Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Los Angeles Zoo

On Saturday, our plan was to go to the Planetarium.  Actually, we were going to hike to the Hollywood Sign and then go to the Planetarium.  But as I was reading, I found that the shortest hike to the Hollywood Sign is closed on weekends.  (Or rather, I should say the parking is closed).   And it was hot so we didn't want to do the longer hike.  So we headed to the Planetarium.  But apparently, everyone else headed to the planetarium also...there was no parking anywhere near the Planetarium.  So, since we were already at Griffith Park (where the Planetarium is located) and the LA Zoo is there, we decided to go there instead.

It's a big zoo with a lot of animals that we don't have here in Salt Lake.  Right after we arrived, they were feeding the chimpanzees so we hurried there to see them.  They had fruits and vegetables and there were a lot of chimps, including several babies.  I love chimps.  They are so fascinating and intelligent.  (Although soon Alfredo began to tease me because I kept saying, "Oh, I love __________....fill in the name of whatever animal we were looking at.")

I can't remember the name of these animals...they are from Africa and are similar to gazelles...but they looked so graceful and lovely to me.  I stood there just watching them for awhile. 

Gorillas are a great ape.  They eat leaves, shoots, roots, vines and fruit.  They live in groups of 6-12 with the oldest male leading a group of females, their young and young males.  The leader is the most aggressive because it is his responsibility to protect all of them.  Their gestation period is close to ours, about 8 1/2 months.  Mother gorillas nurse for 3 years.

In the mid afternoon, we bought lunch.  My cost saving strategy?  Buy 4 meals for the 5 of us and I eat everyone's leftovers.  It was plenty and worked well.

Not a very good picture, but this is a Tasmanian devil.  It had just been fed meat and was tearing into the meat with ferocity.  They are ugly creatures and fierce.

 Animals are so cool and so fascinating...and so, so disgusting!  We saw a giraffe drink another giraffe's pee.  We saw another animal lick its pal's backside and then drink its pee.  Yuck!  It was hot and we were thirsty...but that's taking it a bit far. ;)

 One of the animals we saw was a white-cheeked turaco.  It's a bird from Africa.  Gabby said, "They're annoying.  I like them!"  We all laughed.
 We also saw an echidna.  I didn't get a good photo of it, but there was an echidna expert standing right by the enclosure that told us about it (she had studied echidnas in Australia).  It's a mammal but like the platypus it lays eggs.  It doesn't have nipples...its milk seeps out of its skin.  The echidna gains 100 times its birth weight in the first week.  Another fascinating fact is that its front legs face forward but its back legs face backward.

I liked that this zoo had a lot of animals that we haven't seen before.  It was interesting to read about them.  I loved seeing the koalas, another favorite.  And lions and elephants and so many other animals.

We stayed busy and so on car trips, the girls often dozed off.  Not Michelle and she was usually a good sport about having her sister lean against her.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Whale Watching and La Brea Tar Pits

Our second day in California, we met Brenda and Aelora at Newport Beach to go on a Whale and Dolphin Watching Tour.  It was awesome.  It was such a neat experience!! 
Look how blue the sky was!  The weather couldn't have been more beautiful!

 The tour company was Davey's Locker and they did such a good job.  We were on the boat "Ocean Explorer."


Notice the board on the pier...there is a great blue heron on it.  So cool!

First, we saw a pod of dolphins.  There were at least 30 of them and they were all around our boat.

One of the things I really liked was that the guide gave facts about the animals as well as pointing them out.  They also had a naturalist on board to answer questions.  We learned that the dolphin we were seeing was the common dolphin.  It is a cetacean, related to whales.  It has one blowhole.  They use echolocation to steer themselves in the water, much like a bat uses echolocation to steer itself in the air.  You could see mother and calf pairs swimming side by side.  Baby dolphins nurse for about 8 months and live with their mothers for 3 years.  A dolphin has 100 teeth.  They live in pods of hundreds to thousands...so the pod we saw was very small. 

After watching the dolphins for a bit, we headed farther out to sea where another boat had spotted two blue whales.  We hoped to see them also.  We got lucky because we actually saw three blue whales...and they were all relatively close to each other.  We spent about 30-40 minutes watching the whales...primarily two of them...we would watch one while it came up and then hurry over to the area where the other one was and watch it while it was up.  They were staying down for about 10 minutes in between surfacing. The guide said that they are pretty consistent...meaning that if they surface after 10 minutes, they will continue to surface after approximately the same amount of time over and over.  My pictures aren't great...the whale looks tiny and far away but we really had a great view.  I just was taking photos with my phone (because I broke my camera in March) and it doesn't do a good job. 

We got to see one of the whales fluke which was amazing.  They don't do that all of the time, or even all that often.
Here are some of the facts I learned about blue whales.  They are 100 feet long.  Its heart is the size of a mini-cooper.  They are the biggest animal to ever live on Earth, larger than any dinosaur.  They have a 12-13 month gestation.  They are mammals so the baby drinks milk.  They can gain 200 pounds/day for the first year.  They can dive underwater and hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.  They eat krill.  They  have 2 blowholes.  They have baleen...they don't have teeth.  The air comes out of their blowhole at 200 miles/hour.    One of the coolest facts, I learned from the naturalist.  Gabby asked her how long they live.  She said they didn't use to know because they haven't been able to study them in depth until the last decade or two.  But they believe they live for 60-100 years.   They know this because wax builds up in their ears and forms rings, much like the rings on a tree.  So they can count the rings of wax to determine their age.  Fascinating, right?  Watching the whales was beyond description.  It was one of the coolest things I have seen/done.  Definitely crossed something off my bucket list that day.  The tour guide said this was the best tour he'd had in weeks.  Such a good day.  I said on Facebook that it was the best day ever.  That isn't really true...there are other days that definitely are more special...such as going through the temple for the first time, my wedding day, the days my daughters were born...but this was pretty wonderful.  How grateful I am for this beautiful and glorious world our Father created for us!
Aelora, Brenda and Michelle watching for whales.

Near the end of our tour, we also got to see California Sea Lions.

The California sea lion is very social.  It makes a barking sound.  The guide explained the differences between seals and sea lions.  Seals don't make a barking sound.  Seals aren't social.   Sea lions have ear flaps and seals don't.  Sea lions are nocturnal eaters and just rest during the day.  Sea lions are good swimmers.

Again, hard to see...but there are pelicans resting.  A bunch of them.  Very cool!
 After our tour ended, we went to get lunch at Newport Beach.  We also bought t-shirts as souvenirs (although Ella chose not to get one and Gabby got a stuffed dolphin instead of a shirt.)  We had pizza and it was really, really good.  We also had a root beer float and an orange soda float.  I really liked the orange soda float.
Then we headed to La Brea Tar Pits.  Brenda and Aelora joined us there as well.  I thought it was so cool.  Pricy, but so fascinating!

A ground sloth
The La Brea Tar Pits are a group of tar pits in the middle of Los Angeles.  Natural asphalt (NOT tar) has seeped up from the ground for thousands of years and over a million fossils have been found there.  There are about 650 species that have been found in the pits...including saber toothed cats, bison, camels, wooly mammoths, dire wolves, and many more. 

In this exhibit, you could try pulling a bar out of the asphalt.  It was hard.  No wonder so many animals got stuck!

This display of a wooly mammoth moved.

 They had an atrium with plants such as gingko trees and bamboo trees and colorful koi fish swimming. 

 Outside of the museum, you can walk around and see some of the actual asphalt pits.  Here is a display of a mother, father and baby mammoth with the mother drowning.  The sign explained that they now know that it was much more common for male mammoths to die in the pits.  Women and children lived in groups so if one fell in a pit, the others could rescue them but males lived a solitary life and would have no one to rescue them if they stumbled into a pit.

You could also see some of the pits where they are working right now with fossils flagged right in the asphalt.  It was so fascinating to see history and science right before our very eyes.  This was a big hit for me...the kids and Alfredo weren't quite as fascinated.
Right next to the La Brea Tar Pits (in the same park) is the LACMA...Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  We didn't go inside but we did walk around and see the statues outside the museum and outside the Japanese Art Museum.

This is a sculpture...a long pathway with a huge slab of stone above it...down underneath the stone are Ella and Aelora...see how tiny they are in comparison to the wall and the stone.  It was huge!

Michelle really got a kick out of this sign.  She was tired...all the kids were...by the time we finished.

This building is right by the La Brea Tar Pits.  It's some kind of business but I thought it was so cool looking.

 After the La Brea Tar Pits, we headed to the Farmers Market and had yummy ice cream.  Such a super fun day with our family and Brenda and Aelora.