Category: Animals


Rockingham Penguin Island

I’m proud to be able to boast that our little city of Rockingham, Western Australia, is home to a race of adorable tiny little creatures. These are the Little Penguins, so-called for their small stature.

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The Little Penguin, or Fairy Penguin (I love that name!), is the world’s smallest species of penguins. They stand little more than a foot high. End to end, one would fit nicely from the crook of your elbow to your fingertips, that’s how tiny they are. They can be found along the coastlines of southern Australia. In New Zealand they are called Blue Penguins. Rockingham, Western Australia is about the furthest north these little critters go, and we are all the better for that. Penguin Island hosts the largest colony of Little Penguins in Western Australia.

image View showing Penguin Island in the forefront, and the Rockingham mainland in the background.

imageShowing Penguin Island and behind it, Seal Island. The large island with a causeway is Garden Island, Western Australia’s largest Naval base.

Penguin Island is called that because…well, obviously because it’s where the colony of penguins live. But not just penguins call the island home – on Penguin Island itself, and on its neighbouring islands are large colonies of pelicans, seagulls and seals. You can take a tour in a glassbottomed boat further out to sea and see playful dolphins, and even swim with them. On Penguin Island there are several nature walks (watch out for raucous seagulls guarding their nests, eggs and young!), a picnic area (bring your own food and drink), caves you can explore, even the occasional basking sealion on the beach!

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For both the ferry to Penguin Island and dolphin tours around the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park area, Rockingham Wild Encounters is the sole operator.

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There is a tidal bar or sandbar from Rockingham across to Penguin Island, and people were allowed to walk across until recently…the sandbar unfortunately does not go out in a straight line, like a bridge, but curves and zig-zags underwater, and is extremely difficult to see underfoot when the tide is rising or in strong winds. Step off the sandbar and you would plunge into the sea, or worse, be swept by strong currents onto jagged rocks.

I recall reading about an unfortunate family from India who had just had a picnic on Penguin Island on 28th December 2010. They, along with around 10 other tourists, had either missed the ferry or wanted to experience walking on the sandbar. The tide started coming in, so they quickened their pace to get back to the Rockingham shore. Unfortunately, the 2 Indian wives were swept off the sand bar into the sea, and their husbands jumped in to save them. The women and other tourists were subsequently rescued, but the men drowned. These days, there is a huge sign on the beach strongly discouraging anyone from using the sand bar.

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So, please, if you are planning to visit Penguin Island, do it safely. Take the ferry. The cost of it covers you to and from the island, and you can also combine it with the cost of the Penguin Island Discovery Centre Show aka feeding time for the Little Penguins. You can see them up close and learn about their habits, watch them swim, play and eat. They really are the sweetest little things.

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Penguin Island is closed to the public during the penguins’ winter nesting period, from June til mid-September each year. But the wildlife cruises are still operational all year round. During the breeding season, there are up to 1000 pairs of Little Penguins on or around Penguin Island. The penguins that you see on show are either orphaned or rejected and rescued and are now permanent residents of the Centre, or those found injured and nursed back to health.

Where I live, each morning at sunrise, large flocks of wild birds fly over my house: seagulls, pelicans, cockatoos of all colours – white, pink and white, green, black. The cacophony is unbelievable and enough to wake the dead! And the same happens at sunset each day. I absolutely love it.

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(All photos courtesy of Google images).

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Dušan Beňo is an amazing Slovakian photographer specialising in Macros of insects. Enter his microcosmos here.

Dušan’s photographic skills are not limited to Macros; he is also a dab hand at human portraits, animals and flowers, as evidenced on his site.

Here is what I managed to glean about Dušan, from various searches online:

He is a student of Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.  He’s 27 years old and has been shooting and specializing in macro for over 7 years. Dušan loves the details of his insect subjects and finds their bright colours and characteristics charming. His favourite camera is the Canon MP-E, which he considers the best universal lens for macro shooting.

Here are some examples of Dušan’s magnificent insect Macros:
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Here’s a photo of Dušan, the photographer, himself. Keep up the wonderful work!

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I also found a YouTube video by Dušan himself which showcases his wonderful insect Macros:

 

Alexander Semenov is a marine biologist with a wonderful sideline in undersea photography. You may recall recently that I posted up some images of jellyfish in a previous post. Some of those images may well be by Alexander Semenov. This young man is no landlubber, preferring a life on the high seas!

In Alexander’s own words:

In 2007, I graduated from Lomonosov’s Moscow State University in the department of Zoology. I specialized in the study of invertebrate animals, with an emphasis on squid brains. Soon after, I began working at the White Sea Biological Station (WSBS) as a senior laborer. WSBS has a dive station, which is great for all sorts of underwater scientific needs, and after 4 years working there, I became chief of our diving team. I now organize all WSBS underwater projects and dive by myself with a great pleasure and always with a camera.

When I first began to experiment with sea life photography I tried shooting small invertebrates for fun with my own old dslr camera and without any professional lights or lenses. I collected the invertebrates under water and then I’ve shot them in the lab. After two or three months of failure after failure I ended up with a few good pictures, which I’ve showed to the crew. It has inspired us to buy a semi-professional camera complete with underwater housing and strobes. Thus I’ve spent the following field season trying to shoot the same creatures, but this time in their environment. It was much more difficult, and I spent another two months without any significant results. But when you’re working at something every day, you inevitably get a lot of experience. Eventually I began to get interesting photos — one or two from each dive. Now after four years of practice I get a few good shots almost every time I dive but I still have a lot of things that need to be mastered in underwater photography.

And the most important thing — I love Sea.

Some images of Alexander’s amazing sea creatures, courtesy of Google Images:

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And here are a couple of photos I found of Alexander Semenov himself, one as he is, and one with his underwater photography and diving gear:

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Alexander Semenov’s underwater photography can also be found on these sites:

https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/a_semenov/

We owe a debt to Alexander and other photographers of his mien, who constantly work tirelessly to bring us images of deep sea creatures that we would otherwise never encounter in our daily lives. Maybe “work” is not the right word for what Alexander does, it is clearly his passion and more a way of life than a hobby.  It is his calling.  He’s one of the lucky ones who actually does what he loves for a living. Thank you, Alexander Semenov!

Postscript: Alexander replied to my email enquiry and provided some further insight to his aspirations. His newest and most ambitious project is Aquatilis, a 3-year expedition on the high seas to capture images of deep sea creatures. This will be an epic, scientifically important project. Please show your support if you can!

Aquatilis TV

Aquatilis Indiegogo Crowdfunding

Aquatilis Flickr

Ummm, exactly what is a Nudibranch? It’s pronounced “noo dee brank”, not “nyoo dee branch” as its spelling suggests. Wikipedia describes it as thus:

A nudibranch is a member of Nudibranchia, a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod mollusks which shed their shell after their larval stage. They are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms. There are more than 3,000 described species of nudibranchs.

The word “nudibranch” comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek βραγχια, brankhia, gills.

This website contains many photos of nudibranchs, and is a good place to start if you’re interested in finding out more about these colourful, fascinating creatures:

http://homesteadbound.hubpages.com/hub/Sea-Slugs

Yes, a Nudibranch is a sea slug, but not all sea slugs are nudibranchs. And yes, the plural of Nudibranch is Nudibranchs and not Nudibranches.

Enjoy these Google pics of Nudibranchs. I ❤ Nudibranchs!

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I have had first-hand experience of being stung by jellyfish, albeit only mildly. This was back when I was a teenager on a Malaysian beach with some friends. We decided to all go and wade out as far as we could into the sea, with linked arms. Okay, probably not the smartest idea, but hey, we were silly teenagers then.

Anyway, I remember we got to about chest high when I started feeling tiny little stings on my legs and up to my waist. We may have been silly teenagers, but we were smart enough to get out of that water right sharpish! Luckily, no one was hurt, apart from sporting painful red welts on our lower extremities. I guess we were lucky.

I am not afraid of jellyfish. I know they are beautiful but deadly, and that some of them are so poisonous that even a single sting will stop your heart dead in less than a minute. But I find jellyfish absolutely beautiful and wonderful ambassadors of Mother Nature’s perfect design. I love how they are bio-luminescent and, when photographed with the right lighting and professional camera equipment, and by professionals who know what they are doing, give us the most amazing photographs.

From amorphous clouds to lacy tendrils, to enormous balloon structures, to all the colours of the rainbow, to simple and elegant lines, to masses of great complexity, jellyfish are right up there on my list of favourite animals, along with quite a few other sealife organisms such as the nudibranch, seahorse, seadragon, anemones and coral. Jellyfish have inspired many an artist to emulate or try to capture the essence of their beauty.

And so, today’s post is in celebration of that unique, exotic and mysterious creature, the Jellyfish. Here are just some of my favourite photos of jellies. (Images courtesy of Google images and what I found pinned on Pinterest).

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