What do San Diego and Kakadu have in common?

It was amazing to see animals in the wild after having been so recently to the San Diego Zoo.

Here is is the Plumed Whistling Duck we saw in the Kakadu park in Australia. Not a perfect photo, they were far away and suffered camera jiggle, but this is one of my favorite photos anyway. It was just the feeling I had being there among so much bird life. I wasn’t sure if the amazing displays of birds would be present during the dry season, but I wasn’t disappointed.

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Here is the photo of the whistling duck from my San Diego Zoo, May 6th post (https://niccicarreraromance.com/2017/05/06/san-diego-zoo-birds/) clearly a different species, but related.

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There was enough water in the Kakadu to see wildlife without being overwhelmed by monsoons (and thrown overboard to swim with crocs). I don’t think they do tours in the wet season, or “The Wet,” as locals call it. Here are some shots showing the environment in The Dry.

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As you can see, it’s still not so dry! These are fantastic wetlands. Let’s hope they continue to be because they are vital habitat for almost 300 species of birds.

I hope you have a good Monday, or a good Monday evening for my Australian friends and a good week ahead. I will be continuing to share photos from our mad dash around Australia, so stay tuned!

Australia’s top end: Kakadu National Park

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Our whirlwind tour of Australia was a success, except for one round of getting sick. Fortunately, our first stop was a long one in an apartment so my husband could recover. Unfortunately he missed six days of socializing with our friends.

However the episode made us even more grateful to be able to do the tours we had lined up because it was touch-and-go we would have to cancel.

Kakadu is a national park in the Northern Territory and next to Arnhem Land, both of which are owned and managed by the indigenous people.

We took a cruise on the Yellow River where we saw several saltwater crocodiles. They are magnificent animals giving a sense of what it would be like to live in the days of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Not all Australians are thrilled that they have been brought back from the brink of extinction, for good reason. They do hunt people, sometimes successfully.
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When humans are killed by crocodiles, Australians say they were “taken.” I like that; it’s respectful.
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After the tour I started researching crocodile attacks on humans and ran across an article by a woman who survived one, Val Plumwood, Being Prey, Utne Reader. It’s a little abstract, she’s a philosopher, but a few things resonated with me. They are not monsters. They are animals. And yes, we are prey, though we don’t like to think of ourselves that way.
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I try to avoid putting myself in a position to be eaten by a predator, which may be hard to believe, given these photos, but we were on a steel boat with rails, high off the water…and I have a powerful zoom.

The way these birds hung around, I thought they must not be prey, but later at the museum in Darwin, I found indeed they are. On display was a stuffed crocodile (huge) inside of which, after they accidentally killed it, they found a heron. That’s pretty much a smoking gun, crocodile style!
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Bird tableau

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Plumed whistling duck

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The fish-hunting birds hang around because the crocs stir up fish when they’re hunting under water.

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I don’t want mountain lions, for example, roaming suburban neighborhoods. And that’s a little bit what it’s like in the Northern Territory for people. The fact is, you better not go swimming except in a swimming pool, or down to river banks, or walk along the shoreline, and fishing is hazardous. The croc will watch you for days and if you have the same habit, it can get you. One fisherman was taken when cleaning fish over the side of his tinny (small boat). So, I get that not all Aussies really want these creatures around, and yet they are protected somewhat, which is good for tourism and the ecosystem. And also just for, you know, the wonder of nature and prehistoric animals living among us today.

What an amazing experience to venture out into the wild on a mini safari and visit these animals in their natural habitat.

I love the birds too. Kakadu is a huge wetlands area. The guide said that as many as 280 bird species, a third of the world’s bird species, migrate through here or live here.

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Whistling Kite

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Snake-Necked Darter, female

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Snake-necked Darter, male, drying wings

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Pygmy Geese (actually ducks, these are misnamed)

These cave paintings are thousands of years old. Here are my hubby and me in front of Nourlangie, a site of the paintings that was on our tour.
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To be continued…

San Diego Zoo hippopotamus & okapi

I found some more photos from the zoo.

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I really wanted to get the underwater part of the hippo too; after all, that’s where most of his or her body was located. But alas, that was beyond what I could do. I love that eye though…

I’ve been a little busy, taming the yard and reaping the harvests. Right now I’m eating around a half dozen plums a day and corn on the cob every other day. Cherry tomatoes are in, along with cucumbers, so salads are on the menu. My husband is really the green thumb. Really really. But I’m good at getting rid of weeds. That’s a new specialty.

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Rare Okapi at the San Diego Zoo

These okapi are really neat looking. I didn’t get a good photo, but this next one shows the stripes and the interesting shape of the body, if you haven’t seen one.

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We leave soon for a trip. We don’t usually travel in the summer as we like to be around for the fruits and veggies, but we want to see a part of Australia that requires dry season travel, which is in the southern hemisphere’s summer. I’m trying to figure out what camera equipment to take. The travel camera is great for most everything, but I’d like to get an off-camera fill flash which would only work for the big camera, and I’ve been wanting a softbox. I haven’t practiced with these things yet, but there’s still a bit of time to learn…what to do…

I’ve been hoping to finish the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on before I go, but I think it will need to overlap with the trip a bit. The writing comes as fast as the writing comes.

I hope you are having a nice weekend. Stay safe on the fourth of July.

 

Tomales Bay California

We’re hunkered down in our heat wave, trying to stay cool. We have the Pacific Gas and Electric deal where we get a discount all year if we agree to pay four times as much on designated days during peak hours (when it’s HOT). They want to motivate people not to use a lot of power during heat waves.

Do you remember California’s rolling blackouts in the early noughts (2000, 2001)? Well, we don’t have those anymore because they ramped up renewable energy sources big time now. Since it’s not really a social issue anymore, we have been regretting being on the energy savings plan. We’d like to end that plan right about now.

We’ve already been to a matinee and out to lunch a few of the hot days this week. We never go to the movies, but they are a great way to escape the heat. We really wanted to see Wonder Woman, so we went to the matinee. We loved it. Well I did, and my husband liked it. I even cried a little.

Here are nice cool shots from the Tomales Point Tule Elk Preserve:

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Today we lowered the temperature as much as possible before the shut-off time (2:00) and are sitting here with all the blinds closed hoping it doesn’t get too hot in here. And writing. Or at least, I am writing. I’m participating in a Book in a Week challenge with the Kiss of Death (romantic suspense) chapter of Romance Writers of America. I consider it a metaphor. I can’t really write a book in a week, LOL. But the challenge has me moving along and I’m chalking up more words than I had been for the past few weeks. I’m so excited about this book, and I want to get the first draft done so I can get it out to my critique partners to read while we are on our big trip. No, I haven’t told you about my next trip yet, but there will be photos!

Where are the tule elk in the preserve, you ask?  Hiding. This is with an 80x zoom.

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But this little guy didn’t hide from me.

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Have a great weekend, and stay cool! Or warm for you southern hemisphere folks.

California poppies

We took an overnight trip to Tomales Bay and I did manage to get some nice shots. Here are California poppies (our state flower).

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Things are getting hot here after a very cool couple of weeks. I’m kind of looking forward to it, but then again, ask me next week after we get through a triple digit weekend!

Have a good rest of the week.

San Diego Zoo giant panda

I was going to make this the grand finale, and it might be, but I do have a few other zoo photos that might be good enough to share.

I am not sure of the name of this bear. I think it’s the daddy bear, Gao Gao.

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These pandas are seriously cute. But they also have big teeth, and keep in mind that’s bamboo he’s munching like it’s potato chips.

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Sweet but big teeth!

When we were in China, we did venture across Beijing using their public transit (which was awesome) to see their giant pandas. I felt that the enclosure was cramped, at least the part where they were at that moment, and it seemed like they wanted to get out. That upset me and I don’t think I showed pictures of them on my blog because of that. Other parts of the zoo were pretty nice. The pollution, sadly, affects everybody, animals and people alike.

The San Diego Zoo doesn’t depress me. The animals seem okay, for being captive. (Although honestly, the big male orangutan I showed in an earlier post looked sad.) I think I’m going to get an annual membership. I want to go back very often and try for more big cat photos without the cage visible, and other things.

This is Xiao Liwu (which means Little Gift). He was born on July 29, 2012.

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This is Bai Yun, which means White Cloud. She is mama bear.

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Bai Yun

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Bai Yun

The zoo keeper told me they’ve bred Gao Gao and Bai Yun and given five of their cubs to China, per loan agreements with China. It’s really great we have this cooperation to help the beloved pandas.

Another interesting thing is Gao Gao was released into the wild in China, but it didn’t work out, (he raided crops), and so now he’s safe and sound in San Diego Zoo. He gets along well with his handlers and is active and interested in everything. I guess some pandas get released, to try to restore the population, so that’s awesome.

I used to think zoos were horrible, but it’s so hard to protect everything in the wild, (though we must keep trying with wildlife sanctuaries and law enforcement to protect the animals from poachers. I saw an award winning photo of armed guards protecting two of the remaining white rhinos in Africa. That’s what it takes.) Zoos play a big role in preservation as well as education. Sure, no wild animal should be captive, and maybe one day we’ll get to that point. In the meantime, I’m glad the San Diego Zoo does such a brilliant job with comfortable environments for the animals. They grow about 70 different kinds of bamboo for their bears and harvest 700 pounds a week for them. That zoo is a labor of love and science.

In other news, I had a happy realization. I can feed the finches in my back yard during the winter when we don’t have a veggie garden…and when they really need the food. Now I have something to look forward to in the winter. The birds delight me all day, and I was so sad to take away the feeder. I can still hear them out there working a bit harder in the neighborhood to get their food. I can’t wait to invite them back in for free food in the winter.

San Diego Zoo snow leopard

I’m going to have to give you a slow feed of the San Diego Zoo photos because I thought I was going to have a lot of photos from the finch feeder, but I had to take it down! I’m so sad, but they started creating problems in our back yard. Turns out in addition to the seed I was feeding them, they loved to devour the leaves on some of our vegetable plants. All those finches you saw on the feeder? Well, when it was full, there was an equal number on the plants. It was a sad day yesterday. I had to keep the blinds closed so I wouldn’t see them looking for the feeder all day. *sniff*

But I have some good photos from the zoo and I’ll dole them out one at a time until I can get out somewhere to take more photos and have more material to share. Here is a favorite of mine.

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Snow Leopard, San Diego Zoo, May 2017, photo copyrighted by Nicci Carrera