Category Archives: Nature

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

By Vladimir Brezina

Snow leopard
Polar bear

A contribution to this week’s Photo Challenge, Dialogue.

Chicks on the Beach

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

St. Pete Beach birds 24

On a beautiful Sunday morning, Vlad went out to photograph chicks on the beach.

No… it’s not what you’re thinking!

We were staying at the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida, where my company had just finished its annual conference. We tacked on a few days of vacation at the end.

And on the last day we heard about something unusual: a patch of beach where black skimmers (a kind of tern) were hatching their chicks. It was about a half-mile or so up the beach to the north, sandwiched right between hotels, roped off but otherwise out in the open, among the sunbathers and beach joggers.

St. Pete Beach birds 1So not too early on a Sunday morning, Vlad and I ventured out to see the skimmers and their chicks.

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Travel Theme: Endearing

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Endearing.

I know people are expecting photos of cute babies and furry animals, but I love my invertebrates…

… cautious conch

Cautious conch

… feisty fiddler crab

Feisty fiddler crab

… serene sea slug

Serene sea slug

Golden Hour at St. Pete Beach

By Vladimir Brezina

Beach scene at the Don CeSar 8

At the Loews Don CeSar Hotel, St. Petersburg Beach, Florida.

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Everybody Loves the Beach

By Vladimir Brezina

Black skimmers on the beach

Click on the photo to enlarge it. Story and more photos here!

Travel Theme: Purple

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Purple.

What's this??

What’s this??

Several times during our recent paddles through Southern Florida, we came across these large squishy creatures, brown with white spots, flapping their wings just under the water’s surface—

A swimming sea hare!

How is this connected with the theme of Purple, you may ask? Well, the connection was established as soon as I picked this one up out of the water. It immediately started oozing a dark purple liquid onto my sprayskirt. I hastily put it back into the water.

Actually, I was expecting this (although I wasn’t expecting the animal to be quite this trigger-happy). For this was an Aplysia, a sea-slug commonly known as a sea hare—and, as it happens, one of the experimental animals that we work with in the lab (although we work with a slightly different species). So I am very familiar with its defensive mechanisms. Rather like squid, a disturbed Aplysia releases, along with other secretions, a cloud of defensive ink.

This ink is deep purple—perhaps the most intense purple color I have ever seen. No wonder that such ink (from a different species of mollusc) was in antiquity the basis of a much-prized dye, Tyrian or Imperial Purple.

I don’t have a photo that does the color of the ink justice, so here’s one by another photographer that begins to give some idea—

Aplysia californica releasing ink

For much more about Aplysia and its ink, including a video of the ink release, see here.

Celebrity Sun

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Manhattanhenge 17

In Manhattan we get our share of celebrities. Some live here year-round. Many zoom by in a blaze of flashbulbs and applause.

And some show up reliably every day, unapplauded, but make a celebrity entrance a few minutes out of the year. That’s what happens at Manhattanhenge. Twice a year, roughly three weeks before and after the summer solstice, the setting sun lines up precisely with the east-west streets of Manhattan’s street grid.

It’s  a well-known phenomenon, and has become more so with each passing year. Photographers gather at major intersections, awaiting that perfect moment when the sun touches the horizon, framed precisely between buildings on either side. For a moment or two, the sun is a celebrity.

I’ve heard about it, and Vlad has taken pictures of it many times. But this year was the first time I’d actually experienced it.

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