A Halloween Treat

Grey-headed Flying Fox, Sydney, Australia

Grey-headed Flying Fox, Sydney, Australia

The grey-headed flying fox is a treat to have on this planet because it pollinates native trees and disperses the seeds.  Pteropus poliocephalus sleep during the day, congregating in large “camps” in trees like this one found in Sydney in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

 

In the full light of day you can see them  dangling in the treetops, using their stretchy wings as hammocks…I guess that’s the trick.  The largest bat in Australia, they have a wingspan of slightly over three feet and weigh about two pounds.  They are the biggest bats in Australia, and endemic.  At night they leave the roost in search of nectar, fruit, pollen, and seeds.  For more information about this bat, click here.

 

I’m not sure ghosts and goblins are such a treat, but I am certain that bats are.  I hope your Halloween is batty!

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in Australia, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

San Francisco: Baseball is in the Air Today

Parking Lot at AT&T Park, San Francisco

Parking Lot at AT&T Park, San Francisco

Who will win The World Series today?

 

Go Giants!

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

SF Ferry Bldg and Giants Banner, Oct. 2014

SF Ferry Bldg and Giants Banner, Oct. 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in America, California, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Yellowstone Geothermals (Part 2 of 2)

Morning Glory Thermal Pool

Morning Glory Thermal Pool

A volcanic hotspot of magma and molten rock lies below the surface of Yellowstone.  It originates more than 100 miles below and has been shifting, eroding, and erupting for the past two million years.  Yellowstone is only part of an 18 million acre ecosystem that includes the Grand Tetons, much of Wyoming, and parts of Idaho and Montana.

 

Geyser Basin steam vents, Yellowstone

Geyser Basin steam vents, Yellowstone

One of my favorite thrills was driving through the park very early in the morning when the air was still cool, because the contrasting warm steam vents were so visible…and they were everywhere.

 

 

Yesterday’s post focused on the geysers, and today we take a look at the other geothermal elements.  There were steam vents, or fumaroles, as seen here.  Another geothermal feature are the mudpots.  They are a hot pool of mud, a sort of hot spring with not much water.  Gases cause the mudpots to gurgle and bubble.

 

Heart Spring Thermal Pool and Lion Group Geyser

Heart Spring Thermal Pool and Lion Group Geyser

And then there are the hot springs, ah, so very beautiful.  The photos here represent some of the more stunning geothermal pools and hot springs in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin.  Whereas geysers have restrictions in their underground plumbing causing the dramatic eruptions, hot springs do not have restrictions.

 

Hot springs are super heated water features in which the water cools, sinks, and circulates without erupting.  The colors you see surrounding the pool are called thermophiles, and are bacteria and other microbes that thrive in hot water.

 

Blue Star Thermal Pool

Blue Star Thermal Pool

With over 10,000 geothermal features in Yellowstone, you could spend a lifetime visiting this unique place.  I also had the pleasure of visiting the northern side of the park in yet another geothermal area, called travertine terraces:  Mammoth Hot Springs.  I’ll tell you about that another time.  Thanks for joining me!

Chromatic Thermal Pool

Chromatic Thermal Pool

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in America, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Yellowstone Geothermals (Part 1 of 2)

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

There is much to admire in this park in Wyoming, but my favorite part was the extraordinary geothermal activity.  With over 10,000 such features, Yellowstone National Park has the greatest concentration of geothermal activity in the world. Yellowstone was America’s first national park due to the astounding glory of the geothermals.

 

This phenomenon requires a geologic blend of precipitation, underground heat, and underground plumbing.  Rain and snowmelt soak into the earth and combine with an underground magma layer to create boiling hot water just below the earth’s surface.  Due to millions of years of volcanic activity, there are fissures and cracks underground that are turned into viable channels, or pipes, by minerals like silica and rhyolite.  This system of natural underground plumbing provides a route for the roiling water to escape.  You can read more about it here.

 

Geyser Diagram

Geyser Diagram

There are nine large thermal areas in the park, and many different kinds of features.  Today I will focus on the geysers, and tomorrow I will show you other features like steam vents and hot springs.

 

Grand Geyser.  Tallest predictable geyser in the world

Grand Geyser. Tallest predictable geyser in the world

There were hundreds of geysers here, and they, too, are all very different.  Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in Yellowstone, but it is not the biggest.  It is famous because it faithfully erupts approximately every 90 minutes every single day and night as it has for hundreds of years.  With that kind of predictability and showmanship, it has attracted millions of human admirers, including me.

 

All geysers vary due to the composition of the subterranean plumbing.  I spent an entire day in the Upper Geyser Basin and had the thrill of watching Old Faithful erupt three different times.  Each eruption was slightly different, but for this geyser it generally lasted about five minutes, discharging about 4,000 gallons of water, to a height of 100-150 feet.  In addition, we witnessed exciting eruptions of about a dozen other geysers.

 

Geyser,-Old-Faithful-sign

Sign in lobby of Old Faithful Inn

Numerous explorers and scientists have embraced Yellowstone’s geothermals over the centuries.  In today’s world there are also dedicated “geyser geeks.” We befriended a particularly animated gentleman who called himself a “geyser geezer.”  Retired age, he ran with a few friends from one eruption to the next, taking meticulous notes in a tiny notebook.  He has been observing and studying eruption patterns for many years, taking pride in his accuracy of predictions.  His eyes sparkled as he hurried off to the next one.

 

Viewing the geysers is only one part of the extravaganza.  Hearing the roar, feeling the ground vibrate, and witnessing the explosive spray and downpour are also delightful.  And then there’s the smell:  sulfur.  This odorous evidence is the result of microorganism activity and absolutely caps off the experience.

 

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

The world has changed a lot since this park was declared a site, but all of us millions of visitors throughout the centuries are really quite the same:  celebrating an irrepressible expression of the earth and its beauties.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in America, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Western Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizard, Calif.

Soaking up the summer sun

He’s warming blood for a good, long run.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

Posted in America, California, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Coastal Hiking Adventure

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

A recent trip to Wilder Ranch State Park on the California coast was a truly spectacular day.  Few cars in the parking lot and unpaved paths were the first sign it was a gem, for this meant fewer people.

 

A short distance from the sea, we could not yet see it, but we could smell the brine.  After less than a mile we turned a corner and our world opened up with a bay and cliffs and the mighty Pacific Ocean.  Sea birds, seals, and tumbling waves were surrounded by craggy cliffs and the infinite expanse of the sea. Thereafter, every corner was a new coastal cove and a sleepy pod of seals, or nesting shorebirds on the cliffs, or soaring pelicans.

 

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

Our return hike extended longer than anticipated because the map wasn’t quite accurate.  The sandy trail ended at a farm, and our new view was a field and a farmer on his tractor.  In the distance we saw trail bikers going somewhere, so we headed that way and found abandoned railroad tracks that turned into the trail that eventually led to the parking lot.  It was all part of the adventure, and a fine one it was.

 

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

 

 

Western Gull on nest

Western Gull on nest

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

Posted in America, Birds, California, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

A Quiet Bird-filled Lagoon

Jabiru

Jabiru

Right in the center of Belize in the northern third of the country is a wonderful wildlife sanctuary with numerous lagoons and waterways loaded with birds.  A land-locked preserve, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is popular to birds for the shallow water, especially during the dry season.

 

With over 16,000 acres of wetlands, there are numerous species of birds and vast expanses of wetlands.  For several thousand years this was a Mayan community.  More recently, in the 1970s, it became popular to sports hunters for its jaguars and skies filled with waterfowl.  The villagers of the area then wisely made the leap to preserve this beautiful area for the wildlife.  We enjoyed several boat rides on the quiet lagoon, as well as walks through the cashew orchards and pine forests near the village.

 

Our guide grew up here, and as he motored the boat through the lagoon we passed by two of his cousins in small boats who were also wildlife guides.  We met his brother in a boat who was marking shallow spots with palm fronds.  Down the dirt road in the village, we stopped at the house of his friend who was outside cleaning fish.  The cat got the fish innards, and we got a lesson on the local fish.

 

I absolutely love getting that insider look at someone else’s world, in this case, the local residents of Crooked Tree Lagoon, and their peaceful preserve.

 

Agami Heron

Agami Heron

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

 

Crooked Tree Lodge on the Lagoon

Crooked Tree Lodge on the Lagoon

Crooked Tree Sanctuary Lagoon

Crooked Tree Sanctuary Lagoon

Posted in Birds, Central America, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments