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Wildlife Viewing

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dream Trips 2010, Safari in Botswana

With the World Cup heading to South Africa in 2010, that should be reason enough to head back to Mother Africa. Catch a game, then head to Kruger for a little safari action, surf in Plett, grab some wine in Stellenbosch, hike up Table Mountain in glorious Capetown, my vote for the most beautiful city in the world, then bike around Hout Bay. But I’ve already done that, so it’s time to check out some neighboring countries like Namibia, Mozambique, and Botswana. What’s attractive about the Okavango Delta in Botswana is that you can actually ride atop an elephant on safari. My brother, Jim, and I took the elephant trek through the Hill Tribes of Thailand and it was a blast. It certainly beats sitting in the back of a jeep all morning, smelling exhaust. I prefer to see the lions atop an elephant, though I’m not sure how close an elephant would get to the king of the jungle before being scared away.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/14/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Important New Book for Bird Lovers

85 years young, Theodore Cross has had more than his fair share of success. He’s worked in the White House, helping to spur on African-American economic development, served as governor of the American Stock Exchange, worked as a real estate lawyer, and twice bought and sold publishing houses geared to Wall Street investors, bankers, and accountants, earning many millions of dollars. Now, with the release last October of his large coffee table photo book, “Waterbirds,” he’s been referred to as John James Audubon with a camera. Harvard University’s great naturalist, E.O. Wilson described the book as “a masterpiece.” For the past 40 years, Cross has been obsessed with photographing birds around the globe, from spotting a Ross’s gull in Siberia to snapping a red-tailed tropicbird in Christmas Island. The 344-page epic published by W.W. Norton & Company is also heavy on egrets, herons, and another Cross favorite, the roseate spoonbill. It’s requisite viewing for both the casual backyard bird lover and the avid bird watcher. 

(Photo of the masked booby by Theodore Cross)
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/10/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Win a Spot on a Biosphere Expeditions Trip

All you have to do is tell Biosphere Expeditions a little bit about yourself and what you can contribute to one of their projects and you could be one of two lucky buggers who win a free one or two-week jaunt with the volunteer-oriented wildlife conservation organization. What exactly do these expeditions entail? How about photographing whales, dolphins, and loggerhead turtles off the shores of the Azores to help monitor their migration patterns in the Atlantic, tracking jaguars and pumas in the Brazilian bush, or finding the elusive Arabian leopard in the desert and mountains of Oman. Deadline for entry is November 1, 2010, and you can submit either a 300-word essay or a 1-minute video clip.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/15/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Year of Saving the Tiger

Last week, celebrations across the globe brought in the Chinese New Year. 2010 marks the Year of the Tiger, and to commemorate the occasion, the Chinese government has teamed with the World Bank and conservation groups to help save its dwindling wild tiger population in the country. The South China tiger, not seen for years, is believed to be extinct. The latest effort is to help save the Amur tiger in northern China, which now numbers in the teens and could very well be extinct by the end of this decade. The latest building boom has encroached on the tigers’ migration route and poaching always remains a problem. But the government hopes to offset the loss through habitat management, education, and more powerful law enforcement. Let’s hope this leads to a much needed increase in the wild tiger population.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/23/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A New Five-Star Lodge Opens in Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest

No one needs to be reminded of the brutal atrocities committed in Rwanda in the 90s, where over a span of several months more than a million people were murdered. Thankfully, old wounds can heal. The small central African country that borders Uganda to the north and Tanzania to the east has transformed from “Hotel Rwanda” to Nyungwe Forest Lodge, a five-star resort set to open next week. Set in the mountainous southwestern part of the country in Nyungwe National Park, the region is known for its ancient rainforest canopy with more than 200 different types of trees from the giant lobelia to the African mahogany. Take a walk with naturalists and you’ll also find 13 species of primates ranging from chimpanzees to acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkeys to the baboon-like Grey-cheeked Mangabeys. The lodge is managed by the Mantis Group, who run luxury boutique hotels through the game preserves of South Africa.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/03/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Seeing Bald Eagles at Umbagog Lake, New Hampshire

Spring is here and the birds are starting to chirp outside my bedroom window. Soon I’ll be grabbing my binoculars as the yellow warblers make their April and May pilgrimage back north. To celebrate the reawakening of nature, I’m going to devote this week to my favorite bird watching sites in New England.

Nothing quite prepared my wife and me for the extraordinary pair of bald eagles we found nesting on a dead oak tree on Umbagog Lake one spring day. Loons were lounging on the glass waters, their call (the sound of laughter) echoed atop the spruce and fir trees, as we paddled in the calm waters. This vast 7,850-acre lake, whose shores lie half in New Hampshire and half in Maine, is a National Wildlife Area, primarily due to the sight we were about to see. We glided to our right where we found a large nest perched atop the highest branch of a leafless tree. As we drew closer, we spotted the mother guarding her home, her pointed beak sticking out through the maze of twigs. The sight of her mate standing on the branch below was mesmerizing. His white head was cocked in a royal pose, his eyes aware of everything around him, hence the nickname “eagle eye.” We skirted the island for a long time, fascinated by the awesome spectacle, before canoeing back to the put-in.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/22/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spotting Puffins at Machias Seal Island, Maine

Near the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, Machias Seal Island is a tiny unspoiled sanctuary for a number of Maine’s most noted marine bird species. You can visit the island via a charter boat operating out of Cutler or Jonesport, Maine. An hour later you disembark onto a small low-lying island. Hundreds of plump birds whiz over your heads searching the waters for breakfast. Some have hooded black heads that look like Batman’s disguise. These are the razorbill auks. Others have eyes the size of a parrot with beaks dotted red, black, and yellow. This is the bird everyone is excited to see, the Atlantic puffin. 

Weather permitting, you can climb atop the seaweed-slick rocks and see puffins two to three feet away. The eastern part of the island is covered with Arctic terns. The razorbill auks might look like superheroes, but it is the aggressive tern that keeps predators like seagulls away from the eggs of all the island’s birds. Paths lead to four blinds where you can set up shop and watch the puffins return to feed their young. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Best of Cape Cod Birding

While the interior of Cape Cod is rich with cardinals, mockingbirds, goldfinches and woodpeckers, it’s the coastal variety that entice many a visitor here.  Shorebirds by the thousands, returning from their Arctic breeding grounds, stop along the Cape coast for much needed respite and food as they fatten up for their journey south. One of their favorite overnights is Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The Massachusetts Audubon Society, who own and maintain the property, have claimed to have seen over 250 different species like oystercatchers, stilts, avocets, plovers, turnstones, and sandpipers.

The Goose Pond Trail is a leisurely ramble though marsh, forest, ponds, and fields. At low tide, continue on the Try Island Trail to a boardwalk that leads to Cape Cod Bay.  Green herons and large goose-like brants are prevalent in the surrounding salty marsh.  Retrace your steps back to the Goose Pond Trail to reach Goose Pond. A bench overlooking the water is one of the most serene spots on the Cape. Northern hummingbirds fly in and out of the branches overhead forming a choir whose voices will soothe any man’s soul.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/24/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Best of Connecticut Birding

Migrating shorebirds are prevalent along the Connecticut shoreline in late spring and fall. Green backed herons, yellow warblers, snowy egrets, swallows, ospreys, doves, and Canadian geese are just some of the birds sighted at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point. Of the 399 species known in Connecticut, over 300 have been recorded at this 840-acre nature preserve. There’s also nesting piping plovers, least terns, American oystercatchers (rare in Connecticut), and both types of night herons. Ask about their naturalist-guided canoe trips to the Charles E. Wheeler State Wildlife Management Area, one of the few remaining wilderness areas on the Connecticut coast.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/25/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Following the Flight of an Osprey

If you need proof that birds are starting to fly north right now, check out the flight of an osprey that’s being tracked on the website Westport Osprey. A 13- year-old named Hudson left Venezuela on March 9th and through the use of satellite technology, we see him making his way to his summer nesting ground on the Westport River in southeastern Massachusetts. As of yesterday, he had reached the Hudson River, less than 150 miles from his final destination. Westport Osprey was also tracking another osprey named Ozzie, who spends his winter in Cuba. He must be enjoying the Cuban music scene, because he hasn’t left yet.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/26/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, April 05, 2010

Sarah Palin, Your New Guide to Alaskan Wildlife

Let me get this straight. The woman who fought against increased protections for America’s struggling polar bear population, fought against increased protections for the dwindling Cook Inlet beluga whales, and once had the audacity to put a $150 bounty on the carcasses of dead wolves is now hosting her own Alaskan Animal Kingdom show. On Discovery Channel, no less? Talk about selling out to the lowest common denominator. Heck, why not throw her on the deck of the Exxon Valdez and spew oil while cruising the Alaskan coast! This is a sad mockery, especially for all those naturalists currently hosting shows who genuinely care about the wildlife around them. Sarah Palin is obviously cashing in on her 15 Minutes of Infamy before she follows in the footsteps of Dan Quayle, who actually made it to the Vice Presidency. But who would have thought that Discovery Channel was desperate enough to buy it, hook, line, and stinker. Do your part and sign a petition with the Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit in Washington, DC, who help protect wildlife in the USA.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/05/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Top 5 Wildlife Viewing Experiences, Masai Mara, Kenya

As the weather continues to warm in the Boston area, many people are thinking about summer plans. Hopefully, this involves seeing wildlife, one of the most memorable encounters you can have while traveling. July through October is the best time to see the big five in Kenya. Masai Mara National Reserve, on the Tanzanian border, deserves its legendary status as one of the finest safari experiences in the world. All it takes is about an hour of driving in the back of a jeep to be mesmerized by the wealth of wildlife. Mara is Swahili for “dotted hillside” and if you look across the savannah, you’ll spot giraffes, elephants, Cape buffalo, zebras, baboons, lions lounging under tall acacia trees, impalas, and hordes of wildebeests, especially if you travel here during the migration in early summer and fall. Unlike the Serengeti to the south, Masai Mara allows jeeps to go off-road so you get a close-up view of that leopard hiding in the bush. Visiting the Maasai villagers is an added bonus. For a good place to stay, see the story I wrote for Away.com on the ecoresort, Olonana.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/19/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top 5 Wildlife Viewing Experiences, Sitka, Alaska

Unlike Juneau and Ketchikan, where cruise ship passengers are quickly immersed in streets filled with jewelry, T-shirts, and other souvenir shops, Sitka has more of an authentic feel. Stroll through the totem poles found at Sitka National Historic Park to the Alaska Raptor Center. Every year, 100 to 200 birds of prey, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, red-tail hawks and owls are brought to this large aviary hospital to rehabilitate. After your fill of town, splurge for the 3-hour Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest.  Not only will you view exquisite scenery like volcanic Mt. Edgecomb and the snowcapped peaks that rise dramatically from the shores of Redoubt Bay, but the abundance of marine life is astounding. Within moments of leaving the docks at Sitka, humpbacks raise their tales, followed by harbor seals, bald eagles standing in the tall spruces, a colony of more than 50 sea otters lounging in the kelp, puffins with their orange beaks, and sea lions.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/20/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Top 5 Wildlife Viewing Experiences, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

We’re blessed with 57 National Parks in America. Some, like Yellowstone, attract more than 3 million visitors annually. Others like Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota are far less crowded, leaving the canyons of the Badlands to the wildlife and the lucky few who wander in. The North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt receives only 50,000 to 60,000 visits a year. Heading south from Watford City, I enter the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and soon I’m the only car driving along the Little Missouri River on the 14-mile scenic drive. Within moment I spot a herd of at least 20 bison and pull over. In Yellowstone, this sight would attract a caravan of cars, undoubtedly stopping short so drivers can get that National Geographic shot. Here, I get out my car, linger, laugh, all by my lonesome. And, yes, feel guilty about divulging this underused National Park. See the story I wrote on the park for The Boston Globe.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/21/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 5 Wildlife Viewing Experiences, Phillip Island, Australia

There’s nothing quite as magical as watching over 1,000 wild and cute Little Penguins emerge from the water after a day of feeding as the sun sets over Phillip Island, just south of Melbourne. The children wait not-so-patiently on the shores, squawking their heads off and wanting to eat. Then, right around dusk, the mom and dad penguins can start to be seen atop the waves and soon are waddling on the shore. How they find their young in this nightly chaos is miraculous. But they do and they regurgitate their food into the mouths of the hungry children for a nightly meal to remember.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Safaris for Kids

Safaris were once such a luxury that they were reserved only by honeymooners for that trip of a lifetime. Well, times have certainly changed. These days more and more safari outfitters are catering to the post-honeymoon crowd, otherwise known as families. At Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa, their “Kids on Safari” package (geared to children ages 4 and up) lets the little ones see the Big Five. They also visit the Born Free Foundation to watch animals that almost died in captivity released into the wild. In Zambia, Norman Carr Safaris has a special “Kids Go Wild” trip that teaches about the conservation of lions in the dense bush. Families also learn to play traditional African drums and mold clay pottery into African sculpture. At Olonana Sanctuary in Masai Mara, Kenya, owned by Abercrombie & Kent, children spend a morning with kids at the local Maasai school after touring their village.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/05/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Poaching of Rhinos on the Rise in South Africa

As the world descends on South Africa for the World Cup this week and the safari season starts to get into full swing, we report some sad news from the country. David Mabunda, chief executive officer for South African National Parks, notes that rhinos are currently under siege from poachers. South Africa lost 122 rhinos to poaching in 2009 and is already on track to surpass that number this year. The horns are highly sought after in Asia for medicinal purposes and are thus worth far more than their weight in gold. So far, 25 poachers have been caught, primarily in Kruger. Responding to the increase in poaching, South Africa has set up a Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit, utilizing many of the country’s top anti-poaching experts.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/08/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mass Audubon Cruises to the Elizabeth Islands

Take the ferry from New Bedford or Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama plans to vacation once again this summer, and you’ll pass the far less congested Elizabeth Islands in Buzzards Bay. With numerous coves and a strong southwesterly wind blowing 15 knots almost every afternoon, this is a favorite cruising ground for sailors in Massachusetts. The waters are inundated with yachts, Hobie cats, sunfish, schooners, even the 6’ 2” long dinghy known as the Cape Cod Frosty. Only two of the islands, Cuttyhunk, the outermost island, and Penikese, a former leper colony, now a state-owned bird refuge, remain public. This summer, Mass Audubon will bring guests on naturalist-led cruises to both islands. Leaving from Wood’s Hole, you’ll learn about the natural and cultural history of the Elizabeths, and venture on foot to find Leach’s Storm Petrel and Tern colonies.


 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/10/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Caped Crusader of Birds, the Razorbill Auk

I was in Maine last week researching an article on birding for Yankee Magazine. My wife and I took a boat from a small fishing village in Down East Maine, Cutler, 10 miles off the coast to the southernmost nesting spot of the Atlantic puffin, Machias Seal Island. As soon as we arrived on the rocky shores, the plump black and white birds were whizzing over our heads finding herring to bring back to their young. We got close enough to the puffin to see its colorful beak, which was worth the ride over in the fog. However, we were also there to see another highlight, the black-hooded razorbill auk. A bright white line can be found under the bird’s eye. Contrasting with its sleek black head, the bird has the look of a superhero straight out of Marvel Comics. It was just as mesmerizing as the puffin to view. You can venture out to Machias Seal Island on a 4 to 5-hour jaunt with Captain Andy Patterson.
 

(Photo by Lisa Leavitt)


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/21/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Head to Uganda with An Award-Winning Photographer

Few people know Africa better than Rick D’Elia. Working as a renowned photojournalist, he’s spent the past decade recording the amazing work of relief and development organizations around the continent. By all means, see his talented portfolio at DeliaPhotographic. Now D’Elia plans to share the secrets of his trade, leading a tour through one of his favorite countries, Uganda. You’ll be immersed in the important works of NGOs in Kampala, meeting, greeting, and yes, taking shots of the folks hard at work. Then Rick will take you on a wildlife safari to see Uganda’s mountain gorillas, leopards, lions, and elephants. If you really want to see African culture and wildlife, and genuinely learn about recent politics and history, it’s hard to find a better guide. Obviously, you’ll also improve your skills as a photographer as well.

(Photo by Rick D'Elia)
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/17/10 at 01:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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