Monthly Archives: February 2012

Shoebill at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

The shoebill: Some birds just look weird

I had a home inspection up in Escondido today, and when I’m in that area I always try to make it by the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park for a little while. Safari Park comprises about 1,800 acres, eighteen times larger than the San Diego Zoo. That makes it feasible to have some animals that require more room to roam than what the Zoo can provide.

The mountains are bigger….

The lakes are bigger….

The gardens are bigger….

Some of the birds are bigger:

Shoebill at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Shoebill at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

That’s a shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), named for its massive shoe-like bill:

Shoebill at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

I don’t have any shoes like that, but it does remind me of those wooden shoes that they wear in Holland.

The shoebill gets up to 59 inches tall, weighs up to 15 pounds, and has a wing span up to 100 inches. It is indigenous to tropical swamps in east Africa.

Known to ancient Egyptians, the shoebill was not classified until the 19th century when the scientific community got some live birds. Originally it was classified with the storks but recent DNA studies indicate that it is more closely related to pelicans. Some ornithologists consider the shoebill to be the missing link between pelicans and storks.

Habitat destruction and hunting have resulted in the shoebill being listed as a vulnerable species.

There are two shoebills at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. Check out the look that this one is giving me:

Shoebill at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Belinda SpillmanThis post is dedicated to Belinda Spillman, a real estate agent with Cornerstone Homes/Metro Brokers Marina Square in Aurora, Colorado. I have known Belinda for a couple of years through significant interaction on the Internet at a real estate professional networking site. I highly recommend her for anyone needing real estate services in the Denver, Colorado, area.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

The ocellated turkey: Not your average Thanksgiving turkey!

One of the advantages of having an annual pass to the San Diego Zoo is that if I miss seeing something today, I can go again tomorrow, or the next day, or next week. In fact, if I’m in the neighborhood, I can run in real quick just to see if the animal I haven’t seen is out and about. If it’s not, no big deal.

One of the birds that I have been wanting to see based on its picture plate is the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata). This bird is not your average Thanksgiving turkey:

Ocellated turkey at the San Diego Zoo

The ocellated turkey is indigenous to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, as well as the northern parts of Belize and Guatemala. Females weigh up to eight pounds with males weighing up to fifteen pounds. The feathers are quite irridescent, as better seen in this picture:

Ocellated turkey at the San Diego Zoo

Females lay up to 15 eggs in a nest on the ground, and incubation is about 28 days. Although the feathers are very beautiful, the face is one that only a mother could love:

Ocellated turkey at the San Diego Zoo

This post is dedicated to Peg Barcelo-Jackson, a home stager and owner of Fluff My House Home Staging in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have known Peg for a couple of years via the Internet and can highly recommend her for anyone needing home staging or decorating services in the Edmonton area.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Victoria crowned pigeons at the San Diego Zoo

Picture of the momentAlthough most people go to the San Diego Zoo to see the big wildlife — giant pandas, elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, polar bears, zebras — I find it much more relaxing to walk through the many aviaries and visit the other bird exhibits. Maybe that’s because I really don’t enjoy the big crowds that gather around the big animals.

One of the birds that I always enjoy seeing — and taking pictures of — is the Victoria crowned pigeon (Goura victoria):

Victoria crowned pigeon at the San Diego Zoo

Victoria crowned pigeon at the San Diego Zoo

Victoria crowned pigeon at the San Diego Zoo

Victoria crowned pigeon at the San Diego Zoo

Victoria crowned pigeon at the San Diego Zoo

I love the red eyes.

The Victoria crowned pigeon is the largest of the pigeon species, weighing an average of 5¼ pounds. It is named in honor of Queen Victoria and lives in the lowlands and swamp forests of New Guinea and the surrounding islands. It is listed as a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and being hunted for meat and its beautiful plumes.

This post is dedicated to Steve Loynd, a real estate agent in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Today happens to be Steve’s birthday, but you’ll have to ask him how old he is. I have known Steve via the Internet for about three years and can highly recommend him for anyone needing real estate services in the Lincoln, New Hampshire, area.

Find other posts in my Picture of the Moment series by clicking on the logo at the upper right.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

An inherent desire to help others

Alpha Phi OmegaThis post is dedicated to the men and women of Xi Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, National Co-ed Service Fraternity, at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Throughout my life I have had this inherent desire to help other people. It started at Henrietta M. King High School in Kingsville, Texas, when I joined Key Club, a service organization that is in many high schools throughout the nation.

It continued at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, when I pledged Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity. Texas A&M was founded as a military college in 1876. Women were admitted for the first time in 1964, and social fraternities finally found their way to campus in the mid-1970s. Alpha Phi Omega was one of the first Greek letter organizations allowed on campus; Xi Delta chapter was founded at Texas A&M in 1962.

Alpha Phi OmegaAlpha Phi Omega introduced me to Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Red Cross, American Heart Association, blood drives, assisted care facilities, animal shelters, and so much more. I became aware of the world and the people who were suffering, hungry, homeless…. Xi Delta chapter at Texas A&M awarded me its Distinguished Service Key in 1977, its highest honor.

I remained involved with Alpha Phi Omega for fifteen years after college but I also broadened my experiences by becoming directly involved with Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Red Cross, and American Heart Association.

When I moved to San Diego from College Station, Texas, in 1993, helping other people had to take a back seat to helping myself get established in a new locale. Although I haven’t spent a lot of time helping others since 1993, I do make it a point to donate money to the organizations that I was involved with in the past. They need money just as much as they need volunteers.

Xi Delta is celebrating fifty years of service to its members, the Texas A&M campus, the Bryan/College Station community, and the United States of America.

Here’s to another fifty years of service…. In the Southeastern Conference! Gig ’em, Aggies!

Texas A&M University

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Golden eagle at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park

Picture of the momentI have been a member of the San Diego Zoological Society for many years, mostly because the cost of an annual membership is just twice that of a one-day visit. Just one visit a year, then, to the Zoo and to the Safari Park pays for the membership.

More important than that, though, is that I can go anytime I want and spend just a couple of hours, not feeling it necessary to try to see everything and do everything to get my money’s worth.

I have found that by going at different times of the day at different times of the year, I can see things that often are missed on just a one-day visit, specifically the various Ambassadors. Ambassadors are not what you might think; they are not human. They are various animals that the Zoological Society uses for educational purposes at schools and various other events. At any specific visit, you don’t know whether or not you’ll see an Ambassador, or which Ambassador it will be.

At various times I have seen echidnas, alpacas, cheetahs, and mccaws. At a recent visit I was privileged to see a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) Ambassador and got some great pictures which I share with you today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This golden eagle was rescued from the wild where it had been injured. Although it has been rehabilitated, it has also been imprinted. Imprinting happens when people feed a wild animal with the result being that the wild animal no longer understands that it needs to hunt for food. Instead, it sees a human and believes that the human will give it food. That, of course, makes it dangerous for an imprinted bird to be out flying about where it might see humans.

Interesting facts about golden eagles:

  • The highest density of nesting golden eagles is in Alameda County, California, where Oakland is located.
  • Golden eagle territories can be as large as sixty square miles.
  • They are monogamous, usually mate for life, build huge nests, and lay one to four eggs, although only one or two birds survive.
  • Its wing span in the wild can be up to 7.7 feet, up to 9.2 feet in captivity. Captive birds also usually weigh more, up to 27 pounds.
  • The female is the larger of the sexes.
  • The only known predators of golden eagle nests are wolverines and brown bears.
  • The golden eagle is the most common national animal in the world.
  • It is the eighth most depicted bird on postage stamps throughout the world.

Scot #4198b - Golden Eagle

Find other posts in my Picture of the Moment series by clicking on the logo at the upper right.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

How to give an elephant a pedicure

Picture of the momentElephants in the wild can travel up to fifty miles in a day, but usually cover about ten miles. That fact alone means it is difficult for elephants in captivity — whether a sanctuary, Zoo, or circus — to live a healthy life.

One of the main health problems with captive elephants is their feet. Elephants in the wild naturally wear down the keratin on their feet as they walk around all day foraging for food. In captivity, their nails can grow too big, causing pain and problems walking. To solve that problem, Zoos give elephants pedicures on a weekly basis. Of course, in order to give an elephant a pedicure, you have to have an elephant! How about this one at the San Diego Zoo:

Big African elephant at the San Diego Zoo

Once you have the elephant, you have to train it so that it will cooperate with you when you want to give it a pedicure. Elephants are extremely intelligent animals, so it’s really not hard to train them. The easy way to get them to do what you want them to do is to reward them with food:

Elephant being rewarded with food for good behavior

After you have him trained, the rest is really easy. First, you get the elephant to stand in some buckets of water to soften his nails:

Elephant standing in water in preparation for a pedicure

While he’s standing there, you continue to reward him for his good behavior. See the hay and carrots?

Also while he’s standing there, you give him a bath:

Elephant getting a bath

Elephant getting a bath

Elephants are big, getting to over 11 feet tall and up to 24,000 pounds, so by the time you finishing giving him a bath, his feet are all softened up and ready for the pedicurist.

Now you get the elephant to stick his feet up on the bar so you can wash them. You want a completely clean elephant and certainly don’t want to be working on stinky feet.

Elephant getting his foot washed

Elephant getting his foot washed

Elephant getting his foot washed

All this time, while one is washing the elephant, it helps if someone else continues to feed it, so you could make this a family event.

Once the elephant and his feet are all clean….

Clean elephant foot ready for pedicure

Clean elephant foot ready for pedicure

….you go to work clipping his toenails and cleaning all the dead stuff off his feet:

Elephant getting a pedicure at the San Diego Zoo

Elephant getting a pedicure at the San Diego Zoo

Elephant getting a pedicure at the San Diego Zoo

Elephant getting a pedicure at the San Diego Zoo

Remember to keep feeding the elephant because it wants food in return for letting you give it a pedicure:

Elephant trunk

Once you’re all done, be sure to let the elephant show off his pedicure:

Elephant getting a pedicure at the San Diego Zoo

There you have it. Real easy. Hope your elephant likes it!

All pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D in the Conrad Prebys Elephant Care Center at the San Diego Zoo.

Find other posts in my Picture of the Moment series by clicking on the logo at the upper right.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Young African elephants at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari park

Picture of the momentThe San Diego Zoological Society — operators of the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park — has been extremely successful in breeding African elephants (Loxodonta africana), a vulnerable species in its native African habitat.

Every time there is a little one born — and l’m not sure a 200-pound baby elephant is little, but I guess everything is relative since big daddies weigh over 10,000 pounds — I can’t resist heading to the Zoo or Safari Park to see if I can get a good picture. It’s hit or miss.

Last September, when Inhlonipho was born, I headed to the Zoo and got not only a picture of him, but some great pictures of several younger elephants. In the first picture below, Inhlonipho is the smallest elephant at the lower left corner. He was four days old and weight about 250 pounds.

Young African elephants at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Mommy is at the left side of the picture, and daddy, named Mabhulane (Mabu for short), is at the right side. The four young elephants, all progeny of Mabu, were born in 2011, 2010, and 2009. Here are two more pictures of the younger elephants:

Young African elephants at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Young African elephants at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

I believe the herd of African elephants at Safari park currently number 17. One of the female elephants, Umoya, died in November 2011 after an altercation with another elephant. Umoya had two children by Mabu, a female born in 2007 and a male born in 2010.

Other interesting things you might not know about African elephants:

  • African elephants are the largest living land animals.
  • Males weigh up to 13,300 pounds.
  • Elephants eventually lose all their teeth, resulting in starvation being a common cause of death.
  • Both male and female African elephants have tusks.
  • Gestation period is almost two years. Mamma mia!
  • They are highly intelligent and considered one of the world’s most intelligent species.
  • Elephant behaviors include grief, learning, mimicry, play, compassion, cooperation, memory, self-awareness, humor, cooperation, compassion, and possibly language.

Find other posts in my Picture of the Moment series by clicking on the logo at the upper right.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Santa Fe #3751 along the Pacific Ocean

San Diego Then & Now — #1: Today is the birthday of Ansel Adams

San Diego Then & Now

#1
Today is the birthday of Ansel Adams

I’m hoping that all the photographers reading this know who Ansel Adams is. If not, see Wikipedia.

When I was about 12 and living with my wise old grandmother in Kingsville, Texas, she had a big book on her coffee table (do people still have coffee tables?). It was titled “These We Inherit: The Parklands of America,” and it was by Ansel Adams. I thought it contained the most beautiful pictures in the world.

Adams probably is most famous for his beautiful landscape pictures and I thought that I would post my most beautiful landscape picture today in his honor. Guess what? I have about five landscape pictures, none of them particularly good! Scratch that idea.

I thought about what type of photography I would like to be known for. I couldn’t answer that question. What do I like to take pictures of the most? Ah-ha! Maybe we’re getting somewhere. My favorite photography subject is trains but the trains and the tracks are not as accessible here in San Diego as they were back in my native Texas.

Then it came to me….

A couple of years ago, Liz Flint, a real estate agent in Tomball, Texas (northwest of Houston), sent me a train calendar. As I was looking through the calendar, I saw this:

Santa Fe #3751 along the Pacific Ocean

I recognized that spot because I’ve driven over that bridge many times, and walked that beach many more times. It’s my favorite beach in San Diego — Torrey Pines State Beach. Here it is on a Google map:

Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach

The railroad tracks are still used, so shortly after receiving the calendar, I went out one Saturday determined to recreate the scene, albeit without a smoking steam locomotive. I got several pictures during the course of several hours; trains don’t run frequently on Saturday. The best picture I got was with Amtrak’s Surfliner:

Amtrak under the Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach near San Diego, California

There are about 50 years between the two pictures. If you look at the trees on the top of the hill in the background, you can see that the silhouette is still very much the same:

Torrey pines

The trees on the top of the hills are Torrey pines. San Diego is one of only two places in the world where the Torrey pine grows. The other is an island off the Southern California coast.

Pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Rodrigues fruit bats, new residents at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park

Picture of the momentOne of the nice things about going to the Zoo or SeaWorld each week is that you can watch new exhibits being built, old exhibits being renovated, and new animals coming to visit, sometimes even staying permanently.

The San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, 18 times bigger than the main Zoo and separated from it by 45 miles, started building a bat exhibit early last year. It was completed when I went by on Christmas Day 2011, and I counted 11 bats occupying their new digs. Here are some of them:

Bats at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Bat at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Bat at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

As I stood there watching them — and watching bats hang is kind of like watching paint dry — one decided to wake up, yawn, stretch a wing, and stick his tongue out at me:

Bat at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

You can see his nose, mouth, and little tongue in the right center of the picture.

These are the Rodrigues fruit bat (Pteropus rodricensis), also known as Rodrigues flying fox; flying fox is a name common to many of the fruit bats. It is native to Rodrigues, a small island in the Indian Ocean that belongs to Mauritius. Due to its small native habitat, as well as habitat loss, it is listed as a critically endangered species. Currently there are only a few hundred in the wild.

These bats can weigh up to 13 ounces with a wing span of just under three feet. Rodrigues fruit bats are very sociable and live in large groups known in the past to have more than five hundred individuals. Males like to gather themselves a harem of up to ten females.

There are successful captive breeding programs and colonies at several zoos under the aegis of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Hopefully those at the Safari Park will like their new home enough to start their own colony.

Find other posts in my Picture of the Moment series by clicking on the logo at the upper right.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

One of our newer residents of the San Diego Zoo: The fennec fox

Picture of the momentI go to the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, or SeaWorld at least once a week. Sometimes I make all three, except when work gets in the way.

There is a “Children’s Zoo” at the San Diego Zoo, and I had always skipped it since I didn’t have any children and I really didn’t think that children were on exhibit. A couple of years ago I wandered into the Children’s Zoo just to look around. What a pleasant surprise! I’m not really sure why they call it the Children’s Zoo since it has some animals that are not seen in other parts of the Zoo.

One of our newer residents of the San Diego Zoo is the fennec fox (Vulpes zerda), and it happens to be located in the Children’s Zoo.

Fennec fox at the San Diego Zoo

Fennec fox at the San Diego Zoo

Fennec fox at the San Diego Zoo

My, what big ears he has!

Things of interest about the fennec fox:

    • Indigenous to the Sahara Desert in North Africa.
    • Its hearing is so sensitive (explains the big ears!) that it can hear its prey moving underground, a useful trait I suppose if you live in the Sahara Desert.
    • Its fur is valued by the native peoples of North Africa.
    • It is an exotic pet in some parts of the world.
    • It’s conservation status is listed as a species of “least concern.”
    • Not much is known of their social behaviour and basic ecology in the wild. I mean, would you want to spend all your time in the Sahara Desert studying them?
    • They are able to live without a source of water, getting all they need from the food they eat. That explains the Sahara Desert.
    • It is the national animal of Algeria.
    • Interestingly, although it is not considered domesticated, it can be kept in settings similar to those of your cat or dog.
    • As with all exotic pets, owning one varies by city, county, and/or state.
    • It is said to be the smallest species of Canid in the world, but I want to question that since the canids include domestic dogs, as well as foxes, wolves, jackals, and coyotes. The fennec fox weighs from 1½ to 3½ pounds, is 9-16 inches long, and stands about 8 inches tall. Aren’t there some dogs that small?

Find other posts in my Picture of the Moment series by clicking on the logo at the upper right.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat