Tag Archives: san diego zoo

Happy birthday to me!

I livew in my own little world

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you were wondering what happened to me today since I didn’t post anything, well, I was celebrating my last birthday before the sun sets on my life. Yep. Sixty is just 365 days away. I turn 59 at 11:58 p.m. today. As I write this, that is only 34 minutes away. Of course, technicalities aside, I have been celebrating all day. Who needs to be exact in life?

My intent was to go to the San Diego Zoo from 9:00-10:30 this morning, then over to SeaWorld from 11:00-12:30, then to teach my chess class at an exclusive rich private school, then to On The Border for Taco Tuesday and a margarita!

I didn’t make it to SeaWorld because I was delayed at the Zoo due to a fire in a car parked just three cars from me. Here’s the smoke as seen from inside the Zoo, when I thought to myself, “That looks like where I parked my car.”

Car fire at the San Diego Zoo on March 11, 2014

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The police and firefighters had several rows blocked off, including, of course, the row I was parked in, so I stood and watched the fire for 43 minutes. By the time the fire was out and we were allowed to go to our cars, there was no way to get to SeaWorld to make the trip worthwhile.

It’s alright, though, because for my birthday, SeaWorld sent me a buy-one-get-one-free “Dine With Shamu” dinner, so Jim and I will be dining with Shamu real soon. We dined with Shamu a couple of years ago and it was awesome. You get real up close and personal! Here’s Shamu from our last Dine With Shamu dinner:

Dining with Shamu at SeaWorld

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

After eating lunch, I went to teach chess for the first time at Francis Parker school, a rich private exclusive school.  3:30-4:30 class.  A bell rings at 4:00 and my eight students jumped up and went screaming out of the room!

Huh?

Turns out that they get a 10-minute break every hour. What do they do? The school—remember, a rich private exclusive school—feeds them junk food. The kids came back with Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, cheese & peanut butter crackers, etc.

These are K-6 students, and this rich private exclusive school is serving them junk food?

Confused, I am.

I did, of course, make it to On The Border for Taco Tuesday and margaritas:

Taco Tuesday at On The Border in El Cajon, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Margaritas at On The Border in El Cajon, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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….right there by mama’s side!

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As much as I love going to SeaWorld, the Zoo, Safari Park, botanical gardens, and aquariums, there is a certain sadness connected to those places because many of the plants and animals they have there are endangered in the wild, usually because of human hunting or development.

Thus there’s always a certain king of joy when one sees plants and animals in their natural habitats.

Such was the case recently when I was way out in the boondocks where I saw many barrel cactus growing in the wild, specifically the fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni). Other common names include Arizona barrel cactus, candy barrel cactus, and Southwestern barrel cactus. It looks like these beauties:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That second one looks like it is growing out of solid rock!

Tradition says that the barrel cactus is a source of water for people lost in the desert, and there are records of Native Americans using it for that purpose. However, the water within the plant contains oxalic acid, which can cause diarrhea on an empty stomach. Great! If I’m lost in the desert without water, it’s highly likely that I probably don’t have any food, either!

Barrel cactus (Echinocactus sp. and Ferocactus sp.) are sometimes called “compass cactus” because they are great exhibitors of phototropism–growing towards the light–as shown by this golden barrel cactus:

Golden Barrel Cactus in Balboa Park, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Look at the shadow from the rock and you can see that it is, indeed, facing the sun. Here in the United States, most of the sun comes from the south, so the barrel cactus commonly faces south. Ergo, “compass cactus.”

Phototropism is exhibited in houseplants, too, as they usually grow towards the light—smile if that makes you think of Poltergeist, “Come towards the light Carol Anne.” Unfortunately, phototropism can cause house plants to look rather ungainly, which is why my wise old grandmother always rotated her houseplants, to give both sides the opportunity to get some of the light.

As with most cactus, the barrel cactus needles are quite dangerous. In my home state of Texas, we called them “horse cripplers” because a horse accidentally stepping on one, even a rather small one, could cripple it.

Additionally, a barrel cactus puncture wound is considered a dirty wound. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, lots of antibiotics may be needed, as well as several months for the wound to heal properly.

Barrel cactus can get quite large and tall. The golden barrel cactus in the picture above is one of the largest I had ever seen. That one, and several others, are located in the Desert Garden in Balboa Park here in San Diego.

However, my trip to the boondocks in East San Diego County provided me the opportunity to see some fishhook barrel cactus that were as tall as me (6’3″), like this one:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My favorite one, though, was this four-feet-tall gal with her three little ones clinging to her side:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Even plant babies know that the best place to get love and food is right there by mama’s side!

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Get up high enough and you can see ‘em!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The African Lions are very popular at the Zoo and at Safari Park. There are two at the Zoo, and they usually are visible because their playpen is not that big. At Safari Park, it’s a different story. They probably have a few acres to run around in, so actually seeing them is hit or miss.

However, I found out recently that if you get up high enough, you can see ‘em!

I went on the Balloon Safari:

Balloon Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Balloon Safari holds about thirty people and takes you up into the wild blue yonder, about 400 feet up. From that high, I could see my hometown of Kingsville, Texas. Well, maybe not that far, but you can see a lot, such as these two female lions doing what all cats like to do: sleep!

Female African Lions at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is out near Escondido, and it gets extremely hot out there in the summer time, often up in the triple digits. That’s triple digits Fahrenheit for my Canadian friends.

Consequently, now is the best time to go to this beautiful 1,800-acre park comprising over 2,600 animals representing more than 300 species, as well as 3,500 plant species. It’s also very hilly in some areas, so wear comfortable shoes.

Remember, if you’re coming to San Diego, give me a call! I often can play docent for a day—Zoo, Safari Park, SeaWorld, Scenic 59-mile Drive, etc. And if you fly into San Diego, sit on the left side of the plane; the view of downtown San Diego as you’re landing is awesome!

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Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Best Holiday Lighting award for 2013

video logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This year’s Best Holiday Lighting award, something I just made up, goes to the San Diego Zoo with their Jungle Bells, and the Balboa Park Railroad, which is directly across from the Zoo entrance.

Couple them together and there was no other competition.

Even separately, there was no other competition.

Jungle Bells continues through January 4, so you still have time to get to the Zoo, even if you’re flying from somewhere on the other side of the world!

I chopped about 15 minutes of video down into a mere 2:50 and added some music. Enjoy!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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California Least Tern

Which is the weed?

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My wise old grandmotherMy wise old grandmother,
a Master Gardener
before there was such a designation,
always told me that a weed
is any plant
that is growing
where you don’t want it to grow.

Okay then.

Picture 1, weed or not?Weedy rose

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Picture 2, weeds or not?Not weeds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The first, a yellow rose, grows in my cactus garden. I cannot get rid of it. I have tried cutting it down, chopping it down, drowning it, withholding water, digging it out. It keeps coming back. It is a weed because it grows where I don’t want it to grow.

The second picture shows weeds that are not weeds because they grow where people want them to grow. Who are these people?

Oh, I’m so confused….

Weeds…. Not weeds…. Weeds…. Not weeds….

The weeds that are not weeds surround a runway at the San Diego International Airport.
Hmmm.
Great picture for those looking out the window while their plane is landing

 “Wow, honey, look at all the weeds.
Why doesn’t someone mow them down or something?”

Well, the weeds that are not weeds are a nesting site for a rare colony of California Least Terns.

California Least Tern

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1973, there were only about 300 nesting pairs of California Least Terns in all of California. Today, thanks to projects like this one run by the San Diego Zoo and the County Regional Airport Authority, there are over 6,000 nesting pairs in California, still not enough to ensure their survival because there are only thirty colony nesting sites in the State.

Birds lay their eggs directly on the sand/gravel surface. The warmth of the sun and sand apparently helps the birds develop within the egg. Areas like this near the airport are critical because the birds don’t have to compete with beach-goers, the planes chase away most predatory raptors, and the airport fence keeps out dogs, foxes, and other four-legged hunters.

Look at the second picture and you can see a little fence in the bottom foreground. That fence is a whopping ten inches high and defines the actual nesting site within the airport fence. During nesting season you can see eggs laying on the surface, and parents closely guarding them.

Their wintering location remains unknown, which I thought was interesting, but biologists suspect that they winter along the Pacific Coast in South America.

I intend on going back to this site during breeding season (April to mid-June) to see if I can get some pictures of parents and eggs, maybe even some little chicks.

For more about the California Least Tern, see the Wikipedia page.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Bornean Sun Bear at the San Diego Zoo

What’s all the hubbub about?

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Our Thanksgiving tradition here is to spend the day at the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, or SeaWorld.

Yesterday we did the Zoo and found this Bornean Sun Bear whiling away his time, wondering what all the hubbub was about:

Bornean Sun Bear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Halls of History—Tony Silva and hyacinth macaws

Halls of History

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

On this day in 1996, one of the world’s foremost experts on exotic birds was sentenced to 82 months in prison, a $100,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service during a three-year supervised release program after his prison term. His name? Tony Silva.

Sure, famous people have run afoul (pun intended) of the law before but Silva’s case shocked the international community of academic experts, conservationists, zoologists, and others interested in exotic birds because Silva was well-known and respected as a benevolent bird lover.

His crime? Smuggling more than 100 hyacinth macaws, valued at almost $1.4 million, as well as hundreds of other exotic birds. Hyacinth macaws are extremely rare, having a wild population numbering between only 2,000 and 5,000, and during smuggling operations, many of the birds die.

If you have never seen a hyacinth macaw, you’ve come to the right blog:

Hyacinth mccaw

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Hyacinth mccaw

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Silva began breeding birds as a young boy. By his early 20s, he had written hundreds of articles and two books on rare parrots and had been named curator of Loro Park, a wildlife sanctuary in the Canary Islands.

U.S. District Court Judge Elaine Bucklo was outraged at the inhumane treatment the birds had received at the hands of the smugglers. She handed down a uniquely harsh sentence, admonishing Silva: “The real victims of these crimes were the birds themselves and our children and future generations who may never have the opportunity to see any of these rare birds.”

By the way, if it wasn’t for the San Diego Zoo, I probably would never have seen a hyacinth macaw. The one pictured is a San Diego Zoo ambassador, meaning that it gets to live out its life in the comfort of the Zoo while visiting schools, conventions, and other events to introduce people to hyacinth macaws and educate them about smuggling and conservation. The one pictured was rescued from a smuggling operation. Unfortunately, most smuggled wildlife (that survives) cannot be returned to the wild for various reasons. If they are returned to the wrong territory, they might be killed by rivals. If they have been imprinted by humans, they might be dependent on humans and not able to hunt in the wild. Thus, many smuggled wildlife are given to Zoos, Aquariums, and Sanctuaries where they are taken care of and provided with a good life while making children squeal with delight (and adults like me smile) when we get to interact with them.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Mylar—Not in this century or the next

My wise old grandmother

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My wise old grandmother was a nature lover before tree huggers hit the scene. She was also a conservationist before it was fashionable to be a conservationist. I remember her constant nagging about being kind to wildlife, enjoying the outdoors, conserving our natural resources….. On and on and on.

I didn’t pay much attention when I was living under her roof, but when I set out on my own, it was amazing just how much her teachings influenced what I did and even with whom I hung.

That’s why I’m a big fan of places like the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Have they made mistakes in the past? Sure. We all have. But without Zoos and Aquariums, 99% of the people would never get to see, and appreciate, a giraffe, an elephant, a whale, a dolphin, a tiger or lion…. There would also be many species that now would be extinct without the breeding services that zoos and aquariums offer. The California Condor comes immediately to mind, as does the Northern White Rhinoceros.

Whenever I’m out and about, I always try to visit Zoos and Aquariums to show my support, and I have an annual pass to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego. Along with their breeding and release programs, zoos and aquariums provide rescue services. The number of seals and sea lions rescued each year by SeaWorld is amazing. One could argue that if the mom is going to abandon her pup, there must be a good reason. Maybe there is, but I’ll go with SeaWorld on that one—rescue, rehabilitate, and release.

Without the programs of the Zoo and SeaWorld, I never would have had the privilege of seeing a Bald Eagle, a Golden Eagle, a Milky Eagle Owl, or an Orca Whale.

Bald eagle at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Golden eagle Ambassador at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Milky Eagle Owl

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Dining with Shamu at SeaWorld

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In all my travels, I have never seen those four species outside of a Zoo or Aquarium. Of course, I know they exist in the wild, and I had an appreciation for them without seeing them because of how my wise old grandmother raised me. I don’t have to see something to know it, to understand it, to understand why it’s disappearing. Many people do, though. Every time I go to the Zoo or SeaWorld, I hear at least one person, often many many more, say in awe, “I had no idea they were so beautiful” or “I had no idea they were endangered because of us.” Those people, I hope, go home with a greater understanding of this world we live on and how we need to share it with the plants and animals around us.

As an example, recently I was up in Orange County traipsing around when I found the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

20612 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, California

Location map

View Larger Map

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is responsible for animals (mostly pinnipeds) stranded on beaches along the Orange County coast, extending north to Seal Beach and south to San Onofre. The majority of the pinnipeds rescued are severely malnourished, suffer from dehydration, and may have respiratory infections. They also treat animals that are affected by drift net entanglement, fishing lines and hooks, human inflicted injuries, shark bites, parasites, and various diseases.

The most common pinnipeds to Southern California are Northern Elephant Seals, Pacific Harbor Seals, and California Sea Lions. Occasionally, they treat Northern Fur Seals, and they are the only temporary holding facility for small whales and dolphins between Santa Barbara and San Diego.

California sea lion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

California sea lion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Invariably when I visit the Zoo, SeaWorld, or, in this case, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, I learn something new. For example, here is what I learned during my short visit to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center:

Mylar Bouquet Wall of Shame

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Mylar Bouquet Wall of Shame

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have always loved Mylar balloons, but no more.

They are off my LIKE  list and onto my NOT-IN-THIS-CENTURY-OR-THE-NEXT list.

I hope you will join me in my quest to celebrate special occasions with something other than Mylar balloons. A good meal, flowers, and toys come to mind. Maybe even just some quality time spent with those you love and are celebrating with.

Sunflower and clouds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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Peacock at the Los Angeles Arboretum

Pounding the pavement

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is a fairly large flock of peafowl that reside at the San Diego Zoo.

They are free to come and go as they please but if you lived at the San Diego Zoo, would you leave?

It’s great for we onlookers because they make the Zoo their home in every way, as proven by mommy and her two little ones in the video below.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

And some of my favorite San Diego Zoo peafowl pictures throughout the years:

Peacock at the Los Angeles Arboretum

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the Los Angeles Arboretum

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock in full display at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
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Outstanding in a field

Are you outstanding in YOUR field?

Picture of the Moment

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Well, are you?

If not, get busy!

Outstanding in a field

Mallard at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos