Saturday, August 22, 2009

Monterey Bay Aquarium

DSC01975 Leafy Sea Dragons


For our final hoorah of summer vacation, we went for a quick day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Some people paint with oil paints, I like to paint with flowers, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium paints with marine life.

DSC01889 Leafy sea dragon

Some sea creatures are works of art in their own right:

DSC01890 Leafy Sea Dragon


DSC01950 Monterey Bay Aquarium

Who would have guessed that piers could support so much wonderment?

DSC01911 Monterey Bay Aquarium

DSC01910 Monterey Bay Aquarium sea anemone

DSC01967 Monterey Bay Aquarium anemone

The amount of time and dedication it must take to create and maintain coral tanks like this is mind-boggling to me:

DSC01879 Monterey Bay Aquarium coral tank

Rescued birds flawlessly complete a canvas of native wildflowers and driftwood:

DSC01916 Monterey Bay Aquarium

These touch pools remain gorgeous even when children of all ages move these creatures around all day long:

DSC01938 Monterey Bay Aquarium touching pool

Old favorites are still mesmerizing:

DSC01866 Monterey Bay jellyfish

Because it is a relatively new installation, the “Secret Life of Seahorses” exhibit is still somewhat crowded. Nevertheless, I highly recommend a visit to this magnificent display of sea creatures.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spotting Wildlife at the Okavango Delta

DSC07595 Bateleur Eagle cropped

The Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus)

Our grand life at Stanley’s Camp continued as we indulged in an afternoon siesta after high tea.

DSC07347 Stanley Camp tent interior

Refreshed, we climbed back into the Landcruiser for our afternoon game drive, eager to explore the territory. We were all on the lookout to score the next big find. Maybe we could spot an elephant, a lion, or even a leopard. A couple of us were very interested in birds, so we also scanned the trees for unusual profiles.

DSC07777 Hamerkop nest

We asked our guide, Poniso, what bird builds these uncommonly large nests. We were convinced that it belonged to a giant eagle or oversized stork.

DSC07778 Hamerkop Nest

The architect of this mansion, he told us, is a medium-sized wading bird called the Hammerkop. Believe it or not, this compulsive nest builder may build 3 to 5 of these nests every year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammerkop

DSC07874 Hamerkop
Hammerkop (Scopus umbretta), also known as the Hammerhead Stork.

Even from a distance, we knew this silhouette showed promise.

DSC07580 Bateleur in tree

I was bowled over when we drove closer:

DSC07600 Bateleur

Named the Bateleur, it is no surprise that this eagle is sometimes called the “Pine Eagle”. As the top photo reveals, its fluffed feathers sometimes resemble a conifer cone.

Here’s another unusual profile in a tree. Is it another nest?

DSC07500 Southern Giraffe hiding

Here another hint:

DSC07502 Southern Giraffe hiding

Surprise!

DSC07511 Southern Giraffe

If find her Red-billed Oxpecker bird “tiara” quite fetching:

DSC07509 Southern Giraffe ox-pecker bird

Here’s where one of us shouted “Elephant!”

DSC07398 Landcruiser wading

Not! It was only a pump, not a baby elephant.

I don’t have a photo of the termite mount that I declared to be a giraffe. A bit gun-shy now, I was hesitant to call out a dark shadow in the distant grass. Poniso smiled as he drove unhurriedly in its direction.

DSC07441 African Buffalo skeleton

Known as one of the “big five”, the African Buffalo is a formidable foe with its considerable size and impressive horns. It probably took multiple lions to bring this one down.

DSC07446 African Buffalo skull teeth

With their impressive row of incisor teeth, the African Buffalo can eat tall, coarse grass more quickly than most other African herbivores.

***
It takes no talent to spy impalas. The impala is the most ubiquitous antelope in the region. Poniso said some locals refer to it as the McDonalds of the delta. McNuggets on the hoof? Running at 50-75 km/hr, impalas give new meaning to fast food. They were so plentiful, we eventually dismissed them as “only impala”. They are easily identified by the two vertical stripes on both sides of their tail.

DSC08555 impala herd

DSC07421 impalas


When they don’t think they can outrun their predators, impalas sometimes try to stand perfectly still, hoping to blend with the environment.

DSC07623 Two impalas

Even when we don’t see game, the tranquil terrain is a treat to explore.

DSC07413 two trees reflection
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