Category: Zoos/Aquariums

Playing catch-up on the photography challenge. Days 80 to 83.

Well today’s post is actually going to be several posts combined into one to play catch-up on the photography challenge. Since the weather has been rainy, cloudy, and then slightly sunny—our internet/wifi has been the same—down, down, up, down, down, oh you can have access for about three minutes and then down again over the past few days.


This unfortunately is why I didn’t get pictures posted after Tuesday (yes, I could have tried to find the time at work to post—but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that) night. Therefore today’s post is going to be a mix of different things. So let’s get started on the photography challenge catch-up.

The winner for day 80 (Wednesday) is the hummingbird at the back feeder. We usually try to get our hummingbird feeder out in mid-April to feed the hummingbirds as they migrate through—though the ruby-throated hummingbird does summer in Oklahoma. It looks like either it’s a female ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder, or a young male that hasn’t molted into the bright red throat.

Ruby-throated hummingbird has made an appearance in the backyard.

What are some cool facts about the ruby-throated hummingbird?

This is basically the only hummingbird that is seen in the eastern United States; as it is the only breeding hummingbird east of the Great Plains.

It can beat its wings approximately 53 times a second (that means its beating its wings almost 3200 times a minute).

Due to having extremely short legs, it shuffles along its perch (it doesn’t walk or hop). But it can still scratch its head & neck if needed.

It’s either a female or a very young male–I don’t see the red throat.

It belongs to the order Apodiformes (along with swifts), and the name means “without feet”—mainly because in flight it doesn’t look to have feet.

While they mainly feed at flowers (or feeders that have sugar water), they will occasionally eat small insects as well.

Depending on the number of broods, the female may start building a new nest while still feeding the nestlings in the first nest (as the nest will stretch as the young grow).

They can migrate a long distance (for example from Canada down to Costa Rica), and often fly over the Gulf of Mexico during migration (either way).

It seems to be thirsty today.

As much as I’d love to get a picture of one trying to shuffle along a branch–they usually perch extremely high (sometimes I can get a picture of it sitting on the power lines), but I doubt I’d be able to catch it close to its nest where it’d most likely be shuffling along a branch.

References:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/overview

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/ruby-throated-hummingbird

The winners for day 81 (Thursday) are the squirrels hanging from the birdfeeders in the backyard.

Someone doesn’t want to hunt for seeds…

So we had to buy a new birdfeeder after the squirrels had chewed a hole in the lid of the one I’d bought a few years earlier from the national wildlife foundation. This is a birdfeeder we have hanging in front of the window in the living room, where the cats can lay on the back of the loveseat and watch the birds, and anyone sitting in the recliner across the room can also watch the birds.

Since we live next to a small creek, and not that far from some wooded areas, we have quite a few squirrels in the neighborhood. These little critters also like to help themselves to the birdseed and bird suets in the backyard, so we try to get the birdfeeders that claim to be “squirrel proof”.

They’re doing an upside down “hug” to stay on the feeder.

Well as you can tell from the picture—the squirrels have figured out how to get around the “squirrel proof” byline and get to the birdseed. This particular feeder is suppose to be weight sensitive—to where if something heavy is on it, the bars slide down and the animal can’t get to the bird seed.

A young raccoon had broken the lid earlier this spring—I’d found the feeder on the ground and the lid pulled off, and since then the squirrels have figured out that if they “hug” the feeder they can distribute their weight and still get to the bird seed.

So yesterday would have been day 82 of the photography challenge. This is the day that I usually try to also share some of the fish pictures I’ve taken over the years–making it a FishyFriday post as well. So in addition to that–it’s also a FlashbackFriday post to one of my trips to the New England Aquarium.

I’ve realized that one thing I should start doing when I go to aquariums/zoos/museums and am taking pictures—I should also try to get pictures of the plaques that state what animals are in the exhibit (or time period if I’m in a museum).  It is quite difficult to google “black and white stripped fish new England aquarium” and actually get a good hit on what that particular fish actually is.

Thankfully, I have managed to identify all three of the fish (though it took quite a bit of time to be able to do so).

A French grunt swimming in the large ocean tank at the New England Aquarium

The yellow-striped fish is actually a French grunt fish (Haemulon flavolineatum). This fish species is actually native to western Atlantic ocean and can be found basically from South Carolina down into the Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean and then downwards towards northern coast of Brazil.

They feed primarily on small crustaceans and mollusks that they hunt for during the night. They stay in close proximity to coral reefs (probably to be able to dart to safety to escape predators) while hunting.

Their name comes from the noise they make when they grind their teeth together.

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemulon_flavolineatum; https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/haemulon-flavolineatum/

A fish that is known by many names: pufferfish, balloonfish, and blowfish

The second fish is the balloonfish. This fish is also known as the pufferfish, blowfish, and bubblefish (just to name a few of the other names).

The habitat of the balloonfish, are the warm shallow coastal waters; more specifically coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. They stay hidden for the most part during the day—though I’m sure they’ve given plenty of scuba divers and snorkelers a shock if they’re accidentally awoken in their hidey-holes.

They are nocturnal feeders, going after clams, snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and other mollusks that dwell on the sea floor.

If something comes upon them (and they think they could be eaten), balloonfish will puff up to almost three times their normal size; this puffing also allows for special scales to stick out, and they then look like a spiked football, which most predators will then leave alone. The bubblefish will then float away, and may wait awhile before releasing the air (or water) to shrink back down to its normal size.

References: https://www.scienceandthesea.org/program/201008/balloon-fish

Honeycomb cowfish swimming in the tank at the aquarium.

The final fish is the honeycomb cowfish. This fish gets its name from the hexagonal scales that cover most of its body.  This is one of the ways that the fish is able to blend in with the coral reefs it calls home, though they are also found in seagrass beds as well.

This fish is found in the western Atlantic (east coast of the United States), the Caribbean, and then down towards Brazil. While it isn’t found in the Gulf of Mexico, it can be found around Florida (mainly on the Atlantic side and the Keys).

They feed on shrimp, algae, and sponges during the day.  Another way that they protect themselves from predators (aside from the hexagonal scale like armor) is the ability to change their color to blend in with their surrounds as well. Once they sense a threat—they can change their colors, and then remain stationary for quite some time.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeycomb_cowfish

Now we’re finally up to today’s photography challenge winner, and it’s one of the hundred or so I took last year on our small vacation down to New Mexico. One of the places that we went to was Carlsbad Cavern National Park.

One of the many formations one can see in the grand cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

. While we only spent a short time in the caves, I managed to get over a hundred pictures of the caves. Because no matter which way you turned, there was a new angle to take a picture, different lighting, and so forth.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the caves, showing the “draperies” of the caves. As one of the signs stated: “Draperies form where water containing dissolved limestone runs down the ceiling leaving traces of calcite. Over hundreds of years, calcite crystals accumulate. When water stops flowing, draperies stop growing.”

The proper name for the draperies is actually “speleothems”. Since we only spent time in a small part of the national park (the main caves and then a small drive through one of the canyons), I’d like to go back at some point—but maybe actually signup for a tour of the inner caves—which is basically a five hour round trip in and out (which is one of the reasons why I didn’t do it last time). I know that I need to be in a little bit better physical (and possibly even mental) state than what I currently am in.

So I’ve managed to catch up on the photography challenge, and hopefully the wifi connection will behave and I won’t have to many other multiple post days. Though while in a slight enforced ban on electronics–I was able to get some other things done (there will be several posts coming over the next few weeks on this)–so that was one small bright spot. Until the next picture–remember to try to find the beauty in the everyday.

No Comments bird watchingNational ParksnaturePhotographytravelZoos/Aquariums

Three for one: Flashback Friday, random holiday (a day late), and photography challenge day 68: World Penguin Day (a day late)

Yesterday marks world Penguin Day. It’s a day to celebrate some of the unique members of the avian world. These birds are all found in the southern hemisphere–from temperate, warm waters down to the icy cold waters of the Antarctic.

If you are unable to see these majestic birds in their natural habitats (and I realize that is one thing I would love to be able to do–is see a penguin in the wild), the next best place is either a zoo or an aquarium.

The New England Aquarium actually has three species of penguins living there: the rockhopper, the little blue, and the African penguin.

Rockhopper Penguins at the New England Aquarium

The rockhopper penguin is one of the smaller species of penguin. They are found in the southern hemisphere, with one subspecies (the northern rockhopper) living in the cool temperate climates on islands in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The other two subspecies are found in the more southern oceans around Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand.

Their diet consists of krill, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, crayfish, squid, and fish; though they eat mostly krill and crustaceans more than fish and squid.

Their predators are all at sea (for adults) and consist of seals (leopard & fur), killer whales, and blue sharks. The eggs and young are eaten by numerous different bird species including different gulls and giant petrels (to name a few).

Both males and females look similar, so one actually has to do a DNA test to determine the gender of the penguin in captivity. Their key characteristics that differentiate them from other penguins include their red eyes, orange been, pink webbed feet, and the yellow spiky feathers on their heads. Another distinguishing characteristics is that they don’t slide on their bellies (since their habitat is rocky areas—it makes sense not to to slide downhill on their stomach), they hop from one place to another—hence the name rockhopper penguin.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockhopper_penguin

Little Blue Penguins at the New England Aquarium

The little blue penguin is the smallest species of penguin—it only gets to be about a foot tall. It lives on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand.

Their diet consists of fish, squids, and crustaceans—such as arrow squids, anchovy, and red cod. The female little blue matures at about two years of age, while the male matures at about three years of age. Their nests are close to the ocean, both parents share the duties of egg incubation and rearing the chicks (which usually fledge within seven to eight weeks after hatching).

The New England Aquarium, is the only aquarium outside of Australia and New Zealand that houses a colony of little blue penguins.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_penguin

African Penguins at the New England Aquarium

The other names for the African penguin include: the jackass penguin and the black-footed penguin. This penguin is confined to the south-western African waters, and is listed as endangered.

Since the penguin is listed as endangered—numerous breeding populations are kept at different zoos and aquariums worldwide. One reason for their numbers decline is the harsh environment in which they breed—if the birds get overheated while sitting on the eggs—they will abandon the nest and eggs won’t survive. The young face threats of predators and the heat of the sun.

Their diet is similar to other penguins and includes squid and other small crustaceans. These penguins breed in colonies, and the pairs will return to the same site each year.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_penguin

Watching the penguins at the aquarium is always something I enjoy doing–mainly because you never know what they’re going to be doing. They might sit around, they may go for a swim, or wander around. They’ve always been a favorite bird of mine, and I’d love to either see the other species in the wild or at other zoos and aquariums around the country or the world.

No Comments naturePhotographyRandom Celebration DaysZoos/Aquariums

Fishy Friday: The lionfish, photography challenge day 54

Today’s #fishyfriday post is the lionfish, brought to you by one of my many visits to the New England Aquarium.

Lionfish swimming in the tank at the New England Aquarium

Lionfish are native fish to the Indo-Pacific oceans, but are now an invasive marine species along parts of the US coast—specifically along the southeast coast, the Gulf of Mexico and then down to the Caribbean. It’s speculated that humans no longer wanting their lionfish in their saltwater aquariums dumped them into the closest saltwater they could find. Since there are no native of the lionfish found in the Atlantic and Gulf waters, they have managed to establish themselves.

Marine scientists are studying the lionfish in the Atlantic and Gulf areas to help determine the exact impact they will have on the native plants and animals, since it is almost impossible to get rid of introduced marine species after a prolong period of time (i.e. after they manage to establish themselves).

What are some other interesting facts about the lionfish?

They have a large appetite, where their stomachs can expand to up to 30x their normal size after eating.

They reproduce year round—meaning a mature female could release approximately 2 million eggs a year.

They have spines that once they puncture someone (or something) with them, the pressure of the puncture allows for toxin to be released from the venom gland on along their backbone.

If one removes the spines of the lionfish—they are then safe to consume (as they are venomous and not poisonous).

There is no anti-toxin for a lionfish sting—you would need to remove the spine & soak the wound in hot water (~114F), and the pain hopefully will go away within a few days.

Research has been done to show that the toxin of the lionfish seems to target nerve cells that relay pain signals. The scientists now want to look at the toxin at a molecular level so they can determine how the native predators of lionfish are able to eat them and not suffer any side effects, in addition to trying to figure out an antidote for the toxin.

One thing I do know–I’m also going to pay more attention to the signs about what fish are in what exhibit–I have a lot of cool pictures, but I have no idea what species of fish they are–but I’m going to work on identifying them. Will have to see what I manage for next week’s edition of Fishy Friday.

References:

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/lionfish.html
https://www.livescience.com/64533-lionfish.html

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National Zoo Lover Day–A day late.

The mighty king of the jungle: the lion.

Yesterday was Zoo Lover Day—and I wish I could have spent the day at a zoo watching the animals instead of being inside working. But alas, that didn’t happen this year (maybe next year). I’ve realized that I’ve only been to probably five zoos over the years since I was a kid. I’ve been to a couple of these zoos yearly growing up, as they were part of our vacation—but since then I’ve only been to one new zoo. Which is why I have on my 101-goal list—visit at least one new zoo and aquarium at some point over the next 1001 days.

Zebra and Giraffe

What are a few zoo facts?

Zoos have been around since the 1700s. With the Vienna zoo being the oldest existing zoo—it’s been open since 1765. The first public zoo in the US was opened in 1874—Central Park Zoo.

There are 350 zoos in the US alone.

~175 million people visit a zoo each year. Over 3.2 million people visit the San Diego Zoo each year & over 9.8 million people visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom each year.

Giant Anteater

Out of the 350 zoos in the United States, I’ve been to the following zoos: Oklahoma City Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, Como Park Zoo (in St Paul MN), Henry Vilas Zoo (Madison WI), and the Franklin Park Zoo (Boston MA). All pictures that are in the post today came from my one trip to the Franklin Park Zoo when I was living in Boston quite a few years ago.

Andean Condor

I would love to again see one in the wild—but going through the forests of the Andes to try to find an elusive scavenger that is endangered—I’ll just have to be happy trying to get a good picture of it in zoos. Though it might be a bonus if I ever do make it to South America and travel through the rainforests.

Kookaburra

I would love to see one in the wild—but I don’t think that I’d be traveling in the western part of Australia (unless I did some type of group tour). While Australia is on my list of places I want to visit–I’m currently planning on staying on the more populated side of the island.

While I would love to see most of the animals in their natural habitat (at a very safe distance mind you), I understand that they’re in zoos due to human behavior. We (humans) have yet to figure out how to live in harmony with the rest of the planet; we take and destroy without thinking of the long term consequences of our actions. Most of these animals now have to be in zoos to survive, if not they would be extinct due again to human nature.

One goal/bucket list item may be to see how many other zoos in the US I can visit over the years–I’ve been to five, and that means that there are at least 345 more zoos that I should try to visit.

No Comments PhotographyRandom Celebration DaysZoos/Aquariums

Fishy Friday: An edition from the New England Aquarium. Photography Challenge Day 47: The bonnet-head shark

Today’s Fishy Friday photo is brought to you by the bonnet-head shark, which is the smallest member of the hammerhead genus. At first I thought I was just seeing a young hammerhead shark, but then realized (after looking at different information plaques) that it was actually a smaller member of the hammerhead family.

The bonnet-head shark is native to the waters off the coasts of North America, and can be found as far south as Ecuador.

Bonnet-head shark swimming in the large tank.

What are some cool facts about sharks in general?

They are fish that are characterized by having a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits on the side of their heads, and their pectoral fins aren’t fused to their heads.

They can see colors and have very good night vision.

Sharks have been around at least 455 million years.

The two largest fish belong to the shark family: whale sharks (can weigh up to 40 tons) and basking sharks (can grow 32 feet & weigh over 5 tons).

Bonnet head shark from “below”

Some interesting facts about the bonnet-head shark:

This is the only shark species known to be omnivorous (they eat sea grass along with crustaceans).

If they quit swimming they’d sink to ocean floor.

The females can reproduce via asexual reproduction (parthenogenesis).

Usually the female gives birth to eight to twelve baby sharks. The survival rate of the young depends on their size and what predators are in the area.

They forage during the night, and during the day they’re swimming in the deeper waters.

They’re usually in small groups; though they can get together into larger groups ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand.

They’re not aggressive towards humans (mainly due to their small size and shy nature).

Now I need to go back through some older pictures to see if I’ve managed to get pictures of any other sharks that were also in the tank (and within other exhibits). Another goal is to go to other aquariums and see what sharks they are housing. I’d love to be able to see a whale shark in the wild.

References:

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rspb.2018.1583

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/12-shark-facts-may-surprise-you

http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/bonnethead_shark

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