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Showing posts with label Animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Animals. Show all posts

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Uluru

Uluru Ayers Rock in the Centre of Australia
 
 Location: Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia
Address: 3 Yulara Drive
Date: May 2012
Website: parksaustralia.gov.au
 
  Uluru is located right in the red centre of Australia.  The giant sandstone rock is a sacred spot for the aboriginal people of the region.  Uluru is also known as Ayers Rock when it was named after Sir Henry Ayers who was the Chief Secretary of South Australia.  We prefer the original name.  During our Australian trip we spent a couple of days and nights exploring the area around Uluru.

Kata Tjuta Uluru

   We stayed at a place called Emu Walk Apartments.  In the distance we could see Uluru and another important group of rock formations called Kata Tjuta.

Kata Tjuta

  Kata Tjuta is made up of about 36 domed rock formations that jut out of the earth. We took a tour which gave us the opportunity to see some of these formations up close.

One Of Kata Tjuta's Valleys
  
   We walked into one of the valleys that is formed between the domes.  You can see how the sandstone rock is shaped by rainwater running down its walls.  While the mass of rock was impressive we had hoped to see some of the desert's little creatures on our walk.  We would have to wait until we returned to our apartment.
 
Crested Pigeon

  As we entered the property a few crested pigeons ran across the walkway.  These pigeons seemed to prefer running around to get out of our way rather than take flight.

Spider In Uluru Australia

    As we walked through the apartments, a spider was spinning a web right at face level.  We are glad we noticed it in time.  We snapped a photo in case a doctor needed to see it later and carefully passed by making sure we didn't get tangled in the web.  Australia is full of deadly insects and spiders.  We are not the best at identification so we just generally avoid everything that crawls or slithers.  We believe this is an orbweaver spider which, while its bite might be painful, is thankfully not deadly.  If anyone reading this knows otherwise please post in the comments.
 
Caterpillar In Uluru Australia
 
   Outside on the ground we found another fuzzy critter.  Australia is known for having processionary caterpillars that follow each other in long lines across the desert.  This caterpillar was all alone so we don't know if later it would join up with a group for a game of follow the leader.

Uluru Camel Tour Camels Sit On Ground

  The next morning we had our own version of follow the leader.  We had signed up for a sunrise camel tour.  The tour started in the dark so that we could be out on the trail when the sun finally started to rise.

Sunrise In Uluru Australia

   When the sun did rise there was a beautiful orange glow that grew from beyond the horizon.

Wild Camel On Hill Uluru

  We noticed a large animal walking along the top ridge of a hill.  It turned out to be another camel.  This camel wasn't an escapee from a camel tour, it was a feral camel.  Dromedary (single humped) camels were brought to Australia's desert for transportation back in the19th century.  Today, close to a million wild camels roam Australia.

Wild Camel Near Uluru Australia

  We also saw other wild camels walking beside the road when we travelled to Kata Tjuta.

Camel Rides Uluru Australia.

  The camels on our tour we not so wild.  They followed each other slowly and steadily.  Everyone was riding two people per camel. 

Uluru Camel Tours

  Our camel had a bit of an itchy head and took any opportunity to rub against the camel in front of us.

Camel From Uluru Camel Tours

   Our camel was named Chester.  As the guides called him it is pronounced "Chestah!"  It is quite high up sitting on top of a camel. When they sit down they fold their legs underneath them.  This means the riders are tilted way forward as the front legs fold under and then levelled out again as the back legs fold.  The process is the same for when the camel stands up.  Chester did a good job and we remained in our saddles the entire time.

Uluru Sunset

  After an early morning of camel riding, we had plans for a late night too.  We headed to Uluru to watch the sunset.

Sunset BBQ Near Uluru.

  There were some tables set up so we could enjoy a meal and some drinks while the sun went down.  We hate to admit it, but the kangaroo was tasty. After dinner we would look up at the sky and see the stars in the reverse of how we are used to seeing them in the Northern Hemisphere.  

Desert Mouse Near Uluru.

  During dinner we had a few friends scurrying under the table looking for scraps.  Uluru is known for having the cute Spinifex Hopping Mouse.  We are quite sure our visitors were just regular mice.

Uluru From Ayers Rock Airport.

   Our time in Uluru came to an end and we caught one last glimpse of the giant rock formation as our plane started down the runway.  We had seen some creatures big and small and even more reasons why Australia is such an unusual and special place.


Map of Our World
Uluru Camel Tours
Emu Walk Apartments , Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Post # 299

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Winter in Algonquin

 Spruce Bog Trail In Winter.

Location: Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada
Address: Spruce Bog Trail
Date: Feb 2019
Website: www.algonquinpark.on.ca

 While Algonquin Park is known for moose and bears and wolves, in the winter it is all about the little guys.  We visited the Ontario provincial park with a goal to try and see one little critter who is quite active during the winter months.  We were on the trail of the American Pine Marten.

 Chickadee At Algonquin Park in Winter.

  We started our search on the Spruce Bog Trail as there had been reports of marten spotted here. A chickadee welcomed us as we started the trail. Things looked promising.

 Animal Tracks in Algonquin Park in Winter.

  We came across some small tracks in the snow.  Things looked even more promising.  We are not the best at identifying tracks, but we believe we have marten tracks in the photo above.

Grey Jay in Algonquin Park.

    Next we were greeted by one of the guardians of the forest. A grey jay flew to a nearby branch to watch us on our hike. "Can you show us where the pine marten are hiding?" we asked. The grey jay flew from branch to branch in front of us leading the way. After a short time he flew off. We didn't come across any marten, but we always enjoy a visit from a curious jay all fluffed up for winter.   

A Snow Fly Walking In Winter Algonquin Park.

  As we were scanning the snow looking for marten tracks we noticed something unexpected walking across the snow.  It was a snow fly.  We never expected to see insects during the winter months, but that is when the adult snow flies live.  They have glycerol inside them to prevent their bodies from freezing in the cold weather.

Pine Marten Fur in Algonquin Park.

  When we returned to the parking lot after our hike, we learned that we had just missed a pair of pine marten running around in the snow at the edge of the lot.  While we had been out on the trail they had been putting on a show.  We hung around for a little while just in case. Still we had no luck and decided to see what was going on at the Visitor Centre.

Porcupine In Tree At Algonquin Park.

    At the back of the Algonquin Visitor Centre is a large viewing area that looks out across the valley below.  We noticed a group of photographers interested in something in the distance.  In the center of the photo above is a porcupine at the top of a tree (trust us).  Unfortunately, there are not too many porcupine in Algonquin.  They are preyed upon by the slightly larger relative of the pine marten, the fisher.  Fishers themselves are a rare sighting in the park.
 
Common Redpoll in Algonquin Park.

  There is also a bird feeder behind the Visitor Centre which sometimes attracts martens looking to eat some of the bird seeds. It never disappoints as various birds come and go.  A common redpoll (above) is one frequent winter visitor. 

Pine Grosbeak.
Pine Grosbeak.

    Another bird we had never seen before is the pine grosbeak.  The male is the brighter red coloured one.   We had seen a lot of different things today, but it was still the martens we had our sights on.

Mew Lake Campground.

  We had one last place we wanted to try in our search for the marten.  We headed to Mew Lake Campground where there is an old airfield and of course camping.

A Pine Marten in Algonquin Park.

   No sooner had we pulled the car into a parking spot when we spotted something in the rear-view mirror.  At last!  A pine marten had just climbed over the snow bank and onto the road.

A Pine Marten in Algonquin Park.

   We stepped out of the car and the marten ran back into the woods.  We stayed still and it wasn't long until the marten showed itself again and continued searching through the snow.  A marten is about the size of a small cat but with much shorter legs.

Snow Fleas in Algonquin Park.

   After spending some time with our new forest friend, we started to head back to our car.  We noticed something that looked like pepper in the snow.  Upon closer examination we realized it was snow fleas or springtails.  Another winter insect.  As we watched them we could see the fleas hop off the snow and disappear into the air. 

  Suddenly, something flew near us and at first we thought it was a moth.  We had seen enough insects that day, why not a snow moth?  Something else flew towards us and we realized it was a group of chickadees.  They took turns swooping in and landing or almost landing on us.  They must have thought we wanted to feed them.  As they flew closer to our faces, we decided to take cover and call it a day.   It truly was a day full of small creatures, but the marten was definitely the cutest animal in the forest that day, or some might say any day.


Map of Our World
Algonquin Park (Mew Lake) , Algonquin Park (Spruce Bog)

Post # 297

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Our First Elephant

Elephant in the bushes of Balule Nature Reserve.

Location: Hoedspruit, South Africa
Address:  Balule Nature Reserve
Date:  October 2018
Website:  vivasafaris.com

  We travelled to South Africa in hopes of seeing as many different animals as we possibly could.  We travelled to the Balule Nature Reserve which is attached to the famous Kruger National Park.  On our first safari outing we received a big welcome from the largest land animal on the planet.

Impala Balule Nature Reserve

  The first animal we saw in abundance during our safari tour was impala.  These small antelope seemed to be hiding behind every bush.  Our guide shouted out "Impala!" at every single sighting.  An impala in the photo above is standing beside some evidence that elephants may have been in the area.

Guide Searches For Elephants In Balule Nature Reserve

  Our guide stopped our Safari Jeep and jumped out.  We had been told to keep every part of us inside the vehicle at all times and intended to do as we had been told.  Our guide looked off into the distance to confirm what she had seen.  "Elephant!" she shouted as she hopped back into her seat.  There is indeed a single elephant in this photo as well as the one at the top of the blog.  If the biggest animal walking on the planet could hide so easily we wondered about lions, leopards, snakes and more.

Elephant Hiding In The Trees.

  As we looked closer at the trees and bushes the shape of an elephant started to reveal itself.  Here is a close-up of the photo from the top of this blog.  There it was, our first wild elephant.

A Viva Safari Jeep.

   Another Safari Jeep joined ours as word of the elephant sighting spread.

Elephant at Balule Nature Reserve.

  As we watched in silence, the elephant slowly moved out from behind the trees and started to get closer to us.

Elephant At Balule Nature Reserve.

  The elephant moved closer still and into some nearby bushes.  The grey skin of the elephant started to blend in with the plants and ground and we could see how if it stood still, it might be hard to spot standing there.

Elephant Running Balule Nature Reserve

  The elephant started to trot quickly towards us and the safari jeep decided it was time to move.  A full grown elephant can weigh over 5,000 kilograms and stand about 10 feet tall.  The elephant suddenly stopped and struck a pose. We were able to admire the beauty of a truly wild elephant as we drove by.
 
Elephant In Balule Nature Reserve. 
 
     Elephants never forget and we will never forget the elephants.  Especially our first.


Map of Our World
Balule Nature Reserve

Post # 296

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Scenic Safari

Scenic Safari At The Toronto Zoo

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address:  2000 Meadowvale Road
Date:  May 2020
Website:  www.torontozoo.com

  Since the Toronto Zoo was closed due to COVID-19 we have missed our visits.  The zoo finally reopened. Due to social distancing you can not walk around the zoo but must drive your car through instead.  We were one of the first to sign up for this unique opportunity.  We followed a long line of cars as we slowly made our way towards the front gate and then drove right inside.

Indian Rhino Toronto Zoo Scenic Safari.

  The zoo normally has a zoomobile that circles the grounds.  We mostly followed the same path that it takes with a few added diversions due to there being no pedestrians to worry about.  The first animal we drove towards was the Indian Rhino.  They were outside ready to greet us as we slowly rolled past.  An Indian Rhino can weigh over 1600 kg which is the same as our car.

Long Bridge At Toronto Zoo Over Rouge Valley.

  The next step was a highlight.  We got to drive on the long bridge that crosses over the Rouge Valley.  We kept the car straight and steady as we rumbled across.

White Rhino Scenic Safari Toronto Zoo

The next animal we encountered was the Southern White Rhino.  We had now entered Africa.  We were glad that the rhino was behind a fence as we forgot to check if our insurance would cover us for collisions with a giant mammal while driving on zoo property.

Zebra At Toronto Zoo.

  Usually if you come across something black and white on the road it means to slow down and watch for pedestrians.  One type of pedestrian crossing is called a zebra crossing.  On our Scenic Safari we didn't have to worry about people on the road, but there were a few black and white Grevy's Zebras nearby.

Kopje At Toronto Zoo.

  A kopje is a small, rocky hill that sticks up from the African grasslands.  The Toronto Zoo has one that you can walk through.  Since this is the Scenic Safari that means this time we drove through.

Lion's Den Toronto Zoo.

  It was a bit of a tight fit, but we made it through the lion's den.  We didn't see any lions.   That doesn't mean the lions didn't see us.

Common Eland At Toronto Zoo.
Ankole-Watusi At Toronto Zoo.

  After we emerged from the kopje we passed a group of large antelope called Elands.  We also passed Ankole-Watusi Cattle which have some of the biggest horns of any animal.

Scenic Safari At The Toronto Zoo.

  We still couldn't get over the weird feeling of being in a traffic jam where we usually walked amongst crowds of people.

Toronto Zoo Scenic Safari Traffic Sign.

  There were traffic signs and arrows directing us where to go as we crept around the zoo grounds.  5 km per hour was the maximum speed and no passing allowed.

Scenic Safari Toronto Zoo Flamingos.

  We curved around through the Americas section of the zoo.  We passed a flock of flamingos enjoying the sun.

Fake Coyote At Toronto Zoo.

  We drove around in behind the Australasia Pavilion.  A fake coyote was stationed near where the kangaroo indoor home is located.  This possibly helps keep away other curious creatures.

Red Panda House Toronto Zoo.

  Our safari wound its way into Eurasia where we saw this red panda relaxing in the shade.

Thank You Frontline Workers.  Thank You Toronto Zoo.

  It wasn't much longer until we reached the end of our tour and exited near the zoo's administrative offices.  The whole tour took about one hour and gave us a new view of the zoo.  The only view these days.  Thank you Toronto Zoo and thank you to all the frontline workers.  Here's hoping we will be able to walk through the zoo next time.


Map of Our World
Toronto Zoo

Post # 287