So the latest #throwbackthursdaytravel page is up under the travel tab. This week’s entry was our whirlwind afternoon in the White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico (though at the time it was still only a National Monument, it had been promoted to a National Park later).
This is actually the world’s largest gypsum dune field at 275 square miles. If you camp in the back country or hike any of the trails away from Dunes Drive, it is easy to see why parts of various movies (such as Independence Day) were filmed within the area, with rolling dunes and flat plains of gypsum as far as the eye can see.
While the dune field covers a large area, one doesn’t want to become ‘lost’ within it–especially since the park is also within the White Sands Missile Testing area and adjacent to a military base.
Our afternoon was spent basically taking the scenic drive through part of the park (the Dunes Drive is a round trip sixteen mile drive, but one should also account for time spent taking pictures, hiking up and down the dunes, and even possibly sledding down the dunes), hiking up some of the dunes and taking pictures.
While I may have only seen a single lizard, I was able to get pictures of several different wildflowers that are able to grow within the gypsum dunes:
I would love to go back to the park, and actually try sledding down a dune, hiking a little further than what we did, and even trying to camp out in the back-country for a day or two.
Oceans cover approximately 70% of the earth’s surface (with the five ocean basins being the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic (newest one to be recognized)).
Aside from covering majority of the surface of the earth, they also produce ~50% of our oxygen (cyanobacteria and plankton), absorb ~30% of the carbon dioxide produced, and serve as both the main source of protein for over a seventh of the world’s population (over 1 billion people), and also as a source of income–~40 million people are to be employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.
But we’ve also depleted 90% of the big fish population, and (through global warming) have destroyed/killed about half the coral reefs (coral reef bleaching occurs when the coral expel the symbiotic cyanobacteria/plankton living within it due to ‘overheating’).
June 8 has been set aside as ‘World’ Ocean Day’ for several years now. Each year there is a theme for the day, and this year the theme is ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods’. In addition to the launch of ‘A decade of challenges to [reach] the Sustainable Development Goal [#] 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources’ by 2030.
I’ve always been fascinated by the oceans–especially the number of creatures living under the waves. I even contemplated sutdying marine biology in college (either undergrad or grad)–but didn’t have the grades for a full scholarship at any school that offered teh degrees, so I’ve decided that I could always become an ‘amateur marine biologist’.
I’ve been to the ocean(s) only an handful of times throughout my life. I don’t remember the trips to the beach when I was a toddler; therefore the first time I was in the ‘ocean’ was in college on a class trip to Honduras and swimming in the Caribbean Sea.
Since that trip, I’ve been (back) to the Atlantic Ocean (when I was in Boston for my first postdoc), the Pacific Ocean (when I went to Hawaii after passing my qualifying exams in grad school), and the Gulf of Mexico on a family trip years ago.
I’ve managed see some wildlife and get pictures, and they include:
Currently the only time I’ve seen a sea turtle in the wild was when I went to Hawaii back in 2009. I stayed on the island of Hawaii, and on Hilo Bay, so I would walk out and see what type of wildlife I could spot. The green sea turtle was present quite a few days, and according to some locals, if I’d gotten up a little earlier I would have also spotted the sting ray as well swimming through the bay.
I also managed to get some picture of some of the smaller marine fish as well on the trip:
My little handheld digital camera is waterproof to a certain depth, so once I spotted some fish I tried to stick the camera in and get some pictures (sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t). I would like to go back to Hawaii (and the Caribbean) to snorkel and get some more pictures of life under the waves.
When I was out in Boston, I managed to get a small handful of pictures of various marine life:
I went on several whale watching cruises, and the best pictures actually came from the second trip. I think this was a humpback slightly breaching the surface. I would like to go on another cruise (especially since I have a slightly better camera), as I’ve noticed when the aquarium posts pictures, other wildlife has also been spotted (large fish and even a shark or two).
Since I also enjoyed walking along the harbor–one afternoon I spotted some jellyfish swimming in the harbor. Luckily I was able to get a couple of decent pictures of them.
Finally, when we were down at South Padre Island, Texas years ago I managed to get a couple pictures of various invertebrates in the bay:
One was a semi-close up of a young nautilus (a very ancient mollusk family–basically considered ‘living fossils’).
Here is a zoomed out picture showing the nautilus and other hermit crabs in the bay that evening.
I would love to get back to the ocean and snorkel (having either gotten contact lens and a good snorkel mask or just a good snorkel mask that could fit over my glasses–since I’m ‘blind’ as a bat without them), but also see other wildlife (from a good safe distance–so a cruise or boat ride) such as orcas, dolphins, or even a shark or two.
What marine animal(s) have you spotted in the wild?
Reference for world ocean day: https://www.un.org/en/observances/ocean-day
So the winner for today’s entry in the photography challenge is a pair of prairie skinks that I noticed crawling around on one of our wood racks the other day.
These skinks are actually quite secretive and are usually only seen out and about during their breeding season. We usually have skinks along the creek side of the yard (numerous insects and small arachnids for them to eat), and occasionally in the garden area closer to the house during the spring to fall months. The one that I usually see running around is probably the more common five-lined skink (which I will be on the lookout for this year).
There are actually eighteen different lizards that can be spotted within Oklahoma, and I’ve probably only have seen two to four of them (and I’ve lived in this state most of my life). A goal now is going to be trying to get a picture of each of the different lizards (especially the Texas horn lizard–or the horny toad, as we called them when I was a kid).
Do you have lizards running around in your yard? What species?
Today’s entry into the photography challenge is the common snapping turtle. Since I’m still self-isolating due to the pandemic, majority of my photography has been done around the house, about three and half weeks ago I noticed that we had a ‘visitor’ in the creek bed—a snapping turtle.
Now this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen them around the area, after we first moved in we actually had one on the porch (that was fun—we had to enter and exit through the garage until it decided to leave).
It looks like this one had decided to move up the creek bed from the flood plains for a while, either looking for water, a place to build its nest (though I have no idea if this snapper is a male or a female) or possibly something to eat.
Even though they are large turtles—they can move fairly quickly when they want to—I wandered over the to fence every so often to see if it was still there, and when I noticed it was gone I went out front to see if I could notice it further up the creek bed and I couldn’t—I assume that it decided to chill under the ‘bridge’ for awhile before moving further up the creek to either the little reservoir pond or Sanborn ‘lake’.
They are actually only combative when they are out of the water–otherwise they just bury themselves in the sediment at the bottom of the lake, river, stream, or wherever they’re at. When they’re out of the water and looking for a nesting site, or just moving between different bodies of water and they feel threatened–that is when they ‘snap’ towards people. While not visible here–they can extended their heads and neck quite far.
Now I’m wondering if the largish turtle I saw a year or so ago on a walk around Boomer Lake wasn’t a snapping turtle making its way back down the hill into the water.
Well, it’s time to try to get back into a picture sharing mood. The weather is slowly starting to cool, so that means hopefully I will be able to do a walk on the weekends (hopefully both mornings). I may also try to do some architecture/building photography as well this fall/winter (something to switch things up a little).
I realized this weekend, I do enjoy photography—it is both calming, and exciting (as one doesn’t know what type of wildlife they’ll be seeing on a walk). As much as I would love to walk in the woods—the ones closest to the house are on private property, and it is still tick season—so currently it’s a no go (but there is always trips in the future to different parks).
So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the soft-shelled turtle. The shells of these turtles are mostly leathery and semi-pliable and this allows them to move quicker than other turtles. I had managed to get a couple of pictures of the soft-shelled turtle earlier this summer, but none of them got all the characteristics of the turtle in one shot—the pointed nose, the smooth shell, and the webbed feet.
I have no idea of this is a male or female soft-shelled turtle, because when I moved slightly closer to get another picture it slid off the log and into the water. Though since it does look like a large turtle—it could very well be a female, as that is one of the main ways of differentiating between the sexes—the female is larger than the male.
As we start heading into the fall and winter months, the turtles are going to be going dormant until late winter/early spring, but hopefully I will still be able to get a few more pictures of various turtles at the lake sunning themselves. I would still like to get a picture of some of the larger red-eared sliders that I know are living up around the lake.
So I’m doing a multiple
photography post to play catch-up for the month. Thursday night got away from
me, and last night I was finally watching Avengers: Endgame.
The winners for Thursday’s photography challenge are some turtles. Since we’re in the dog days of summer, I’m lucky if I can manage one morning walking around Boomer Lake before the temperature and/or the humidity skyrockets for the day. On this particular morning, it was nice and sunny, and the temperature and humidity were still bearable; therefore some turtles were already starting to claim their sunning spots.
When I took this picture, I was focused on the small turtle that was already at the top of the branch. It wasn’t until I got the pictures on the computer, that I realized that another turtle was starting to climb out of the water onto the branch.
I wished I stuck around to get a series of pictures of the second turtle
claiming its portion of the sunning log. I’m willing to be that it was a fairly
large turtle based on how it looked so far coming out of the water.
The winners for Friday’s photography challenge are some ducks and the migrating egret. I’ve noticed that one of the egrets has already landed and residing at Boomer Lake this month—which is probably a good two to three months earlier than what I saw of them last year. These guys stick around Boomer Lake (and the other area lakes) twice a year—early spring and late fall—basically migratory season. Which is funny since parts of Oklahoma actually fall within their breeding range—so who knows, maybe they flew in to fish and then were flying back to the southeastern part of the state.
There were also several other mallards swimming around when I got a picture of the egret standing on a log, patiently waiting for a fish or some other small creature to swim by to grab.
It will be interesting to watch the interactions again this fall between the egrets and the herons–neither really likes to share their hunting grounds.
The winner of today’s photography challenge is the viceroy butterfly. This butterfly is native to North America, and can be found almost throughout the region.
the butterfly looks like a monarch butterfly—it has a strip across the bottom
portion of its wings (which the monarch lacks). Another interesting little fact
is that it had been though to mimic the colors and patterns of monarch to avoid
being eaten by birds—but know it’s know that they’re also unpleasant for birds
So instead of being a case of Batesian mimicry (where a harmless species evolves to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species to deter a common predator), it is actually a case of Müllerian mimicry (where two species come to mimic each other’s warning signals).
Another interesting fact: the caterpillars and pupa resemble bird droppings—so that gives them a little added protection during development. Next spring I may try to keep my eyes peeled for the caterpillars (shouldn’t be that hard—if I’m looking for them).
thing I’ve learned so far over the course of my photography challenge so far—is
to look for the interesting and the unique in the not so obvious places.
So hopefully I’m all caught up on the photography challenge after today and it will be back to a daily posting. Last night the internet was acting up and my Friday post didn’t save as a draft. So we’re trying it again this morning.
So yesterday’s winner of the photography challenge is one of the anaconda snakes that live at the New England Aquarium.
I would recommend that you go to their Facebook page or their main page to learn more about these cool snakes (beyond the little that I’m going to be sharing here). One of the females (and I’m not sure if it was this one or one of the other two)—actually birth to a couple of baby anacondas, even though there are no males in the holding.
So there are two main types of reproduction: sexual and asexual. Sexual reproduction, is reproduction with fertilization; whereas asexual reproduction is reproduction without fertilization. There are actually six to seven different types of asexual reproduction. Though when talking about more complex animals, if they asexually reproduce, it is usually through parthenogenesis.
Pathogenesis, is the process in which an unfertilized egg develops into an new individual. So, the female anaconda had several unfertilized eggs that developed into a couple of new little green anacondas.
According to the aquarium, the two young anacondas haven’t been put out in the display unit yet–it will interesting to see when they do, if one can capture pictures of them on the same day every year and see how they grow.
I find these snakes to be fascinating in terms of both their size and the fact that they thrive in water. While I’m not fond of snakes (living in the southern part of the US, there are quite a few that have nasty bites that can seriously hurt or kill a person), I do enjoy watching them from a distance—or when there is a solid piece of glass between us.
Since I’ve been trying to do my walks at Boomer Lake a little earlier in the day–because let’s face it, summer temperatures in Oklahoma are not fun–especially mid-morning onwards. So, I’ve been trying to get up to Boomer Lake to walk, hopefully no later than say quarter after eight.
So, since I’m there fairly early it has been hit and miss with getting pictures of the turtles. Sometimes they’re out, and sometimes they’re not. This particular morning I managed to catch sight of almost half a dozen of them sharing a log on the other side of the small cove. The only reason why I managed to spot them–the sun was already warming up that part of the lake.
Red-eared sliders, are unable to regulate their own body temperatures–so they need to sit in the sun for a time to warm up. If they get to warm–they slide back into the water to cool off, then back into the sun to warm up again.
Depending on the size of the log or branch, there can be anywhere from one or two turtles upward of half a dozen or more.
One interesting thing about sliders–come fall to winter, you usually stop seeing them out in the wild. This is because they’ve gone into a stage of brumination, which means they become seriously inactive. They slow down all their metabolic pathways, their breathing, and their heart rate to the bare minimum that they need to survive. They can stay like that at the bottom of ponds and shallow lakes, or in hollow logs, or under rocks. This makes sense, since they can’t regulate their own body temperatures and the surrounding environmental temperatures start dropping and instead of trying to migrate or store food in a den somewhere–they just slow everything down and basically chill until late spring.
I wonder how many of them chill on the bottom of Boomer Lake in the winter??
I know, its suppose to be Turtle Tuesday–but I couldn’t decide on a turtle picture to share, so I decided I’d do a group post and make it reptile Tuesday instead.
In terms of age–reptiles are one of the oldest groups of animals on the planet. The taxa group Reptilia include all living reptiles (snakes, crocodiles, alligators, turtles, lizards, and tuatara), and their extinct relatives.
I was lucky to get the picture of this alligator before it decided to retreat back below the waters. Crocodiles and alligators are actually more closely related to birds, then they are to other reptile groups.
There is one reptile that I haven’t seen that many of lately–turtles, and I’m not talking about water turtles–I’m talking about box turtles. I use to see these guys constantly and even helped one or two cross busy intersections (to make sure that they wouldn’t get hit by cars). I have only seen at most two over the past couple of years.
This guy was a large one that I spotted on an evening walk in Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas a few years ago.
The only reptiles that I will admit to avoiding are the ones that can harm me–so mainly the poisonous snakes, and I don’t plan on getting really close to any alligator or crocodiles either.
I’m going to have to see if I’m able to spot any box turtles or lizards this summer–I’ve already spotted the water turtles, and water snakes so I’d like to see if I can spot other reptiles this summer in addition to these.
So today’s photography challenge winner is the very large female turtle that I spotted on my walk yesterday. I think it is a red-ear slider, but it could be a painted turtle–the only thing I’m positive about, is that it isn’t a snapping turtle.
I noticed this turtle towards the end of my walk, and it was heading back towards the water. I’m going to assume that she just laid her eggs and is heading back to the lake.
It can take about two to four months before the eggs hatch–and the turtle could possibly lay another set of eggs in another nest. The area that it picked was perfect–it is away from at least human interference (I was looking down the hill at it, and I’m not going to go playing around in that area), so the only possible dangers are the normal predators that are in the area.
I had been told that there was a very large turtle living in the area, and I think this is probably the one that the fisherman was talking about. I’d wager a guess that it’s probably at least fifteen to twenty years old (mainly due to the size).
Though this could very well be a male turtle, that was just out wandering trying to find a sunny spot to sun itself–I’m still going to go with my first guess it’s a female that was laying it’s first round of eggs for the year.