EnviroQuest

Photography by Larry A Lyons

Posts tagged ‘photography’

A Melange of Feathered Friends

This is the final post of a three part series of a Florida field trip that this photographer co-coordinated for the South Jersey Camera Club members for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March. The first post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds’, visited the Venice Rookery with an amazing diversity of birds courting, mating and raising offspring. The second post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey’, traveled to various locations in southwest Florida to photograph birds of prey nesting and caring for their offspring. This post provides a melange of birds captured when visiting the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge consists of 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and hardwood hammocks located on Sanibel Island. This refuge provides an important habitat to over 220 species of birds.

Here is just a sampling of birds photographed at Ding Darling starting with the ‘Reddish Egret’. The ‘Reddish Egret’ is considered the least common heron in Florida. The population of this heron was almost eradicated due to plume hunting during the 19th century. The species has never fully recovered with the current population in the United States of only about 2,000 pairs primarily residing in southern Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, and Texas.

Reddish Egret- Breakfast Time

‘Reddish Egret- Breakfast Time’ © Larry A Lyons

The feeding behavior of the ‘Reddish Egret’ is captivating to watch. It leaps sideways and quickly changes directions in shallow waters searching for small schools of fish to feed upon.

Reddish Egret- Down The Gullet

‘Reddish Egret- Down the Hatch’ © Larry A Lyons

White Pelicans only spend part of their year in Florida. They migrate to their wintering grounds to coastal areas of Florida, Gulf of Mexico and southern California. In March and April they migrate to inland lakes in flocks to their breeding grounds as far north as Utah, Idaho, Minnesota and Canada.

Pelican Gathering

‘Pelican Gathering’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘White Pelican’ is considered one of the largest birds in the United States with a 9-foot (2.7 meter) wingspan.

Landing Gear Down

‘Landing Gear Down’ © Larry A Lyons

This pelican was rigorously fluffing its wings and having a bath.

Bath Time

‘Bath Time’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Blue-winged Teal’ are long distance migrants with their territory throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and northern South America. The can be found wintering in Florida and will migrate northward in the spring to breeding grounds.

Blue-Winged Teal

‘Blue-Winged Teal’ © Larry A Lyons

This ‘Tricolored Heron’ is standing absolutely still, not necessarily to get photographed, but waiting for prey to approach it. Its’ prey consist of small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. It is a remarkably slender bird with long beak, neck and legs.

Tricolored Heron

‘Tricolored Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘Tricolored Heron’ is common along the coastal habitats of the Southeastern United States.

The ‘White Ibis’ is a wading bird residing in the deep South. It is one of the most numerous wading birds in Florida although the population has been declining in recent decades due to the loss of feeding and nesting habitats.

White Ibis

‘White Ibis’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘Little Blue Heron’ is another bird that resides mostly in the deep southern United States and Mexico. It looks much like a Snowy Egret when it is young, but molts to the dark slate-blue plumage as an adult.

Little Blue Heron

‘Little Blue Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

This ‘Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron’ was stalking prey along the bank. These birds are often active at night. It is interesting that this species shows up several times in fossil records with the earliest fossil record being 2 to 2.5 million years old from Sarasota, Florida.

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

‘Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘Wood Stork’ is considered one of Florida’s ‘signature’ wading birds. It is classified as ‘threatened’ by the State of Florida and federal government due to the destruction and degradation of the wetlands.

Wood Stork

‘Wood Stork’ © Larry A Lyons

This alligator is a resident of the Ding Darling Refuge. Here this gator was basking in the sun to control its body heat. Adult gators enjoy a diet of fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.

Alligator- I Eat Wings

‘Alligator With It’s U-Shaped Snout’ © Larry A Lyons

Perhaps we should let this gator know which birds are protected. And perhaps this gator provides some protection benefits for the birds from predatory mammals.

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The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a very tranquil sanctuary with an extensive boardwalk to transverse though this wetland. It is not to be missed. This sanctuary is part of the Western Everglades in Southwest Florida. It consists of approximately 13,000 acres and is primarily composed of wetlands and includes the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in the world. The National Audubon Society has been ultimately responsible for acquiring, protecting and maintaining this sanctuary.

Not only is the sanctuary important for a variety of endangered or federal or state listed birds including the Wood Storks, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Tricolored Heron, but also for protecting a variety of other species including the Florida panther, American Alligator, and Florida Black Bear. Several rare plants are also found at this sanctuary including the Ghost Orchid.

Crocodiles also inhabit this sanctuary. The primary physical difference between crocodiles and alligators is the shape of their snout. Crocodiles have long and pointed, V-shaped snouts and alligators have rounded, U-shaped snouts.

Croccodile

‘Crocodile With It’s V-Shaped Snout’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Anhinguas’ primary habitats are cypress swamps, rivers and wooded ponds. This pair of ‘Anhingua’ was attending to their nest.

Anhinguas Attending To Nest

‘Anhinguas’ © Larry A Lyons

There were a number of songbirds to view including some very common ones. The lighting on these birds is a photographer’s dream.

Cardinal

‘Cardinal’ © Larry A Lyons

Gray Catbird

‘Gray Catbird’ © Larry A Lyons

Then there was the exquisite ‘Painted Bunting’ in full display. The ‘Painted Bunting’ breeds in the coastal Southeast and south-central United States.

Painted Bunting

‘Painted Bunting’ © Larry A Lyons

Florida is a very seductive place to visit for a number of reasons and that would include another seductive sunset at a beach in Naples. So, here we are being seduced again, as the brown pelicans roost for the evening.

Another Seductive Sunset

‘Another Seductive Sunset’ © Larry A Lyons

 

 

 

 

Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey

This is the second post of a three part series of a Florida field trip that this photographer co-coordinated for the South Jersey Camera Club members for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March. The first post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds’, visited the Venice Rookery with an amazing diversity of birds courting, mating and raising offspring. This post travels to various locations in southwest Florida to photograph birds of prey nesting and caring for their offspring.

Bald Eagle Portrait

‘Bald Eagle’ © Larry A Lyons

The Bald Eagle is another success story on the importance of banning harmful chemicals, such as the pesticide known as DDT; enacting laws such as the federal ‘Endangered Species Act’; and providing appropriate measures of wildlife management. In Florida there were only 88 active nests in 1973. Now there are more than 1,300 nests documented as a result of all of these initiatives.

One of these nests is situated high up in a tree in the northern section of Fort Meyers, Florida. Adult ‘Bald Eagles’, known as Ozzie and Harriet, have been coming to this nest since 2006 residing in the nest between the months of October and May. This eaglet was stretching its wings waiting its turn to be fed.

Can I Fly Yet?

‘Can I Fly Yet?’ © Larry A Lyons

Feeding The Eaglets

‘Feeding The Eaglets’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Burrowing Owls’, no bigger than 10 inches (25 cm) in height, live underground in burrows. They dig out tunnels in sandy soils often within residential communities, particularly vacant lots preferring areas with low ground cover. Burrows extend for 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 m) underground. This pair of owls was guarding its burrow.

No Trespassing

‘No Trespassing’ © Larry A Lyons

The Florida burrowing owl is classified as a “species of special concern”. This means burrows, owls, and their eggs are protected from harassment and/or disturbance by state law.

Burrowing Owl Portrait

‘Burrowing Owl On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

The installation of T-perches near the owl burrows is often provided. These perches provide the owls with an elevated view that aids in looking out for predators. The T-perches also make the burrows visible for operators of lawn mowers.

Watching Over Nest

‘Watching Over Burrow’ © Larry A Lyons

Unlike other owls, Burrowing Owls are active during the day. They have a diversified diet feeding on small mammals (moles and mice), insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Burrowing Owl On The Prowl

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

This wise old ‘Great Horned Owl’ was watching over an owlet living in this tree. Two nests of these owls were observed within a suburban community of Cape Coral that was no more than two blocks apart. It is one of the most common owls in North America. They live in a broad range of habitats from deserts, forests, tropical rainforests, cities, parks and suburbs. Like the burrowing owl, it has found a way of adapting to suburban sprawl.

The Wise One

‘The Wise One’ © Larry A Lyons

Great Horned Owls take life-long mates and will raise the young together. It does have a varied diet that can include small to medium sized mammals (foxes, rabbits, raccoons, rodents, etc.), amphibians, birds, fish and reptiles. This owlet is only a few weeks old and still covered with downy feathers.

Owlet

‘Owlet’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s because of the widespread use of an insecticide, known as DDT. Once DDT was finally banned in 1972, recovery of the osprey population began. A previous post entitled, ‘The Osprey Comeback’, provides more information about the how DDT caused the extermination of the osprey populations. The biology and reproduction cycle of the osprey is also provided in this previous post.

Osprey Portrait

‘Osprey Portrait’ © Larry A Lyons

The ospreys were quite active in building their nest. This nest was situated on an osprey platform in the Ding Darling Refuge in Sanibel Island and nesting begins as early as March. The male ‘Osprey’ brought the remainder of a fish to the female who was attending to constructing the nest. Ospreys mate for life and often return to the same nest year after year.

Room Service

‘Room Service’ © Larry A Lyons

Stay tuned for the final post of this series that will visit birds and other wildlife at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

 

The Foxes of Island Beach State Park

Island Beach State Park is one of the last significant remnants of a barrier island ecosystem that once existed along most of the New Jersey coastline. In fact, it is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches along the north Atlantic coast.

Island Beach State Park is about 3,000 acres along a 10-mile stretch of coastal dunes. It is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay. This barrier island ecosystem consists of primary dunes, beaches, dense thickets of brush and trees, freshwater wetlands, maritime forest and tidal marshes. There are over 400 plant species. This ecosystem is utilized by a wide diversity of birds including ospreys, peregrine falcons, wading birds, shore birds and songbirds. Island Beach State Park is also the home of a red fox population.

'Red Fox On Snow-Covered Dunes' © Larry A Lyons

‘Red Fox On Snow-Covered Dunes’ © Larry A Lyons

The red fox population at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey appears quite healthy and prosperous. This past winter of 2015 appears to have a particularly high population of foxes present. In one drive through at least 8 to 10 foxes were observed over a period of four hours. Since Barnegat Bay has been frozen for several weeks this winter, some migration of the foxes is suspected to the park via the frozen bay.

'On The Run' © Larry A Lyons

‘On The Run’ © Larry A Lyons

Foxes are generally nocturnal and like to hunt at night. However, if they live in a place where they do feel safe, like Island Beach State Park, they may also hunt in the daytime. One fox was observed running across the road with a bird in its mouth. It quickly disappeared into the thickets to either stash its catch or eat it.

'Do Not Feed Me' © Larry A Lyons

‘Do Not Feed Me’ © Larry A Lyons

It is obvious that the foxes of Island Beach are somewhat unafraid of humans since they will approach you waiting to see if you will feed them. However, it is strictly forbidden to feed them. There is plenty of natural food in the park for their needs. Feeding them is detrimental to them. One fox was observed walking around with a broken leg. This injury could have resulted by being struck from a vehicle.

'On The Prowl' © Larry A Lyons

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

Red foxes are successful animals in the wild. They live throughout the continental United States and also in Europe, Asia and North Africa. They can be found in a variety of habitats including forest areas, grasslands, deserts, mountains, and coastal areas.

Living in the wild is a harsh life. The life span of a red fox is three to five years in the wild as opposed to red foxes that live in captivity can live up to 10 to 12 years.

'Oh So Pretty' © Larry A Lyons

‘Oh So Pretty’ © Larry A Lyons

Red foxes are the size of a medium sized dog. They are naturally lean, but do not appear that way when seen in the winter with their rather bulky coat.

Foxes have excellent hearing and can hear low frequency sounds and rodents digging underground.

'Red Fox Profile' © Larry A Lyons

‘Red Fox Profile’ © Larry A Lyons

Red foxes also have great eyesight. They have vertically-split pupils like a cat that would be advantageous when hunting at night.

'Red Fox Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Red Fox Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

Foxes being omnivores have a very diverse diet of animals and plant material. Plant material would include fruits, berries, acorns, grasses, sedges and tubers. Their animal diet consists of small mammals (mice, rabbits, voles), insects and grubs, birds, and if they live near the ocean they will also consume mollusks, crabs and fish.

Although foxes typically hunt or forage alone, they are social animals that live in packs. Packs can consist of older siblings, pups, nannies (non breeding females) and mates.

'Winter Courting' © Larry A Lyons

‘Winter Courting’ © Larry A Lyons

Their breeding season is in the winter when they will court and mate. The female fox is referred to as a ‘vixen’ and the male as a ‘dog’. The dog fox will support the vixen by bringing food to the family in early spring. A vixen can produce a litter of 2 to 12 pups. Both parents care for their young through the summer after which they are out on their own.

'The Dog and The Vixen' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Dog and The Vixen’ © Larry A Lyons

Vixens can also be assisted in rearing the cubs by non-breeding females or a female cub from a previous litter.

Fighting and posturing of red foxes can either be the result of aggressive and dominant behavior or by fearful or submissive behavior. When male foxes are courting females, the male will turn its’ ears outwardly and raise it’s tail in a horizontal position.

'Dominance' © Larry A Lyons

‘Dominance’ © Larry A Lyons

When a fox is afraid or expressing submission to a dominant animal, foxes will arch their backs while crouching their legs and curving their bodies. Their ears are pointed backwards and their tails are lashing back and forth.

'Submission' © Larry A Lyons

‘Submission’ © Larry A Lyons

Playful individuals will perk their ears and rise on their hind legs.

'Playing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Playing’ © Larry A Lyons

'The Chase' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Chase’ © Larry A Lyons

When red foxes move into an assertive attack, the foxes approach each other directly instead of sideways. They will stand on each other’s upper bodies with their forelegs using open-mouthed threats.

'Squabble' © Larry A Lyons

‘Squabble’ © Larry A Lyons

These fights typically occur among juveniles or adults of the same sex. These fights tend to be very short-lived.

'Foxy Vixens' © Larry A Lyons

‘Foxy Vixens’ © Larry A Lyons

It is no wonder why the red fox has a reputation of being cunning and smart. They are quite resourceful with their ability to find food and appropriate habitats, like Island Beach State Park, to achieve their livelihood. They have a social structure that is not only interesting to observe but is quite successful.

The preservation and management of habitats, particularly unique ecosystems like Island Beach State Park, is a treasure that must be protected, respected, and cherished.

 

Resources:

http://www.islandbeachnj.org/index.html

http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/island.html

 

February 2015 Exhibition Announcements

Two exhibit announcements to be made for the month of February 2015.

Three images were accepted into the 2015 Wilmington International Exhibition of Photography. This is an annual exhibition that is a juried competition from entrants from all over the world.

For the “Photojournalism Projected” competition a total of 632 images were received and a total of 155 images were accepted. Two of my images, entitled “Wedding Caravan” and “Innocence”, were accepted for the “Photojournalism Projected” competition.

'Wedding Caravan' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wedding Caravan’ © Larry A Lyons

'Innocence' © Larry A Lyons

‘Innocence’ © Larry A Lyons

For the “Color Projected” competition a total of 1,257 images were received and a total 296 images were accepted. My image, entitled “Vigilant”, was accepted.

'Vigilant' © Larry a Lyons

‘Vigilant’ © Larry a Lyons

The projected images can be viewed on February 22nd and March 1st from 12 noon to 5 pm at Arshst Hall, University of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware.

In addition, three ‘printed’ images were accepted at the Medford Arts Gallery in Medford, NJ. A juried exhibition of all prints can be viewed at the gallery during the month of February. One of the prints, entitled “Out of Africa”, was a metal print that received an “Honorable Mention” award.

'Out of Africa' © Larry A Lyons

‘Out of Africa’ © Larry A Lyons

The other two images (Innocence and Vigilant) are displayed as fine art prints.

That is enough of the bragging.

 

Grand Teton National Park – The Landscape

The Grand Teton National Park, 310,000 acres in size, is located just 10 miles south of Yellowstone within the State of Wyoming. It encompasses the Teton mountain range, glacial lakes, the 15-mile long Jackson Lake, the upper stem of the Snake River and part of the Jackson Hole Valley.

'Grand Teton National Park Map'

‘Grand Teton National Park Map’

This is the second part of the National Park series following a post on “Yellowstone- The Landscape”. It really is astonishing to travel only 10 miles (16 km) south from the geothermal landscapes of Yellowstone to the majestic, and more serene, landscapes of the Tetons.

'The Tetons' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Tetons’ © Larry A Lyons

The Teton mountain range is a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains that extends for 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from British Columbia to New Mexico. It is the youngest mountain range within the Rocky Mountains that began forming between 6 and 9 million years ago.

Mount Grand Teton is the tallest mountain within the Teton mountain range with an elevation of 13,775 ft. (4,200 m). Here Mt. Grand Teton stands 7,000 ft. (2,100 m) above a Moulton homestead within Jackson Hole Valley.

'Mt. Grand Teton Overlooking Jackson Hole Valley' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Grand Teton Overlooking Jackson Hole Valley’ © Larry A Lyons

The beauty of the Tetons is never far from your view while visiting this national park. You just have to face west. In addition to Mount Grand Teton, there are another nine mountain peaks at elevations over 12,000 ft. (3,700 m).

'Teton Mountain Range' © Larry A Lyons

‘Teton Mountain Range’ © Larry A Lyons

Mount Moran, named after Thomas Moran, a frontier landscape artist, stands at 12,605 ft. (3,840 m). Mount Moran rises 6,000 ft. (1,800 m) above the Snake River at an area called Oxbow Bend.

'Mt. Moran At Oxbow Bend' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Moran At Oxbow Bend’ © Larry A Lyons

Here Mount Moran is reflecting in Jackson Lake.

'Mt. Morans' Reflection' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Morans’ Reflection’ © Larry A Lyons

The major peaks of the Teton mountain range were carved out into their current shapes by glaciers that have vanished long ago. Small glaciers that continue to recede still exist at the highest peaks.

'Mt. Moran's Peak' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Moran’s Peak’ © Larry A Lyons

The peaks with their light blue glaciers and bare granite are often viewed through the clouds.

'In The Clouds' © Larry A Lyons

‘In The Clouds’ © Larry A Lyons

'Bare Granite Peaks and Glaciers' © Larry A Lyons

‘Bare Granite Peaks and Glaciers’ © Larry A Lyons

Jackson Hole Valley within the national park is 55 miles (89 km) long and 6 to 13 miles (10 to 21 km) wide. It is a fairly flat terrain at an average elevation of 6,800 ft. (2,100 m). The Snake River starts out as a small river flowing west and south into Jackson Lake. The first 50 miles (80 km) of Snake River runs through Jackson Hole Valley.

In the early 1800’s mountain men came to Jackson Hole Valley to trap for beaver and hunt for other fur bearing animals. Fur trading businesses thrived until about 1840 when businesses folded as a result of the decline of beaver populations from over-trapping. Today, beavers are back in business and building rather extensive dams.

Weather conditions can really change how your images will be portrayed. The overcast days and extensive cloud cover when photographing within the park this past autumn really provided for some dramatic images. Here only the foothills of the Tetons were visible because of the extensive cloud cover when photographing the large beaver dam.

'Beaver Dam On Snake River' © Larry A Lyons

‘Beaver Dam On Snake River’ © Larry A Lyons

Jackson Hole Valley is also the home of the National Elk Refuge with the largest elk herd on earth.

'Elk Grazing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Elk Grazing’ © Larry A Lyons

And Bison also roam free in the valley. Here the bison were moving in one direction, whispery faint clouds passing in the opposite direction in front of the Tetons, and the sun was beginning to set that lit-up the peaks and clouds.

'Bison On The Move' © Larry A Lyons

‘Bison On The Move’ © Larry A Lyons

Like Yellowstone, the Grand Teton National Park supports a wide diversity of wildlife. An upcoming post will provide a glimpse into the wildlife that utilize and reside in the ‘Greater Yellowstone’ ecosystem encompassing both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

'Western Ho' © Larry A Lyons

‘Western Ho’ © Larry A Lyons

All of the images in this post were captured in the autumn when the aspen trees brighten up the landscape with their quivering, yellow foliage. Autumn is a particularly good time to visit this national park.

'Aspens Accenting The Landscape' © Larry A Lyons

‘Aspens Accenting The Landscape’ © Larry A Lyons

'Autumn Colors of a Meadow' © Larry A Lyons

‘Autumn Colors of a Meadow’ © Larry A Lyons

The green tint of the bark of aspen trees is created by chlorophyll that allows photosynthesis, providing energy from the sun for their growth. This allows aspen trees to flourish during their short growing season.

'Stand of Aspens' © Larry A Lyons

‘Stand of Aspens’ © Larry A Lyons

Homesteads settled by few frontiersmen in Jackson Hole Valley during the 1890’s and early 1900’s have been historically preserved.

One particular homestead, known as the “Shane Cabins”, was actually used as props for a 1953 movie starring Alan Ladd in the movie entitled “Shane”. It is an American West movie about homesteaders. A clip of this movie with the Grand Tetons as the setting can be found at Shane.

'Shane Cabins and Homestead' © Larry A Lyons

‘Shane Cabins and Homestead’ © Larry A Lyons

Historically this homestead was the “Luther Taylor Homestead” that was built in 1916; however, for the most part it is referred to as the “Shane” cabins.

'Teton Sunset' © Larry A Lyons

‘Teton Sunset’ © Larry A Lyons

'Shane' © Larry A Lyons

‘Shane’ © Larry A Lyons

While photographing these nighttime images, the howling of coyotes in the distance added to the lore of the Shane cabins.

'Big Dipper Over Shane Cabin' © Larry A Lyons

‘Big Dipper Over Shane Cabin’ © Larry A Lyons

There is also a complex of homesteads within Jackson Hole Valley referred to as ‘Mormon Row’. Mormon homesteaders began to arrive in the 1890’s. These homesteaders clustered their farms to share labor and community. Despite the arid and long winter conditions of the Jackson Hole Valley, these settlers grew crops by using irrigation. They dug out levees, dikes and ditches to funnel water to their fields. Today the barns of two settlers – John and Thomas Moulton- remain as historic testament to these hardy homesteaders.

'Thomas Moulton Homestead' © Larry A Lyons

‘Thomas Moulton Homestead’ © Larry A Lyons

'John Moulton Barn' © Larry A Lyons

‘John Moulton Barn’ © Larry A Lyons

'Glacier Framed by Corral Fence' © Larry A Lyons

‘Glacier Framed by Corral Fence’ © Larry A Lyons

Bid adieu to the Tetons for now. As majestic and grand as the Tetons stand here on planet Earth, you can only ponder when glazing into the Milky Way and its millions of stars the infinite wonders of this universe.

'Infinite Wonders' © Larry A Lyons

‘Infinite Wonders’ © Larry A Lyons

Stay tuned for upcoming posts. One upcoming post will provide a glimpse of the wildlife utilizing both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Another post provide a glimpse of Mammoth Springs, which consists of extensive limestone formations generated by the hot springs in Yellowstone. In addition, a ‘glimpse’ into other National Parks, including the Badlands, the Redwood Forests, Yosemite, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon, will be forthcoming.

Yellowstone – The Landscape

An upcoming series of posts will be providing a “glimpse” of the National Parks in the United States including Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Badlands, Redwood Forests, Yosemite, Death Valley, Grand Canyon and others. This series is intended to provide a glimpse into the uniqueness of each national park encompassing the beauty of its topography, its geological make-up, and the distinct ecosystems supporting a diversity of wildlife and plant species.

This National Park series will begin with Yellowstone National Park, which is the first U.S. National Park established in 1872.

Yellowstone is situated in the northwest corner of Wyoming and includes small areas of Montana and Idaho. It encompasses 2.2 million acres (or 3,400 square miles). It is an area larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

'May of Yellowstone'

‘Map of Yellowstone’

Yellowstone is one giant volcano resting on top of one of the largest magna chambers in the world. The last major eruption was 600,000 years ago. From 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes occur each year at Yellowstone, but most are too small to be felt.

Geysers and Steam Vents Galore' © Larry A Lyons

Geysers and Steam Vents Galore’ © Larry A Lyons

Yellowstone is home to more than 10,000 geothermal features encompassing geysers, hot springs, steam vents and baths, and percolating mud baths. All of these geothermal features are fueled by heat just a few miles underground.

Sixty percent of the world’s geysers are situated in Yellowstone with over 200 active geysers. Geysers are hot springs that are constricted at the surface that periodically erupt into a fountain of boiling water and steam.

The ‘Old Faithful’ geyser is probably the most famous geyser in the world, not because it is the tallest geyser, but rather it is one of the more predictable geysers. ‘Old Faithful’ erupts several times each day and its eruption is predictable within 30 minutes prior to erupting. Eruptions may occur as frequently as every 60 to 90 minutes. Each eruption blasts 3,400 to 8,400 gallons (14,000 liters to 32,000 liters) of boiling water to a height of 120 feet (36 meters).

'Old Faithful' © Larry A Lyons

‘Old Faithful’ © Larry A Lyons

The reason “Old Faithful” is quite the predictable geyser is because it does not share its underground plumbing system with other geysers. Most of the water from geysers first arrives from rain or snow melt. The water seeps deep into the earth and begins a long recycling journey back up again. The journey can take 500 years or more before it is recycled and blasts into an eruption. In other words, the hot water erupting that this image captured was last seen during the time of Columbus.

'Grand Geyser Erupting' © Larry A Lyons

‘Grand Geyser Erupting’ © Larry A Lyons

Grand geyser is consistently the tallest and perhaps the most spectacular of the predictable geysers. Grand geyser will erupt around every 8 to 12 hours and will blast to a height of 150 to 180 feet (46 to 55 meters).

'Petrified Trees' © Larry A Lyons

‘Petrified Trees’ © Larry A Lyons

Petrified trees border the Grand geyser pool area. There are two types of geysers, that is, either cone-shaped like the Old Faithful geyser or fountain-type geyser. The “Grand” geyser erupts from a pool of water to produce a fountain-type geyser. After the eruption has ended, the water will be out of sight or sometimes a pool of water will be visible.

'Castle Rock Venting Steam' © Larry A Lyons

‘Castle Rock Venting Steam’ © Larry A Lyons

Castle geyser is considered a very old geyser that is 5,000 to 15,000 years that has a 12-foot (4-meter) cone. Castle geyser erupts at an interval between 9 to 11 hours. Bison are often seen grazing near the geysers.

'Hot Spring' © Larry A Lyons

‘Hot Spring’ © Larry A Lyons

Hot springs are the most common geothermal feature in which rising hot water is released as a runoff or as steam. Water temperatures can exceed 190 degrees F (90 degrees C). Unlike geysers with a pressurized plumbing system that erupts through a small constriction, hot springs have wide openings where super heated water is continuously circulating to the surface.

'Colorful Microbial Mats' © Larry A Lyons

‘Colorful Microbial Mats’ © Larry A Lyons

Colorful microbial mats, composed of trillions of pigmented bacteria, live in and around the hot springs. The colors can range across a wide spectrum of colors.

'Thermophiles' © Larry A Lyons

‘Thermophiles’ © Larry A Lyons

The bright colors found in Yellowstone’s hydrothermal basins originate from thermophiles – microorganisms that thrive in hot temperatures and the mineral-rich water.

'Close-up of Pigmented Microbial Mats' © Larry A Lyons

‘Close-up of Pigmented Microbial Mats’ © Larry A Lyons

'Small Geysers Sprouting' © Larry A Lyons

‘Small Geysers Sprouting’ © Larry A Lyons

Large Hydrothermal basins, like the ‘Grand Prismatic Spring’, also reveals extensive microbial mats with the vivid colors that flourish throughout the basin.

'Grand Prismatic Spring' © Larry A Lyons

‘Grand Prismatic Spring’ © Larry A Lyons

'Sunset Over Grand Prismatic Spring' © Larry A Lyons

‘Sunset Over Grand Prismatic Spring’ © Larry A Lyons

In addition to all of the geothermal features that Yellowstone has to offer, there are many other spectacular vistas including snow covered mountains and a golden grand canyon.

'Rocky Mountain Vista' © Larry A Lyons

‘Rocky Mountain Vista’ © Larry A Lyons

Here a couple of bison are resting in the grassy plateau while waterfowl wade in the pond. Yellowstone is home to 50 species of mammals and 300 species of birds. An upcoming post will provide a glimpse into the wildlife of Yellowstone.

The “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone’ is situated in the middle of the park with Yellowstone River flowing through it. The canyon is 24 miles (38 km) long and 1,200 feet (365 meters) deep. Yellowstone River drops an astonishing 300 feet (91 meters) at the Lower Yellowstone Falls.

'Grand Canyon of Yellowstone' © Larry A Lyons

‘Grand Canyon of Yellowstone’ © Larry A Lyons

This golden canyon was formed from volcanic rock about 600,000 years ago. The golden color of the volcanic rock evolved from the iron in the rock that had become ozidized from steam and hot water.

'Volcanic Rock Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Volcanic Rock Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

Yellowstone River is recognized as the longest free-flowing (undammed) river in the United States.

'Upper Yellowstone Falls' © Larry A Lyons

‘Upper Yellowstone Falls’ © Larry A Lyons

Forest fires are an important part of Yellowstone’s ecosystem and has become to be understood that fires are a natural regeneration process. Yellowstone, like other parks, have instituted a natural fire management plan that allows fires caused by lightning to burn out on their own. For instance in 2013 there were 15 fires. Of the 15, eleven of the fires were only 0.1 to 1.0 acres in size. The remaining four fires ranged in size from 189 acres to 7,200 acres for a total of 11, 933 acres. Five of the 2013 fires were attributed to human activity while the remaining ten fires were caused by lighting. In 2014, there were only five fires reported and each of those fires was only 0.1 acres in size.

'Forest Regeneration' © Larry A Lyons

‘Forest Regeneration’ © Larry A Lyons

Many of Yellowstone’s plant species are fire-adapted. For instance, lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta), which make up nearly 80% of the park’s extensive forests, have cones that are sealed by resin until the intense heat of fire cracks open and releases the seeds inside.

Pine and Aspen Saplings' © Larry A Lyons

Pine and Aspen Saplings’ © Larry A Lyons

One lonely Aspen sapling along with the pine saplings are in the process of regenerating into a new forest. Fires may stimulate regeneration of aspen, sagebrush, and willows, but the interactions between these plants and fire is complicated by other influences such as grazing levels and climate.

The scenery of Yellowstone at night can be as grand as the daytime hours.

'Night Eruption of Old Faithful' © Larry A Lyons

‘Night Eruption of Old Faithful’ © Larry A Lyons

'Venting To The Stars' © Larry A Lyons

‘Venting To The Stars’ © Larry A Lyons

'Big Dipper and Yellowstone' © Larry A Lyons

‘Big Dipper and Yellowstone’ © Larry A Lyons

Here a full moon is shining through Old Faithful’s eruption.

'Goodnight Yellowstone' © Larry A Lyons

‘Goodnight Yellowstone’ © Larry A Lyons

Bid adieu to Yellowstone for now. What a magnificent treasure! Stay tuned for upcoming posts. Two more posts on Yellowstone will be forthcoming. One is a glimpse of Mammoth Springs, which consists of extensive limestone formations generated by the hot springs of Yellowstone, and the wildlife of Yellowstone. In addition, a ‘glimpse’ into other National Parks, including Grand Tetons, Badlands, Redwood Forests, Yosemite, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon, will be forthcoming.

 

 

Hidden Habitats! Who Knew?

Never underestimate what a nature park can offer and teach you. Take for example a nature park situated in New Jersey just across from the City of Philadelphia.

'View of Philadelphia' © Larry A lyons

‘View of Philadelphia’ © Larry A Lyons

The Palmyra Cove Nature Park (www.palmyracove.org) is a 350 acre site located within a highly developed urban and commercial area in southern New Jersey. The park is bordered along the Delaware River just south of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

'Tacony-Palmyra Bridge' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tacony-Palmyra Bridge’ © Larry A Lyons

Five field trips to the Palmyra Cove Nature Center during the spring of 2013 provided an opportunity to observe and photograph an amazing diversity of organisms and their behavior.

'Great Horned Owl and Fledging' © Larry A Lyons

‘Great Horned Owl and Fledging’ © Larry A Lyons

Let’s begin with the Great Horned Owl. This owl is one of the largest owls in North America and one of the most ferocious birds of prey. Both sexes tend to look similar, but the female is 10 to 20 percent larger than the male.

'Female Great Horned Owl' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Great Horned Owl’ © Larry A Lyons

Distinguishing features of the great horned owl are long ear tufts, intimidating stares with their yellow eyes, and densely feathered toes with dark horned claws. General coloration does vary between the owls.

'Male Great Horned Owl' © Larry A Lyons

‘Male Great Horned Owl’ © Larry A Lyons

A pair of Great Horned Owls selected a nesting site high up in the crotch of a cottonwood tree. Nesting begins as early as January or February and the female will typically lay two eggs. After hatching the nestlings are unable to fly for ten to twelve weeks, but the owlets will venture to nearby trees.

'Owlet One' © Larry A Lyons

‘Owlet One’ © Larry A Lyons

One of the owlets remained in the original nesting site while the other owlet had moved to a lower a branch.

'Owlet Two' © Larry A Lyons

‘Owlet Two’ © Larry A Lyons

Both owlets are being cared for by both parents and remain dependent for food until the fall.

'Ferocious Predator' © Larry A Lyons

‘Ferocious Predator’ © Larry A Lyons

Great horned owls are ferocious predators and will hunt and eat all sorts of small and medium sized mammals (mice, squirrels, opossums, bats, and skunk). It will also eat small and large birds, including Canada geese, herons, ducks, and turkey. Owl prey can also be raccoon.

'Young Raccoon' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young Raccoon’ © Larry A Lyons

It was amazing but only 20 feet away from the tree where the owlets were being raised were raccoons residing within a tree hollow.

'Raccoon Sleeping' © Larry A Lyons

‘Raccoon Sleeping’ © Larry A Lyons

Raccoons, like great horned owls, are nocturnal and tend to sleep during the daytime. This one was resting in a vertical position in the hollow of the tree.

'Tree Hollow Home' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tree Hollow Home’ © Larry A Lyons

Trekking around the ponds at Palmyra Cove Nature Park can provide some great opportunities to observe birdlife and some interesting and bizarre behaviors. One such encounter involved a courting encounter amongst blue-winged teals.

Blue-winged teals are known to be the last duck to migrate north in the spring throughout most of the United States. Once they arrive in their northern breeding areas, pairs of teals will settle in vegetated wetlands and ponds to begin the next generation.

'Pair of Blue-Winged Teals' © Larry A Lyons

‘Pair of Blue-Winged Teals’ © Larry A Lyons

Blue-winged teals are monogamous during the mating season and are known to have some exaggerated behavior when courting. One such encounter was when another male attempted to intrude upon this pair of teals.

'One Male Too Many' © Larry A Lyons

‘One Male Too Many’ © Larry A Lyons

The paired male quickly made it quite clear by grasping the beak of the intruder.

'The Attack' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Attack’ © Larry A Lyons

The intruder was able to pull its beak away from the grasp and then was aggressively chased away.

'The Chase' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Chase’ © Larry A Lyons

Blue-winged teal are so named because both sexes have some blue feathers on their forewings, but really cannot be seen until they are taking off or in flight. The male, on the other hand, is distinguished with slate gray head and neck and white crescent in front of the eyes.

'Phew! Got Away' © Larry A Lyons

‘Phew! Got Away’ © Larry A Lyons

Palmyra Cove Nature Center has a frog pond that is inhabited or utilized by several different amphibians. One unusual amphibian that only visits the pond once a year to breed is the Fowler’s Toad.  The Fowler’s Toad is generally terrestrial and nocturnal except when this amphibian is in breeding mode. So, come spring to early summer, Fowlers’ Toads will venture out from the nearby woods to a wetland or shallow pond to breed. The male toad, measuring about two to three inches in size (5.1 to 7.5 cm.), will produce a call to attract the females.

'Fowler's Toad Calling' © Larry A Lyons

‘Fowler’s Toad Calling’ © Larry A Lyons

The toads will proceed into what is referred to as amplexus, also known as the “Latin Embrace”. This embrace is a form of pseudocopulation where the male grasps the female with his front legs. The male then releases a fluid with sperm into the water and externally fertilizes the female eggs. The female lays eggs in clutches up to 25,000 eggs.

'Latin Embrace' © Larry A Lyons

‘Latin Embrace’ © Larry A Lyons

There were hundreds of toads in the pond participating in this breeding ritual on this particular day. However, on a return trip of the following week, there was not a single toad to be seen, but there must had been thousands of tadpoles (about one half inch in size) swimming in the pond. Metamorphosis from tadpole to young toad occurs within two months.

The frog pond is also shared with other amphibians, such as, the green frog. This green frog surely would have found the eggs and the tadpoles of the Fowler’s Toad a tasty meal. It is all part of nature.

'Green Frog' © Larry A Lyons

‘Green Frog’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese are so common that their increasing populations have become a nuisance at some locations.  However, even though their presence is often taken for granted, their behaviors and their life history are quite interesting.

'Canada Goose' © Larry A Lyons

‘Canada Goose’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese do pair for life and will remain together over the entire year. In the spring, pairs of Canada geese will separate from their flocks and establish territories to start the next generation.

When a goose intrudes into a pairs’ territory, a lot of commotion will evolve in which the male will aggressively challenge the intruder by honking loudly, hissing with their beaks open wide and will even grab and collide between each other.

'No Intruder Allowed' © Larry A Lyons

‘No Intruder Allowed’ © Larry A Lyons

The female is responsible for building the nest and incubating the eggs while the male will be nearby guarding the nest. After the goslings hatch they will remain close to their parents.

'Canada Goose Goslings' © Larry A Lyons

‘Canada Goose Goslings’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese are herbivores and will feed on grasses, sedges, berries, etc. This gosling has learned quickly what is good to eat.

'Gosling Browsing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Gosling Browsing’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer is another common resident not only at the Palmyra Cove Nature Center, but also throughout the woodlands and suburbs particularly within northeastern United States. The deer are usually best seen in the early morning or at dusk when they are browsing along the edges of woodlands.

'Young White-Tailed Deer' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young White-Tailed Deer’ © Larry A Lyons

Their winter or early spring coats are brownish grey but they will turn to reddish-brown in the summer. The female deer (doe) stands at about 3 feet at shoulder height and will weigh up to 100 pounds.

'White-Tailed Deer' © Larry A Lyons

‘White-Tailed Deer’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer are herbivores and will forage on a wide diversity of plants, including agricultural crops, at a rate of 2 to 7 lbs. per 100 lbs of body weight each day.

'Doe Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Doe Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer populations do present significant concerns that have caused negative effects to the deforestation of woodlands. Deer-related collisions with vehicles have also been an increasing problem with the overpopulation of deer.  Attempting to maintain or manage deer populations at densities that will not be detrimental has become more and more challenging.

'Drake Mallard' © Larry A Lyons

‘Drake Mallard’ © Larry A Lyons

No nature park is without mallards, the most common duck in the United States. The female mallard lays an average of nine eggs and is responsible for incubating the eggs and taking care of the ducklings.

'Female Mallard and Ducklings' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Mallard and Ducklings’ © Larry A Lyons

To reiterate the take home message of this post: Don’t underestimate what a nature park can offer and teach you. Here was a nature park situated in a highly dense urban area that provided an incredible assortment of habitats. The combination of these habitats allowed for the propagation and sustainability of a diversity of wildlife from amphibians to owls, ducks, songbirds and geese to deer and raccoons.

Let’s get our children outdoors and away from their electronic devices.  Let them find hidden habitats and enjoy the many wonders of nature. It is “our” next generation that will be responsible for continuing efforts to protect wildlife and maintain a commitment for preserving habitats.

Observe, enjoy, learn and, if you are so inclined, photograph them.

"A Birder' © Larry A Lyons

“A Birder’ © Larry A Lyons

References:

http://www.palmyracove.org

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/

http://srelherp.uga.edu/anurans/buffow.htm

http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/fs1202/white-tailed-deer.asp

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/

 

The Osprey Comeback

Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s resulting primarily from the widespread use of a persistent insecticide, known as DDT. There were regions in the United States where 90 percent or more of the breeding pairs disappeared. Over 500 osprey nests were present in New Jersey prior to the effects of DDT. By 1974 only 50 nests remained in New Jersey.

'Osprey Comeback' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Comeback’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. DDT was banned in New Jersey in 1968 and banned almost entirely in the United States by 1972. Recovery of the osprey populations began once these bans were implemented.

'The Food Chain' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Food Chain’ © Larry A Lyons

The mechanism of toxicity resulting from DDT to predatory birds, like the osprey, is quite complex that ultimately affects their reproductive success. DDT is a persistent organic pollutant that tends to concentrate as it moves through the food chain. Fish that could be contaminated with DDT from eating shrimp or crabs would further magnify the concentration of DDT in predatory birds, like the osprey. The accumulation of DDT and its metabolites in the osprey prevents calcium metabolism causing the thinning of the eggshells. As a result of the eggshell thinning, the osprey would crush the eggs when sitting on them during incubation.

'Protect The Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Protect The Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The 1962 landmark book “Silent Spring” authored by Rachel Carson clearly expressed how important it is to maintain a vigilance on the use of chemicals and their fate in the environment. This book is often attributed to the environmental movement that was initiated in the 1960’s.

'Birds of Prey Socializing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Birds of Prey Socializing’ © Larry A Lyons

All of the osprey images were photographed at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge located on the southern coastline of New Jersey. This refuge, situated just north of Atlantic City, NJ, encompasses 47,000 acres of coastal habitat and is an important sanctuary for a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. A future post will present many other birds that utilize this refuge.

The osprey, also referred to as the fish hawk, has a diet that is almost entirely made-up of fish.

'The Fish Hawk' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Fish Hawk’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys have gripping pad on their feet that aids in plucking the slippery fish from the water with their long curved talons. The osprey will orient the fish head first to reduce wind direction when carrying the fish in flight. Here a flounder is being carried back to the nest.

'Entree of Flounder' © Larry A Lyons

‘Entree of Flounder’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey stands between 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm.) and has a wingspan of up to six feet (1.8 meters).

'Six Foot Wingspan' © Larry A Lyons

‘Six Foot Wingspan’ © Larry A Lyons

They do require suitable tall structures for building their nests. Platforms are often constructed to allow a suitable structure for nest building.

'Osprey Platform' © Larry a Lyons

‘Osprey Platform’ © Larry a Lyons

Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with grasses or seaweed. The male usually fetches most of the nesting material and the female arranges it. At the Forsythe refuge there are at least eight to ten platforms for the ospreys to build their nests.

'Nest Building' © Larry A Lyons

‘Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

Males and females do appear similar in appearance, but there are some slight differences that can distinguish between the sexes. Males have a slimmer body and narrower wings. Also, the coloration of the breast band is either lighter or not present in the males.

'Osprey Pair' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Pair’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys mate for life and return to the same nest year after year. They migrate back north in the Spring usually around the beginning of March.

'Feeding The Chicks' © Larry A Lyons

‘Feeding The Chicks’ © Larry A Lyons

The female typically lays three eggs and both parents help to incubate the eggs. Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once, but rather hatching is staggered in time so some siblings are older and more dominant. The pair works together to raise the young.

'Peek A Boo' © Larry A Lyons

‘Peek A Boo’ © Larry A Lyons

The young fledge at about eight weeks of age and then remain in the area of the nest for about two months.

'On Watch'  © Larry A Lyons

‘On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

Juvenile ospreys have buff fringes to the plumage of the upper parts, a buff tone to the underbody, and streaked feathers on its head. Juveniles also have orange pupils that turn yellow when they reach adulthood.

'Juvenile Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Juvenile Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The adults and the juvenile ospreys will begin their southern migration by the end of August or beginning of September to their wintering grounds in Florida, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

'Are You Ready To Head South?'© Larry A Lyons

‘Are You Ready To Head South?’© Larry A Lyons

Ospreys are a conservation success story. Both the pesticide bans and the construction of artificial nest sites continue to allow for the comeback and growth of osprey populations.

'Enjoy, Don't Endanger' © Larry A Lyons

‘Enjoy, Don’t Endanger’ © Larry A Lyons

Leave you with a quote by Rachel Carson: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

References:

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/edwin_b_forsythe/

http://www.conservewildlefenj.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/osprey

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/osprey/id

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/osprey/

http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/osprey.html

The Cheetah

Previous posts about the wildlife of South Africa focused on “The Big Five” animals and “Everyday Faces” .  This post will focus on an exquisitely beautiful cat, the cheetah. Cheetahs are best described as graceful and elegant.

'Cheetah Profile' © Larry A Lyons

‘Cheetah Profile’ © Larry A Lyons

All of these cheetah images were captured while volunteering for the African Impact organization at the Thanda Game Reserve in South Africa from mid-September through October 2012. During this period the Thanda Reserve had two adult males and one female. A second female was introduced on October 28th.

Distinguishing features of the cheetah are the tan and spotted fur, a small head, sleek frame with deep chest and narrow waist, and a long tail.

'Elegance' © Larry A Lyons

‘Elegance’ © Larry A Lyons

The small head has high-set eyes, large nostrils and black tear marks that extend from the corners of its eyes to its mouth. These tear marks aid in keeping sunlight out of their eyes that is advantageous when hunting and seeing long distances.

'Cheetah Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Cheetah Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

The cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal with speeds as fast as 60 to 70 miles per hour (112 km/hr).  They have the ability to accelerate for short distances obtaining speeds of 62 mph in 3 seconds. It is suited for short bursts, but not long distance running. It is amazing to think that these cheetahs strolling along here could in the next three seconds be moving at such high speeds.

'Out For A Stroll' © Larry A Lyons

‘Out For A Stroll’ © Larry A Lyons

These two cheetahs are brothers and were constant companions at the reserve. Male cheetahs are often social and will often be seen living together.

'Brotherly Love' © Larry A Lyons

‘Brotherly Love’ © Larry A Lyons

The males are quite territorial.  They will attempt to kill any intruders.

'Grooming Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Grooming Time’ © Larry A Lyons

Females, on the other hand, are solitary and tend to avoid each other. Females do not establish territories and tend to have large home ranges. This female cheetah was introduced to the Thanda Reserve in July 2012. It was fitted with a collar to keep track of its whereabouts.

'Stealth' © Larry A Lyons

‘Stealth’ © Larry A Lyons

Cheetahs are often found in open savannah and rely on tall grasses for camouflage when hunting. The tan and spotted fur provides good camouflage while hunting.  The cheetah gets as close to the prey as possible and then with a burst of speed springs after the prey.

'On The Prowl' © Larry A Lyons

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

Cheetahs are carnivores that will hunt impalas, gazelles, hares, and the calves of wildebeests or zebras. When cheetahs hunt in groups, they can also bring down adult wildebeests and zebras. While other cats like the lion and leopard tend to hunt at night, the cheetah will hunt in early morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot.

'Cheetahs Prancing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Cheetahs Prancing’ © Larry A Lyons

Cheetahs are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list as vulnerable species. It is estimated that only between 9,000 and 12,000 cheetahs remain wild in twenty-five African countries.

'Save The Cheetah' © Larry A Lyons

‘Save The Cheetah’ © Larry A Lyons

Update: A second female cheetah was acquired by the Thanda Game Reserve at the end of October 2012 in the hopes that mating would succeed with the two brothers. In December 2012, the two brothers were seen courting the new female. The cheetah has a gestation period of about 90 days. Four cubs were born in March 2013.

Cheetahs are difficult to successfully breed at zoos or in captivity. The cheetah thrives best in vast expanses of land where prey is readily available. The immense importance of conserving habitat like the Thanda Game Reserve is critical for protecting wildlife.

Everyday Faces of South Africa

Like seeing squirrels or rabbits in our backyards, the wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, impalas and warthogs were common everyday faces observed at the Thanda Game Reserve. They help depict the diversity of life on the African prairie. All five of these species are herbivores and also become an important food source for lions, leopards, wild dogs, cheetahs and hyenas.

All of these images were captured in South Africa at the Thanda Game Reserve while volunteering for six weeks with the African Impact Organization (www.africanimpact.com) in September through October 2012.

'Everyday Faces of South Africa' © Larry A Lyons

‘Everyday Faces of South Africa’ © Larry A Lyons

The wildebeest is an antelope, but it looks like part buffalo, part horse, and part antelope. They are primarily grazers with grasses being their predominant choice.

'Wildebeest Profile I' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wildebeest Profile I’ © Larry A Lyons

'Wildebeest Profile II' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wildebeest Profile II’ © Larry A Lyons

'Wildebeest Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wildebeest Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

At the Thanda Game Reserve, the wildebeests are often seen in small herds of about eight to ten cows.

'Small Wildebeest Herd' © Larry A Lyons

‘Small Wildebeest Herd’ © Larry A Lyons

Time for a dust bath says this wildebeest.

'Got An Itch' © Larry A Lyons

‘Got An Itch’ © Larry A Lyons

Wildebeests can spend one-third of their day grazing with the remainder roaming about or taking a rest.

'Taking A Break' © Larry A Lyons

‘Taking A Break’ © Larry A Lyons

Wildebeest predators include lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas. Everything is recycled on the African savanna.

'Yesterday's Dinner' © Larry A Lyons

‘Yesterday’s Dinner’ © Larry A Lyons

Wildebeest prefer to stay close to water. They cannot go without water for more than a few days, particularly during dry seasons.

'Drink Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Drink Time’ © Larry A Lyons

The giraffe, the tallest in the animal kingdom reaching heights of 18 feet (5.5 m), is just simply a gentle giant.  Often observed on the reserve’s roadways, it is, of course, given the ‘right of way’.

'Right of Way' © Larry A Lyons

‘Right of Way’ © Larry A Lyons

Giraffes are social with other animals (zebras, wildebeest, impalas). Their size allows them to overlook the landscape for predators and provide an early warning for all.

'Size Matters' © Larry A Lyons

‘Size Matters’ © Larry A Lyons

Because of their long necks, giraffes can feed on foliage from trees and shrubs that would not be accessible to other herbivores. The principal food source at the Thanda Reserve is the leaves of the Acacia tree with its long spikes.

'Feeding Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Feeding Time’ © Larry A Lyons

The giraffe has a long prehensile tongue that is able to pull branches even with these long spikes into their mouth and then strip the leaves off the branches with their teeth.

'Tongue Envy' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tongue Envy’ © Larry A Lyons

This baby giraffe is less than one month old and already stands six feet tall. Baby giraffes will drink milk from their mother during the first few months. After that time, the babies will begin eating leaves. If the baby cannot reach trees with leaves, mothers will pull leaves off and feed them to the babies.

'Staying Close to Mother' © Larry A Lyons

‘Staying Close to Mother’ © Larry A Lyons

Baby giraffes will gain most of their height and weight during the first three years of life. Giraffes are considered fully mature at four years of age.

'Frolicking Youth' © Larry A Lyons

‘Frolicking Youth’ © Larry A Lyons

'Young Giraffe Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young Giraffe Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

Usually the giraffe calves are more vulnerable to predation by lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas. However, this adult giraffe became the feast of a lion pride from the previous evening.

'A Lion Feast' © Larry A Lyons

‘A Lion Feast’ © Larry A Lyons

Here is a yellow-bellied oxipecker clearing the ticks off of a giraffe.

'Personal Tick Remover' © Larry A Lyons

‘Personal Tick Remover’ © Larry A Lyons

One of the most wonderful encounters is when you can meet-up with male giraffes while they are engaged in necking. Necking is a ritual in which male giraffes are establishing dominance with their necks swaying and touching each other. You think of “Fantasia” while watching these encounters.

'Fantasia I' @ Larry A Lyons

‘Fantasia I’ @ Larry A Lyons

There is almost absolute silence when this necking is occurring and then they just seem to gently make-up.

'Necking' @ Larry A Lyons

‘Necking’ @ Larry A Lyons

The zebra belongs to the horse family. Zebras are sociable animals and are often seen with other herbivores, like giraffes, wildebeests and impalas.

'Zebra Profile' © Larry A Lyons

‘Zebra Profile’ © Larry A Lyons

Zebras live in small family units, called harems, led by a stallion.

'Harem' © Larry A Lyons

‘Harem’ © Larry A Lyons

Stallions disputing over dominance of the harem.

'Stallion Dispute' © Larry A Lyons

‘Stallion Dispute’ © Larry A Lyons

Each zebra has its own striking pattern of stripes. They are like the fingerprints of humans. Members of a family supposedly can recognize each other by their patterns. The stripes provide good camouflage, particularly from a distance, from predators.

'Zebra Patterns' © Larry A Lyons

‘Zebra Patterns’ © Larry A Lyons

'Zebra Patterns II' © Larry A Lyons

‘Zebra Patterns II’ © Larry A Lyons

Zebras are prey to lions and hyenas. This zebra has a visible scar on its neck. The scar is its’ “badge of courage” from escaping a lion attack.

'Badge of Courage' © Larry A Lyons

‘Badge of Courage’ © Larry A Lyons

The greatest threat to the zebra is habitat loss from farming and ranching, as well as, competition for water with livestock. Game reserves, like Thanda, provide an important refuge for their livelihood.

'Young Zebra' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young Zebra’ © Larry A Lyons

Beauty only a mother can appreciate. The warthog is a wild member of the pig family.

'Oh So Pretty' © Larry A Lyons

‘Oh So Pretty’ © Larry A Lyons

'Proud To Be A Warthog' © Larry A Lyons

‘Proud To Be A Warthog’ © Larry A Lyons

Male Warthogs have two large pairs of warts that are situated below the eyes and between the eyes and the tusks. The female warthog has one pair of warts below the eyes. Two pairs of peculiar looking tusks protrude from its mouth. The tusks are used for digging, combat between each other, and defense.

'My Better Side' © Larry A Lyons

‘My Better Side’ © Larry A Lyons

At the Thanda Reserve, warthogs can never be missed since they are commonly seen browsing within the camp.

'Warthog Gathering' © Larry A Lyons

‘Warthog Gathering’ © Larry A Lyons

This warthog was observed exiting a tunnel during a night safari drive.

'Spelunking' © Larry A Lyons

‘Spelunking’ © Larry A Lyons

Predators of the warthog are humans, lions, leopards, crocodiles and hyenas. The warthog’s primary defense is to quickly sprint from the scene.

'Sprinting' © Larry A Lyons

‘Sprinting’ © Larry A Lyons

Impalas are one of the most common antelopes in South Africa. Male impalas are quite distinct with their graceful lyre-shaped horns.

'Proud Impala' © Larry A Lyons

‘Proud Impala’ © Larry A Lyons

Female impalas look like the males without the horns.

'Female Impala' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Impala’ © Larry A Lyons

Impalas graze on grasses and shrubbery.

'Impala Grazing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Impala Grazing’ © Larry A Lyons

Male impalas become quite territorial shepherding females about their land. These dueling males are displaying a common ritual over maintaining dominance of the herd of females.

'Dueling Impalas' © Larry A Lyons

‘Dueling Impalas’ © Larry A Lyons

'Herd of Female Impalas' © Larry A Lyons

‘Herd of Female Impalas’ © Larry A Lyons

Most large carnivores will prey upon impalas. They are always on the alert and will snort an alarm when there is danger. The whole herd will scatter.

'Alarmed' © Larry A Lyons

‘Alarmed’ © Larry A Lyons

Impalas have a distinct scent gland that is covered with tufts of black hair on the back of their hind legs. The scent gland releases signals that aids in keeping the herd together particularly when they are rapidly running away from a predator.

'Rams Dueling' © Larry A Lyons

‘Rams Dueling’ © Larry A Lyons

So were you able to imagine these “Everyday Faces” roaming in your backyard. There is nothing like a wildlife experience in Africa.

There will be forthcoming posts on South Africa and the Thanda Game Reserve. So stay tuned.