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Archive for the 'Nature' Category

K is for Kiwi

K

The kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird. In fact, the New Zealand people are also known as kiwis.

Here are some facts about the kiwi:

1. The kiwi is a flightless bird.

2. Kiwis live in pairs and mate for life.

3. They are mostly nocturnal and live in burrows.

4. They can live for between 25 – 50 years.

5. The kiwi has nostrils at the end of their beak.

6. The kiwi has one of the largest egg-to-body ratio of any bird. They’re huge!

7. The male kiwi does most of the egg incubating.

8. There are five different species of kiwis.

9. The kiwi is vulnerable to introduced pests and numbers have declined. The populations are carefully managed to ensure the bird doesn’t become extinct.

10. It’s our national icon.

bigstock-North-Island-Brown-Kiwi-Apter-37200184

Have you seen a kiwi before?

H For Hippopotamus!

Hippos or hippopotamus (river horse) are known as the most dangerous animal in Africa, and they kill many people every year. You wouldn’t think they’d be dangerous, given their appearance. They’re plump with thick bodies and short legs, have a round head with small eyes and ears and a greyish-brown skin. They have no hair on their bodies except for a few bristles on their muzzle and at the end of their stubby tail.

Socializing hippos

A hippo spends its day lazing in the water. This is where it feels most comfortable and where it seeks refuge if it feels threatened. They can dive for up to 15 minutes but more commonly their dive times are one – five minutes. Water keeps their skin clean.

During the evening and at night, they go ashore to graze. They make a sound like a cow bellowing or a horse-like neigh when excited. They also snort when they’re in the water.

When we visited Malawi, we camped on the edge of a river. The next morning, we were all complaining about people snoring and accusing each other of the crime. It was in fact hippos wandering around our campsite. So glad I didn’t need a restroom visit in the middle of the night!

Hippo Bliss

Hippo bliss- a nice mud hole.

Hippos have a good sense of smell and also good hearing. Their sight is fairly good.

Apart from man, hippos have few enemies. Crocodiles might kill young hippos while on land groups of lions can possibly bring down a solitary animal.

The groups of animals consist mainly of females and non-breeding young. A group of females will be watched over by one male. Baby hippos are born in the water.

Off for a Wander

Off for a wander…

It’s not good to get between a hippo and water because this will make the creature feel threatened. Hippos are also very protective of their young and a person should never get between the mother and her baby. Hippos can run faster than a human over a short distance.

A group of hippos is called a pod, a herd or a bloat.

A male hippo is called a bull. A female hippo is called a cow and a baby is a calf.

I have to admit I’d never call them pretty, but they are an interesting animal. The pygmy ones are cute, especially the new born calves. I saw one on the news the other day and immediately wanted one for a pet.

Where does a hippo fit on your scale of likeable creatures?

Source: A Field Guide to Mammals of Africa by Theodor Haltenorth and Helmut Diller

Photos: P Munro – taken in Zambia, Africa.

A Tourist Paparazzi at the Zoo!

A few months ago hubby and I were in Sydney. It was a gorgeous day, and we decided to visit Taronga Zoo. We caught the ferry across the harbor and at the other side rode up the cable car to the top of the hill. The view from the zoo is incredible, especially from the giraffe enclosure.

Room With a View

Room with a view for the giraffes.

I joined the rest of the tourist paparazzi and roamed the zoo taking photos.

Kookobura

First up was this kookaburra. He didn’t seem to mind posing.

Koala 

Mr. Koola wasn’t very cooperative. In fact, he was a bit grumpy.

MountainSheep

Mr. Mountain Sheep was cooperative.

Meerkat

So was Mr. Meerkat

Meerkat 2

For a time. Then he turned his back and refused to pose.

Snow Leopard

Mr. Snow Leopard just wanted to snooze…

We had a fun visit, despite the uncooperative animals. Taronga zoo is in a gorgeous position, although comfortable shoes are a must.

Tell me about your favorite zoo experience.

Moon Crazy

Hubby and I have been taking a lot of photos with our new camera. Here is a selection of moon shots. It’s amazing seeing the craters so clearly.

Moon

This is the moon as we saw it from our back yard with no magnification.

Moon1

A little zoom and the shadows and craters are more obvious.

Moon2

Hubby thinks the placement of the craters is why people speak of the man in the moon.

Moon3

And here’s a close up of his face.

Moon4

This one is zoomed up even more, and you can see the craters.

Would you like to fly into space or become an astronaut? Did you want to be an astronaut while you were growing up?

The Mimic and the Coward

I think I’ve mentioned Mr. Munro has a new camera. He took these great photos of a tui, one of New Zealand’s native birds. The tui is very cool and is unusual as far as native birds are concerned because it has adapted to the changes in habitat and flourished. It’s not strange to see them flying around city parks or the local neighborhood, especially if there are trees full of blossoms. They feed on nectar and we’ve seen a lot lately, feeding on the spring blossoms.

The tui is a mimic, and they’ve been known to bark like dogs, copy musical instruments such as bagpipes. They have a whole rang of clicks and warbles and whistles. A tui that hangs out in my street has a different “vocabulary” to tuis that might live five miles away.

Tui

Tui

Tui

tui

The tui has a distinctive tuft of white feathers at its throat. Maori legend says that this tuft signifies the mark of a coward. The Maori god Tanemahuta asked one of the birds to go to live on the forest floor to take care of the pests. The bird that volunteered would lose his colorful plumage and his ability to fly. The tui and the other birds who declined all received a punishment. The tui received the white feathers. And the bird that volunteered to live on the forest floor – that was the kiwi, of course.

Are you a bird watcher?

In Quest of the Tuatara

We’ve visited Wellington several times and Zealandia before.(formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) Last time our visit was during the winter and since we both really wanted to see a tuatara, we decided to try our luck again.

Zealandia is an inland island – sanctuary for some of our rarest native birds. The entire place is surrounded by a tall, pest-proof fence that keeps out wild cats, stoats, weasels, possums, rats and other introduced pests that decimate our native bird population.

The site was previously a water reservoir for the city, but since Wellington has grown it became unviable. There was also the problem of an earthquake hitting. The area was replanted with native trees and turned into a sanctuary.

Old Resevior

This is the old reservoir.

Native Duck

Native New Zealand duck – the scaup. It’s the smallest of our native ducks. The scaup is a diving duck and disappears for long moments under the water.

Takahe

This is a takahe, one of our flightless birds. It was thought to be extinct after 1898 but was rediscovered in 1948. There are two takahe at Zealandia – a pair – although they are infertile so are not adding to the low population. They eat tussocks, grass, shoots and insects.

Kakariki

This is the kakariki parakeet, one of NZ’s natives. They have become endangered due to loss of their natural habitat.

The day of our visit was warm and sunny – the perfect weather to tempt the tuataras out of their burrows. Tuatara are rare reptiles that are found only in New Zealand. I’d never seen one before since they mostly live on off shore islands and at a few sanctuaries.

We saw their burrows and finally, much to our excitement we spotted a tuatara!

Tuatara in Disguise

Tuatara

I still get excited whenever I think about seeing them. We watched them for ages, not that they do much except sit there soaking in the heat from the sun. It was a real privilege to see such a rare creature.

Is there any animal or bird that you would like to see in person?

In Praise of Strawberries

dreamstimefree_1868210_Strawberries

The strawberry season is drawing to an end down here in New Zealand. I’m a huge fan of strawberries. Let me count the ways….

Reasons Shelley Likes Strawberries:

1. The appearance of the first strawberries is a signal that summer is underway.

2. They’re low in calories and very tasty. Often I’ll pick and eat. They never make it inside.

3. Strawberries and chocolate are a match made in heaven. They’re the perfect treat to eat during a romantic rendezvous.

4. Strawberries also go well with champagne. It’s that romance thing again!

5. Strawberry shortcake muffins are delicious. Recipe to follow tomorrow.

 

Sundry Facts About Strawberries:

1. They say wild strawberries grew in Italy as early as 234 BC.

2. Settlers of Virginia discovered wild strawberries in 1588.

3. The acids in strawberries help to whiten teeth.

4. They’re full of vitamin C, contain flavonolds and help reduce cholesterol. They also contain folic acid, potassium and fibre.

5. Black pepper and strawberries go well together. Better for diets, no?

6. If you ever go to the Wimbledon tennis make sure you have some strawberries. It’s a tradition, and they go through thousands of kilos of strawberries during the tournament. Around 27,000! And I have to say it’s an enjoyable experience.

7. They’re a member of the rose family.

8. There are around 200 seeds in each strawberry.

Are you a fan of strawberries, and if so, what is your favorite way to eat them?

Want One For a Pet?

Vulture sign

Vultures

We took these photos at the Everglades. The vultures were hanging around on the footpath and gave me the creeps. They’re ugly and were a bit smelly. I preferred the alligators.

Would you like one of these for a pet?

The Teddy Bear’s Picnic

Teddy Bears Picnic

I smile every time I see this photo. It reminds me of the song about the Teddy Bear’s picnic.

This photo of a group of young panda bears was taken at the Panda Research Center at Chengdu. Enjoy the song. I hope I don’t inflict you with an earwig!

Want to Grow a Bonsai Tree?

Yesterday Mr. Munro and I were listening to the radio while driving down the motorway. Hubby listens to a fuddy-duddy station with lots of chat, but it turned out to be interesting when the discussion turned to bonsai trees.

The lady speaking about them made growing bonsais sound very easy. Hubby and I like projects, so this weekend we’ve done some research.

Although bonsai is a Japanese word, bonsai trees were first known in China back in 1000BC. They were grown as gifts to give to the wealthy and were called pun-sai.

Bonsai Tree

Bonsai are grown in shallow pots and usually kept outside. They should be kept out of direct sunlight because there’s not much moisture in the pots. Quite a few varieties of trees are suitable to turn into bonsais, including several New Zealand natives such as the pohutukawa and kowhai. The lady on the radio mentioned Japanese maples are very pretty since their leaves turn color with the seasons. Basically you choose a seedling or small “junior-sized tree” from the plant nursery. Trim one-third of the roots off the tree and also trim the leaves so you gain a nicely shaped tree. The branches can also be wired to attain an attractive shape. Special soil is required – check at your plant nursery – and of course you need your special shallow pot. Once the bonsai are established, they require yearly root trims and shaping.

We have lots of small seedlings underneath our hedge, and we thought we’d try growing a pohutukawa bonsai.

Here’s a video on how to make your own bonsai tree

Do you like bonsai trees? Have you ever grown one?