Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Turtle in a Tidepool

Look in the water. Can you see it? There is a turtle hatchling stuck in the tidepool. He hatched the night before and was so new to the world he still had yoke on his belly. The tide was long gone and he could be an easy and tasty lunch for a cormorant. No. Please let him make it.

Our Galapagos guide, Carlos, helped the little guy. He picked him out of the tidepool, gently placed him on the lava rock and let him find his way. The little marine turtle turned toward the sea and made a mad dash. He knew what he had to do.

Fifteen feet to the ocean is a long way for a little one, especially when when a bunch of birds are looking down on you wishing all the people would go away. We all watched, prayed and cheered him on. He made it to the sand! Yeah!

Come on baby! Climb that rock! You're almost there!

Home. The water feels so good. God speed, little guy. May you live for a hundred years.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Galapagos Penguins

Everyone on the zodiac was bursting with joy! We could not contain ourselves and we sported the largest grins ever seen on Homo sapiens! We were watching penguins!! Galapagos penguins, Spheniscus mendiculus!!

Seeing the cute penguins while visiting the Enchanted Islands in June was, well REALLY COOL! The opportunity to swim with penguins in their native habitat was one of the main reasons I wanted to go on the trip. That did not happen, but I was able to get very close to these adorable creatures who have the magic ability to make humans smile.

The penguins were very tolerant. They were not bothered by our zodiac as it eased closer and closer to the edge of their rocky home. Ahhh... click, click, click. Many memories were captured in photos.

Aren't I handsome?

This pair staked claim on a perfect cave-like home on Bartolome Island. I wonder who was inside?
Unfortunately, recent news about the health of this unique bird is frightening. The New York Times reported August 18 that a new parasite has infected the Galapagos penguin. Researchers are concerned that, "it could lead to avian malaria, a disease that contributed significantly to the 50 percent extinction rate of endemic birds in Hawaii." It is believed that the infection is the result of increased tourism. Ugh! This doesn't make me feel very good about being one of the tourists.

The good news is that the penguins are showing no signs of illness. Researchers are trying to determine which mosquito is responsible for transferring the parasite to the penguins. Steps are also being taken to protect the island from non-native spieces. When we were landing on Baltra, the flight attendant shocked us all as she fumigated the overhead bins and therefore, passengers as well, with an insecticide spray.

I would love to add a link to The New York Times to make the article easily accessible, but because I am having difficulty adding links to my blog, I am only able to provide the site address: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/19/science/19peng.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin

Friday, August 22, 2008

Week End

I've thought a lot about posting this week. I had stories and photos to share, but I wasn't able to make it happen. I was just finding my blogging rhythm before I returned to school and now I need a new, revised version.

This first week was exhausting. Every minute, and I do mean every minute, was busy. I am happy for the weekend to make final preparations for school, finish a few things around the house, and have some time to check in on a few of my favorite blogs - including A Glorious Life. I'll be posting again by Monday morning. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy a great weekend!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer's End

Summer has, for me, officially ended. I am a teacher and today is my first day back to school. The students don't start until next Monday, but there is still A LOT to prepare. Most of this week will be dedicated to meetings - when we are all so eager to get to our rooms!

I am blessed to work with gifted students in grades 9-12 and have the same students every year. It is wonderful to be able to develop long-term relationships with my students. I look forward to hearing about their summer, their plans for this school year, and their preparations for college. I also have a whole new crop of freshmen to meet!

I do hate to see the summer end, but I also love the beginning of a new school year. It is a fresh start and holds so much promise. I am blessed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Simplify! Simplify! Simplification has been promoted for more than a few years, not so much as a process, but more as a command. "One must simplify!" I agree - to an extent.

I have been enjoying the many-years process of pairing down and making room and time in my life for what matters and what I care most about. But, life is enhanced by partaking in consumerism. I could be sitting in my office writing this post, but instead, because I own a laptop and had wireless installed, I am on my back porch watching birds at the feeders and geese fly overhead.

Where is the line between having too much and just enough? Do I really need a macro lens? Of course not, but it might be nice.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Butterflies, Mushrooms and Fungi - A Full Day

Joe left us to care for Lady Massasuaga and our group continued to explore Jennings Prairie.

As the day progressed and the sun beat down from directly above, we decided to take one of the trails through the woods. The mushrooms and fungi were amazing! I was surprised to see the wide variey we found on the edge of the path. I know nothing about mycology so I'm not able to identify the different spieces. Oh! There is SO much to learn! Anyway, I still want to share a few of the photos.

There were fungi on trees...

mushrooms and fungi of a variety of shapes and colors...

and, there was even a fungus growing on another fungus.

My favorite mushroom was pale orange and pink. It looked like it should be drawn in a children's book as the home of a woodland fairy.

I obviously need to buy a field guide to mushrooms and fungi. Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake at Jennings Prairie

As we continued to explore the prairie plants and move along the trails, our group ran into one of the volunteers at Jennings. Joe visits the prairie on weekends to catch and tag Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes, Sistrurus catenatus catenatus.

Yep. You know what Joe is holding in the bag, but you don't know it is pregnant! A very pregnant and VERY angry Massasauga Rattlesnake!

I sure wish I could have taken a photograph of her outside of the bag!

She let it be known that she was not happy! She is a healthy snake and her rattles are loud! Joe told us that she was tagged with a chip three years ago, but that she had not been captured since. He was taking her to the center where her weight and measurments would be recorded. He would later release her where she was found.

I can not emphazsize how wonderful it is that this snake is pregnant. The massasauga is very endangered and only breeds once every two or three years. They breed in August and September and the young are born live the next summer. It is nice to think that her babies might already be living on the protected prairie at Jennings.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Jennings Prairie

Prairie breeze
Grasses sway
Butterflies sail

There is an ancient prairie in Pennsylvania.

The prairie, a rarity in our forested and pastoral state, was once part of the ecosystem which stretched into the Midwest. This remaining 20 acres of native grasses and flowers, surrounded by woodland, is named for Otto Emery Jennings and is part of The Jennings Environmental Education Center near the town of Butler.

I was one of a group of learners, all students of native plants and the prairie ecosystem, who visited Jennings last Saturday as part of a class sponsored by Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The class, enjoyed by all, was taught by Thelma Redick and Linda Kramer.

The focus of our study was to learn how to create and care for a prairie, how to incorporate a prairie into our landscape designs or, on a smaller scale, how to use native plants in our gardens. The beauty of Jennings Prairie inspired us!

The prairie is in glorious bloom. While the main colors of the moment are vibrant yellows, the most stunning color is purple - the purple of the Prairie Blazingstar Liatrus pycnostachya.

It is because of this plant that Jennings exists and thrives. This prairie became the first reserve created in Pennsylvania to protect an endangered plant, you guessed it, the Blazingstar. Jennings is now known for an abundance of this beauty.

Our class was eager to learn about the Blazingstar and all of the other inhabitants of this ecosystem.

Ox Eye False Sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides

Green Headed Coneflower Redbeckia laciniata

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca

Bergamot Monarda fistulosa

To be continued...next post: More from Jennings, including Joe and the Massasuga Rattlesnake.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Caught in the Act

Deer in the backyard are not usually a welcome site. I chase them, put nets or fences around certain plants and trees, and I've spent entirely too much money trying different sprays that are supposed to stop them from devouring the garden. I still couldn't bring myself to chase these twins, even though they ate every flower in the "deer buffet!"

My dad always said, "All babies are cute." Dad was right. They are. I let these babies stay.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Elephant Babies at the Pittsburgh Zoo

The world has been blessed. Two African Elephants were born in July at The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Both babies are girls!!!

Angelina was born July 9 and Zuri, which means beautiful in Swahili, was born July 25. I made a pilgrimage to see the babies Friday, August 1. I took a lot of photos and only realized there was a problem with my camera, completely my fault, of course, after I downloaded the shots. Bummer. However, the babies are too cute for words and their births are so very important for the elephant world, I would rather share poor photos than none at all.

Angelina liked to run

while Zuri was still a bit wobbly.

Zuri did enjoy playing in the water.

Angelina tried to follow her mother, Savannah, up a small embankment. She soon realized it was not going to be easy.

"Oh no. I'm slipping. I'm falling."

"Whew. That was close. Here I come ma."

"This is hard."

"Ma, wait! I'm trying, ma. I'm allll..mmmmm..ooost there."

"Thanks, buddy."

The keepers and the adult elephants look after the little ones.

Zuri: "What is this thing on my face?"
Angelina: "I have no idea. But, it gets in the way when I try to eat lunch!"

The sisters, Jackson is the father of both girls, are a HUGH attraction at the zoo. I overheard a woman in the crowd say, "This is a once in a lifetime thing, to see a one week old elephant. And, it is right here in Pittsburgh! Wow!"

I will second the "WOW!" I am so very proud of The Pittsburgh Zoo and, especially the elephant keepers! Thank you!!!!

For more information visit: http://www.pittsburghzoo.org