Monthly Archives: October 2020

Endangered or Threatened Species We Have Seen

A couple of the animals below are endangered. The others are threatened species due to habitat loss and other environmental issues. Ruth and I have seen all 4 in our travels.

The only place to see the Australian sea lion above today is on Kangaroo Island. We went there from Adelaide the last time we were in Australia and observed some on a beach. They were lethargic and sleepy but alive, and we were ordered not to make noise or approach them. We were told we were privileged to see them because there are fewer than 12,000 of them left.

Above is a photo I took of the common barn owl. These birds are widely distributed and threatened in some places due to habitat loss that makes it harder for them to find food, but they are OK in other areas. The general consensus is that they are to be considered endangered because their natural habitat is being destroyed. Barn owls are beautiful birds.

The octopus’ name is Pebbles and she may or may not still be a resident in the Shaw Center for the Salish Sea in the town of Sidney on Vancouver Island. We met and watched Pebbles for a long time last autumn, and the staff at the Shaw told us that she would soon be released back into the waters of the Salish Sea, her natural home. Octopi are very intelligent and don’t adapt well to captivity, so Shaw puts one on display for a short period of time and then sends it home probably to mate and die, its natural fate. The Salish Sea environment contains 172 bird species, 247 fish types, and 3,000 invertebrates. Invertebrates are backbone and spineless residents including octopi. There are severals species of them in the Salish Sea and some of them are very large. I failed to ask if Pebbles was part of an endangered species of octopus.

The jellyfish is a sea resident too. The one pictured just above is a box jelly, one of the most deadly animals in the world. Ruth & I saw an exhibit about them in an eclectic museum in Darwin called the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. There were also displays about Cyclone Tracy and a crocodile named Sweetheart. I wrote about the experience under the title “The Northern Territory’s Best Artless Museum”. No one smart goes into the sea around Darwin from October to May because of box jellies. Every year some humans in Darwin die from contact with them. It’s estimated that 20 to 40 Filipinos in the somewhat nearby Philippines die each year from box jelly stings. The display about them in the Darwin museum was quite informative. Invertebrates have no bones, brains, or blood. They’re 95% water. There are 200 known species of jellies, but few of them are as deadly as the boxes. Some of them like the Peach Blossom are threatened and disappearing.


Offbeat Things to Do in LA

With any luck Ruth and I will be on the road soon. One of our scheduled destinations at the present time is Los Angeles, a city we have often visited. A new approach to a popular and often seen destination is my goal this time. We will not, as a result, visit the Getty Center, Universal Studios, or the Griffith Observatory. We will not even see middling but worthwhile attractions like the Hollyhock House, the Disney Concert Hall downtown and its relatively new and great neighbor The Broad Museum, The Eames House, or the La Brea Tar Pits. So I’m looking at and considering some of the eight following places.

There are a couple of must repeats. I want to see Mystery Pier Books at 8826 West Sunset Boulevard again and the dream-producing Pacific Design Center that we did not have time for late in 2019 when we last visited LA. At that time we toured The Eames House and saw the city of Palmdale just north of the San Gabriel Mountains. The Pacific Design Center is at 8687 Melrose Ave. and a hard place to leave.

So what will we see in such a familiar city in 2020 depending on availability? Below is a list of destinations we are considering.

  1. LAX No kidding. People who still fly tell us that the scariest place to be in any big city during the COVID epidemic is its airport. Ruth & I have been told that social distancing is very abused until its time to board your flight and you must put your mask on. Airports are all of a sudden the ghost towns of the 21st century. We have been to LAX many times over the years and can’t imagine it virtually deserted.
  2. The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
  3. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery where, among other celebrities, Judy Garland is buried.
  4. The fabled Hollywood Bowl that we have never seen up close.
  5. The TCL Chinese Theater that we have not been in for many, many years. It was called Grauman’s the last time we were there.
  6. Runyon Canyon Park a few blocks from Hollywood Boulevard, which is often described as an overlooked place with great views.
  7. Paramount Pictures Studio. Paramount is said to be the only historic film studio remaining from the Hollywood Era. If you want to really experience it, you must reserve a spot for a guided tour. The more costly one will set you back $60 per person, but it lasts 2 hours to half a day and sounds like nostalgic fun. If this is too dear, there’s a standard tour offered every half hour from 9 am until 3:30 pm for $18 per vehicle.
  8. I must see the redone, largest passenger terminal in the western US again. I was 18 years old the last time I was there.


Not Endangered, Maybe Rarely Seen

We have seen some endangered animals lately, but Ruth and I have also seen some creatures that are not endangered but also are not seen very often. Below are 4 of them.

Ruth and I saw white-faced monkeys in Costa Rica on the Gulf Coast. They were scrambling over a roof and making quite a racket. Also called capuchins, they are known to scream and throw things. Widespread in Central and South America, their numbers are decreasing, but they are not on any official list of endangered animals.

Ruth & I saw a bobcat and a mountain lion at the California Living Museum last year. This zoo in Bakersfield specializes in common animals in this state, and both cats are native species. It’s estimated that there are 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 million bobcats roaming around North America, so they are definitely not considered endangered. There are 72,000 in California alone, but you almost never hear about them unless they attack a small domestic animal or get too close to a human. Both cats are carnivores and secretive and solitary animals. They are the most widely distributed cats in North America.

Ruth & I saw owl eye butterflies in San Jose, Costa Rica. They were in a museum garden sucking on fruit. Owl eyes love bananas, but they like any type of fermented fruit and they do become drunk. They are not endangered in the rainforests of Mexico, Central America, and South America, and there are about 20 species of owl butterflies. They are threatened because of habitat reduction but are not on endangered species lists yet.

Caimans are common on banks and in rivers in Central and South America. We saw a couple of them in Costa Rica. Their population in both places approaches 1,000,000, so they are certainly not endangered.

According to the American Kennel Club Yorkies can best be described with 4 words–tenacious, feisty, brave, and bossy. They are certainly not endangered animals.


Strange Animals Seen

Since our last trip to Australia, Ruth & I have seen a few unusual animals. We saw 2 of them at the Irwin’s zoo north of Brisbane in mid-May, 2018. Steve Irwin’s children take their role as zookeepers seriously and stress their role as preservers of endangered species as opposed to confiners of animals. Their Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast one hour north of Brisbane by car is worth the journey, but we took the train to Beerwah where a shuttle took Ruth and me to their zoo where we saw at least 2 endangered species.

The first was a cluster of red pandas. These small animals with bear-like bodies are not pandas that mostly live in the Himalayas where they hang in forest trees to avoid predators. They are endangered. Some can be found in southwest China. Their name derives from the Nepali word “ponga”. To the people of Nepal, this word means a bamboo or plant eating animal. Red pandas were fascinating to watch.

The other rare animal we really paid attention to at the Australia Zoo was the ring-tailed lemur. We saw them about 3 pm because their keepers let them roam freely at this time, and Ruth & I suddenly found ourselves surrounded by them on an ordinary path. Most lemur families are native to the island of Madagascar. The lemur is a vocal primate, but the ones we saw made no noises. One of their calls sounds like a cat meowing. They are said to communicate visually, but I saw no evidence of this as they scampered about. They mostly ignored our presence.

About 7 months later we were on a river heading toward Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica when we saw a plumed basilisk on the riverbank. These Central American native lizard-like creatures are not to be handled. They bite with jaws that make it impossible for their victim to free him or herself. If you fight, the basilisk clamps down even harder.

I saw the colorful crab just above a couple of months before that in the Copalita Ecological Park & Ruins near Huatulco, Mexico. Ruth was not along on this walk because she chose another tour. My guide on this walk of the ruins was Anna. She was a proud, lively 67-year-old native Oaxacan who did not or could not identify this land crab, but she gave us her recipe for ant soup instead. I tried to find out what it was later but failed. However, I found my photo of it on a Copalita website.

The final animal of much interest we saw recently was a lobster named Lord Stanley. He resides in the new aquarium in St. Louis at Union Station and was a gift to this excellent tourist attraction when the St. Lous Blues won the Stanley for the first and only time, so far, in 2019. All lobsters are solitary animals and blue ones are rare. One in 2 million lobsters are naturally blue. Lord Stanley likes to hide out in dark crevices because his vivid color attracts predators.


Many, Many Berlins

One year Ruth & I got what looked like a good travel deal that included 2 destinations. We had been to Austria’s Vienna but never to Germany’s Berlin. The trip began promising enough. We were traveling on Austrian Airlines and paid for an upgrade that put us in business class for the trip over the Atlantic Ocean. But then disaster struck. Ruth broke her wrist in a fall in a museum in Vienna. As it turned out, the airline that took us there was no help. They refused to let us cancel the Berlin part of the trip, so we decided to go there anyway where I pushed Ruth around in a wheelchair. What we did learn as a result of this misfortune is that Berlin has lots of interesting attractions like a major Holocaust museum and is probably the most common town name on Planet Earth.

Many German’s in Berlin in the late 19th century left and settled in places that they named after their first home. The number of Berlins exploded. But then World War I happened and many of those who had left Germany were uncomfortable living in new towns named Berlin. Many of them changed the name of their new towns. Nevertheless, there are still at least 72 places in the world named Berlin. The USA is especially filled with Berlins since 15% of its overall population is of German extraction.

There are at least 26 Berlins among the 50 states, but most of them have remained very small. The largest one is a town of slightly more than 10,000 people in New Hampshire. The 2nd largest Berlin is in New Jersey with about 7,500 people. Ohio reportedly has the most Berlins.

According to website geotargit that spends its time documenting geographic names and locations, Berlins are widespread. There are towns or areas in places like Ecuador, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Sweden, Bolivia, and 6 other countries named Berlin. There are or were 5 Berlin’s in Venezuela and 17 of them in South America’s Columbia. Some of these towns also have another name probably because of Germany’s bellicose past.

The most interesting town to me with Berlin as a 2nd name is the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia. I had never heard of this city until I began doing research on towns named Berlin and was shocked to learn that it has been around for more than 250 years, is approximately 1/3 the size of the main Berlin in Germany that was divided after World War II, and that Chelyabinsk is now Russia’s 7th largest city. It has had problems with industrial pollution and made the international news in 2013 when a meteor literally exploded over it one morning before sunrise. It created a major sun-like flash and a shock wave that injured more than 1,200 people. Hopefully, none of them broke their wrists.