Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I love Turtles! How About You?

What's not to love about turtles? 


These fascinating reptiles who've been around for more than 200 million years are generally docile, gentle creatures, with some of the smaller species being popular pets. Sadly, many of the 328 species of turtle are endangered or threatened with extinction, so spreading the word and awareness of turtles is important to their survival. The sea turtles are on the endangered species list. Some sub species such as the leatherback turtle and the hawksbill turtle are on the critically endangered list. Their main treats are illegal trades, bycatch and habitat loss.

10 Interesting Facts about Turtles 


1- In mythology, the turtle represents heaven and earth, the shell being the heavenly portion and the enclosed body the earth.

2- Because they live to a very old age, turtles also represent longevity.

3- In many cultures, it is considered bad luck to kill a turtle, and some Eastern cultures believe caring for them will bring good fortune.

4- Fossils of turtles have been found proving they existed on earth 215 million years ago. Now, that's seriously old!

5- Turtles can drink salty sea water, because they have glands that filter out the salt.

6- The patterns on the shells of turtles are all unique. No two are exactly the same.

7- The turtle is often associated with women, with the cycle of life.

8- Turtles lay eggs and bury them in sand. They do not incubate them like birds do.

9-They symbolize steadfastness.

10- Turtles move slowly on land but can swim up to 35 miles per hour! So, if it's a race in the water, a turtle may actually win.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hummingbirds have Small Nests

Hummingbird Nest Photo @istockphoto
A hummingbird nest is definitely a sight to behold and a picture of perfection for those who are lucky enough to spot one. The nests are very tiny and so well camouflaged by nature that is is extremely difficult to know they are there. Like any good Mom who is protective of her young, a female hummingbird carefully chooses an ideal and secure location for her nest that is well above the ground and out of the reach of predators such as snakes, ants, and even predatory birds. The nests are expertly sheltered from wind to prevent baby birds from being tossed from their nests in a storm, as well as being sheltered from the sun and rain. The nest typically looks like a knot on a tree limb and from above is virtually invisible due to an umbrella of foliage and leaves which conceal it.

Once the perfect location has been selected, the female then begins the complicated and tedious task of building her nest. She gathers the softest nesting material she can find like moss, lichen, soft plants, pieces of willows, cotton fluffs, and even dryer lint. Female hummingbirds are also known to be little thieves stealing nesting material away from another female's nest. She also gathers spider webs or spider silks which she will use to basically glue all of her nesting material together. The spider webs bind the nesting material giving the nest strength so it won't fall apart and also make it stretchy and flexible giving the baby birds room to grow. She will also use her own body to mold the nest into the exact shape she wants.

Most female will lay two eggs in the nest which will be approximately the size of a navy bean. She will also continuously add nesting material to the nest while awaiting the arrival of her youngsters (about 15 to 18 days). The babies will leave the nest anywhere from 18 to 28 days after they hatch.



An Hummingbird Feeder Makes a Great Gift To Attract Nesting Birds

 


If you have trees in your backyard, why not try and attract hummingbirds. Maybe they'll nest! Add a feeder early spring. A tree is a good location (it protected the nectar from sun and wind). Consider buying a small birdbath as well. And keep that camera around!

An interesting fact is that these birds have no sense of smell, they are trained as babies to look for the red flowers that have sweet nectar. That's why feeders are red, to attract them to it, and the sweet nectar is similar to the nectar they are used to. Their long bills have evolved to help them extract the nectar from the plants, although some Hummingbirds have a hooked bill.

These birds are territorial and they will fight.

Hummingbirds eat the nectar from certain flowers. Your nectar must contain at least 10% sugar, or they will reject it. The sweeter, the better. For protein and vitamins, they eat insects, including spiders. A mixture of 4 parts water to one part sugar mix is perfect for them.

More Facts About Hummingbirds:

They are one of the smallest and most fascinating of the bird species, hovering in mid air over vibrant flowers consuming their own weight in nectar in any given day. The rapid fluttering of their wings results in a humming sound similar to that of a bee which is how they became known as hummingbirds.

There are approximately 17 different species of hummingbirds in North America and each has their own unique skilled way to build a nest.

Most species measure 3-5". There is a "Bee Hummingbird" (pictured here...from Wikipedia) that measures around 2". It's the smallest living bird.

The giant hummingbird's wings flap 8-12 beats per second. About 600 beats per minute.

The medium-sized hummingbird's wings beat 20-30 beats per second.

The smallest hummingbird's wings can beat as much as 100 beats per second during courtship displays!

If you love hummingbirds or know someone who does, make sure you check these  beautiful gift ideas: Hummingbird Gifts for Home and Garden, Hummingbird Kitchen Decor

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hippopotamus Facts

Picture by Ad Meskens [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL],

Hippopotamus Facts: Learn More About The River Horse


 Learn about the hippopotamus, or water horse, with this easy to understand article. The hippopotamus is certainly the most neglected wild animal! No one seems to care about it. It's all about lions and giraffes and zebras. Well, thanks to this hippopotamus facts page, you will learn and love the hippopotamus. Respect for the water horse!

 

 

Hippopotamus Facts: The Basics


The name hippopotamus is Greek for "river horse", but in fact these massive African mammals are relatives of pigs. They spend most of their time in lakes and rivers.

The common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) lives in central and southern Africa. It is the second heaviest of all living land mammals and is outweighed only by the elephant. The pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis), which is much smaller than the common hippopotamus, inhabits the rain forests of Liberia and Sierra Leone in western Africa. The term "hippopotamus" which comes from the Greek words for river horse, was probably applied to the animals because they have a horselike head and live near rivers and lakes, spending more time in the water than on land.

Africans hunt the hippopotamus for its tusks, flesh, and hide. They eat the meat, which is reported to be stringy and distasteful to non-Africans, and they render the fat for lard. The tough hide of the hippopotamus is used to make whips and shields. Some are captured for zoos.

Hippopotamus Facts: Behavior of the Hippopotamus


The hippopotamus lives in herds that may number as many as 20 to 30 animals. It feeds chiefly on aquatic vegetation.

 In addition to being an excellent swimmer, the hippopotamus can float and dive. When the animal is partially submerged, its nostrils and bulging eyes remain above the surface of the water so that it can breathe and watch for enemies. When it dives under the surface, the nostrils close automatically. A hippopotamus can stay underwater for more than 15 minutes.

While submerged, a hippopotamus can move along the river bottom at a rate of about 8 miles an hour. When frightened or annoyed, it sometimes rises suddenly to the surface and attacks boats, capsizing them and smashing them to bits. Often a fish, called the durumbia, swims about and feeds on algae that grow on the hide of the submerged hippopotamus.

 Although the hippopotamus lives mainly in the water, it spends some time on the banks of rivers, where it suns itself. Usually at night it also makes short trips into the surrounding country to hunt for food. On land the hippopotamus can move as fast as a man can run. When frightened, the animal rushes for the safety of the water, trampling crops, small buildings, or anything else standing in its way. When on land, the hippopotamus secretes an oily pinkish substance, which may keep the skin from drying. Because of the secretion, many people mistakenly believe that the hippopotamus sweats blood.

Watch Underwater Hippos:



Hippopotamus Facts: Size And Appearance


The hippopotamus is the second heaviest of all living land mammals When fully grown, a large male common hippopotamus may weigh as much as 4 tons and reach a length of 14 feet, including its relatively long slender tail. Because its legs are very short, it may stand only 4 to 5 feet tall at the shoulder. The females are much than the males. A fully grown pygmy hippopotamus ranges in length from 5 to 6 feet. It ranges in weight from 400 to 600 pounds and stands 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall at the shoulder.

The hippopotamus has a long rounded body, which is covered by a thick dark-brown skin. Except for a few bristles on the head and tail it has no hair. The hippopotamus has four toes on each hoof. Its huge head has high-set protruding eyes and large nostrils, which are on the top of the squarish muzzle. The mouth of the hippopotamus is larger than that of any animal except the whale. It can open to a gape of 2 or more feet. The front teeth of the hippopotamus are tusk-like and continue to grow throughout life.

 Hippopotamus Facts: Mating 


During the mating season the males, called bulls, fight each other for possession of the females. Standing side by side and head to tail, they try to drive their tusks into the sides of their opponents.

 About eight or nine months after the adults have mated, a single calf is born in shallow water. The calf of the common hippopotamus is about 3 feet long and 1 1/2 feet tall, and it weighs 60 to 100 pounds. Although the calf can swim at birth, it must learn to walk. For a time the mother carries the baby on her back as she swims about, even taking it below water when she dives. A hippopotamus lives for about 30 years.

Hippopotamus Facts: The Pygmy Hippopotamus


 The pygmy hippopotamus is less fierce than its larger relative. It may also spend more time on land, rushing for a thicket when danger threatens, rather than for the water. Otherwise, its habits are similar to those of the common hippopotamus.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bananas Facts

Banana plant photo @Blueshade under CC
Although the banana plant may look like a tree it is actually a large herbaceous plant, as it has no woody material. The 'trunk' is simply a mass of fleshy leaf sheaths sprouting from an underground stem, or rhizome, topped by a crown of 10-20 large leaves, each about 3 meters long and 65 cm wide.

There are more than 300 varieties, but only a few are cultivated commercially.

They thrive in moist, warm conditions in rich soil with good drainage but can also be successfully grown in arid regions under irrigation. An important food, they are an export crop in many tropical countries. A large flower spike emerges from the center of the leaves and curves downwards. It can carry up to 150 yellowish flowers, which soon develop into fruit; the bunch is called a 'hand', and the individual bananas are called 'fingers'. After fruiting, the plant dies and is replaced by another growing from the same rhizome.

Bananas are propagated by dividing the root stem, and the first crop is usually produced within 10-15 months. Natural regeneration provides continuous cropping for several years. Bananas are one of Man's oldest foods and are mentioned in early Greek, Latin and Arab writings.

They are always harvested while green, even when they are not to be shipped afar. The reason behind this is if they are allowed to ripen on the plant they will burst and spoil before they can be picked.

In Asian countries, varieties known as plantains are grown as cooking bananas. The fruit is not as sweet and is more starchy than the popular eating varieties.

Although most bananas are grown for their edible fruit, some species are cultivated commercially as a source of fiber known as abaca, which is very strong and flexible and highly resistant to saltwater. It is used in the manufacture of ships' hawsers, marine cables and fishing nets. Some species of dwarf banana plants are grown as ornamental garden specimens.

Bananas are an excellent source of potassium

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Venus Flytrap For Sale: Venus Flytrap Seeds, Kits and Plants


Picture of Venus Fly Trap by Tristan Gillingwater under CC License

If you are looking to buy a Venus flytrap plant, or want to grow one yourself from scratch, you will find a large selection of Venus flytrap for sale online, as well as kits and seeds. Not only are these carnivorous plants a real conversation piece, they are also a fascinating living organism that will awe kids of all age. So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

Facts About Venus Flytrap

Before you look at our selection of Venus Flytrap for sale, you might wanna learn a bit more about them

  • The Venus flytrap is an insectivorous plant of the sundew family. Spreading from its base are leaves three to six inches long, each of which broadens into a pair of kidney-shaped lobes that normally lie like a partially open book.
  • These lobes act like a steel trap when the prey, walking across the leaf, touches the base of the trigger hairs, causing the two lobes to snap shut. This is the most dramatic of all carnivorous plants.
  • In contrast to the sundew, whose tentacles are tipped with a sticky exudation on which flying insects alight, Venus flytrap spreads out a rose-tinted, smooth carpet for crawling insects.
  • Secretions inside the margin of the leaf act as a lure. The leaf has six slender hairs, spaced so as to form a triangle on each lobe. When a crawler touches two of these hairs (or one hair twice, since a double stimulus is necessary), the trap springs shut.
  • Venus flytrap screens its prey by not immediately pressing too tightly. Tiny insects can escape through the spaces between the long, stiff bristles at the outer margins of the lobes. These bristles, which fold over loosely like the interlaced fingers of two hands.
  • Digestion is usually completed in 5 to 10 days, whereupon the leaf opens wide again, ready for the next victim. Although this plant enjoys worldwide fame for its behavior, it is native only to one small area, a strip of predominantly swampy ground covering North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • Venus flytrap bears white flowers in clusters on a stalk up to 12 inches long.

 

Maybe You Should Watch This Video....

Before you look at those Venus Flytrap for sale, make sure you watch this! This is going to be what you'll be getting. A strange yet fascinating plant. kids especially are fond of Venus flytrap, they love to care for them and feed them.

This video shot is from the BBC, with close ups and commentary. It's a bit more dramatic then reality (but just fascinating. I dare you not to watch it till the end). The second video is home made and is a more realistic version of what you may expect. And no your Venus Flytrap won't bite you!

 

Buy Live Venus Flytraps from Amazon seller JoelsCarnivorousPlants style=:

 Each of these come with a care sheet and loose moss. This seller has good ratings too on Amazon:



 

Seeds For Sale

Patience is the key

Growing a Venus Flytrap from scratch takes time. Up to 2 or 3 years to get a nice sized plant. But you should see sprouts in a few weeks.

Growing a live Venus Flytrap from scratch is an interesting challenge for kids. Make sure you buy a live one along with the seeds so they get to know how to care for them. You don't need any fancy terrarium or domes by the way.



A Few Tips About Venus Flytrap

  • Your plant should always be moist
  • Do not use tap water if possible: only rain water or distilled water
  • It needs plenty of sun
  • Do not overfeed! Once every two week is enough. And only one insect for the plant, not in each lobes
  • Cut the brown lobes, they're dead
  • Don't feed too big insects, it should fit in the trap
  • If possible, feed live insects. Otherwise freshly killed preys or small dried crickets from the pet shop can do

 

How I killed My Venus Flytrap

Once upon a time my daddy offered me a Venus flytrap and I killed it. I feed it raw ground meat. Never do that. No raw meat for your deadly plant!

Buying A Venus Flytrap For A Kid? Here's a great book:

 

The book "Venus Flytraps", in the Early Bird Nature Books series, covers many wild species of carnivorous plants. There is also a section of interest regarding the care and feeding habits of the Venus Flytrap.

 

Would You Like Your Own Carnivorous Plant?

 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Five Reasons Why You Don't Want to Pick a Fight With an Angry Octopus

Octopus image shown here: by Noel Feans
On first glance it might seem as if an octopus isn't much more than a slimy (an salty) head with eight arms. Nothing could be further from the truth! The octopus is an amazingly intelligent animal and if you are ever tempted to pick a fight with one - don't do it. Keep reading to discover 5 cool octopus facts.

An octopus’s first instinct when confronted by a threat is to hide, but if you continue to pester one you might find that these slimy-looking underwater animals are a lot tougher than they look. After millions of years of encountering daily danger, the octopus has evolved to deal with threats as efficiently and effectively as possible. Octopuses can put up great fights, but they are not mean animals. In reality they are some of the kindest and sweetest animals in the world. New studies have shown that they have individual personalities and some have developed friendships with their human caretakers. Even though they prefer to hide when danger is present, don’t think that they are wimps. If you ever provoke an octopus, then you’re not going to get off easy. Below are five reasons why you don’t want to pick a fight with an angry octopus.


 

5 Cool Octopus Facts:  Brains! Tentacles! Suckers! Camo! Giant!

  • Octopuses are highly intelligent and are one of the only animals to demonstrate tool use. In fact, they are the only invertebrates (animals without a backbone) to use tools. Octopuses also have highly advanced short-term and long-term memories that help them recognize environmental landmarks, distinguish between shapes and patterns, and change strategies to solve problems.
  • Despite not having any bones an octopus is a very strong animal. The largest species can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh over 150 pounds. Some have even been known to capture and kill sharks. If you ever swim near an octopus, then you might find that it is bigger than you are!
  • Each of an octopus’s eight arms is covered with dozens of small suction cups (or suckers). These suction cups can latch onto objects with more than a quarter ton of force. An octopus can fold its suction cups in half and use them like you use your thumb and forefinger to pick up objects. You only have two, but an octopus has hundreds.
  • Camouflage is second nature for an octopus. They can change the color, texture, and shape of their bodies to make themselves invisible to predators. Common disguises include “becoming” a rock or a part of algae. Some species of octopus can even mimic other animals by taking on the appearance of eels and lion fish.
  • While all species are venomous, only one species, the blue-ringed octopus, is deadly to humans. When its bright blue rings appear to pulsate, you know that it is angry, and you better swim away – fast.

Mesmerizing Octopus Camouflage Trick



 

Hope you Learned Some Cool Octopus Facts! 

Here's some links if you want to learn more fun stuff about octopus? (or just watch some cool octopi videos) :

Amazing Octopus Videos 

How Octopus Swim: Swimming With Octopuses: Octopi Locomotion 

Octopus: Smarter Than You?

 

 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Migaloo the White Whale Has Been Seen This Week!

The albinos whale has been seen off the Gold Coast (Australia) this week!
Please follow the Migaloo the White Whale Facebook page for more sightings!
More on albinos creatures here: Rare albino marine life are exotic


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bird Of Paradise Birds

Bird Of Paradise Birds: Facts, Pictures And Books About The Beautiful Birds Of Paradise


Antique bird of paradise print on Amazon
The Bird of Paradise birds are vividly colored creatures. These birds live in the trees of the jungles of Papua New Guinea, the Molucca Islands, and northern and western Australia. They are are best known for their brightly colored, unusual plumes and for their complex courtship behavior. Read more about them hereand watch beautiful birds of paradise live in their natural environment.

Facts About The Bird of Paradise Birds

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bird of paradise plumes were used extensively for millinery, and the bird's scalps are still important in the ritual ornamentation of the aboriginal peoples of New Guinea.

Birds of paradise can be up to 40 inches long; this overall length includes 24 inch tail feathers in two species. Most birds of paradise have stocky bodies, short, rounded wings, relatively short legs, strong feet adapted for perching, and short, square tails. Their bills may be stout or long and curved.

In most bird of paradise species, the sexes are strikingly different in appearance. The male has elaborate plumes on his head, throat, back, wings, and tail. These plumes, which may be black, green, blue, red, orange, or yellow, become erect during the male's courtship display.

They are among the most bizarre of all bird feathers. Some are long and narrow and are twisted at the tips, while others are threadlike, and one species has a series of celluloid-like pennants the whole length of its 24 inch head plumes. In addition to colorful feathers, some males also have brilliant green or yellow coloring on the inside of the mouth. The females of these species are generally dull brown or green. In a few other, rather plain, bird of paradise species, however, the sexes are alike. They are completely black and have only a little blue or green on the throat or head.

Birds of paradise are sturdy, active birds, but they are generally not gregarious. Their voices are loud, harsh, and shrill. They usually feed on fruit, berries, seeds, insects, small lizards, and tree frogs.

Picture of Bird of Paradise: By markaharper1 CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bird Of Paradise Birds Courtship: Watch the video, it is stunning to see 

The male begins his courtship display either alone on the forest floor or in a group in trees. The specialized plumes are erected or spread, and the bird moves about so that his iridescent feathers glint. Some courting males assume a horizontal position or hang upside down.

The gaudy plumage and courtship displays not only attract mates but also serve to reduce mating between different species or genera and thus limit wild hybridization. However, mated pairs do not form strong bonds and a large number of wild hybrids are known.

The female usually builds a bulky cup-shaped nest of twigs, stems, and leaves on a tree branch, but at least one species is known to nest in a tree cavity. The female then lays one or two pinkish white eggs marked with irregular longitudinal streaks. She generally incubates the eggs and alone cares for the young, although in some of the duller colored species, the male helps to feed the young.



Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages

If you love nature and wildlife and decide to buy only one DVD this year, this is the one. I bought this one for my son (who loves wildlife) and it is fascinating! We have watched it dozens of time and it doesn't get old.

This is a 2 discs DVD. The first one will be of interest for bird of paradise enthusiasts. On this DVD you will see birds of paradise like you never did before, thank's to Attenborough's audacious trip to an unmapped part of New Guinea.






Watch this wonderful National Geographic short film:




More About Birds of Paradise Birds:


The Birds of Paradise Project: The birds-of-paradise are among the most beautiful creatures on earth—and an extraordinary example of evolutionary adaptation. On this site you can find what few have witnessed in the wild: the displays of color, sound, and motion that make these birds so remarkable. Then you can delve deeper, examining the principles that guided their evolution and the epic adventure it took to bring you all 39 species.


A Gallery of Bird Of Paradise Birds: Browse 'Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis et des Rolliers, suivie de celle des Toucans et des Barbus" by Fran├žois Levaillant and Jacques Barraband online on archive.org

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Cacao or Cocoa Who Cares! It's Chocolate

Theobroma cacao Blanco
 image in public domain
If it had not been for a spelling mistake made years ago by English importers, the word 'cocoa' would be spelled 'cacao', as the powder is made from the beans of a tropical tree of that name.

The cacao tree is a pod-bearing evergreen, Theobroma cacao, which grows in tropical regions. The pods are cut down, split open with a heavy knife or mallet, and the pulp and seeds scooped out. The pulpy mass is left to ferment for a week, during which time the beans change from purple to reddish brown and acquire a pungent, chocolate aroma.

Cacao trees had been cultivated in Central America for centuries before Columbus arrived there. Cacao is derived from two Maya Indian words meaning 'bitter juice'. Cacao beans were harvested by the Mayas and Aztecs centuries before they were introduced into Europe in the early seventeenth century. In fact, the Aztecs valued the beans so highly that they used them as currency.

The Spanish conquistadors were sufficiently impressed with cacahuatl, the bitter cocoa drink the Indians made from the seeds of the cacao tree, to take it back to the court of Spain. The secret of cocoa was jealously guarded by the Spaniards until the seventeenth century, when the rest of Europe was introduced to it. It became a highly fashionable drink virtually overnight. So great was the rage for cocoa that "chocolate houses" became popular.

The cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, grows up to 7.5 meters high, bears first at 4 to 5 years, reaches maturity over 10 to 15 years and continues to yield for 30 years or more. The size of the pods containing the beans greatly varies, but normally each pod carries 20 to 40 beans, which are scooped out and put into sweat boxes to ferment; this process changes their color to dark (chocolate) brown. The beans are then dried, usually by the heat of the sun, and roasted, pressed and ground. When fermentation is complete, the beans are either sun or kiln dried, then cleaned and shipped to processing plants.

The manufacture of cocoa continues with the roasting of the beans. Their shells are then cracked and removed and the nibs or kernels are finely ground to produce a liquid called chocolate liquor, which consists mainly of a fat called cocoa butter, which is used in cosmetics and in medicine for emollients.

The ground powder is used to make the hot beverage, cocoa and, when mixed with cocoa butter, forms the basic ingredient of chocolate.

Chocolate liquor is the raw substance from which cocoa powder and chocolate are produced.

Today, revenue from their sale is vital to the main producing countries: Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Brazil, the United Republic of Cameroon, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Togo and Papua-New Guinea.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds

Hummingbird picture in public domain +Pixabay 
Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, and are only found in North, Central, and South America. There are several varieties, and colors depending on region, and mostly I have only seen the green ones, with either pink or red bands around their throats. They actually make a little chirping type sound when they are "talking" to each other. Another thing that makes them so interesting to watch is that they fly into an area quickly and can also fly backwards all the time flapping their wings about 20-70 times per second. They fly faster than some people drive; about 45 miles per hour.




Hummingbirds are beautiful to watch and many people have hummingbird feeders in their gardens. I have been trying to capture a picture of one for a long time, but the picture usually gets blurred because of the high rate of the wings flapping.

If you've never seen one you are truly missing out. And if you have seen one, you know how special they are. What other bird have you ever seen that can flap it's wings about 70 times a second, fly backwards, or fly around the neighborhood at 45 miles an hour?

If you love hummingbirds or know someone who does, make sure you check these  beautiful gift ideas: Hummingbird Gifts for Home and Garden, Hummingbird Kitchen Decor

I love camel

@Shutterstock: serg_dibrova
The camel is either of two large, long-legged, cud-chewing mammals widely used in desert regions as draft or riding animals. Camels are considered stubborn and irritable, but because of their strength and ability to cross burning deserts and to go for days without water, they were long the most important beasts of burden and saddle animals in their native lands. Their great value to the Arabs is indicated by the fact that the Arabic language is said to contain nearly 1,000 words that mean camel. Nowadays, much of their transportation duties have been taken over by motor vehicles, but camels are still important sources of meat, milk, hair, and leather.

Camels, together with their relatives the llama, alpaca, vicuna, and guanaco, are the only living members of a large group of animals that were once native to all continents except Australia. Now only two species of camel remain: the Arabian camel, which is bred in northern Africa and Arabia, and the bactrian camel, which is bred in central Asia.

The Arabian camel has a single rounded hump on its back. The bactrian camel may have either one or two conical humps on its back. Arabian camels specially bred for racing are called dromedaries. Arabian and bactrian camels are sometimes crossbred to produce single-humped offspring that are larger and sturdier than either parent. The wild camels that roam Central Asia today are believed to be descendants of domesticated bactrian camels that have run wild.

More about camels on this website: I Love Camels

Friday, July 8, 2016

Collecting Sand: Sand Collection for All

Sand Collecting -- The Basics of this Fun Hobby

Photo of Sand Particles: Wikimedia Commons / CC
To some people, sand is just an irritation--one that gets stuck between their toes and inside their swimsuits or tracked into the house.

To others, sand is simply useful--for making concrete, cob, brick and other functional building materials and bases, for aquarium bottoms and volleyball courts, for making glass.

To others still, sand is something fun--to build castles out of, to bury their friends or their own legs in, to walk on in bare feet, to collect for making crafts, or even to collect just for sand's sake.

Sand isn't something people think about often, but it really is everywhere. Sand is found at the beach, in deserts and dunes, on riverbeds and rocky shores, on mountains, in quarries and even along the side of the road. Depending on the location, sand can be created from a variety of substrates. The color of the sand depends on the mineral or minerals it's made of, but more on that below, along with the basics of sand-collecting and some ideas for sand collection themes and containers.

Imagine if Each of These Grains of Sand Could Talk - Oh, the stories, spanning millions or even billions of years, they would tell.

This photo (of sand in the Netherlands) is in the public domain.

How is Sand Formed?

It's pretty simple. Sand is formed when rock or other mineral is eroded, weathered or otherwise broken down into tiny pieces. Technically, sand is between .06-2.0 millimeters in diameter, so be sure to measure each piece next time you collect it to make sure you really do have sand. (Kidding of course.)

Rock can be broken down into tinier and tinier particles by the action of wind or water, abrasion, freezing and thawing, and even by impact. Weathering can be mechanical or chemical, the latter occurring when rock reacts with acidic rainfall and water or with chemicals released by organisms.

Particles of rock rub against each other, breaking down ever smaller.

Each grain of sand would have its own story of creation to tell if it could. Scoop up a handful of sand and look closely. Together, it may look like just ... well, a bunch of sand, but close up and magnified, each particle is unique and beautiful.

Your Sand Collection As You Never had Seen It Before - A magical book:

 


A Grain of Sand: Nature's Secret Wonder

This is a fascinating book, filled with stunning sand macros. You will never say "boring sand" again. A beautiful book, even if you have no interest in collecting sand. 

Using the fantastic micro-photographic techniques he developed, the author invites readers to discover the strange and wonderful world that each grain of sand contains. His pictures reveal the subtle differences in the colors, textures, sizes, and shapes of sands from all over the world. And as this infinitesimal world unfolds, so does an intriguing explanation of how each grain of sand begins and forms and finds itself in a particular place, one of a billion and one of a kind.  

 

 

Ideas for Sand Collection Themes

Click link to see where each sand sample is from
No matter what someone decides to collect, it's fun to come up with a theme for that collection, to
learn about each item collected, to document, remember and share the stories that go along with the collection, and to show the collection to others. Some people like to trade with those who collect the same thing. And collecting sand is no different.

Sand collecting is one of many ways to mark and remember special places, special times, and special experiences over the years.

One nice bonus to sand-collecting compared to some other hobbies is that collecting sand can be completely free, or at least very inexpensive in and of itself. That is, you might decide to spend money on getting to the sand you'll collect or on containers for storing and displaying the sand, but the sand doesn't have to cost a thing.

It's a good idea to come up with the theme for your sand collection before you start. Of course, you can have more than one theme, or collections with your collection. So, be creative and have fun with it.

Here are some suggestions for starting your own sand collection, for yourself or maybe with your child, keeping in mind that collecting can be a great learning experience and opportunity for teaching....
  • Collect sand from places you've visited, and learn about those places. Maybe take at least one photo of each place the sand came from, and print the photo to go with the sand sample.
  • Collect sand of as many different colors as you can find, and learn about what makes the sand the color that it is. What types of minerals are in the sand? And what forces created it?
  • Collect sand from all over the place you live and learn about those places in your community, such as different beaches (which can be at the ocean, at lakes and even riverbanks) and other places you find sand near where you live. Learn about those places, why there's sand there, and how it formed.
  • Collect and trade sand from all over the world. You can learn about the people you trade with and make new long-distance friends. You might send one another pictures of where the sand came from and even pictures of each other. Learn about the places, cultures and communities where the sand samples come from, whether you go to the places and collect the sand yourself or get the sand samples from others.
  • Collect sand of all different types and learn about the geology of each type.
  • Collect sand from the same place each year. You can keep adding to the same container (jar perhaps), separating each year's sand with some kind of divider, like a different color sand, cardboard, etc.
  • If you're in the U.S., collect sand from all 50 states, or collect sand from all of the continents.
Can you think of any other ideas for sand collections?

Fascinating Books About the World of Sand:

 

Sand: The Never-Ending Story

Told by a geologist with a novelist's sense of language and narrative, this book examines the science of sand--sand forensics, the physics of granular materials, sedimentology, paleontology and archaeology, and planetary exploration--and also explores the rich human context of sand.

 








The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes (Dover Earth Science)

This classic book was used by NASA in studying sand dunes on Mars. It was the first book to deal exclusively with the behavior of blown sand and related land forms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas for Storing and Showing Your Sand Collection

You CAN Save Time in a Bottle

Start collecting simple, inexpensive containers:
  • Baby jars
  • Canning (Mason) jars
  • Jelly jars
  • A variety of glass bottles of different shapes and sizes
  • Clear wine or champagne bottles with corks
  • Zip-loc baggies
  • Petri dishes
  • Glass ampules and vials, like these
What other containers can you use to store your sand collection?

Remember to try sites like Craigslist and Freecycle, where you can sometimes find free containers like those listed above. You can post Wanted ads as well as search the listings for free items.

Add Green Sand Samples to Your Collection - The latest eBay auctions and buy-it-now sales

Green sand is made of a mineral called Olivine, which weathers quickly on the Earth's surface. Read about olivine here on Wikipedia.

This is a rare sand color, so it may not always be available.

 

Collect Black Sand Samples

Some black sands are heavy, glossy, partly magnetic mixtures of mostly fine grains, found as part of a placer deposit (an accumulation of valuable minerals). Another type of black sand, found on beaches near a volcano, consists of tiny bits of lava. Read more about black sands on Wikipedia

Add Rare Star Sand Samples from Japan to Your Collection

The grains of "star sand" are actually the shells of microscopic, single-celled organisms called foraminiferans or forams. Read about and see photos of star sand, found on the beaches and in the sands of Indo-Pacific waters.

Are you a psammophile? A psammophile is...

["psammo" = sand]
["phile" = love]
...one who loves sand.

Do You Have A Sand Collection? Do you collect sand? Are you an arenophile?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds

Hummingbird picture in public domain +Pixabay 
Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, and are only found in North, Central, and South America. There are several varieties, and colors depending on region, and mostly I have only seen the green ones, with either pink or red bands around their throats. They actually make a little chirping type sound when they are "talking" to each other. Another thing that makes them so interesting to watch is that they fly into an area quickly and can also fly backwards all the time flapping their wings about 20-70 times per second. They fly faster than some people drive; about 45 miles per hour.




Hummingbirds are beautiful to watch and many people have hummingbird feeders in their gardens. I have been trying to capture a picture of one for a long time, but the picture usually gets blurred because of the high rate of the wings flapping.

If you've never seen one you are truly missing out. And if you have seen one, you know how special they are. What other bird have you ever seen that can flap it's wings about 70 times a second, fly backwards, or fly around the neighborhood at 45 miles an hour?

If you know someone who likes hummingbirds: Hummingbird Gifts
Ideas to make an hummingbird themed kitchen here: Hummingbird themed kitchen

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Rare Albino Marine Life Are Exotic Creatures of the Sea


By Antony Stanley from Gloucester, UK
(Albino Turtle, Kosgoda)
 [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The ocean is full of mysterious and amazing creatures and there are some so rare and exquisitely beautiful, like rare albino marine life, that they appear to be almost majestic. One such creature is a tiny albino green sea turtle hatchling, adoringly referred to as Alby, that was discovered on a beach in Australia earlier this year. Alby, with a tiny white shell, white body and little white flippers (due to a lack of pigmentation), was the last to emerge from a nest of 122 green sea turtle hatchlings. Alby was a remarkable discovery to conservationists since an albino sea turtle hatchling only occurs once out of hundreds of thousands of sea turtle eggs.

It’s not just humans who can be born albino. Animals and marine life can be albino as well. The term albino (also referred to as albinism) is used to describe a person or animal that has an absence, or lack of, pigment or color in their hair, skin and eyes, often resulting in a white color. Albinism is a rare congenital condition, or genetic mutation, that interferes with the development of melanin which is what determines the color (pigment) of a person or animal’s skin, hair and eyes (or fur). Not all albinos are pure white since some pigmentation may be present at birth. Pure albinos will typically have pink eyes, nails, skin or scales since blood vessels will show through without the presence of any pigmentation.

Albinos in the sea have been sighted in 28 different species of marine life throughout the years, including 21 cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises). Meet a few of these rare and exotic creatures that have gained notoriety over the years:

- Migaloo the albino humpback whale – Migaloo was first sighted in 1991 off the coast of Australia and it is a rare treat for researchers and whale watchers to catch a glimpse of this magnificent creature. Migaloo is a male and is believed to be somewhere in the range of 25 to 35 years old. At the time of his initial sighting he was thought to be the only all-white humpback whale in the world. Since that time other albino whales, that are more than 90% white, have been sighted. It is suspected that Migaloo may have fathered a couple of albino offspring that also grace the Australian waters. The Pacific Whale Foundation and The White Whale Research Centre have websites set up specifically devoted to Migaloo to provide information and also track sightings.

- Pinky the bottlenose dolphin – Pinky is a very rare pink dolphin in Louisiana that was first sighted in the Calcasieu River in 2007. She is not white like you would expect in an albino but is all pink (including her eyes). National Geographic described Pinky’s color as “bubblegum pink”. It is highly suspected that her exotic color is due to albinism where blood vessels show through her pale, non-pigmented skin resulting in her beautiful pink hue. Researchers have not confirmed, however, that this 8 or 9 year old dolphin is a true albino.



- Casper the friendly ghost is well-known to many people, but there is a very different kind of ghostly-looking Casper currently residing at the Hastings Blue Reef Aquarium in East Sussex, UK. That Casper is a very rare, all white, albino native dogfish shark nearly 3 feet in length with red eyes. Casper is most definitely a rare specimen since it is extremely unusual to see an albino shark, let alone catch one.



Individuals who see albino marine life in the wild should consider themselves very lucky since they are extraordinarily rare sightings. Albino sea turtles, like Alby, are incredibly rare to see but it does happen. It took researchers involved in a sea turtle monitoring program almost 10 years to find four albino sea turtle hatchlings on Vamizi Island in Mozambique. On a totally separate continent, two very rare partially albino sea turtles, with white heads, bodies and flippers, and beautiful pigmented markings on their shells, reside in a sanctuary at the Sea Turtle Reserve Center, Kosgoda, Sri Lanka.

Throughout the years various aquatic white wonders have been spotted by scientists, researchers, conservationists, divers and everyday sightseers. In 2014, a volunteer at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spotted the bright white dorsal fin of a bottlenose dolphin in the tranquil blue waters of the Indian River Lagoon in Central Florida. Other rare albino finds include stingrays, jellyfish, a sand tiger shark, Chinese softshell turtle and even a pure white lobster and blue crab. In the icy blue waters of the Antarctic Sea, images were captured of a white, translucent looking octopus, tons of hairy chested yeti crabs, and a starfish with 7 arms (photos were taken on the sea floor by a remote operated submersible vehicle during an expedition in 2010). It is not known, however, if the pale color of these mysterious sea creatures is due to albinism or if it is perhaps a new species.

Albinism and Survival in Marine Life:

Albinism in marine life can pose serious threats toward survival. Melanin provides certain functions that help to protect eyes and skin and with the absence of melanin those protective properties are compromised. Albino marine mammals may have poor or impaired eyesight, a reduction in heat absorption in cold waters, reduced ability to camouflage or blend into their environment for protection against predators, and sensitivity to light. It can be a challenge for albino marine life to make it to adulthood or even breed, but it can and does happen which makes their existence even more of a treasure to behold.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Octopus: Smarter than you?

Octopus image shown here: by Noel Feans ((CC BY 2.0)
Just because you have a bigger brain than an octopus doesn’t mean you are “all that” in the animal kingdom. Can you shape shift? Squeeze your body through the tiniest openings? Change color when you are happy? Do you have brains in your arms and legs?

While you won’t be able to hire the octopus to write your next term paper, they are remarkably intelligent animals with brains that are proportionately larger, by body weight, than those of the biggest dinosaurs. Perhaps that’s why they are still with us.

 Brain size, by itself, means little. What really counts is the number of neurons in a brain. Humans have around 100 million neurons to brag about; octopi have around 130 million neurons in a brain that extends outside of their malleable heads into their arms.

 Scientists have discovered that if you cut off an octopus arm, it retains enough intelligence to continue searching for tidbits of food. Unfortunately, arm-only intelligence has its limits. The disembodied octopus arm cannot remember that it doesn’t have a mouth or stomach anymore, so it does not have a bright future on its own.

 Jennifer Mather (see her book: Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate), a leading researcher into Octopi intelligence has documented other octopus feats of mental audacity including the ability to open jars and childproof caps on pill bottles. She has seen them playing “ball” by blowing air into a pill bottle and bouncing it off the side of aquarium and has documented octopi gathering and arranging rocks at the entrance to a den to lock out predators. They are also able to recognize specific humans. In aquariums, they will take a liking to some caretakers, gently grasping their hands with their tentacles, while squirting water into the faces of caretakers they don’t like.

So how did octopi evolve such highly developed intelligence? Mather speculates that it was an evolutionary adaptation to compensate for the gradual loss of their hard shell, leaving the delicate creatures with few defenses except the ability to outsmart their predators. The type of intelligence and consciousness required to be a smart octopus is not necessarily comparable to the intelligence of higher mammals. But they are, nevertheless, impressive even by human standards.

Here's some links if you want to learn more fun stuff about octopus? (or just watch some cool octopi videos) :

Amazing Octopus Videos 

How Octopus Swim: Swimming With Octopuses: Octopi Locomotion