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.

 

Swatch: Cycling to Skeinz

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You can order yarn and penguins in sweaters on-line.

I have been intrigued with the wool shop Skeinz in Napier since 2011. When I was living in St Heliers and the Rena shipwreck happened the shop put a call out for penguin sweaters to help with the recovery. They were completely swamped by the response and the veterinarians only needed a few (their use is actually no longer in vogue). So Skeinz was clever and bought some stuffed little blue penguins and yellow-eyed penguins and sold the sweaters to raise money for penguin recovery and conservation.

The shop is in an industrial part of town because it is co-located with their wool mill and is essentially a factory outlet. Too far to walk and impractical to take a taxi so I rented a 3 speed cruiser and headed to the beach bike path. It was counter-intuitive to go via the Port, but the bike rental guy suggested that there would be less traffic and more scenic.

20161102_150910All good until I got to the transition from the Quays to the light industrial part of Napier called Onekawa. Suddenly I was navigating through roundabouts with logging trucks! I found a new gear fueled by terror! I got lost a couple of times and finally put away my paper map for Ms. Google. My 20 minute bike ride took twice as long, but it was worth it.

I had packed 2 patterns for a sweater and blanket for a friend’s baby due in December. (I learned the hard way to not depend on being able to find a pattern in a knitting language you can read. And then how much yarn to buy?) Karen helped me find the NZ equivalents of the right weight yarn. I really enjoyed looking at and feeling all the beautiful different wool yarns. Karen figured out how to ring it up so I didn’t have to pay GST and Skeinz ships overseas for free for orders over $100 NZ. I appreciated her assistance especially as there was a steady stream of customers.

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Karen asking the office how she can save me the GST: the key is she has to ship it directly to my home in Sacramento.

I decided to cycle back to the City Centre in the most direct route. It was another blood pumping pedaling experience. When I stepped off my bike I felt very satisfied with my yarn haul and as if I’d wrestled ewe to ground, sheared and spun wool all while being chased by wolf! I went back to my hotel, showered and treated myself to a delicious dinner at Bistronomy.

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$20 NZ for 2 hours with a grace period. Includes helmet and lock.

Happy World Wildlife Day

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I am running out of time to celebrate World Wildlife Day! One of my favorite travel purposes is to view and enjoy wildlife doing their wild thing. (Not that, get your mind out of the gutter!) I especially love penguins. I have made a point of viewing penguins whenever I go to New Zealand and now Australia. Most of the time I was not allowed to take photographs, so I went a little crazy and took hundreds of photos of these Fiordland penguins when I had the chance.

My son Tevis is knocking around Asia for the next 9 weeks and he has discovered a fascination with elephants. I understand this. I could watch elephants all day. I have fond memories from the one time I was able to go on a wildlife safari in South Africa. Here he is experiencing elephants at the Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park.

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From salmon swimming upstream, to an echidna meandering or a koala sleeping to a giraffe browsing on tree leaves, they all help me get in touch with wonder and add to my already huge appreciation for God’s creation.

What is your favorite animal to watch in the wild?

Three reasons to Celebrate World Penguin Day!

1.  Penguins always bring a smile to your face.

Admit it. There is no staying a grumpy-pants when you click through a slide deck of penguin photos.

Read more about Fiordland Penguins and the

Read more about Fiordland Penguins and other penguin adventures by clicking the Penguin category on this blog.

2.  Their clumsiness and vulnerability on land entertains and creates an emotional bond with us.

We laugh at what seems like their slapstick pratfalls on the ice, but we also have empathy as who among us has not literally fallen flat on our face. We recognize the penguins incredible commitment to raising their young, sometimes in nasty conditions, and we like to think we are as committed to our own children.

Even in captivity, the penguin can charm!

Even in captivity, the penguin can charm!

3. Penguins can withstand the harshest weather; raise chicks on ice; and yet the 18 species are all at risk because of us.

Whether it is climate change, depletion of food from overfishing and human pollution, loss of habitat from human development, and other causes, we need to care for penguins as they are the proverbial canary of Antarctica.

BONUS!

Test your penguin knowledge with this quiz from the Pew Charitable Trust. Then sign the petition (on same web page) to encourage the US State Department to reach and sign agreements to protect penguins in the Ross Sea and Antarctica.

Share why you love penguins!

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!

Fiordland Crested Penguins

It is Penguin AWARENESS Day not Penguin APPRECIATION Day.

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Because man is doing a lot of unhelpful stuff threatening penguins.

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Melting ice and overfishing in Antarctica is crashing the food web the penguins depend upon. For specifics from an eye-witness, read Fraser’s Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica by Fen Montaigne.

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People are doing a lot of good stuff to protect their habitat and make it to another generation. Like Dr. McSweeney in New Zealand.

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Be aware. Do good stuff before they are gone.

This post “Happy Penguin Awareness Day!” is featured on blogs associated with On Your Radar Media Company.

Best Penguin Adventure Yet

symbol of New ZealandrainforestI sat on a rock on beach nestled near the rainforest. The rain was dripping down my nose and onto a towel protecting my camera. We hiked down from the road through thick rainforest and across streams. It was near the end of the penguin nesting season, so my guide Dr. Gerry McSweeney did not guarantee we would see a penguin. I was the only guest on the guided hike and yet because of Gerry’s great enthusiasm to share these rare birds he did not hesitate to take me on my own. We waited patiently for our reward.

Fiordland Crested PenguinsThe Fiordland Crested Penguin nest in the rainforest and go to and fro all day to feed themselves and their chicks. At last we saw a shy fellow peek out of the foliage on a steep trail down to the beach. The trail looked like a slip and slide and it was hard to believe the ungainly penguin could navigate it. He/she saw us as I moved closer to get a better view I spooked her and he retreated. After more patient waiting we were rewarded with two penguins.  All together we saw 15 penguins throughout the morning, plus starfish and sea urchins, a gorgeous coastline and a rare orchid in the forest.

penguinsThey emerged from the forest moved down the bank and onto the rocky beach. They are ungainly on land and yet completely charming when hopping from rock to beach. They slipped into the water and displayed their true grace.  coastline

penguinI have enjoyed many adventures to view penguins in New Zealand, and this was the best yet. There are three types of penguins living in New Zealand. The little blue penguin can be found almost along every coastline on North and South Islands. The yellow-eyed penguin can only found along the southernmost coastline of South Island. And the rarest of the three, the Fiordland Crested penguin, lives along the west coast of South Island.

Dr. Gerry McSweeney, guide and host at Wilderness Lodge. Also keeper of the habitat along this stretch of coastline.

Dr. Gerry McSweeney, guide and host at Wilderness Lodge. Also keeper of the habitat along this stretch of coastline.

Penguin viewing is seasonal–beginning in December the penguins begin to go to sea for long months of swimming and eating. They return again in July and August to raise their chicks in a creche. I was able to arrange a guided penguin viewing on November 29 at the Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki.

starfishTo get there I flew into Queenstown and rented a car, then drove 3.5 hard miles to 30 miles north of Haast on the coast. I arrived just in time for a wonderful dinner at the Lodge. Staying at the Lodge includes dinner and breakfast. The guided penguin experience is an additional NZ$160.00 and totally worth it! The Lodge provides adventurers boots and raincoats, and hot tea and biscuits.

It was so thrilling to watch them in their habitat being penguins. I just look at the pictures and it takes me back. As in the best adventures, I want to do it again.penguin