Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ABC Wednesday: O!

I am at Washington, DC visiting our daughter's family.  Our grandson is now four-month old, weights over 15 pounds and seems is getting bigger everyday.  He will make this funny "O" voice followed by a big sigh after a satisfying meal.  Life is good at this age.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Today's Flowers #90: Yoshino Cherry Blossom

I left Taiwan on April 15 to the US, the main purpose is to visit our daughter's family in DC. I was told that I missed out the cherry blossom season in Washington already. On my way to DC, I stopped by our home on the Cape Cod for two days. The Yoshino cherry tree in our garden was in full bloom.

I initially planted three of them seven years ago, two died, the replacements died also. Thus out 5 planted only one survived. It was the first time that I came back on the Cape in the early spring to see it in full bloom.

The whole tree is covered with flowers. I arrived just at the right time, none of the flowers were on the ground yet.

You can see I am very proud of this Yoshino Cherry Tree.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Camera-Critters #107 & ABC Wednesday: N is for National Taiwan Museum

During our "L" post for ABC Wednesday, we show the new branch of National Taiwan Museum, which was originally the head office of Land Bank of Taiwan. The main attraction in the main hall is a brand new exhibition of dinosaurs. The structure of the museum and the exhibition is probably less than 10% of the main hall of the Natural History Museum of British Museum in London. But, still, it is very impressive and educational. I joked with Grace that , since dinosaurs are such popular culture items, there must be a whole industry of making dinosaur models to provide exhibition for small museums around the world. I was so wrong, there is an industry of dinosaur bones all right but not for fake dinosaur models. I thought that I must make an amendment in this follow up blog.

Deep in Taiwan's mountain, there are deposits of marble of different quality and color. There used to be a thriving industry of these materials. The trade was eventually banned by the government to protect the environment. Some of the merchants turn to importation of crystals and semiprecious stones. Two buddies in the trade also developed interest in the collection of fossils. Their hobby and now business took them to all over the world. One of them went so far as went to Germany to receive formal training in fossil cleaning, including dinosaur bones. They started business with 4 people in a 180 square feet room 12 years ago. Now Paleowonders Mineral and Fossil Museum with is affiliated Institute and Nature Shop is the only professional fossil cleaning service in Asia, and one of the only four in the world.

Their little office in Taipei has a collection of over 10,000 dinosaur specimen. They provide service for museums around the world. But fossil trading is not just for museum and academics anymore. Last November, Nicolas Cage just outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for a dinosaur skull for US$ 276,000.

The dinosaur exhibition in the new branch of National Taiwan Museum are real dinosaur fossils provided by our local Paleowonders Institute.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday from around the world click here.

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here. Sorry for the Camera-Critters fans, these are not cute, huggable pets. These are the carcasses of vicious animals from the ancient past.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Today's Flowers #89: Papaya

Everyone has seen and probably eat papaya before. Today, I walked by a small private garden of our condo, I saw this papaya tree is flowering. The owner planted this papaya tree six years when they moved in. I have never seen papaya flower before. If you look closely, you can see flowers that are in differ stages of becoming a papaya!!

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

ABC Wednesday: M is for Myna

Pied Mynah (白頰椋鳥), Gracupica contra
The Mynas (also spelt Mynahs) are Asian species of Starlings (椋鳥) in the family Sturnidae. Mynas occure naturally only in southern and eastern Asia. For me, they look very different from the American or European Starlings.

Common Myna or Indian Myan (家八哥), Acridotheres tristis
The term Myna is used for any Starling in India and surrounding areas. The Common Mynas adapt well in different environments even thrive in urban and suburban area. It is among the World's 100 worst invasive species (IUCN), one of the only three birds in the list.

Jungle Myna (林八哥), Acridotheres fuscus
Mynas are kept as pets in many Asian countries. Escaped birds have formed feral population locally. Both Jungle Myna and Common Myna can be found in the wild (if you call parks in Taipei as wild) in Taiwan.

Black-winged Starling (黑袖椋鳥), Acridotheres melanopterus
Black-winged Starling is endemic to Indonesia. Once, it was an abundant bird, but now, it is treated as endangered by the IUCN.

Bali Myna (八里白椋鳥), Leucopsar rothschildi
Bali Myna as its name implies that it is endemic to the island of Bali. It is now critically endangered. The wild population was at an all-time low of just 6 birds in 2001. A conservation program was initiated in 1999 from two pairs of birds brought from London back to Bali. In 2006, birds from the breeding program have been started to be released into the wild.

Yellow-faced Myna (黃臉樹八哥), Mino dumontii
The Yellow-face Myna is native for New Guinea. I photographed the Yellow-faced and Bali Myna at the aviary of Hong Kong Park. The other four birds were photographed at aviary of Taipei Zoo. All pictures were taken with Nikon D700 and 80-400mm VR lens.

To see mor entries of ABC Wednesday click here.
Too see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Today's Flowers #88: Taiwan Cherry Blossom

Taiwan cherry or Formosan cherry (山櫻花), Prunus capanulata is a native plant of Taiwan. We called it Mountain Cherry. It was first described in 1883 by Russian Botanist, Carl Johann Maximowicz. It flowers in early spring. The blossom is not as impressive as Yoshino Cherry of Japan. But it has its own character.

I always have difficulty to really show the feeling of the numerous of flowers on this cherry tree in photograph. It is hard to get all the flowers in focus and convey the visual impact of hundreds of flowers blooming at the same time.

I photographed this tree last February near our condo, when I just came back from the States. It was still early in season. Some area in Taiwan of higher altitude, the flowers only come into full bloom in March.

Here is a cluster of Mountain Cherry flowers against the warm early February sunshine.

Here is a close-up of the flower.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Camera-Critters #105: Reptiles

I have been to Taipei Zoo, especially for photographing birds in the aviary several times. I thought I can rely on the Zoo's official website for the identity of the animals. But to my amazement, the information is not complete at all.

I was quite upset with it and went to the zoo again last week determined to take a photo of the sign post in front of each animal to have a record of what I have photographed. I have with me only the 50mm 1.4 lens for the purpose.

It turned out that the lens was perfect for the dim light condition of the Reptile House. I photographed them through the think glass that protects me and them. But nothing is too difficult for Photoshop, a little tweaking of "Curve" brought out all the necessary color and contrast.

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ABC Wednesday: L is for Land Bank

If you follow our last "ABC Wednesday" blog, I did not have the chance to buy the 80mm 1.4 lens and we did not go to the new branch of National Taiwan Museum. We did both last weekend. The building was the old building of Japanese Kangyo Bank and Mitsui Bussan Company built in 1923. After the WWII, it has been used as the head office of Land Bank of Taiwan. Here are two of us in the original vault. It is our reflection from a mirror taken with the 85mm 1.4, a gift from Grace for my birthday.

There is the exhibition of the history of the Land Bank in the vault. The far away picture is the founders of the company when the bank was first opened. The map shows all the branches of the Land Bank in Taiwan. The red in the foreground is the original document of founding of the company with the signature of all the founders. Grace took the picture with the 20mm 2.8.

The main hall of the building now houses an exhibition of dinosaurs.

They look fierce, and it is a big attraction for the kids, young and old alike.

Here is the main Hall of the National Taiwan Museum. It was built in 1915 by Japanese.

Since it was Children's day in Taiwan last Sunday, there was a puppet show inside the main hall. All the kids were sitting on the ground waiting for the show.

The show started, it was about native aborigine people's legend of their origin.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Today's Flowers #87: Citrus Maxima 柚

Citrus Maxima 柚子is a plant very special for the Southeast Asia. The only counterpart that is similar to it in the Western world is grapefruit. However, Citrus Maxima has a special fragrance coming out from the oil of the skin of the fruit. The smell and taste are completely different from those of grapefruit.

We saw from the newspaper last week that it is the Citrus Maxima flowering season now and they can be viewed in a local fruit farm called "Doris Farm". It also serves very good lunch. Grace and I made it there last Sunday. It was about one hour from our home.

We have seen peach, plum, cherry blossoms before but never for Citrus maxima. The flower is very fragrant and the whole farm is filled with that fragrance. The flower comes out as a cluster of over 10 flower buds. By natural selection, most of them will fall off, with one left for forming the fruit.

Doris Farm is half way up to a small mountain overlooking Taipei Harbor. It has flowering beds, mountain walk and of course hundreds of citrus maxima trees. I brought two lenses with me AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2D and AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED. I had some very nice close-up shots of the blossoms and some portraits of Grace, and indeed we had a very good lunch in the countryside.

Too see more flowers from around the world click here.


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