S Is For Spirulina.

Spirulina.

A while back I was involved in preparing an activity for kids as part of a science outreach event, the goal was to show them some bacterial diversity and how different bacteria look, both macroscopically (and for that we tried our best at Petri Dish Art, I highly recommend you look that up) and microscopically. As I was scanning through a wet mount of Arthrospira platensis (spirulina), I found this delightful S-shaped filament (called a trichome) and couldn’t resist. The quality isn’t very good, this was taken by hand-holding my phone over the microscope’s eyepiece.

  1. platensis is a cyanobacterium, a photosynthetic organism that gets its energy and food from sunlight and carbon dioxide just like plants do. Unlike many cyanobacteria, A. platensis does not produce toxins and that’s why it can be used as a food supplement. Its cells typically associate into spiral-shaped filaments but what you see here is a fragment of a spiral that has taken a S-like shape. If you zoom in you can see the individual cells and at the bottom right of the picture there is a single cell. No staining was done, they are naturally green because of the chlorophyll.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

R Is For Redstart and Rabirruivo.

A young black redstart, Phoenicurus ochruros, kind enough to let me get very close. It has many common names in Portuguese, the most common are pisco-ferreiro, literally meaning “blacksmith robin”, and rabirruivo-preto, literally meaning “black redtail”.

A stunning shot, click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

Q Is For Quercus.

Quercus suber.

Quercus suber is the scientific name for the cork oak, a remarkable tree. Unlike the aforementioned Eucalyptus, the cork oak is native to southwest Europe (and northwest Africa). Interestingly, both trees are classified as pyrophytes, plants that are adapted to tolerate and resist fire. But while the Eucalyptus is considered an active pyrophyte that promotes the spread of forest fires through the production of inflammable oils, the cork oak is a passive pyrophyte that resists the passage of fire through its thick and insulating bark (cork). The canopy burns, but the trunk doesn’t and the tree quickly regenerates. If the tree doesn’t burn, every 7-10 years cork can be extracted in a process that doesn’t harm the tree and will promote the regrowth of a new layer of cork. Cork extraction is a sustainable practice and cork oak forests, minimally intervened for cork extraction purposes every decade or so, support unique and rich ecosystems.

This photo shows a relatively young oak tree from which cork has been recently extracted for the first time (this is called “virgin” cork and is of less quality than the one obtained in subsequent extractions). Below, the bark layer left after cork extraction that is of a gorgeous russet colour, and above it the cork of the upper trunk and branches that has been left.

All I have to say is WOW! Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

P Is For Posing and Pisco.

Posing. Pisco, Portuguese for robin.

An European Robin, Erithacus rubecula, making a break from insect hunting to pose for the camera. The name “pisco” applies to several different insectivorous birds and is usually followed by a qualifier, redbreast in this case, but there are also the “bluebreast” (bluethroat, Luscinia svecica), “bluetail” (Tarsiger cyanurus) and “blacksmith” (redstart, Phoenicurus ochruros). However, if someone says only “pisco” and nothing else, they are almost certainly referring to this bird.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

O Is For Ocean and Onda.

Ocean. Onda, Portuguese for wave.

That’s the Atlantic Ocean at its best, telling you to admire it from a safe distance. The name of this beach is Cova Gala, in Figueira da Foz, and it is possible to swim in it when the water is calmer. This photo was taken in August with the red flag flying, so I just sat there watching the waves splash on the breakwater. That can be immensely relaxing.

Click for full size!
© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

N Is For Nectar and Narciso.

Nectar. Narciso, Portuguese for any plant of the genus Narcissus.

A photo from earlier this Spring showing a flower fly feeding on the nectar of a Narcissus flower of the “Bridal Crown” variety. This double daffodil variety produces long-lasting flowers with a delightful scent. They’re gone now and I miss them already.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

L Is For Lichen and Líquen.

Lichen. Líquen.

Only slightly different spellings in English and Portuguese to refer to this fascinating symbiotic relationship between fungi and photosynthetic microorganisms (cyanobacteria or algae). As far as I was able to determine, this moss-like lichen belongs to the genus Cladonia.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

K Is For Keyhole.

Keyhole.

This is quite possibly be the only non-nature photo you are going to see for this round, but it was the one I immediately thought of for the letter K. It was taken last year as part of a larger project that I did for the local amateur theatre group. No, I have no talent whatsoever for theatre, but they apparently thought I could help them with the photography part and invited me. I was completely out of my element, but I think in the end they were happy with the result and it was lots of fun to work with them!

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

J Is For Jealousy and Jardim.

Jealousy. Jardim, Portuguese for garden.

I hope I’m not the only one thinking that the wasp in the background is clearly coveting the fig that the butterfly is feeding on, in my garden’s fig tree. This is of course an excuse to show you this gorgeous and unmistakable butterfly, Charaxes jasius (foxy emperor). It’s a large butterfly that occurs in the Mediterranean region and in Africa. The adults can often be seen during summer sucking the liquids out of overripe fruits. The common Portuguese name for this butterfly is “borboleta-do-medronheiro”, which means “butterfly of the strawberry tree” referring to the larvae’s main host plant.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

I Is For Iris and Iridescência.

Iris. Iridescência, Portuguese for iridescence.

One thing I love about Iris flowers is the way they look iridescent under the right lighting conditions, but I find this very hard to capture in a picture. I tried my best here with the purple irises blooming in my garden right now.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

H Is For Hose and Horta.

Hose. Horta, Portuguese for a vegetable garden or a small farm.

This photo shows onions being watered with the help of a large hose, simulating rain. It was late in the afternoon and I couldn’t resist the way the light illuminating the young and wet onion leaves from behind was giving them a lovely translucent green appearance. This is an old photo, from 2013, back then my grandmother was still alive (this is on her yard) and my mother was still healthy (she was the one holding the hose here). I miss those times.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.