Photo of the Day: Playing Grizzly Bears

5 10 2007

Grizzly

Two Grizzly Bears playing at the Bronx Zoo. One of the bears, Jughead (all the Bronx grizzlies are named after “Archie” characters) died earlier this year.





Photos from the Catskills (and Haddonfield, too)

1 10 2007

I’ve been a little slow uploading the photos from the past two weekends, but here are some of the recent shots that turned out halfway decent, both from my brief (and disappointing) trip to the site where the first known Hadrosaurus was discovered and my camping trip with Tracey this weekend.

Hadrosaurus plaque

Hadrosaurus plaque

Plaques commemorating the (near) site of discovery of Hadrosaurus foulkii, sitting about three feet from the curb down a dead-end suburban street. The streambed below is full of trash, and sprawl has seemingly covered up the actual site of discovery.

Toy Dino Altar

An “altar” of toy dinosaurs near the plaques. Tracey said that I should bring a “sacrifice” the next time I visit in order to ensure success in fossil hunting.

And now on to photos from this weekend…

Dead ferns

Morning Trail

Trail top

Black Racer

On our way back down the trail, Tracey and I happened across a very large Black Rat snake.

Black Rat

Black Rat Snake

Hawk

We also saw a juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk, which we had scared off it’s lunch (pictured above). The frog leg was still twitching when we saw it, so it must have been caught shortly beforehand. In fact, we saw many juvenile red-tails in the forest over the weekend, and I wonder why the juveniles seem to live in the forest, often flying between the trees.

Brian

Turkey Vulture

Near the top of the mountain, the Turkey Vultures were very close overhead…

Turkey Vulture

… sometimes skimming right over the tops of the trees going between thermals.

Chipmunk

Brian

Reading up on baby dinosaurs. Notice how small the “two person” tent is.

Fire

The comics section of the Rutgers newspaper, The Daily Targum, provided excellent fire-starting material.

Brian

Making tools, in this case skewers, like a good hominid.

Fading Light

Spider

Mammal remains

Bones of the small mammal we found (one half of the lower jaw, a rib, a leg bone, a molar, and a canine). I haven’t had time to positively identify it yet, but I’ll write more about it when I have time to look at all the bits again.

And as with all good picture posts, a shot of the cats is needed to close things off…

Kitties

Bea (left) and Charlotte (right) apparently like mint chocolate chip ice cream.





Photo of the Day: Stranded Jelly

26 09 2007

Jellyfish

A dead jellyfish, rocking in the surf of Cape May, NJ at about 6 in the morning. Simple, maybe, but it’s still one of my favorite shots from this past summer.





Photos from the AMNH (yet again)

22 09 2007

Here are a few of the photos I took today during my visit to the AMNH. I decided to be “adventurous” and take exclusively B&W shots, hoping to better convey the mood of some of the fossils (or their replicas) that I was looking at. I’ll leave you to be the judge as to whether any of them succeeded in giving more life to the old bones than I have been able to do with color photography.

Allosaurus
The relatively gracile (at least compared to the specimen on the 4th floor, see below), yet dynamic mount of Allosaurus in the Grand Rotunda of the AMNH.

Allosaurus
The skull of the 4th floor Allosaurus, the famous mount being bent over the chewed vertebral column of an Apatosaurus.

Skull
Skull of the “Bear Dog” Amphicyon, a member of the Carnivora from the 4th floor mammal halls. Notice the big saggital crest, the placement of the cheekbones further out from the head, and lack of bone that (while typically not closed at the back) would normally surround the eye. This creature would have had an incredibly powerful bite.

Hyaenodon
Indeed, the skull of Amphicyon reminded me of that of the creodont Hyaenodon. Again, notice the sagittal crest, the cheekbones placed further out from the skull, and the near lack of bone that would enclose the eye. While smaller than the “Bear Dog,” I still wouldn’t want to cross a Hyaenodon on a bad day.

Hoplophoneus
Compare both those skulls with that of the nimravid Hoplophoneus and you’ll see what I mean. Hoplophoneus doesn’t have as prominent a sagittal crest, and although it still seemed to have large jaw muscles, there isn’t the same degree of reduction of bone surrounding the eye as is seen in the previous two mammals.

Smilodon
And, if you like, you can compare them further still with this Smilodon that had broken off it’s left canine. Such occurrences were likely painful, debilitating, and possibly even eventually fatal, and it makes me wonder if this one died as a result of it’s wound or if it continued to survive for some time longer (which opens up all sorts of questions).

Smilodon
A close-up of a more intact Smilodon.

Giant Anteater
A stuffed Giant Anteater from the Hall of Biodiversity. I much prefer photographing lives xenarthrans, however.

Apatosaurus
Apatosaurus is the first sight to grace visitors entering the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs.

Apatosaurus
The robust neck of Apatosaurus looms high above.

Apatosaurus print
Casts of the sauropod footprints R.T. Bird found in Paluxy, TX.

Apatosaurus
Apatosaurus from the rear.

Barosaurus
The head of Barosaurus, held up to (perhaps literally) dizzying heights.

Barosaurus foot
One of the forelimbs of Barosaurus, held out threateningly at the Allosaurus in the first photo.

Barosaurus
The head of a mini-reconstruction of Barosaurus.

Stegosaurus
The juvenile Stegosaurus model was pretty impressive, too.

Camarasaurus
A skull of Camarasaurus.

Biosphere
One of the largest self-contained “bioshpheres” I have ever seen. The little dots are shrimp.

Corythosaurus
One of the most wonderfully preserved (and in my opinion, publicly unappreciated) skeletons every found; a complete and articulated Corythosaurus with skin impressions, collected from the Red Deer River region of Canada.

Corythosaurus
A juvenile hadrosaur, probably either Corythosaurus or Lambeosaurus. I ran back and forth looking at skulls to try and figure it out, but the skull of the juvenile is slightly distorted, so (me being without access and a CAT scan at hand) I wasn’t able to confirm or deny my leaning towards my hypothesis of it being a Corythosaurus.

Deinonychus
A reconstruction of a Deinonychus skull. I looked at the forearms of the skeleton for signs of feather attachments (as had just been announced for Velociraptor by AMNH scientists) but I couldn’t see any, nor could I get close enough to get a good look.

Pigeon
Outside, one of it’s distant, extant relatives took a sip from a small puddle.

Edaphosaurus
The skull of the synapsid Edaphosaurus.

Elasmosaurus
The toothy jaws of Elasmosaurus.

Giant Squid
The famous Giant Squid that spreads its tentacles above the Hall of Biodiversity.

Gorgosaurus
The skull of Gorgosaurus, formerly Albertosaurus (although this specimen was first introduced to me as Gorgosaurus in the first place…)

Meteor
Perspective on a large, iron meteorite.

Pretosuchus
One of my most favorite mounts in the entire museum; Prestosuchus.

Triceratops
A close-up of Triceratops.

Tyrannosaurus
The most popular dinosaur in the museum, Tyrannosaurus rex.

Tyrannosaurus
The crushing jaws of Tyrannosaurus.

Leopard
A stuffed Leopard, posed over a peacock. This is another animal I would much rather photograph while living.

Charlotte
And last but not least, my little cat Charlotte, silhouetted against the evening light while she watched the birds outside.





A day at the fair Faire

17 09 2007

Here are some of the aforementioned shots from the NY Renaissance Festival in Tuxedo, NY.

Dish

When we pulled in to the lot, we saw this oddly creepy dish. The set up of the area suggested that it may have once served as a small airport, but my friends and I had no idea what the dilapidated structure was used for.

Turkey Leg

It wouldn’t be a day at the Renaissance Festival without a huge turkey leg. My friend Victor poses with a drumstick of the cooked dinosaur descendant.

Pillory
“All I said was the earth goes around the sun…” My friend Tim, to the right, was locked up for taking a few too many hits off his flagon of mead and making a spectacle of himself.

Nottingham

The loathsome Sheriff of Nottingham, victim of a vicious pie-fight.

Evil Witch

An evil witch takes control of a “pawn” during a rather unorthodox human chess game.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood strikes a pose.

Robin Hood fights the Sheriff

Me

Observing the joust from atop a rock, sporting my spiffy new Skulls Unlimited t-shirt.

Joust

Tim and the Wenches

Tim being fawned over by the Singing Wenches. Never have I heard so many bawdy rhymes (well, other than some of the hip hop blasting out of souped-up Honda Civics along College Ave.)

Sunset

Sunset, taken from the passenger seat of Victor’s car as we drove along the Pulaski Skyway just outside of Hoboken.

bea and charlotte

And for no reason, here are my cats Charlotte (the ‘lil black one) and Beatrice (the larger one, and she still needs a good home…).





Photos from the Philadelphia Zoo, Pt. III

10 09 2007

Here’s the last set of the photos from this past weekend, and as soon as I get the entire set uploaded to Flickr I’ll let you all know.

Gorilla
One of the gorillas at the Primate House. I only saw two while I was at the zoo, so I assume that most of the rest of them were inside or in an area out of view.

Grevy's Zebra
A Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi).

Prairie Dog
A Prairie Dog (Cynomys sp.) having a snack.

African Elephant
The only visible “enrichment” the African Elephants had was a naked metal chain, and the elephant that I was told was named “Petunia” couldn’t stop fiddling with it. I have to wonder if some of this was a way to comfort herself or divert unease, as just before this picture she was driven out of the shade by the two other elephants she shared her habitat with, and overall she seemed to be restless/ill at ease the entire day.

Puzzles
This is “Puzzles,” the Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata). I don’t know why the zoo staff has not operated on this animal, and the plaque outside the enclosure is a bit shore on details. Perhaps the condition is inoperable, and it doesn’t seem to visibly inhibit the giraffe, but I do feel sympathy for Puzzles.

Pygmy Marmoset
The most deadly of all creatures, the Pygmy Marmost [Callithrix (Cebuella) pygmaea]. Don’t let their cute appearance fool you; they can deskeletonize a cow in seconds… or is that piranhas…

Sable Antelope
A Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger) rests in the shade. It’s hard to tell from this angle, but this one has asymmetrical horns.

Squirrel Monkey
A Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri sp.) enjoying some fruit.

Tree Shrew
A Tree Shrew (Tupaia sp.), sitting still long enough for me to squeeze off a shot (albeit a blurry one).

Galapagos Tortoise
One of the Galapagos Tortoise (Geochelone nigra) taking a dip.

Aardvark
A pair of Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) having a snooze in an artificial cave.

Gibbon
“Solstice,” a female White-Handed or Lar Gibbon (Hylobates lar). She shares her habitat with her partner Mercury (who is black rather than blonde) and an Orangutan (Pongo sp.) pair.

Gibbons
Solstice makes her intentions clear; she wants to be groomed by Mercury.

Gibbon
Mercury seemed more interested in grooming his male orang friend than his partner Solstice.

Orang
The male Orang was very shy, and carried a cardboard box on his back like a shell/shade everywhere he went.

Orang

And that’s it. Hopefully I’ll soon upload all my photos (there are thousands of them) onto Flickr soon, but I hope that you’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve put up here.





Philadelphia Zoo Photos, Pt. II

10 09 2007

As promised, here is the second set of the better photos from my trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. I probably should (at the reccomendation of several commentors) register with Flickr and upload the lot of them, but that will have to wait until tomorrow (I’ll also go back and do likewise for the pictures on this computer as time permits). Let’s pick up where we left off, with one of my most favorite of big cats, the Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis);

Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard
There is nothing quite so beautiful as the emerald, fiery stare of an Amur Leopard. The eyes of almost any big cat can be described as intense or as being as intricate as a precious stone, but there is something about the gaze of leopards that strikes me in an entirely different way than that of their cousins…

Amur Leopard
…yet even the most majestic and feline predators needs to make time for a brief tongue-bath every now and again.

Amur Leopard Yawn

Amur Leopard Yawn

Amur Leopard Drink

Amur Leopard
It’s amazing the amount of bravado an inch or so of glass can produce. The object of the leopard’s stare was a child that could not have been more than two years old, being held up to the glass by his parents to get a closer look at the “big kitty.”

Amur Leopard
At times the leopard seemed just as interested in what I was doing as I was in his activities.

Amur Leopard Brian Switek
It is sad enough that this leopard is among the last of his kind anywhere in the world, being the most endangered of all the big cats. Why he is left on display in isolation, with not even as much as a plaque explaining what species he is and the problem those still in the wild face, not to mention the (as far as I can ascertain) the lack of a breeding/conservation program, confuses and frustrates me.

Amur Leopard

Giant River Otter
The Giant River Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) were also released just as my wife and I reached their enclosure. They certainly seemed excited to be out in their habitat, full of fish for them to snack on.

Giant Otter
At one point something apparently spooked the group, and they engaged in a “mobbing” behavior similar to that seen in the BBC’s Planet Earth series when a group of otters of another species faced a Mugger Crocodile. What the disturbance was, I couldn’t tell, but it seemed to come from the other side of their enclosure.

Unfortunately WordPress was a down for a little while last night so I didn’t get to upload the rest of the pictures, but I will do so during a break between my classes in a few hours. Snuggling Aardvarks, primates (from prosimians through apes), and mammalian herbivores of various description.





Photos from the Philadelphia Zoo, pt. I

9 09 2007

As promised, here are some of the better shots from yesterday’s visit to the Philadelphia Zoo. I’m sorry to say that I’m going to soon write up something about the Zoo’s shady dealings involving it’s African Elephants (visit Help Philly Zoo Elephants for a spoiler), but for now I’m going to focus on some of the better photos out of the 500+ I shot yesterday. And away we go…

Fountain
I absolutely love this fountain.

Highland Cattle
While not particularly exotic, Scottish Highland Cattle are still pretty neat.

Blue Eyed Lemur
A pair of rare Blue-Eyed Lemur, Eulemur macaco flavifrons. The black one is the male, the blonde the female, and they were very excited at the prospect of a snack (the mangabey next door was getting ded fed at the time)

Giant Elephant Shrew
One of my most favorite of all mammals, the Giant Elephant Shrew (Rhynchocyon petersi).

Mara
This, by far, was the thinnest Mara (Dolichotis sp.) I think I have ever seen.

Galapagos Tortoise
The Galapagos Tortoise (Geochelone nigra) were just beginning to stir when we arrived. They weren’t nearly as randy as they had been during our last visit (I thought I had heard it all until I hear the deep tones of tortoise-lovin’)

Petunia Elephant
An African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) that we were told was named “Petunia” was also up and about. The Philly elephants will soon be moved out of their rather meager accomodations, although it might not necessarily be for the better.

Amur Tiger Cub
This little male Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) really loved his tire. He wouldn’t let any of his brothers near it without showing his annoyance.

Amur Tiger Cubs

Amur Tiger Cubs

Amur Tiger Cub

White Lion
The strangely white female lions were relaxing in the early-morning shade. I know that their condition is a regional variation, although I forget the details at the moment.

White Lions

Male Lion

White Nosed Coati
Some of my most favorite Carnivores, White-Nosed Coati (Nasua narica) were scrounging for insects and other morsels when we passed by their enclosure.

White Nosed Coati

Red Panda
And, just for Jeremy, a Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens).

Caiman
We also came across the most evil-looking Caiman I had ever seen (there was no ID plaque, so I’m not sure what species it was).

Clouded Leopard
And the Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), as ever, was asleep in it’s hammock. I have never seen this cat move a muscle in my four visits to the Philly Zoo thus far.

Amur Leopard
Just around the corner, however, was a much more active and curious cat; a male Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis). He is one of the most beautiful big cats I think I have ever seen, and it’s a shame that he’s essentially “locked up” in his enclosure, and as far as I know the zoo does not keep a female Amur Leopard to run a breeding program for this most critically endangered cat.

Amur Leopard

I still have at least 25 pictures to share, but you’ll just have to wait a little bit longer for them. Check back later tonight for more of our friend the Amur Leopard, some Giant River Otter, White-Handed Gibbons, and plenty more.





Mine!

8 09 2007

My trip to the Philadelphia Zoo this morning presented lots of great photo ops, especially in the morning. I’ll post more of the plethora (500+) of pictures I took tomorrow, but here’s a bit of a teaser. First, the three male Amur Tiger cubs born recently. The one in the middle really loved his tire;

Tigers

The male Amur Leopard also was very curious about what I was doing on the other side of the glass, being much more active than on previous occasions when I have visited (expect a larger post on Amur Leopards and their plight in the near future);

Amur Leopard





Pictures from Petsitting and the Delaware Water Gap

28 08 2007

These are a bit long in coming, but here are some photos taken while petsitting a few weeks ago and during the trip to the NJ side of the Delaware Water Gap. Unfortunately I’m not too familiar with fungi so I can’t say I know what many of the species pictured are, but many of them were impressive all the same.

Spider

This spider was busy building a web outside the house I was staying at a few weeks ago. I’ve never seen an abdomen on a spider like this one has.

Blue Jay

I usually only see Blue Jays during the winter (or at least only remember seeing them during winter), but this one stopped by the bird feeder.

Cardinal

A Cardinal pair also came by, although they were more skiddish and difficult to photograph.

Birds

Finches

Eastern Goldfinch and Cedar Waxwing were the most common visitors to the feeder, however.

Turkey Vulture

A Turkey Vulture also circled overhead for a while, although it didn’t find anything interesting in the yard.

Deer

White-Tailed Deer also came by many times during the day, although the amount of brush and shrubs made them a little hard to photograph.

Fawn

Fawn

Fawn

The second round of summer fawns also came by in the mornings and evenings, usually.

Katydid

A very large Katydid with a color pattern I hadn’t seen before also paid us a visit, albeid inside the house.

Now on to the photos from the hike along the Appalachian Trail to Sunfish Pond;

Harvest

Early on we came across these two fighting harvestmen (“daddy long legs”).

Fungi

Fungi

Fungi

Fungi

Fungi

Fungi

Fungi

Being that the ground was relatively damp, there was fascinating fungi everywhere. The last two shots are among my favorites, and could the “S” on that last one be intelligently designed? (If you are new here, sprinkle the last bit of that sentence liberally with sarcasm)

Frogs

Frog

Once we got up to Sunfish Pond, we were greeted by scores of Bullfrog and Leopard Frog young, which hopped, almost in unison, back into the shallows.

Toad

Toads were also present over the entirety of the hike. We counted at least 20 over the 10 miles.

Three Lined

Three Lined

We also saw two Five-Lined Skink (thanks for the correction, Lars) on a log and tree near the pond, the one on the tree have a brilliant blue tail.

Frog

Fish

Millipedes

Corn Snake

The area that we sat down to lunch at was absolutely full of life as well, from fish and frogs to a small snake that was getting ready to shed.

In all, I’ve been able to get more photographs of NJ wildlife this summer than I have in previous years, and I hope that next year I’ll be able to get some better pictures overall.








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