Meet Monty and Poppy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. These baby African penguins are not yet on exhibit. You can see the other penguins on the regular penguin cam.
The New England Aquarium in Boston, MA also has some little blue penguin chicks–from New Zealand! You can read more about it here.
Take a moment today to appreciate penguins as most species are threatened by food or habitat loss. Thanks climate change. And ride your bike or walk instead of driving your gas guzzler to give the planet a break.
Today was the Women’s March. Around the world men, women and children gathered to march for women’s rights. Oh and dogs came too. I found the excitement of being with people who all held out hope for better days energizing. Last year I was in Washington, DC and this year I marched in my hometown Sacramento. Sacramento has the advantage of not having so many people that you cannot move like last year on the Capitol Mall.
As always the signs were creative and sometimes outrageous. We walked to the state Capitol where there was a rally. I had loaded my bike Gidget with flowers to take to the Women’s Empowerment booth. The best part of marching in my hometown was seeing so many people I know: Al, Patricia, Chantay and others.
Today is also Penguin Awareness Day. They don’t usually overlap like this. Along with my Auntie J’s birthday! Now I am going to go on YouTube and look for penguin videos.
The Central Park Zoo is small but beautifully landscaped. It provides plenty of places to pause and enjoy sea lions or watch a grizzly bear snoozing. I didn’t realize they had penguins until I saw an article about places to stay cool in NYC in August. One suggestion was the to check out the Antarctic House and see the penguins. I noted that the penguins were fed publicly at 10:30 and 2:30 p.m. I realized when I left Lincoln Center that if I hot-footed it I could just make it there by 2:30.
It was $18.00 for a ticket to get into the zoo for one adult. As a penguin lover it was worth it–although at feeding time it is crowded and as you can see the windows get steamy. It is hard not to be captivated by the birds swimming and jumping back on the rocks.
I spent a bit more time looking at other animals and admiring the flowers and shrubs. I really needed ice cream. I stopped at the cafe where they had the usual sort of packaged and reheated food. The gift shop was a little more original.
This is a great place to visit with children. You can save 10% on tickets by buying on-line.
The New England Aquarium is located on the wharf, not far from City Hall and Fannuil Hall
in Boston. I was walking to get knitting supplies at Newbury Yarn and found myself just 11 minutes from the aquarium. They close at 5:30 but I’d promised to be at an event in the Back Bay by 6:00 p.m. It might seem silly to some to pay $27.95 for about an hour of walking around. But I saw they had rockhopper penguins! And this is the home of the Pacific Octopus that Sy Montgomery befriended in her book Soul of An Octopus!
I was not disappointed. They have three types of penguins living separately on the first floor: African penguins, Rockhopper penguins, and Little Blue Penguins. It was fascinating to see the Little Blue penguins molting. I also saw a woman with my dream volunteer job: cleaning penguin poo off the rocks in their enclosure.
Call me crazy but it would be a kind of zen thing to do and allow me to get to know them better as individuals.
The aquarium is built on multiple levels all spiraling around the deep sea aquarium tank in the middle. It was crowded the day I was there. I finally had to ask someone working at the tidal pool where the octopus resides. All the way near the last possible tanks in the Vancouver bay exhibit. This octopus had camouflaged in all white with coarse bumps and then slide into the far left corner. I overheard little boy who had clearly been searching for him, exclaim his frustration at not seeing him at the other side of the tank. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the octopus to him. He was probably 5 years old and he began to share octopus facts.
His dad confirmed how smart they are. I showed him a circle about the size of a quarter with my hand and said, “Can you believe that big fellow could squeeze through a hole that size?” His eyes got big. It was lovely to stand gazing at the octopus with someone as enthusiastic as I am.
I found a book for my grandson called Octopuses One to Ten by Ellen Jackson in the gift shop. “Octopuses in disguise have four ways to fool your eyes.” They can squirt a cloud of ink, or change their skin color or texture to blend in, or detach an arm if a predator grabs it, or disappear into his or her den until danger passes. This is why they have survived in our world so long. (Plus mankind is still not able to navigate underwater easily.)
The gift shop was not well stocked when I was there. However, I appreciated the more limited space devoted to commerce. Monterey Bay Aquarium could learn from them, they seem to favor the Disneyland approach. They also have dozens of activities to participate in for adults and children. For slightly more admission you can also watch films at the iMax theater next door.
The New England Aquarium is an easy walk from the T station at Government Center. I took the green line to the Back Bay and was at Tevis’ home within 30 minutes for just $2.75.
I normally drive to Humboldt Bay via Highway 20 and 101 in Northern California. I decided to try I-5 to Highway 299 to stop at a pottery store in Weaverville in search of a ceramic pie plate to replace the 37 year old plate that developed a crack after much use.
It’s been over 20 years since I spent significant time in Weaverville. I’ve been to the Joss House and to other historic landmarks on previous visits. This time I had Lulu the adventure dog and I was looking for a pie plate at Olson’s Pottery and outdoor dining for lunch with Lulu. It was way too hot to leave her in the car plus she’d been cooped up just as long as I had!
We did not find a pie plate, but we did find a delightful western main street with well marked crosswalks and a super yarn shop. We ate a delicious and fresh lunch at La Casita Mexican Food. Lulu was welcome to join me on their back patio dining area.
It is about 30 minutes faster to go this route, but there has been a lot of roadwork in the last few years. There still was between Weaverville and Blue Lake (about 30 minutes worth); however, CalTrans is doing a great job of ironing out some of the windy bits and it is a much more pleasant drive now. Once they are done with the project it may be much faster, especially as you can drive (over) 70 mph on I-5.
I just read the book The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell in one day. I was enthralled from page one.
I bought the book in Winchester, England and mailed it home with some other books. My cover was blue with a photo. I already love penguins so this book was a joy from beginning to end. It also makes me want to visit Tierra del Fuego, Peninsula Valdes and Punto Tombo even more.
The story of Juan Salvador, a Magellan penguin rescued from a Uruguay beach by the author, is also the story of mankind’s negative impact on the oceans. Penguin species have been decimated by pollution, especially oil pollution, and overfishing.
The book makes these points without bludgeoning the reader. It also shares life lessons he learned from the people he met through a mutual admiration of Juan Salvador.
My favorite story was about Diego, a shy student who was having trouble fitting in at the prep college where the author worked as a teacher. He loved Juan Salvador and was one of the small group of students who helped care for him. When the pinguino finally had a chance to swim in the pool, they were all stunned by his aquabatics. But the real surprise was Diego’s reaction.
The African penguins are on the second floor of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, past the top of the Kelp Forest and adjacent to the Splash Zone. The area was empty of people when I first arrived. I sat on the carpeted bench and watched as child after child discovered the exhibit. “Penguins!” they’d exclaim with the face lighting up. Many sea creatures scare people because they are potentially lethal–jellyfish and sharks–but everyone appears to find the penguins charming and funny.
The penguins at the Aquarium are fed daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is no special ticket required to watch the keepers feed them fish and answer questions from the audience. There are also interactive displays to expand your knowledge of penguins. African penguins are among the most threatened species because of their dwindling food supply and habitat, but the Aquarium stays upbeat.
The Aquarium is part of AZA Species Survival Plan, a zoological conservation program that is keeping endangered animals alive and maintaining their genetic diversity through collaboration and sharing of, in this case, the birds around the U.S. When I compare the rich, stimulation that African penguins have in the wild with the sterile, almost two-dimensional exhibit space, I have to remind myself how they can be ambassadors that inspire people to care about what is happening to these wonderful birds in Namibia and South Africa.
Need a penguin fix and can’t get to Monterey? Watch the live Penguin Cam!
Over in South Africa, an organization called SANCCOB is leading the way in studying, rescuing, and rehabilitating wild African penguins. Through their Chick Bolstering Project, SANCCOB biologists monitor African penguins in the wild and bring abandoned, injured or starving chicks in for care. Together with colony managers, they also rescue and hand-rear eggs that have either been abandoned by their parents or when the adult penguins were found nesting in areas outside of the protected colony area. Last year Monterey Bay Aquarium Aviculturist Monika Rohrer journeyed to South Africa to volunteer with SANCCOB. (from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website)
On quiet days when there are few visitors the penguins get to go for a stroll outside their enclosure. Watch the penguin parade.