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Wildlife Viewing

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wrong Way Penguin Starting to Eat Salmon

I love the story out of New Zealand three weeks ago that an Emperor penguin took a wrong turn while swimming in Antarctica and ended up 2,000 miles to the north, on the shores outside of Wellington. It was the first time in 44 years that an Emperor penguin has been sighted in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the young lad, who Kiwis are calling “Happy Feet,” started to eat sand, mistaking it for ice. He has since had four surgeries at the Wellington Zoo to remove all twigs and sand and is now on a fresh diet of salmon. The zoo hopes to keep him for another month, so he can regain his strength before hopefully making the long trek back home.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/07/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Good News Out of Tanzania

Earlier this year, I reported on the Tanzanian government’s plan to build a 260-mile highway that would slice right through the southern part of Serengeti. The moronic move would not only disrupt one of the world’s great migrations of 2 million wildebeests traveling north into Kenya’s Masai Mara, but could have been an easy way in and out for poachers. Thankfully, after listening to numerous conservation groups and international travel operators, the government scrapped that idea. Tourism is the number one industry in Tanzania, so it seems like the government finally got wise to the fact that they shouldn’t cut off the hand that feeds them.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/05/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Birdwatching at Mount Auburn Cemetery

On Friday, I’ll be waking up early to join Mass Audubon on a birdwatching outing at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Waking up early to visit a cemetery might sound like a macabre undertaking, but Mount Auburn is no ordinary cemetery. It was created on the outskirts of Boston in 1831 as America’s first rural or garden cemetery, a precursor to parks in urban areas. The city was yearning for a new aesthetic, a cemetery landscaped with rolling hills, ponds, flowering shrubs, and a mix of trees that provide shade not only for those in mourning, but for the entire public to enjoy their picnic lunch. It became a smashing success that would lay the groundwork for Frederick Law Olmstead to create Central Park in New York and the Emerald Necklace here in Boston some 40 to 50 years later.

Today, more than 200,000 visitors enter the gates of Mount Auburn annually. Sure, they might come to visit the final resting place of a relative or to stop and say thanks to a long list of luminaries in American arts and letters, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, and Buckminster Fuller, yet others like me simply follow in the footsteps of Roger Tory Peterson, the renowned ornithologist who once led bird walking tours here. The height of the spring migration for warblers usually happens around Mother’s Day each year. Bring your binocs and you might just spot the scruffy yellow chin of the divine Northern Parula warbler. To read more about Boston’s historic cemeteries, see my article from last summer’s American Way magazine, the inflight publication of American Airlines.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/04/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Watching the Spring Migration of Birds

It’s hard to focus on writing this morning, grabbing my binoculars every five minutes to view the red-tailed hawks flying by my window. They love to rest on the branches of the tall oak trees outside my third floor office. I love this time of year, when my feathered friends start to return north and their cacophony of voices wake me up at sunrise. It’s too early to spot my beloved warblers as they cruise the Atlantic Flyway to their summer retreats. I’ll be heading to Mount Auburn Cemetery, a favorite haunt of Boston birders in mid-April, to spot those beauties. Last spring, I pointed out a website, Westport Osprey, that was tracking the flight of ospreys as they were making their way north. So far in 2011, Hudson left his winter home of Venezuela and is already back in his nest on the Westport River in southeastern Massachusetts. As of March 15, Sanford was still hanging out in the Bahamas ordering another rum punch at the swim-up bar. Stay tuned to Westport Osprey to track his flight.  And make a plan to visit Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Mass Audubon, to find the nesting Westport osprey, bald eagles, piping plovers and other shore birds.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Caves and Monkeys of Barbados

The allure of Barbados has always been the stretch of soft white sand on the west coast that serves as a welcome mat for the warm aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea. Yet, it’s the ecological wonders in the northern and eastern section of the island that make Barbados an intriguing island destination. At Harrison’s Cave, you hop on a tram that slowly ambles into the dark corridor of limestone coral. The 100-foot high Great Hall is teeming with stalagmites and stalactites, the color of a creamsicle. Even more impressive is the crystal-like formations found in the Rotunda above pools of rushing water. Next stop is the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, home to green monkeys that were first brought to the island as pets of slave traders in the mid-17th century. The monkeys tend to be shy, so you have to be still. There are also flamingos and pelicans drinking from the shallow ponds, toucans that blurt “hello” from inside an aviary, and peacocks who squawk at the slow moving red-footed tortoise. You finish with a swim on one of those blissful beaches.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Spotting Bald Eagles in Red Wing, Minnesota

An hour’s drive south of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River, Red Wing, Minnesota is best known for its restored century-old Sheldon Theatre and the 1875 St. James Hotel.  National Geographic Traveler magazine recently named it the 23rd most historic destination in the world. Come winter, folks come to Red Wing to spot a bald eagle. Hundreds of eagles gather along the riverfront to search for fish and other small prey. Each weekend from February 19th through March 13th, naturalists will be on hand at Red Wing’s Covill Park to provide scopes and binoculars and answer questions about eagle behavior and the recovery of America’s most famous bird.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Bird Watching in Costa Rica

Just as divers think of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as that ultimate diving locale, bird watchers flock to Costa Rica. In a small country the size of West Virginia, you can find more than 850 species of birdlife. Take the entire United States and combine it with Canada and you won’t come up with that many birds. And we’re not talking ordinary birds in Costa Rica like the backyard sparrow, but spectacular toucans, scarlet macaws, quetzals, 50 types of hummingbirds, and tall storks. The great multitude of birdlife in Costa Rica stems from its diverse terrain sandwiched into a sliver of Central American terrain. Within a relatively short driving distance, you can be atop 12,000 foot peaks or down at sea level on the Pacific coast, immersed in the dense rainforest or slicing through the hazy cloud forest. Sendero Tranquillo in the Cloud Forest, La Selva Biological Station, and Carara National Park are great places to start.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 31, 2011

Not a Good Time to Be a Rhino in South Africa

South Africa officials said 333 rhinos were poached in 2010, nearly three times as many that were lost in 2009. Another five rhinos were killed in the first several weeks of 2011. The increased demand for the rhino horn as a cure for impotence in Asian countries or as a ceremonial dagger in Middle Eastern countries has fueled the latest killings. In neighboring Zimbabwe, another seven rhinos have been murdered in the past month. This is not some random shooting by locals. Zimbabwean park rangers said the poaching is so sophisticated now that the villains are using helicopters and light aircraft to land, get their treasured horn, and fly away. They are well organized and funded by big money syndicates. Equipped with night vision goggles and a slew of artillery, this new breed of poacher will be hard to stop. Expect the 21,000 rhinos in South Africa, the most of any country, to dwindle quickly if the government can’t provide the resources to do battle with these criminals.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/31/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend

As many bird watchers will tell you, some of the best birding happens in the height of winter. North of Boston, Cape Ann is known for its exciting collection of winter seabirds, including loons, grebes, gannets, sea ducks, and the region’s signature winter bird, the harlequin winter duck. The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with Mass Audubon to present a Winter Birding Weekend February 4-6, led by local naturalists. There will also be an opportunity to venture out on a wWhale watch boat to spot humpback, fin, and minke whales along with white-sided dolphins, harbor porpoises, and gray seals. The event will be held at the Elks Club at Bass Rocks and costs $25 per person (12 and under free), $45 per person for the boat ride.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/21/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Top 5 Travels of 2010, Visiting the Maasai at Shompole, Kenya

When visiting another country and booking a room, I always seek out local travel writers or outfitters who know every decent hotel in their country and have a basis for comparison. I’m not going to spend thousands of dollars, only to leave the important decision of where to stay to some stranger commenting on TripAdvisor. More than likely, it’s his first time in this country and it’s all bliss. But I know Africa too well and realize there are hotels that cater primarily to large tour companies from Asia and Europe, delivering the Disneyesque version of being on safari. So I asked Jane and Felix Pinto, owners of the Nairobi-based Micato Safaris, known for their boutique, small group outings, to find me the real thing, an authentic travel experience in the bush. They pointed the way to Shompole.

Less than an hour flight from Nairobi, you land in a grassy valley that feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Giraffes and warthogs greet you, along with Maasai villagers dressed in their colorful garb. You look around and find no signs of civilization except for rocky outcroppings that look like rooms nestled into the hillside. On closer inspection, these rooms, less than a dozen, are suites with their own private plunge pools. There are no walls. You’re simply immersed in nature, sleeping in king-sized bed under a mosquito net. You awake to the sounds of tropical birds and the sights of baboons walking across the valley floor.

During the day, Maasai villagers take you on nature walks to show you the natural remedies they use to cure their ailments. I’m sure pharmaceutical companies have sent teams to visit the Maasai to hopefully recreate these cures in pill form at a much more exorbitant price. We also were guests in their small homes and took bush drives to spot lions, Cape buffalo, and pink flamingoes that stand in the shallow waters of Lake Natron, the volcanic slopes of Tanzania seen in the distance. Unlike the Masai Mara, there are no other Jeeps taking people on drives, because there are no other travelers within a 50-mile radius! One night at twilight, the local villagers performed a dance with Mount Shompole looming in the background. Unlike hokey Hawaiian luau dancers that I’m used to seeing, this felt genuine. See for yourself.

Watch the video below, or if you do not see it view it on YouTube.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/05/11 at 02:00 PM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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