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Monday, 20 May 2019

Capybara (The World's Biggest Rodent)

A Capybara Sits On The Grass.

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address:  2000 Meadowvale Road
Date: May 2019
Website: www.torontozoo.com

  Some people may be surprised to learn that the world's biggest rodent is not a rat found in the New York subway system.  The title belongs to South America's capybara which weighs up to 65 kg, stands almost 2 feet tall and can grow up to 4 feet long.  We have come across capybara at several zoos, but had a real close encounter at the Toronto Zoo.


  Diego the capybara lives at the Toronto Zoo.  The zoo just recently started some Wild Encounter programs.  We were able to learn more about him as well as feed him a treat of some fresh lettuce.  Capybara are herbivores and eat only plants.  In fact the name capybara translates roughly to "master of the grasses".  All rodents have teeth that constantly grow and must gnaw on things to wear the teeth down.  As we fed the lettuce we had to make sure not to get near those teeth.

Capybara's Webbed Feet.

  Capybara are semi-aquatic and spend most of their time in the water.  They have webbed feet which helps make them great swimmers.  Their nostrils and eyes are high on their face so they can breathe and see above the water, but if they have to, a capybara can stay under water for up to 5 minutes.

The Behind Of A Capybara.

  Capybara have a high rounded back.  Diego looks kind of like a coconut with legs in the photo above.

Capybara And A Waterfall.

  The other capybara at the Toronto Zoo can be found near the waterfall in the Americas section.  Diego prefers to keep by himself and lives in the Kid's Zoo not that far from his relative the guinea pig.

Capybara eating in the water.

  The keepers said that Diego was about 6 years old.   We think that the photo above may have been taken while Diego, his brother and parents enjoyed a family dinner together.

High Park Capybara Family.

  In Toronto there are also capybara at the High Park Zoo.  Two of the High Park capybara are famous for escaping.  One of them wasn't found for almost a month before being returned to the zoo.  In the photos and video above you can see the runaways with their babies.  Baby capybara are called pups.

A Capybara During Feeding Time.

  Feeding the capybara was fun and Diego was friends with whoever had a piece of lettuce.  Once all the lettuce was gone he went off to the other side of his enclosure to be by himself again.  It was great to see and learn about this amazing rodent up close.   Next time we are in New York City though, we would still like the rats to keep to themselves.


Click here to take a virtual tour and see our collection of Toronto Zoo animal photos.

Map of Our World
Toronto Zoo (Kids Zoo) , High Park Zoo

Post # 251

Friday, 10 May 2019

Westfield Heritage Museum (1775 to 1825)

A Stone Commemorates the Opening of Westfeild Village

Location: Rockton, Ontario, Canada
Address: 1049 Kirkwall Road
Date: May 2019
Website:  westfieldheritage.ca

  In October 1960 two Brantford area high school teachers started Westfield Village in order to educate children and adults on how life was lived in 19th century Ontario.  They started the process of moving heritage buildings to a thirty acre property that they had purchased.  Today that property has over 40 buildings and is known as Westfield Heritage Museum.  During Doors Open Hamilton we visted the museum and learned a thing or two about how life used to be.

Hill House From 1911 and Westbrook House from 1810

    We started our tour in the area representing the years 1775 up to 1825.  The first houses we came across were Hill House (pictured above on the right) and Westbrook House (white house in distance).  Hill House was built in 1911 on the Six Nations Reserve in Brantford but was built in a similar style to homes built in the early 1800s.  Westbrook House came from Brant County and was a much fancier home.  It originally overlooked the "Battle of Malcolm's Mills" in 1814 which was the last land battle on Canadian soil.

Westfield Village Oldest Log Chapel in Ontario.

  Across the road from Hill House stood a log chapel.  This was built in 1814 and is believed to be the oldest log chapel in all of Ontario.

Queen's Rangers' Cabin At Westfield Heritage Museum.
Bamberger House Built 1810 At Westfeild Heritage Museum.

  Two other buildings in this area are the Queen's Rangers' cabin built in 1792 and the Bamberger House (the one with four windows on the left) built in 1810.  Bamberger House was the oldest home in Hamilton before being moved to Westfield.  The Queen's Ranger's cabin is one of the oldest log cabins in Ontario.  If you want old homes made of logs, then Westfield is your place.

A Man Sits Outside ATrading Post At Westfiled Heritage Museum.

  The most interesting building in this section of Westfield was the 19th Century Trading Post.  As we walked by, the man out front said "Before you head into the future let me tell you a few things about life in the early 1800s."  We followed him into the building.

Inside The Trading Post.

  Now some of what the man told us is true and some of it is just tall tales.  All of it was entertaining.  First he explained different levels of poor.  The expression "dirt poor" is someone who could not afford to have wooden floors put in their house so the ground level was just dirt.  The building we were in had wooden floors.  He also stated that horses were also kept on the ground floor so they would stand in the dirt and the family would live upstairs.  The expression "mad as a hatter" came from the hat makers who used mercury to make hats out of animal skins like beavers.  The hatmaker and sometimes the frequent hat wearer would suffer from mercury posioning and often become delirious and live a shortened life from prolonged exposure.  A beaver hat in the early 1800s could cost up to $500 dollars.  Only the very well-to-do could afford such a luxury.  A building such as the trading post itself would cost only $100 dollars.  Madness!

Furs dry on a fence at Westfiled Village.

  Another level of poor is "piss poor".  In order to tan the hides of animals, urine was used in the process.  A very poor family could fill a bucket and take it to the Trading Post in exchange for some money.  Unfortunately, some people didn't even have a pot to piss in. The man also went on to explain the origin of a threshold in the home and "throwing the baby out with the bath water". 
  We left the Trading Post and headed deeper into the Westfield Heritage Village.  We were headed towards the 1900s. All the tales we had just heard are passed on through the years much like the information about the old homes at Westfield.  Thankfully someone is around to preserve them.

Map of Our World
Westfield Heritage Museum

Post # 250

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Courtship Display of the American Woodcock

Sun Setting At The Leslie Spit Toronto

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address: 1 Lesle Street
Date: April 2019
Website:  www.torontobirding.ca

   Spring is in the air.  As the sun is setting, the courtship dance of the American woodcock is about to begin.  We joined an enthusiastic group of birders on Toronto's Leslie Spit to see this strange little bird in action.

A Taxidermied American Woodcock

   The American woodcock is a weird looking creature that has a round body, short legs, and a long bill.  Woodcocks also have their eyes up high on the sides of their head.  This lets them see 360 degrees.  They use their long bills to pull worms from the soil.  They can actually open and close just the tip of their beak to grab a worm underground as if using a small set of tweezers.  In Ontario, breeding woodcocks arrive in mid-April and courtships can last until the end of May.

Power Plant On Unwin Avenue Toronto

  Our group had come to the Spit just before sunset specifically to view the courtship display.  After some discussion from our group leader explaining what we would be seeing, we drove to a bend in Unwin Avenue and pulled over to the edge of the road.  Woodcocks like to breed in pastures, small forest openings or along a roadside.  A male will mate with as many females as it can and has no involvement in the nesting or caring for the chicks.  It is however, up to the females to decide if they are impressed with a male woodcock's performance and agree to mate.

Let the dance begin!

  It wasn't long after we parked that the woodcocks began to perform.  There were about three males competing in the area surrounding us.  Tonight they would have to attract a female by making their presence known over the occasional traffic noise and a group of about 15 noisy humans.  You can hear the sounds the woodcocks make if you listen carefully to the video below.


   First the woodcock makes what is called a "Peent" sound.  It will do this several times as it turns in place.  Next it will suddenly fly up into the air and do several large circular passes.  Its primary wing feathers create a twittering sound as the wings flap through the air.  After making the larger circles it heads back down to the ground much like a stunt plane at an air show.  It returns in small tight spirals to land almost exactly where it started from.  If no female approaches then it starts the whole process over again.  A male woodcock will do this courtship display every night during the breeding season.

CN Tower As Viewed From Leslie Spit

    As darkness took over, the performances continued.  We decided that standing on a poorly lit street staring up at the sky while traffic came around a sharp bend in the road behind us was not where we wanted to be.  We wished the woodcocks the best of luck and headed home.  Once again, the beauty and complexity of nature had amazed us.

Map of Our World
Tommy Thompson Park (Baselands)

Post # 249

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Natural Plasticity Toronto

Natural Plasticity Giant Starbucks Cup Toronto

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address: 55 St. Clair Avenue West
Date: April 2019
Website:  www.naturalplasticity.com

    Toronto has a big plastic problem.  Actually, the whole world does.  Right now on St. Clair West there are larger than life plastic replicas of water bottles and disposable cups.  These almost 30 foot tall replicas have been touring the world to make people think before they use single-use plastics.

Natural Plasticity Giant Water Bottle Toronto

    Natural Plasticity's Bottle Project has placed a giant water bottle and straw at 2 St Clair West and a giant cup with a green straw at 55 St. Clair West.  The green straw and cup look like they would hold a summer Starbuck's drink.

Natural Plasticity Giant Starbucks Cup Toronto
A Starbucks Cup On The Street.

   We were already aware of how much plastic pollution is created in our city every day.  You don't have to go far to find discarded garbage in the streets.  There is still hope.  A lot of places in the city are using paper straws which is great.  We also bring our own reusable cups for coffee and thermoses for water when we are out and about.  Brita filtered water for when we are at home.

Natural Plasticity Giant Starbucks Cup Toronto

    The Bottle Project will be on display until May 1st.  Take a look at the big inflatable plastic and then see how you can reduce the amount of waste that you create.  Think before you drink.

A Pile Of Garbage In Toronto.


Map of Our World
Natural Plasticity Toronto

Post # 248

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Sun Voyager

The Sun Voyager

Location: Reykjavik, Iceland
Address: Keilugrandi Sculpture & Shore Walk
Date: September 2015
Website:  visitreykjavik.is

  A curved steel boat points out to the water in Reykjavik's harbour.  It is a beautiful piece of art that reflects the light from the sun.  It is known as Solfar, or the Sun Voyager.

The Award Winning Sun Voyager

  The Sun Voyager was the winning artwork in a competition to celebrate Rekjavik's 200th anniversary.  The sculpture was created by Icelander Jon Gunnar Arnason.  Sadly, Gunnar died of leukemia before the sculpture was placed at the water's edge.

Keilugrandi Sculpture & Shore Walk

  There is a walking path that follows the water around Reykjavik.  There is lots of room to add more sculptures in the future.  Sun Voyager was the main attraction when we visited.

Reykjavik Raven.

  Behind Sun Voyager stood some temporary artwork of a raven.  Further in the distance beyond that stands Hallgrimskirkja.  Hallgrimskirkja is a church which took 41 years to build.  It was finally consecrated in 1986 which is the same year that Sun Voyager won the art competition.

The Sun Voyager Looks Out To Sea

Sun Voyager looks out across the water at Mount Esja.  The steel looks like people rowing with their oars curved down into the water, striving forward towards new adventures.

Map of Our World
The Sun Voyager

Post # 247

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Big City Nights (Da Funk)

Big City Nights Bus Stop

Location: New York, New York, USA
Address: 139 2nd Ave #1
Date: January 2019
Website:  daftpunk.com

  Daft Punk caught the world's attention with their single Da Funk back in 1996.  It was a purely instrumental song with a driving beat and funky synthesizers.  The music video directed by Spike Jonze brought even more attention.  The video was a short film called Big City Nights. In the video, Da Funk played in the background behind the dialogue.

Orpheum Theatre where Stomp has played since 1994.

  We were watching the music video for Da Funk and after the dog missed his bus (more on the video's plot later) we noticed something.   Down the street we could see a sign for the musical percussion peformance group STOMP.  In New York, STOMP has been performing at the Orpheum Theatre since 1994.  They are still going strong after more than 10,000 performances.

Deutsches Dispensary

  We did some research and found that a large part of the music video was filmed in New York's East Village on 2nd Avenue near the Ottendorfer Library.  The building was built in 1883 and one part is the library and another part is the Deutsches Dispensary (pictured above).  The building does not make an appearance in the video but its bus stop does as do some of the surrounding buildings.

  The video follows Charles the dog as he hobbles through the street on crutches.  All the while his boom box with a broken volume knob is blasting Da Funk.  Charles is not a real dog but an actor in a costume.  Daft Punk also like to hide behind costumes and usually appear in public dressed as robots.  Charles tries to take a survey, buys a two dollar book called Big City Nights and eventually runs into an old neighbour.

East Village Meat Market

  Charles the dog runs into Beatrice inside a variety store and they walk out into the street.  Beatrice invites Charles to "come with" for dinner downtown.  Charles agrees.  They wait for a bus outside of the East Village Meat Market.  The gold door on the left looks about the same but the white door (pictured above) used to also be gold back in the 90s. 

East Village Ukranian Restaurant

  We know this is the right place as across the road is a restaurant.  You can see the words Ukranian Restaurant reflected in the window behind Charles.

A Bus Travels Along 2nd Ave. Just Like In Daft Punk's Da Funk Video.

  A bus pulls up and Beatrice gets on.  Charles wants to follow her but sees a sign stating "No Radios. No Smoking. No Spitting".  Now he must choose between his music and a girl.   The bus closes its doors and drives away.  Charles hobbles down the street alone.

Map of Our World
Post # 246

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Ripley's Aquarium Of Canada

Ripley's Aquarium Of Canada

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address:  288 Bremner Blvd
Date: March 2019
Website: www.ripleyaquariums.com

Click here to take a virtual tour and see our collection of Ripley's Aquarium animal photos.

   Ripley's Aquarium of Canada is a relatively new attraction in downtown Toronto.  It opened in 2013 and we visited one time before becoming members last year.  Our membership is about to end so we thought that now would be a good time to dive in and take a closer look at what we have seen.  From sharks to goldfish, we did our best to see them all, but some species have still managed to elude us.

Ripley's Aquarium (Alewives)
Ripley's Aquarium (Ray Bay)
Ripley's Aquarium (Blue Ring Angelfish)
Ripley's Aquarium (Anemone Wall)
Ripley's Aquarium (Pacific Sea Nettles)
Ripley's Aquarium (Sand Tiger Shark)
Ripley's Aquarium (Goldfish)
Ripley's Aquarium (Life Support Systems)

The aquarium is divided into several sections.  You can see fish from Canada's oceans and lakes.  There is a colourful tank filled with different urchins and anemones. The Rainbow Reef is filled with hundreds of fascinating tropical fish.

A Green Sea Turtle in Ripley's Aquarium Dangerous Lagoon.

A conveyor belt takes you into the shark filled Dangerous Lagoon.  As sharks swim around and above you, you may even spot one of the green sea turtles that call this tank home.

A baby seahorse at Ripley's Aquarium.

The Gallery has poisonous fish, seahorses, cuttlefish and more.

A Shrunken Head At Ripley's Curious Creatures.

Curious Creatures has unusual things like a peacock mantis shrimp, flashlight fish and even an actual shrunken head from Robert Ripley's travels.  This is more like the Ripley of Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Ray Bay is filled with stingrays which look like they are smiling as they swim up the tank walls.  Planet Jellies has jellyfish in a tank with ever changing back lighting.

A Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp Gives A Manicure At Ripley's Aquarium.

If a hands on experience is what you want you can touch the rays that swim to the top of Ray Bay.  There are also touch tanks with horseshoe crabs and bamboo sharks.  You may also like a shrimp manicure from a scarlet cleaner shrimp.

Life Support Systems at Ripley's Aquarium Canada

The Life Support Systems area is where you get a glimpse behind the scenes as over 5.2 million litres of water are filtered and pumped throughout the aquarium.  Fortunately, 95% of the water gets recycled. 

Example Of Ripley's Aquarium Rainbow Reef SignageStripey (Sign)Example Of Ripley's Aquarium Signage

One complaint we have with the aquarium is their use of video signs.  These signs slowly change from animal to animal.  So in a tank like the Rainbow Reef with hundreds of fish and many different species it can take a long time to match a name to a fish or a fish to a name.  Don't worry, we posted as many of the screens as we could on our special photo page.

We will write some more aquarium specific blogs in the future, but for now you can browse the best photos from our visits. 

Click here to take a virtual tour and see our collection of Ripley's Aquarium animal photos.


Map of Our World
Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Post # 245