Hey Hey We’re The Monkeys

We got up close and personal with a bunch (gaggle, barrel?) of monkeys while on a kayak in Costa Rica.

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Suburban Wildlife Run Amock

The near north suburbs of Chicago have little in common with the deep woods. And yet we have our own slice of wildlife. For example, there is a family of raccoons living in a tree in our backyard. The mother raccoon is huge and can be found outside our back door from time to time in the early evening. She looks mean and I would not want to accidentally surprise her as I walk from our garage to the house. Nothing good could come of that.

I have witnessed deer and a coyote  within a few miles north of our house. However right in my backyard except for the aforementioned raccoon, the creatures tend to be small. Squirrels dominate followed by birds and for the first time in the 15 years we have lived here, a chipmunk has recently appeared.

It all came to a head during the adventure hike I refer to as “the walk between my garage and the back door.” So here is what happened.

I take the first careful steps outside the sanctity of the garage. We have taken to making noises just like the park rangers tell you to as you hike through bear country. In our case, it is to avoid the mama raccoon.

Immediately I see a couple of squirrels on the ground 2 feet to the left of the back door. They seem to be agitatedly chattering. I stealth-fully, slowly moved ahead. Big Mistake. By focusing on the squirrels on the left I almost stepped on 3 other squirrel guys (or gals) directly in my path. That seemed to set off the fireworks.

Squirrels running at mach speed in all directions. There are three trees in the immediate area and the squirrels scattered to all. Quickly another 5 or six appeared and the next thing I knew for 3 solid minutes about a dozen squirrels were wildly chasing each other. It is hard to describe without video footage the mayhem that ensued. The motion, the noise level and the chaos were unbelievable!

To my right half way up one tree I thought I saw two squirrels mating. One was behind the other with his (I am assuming gender) paws holding fast to the middle of the body of the squirrel in front. The front squirrel however seemed to be pulling away as hard as it could with no success initially. Finally a third squirrel ran at the other two giving the front squirrel the break she needed. She escapes only to be chases by both of the other two squirrels down the tree, through some bushes and back up the tree. My best guess is that this was a squirrely menage-a-trois gone wrong.

Then as fast as the mayhem ensued, it was over. I stood for a moment stunned. I looked to see the chipmunk sitting on top of the gas meter on the south end of the house. Four feet higher was the robin sitting in the nest she had made in the curve of one of our drain pipes.

Sure why not nest there. It was a lot quieter than in the trees.

Good News, Bad News

Talk about your GNBS scenario. Grey wolves have been protected successfully enough that their numbers have grown and they are about to be taken off the endangered species list. That of course is the good news. The Bad. The day that happens it will become legal again for humans to hunt grey wolves.

That sounds like a raw deal. If I were a grey wolf I might do as the draft avoiders in the 1960s and 1970s did and head for Canada. Or at least demand a recount.

Good thing that middle aged, Jewish men are still on the endangered list. I am safe for now.

Please Don’t Feed The Iguanas

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Interesting wildlife was all around us at our resort in Puerto Villarta. First noticed were the dive bombing pelicans. Pelicans have this fascinating approach to catching fish. They circle around for awhile and then dive straight down to the water. It was one thing watching this show from the beach but another to be swimming in the ocean and have one hit a few yards away.

A school of dolphin swam parallel to the shore during lunch one day. Two pairs of hunchback whales did likewise one afternoon. This is migration season for the whales. I wish I had been up close and personal. Still, we saw water spouting and a few hunched backs come out of the water.

One night a sea turtle came to lay eggs on our beach. She must have been at least 4 foot from head to feet. They lay eggs by finding one spot and then moving in a circle. We watched for several minutes. She was there when we came back later. We were told by another guest that the staff came by and removed over 100 eggs.  This hotel finds a safer place for the eggs, hatches them and then releases them back into the wild. We watched for a bit longer as the turtle finished circling as part of the egg burial ritual and then began to slowly make her way back towards the water.

Last but not least were the two iguanas that hung out on the rocks near one end of the pool. I have seen many an iguana in my day. These were two fine specimen. I watched them for some time as they lay in the sun and occasionally yawned. Not unlike myself. While the staff at the resort were generally very helpful and attentive there was one lapse of judgement. A 2 year old child momentarily escaped the watchful eyes of his parents and headed for the iguanas. One of the staff gave him a piece of fruit and suggested that he feed the iguana. Not the best of ideas. One bite, one visit to the doctor on staff, no serious harm done. For all you out there with little ones or if you find yourself facing an iguana after a day of all-inclusive resort alcohol consumption, I have only one piece of advice. For those moments have a copy of this post handy and remember to read the title.

Dead Turtle Or Is It is Just Resting?

Several weeks ago I wrote about a dead parrot and shared a video containing part of the hilarious Monty Python skit about a dead parrot. In one part of the skit the shopkeeper in an effort to retain the sale suggests that the parrot is just sleeping.

I could not help think about this again yesterday. We were at the site of an ancient Polynesian village. One part of the beachfront was roped off and designated as a turtle resting area. Sure enough there was a turtle on the beach. After 3 minutes of watching this turtle not move a muscle or show signs of breathing I suggested that it may be resting permanently. My wife, ever the optimist countered that it was just tired and must be sleeping. Monty Python immediately came to mind.

We explored the village for an hour or so before returning to check up on our boy. My wife insisted that he was further up the beach than before. I suggested that the tide had just gone out. But before I could say another word our boy opened and closed an eye. Just in case we missed it the first time he did it again. IT IS ALIVE!

Shame on me for being the pessimist that I can be.

Check back in on this post next week when I add a picture of our boy. He is a handsome not dead sea turtle.

Sea Turtles: Very Cool

I have been a certified SCUBA diver for almost 17 years and snorkeled for several years before that. I have seen many sea creatures and corral formations. I now get to rediscover the sea world through the eyes of my teenage son. After a really bad snorkeling experience when he was six it took many years and vacationing with a friend to get him to try again.

We snorkeled yesterday at a small beach in Maui. We were in a small bay separated from a second snorkeling area by a football field’s length of rocks. We had been told that sea turtles occupied the other side but that the abundance and variety of fish was better in the bay.

In hindsight, checking out the bay first was clearly the right decision. We say a dozen different fish, several of the brilliant multi-colored variety common to warm water. There were a few large fish, (size matters when viewing sea life) two eels, and needle fish. We had to go a long way out.

The posse I was with had little experience including my son’s friend Jon who had only gone once before. (Though I believe that anyone who can breathe and kick can snorkel, it is in fact mildly more complicated.)  Based on past experience I expect some form of equipment failure such as a leaky mask or water in a snorkel. I was thrilled that no disasters occurred given how far we are from the shore. On the way back in, my son saw a sea turtle of modest dimensions swimming by at the surface. Then a moment later one swam directly below him, no more than a foot away. All in all a very good snorkeling adventure.

After lunch we followed the path to the side were the herd of sea turtles awaited. The entry into the water required scrambling over rocks which would be slippery when wet. Just as we got there it started to rain. I was the only one of the 4 of us adventurous/stupid enough to go in. It was the dray of the turtles. Fortunately the rain cleared most of the people sitting nearby. That way the sight of Mr. Adventure scooting on his butt towards the water was only observed by loved ones.

It was worth it. Once in the water the rain does not matter much. I quickly came into contact with six sea turtles. Two, a bit larger than the ones we saw earlier were swimming a few feet under the surface. I then came across an older, larger (4-4.5 feet long) one laying on an underwater rock. For this one I needed to get closer and I dove down to within a foot or two. He had the look of an old, tired king (or queen since I did not get a look at any part of the anatomy that would have clued me into the sex.) Later the king came and swam at the surface. I was able to get up close and personal. I regretted not bringing an underwater camera.

After a few more minutes it was time to climb back on the rocks and crawl my way back to shore. This would have made an entertaining video I have no doubt. At least we know that I am willing to accept a bit of personal embarrassment for the sake of adventure.