Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Giant Pandas (Day 5)

The giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo were so beautiful. And, as with the rest of the zoo, the animals seemed well taken care of.
First of all, there was this sign at the entrance. And, people were very respectful and quiet. In fact, on our bus tour the guide told us that she would have to be off the microphone while driving by the pandas - and that she couldn't even use the brakes because the sound would bother the pandas. There were ropes up for long lines, but we were able to get right in.

There were 3 pandas all together - 1 in the first enclosure and 2 in the second. As you walk by the pandas, there are 2 lines - 1 in the front and 1 in the back. But, the back row is higher so you can see over the other people. First, you walk in the lower, closer line and then you "snake around" to the back, higher level. There is a lady speaking very quietly on a microphone telling you about the pandas. (And, I am sure she is there to make sure people stay quiet, too.)
The pandas looked so cuddly!
This panda was lounging in a hammock.
We watched this giant panda eating a snack - bamboo, of course!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

San Diego Zoo (Day 5)

One of our favorite days in San Diego was the day we went to the zoo. We stayed there for only about 7 1/2 hours! It was a beautiful day and it is an incredible zoo.

One of Alexandra's favorite things at the zoo was the sky tram. Even though there was a fairly long ride, we rode it 4 times!

Here's my nephew, baby H, enjoying the petting zoo.

When we first got to the zoo, we took the bus tour. It helped us to learn our way around some. And, we were able to get a great view of some animals.

A camel - also from the bus ride.

And a warthog.

This heron was a "wild" bird. There were a few herons and LOTS of great egrets just hanging around the zoo.

a cute monkey
We really enjoyed watching this gorilla. This was the large male and he was really active. One great thing about the San Diego Zoo is how wonderfully they enrich the lives of these animals. They give them lots of toys. They don't feed them at the same time, or even in the same order, every day - so they never know when food is coming. The grounds are also just beautiful with plants and trees everywhere.

If you can enlarge this photo, please look at this gorillas hands. They are so human like! (And, no, I don't believe gorillas evolved into humans. I believe God created us separately. But, his hands are very like ours!)

We enjoyed watching this black monkey with her little white baby. They were kind of hidden and I don't think many people noticed them. But, if you knew where to look you could see them pretty well.

This was another bird that was flying around "wild." We saw it in other places besides the zoo. I believe it is a dark eyed junco, though it isn't something we see here in Texas. I just thought he was so cute!

And, this parrot was sitting close to the pathway, so I got a good shot of him. I thought it was one of my best shots at the zoo. Isn't he a beautiful bird?
We really enjoyed the pandas, too. But, I thought I'd make them a separate post.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

La Jolla Cove (Day 4)

On Day 4, Alexandra and I went back to La Jolla to explore some more tide pools.

I liked seeing this sign about the tides, weather, etc. I enjoyed looking at a calendar that posted the high and low tides. Approximately every 24 hours, there is a high and a low tide, but they are all at different heights.

These are the rocks we walked on at La Jolla Cove. (This is just a few blocks away from the seals.) If you'll notice, the tops of the rocks are light grey while the rest of the rock is kind of brown. It's kind of sad, but these grey spots are where people walk and have killed all of the moss, etc. I was really nervous walking at the tide pools on the first day - there were some very slippery spots! But, after walking all over these rocks, I got pretty comfortable.

Another sea anenome - I could just sit and watch these, even though they aren't doing much! :-)

I need to look these up again, but I believe they are tube snails.

A pelican and some sea gulls. We saw TONS of pelicans!!!

I believe there are 7 caves in La Jolla. You can actually go kayaking into the caves!!! We decided not to do this, but Alexandra and I almost made it to the one "real" cave that you could walk into from a store. We just ran out of time! It is just about a block from this spot.

This is on the beach at the cove. You can see how the water has been cutting these caves out of the cliffs.
And, Alexandra playing in the waves! I enjoyed watching a man swim in the water and then emerge on this beach. And, we watched 2 SCUBA divers climb out here, too.

Scripps Aquarium (Day 3)

I literally took several hundred photos while in San Diego, so I'm really trying to narrow it down. On day 3 we went to Scripps Aquarium.

This is the first camera I've ever owned that has an "aquarium" setting and I'm just amazed at the quality of photos I can take at an aquarium!

This was a neat tank demonstrating a kelp forest. The kelp forests are the type of environment right off the coast in San Diego. One of the videos said they planted the kelp in this tank, but the other plants have all grown from the small plankton that were floating in the water. (In the corner are Alexandra, baby H (my nephew), and my mother-in-law.)
I was fascinated by some old videos of tuna fishing. They literally had 3 or even 4 men all pulling on fishing poles to pull out one of these large tunas! Somewhere around San Diego, we saw a large version of this small sculpture.

And, the 4 of us locked in a Shark Cage - mil holding baby H, Alexandra, and myself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seals (Day 2)

One of the highlights of our trip to San Diego was going to La Jolla to see the seals at Children's Pool. Children's Pool was built to allow a safe place for children to swim. But, the seals took over the spot and so it has become a wonderful place to view the seals. (The 20 or so dark "spots" are the seals.)

I found it interesting, as we were preparing for our visit, that some websites said there were seals at La Jolla, some said sea lions, and some said both. Well, we saw harbor seals so I'm still curious - do sea lions really come to La Jolla? Or do people not know the difference? We have been using Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures this year, so we were happy to be able to tell the difference. One of the main differences is that sea lions can kind of "walk" on their 2 front flippers and tail, while seals kind of "slither" more like a caterpillar. Also, seals have ear holes, while sea lions have ear flaps. (These seals were sure enjoying the sun!)
We only saw seals swimming a few times. We actually watched a few come on shore and a few leave, but most were content to bask in the sun.

This seal was our favorite - mainly because he was the closest. We walked out almost to the end of the walkway (see top photo) and he was lying on those rocks by the walkway. So, he was only about 15 feet away from us. I took lots of photos of him. Sometimes he'd stick out his tounge or move a bit or scratch himself. (No, I don't really know if it was a boy or girl - I'm just calling him a "him.")

But, I was really sad to see a hook in his mouth when I looked at him with the zoom lens. Can you see it? It's on this side by the corner of his mouth. You can see a short piece of wire curling around a few times, too. But, it does look like it has probably been here for some time and the seal is doing fine. (Also, you can note his ear "holes" - another sign that these are seals.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cabrillo National Park Tide Pools (Day 2)

The next morning, one of the things we did was visit the Cabrillo National Park - just in time for low tide. And, it was a very low tide. In fact, they were expecting their lowest tide of the year in only 3 days! I have never seen a real tide pool before and this was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. I was suprised at how hard it was to get around on the slippery rocks, though!

Above is a chiton - it is a mollusk with 8 hard plates.

This was one of my favorite finds. It is probably about 4 or 5 inches long and is a Key Whole Limpet. Limpets browse on algae along the cliffs and some return to a "home" spot during low tide.

This is a green sea anenome. There were LOTS of sea anenomes around. I'm glad someone pointed one out to us as we arrived, or I would not have recognized them. When they aren't in water, they close up and they're covered in little pieces of shell. (This one is partially closed.) The volunteer told me they are covered in shell to prevent themselves from being dried out!

On the left is a green sea anenome which is opened, and on the right (the whitish "tube") is a tube snail. The tube snail starts its life with a coiled shell, but as it grows, the shell straightens.
(I got a lot of my information froma sign they had near the tide pools.)

A photo of Alexandra out on the slippery rocks. I was really timid at first, but my sil kept helping me along. After awhile, I was getting around pretty well!

Goose-Neck Barnacles - I was surprised at how big there were -
they were bigger than a quarter at their base.

My sil and Alexandra, who were both usually ahead of me!

Another sea anenome which is out of the water and therefore closed.
It looks like it has a round bone in its center! Can you see how easy these would be to miss unless you know what you were looking for?

Hopefully you can find this fish. (His face is towards us in the lower, middle of the photo) My sil found it. It is a sculpin, a "master of disguise." He was probably about 4 inches long.

I should have probably enlarged this, but this is one of MANY hermit crabs we saw. They were one of the few "active" animals we saw.

In the back are California Mussels - filter feeders. Hiding in front is a little Lined Shore Crab.

More Goose Neck Barnacles - they were everywhere.

And, my absolute favorite "find" - a sea star!!! The volunteer told me it was a knobby sea star and that they don't see them very often around this beach anymore. Unfortunately, the photo doesn't show the colors as well as in real life. He had beautiful blue spots with yellow, raised centers. Gorgeous!!!

On a Plane to San Diego (Day 1)

Two weeks ago, Alexandra and I went to San Diego where we met my sister-in-law (who was there for a convention), her son (8 months old), and my mil. I have never been to the east coast and we were excited when my sil invited us along.

On the first day, we flew the 3.5 hour trip from Texas to San Diego. We sat next to a friendly young college student who was on his way back home to Mexico. He actually grew up in Texas, but is getting his Masters in geology in Mexico. Alexandra thought we had the BEST seat-partner on the plane because he had his little dog with him! We enjoyed talking to this young man, playing with his dog (who stayed in his travel bag), and watching the movie - The City of Ember.

After the movie, we enjoyed watching the scenery out of the window. The mountains were beautiful and Alexandra really enjoyed seeing all of the fields. They were so many different colors - and shapes!

I wish I would have gotten a photo of more round fields - there were lots of them together. There are just a couple of them in this last photo in the lower left corner.