Tag Archives: Conservation

Iguana Take You Home

A land iguana reaches for some leaves to eat on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.  Land iguanas were introduced to North Seymour Island in the early 1930s from the nearby island of Baltra, where they were dying out. In 1954, land iguanas went extinct on Baltra due to habitat loss and predation from introduced species, but they have been successfully re-introduced.

A land iguana reaches for some leaves to eat on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Land iguanas were introduced to North Seymour Island in the early 1930s from the nearby island of Baltra, where they were dying out. In 1954, land iguanas went extinct on Baltra due to habitat loss and predation from introduced species, but they have been successfully re-introduced.

The land iguana is a relatively new inhabitant on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Until the early 1930s, no land iguanas lived on North Seymour, even though it’s the perfect habitat. Land iguanas had thrived on nearby Baltra Island, but they were dying out due to a number of factors, including predation by introduced species and loss of habitat from voracious goats, and in the early 20th century the construction of an air base hastened their demise.

The Hancock Expedition (see link below) moved land iguanas to North Seymour, which had a similar environment to Baltra. Nearly 2,500 land iguanas now live on North Seymour, according to a 2014 census by the Galapagos National Park (GNP). North Seymour Island hosts the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the magnificent frigate bird.  Blue-footed boobies also nest there.  Sea Lions and marine iguanas make their home on this island.

Land Iguana, North Seymour Island, Galapagos

A land iguana seeks shade from the fierce midday sun on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos

In 1980, several iguanas from North Seymour were brought to the Iguana Center on Santa Cruz for breeding and in 1991, the first 35 young land iguanas were reintroduced to Baltra, where they now thrive as the habitat has been greatly improved.  We saw one of these Balta iguanas when our airport shuttle bus stopped to allow one to cross the road.

According to our guide, iguana eggs and young iguanas are removed from North Seymour and taken to Baltra, but the older iguanas will live out their lives on the island. Eventually all iguanas will be gone from North Seymour Island, he said. I haven’t found any information to confirm this, although it seems reasonable that conservationists would want the island returned to its original state as much as possible.

On islands in the Galapagos where tortoises and iguanas live, prickly pear cacti have evolved tall, tough trunks, making it harder for these animals to eat the pads and fruits.

On islands in the Galapagos where tortoises and iguanas live, prickly pear cacti have evolved tall, tough trunks, making it harder for these animals to eat the pads and fruits.

One of the foods that iguanas eat is the prickly pear cactus. On North Seymour, where there are no tortoises and only recently iguanas, the prickly pear cacti are low to the ground.   On other islands where tortoises and iguanas are native, the cactus trunks are tall and tough, an evolutionary change that makes it harder for iguanas and tortoises to eat the tasty pads and fruits.

The iguana population is being restored to Baltra Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Baltra is a small, flat island, which was used as an air base and is now the home of the main airport for the Galapagos.

The iguana population is being restored to Baltra Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Baltra is a small, flat island, which was used as an air base and is now the home of the main airport for the Galapagos.

Iguanas live in Simon Bolivar Park, Guayaquil, Ecuador, where they are fed every day by the park staff. Here, they enjoy some lettuce.

Iguanas live in Simon Bolivar Park, Guayaquil, Ecuador, where they are fed every day by the park staff. Here, they enjoy some lettuce.

http://www.galapagos.org/newsroom/land-iguanas-north-seymour/

http://www.galapagos.org/about_galapagos/baltra/

http://www.galapagos.org/about_galapagos/north-seymour/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Allan_Hancock

”The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”
– Charles Darwin

http://www.galapagos.org/blog/darwin-animal-doctors/

Trio in Iguana Park, Guayaquil, Ecuador Postcard

A trio of iguanas have taken a prime spot in Simon Bolivar Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Hundreds of iguanas live in the park, where they are fed and taken care of by park staff.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Animals, Biology, Life

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Galapagos Islands Tourists

Tourists at a Tortoise Sanctuary in the Galapagos Islands.

A Galapagos Giant Tortoise retreats into his shell as tourists in another group gather in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands to learn more about this magnificent creature.

I visited the islands with my family in April 2015, and we toured the highlands was our first day.  It was truly thrilling to see these giant tortoises in their natural environment. I remember seeing one in a zoo when I was a child. Children even rode them (I think I even did), which is a bad idea, and of course no longer allowed. They aren’t afraid of humans, but do make a chuffing noise if you startle them.

The nasty little fire ant has invaded the Galapagos Islands.  Here's a fire ant hill in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos.   The ants found me before I found them, unfortunately.  There are efforts in the Galapagos to rid the islands of invasive species, which have caused great damage to the native animals and plants.

The nasty little fire ant has invaded the Galapagos Islands. Here’s a fire ant hill in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos. The ants found me before I found them, unfortunately. There are efforts in the Galapagos to rid the islands of invasive species, which have caused great damage to the native animals and plants.

The tourists in the pictured group are wisely wearing rubber boots. Our guide offered us boots, too, but I was happy wearing my comfortable “sporty” flip flops, relieved to let my feet breathe after a long trip.  Bad idea.  I successfully evaded puddles and tortoise poop, but I stepped right onto an ant hill teeming with fire ants, an invasive species in the Galapagos. This was within two hours of my arrival on the island of Santa Cruz. I got about six painful, itchy stings on my toes. I’m no stranger to fire ants, so I know enough to wear closed shoes in grassy areas in Texas, but I wasn’t prepared for the little devils in the Galapagos.

Galapagos is an old Spanish word for tortoise. The signs at this ranch warn visitors not to feed or touch the “galapagos.” The tortoises are now more commonly known as “tortuga” in Spanish. (At the bottom of this post is a link explaining how the islands were named.)  The Galapagos Island archipelago has been described as one of most scientifically important and biologically outstanding areas on earth, according to UNESCO in 2001.  My week there was amazing, wonderful and incredible, despite fire ants (and various other mishaps.)

Galapagos Giant Tortoise Poster

This Giant Galapagos Tortoise paused to give us a questioning look as he crossed the road in front of our car in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. He is king in this place! (Or perhaps she is queen!)

Baby Galapagos Giant Tortoise Postcard

A yearling baby Galapagos Giant Tortoise, being raised at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. Introduced predators threaten the eggs and young of the Giant Tortoise, so tortoise eggs are gathered, hatched and reared at the station.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Wise old Galapagos Giant Tortoise.

About the Galapagos Islands.

How the Galapagos Islands Were Named.

The Difference Between Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins.

About Lonesome George.

GIANT TORTOISE FACTS: The Galapagos tortoise or Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise and the 14th-heaviest living reptile. Modern giant tortoises can weigh up to 5oo pounds (250 kg); even larger versions, now extinct, roamed every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Today, they exist only the Galapagos Islands, and Aldabra in the Indian Ocean. The tortoise is native to seven of the Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 620 miles (more than 1,000 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian mainland. With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. One of the most famous was “Lonesome George,” who died in 2012, the last Pinta Island Tortoise.

Shell size and shape vary between populations. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks – on islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with “saddleback” shells and long necks. Charles Darwin’s observations of these differences on the second voyage of the Beagle in 1835, contributed to the development of his theory of evolution. Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s. This decline was caused by exploitation of the species for meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals to the islands, such as rats, goats, and pigs. Conservation efforts, beginning in the 20th century, have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released onto their ancestral home islands, and it is estimated that the total number of the species exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century. Despite this rebound, the species as a whole is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

4 Comments

Filed under Animals, Biology, Environment, National Parks, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Travel

The Rhinoceros, Critically Endangered

This morning I was stunned to read that 57 rhinos had been killed by poachers in South Africa in January 2013. Nearly all of the rhinos were killed in protected areas, too. I knew that poaching was a terrible problem, but I had no idea that it was this serious. At this rate, the rhinoceros will soon go extinct in the wild. It will be very difficult to keep the species alive in zoos.

We visited South Africa in January 2013 near the region where all of these rhinos were killed. We were lucky to see a rhino the very first day we were there, and now I am so saddened thinking about how this amazing animal may really die out, because of human greed and stupidity. We saw a male rhino spraying, as in the video above, as he moved here and there marking his territory. Soon there may be no rhinos in this territory. (The video was uploaded by “smshapiro” on YouTube.

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn't ready to call it a night.  He still had work to do.  Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion.  The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn’t ready to call it a night. He still had work to do. Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion. The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Rhinos are one of the Big Five that people look for on safari. How long before you never see them?  The Big Five Game list was coined by hunters in ranking the danger of hunting these animals on foot. At least hunting has been switched to sightings of these magnificent animals, although there are still big game hunts in some areas. (The Big Five are Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo.)

The rhino is killed for its horn, because many people in Asia think the horn has medical properties, but it doesn’t. The horn is composed of keratin, which is similar to fingernails. Why don’t these idiots just chew on their own fingernails. It’ll be just as useful to their health.

Our guide told us that sometimes conservationists remove the horn so that the rhino is spared, because all that the poachers want is the horn. The horn acquires its pointed shape because the rhino sharpens it, otherwise it would be a big lump. I hope the rhinos sharpen their horns on more poachers. Even though I don’t literally believe in curses, people who use rhino horn as medicine should know it is cursed. It’s definitely very bad karma to kill a rhino and to buy rhino horn.

The game reserve we visited doesn’t list rhino sightings, because it doesn’t want to give a heads up to poachers. According to the Associated Press, “A record 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2012, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the previous year. Demand is growing in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia where rhino horn is believed to have medical benefits despite evidence to the contrary. The horn is made of keratin, a protein also found in human fingernails.”

Elephants are facing similar slaughter for their ivory. Don’t buy ivory, even if the seller claims it is from pre-ban ivory or is supposedly otherwise approved. Buying ivory just encourages the death of more elephants. More bad karma.

57 rhinos killed in South Africa so far this year; 18 suspected poachers arrested

Beautiful Photograph of a Baby Rhino.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road.  It's good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look.  It's not safe being around many humans.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  It's being slaughtered for its horn, and it's also losing its habitat.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road. It’s good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look. It’s not safe being around many humans. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. It’s being slaughtered for its horn, and it’s also losing its habitat.

9 Comments

Filed under Animals

Bringing Home the Buffalo

A pride of lions gathers at a carcass of a Cape Buffalo at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The upper left photo: This was our first view of the pride as we drove in an open Land Rover to the lions at the buffalo kill. We had rocked over a very bumpy river bed through high grass, and then suddenly there were the lions about fifteen feet away. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.  In the upper right photo, the male adult lion suddenly see us. In the lower left photo, my heart starts beating wildly as the male lion stands up and appears to be coming toward us. In the lower right hand photo, the male lion has plopped down to digest his meal, bored with us -- thankfully!

A pride of lions gathers at a carcass of a Cape Buffalo at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The upper left photo: This was our first view of the pride as we drove in an open Land Rover to the lions at the buffalo kill. We had rocked over a very bumpy river bed through high grass, and then suddenly there were the lions about fifteen feet away. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. In the upper right photo, the male adult lion suddenly see us. In the lower left photo, my heart starts beating wildly as the male lion stands up and appears to be coming toward us. In the lower right hand photo, the male lion has plopped down to digest his meal, bored with us — thankfully!

On  a recent trip to Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, my  husband and I were lucky to see lions in two prides.   The lions in each pride were eating a Cape Buffalo that they had killed. (Yes, it’s the Circle of Life, but I didn’t like that part…) Mala Mala adjoins Kruger National Park, which is almost five million acres, about the size of the state of Connecticut.

It was unnerving at first to be so close to these large predators that could easily attack and kill a human. In our first sighting, we rode in an open Land Rover, bumping and rocking down a hill onto a sandy river bed, pushing our way through tall grass and vegetation.  A female lion emerged from the grass.  We drove past  her into a clearing by the Sand River, where the rest of the pride was eating the buffalo.  We parked about fifteen feet away. We were assured that the lions and other wildlife see the vehicle with its passengers as one nonthreatening entity and don’t seem to mind our presence as long as we are seated in the vehicle. (I was never tempted to leave it!)  I felt my pulse quicken, though, whenever a lion would look over at us and rise up. A few made brief eye contact, which my own cats do when they want something.  Fortunately, the lions never walked closer to our vehicle than ten feet.  I got nervous for a moment when the lions growled at one another over their meal. For the most part, the lions took no heed of us.

I’m so grateful for this amazing experience.  Click on the photos to get a better look.

Female big cats in each of these photos have suffered some kind of injury, probably from hunting. In the top photo, the female lion on the left side has a big cut in her right flank.  Our guide told us the injury was about three weeks old and would probably heal, although it looks pretty bad to me. This lion was nursing cubs. The lions are resting after eating. The female lion (in a different pride) in the lower left photo has a swollen back right leg.  She was limping when we saw her and had moved away from the pride. A mother cheetah in the the lower right photo has a cut to her back right flank, probably incurred from the horn of the male impala she'd killed the day before, our guide said.  She had three cubs.

Female big cats in each of these photos have suffered some kind of injury, probably from hunting. In the top photo, the female lion on the left side has a big cut in her right flank. Our guide told us the injury was about three weeks old and would probably heal, although it looks pretty bad to me. This lion was nursing cubs. The lions are resting after eating. The female lion (in a different pride) in the lower left photo has a swollen back right leg. She was limping when we saw her and had moved away from the pride. A mother cheetah in the the lower right photo has a cut to her back right flank, probably incurred from the horn of the male impala she’d killed the day before, our guide said. She had three cubs.

The cats behaved in many ways like my own house cats.  The way they played, rested and sat was so similar.  After they ate, some of them sprawled on their backs, looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world.  The lion cubs were so adorable.  But I never forgot for a second that these big cats could be deadly.  Even my own well-fed cat Malcolm brought down a bird that had flown into our chimney.  He leaped nine feet into the air and batted it down.  I was able to rescue the bird, though, and released it unharmed.

Where I live in the Midwest, we have have almost no large predators, such as mountain lions.  Occasionally, you hear of a mountain lion sighting. Most of them have been killed off years ago.  Grizzly bears roamed my area 200 years ago.  We do have smaller cats, such as bobcats.  Last year, while I was walking in my neighborhood, I saw a bobcat sitting in the grass of a large mowed area near some woods.  She stared at me as I walked past. That was a little freaky! Bobcats can kill a deer.  Later, I saw the bobcat trotting across the street into the yard of the president of the homeowner’s association. (The bobcat knew to go right to the leader of the human pack.)  The president told me that the bobcat’s cubs were in a tree overhanging her back deck.

Lions and other big cats are magnificent creatures, but because of the danger they present and because their fur is coveted, they have been severely hunted, and their numbers have really dropped in the last century.  Lions are considered a vulnerable species, and I hope they can be protected and their numbers in the wild increased. Game reserves, such as Mala Mala and the vast Kruger National Park in South Africa, are working to protect this magnificent animal. At the bottom of this post is a news article about lions in South Africa.

Well fed, this pride lounges along a creek. Note the cub nursing.

Well fed, this pride lounges along a creek. Note the cub nursing.

MalaMala Game Reserve Blog

About Lions

Smithsonian Magazine: The Most Ferocious Man-eating Lions

Fears for South African Lions

By Jean Liou | AFP – Wed, Jan 16, 2013

Link to News Article

“Lions may be the well-reputed kings of the savannah, but South Africa’s lucrative trophy-hunting industry means the regal cats are more likely to know the inside of a paddock ringed with an electric fence than the country’s sweeping plains.

To the dismay of animal rights activists and environmentalists, growing numbers of the predators are being farmed for hunting, with more than half of South Africa’s roughly 8,000 lions now in captivity.

“The principle that you breed wild animals for economic exploitation is an international norm. It takes place everywhere in the world,” said Pieter Potgieter, chair of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association.

But “the problem is with the lions because the image has been created in the minds of people that the lion is the king of the animals. Walt Disney with his Lion King and all these things, they have created that image,” he added.

The big cats are bred in pens then leased to zoos or game farms, where they are kept in cages or used as pets to attract tourists.

When they mature, some of them are released into the wild. The release usually happens just days before trophy hunters shoot them.

Breeders treat lions just like any other farm animals before leaving them to the mercy of trophy hunters.

“In principle, a lion is no more or less than any other animal species,” Potgieter said.

An estimated 3,000 or so lions live wild in South Africa, compared to more than 5,000 held in paddocks.

In the rolling savannah plains in the country’s centre is Bona Bona Game Lodge, situated near the corn-farming town of Wolmaransstad.

A few hundred metres from the lodge, which is also a popular wedding venue, are large cages with nine placid lions and three Bengal tigers. It housed three times that number of lions before an annual auction in June.

The lions are fed weekly, each Sunday morning — an exercise visitors pay an entrance fee of 80 rand (6.8 euros, $9) to watch. Animal lovers pay 300 rand to play with cubs or give them a feeding bottle at most zoos.

“Cubs are rented out by the captive lion breeders to eco-tourism resorts to be petted by tourists, who are assured that such cubs will be set free,” said Chris Mercer of the animal rights group Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

But a fuming Mercer says: “Tourists should know that these cubs will not be returned to the wild. They will, instead, be returned to the breeders… as semi-tame targets for the lucrative canned hunting industry.”

“These cubs are farm-bred, held in confined spaces until they are old enough to be hunted,” he adds.

Paul Hart, who runs Drakenstein Lion Park in the southern Cape region, said it was the “process of removing cubs from their mothers at birth specifically so that they can be used as play things and to increase the speed of breeding that is inherently cruel, not to mention the methods employed to ensure the cubs are docile with tourists.”

Critics say some lions are also specially bred for their bones, which are sent to Asia to end up in potions, but farmers deny that claim.

Amateur trophy hunters — most of whom come from the US — each year kill about 500 captive-bred lions in South Africa.

Hunters are ready to part with $22,000 per male lion, in addition to just about as much for other logistical and taxidermy costs. A lioness however comes in much cheaper at $4,000.

The trophy-hunting practices also raise controversy.

In the Northwest province with the most lion-breeding farms, the cats are often released, hungry, just four days before a hunt.

Unleashing them into unfamiliar turf means they are unlikely to escape their pursuers.

But farmers justify the practice.

“Whether you kill a cow, a sheep or a pig, or you kill a lion, it’s exactly the same thing. It’s an animal,” Potgieter argues.

A recent study by the Duke University in North Carolina has shown that two thirds of the African lion population have vanished over the past 50 years, to around 35,000 from nearly 100,000.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service also recently announced it would launch a review on whether to list African lions as endangered species.

Such a listing would prevent US hunters from bringing lion trophies from Africa back to the United States.” Story by Jean Liou.

8 Comments

Filed under Animals

Hugging Giant Trees

The California Tunnel Tree is the last living tree standing in Yosemite National Park with a tunnel cut through it. The tunnel was cut in 1895 to allow coaches to pass through it, although they could have gone around it. The tunnel was mainly a marketing scheme to attract visitors to the grove. Tunnels are no longer cut into trees, because it weakens the tree. The Wawona Tunnel Tree fell in 1969.

In September 2012, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park in California to see the giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum), the biggest trees in the world. This blog post is my virtual tree hug.

Standing among the massive sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove, I could easily understand how this forest became the inspiration for the national park system.  Mariposa Grove, near the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park, contains about 500 mature sequoia trees. Giant sequoias are thought to be the largest living things on Earth and are among the oldest, too, some possibly older than 3,000 years.

The Bachelor and Three Graces: Four sequoia trees, three of them growing very close together, with the “shy” bachelor standing a little apart from the girls. Their roots are so intertwined that if one falls, they would all likely crash down.

Only some living specimens of the ancient bristlecone pine are older than the sequoia.  Some bristlecone pines, found in the mountains east of Yosemite and at Great Basin National Park in Nevada, are more than 4,600 years old.

Sounds as if I need to plan a trip to see the bristlecone pines, too.  I also need to re-visit the coastal redwoods.  The tallest tree in the world is the Hyperion, a coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) along the coast of northern California.

I took a lot of photographs of the giant sequoia, but my photographs can’t convey the majesty of these awesome giants. You must visit Yosemite to experience the sequoia yourself! (But humor me and look at my photographs anyway.)

There are three named giant sequoia groves in Yosemite.  South of Yosemite, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park also contain massive sequoia trees.

Tuolumne Grove is one of three named giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park.

In the midst of the U.S. Civil War in the early 1860s, many people, concerned about commercial activities in the Yosemite region, pushed the U.S. federal government for protection of the area. The 38th United States Congress passed a park bill, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864, creating the Yosemite Grant. This is the first time the U.S. federal government had set aside park land specifically for preservation and public use, setting a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first national park.

The small egg shaped and egg-sized pine cone at the front left belongs to the Giant Sequoia, the largest living entity on earth. The long pine cone comes from a Sugar Pine, which produces the longest pine cones in the world. The three round pine cones in the back may be cones from the Jeffrey Pine. These pine cones are all from northern California.

Naturalist John Muir and others lobbied Congress for the Act that created Yosemite National Park on October 1, 1890. The State of California retained Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. Muir and his Sierra Club continued to lobby the government to unify Yosemite National Park to better protect the area from grazing and logging.

“In May 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt camped with Muir near Glacier Point for three days. On that trip, Muir convinced Roosevelt to take control of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove away from California and return it to the federal government. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that did precisely that,” according to a Wikipedia account.

Mariposa Grove of Sequoias, including Named Trees.

Giant Sequoias Facts.

National Park Service Brochure of Mariposa Grove.

About Yosemite National Park.

 

The Giant Sequoia named Grizzly Giant is estimated to be from 1,900 to 2,400 years old and is the oldest tree in the grove. It has a volume of 34,010 cubic feet and is thought to be the 25th largest tree in the world.

Sap oozes in the giant sequoia tree known as the California Tunnel Tree in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. The bark of the giant sequoia is nearly resistant to fire, because the sap is water-based and non-resinous. The sap contains a chemical called tannic acid, which protects the tree from fire, insects and bacteria.

The Faithful Couple are two giant sequoia that grew so close together that their trunks have fused together at the base, which is an extremely rare occurrence.

The Massachusetts tree, one of the most famous trees in Mariposa Grove, fell in 1927. Tannic acid in the wood preserves the tree from decay, which is also why sequoia was such a popular logging wood.

A photograph can’t convey the massiveness of these giant sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park.

Shuttles bring tourists to visit Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park.

Numerous fires throughout the decades nearly severed the trunk of the Clothespin Tree, creating a space in it large enough for a pick-up truck to drive through.

Here’s a collage of some of my Yosemite National Park photographs.

12 Comments

Filed under Conservation, Travel

Bighorn Sheep in Colorado

A bighorn sheep ewe, on the right, prepares to lead the herd on its trek across a highway in Rocky Mountain National Park. The ewe waits until most of the herd members line up and then she begins the procession. The sheep make the journey each day to and from two lakes in a meadow in the park.

Not far from Estes Park in Colorado, bighorn sheep graze in a meadow near two lakes, “Sheep Lakes,” in Rocky Mountain National Park. The herd makes its way to the lakes from the mountainside each morning and then returns to the mountainside in the late afternoon. It’s a beautiful commute. Park rangers and volunteers manage the tourists and the cars on the narrow highway to allow the sheep safe passage.

When the bighorn sheep are ready to cross the highway, park rangers and volunteers clear the road. The sign says no walking, but it also means no parking. This Hummer driver was confused!

My husband and I were among the gawkers in early August for the sheep’s late afternoon procession back to the mountains. I joined the paparazzi jostling for a view from the packed parking lot. Because we had to stand well away from the sheep, I envied photographers with big lenses. One woman pointed to a female sheep hurrying back across the meadow to the herd at the closest lake. Where had the ewe been? What had she been up to? Her lamb ran out to her and then trailed after her. “Mommy, where did you go?”

In the mid-1800s, thousands of bighorn sheep lived in the Estes Valley, but their numbers were decimated by hunters, by degraded environment and by diseases introduced by domestic sheep. At one point it was thought only about 150 sheep lived in the park, high in the mountains. The bighorn sheep in the low-lying areas were gone. It wasn’t until recent decades that through conservation efforts and reintroduction of new bighorn sheep that the population started to increase. About 600 bighorn sheep live in the park now. The herd near Sheep Lakes seemed to be all female adults and their offspring. You can read more about the RMNP bighorn sheep in a link below.

I saw one sheep move up the hill from the lake, and a few stood behind her. Soon, most of the herd was behind her. She waited there, alert, watching us silly humans in the parking lot. Even though we were probably a hundred yards away (I’m bad at estimating distances), she was wary. The rangers and volunteers make sure humans stay back because sheep can be easily stressed. However, later, we saw bighorn sheep grazing by the side of the highway along Big Thompson River, butting heads and knocking each other into the road. They didn’t seem bothered by the traffic at all. I was worried for them!

Eventually, the entire herd at Sheep Lakes gathered behind the lead ewe and then the sheep made their way across the road, where traffic had been cleared. Of course, just as with humans, one grazing sheep was oblivious to the departing herd. She looked up, saw she was alone, and then bolted to catch the herd.

You can click on all of the photos to get a better look. You’ll need to backspace to return to this page.

A bighorn sheep lamb nurses from its mother as the herd lines up and prepares to return to the hillside after a day in the meadow.

Bighorn sheep graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.


A crowd gathers to watch and photograph the bighorn sheep as they graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. The most popular time is when the sheep migrate to and from the hillside over the meadow, which they do once a day.


On the left, a ewe hurries back across the meadow to the herd. In the upper right, her lamb rushes out to greet her. “Mommy, where did you go?” In the bottom right, the lamb follows after its mother.


Bighorn sheep graze on the hillside along the Big Thompson River in Colorado.


About Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here is a section of a map showing the Sheep Lakes area, where a herd of bighorn sheep graze every day.

4 Comments

Filed under Animals, National Parks, Natural History, Nature, Travel

Life and Death in the Garden

 

A crab spider grabs a honeybee that has visited a common milkweed flower.
A crab spider grabbed a honey bee that visited a common milkweed flower.
This honey bee was lucky it didn't encounter any crab spiders hiding in the milkweed flowers.

This honey bee was lucky it didn't encounter any crab spiders hiding in the milkweed flowers.

In the Midwest, Master Gardener J. G. has planted a complete banquet for pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies.   There are plants for all stages in an insect’s life.  One section of her garden is devoted to native prairie plants, such as the common milkweed, which has a wonderful fragrance and beautiful flowers.  Monarch caterpillars are dependent on milkweed leaves and flowers for food, and other insects drink the nectar.  The garden is a certified Monarch Watch monarch butterfly waystation that provides milkweed, nectar sources and shelter for monarchs as they migrate through North America.

Monarch Butterfly Waystation.

J. G.'s garden is a certified Monarch Butterfly Waystation that provides plants for nectar, milkweed and shelter for migrating Monarch butterflies.

Honey bees were busy getting nectar and pollen in the milkweed flowers when we toured J.G.’s garden.  One honey bee wasn’t so lucky.   A crab spider grabbed it and paralyzed it for its own dinner.  Crab spiders don’t spin webs but hide on plants, waiting for prey to visit.

It was a hot, humid day, and few butterflies appeared.  J.G. called out the names of the few that passed through — fritillary, painted lady, skipper.  I recognized a Monarch butterfly that flitted over the milkweed, settling just for a moment, before leaving.

To learn more about butterflies in the Kansas City area click on this links and do a search on butterflies: Johnson County Extension Office.    Other useful links: Monarch Watch and look for Bug Girl’s Blog, Anna’s Bee World and Pollinator Partnership in  my blog roll. If you’re buying from Amazon.com, use the Monarch Watch portal on my blogroll.  I’ll be posting more about J.G’s garden, including her leaf cutter bee boxes.

A honey bee visits a rose blossom.  You can see how closely these wild roses resemble apple blossoms, members of the same family.

A honey bee visits a rose blossom. You can see how closely these wild-looking roses resemble apple blossoms, members of the same family.

3 Comments

Filed under Biology, Butterflies, Conservation, Education, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Science, University of Kansas