Tag Archives: New York

Multitasking. On Wings and on Foot.

Hi everybody! I can’t believe I’ve been absent from here since mid August. Life has been overly busy since I returned from my summer vacation in Sweden. That doesn’t mean it’s been all work, not by a long shot. Lots of fun with family and friends too. But time has wings. And the faster they flap, the more difficult it becomes to slow down and pause.

After checking on our salt marsh friends this morning I decided it was time to sit down, pause and reflect back on my late summer adventures. So here it is. A long hodgepodge of birds, rhinos, sea creatures, travels and reflections.

Grandkids ud170I’ve been lucky to spend quite a bit of time, on several occasions, with ‘my girls’. They have an incredible curiosity and desire to discover – and the energy to match. So we’ve been on ‘safari’ in Busch Gardens observing the rhino family, mom, toddler and dad…

baby rhino and mama ud170

rhino ud170… lots of stripy zebras and numerous different antelopes …

zebra ud170

antelopes ud170…and several families of giraffes.

two giraffes UD170Even some beautiful flamingos.

flamingo UD170That was a full 12 h day of countless rides and animals! Fireworks at the end of the day, both literally and figuratively. Some of us slept already on the way home.

fireworks at busch gardens UD170On another occasion it was time to explore the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. To our delight they had tropical gardens where some ‘duckies’ and familiar shore birds could come and go as they pleased.

wood duck and moorhen ud170

male ruddy duck UD170

tri-colored heron ud170

adult roseate spoonbill UD170And the underwater world was full of wonders from sharks and numerous other fish species to sea turtles and other small and big creatures.

shark FL aquarium ud170

stringray UD170

sea turtle 16x9 ud170

florida aquarium ud170

jelly fish 2 UD170

giant lobster ud170A fascinating world of its own….followed by other adventures at the children’s museum and elsewhere. All these excursions provided welcome breaks from work that has intruded my world a bit more than I had bargained for…but it’s all good. Although I work mostly from my home office with a view of the ocean, the bayside and the salt marsh, I have also been traveling. Last week, for example, I worked in the Big Apple. Right in midtown Manhattan where the sun only reaches the ground in small spots between the skyscrapers.

Manhattan midtown ud170

Midtown manhattan workplace ud170

It is, indeed, a city that never sleeps. And it’s a city of travelers from all around the world. Convoys of carry-on pieces walk the streets intercepted occasionally by jugglers of larger luggage.

traveller NYC ud170

And the yellow taxis are still there. Racing up and down the streets alongside with Uber drivers in black SUVs.

taxis ny ud170

I didn’t have time for sight-seeing, but walking the streets to and from my meetings I observed the diversity of buildings lining the streets. Glass towers that reflected the skies next to older buildings with some character, intricate details and windows into the soul of the city…

manhattan midtwon skyscrapers UD170

new and old in NYC ud170

detail of old building in NYC ud170

window ny ud170

And I realized I could see it all captured on the façades of the glass towers…

NYC reflections UD170

Is it all stone and glass? No it isn’t. It’s a melting pot of everything. People from all over, food and drink from every corner of the world and … dogs patiently looking for that little green patch. Or just happily posing for a photographer and making her smile.

dog ny ud170

In the coming months I’ll have a more opportunities to rediscover the spirit of this place, such a contrast to what I am used to here on the beach. Talking of home, I have to tell you that Dylan and I have discovered a new park, not far from home, to walk in. It’s been hot, but the other day we ventured there for a short stroll between thunder storms.

lake at Taylor Park ud170

This park has a beautiful small lake and you can walk around it. Even in the afternoon heat we spotted some familiar birds: a Great Egret, a young Little Blue Heron, several Moorhen and Anhinga.

Great egret at Taylor Park ud170

young little blue heron 2 at Taylor Park ud170

Moorhen at Taylor Park ud170

anhinga 2 ud170Once it gets cooler, we’ll visit this park more regularly, but for now we walk right here in the neighborhood.

I have to tell you that I’ve been worried about Mama Osprey. While I had seen Papa perching at the Sailing Center in the evenings, I hadn’t seen her since I returned from Sweden. So this morning I decided that we would go out soon after sunrise and look for her.

mama osprey at sunrise ud170

Because she has not been perching at the nest like she has done the previous summers, I decided to walk on the bayside. Right off the bat we discovered Papa Stanley on his favorite perch at the Sailing Center. He nodded a friendly greeting as in wondering where we’d been.

papa osprey at sailing center ud170

Then I looked around for Mama Sandy. She was nowhere to be seen….until I trained my camera on the small spot at the far end of the pier.

mama osprey at sailing center ud170

There she was! In the company of a pelican and some gulls. And I happily took her portrait in the golden haze of the rising sun.

mama osprey ud170From there we walked to the salt marsh and discovered it was quite lively after several months of little activity. I was delighted to see the Mayor in his slightly untidy office again.

mayor the older GBH in his office ud170He was proudly surveying his village. I noticed that Great Egrets were back from their summer vacation in big numbers and so were the smaller Snowy Egrets. The grass was so tall that it was difficult to get good shots of them.

Great egret ud170

snowy egret ud170Suddenly we saw that the Mayor flew up to a higher branch and trained his eyes on something.

the older gbh mayor ud170We walked a bit closer…and noticed that Harry, the younger GBH, was walking towards a group of egrets exercising his self-appointed authority…

Young GBH and a great egret UD170He glanced at the Mayor and noticed he was under surveillance. He knew from previous experience how such a confrontation would end, so he stopped at his tracks, turned around and walked away. We walked home too. I was happy to have spotted both osprey parents and realized that the new nesting season is only three months away.

Dylan and I wish you all happy fall days.

Time Square and the Pink Hippo

Just came back home from a big city urban safari.  A trip loaded with work and all the stresses of the modern world. Although it was good, or what’s commonly called successful, it was nothing like the safaris I’m used to. The big city certainly makes me run faster, speak louder, listen less, and in general adjust to the rapid urban pulse of human achievement.

A big city definitely is a place where people rule.  An urban jungle where the huge buildings provide some shade from the sun and the cars roam the streets. They can certainly kill you if you’re not constantly on your watch. A manmade kingdom with a few implanted, lonely pieces of the nature providing some warmth to the stone filled environments. A few representatives of the animal kingdom can be seen walking the sidewalks, tightly in the leash for their own protection.

On a nature bound safari, whether in the north or in the south, I immediately feel the deep connection with the nature. And I realize that I am a visitor in the nature’s wild kingdom. That is a very special feeling. There is a keen awareness of not being in charge in that environment, but at the same time a deep sentiment of being part of it. A sense of oneness, peace and awe. Such a contrast to the urban jungle and the modern life we are so accustomed with.

At home relaxing after my “urban safari”, I was reminiscing over the safaris we were so fortunate to go on in the past. We always preferred to drive ourselves, whenever possible, and tried to avoid the most “touristy” safari parks in an effort to find some truly genuine wild kingdoms. That of course came with two “givens”: not to disturb the wild, and be prepared to encounter some unscheduled adventures along the way. I hope we minimized the former, but we certainly had our share of the latter. I have already told many stories in my earlier posts but there are countless more…

After my sweaty walks in the big city, I came to think about the most spectacular bath I’ve ever taken. One late afternoon in Ethiopia we were searching for the hot spring we knew would be located in a small oasis in the Awash region, which for the most part was dusty, dry savannah. We were fairly close to the location and could already see the tall trees reaching for the sky, when we came across a group of hyenas.  They were many and some of them were huge. They were probably planning for their evening meal.  Right after that encounter, we found the hot spring. The surroundings were incredibly beautiful with flowers and lots of green vegetation. And the water was warm and crystal clear.

hot springs in awash ethiopia

We were a bit hesitant to jump into the inviting water. Perhaps we would see six hyena heads watching us from the high edge of the spring. But we jumped in anyway, couldn’t resist the opportunity to wash out the day’s dust as we didn’t have any shower at our simple camp grounds. And we were lucky, no hyenas guarding our clothes when we finally climbed up after our refreshing bath and swim in the desert oasis.

The traffic jams in the big city reminded me of another “jam” we came across while driving in a national park in Kenya. We came across a huge herd of water buffaloes crossing our trail. They had the green light, we had the red. There must have been between 150-200 animals. We stopped immediately and very quietly, literally holding our breaths. And tried to be invisible while they passed on all sides of our vehicle, some nudging it. It seems we had stopped a bit on the cross walk.

buffaloes in queen Elizabeth national park in uganda

 

Dining out in the big city also reminded me of another time when we dined out in the wild on one memorable New Year Eve in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. We had several adventures and encounters packed into a single day. First in the morning we spotted a huge male lion. It was quite rare as they tend to move very little in the day time and often get their meal served by the females at night. Then on our afternoon drive we found a small herd of elephants. They were covered by some trees and high grass so we just stopped on the trail and watched them quietly. Somehow the mother sensed our presence. She took a few quick steps in our direction and showed clear signs of dislike by raising her trunk. Having learned from our earlier encounters with elephants, we didn’t need another warning.  It was time to retreat immediately.

elephants in queen elizabeth national park in uganda

When coming back to the lodge, we met the man-eater. A lion who had killed a park ranger a couple of years earlier. She was of course now in the small museum at the lodge for everyone to see, after being hunted down and killed by other rangers. A legend was circulating in the park about the ghost of this man-eater. She had been seen walking along the dirt road to the lodge at night…

After a nice late dinner outside at the lodge, we all decided to celebrate the New Year on our little terrace with the view to the river. We had a bottle of Champagne saved for this occasion. So a few minutes to midnight we walked back to our accommodations in the moon light under the African starry sky.  It was a very beautiful and clear night. Suddenly we hear a sound in the dark. We all stop in our tracks and listen. It was a repeating sound of big feet.  Like something big and heavy walking in the shadows…in our direction. We decided to retreat behind some tall trees next to the path we had been walking on. And past us walks a huge hippo straight towards the main lodge. He had a pink glow in the moonlight…

a hippo in queen elizabeth national park in uganda

Later on when we enjoyed our night on the terrace, he came back to greet us. He obviously liked the grass next to path leading to the river and we could observe him in the moonlight for a good part of an hour. And now he seemed even more pinkish. I can still picture his silhouette against the moonlit river bank. It’s not every day one meets a pink hippo at midnight.