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Safari Sunday: An African painted dog

Posted by barb on Feb 12, 2017 in Pictures, Recreation, Travels

Going into our trip, I didn’t know what our prospects of seeing the wild dogs would be – they are endangered and only a few hundred remain in Botswana. However, we caught a pile of them when we were leaving Chobe, and then found a couple (?) packs at Kwara.

They are beautiful but deadly. We first spied them hunting antelope who were trying to use the reeds as cover. The dogs hop as they run along so that they can see over the reeds and find their prey. They also make quick work of their prey once it’s down. As much as I wanted to pet them, I’m sure I would have lost a limb (or more) if I tried!

Lounging wild dogs

Lounging wild dogs

Lounging wild dogs

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Safari Sunday: Elephants at the end of the rainbow

Posted by barb on Feb 5, 2017 in Pictures, Recreation, Travels

Better than a pot ‘o’ gold!

It was threatening rain on our first game drive at Kwara Camp in the Okavango Delta. I think we ended up with a few drops, but then it cleared up with the most beautiful rainbow stretching across the entire sky. #SafariSunday

Check out the rainbow picture full screen to pick out the elephants.

Elephant rainbow

Rainbow elephants

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Safari Sunday: A lilacbreasted roller drops in

Posted by barb on Jan 29, 2017 in Recreation, Travels

There were lots of pretty birds at several of the parks and reserves. We aren’t exactly birders, but we did enjoy the colorful array we saw. Our guide pointed out many of these rollers, but most wouldn’t sit still long enough for a portrait – I have lots of blurred bird photos.

I could hardly remember the names of all the birds the guides called out, but was able to find most of them in a guidebook after the fact 🙂

Lilacbreasted Roller

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Safari Sunday: A newborn zebra

Posted by barb on Jan 22, 2017 in Recreation, Travels

We spied this pair of zebras in Chobe National Park. The guide described the baby as a “newborn”, though I’m not sure what that translates to in age – a few days? a couple weeks? certainly less than a month. This was another time that the guide was as taken by the sight as we were – he wasn’t sure he’d seen one this young before. Those were among my favorite things we saw – you know when the guide is amazed that you are seeing something truly special. We stayed and watched for a little while, hoping the little one would go running or bucking off, but she stuck close to mama.

Mama and baby zebra

Mama and baby zebra

Mama and baby zebra

Mama and baby zebra

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Safari Sunday: Young lion waking up

Posted by barb on Jan 15, 2017 in Recreation, Travels

This young lion is waking up from a nap, ready to eat more of the young water buffalo that she and her pride had felled earlier in the day. We came across all of them sprawled out, napping and panting. The guide suggested waiting around to see if they went back to the carcass (which we found just down the road). The guide told us that after a lion pride makes a kill, they will gorge themselves, then nap/pant for hours while they digest, then return to the carcass (if there’s still more) to eat more. Sure enough, after a time, the two young lions got the munchies, woke, stretched, and tried to rouse the adults. Then they headed back to the carcass and we watched them feed. The adults followed a short time later.

I'm so fierce!

Stretch!

Hungry again

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Safari Sunday: A trio of giraffes

Posted by barb on Jan 8, 2017 in Recreation, Travels

We came upon this trio during our first game drive in Chobe National Park. When the guide first pointed them out, I think I squealed in delight. He had known I loved elephants, but I think that he quickly realized that giraffes were near the top of the list, too.

I think of the first picture as the “Charlie’s Angel Giraffes”…maybe that’s just me?

Giraffes

Giraffes

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Safari Sunday: A lion family for New Year’s

Posted by barb on Jan 1, 2017 in Recreation, Travels

Early in the day, our guide found a mama lion in an area where he knew that a pair of mama lions often “stashed” their babies during the day. Our guide knew that they would often call them out in the late morning and/or late afternoon to get them some exercise.

When the lion walked into the brush, we poked around the bushes to see if she would call them out to get some exercise. She didn’t, but we found where on litter was waiting patiently for their mama. We could barely see them, because they were tucked away behind some bushes. But I did see one toddle past – barely able to walk. The guide guessed that they were maybe 2 months old – old enough that their eyes were open, but young enough that they weren’t very good at walking, and the mama wouldn’t be having them come out.

However, we returned late in the afternoon, because the guide also knew there was a second set of cubs. We found the two mama lions together first, and waited around for the one to call out her cubs. They came out and hung around mama for a little while. A good looking family!

Mama and cubs

Mama and cubs

Mama and cubs

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Safari Sunday: “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas…only a hippopotamus will do…”

Posted by barb on Dec 25, 2016 in Pictures, Recreation, Travels

It’s Christmas and #SafariSunday, what could be better than a hippo picture? How about a *baby* hippo picture??

On our first river cruise, we quickly learned to expect amazing things. Before we’d been out on the boat even 15 minutes our guide spied this little hippo eating grass on a small rock outcropping. We kept a respectful distance, acutely aware that Mama was watching us the entire time. Before too long, she hopped back in the river and spied at us from behind Mama. (I don’t know that the baby is a girl, but just decided it was a girl – I do that a lot with the babies we saw on this trip.)

The baby is about 4 months old. The moms keep the babies away from the rest of the pod for the first six months or so. These two were still separated. Fun fact that the guide told us: baby hippos can nurse underwater.

Yum!

Baby hippo on the rocks

Baby peeking over mama

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Safari Sunday: Tiny baby baboon

Posted by barb on Dec 18, 2016 in Pictures, Recreation, Travels

These were taken on our first game drive at the Chobe Elephant Camp. Our guide thought this little one was just a few days old, and the guide seemed to marvel over this tiny baby baboon. We sat and watched him crawl over his mom for several minutes.
Anytime we found something that even the guide was impressed by or marveling over, I knew we were seeing something special.

Newborn baboon

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Curator-led Tour of the Ocean Hall

Posted by barb on Mar 13, 2016 in Around DC, Recreation

Last year we bid on, and won, a curator-led tour of the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum during the National Zoo‘s Zoofari auction. And, today, we got to cash in our prize.

We arrived at the museum early so that we could have some time in the exhibit before the “hordes” arrived. We met Dr. Nancy Knowlton, a coral reef marine biologist and Sant Chair of Marine Science.

She and I had emailed a bit beforehand, and she had asked what kinds of interests our group had, so she could concentrate on those with her tour. Since we had all been through the ocean hall before, I suggested that she choose some of her favorite objects or objects with an interesting story.

After signing us in, Dr. Knowlton brought us to the entrance of the Ocean Hall. She took us to several things around the exhibit and we asked loads of questions. This included talking about cuttlefish camouflage, the Science on a Sphere, the coral reef aquarium, and the P-T extinction event.

A couple of the most interesting things we talked about were the fluid that the specimens are displayed in, the life in one square foot exhibit, shifting baselines, ocean positivity, and our behind-the-scenes look at the collections.

We stopped to look at one of the giant squid specimens, and Dr. Knowlton talked about the fluid that it is stored in. Originally, such specimens were kept in formaldehyde or alcohol. But, formaldehyde is toxic and that much alcohol in one place could destroy the museum if there was an accident. 3M created a different solution that wouldn’t be as dangerous. However, it turns out the solution is about three times more dense than water. When they put the solution in with the specimens, the specimens floated right up to the top! So, if you look closely at the specimens on display, there are cables and poles keeping them in place.

Dr. Knowlton describing her work

Dr. Knowlton had a chance to tell us more about her research when she took us back to the Life in One Cubic Foot temporary exhibit. She had developed a way to repeatably test the diversity of coral reefs. To do this, they place a stack of metal plates that’s about a cubic foot in volume. After about a year, they pick the stack up and catalog the large life within it. Then they scrape off the rest of the life and make a “smoothie” that they then identify the various DNAs present to get a catalog of life that’s present. The photographer that was involved in this project was inspired to look at what other life is in one cubic foot elsewhere in the world. This exhibit showcases some of those cubic feet.

We stopped in the fossil area to take our picture with the ancient shark jaws – a shark that makes a great white look like a guppy.

Group photo of the ocean hall tour

Then Dr. Knowlton brought us to a new education center at the museum – a center where they have a selection of the collection in drawers that visitors can look at, handle (in some cases), and get more information about. She showed us some of the ocean specimens behind the scenes collections at the museum, laboratory.

Finally, she took us back behind-the-scenes. Most of the collections have been moved off-site, due to the dangers of keeping that much alcohol and formaldehyde in one place. However, there are still a few things on the premises – we saw a huge bank of cabinets which held various plant life. She also brought us down to the lab where graduate students and postdocs work on identifying DNA strands of various animals.

To make the day’s adventures complete, we stumbled upon the St. Patrick’s Day parade in DC when we left the museum (on our way to the National Art Gallery to see the Greek Bronzes exhibition), so we stopped to watch.

Pot 'o Gold in the St. Paddy's parade

Dancers in the St. Paddy's parade

Bikes in the St. Paddy's parade

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