Tag: travelphotography

Photography Challenge Day 174: Another Fishy Friday Flashback (short post)

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the moray eel and the French grunts that were swimming past it when I took the picture.

Grunts and a moray eel

So the grunts are native to the western Atlantic ocean, and are found in close proximity to coral reefs. They are nocturnal hunters of small crustaceans and mollusks. It probably seems odd to name a fish a grunt—but someone, somewhere listened to them—and I guess they grind their teeth together (I’m assuming after capturing some type of prey), and that is where their name came from, the grunting sounds of them grinding their teeth.

The moray eel is one of my favorites at the aquarium—there is something about them that I find fascinating. Part of it is their body structure—they’re fish—but they lack certain fins (pelvic and pectoral). Though with this one, you can’t see the dorsal fin on the back of its’ head. I also love how in reality—they aren’t yellow or green—they’re actually a drab brown in color. It’s because of the aquarium having a drab background color in the area, the tint of yellow in its body mucus, reflects back as yellow or green (as it is referred to as a green moray eel).

One thing I’d like to do is to visit other aquariums and see if I can spot moray eels within the different areas (since I know that the New England Aquarium has them within the larger central aquarium).

No Comments FishnaturePhotographyZoos/Aquariums

Photography Challenge Day 153: Cooler areas for a hot summer day

So today’s photographs are yet more throwback/flashback winners. I decided that since we’re in the middle of the ”dog days of summer” with triple digit heat with even higher heat indexes I wanted to share some photographs that reminded me of cooler temperatures.

So when thinking of cooler temperatures, what automatically comes to mind? Swimming, being out on the water, but also being underground in caves.

One of the formations in the main cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We went to Carlsbad Caverns last year as part of a quick whirlwind trip through New Mexico. While it was my first time there, I enjoyed it and would love to go back and explore more. There is a lot to see within the main cavern, and I would actually like to go on one of the guided tours within other caves that have entrances via the main cavern. The only reason why I didn’t do one to begin with–I didn’t know that it was going to be a five hour round trip tour.

Besides the caverns, there are numerous hiking trails that one can go on as well. I also enjoy hiking, but wasn’t dressed for it and again we hadn’t planned on doing any-though I’d like to hike a little bit of a trail just to see what type of wild flowers or animals are around. I know there are rattlesnakes, we’ve heard them–luckily we didn’t see them on the trip.

My other favorite place to escape the heat is going to a lake, and not just any lake. I prefer sandy bottom lakes, that you can actually see where you’re walking and if it’s a little rocky that’s fine–they’re at least smooth rocks that you’re walking on. So one destination that I have enjoyed going to over the years has been Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota. This is a large fresh body lake that has actually become one of Minnesota’s latest state parks.

Sunset over Frazer Bay, Lake Vermilion St. Louis County Minnesota

Swimming, kayaking, bird watching, star gazing, and watching the sunsets are things that I have always enjoyed doing when going to Lake Vermilion. I remember kayaking out to an island and watching the bald eagles feed their young. This was the first place where I actually saw a bald eagle in the wild, and we use to see them sit atop of the large pine trees gazing out over the water before launching out to hunt for a meal (either for themselves or their young).

Going to the ocean is another way of getting away from the heat–though you do need to stay in the water, or have a really nice large beach umbrella to stay out of the sun. While I’ve been to the ocean several times (both Atlantic and Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico as well)–I’ve only managed to capture a sunset picture from the Gulf of Mexico, when we went down to South Padre Island years ago.

Sunset over the bay, South Padre Island Texas

What I liked about this sunset picture was actually managing to capture the heron hunting as well. There weren’t any clouds in the sky that day, so there wasn’t any pinks and reds streaking across the sky that I would see when looking at a sunset over Lake Vermilion. It was different, but just as beautiful. Now that I’ve gone back through photographs of different locations–I would like to try to capture more sunsets over water (be it lakes, rivers, or oceans). It’s a nice way of saying it’s been a beautiful day, and tomorrow will be just as nice.

That will be a goal for my travels in 2020–capture at least one sunset picture from one new location. If I travel back to areas I’ve been before (say Boston), then try to go on a harbor cruise and get a picture of the sun setting over the harbor (I do have one of it setting over the river). Also I should try to get at least one new sunrise picture as well in my 2020 travels.

No Comments National ParksnaturePhotographyState Parkstravel

Photography Challenge Day 152 (a day late): Flash Back Friday edition

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.

Green Anaconda at the New England Aquarium

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.

No Comments naturePhotographyreptilestravelZoos/Aquariums

Photography Challenge Day 151 (A day late): Throwback Thursday to old headstones

Well this post is a day late–while I had decided on the topic, I couldn’t quite decide on which exact pictures to share, so I decided I’d look through them again today and decided. So the pictures are all throwbacks to my trip to Boston last year.

Boston is one of my favorite places to visit—it has history, science, and numerous things to do; plus a semi-decent public transportation system. With it being one of the oldest cities on the east coast, one of my favorite things to do is walk the Freedom Trail (of course walking the whole thing depends largely on the weather for that day).

Marking the spot of the Boston Massacre

The Freedom Trail is a two and half mile path through the north end of Boston, that connects sixteen different historical sites and/or monuments. Most of the sites are free, though there are some that require an entrance fee (such as Paul Revere’s house, and one or two of the churches).

I find it fascinating and somewhat calming to walk through the old cemeteries and look at the different headstones that are still somewhat readable after a few hundred years. Some of the headstones you can’t read anything, but you still see some of the stone work that went into the headstones.

The artwork on the tombstone for John Hurd
Some more of the stonework that has survived centuries.

So when walking through Granary Burying Ground, you can see monuments to different historical figures such as:

Paul Revere’s burial site.
Monument to Ben Franklin
Monument to John Hancock

I have other pictures of gravestones (from this graveyard and others) from when I lived in Boston (I would head to the north end almost every other weekend, and I did enjoy wandering through the cemetery and look at the headstones), that I’ll post within other topics as well over the next few weeks.

No Comments Historical SitesHistoryPhotographytravel

Photography Challenge Catch-up: Days 130 through 133

Well today’s photography challenge post is hopefully going to play catch up and starting tomorrow I will be back to doing daily posts. The last few days I just couldn’t decide on a photograph to share, and if I could decide on a photograph—I ended up with writers block and couldn’t figure out what to say with the photograph.

Thursday’s photographs are a #throwback photograph series to my whirlwind trip to London two years ago. I tried to cram a week’s worth of sightseeing into a few days. I managed to see quite a bit, but would love to go back and take a little more time and visit a few more places. So the photograph is one of the many that I took while walking through the Tower of London, and then visiting the Tower Bridge.

Tower of London, London UK

One of the things that I decided not to do while visiting the Tower of London was going up (and down) the stairs in the White Tower. I had decided that with all the walking I’d been doing through the day—I didn’t need to climb 204 stairs. Though I think it would be neat to look out from the top of the White Tower.

Tower Bridge, London UK

Looking back through the photographs has me itching to plan another trip somewhere, though currently I’m not sure where. I have several ideas of places I would like to go, I will just have to try and narrow the list to one for travel and then maybe one or two for networking.

Friday’s photograph is a #fungalfriday photo. This picture is actually quite old—I took it a little over two years ago, but that has been how long since we’ve seen this type of mushroom around the area.

Oyster mushrooms growing on a dead tree.

 This is an oyster mushroom—it’s one of the edible ones that grows on dead and dying trees. We use to have these popping up at least once to twice a year, but then the neighbor’s son moved into their place and sprayed herbicides along the creek bed and that spelled the end to our yearly collection of oyster mushrooms. I loved simmering them and then freezing them—we had quite a bit stored, but then used them in different meals.

I’d like to become better at identifying mushrooms in the wild, that way I know which ones are the edible ones and which ones are the ones that can kill you. Besides liking to eat mushrooms—I think they’re cool objects to photograph as well.

Mallards grooming themselves.

Saturday’s photograph winner is of two (of the many ducks) sitting on a log and grooming themselves. This is a log where if I manage to get up to the lake at dawn, I would usually see a great blue heron or an egret standing and waiting for their breakfast to swim pas them. Though lately since I’ve been getting up there after dawn, I’ve seen either the ducks or at times turtles sunning themselves on the log. I am going to have to try to start getting up earlier to manage to get up to the lake for some sunrise pictures.

Today’s winner of the photography challenge are the two pictures I managed to get of the sun as it was going in and out of the clouds this morning. It almost seemed like I was taking pictures of the moon moving in and out of the clouds—but we’re heading into a new moon phase—so it was the sun that looked so odd this morning.

Some dark moving clouds moving across the sun.

On the walk this morning, I noticed that there were numerous dark clouds rolling through the area—luckily no rain fell. But as the clouds rolled through, they managed to act as a natural blinder for the sun and gave the optical illusion of it pretending to be the moon.

The sun behind dark moving clouds.

With these pictures I’ve managed to catch up on the photography challenge. I’m going to try to take a new picture every day (either with the camera or my phone), that way something new will be posted (instead of picking a random photo out of my weekend work). Whether or not I manage to take a picture every day will depend mainly on the weather (temperature), and my mood—but hopefully the idea of a small walk will help spur the imagination and give me new photography ideas.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographytravel

Photography Challenge day 129: Waterfall Wednesday Edition

So today’s photography winner is a small waterfall that I spotted on a hike in Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas.

Mini Waterfall in the park

We had gone to Devil’s Den State Park a couple of years ago for a mini vacation. I actually managed to hike probably a quarter of the paths within the park. This waterfall was spotted on the Devil’s Den trail, which also had a lot of neat rock formations as well.

Openings in the rocks.

I remember looking at the openings and wishing that I was a rock climber (and that it was allowed in this part of the park). I think it would have been cool to get closer to the openings and get some interior pictures.

It’s been recently shown that spending at least two hours a week outdoors and in nature is a good way of getting a good emotional reset. While I do spend time outdoors–it’s mainly on the weekend. I now realize that I need to find the time to get outdoors (and not just walking to the bus stop or sitting in the backyard at the end of the day) each day so that I can get back on an even keel in terms of how I deal with each day.

I would like to get back to Devil’s Den and hike the trails that I didn’t have time to hike the first time around (fossil flats, finish yellow rock–only did about a quarter of it before turning around, and hike part of a horse trail). I would also like to possibly camp out at Devil’s Den (we stayed in one of the cabins), though it would have to be at a time when all the insects were at an all time low (mosquitoes and ticks in particular).

No Comments naturePhotographyState ParkstravelWaterfalls

Photography Challenge Day 128: Reptile Tuesday

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.

Alligator at the birding center, South Padre Island TX

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.

Box turtle seen on walk at Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas

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.

No Comments natureNature PreservesPhotographyreptilesState Parkstravel

Photography Challenge Day 123: Throwback Thursday Edition no. 2

So today’s photographs are throwback photographs to prior vacations or weekend getaways, again.

Waves on the beach in Maine

When I was out in Boston, I managed to make it up to Maine once or twice to visit with distant family (third or fourth cousins)–once was over Thanksgiving, and then I managed to get up there more or less for a full weekend.

The beaches were more rocky around parts of Portland–actually had lunch on a refitted ship–that was an interesting experience. I enjoyed the brief times I made it up to Maine, and would love to go back and make it up to Acadia National Park around Bar Harbor for hiking and camping (just need to find someone else to go with).

Nautilus seen in bay on South Padre Island, TX

It’s been almost six years since we took a trip down to South Padre Island (with a brief stop in San Antonio).

One of the unique things that I liked was trying to take pictures of life under the water. I have had very few chances of using my digital camera underwater–mainly because I have yet to find a snorkel mask that will fit over my glasses comfortably. I know that I could get contact lens for swimming–but I rub my eyes way to often, and they’re a no go because of that.

The nautilus was actually in a group with some other hermit crabs and other aquatic life when we went to watch the sun set over the bay.

Nautilus and other shell dwelling creatures.

I’d like to get back to South Padre Island and try either kayaking in the bay or using my standup paddle board. That is another thing I’ve realized–I’d like to be close to some body of water (lake, river, pond) that I can maybe take my paddle board out on every so often.

No Comments naturePhotographytravel

Photography Challenge Day 101: Waterfall Wednesday.

So today’s pictures are for #waterfallwednesday. Also I was feeling slightly nostalgic and wanted to look back on my first big solo trip that I took in 2009. One of the places that I visited within Hilo, was the Wailuku River State Park, which had a nice waterfall.

Rainbow Falls

I actually went to the this particular state park twice–once on my own, and then as part of a group tour.

The waterfall was nice–not gushing over, but it had been awhile since they had any rain, so things were drying up a little. I would have loved to see the rainbow that forms in the morning–but my hotel wasn’t close to the falls, and it wasn’t open that early anyway.

Another waterfall

I wished that I had seen these waterfalls when the water was flowing nice and fast over them–to where you would be barely able to make out the caves below them. Even though they were “small” waterfalls–at least there was enough water flowing over them to be waterfalls.

One thing I would like to do–travel and see how many different pictures of different waterfalls I could capture. I’ve gotten several from different state parks in northern Minnesota. They’re a thing of beauty when they’re flowing and a thing of wonder when there isn’t much water flowing and you can see under the falls.

No Comments naturePhotographyState ParksWaterfalls

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