identified by the two "eye spots" on adult pitchers. It is named after a Dutch botanist, Caspar Reinwardt and is pronounced like the botanist's name, with "tiana" added to the back.









Tiny seedling.



Seed pods forming on a female plant. 







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