Penguins at Central Park Zoo

IMG_2288The 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.

IMG_2290It 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. IMG_2297

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.

Excellent Speed Walk through New England Aquarium

I recommend you spend much more time than I did at the New England Aquarium

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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 IMG_2376floor:  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.

IMG_2390The 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.

IMG_2392His 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.

 

Weaverville–a little bit of Awesome

IMG_2081I 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.

Penguin Love

penguin 1I 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. penguin 2

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.

Read to find out more.

 

 

Celebrating World Penguin Day!

20170330_100529The 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.

#MarchforScience on Earth Day 2017

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My Mom and I marched for science in Sacramento on Saturday. We were happy to  support science with several thousand fellow truthseekers. Mom is 81 and not as ambulatory as she once was. In my youth I had to learn to keep up with her long stride. Now we triangulated the march route to figure out the best place to park to save steps. We’d fortified ourselves with brunch at Easy on I and made sure to use the bathroom before we left!

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My favorite sign of the day: Edward Tufte would approve!

There were clever signs, some of which we weren’t nerdy enough to figure out on our own (thanks Google!). I realize some people are critical of marches as just theater and making no real difference. Except that it really boosts morale of those who participate. We are most definitely not alone in valuing science.

The next day was Earth Sunday at St. John’s Lutheran Church. I participated in a forum where we discussed our vocation and the role of science and faith. My thoughts are here.

Every day is universe day whether we recognize it or not. We can pursue our lives and concerns without acknowledging the much larger worlds around us, but it keeps swirling on according to the dynamics that are as immutable as they are mysterious. We’ve only just begun to understand it and learning about our world is the greatest adventure.

 

Don’t Miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium

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The mission is to inspire conservation of the ocean.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a gem of an aquarium. It is a truly excellent place to visit if you have children, but even has a lot to offer adults. In addition to the delightful permanent exhibits with the Kelp Forest (with sharks), Sea Otters, Jellyfish and Penguins, the Aquarium hosts special exhibits.  Thanks to the animated film Finding Dory and the Octopus hero Hank, octopi have been rehabilitated in the public consciousness. I’ve always admired the intelligence and ingenuity of octopi so I enthusiastically entered “Tentacles.” It was worth it just to see the Giant Pacific Octopus. Wow.

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Nearby is an excellent exhibit on plastics in our oceans and what we can do to reduce this insidious pollution. I particularly enjoyed various artists’ use of plastic to make sea-inspired collages. You can read more about this issue on the Aquarium’s website.

You can eat at the Aquarium’s cafe, or enjoy your picnic lunch outside on one of the observation decks. The brilliance of rehabilitating an old sardine cannery is more obvious when you stand on a deck extending over the Monterey Bay. I’d actually like to come back on a bad weather day!

I do not like to eat a lot of fish, but I know fish is a healthy choice. I have used my concern over commercial over-fishing to avoid ordering fish at restaurants. Now I can download the Aquarium’s Seawatch App on my phone to check for safe options to enjoy fish guilt-free. Check it out.

I used my AAA member discount to buy my ticket through the AAA website, even so, it is $50 to visit. This may not make you blink, but it does make me pause. I want to be able to spend 2.5 hours or more at that price. I had not been in years–the penguin exhibit had not been added so it was probably pre-1998–and I wasn’t sure I’d visit more than once a year.  Once I experienced the variety of exhibits and spent time on the deck watching the sea, I realized I want to make it more of a habit and I want to share it with my grandson. So I went to the membership desk and converted my ticket to a membership. Watch this space for reviews of the special tours and member events.