Good-bye, 2009. Hello, Year of the Tiger!

As I leave 2009 behind full of good (some bad, but mostly good) memories, I am also looking forward to 2010 - because I was born in the Year of the Tiger!

I like tigers. They are one of my favorite animals in the world, mostly because of my birth sign, but also because it is the 3rd animal of the cycle (my favorite number) and because it is yellow (my favorite color) and black.

I even had the chance to see and touch one in-person when I assisted in the health check-up of captive tigers when I was an intern in Taipei Zoo two summers ago. I don't think I will ever forget the moment.

Photo taken on 2008-08-25.

While tigers, the largest of all cats, is one of the most charismatic species in the world and one of the first animals that come to mind when we think about the jungle, we need to bare in mind that it is also one of the most threatened. There is only 1 species of tiger and 9 subspecies, and 3 out of the 9 subspecies have already gone extinct in the past century.

There are more fundamental information about tigers on the WWF website that I think people might be interested in. Afterward, donate, raise awareness, tell your children, do whatever, but please think about this animal as we move into the Year of the Tiger. Me personally would like to see these animal still living in the world many more Chinese Zodiac cycles down the road and perhaps even see them in the wild (like I always read about in the Walk the Wildness blog, an excellent blog to check out) - safe and surviving.

Happy New Year to all!

365 days ago (2008-12-31) ...


Wordless Wednesday - Jasmine flowers...withered

Align CenterWithered Jasmine (Jasminum spp.)

365 days ago (2008-12-30) ...

Revisiting the birds in Minoru Lake

Today, (my mother and) I went back to Richmond center for me to get a haircut and to try and price match a Sony a-700 I saw on sale for $399 (body) only with some stores.

We took the long way around Minoru Park and Lake. This time we were lucky to see some great animals.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
One of the Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) occupying the lake and paying attention to humans with food.

Female Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser)
Last time, we only saw male Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser). This time, we were fortunate enough to see three females too!

Female Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
Love the female's stylish head.

Male Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
Close-up on the male Common Merganser.

While watching the ducks and gulls and mergansers, a group of Canada Geese flew down and joined the party.

Many of these handsome Canadians.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)
Magnificent birds!

Humans with food.

I got my haircut, but my price match attempt was unsuccessful. There goes my chance of owning a high-quality DSLR in my price range. Boo!


Exploring the Silver-Dragon Cave at night (2009-10-16)

I was helping my mother cleaning the house today, so I didn't have time to go out and wildlife watch. So here's a continuation of my trip in southern Taiwan after watching the sunset in Guanshan (2009-10-16).

After having mouth-watering dumplings for dinner, we headed back to our dormitory. And after getting some rest, we went to explore a public-accessible cave in the Kenting Botanical Garden. Since the whole area is closed off during the evening, we were the only people able to go into it. The cave is called Silver-Dragon Cave and it is a natural limestone cave.

Below were some of the species we saw. I tried to identify most of them and asked for help on forums and so forth, but not all were identified.

Pancala batanica pancala - 班卡拉蝸牛
Pancala Snail (Pancala batanica pancala). Taiwan has more than 170 snail species, and the Pancala Snail is an endemic subspecies found only in the Hengchuan Peninsula. This special snail has the special trait of being left handedness. I just Googled an interesting information about "handedness" in snails here - for interest's sake.

Ceuthophilus maculatus - 灶馬
Next is a large cave-dwelling cricket called Ceuthophilus maculatus. Or maybe a different species in the same genus, I am not totally sure. But it sure is cool to see such large insects crawling on walls all around you in a narrow cave.

Taiwan Tube-nosed Bat (Murina puta) - 台灣管鼻蝠
This is a mammal that I was very surprised and happy to see in a cave - Formosan Tube-nosed Bat (Murina puta) - an animal that I researched in in the summer of 2008! You can read about my stories from that summer here - good times! It is surprising because it should be a forest dwelling bat, not cave-dwelling, but I guess since the cave is surrounded by forests, it is much safer in a cave than in the furled plant leaf. This species is easily identified by its pointy nostrils (clearly seen in the picture). Wow!

Female Geothelphusa albogilva - 黃灰澤蟹
Then we encountered a female Geothelphusa albogilva. It is a freshwater crab endemic in Taiwan and most common in the Hengchuan Peninsula.

Stejneger's Narrow-mouthed Toad (Micryletta stejnegeri) - 史丹吉氏小雨蛙
The cave itself is fairly narrow and short, and pretty soon we entered the forest and started shining lights everywhere to see some wildlife. We didn't have much luck and the only animal we saw was this small Stejneger's Narrow-mouthed Toad (Micryletta stejnegeri). They are fairly easy identified with their small body size (2 ~ 3-cm) and their dark metallic gray or brown color.

Hekou's Gecko (Gekko hokouensis) - 鉛山壁虎
After a while, we gave up and returned back to the cave and to our mopeds. On the cave wall, we spotted this Hekou's Gecko (Gekko hokouensis) - it has alternating dark and light patterns running from the middoral to the tail, and it's tail is more rounded rather than flattened.

Unidentified Heteropoda spp. (棕高腳蛛)
Then we saw a large unidentified Heteropoda spp. hiding in the cracks of the cave. Wow.

Acanthaspis immodesta - 紅足荊獵蝽
After we came out of the cave, our light shone on a Acanthaspis immodesta. Neat insect to see before we conclude our adventure and head back to the dorm for a shower and sleep.


Cedar Waxwings still around....

After the fog from the morning lifted, I went out to the dyke to enjoy the sunny afternoon.

Nice view.

The Short-eared Owl in the distance.

A Northern Harrier came by and chased off the owl.

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
The harrier guarding its territory and searching for food. I took this photo using my new tripod today - with manual focusing to get the sharpest image.

The owl moved to another post.

What really surprised me today was seeing Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) still hanging around in Richmond. I always figured they would be some place warmer by now. Or perhaps this flock is just passing through.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Read some cool facts about Cedar Waxwings here!

The animal definitely staying here are the Snow Geese!

Some taking off.

Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens)
Some landing.

Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens)
And all definitely staying.

Two Suns
Sun(s) setting?

Watching the sunset on a chilly afternoon.

Moon watch
Time to go home. But not before testing my tripod again and manual focusing and capturing the moon.


Boxing Day in the foggy Minoru Park

Today, my mother and I went to Richmond Centre to check out the Boxing Day deals. We passed through Minoru Park along the way.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)
Canada Geese feeding on the foggy field.

The park is still overrun with many bunnies. I lost count of how many we saw - probably more than ten.

They sure are cute though.

A shy rabbit on the steps of Minoru Church.

Feral Bunny
A very handsome one.

Feral Bunny
I can't imagine why anyone would buy a beautiful animal such as this as a pet, then abandon it after a while.

A human looking at me!

Hey, mister, do you have food?

No? That's all right, I will just dig a hole in front of you then.

On Minoru Lake, there were many Mallards and American Wigeons. The must interesting animal must be these two male Common Mergansers resting in the center without any females.

Hybridized Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
An interesting hybridized male(?) Mallard. I can't even tell if it is a male or female anymore.

Male American Wigeon (Anas americana)
Male American Wigeon.

Peaceful and Foggy Minoru Lake.

Foggy day in Richmond
Today is an excellent to come out and enjoy nature because almost everyone will be indoors fighting over deals.

I wanted to buy an DSLR this boxing day. But after much thinking and deciding, I decided to wait for a while before the one I wanted drops its price. I am likely to buy a Pentax K-X, although other cameras in my wishlist are Sony a-550 or Sony a-700 - all of them because of their in-body IS and their relatively inexpensive lenses compare to Canikons.

I still spent some money buying a sturdier tripod (Opus OPT-210) for myself this Boxing Day, and I am happy thinking of the money I saved.


Birding on the dyke & Christmas Houses watching

This afternoon, I biked to the dyke again. And there was the Northern Harrier far far away.

A female Northern Flicker perched on the branch among crows.

Sky-watch. These were taken as I biked southward first towards Steveston.

Then it was time to turn around and head for Terra Nova.

I spotted an unusual bird hiding in the bushes on the borders of the golf course. It was a Wilson's Snipe! It was feeding at first, but after it saw me watching it, it went into a freezing and hiding mode. Not effective, but I got the idea that it doesn't like to be watched. So I leave it alone.

The view as the sun slowly sets

Female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) searching for her friends
A female Mallard crossed the trail looking for her friends and partner on the other side of the ditch. It then flew, jumped, tumbled, and walked in front of me to get to her friends.

Christmas Day Sunset

Christmas Day Sunset
Watching the sun set.

Christmas Day Moon Watch
Watching the moon rise.

In the evening, my parents and I walked (and drove) to several houses in west Richmond enjoying the Christmas displays people set up in front of their houses.

Ho Ho Ho House

Ho Ho Ho House
This "Ho Ho Ho" house (on Garry Street) is probably the most impressive one.

Christmas lights also give me a change to practice one of the photography techniques I always wanted to try out - bokeh.

Bokeh Lights

Christmas Lights and Moon Light

Christmas Lights and Moon Light (Bokeh Version)
Bokeh style!

Merry Christmas, everyone!
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