Monday, March 19, 2007

Families And Birdwatching - Perfect Together

Worried about how much time your child spends in front of the computer and TV? Wondering how you can entice them to get outside once in a while? Consider a family birdwatching outing - a great way to get outdoors, learn about nature, share a fun day, and maybe even develop a new shared passion!

Few realize this, but birdwatching is America's number one sport, with over 51.3 MILLION participants, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Many birders are passionate fans, people who get estatic over seeing an unusual specimen, but the majority of birders are regular folks who just love birds and being outside.

If you've never been out birdwatching before, you're in for a treat. Find yourself a wooded park, equip everyone with inexpensive binoculars (sharing is no fun - by the time you switch who has them, the target has often flow away), and get a basic field guide to the birds of your region. Take a notepad along, and start what is known as a "lifelist". This is simply a list of birds you have seen and identified, usually along with the date and location of the sighting. Kids love this - everytime they see a new bird they get to add it to the list, making each new sighting a thrill.

There are a few basic guidelines to follow when birding:
1 - don't take the dog - the noise will scare away most of your chance of seeing anything interesting
2 - do talk quietly, for the same reason
3 - do take binoculars, an essential piece of equipment
4 - do take a field guide so you can identify the birds you spot
5 - do encourage everyone to start and maintain a lifelist - kids will like putting this onto a computer, where they can easily sort to see if a bird is new on their list
6 - if you have a backyard, do put out feeders and birdhouses - you can see some great birds without even leaving the house!
7 - do use your ears - when you listen, you'll be able to spot birds you wouldn't have otherwise noticed
8 - do encourage your kids to learn more about birds online - there are wonderful sites to help identify birds or just play bird games
9 - do read books on bird behaviors together - birds are fascinating creatures, and the more you discover about them the more fun birdwatching becomes
10 - do go out in the winter and early spring - you may have to bundle up, but without leaves on the trees you can see the birds much more easily

Birdwatching is an active, educational, sport that gets more enjoyable as you learn about it. Kids and adults alike get a real thrill out of adding a new sighting to their lifelists. So grab your binoculars, field guide and notebook, take your family, and go spot some birds!

About the Author
Carol Miller is an internet author, entrepreneur and avid birder. You can find great stuff for kids, including young reader field guides bird books, puzzles, facts and games at her website,

How to Buy The Right Binoculars For You

Binoculars are wonderful pieces of equipment that can enhance many of our daily activities including, birding, action sports, hunting, and even astronomy. Essentially binoculars take a distant image, enlarge it through the use of lenses for viewing, all while remaining small and light enough to be mobile.

The actual makeup of most binoculars is fairly straightforward and simple. You have the lenses at the end of the barrel called the objective lens that gathers the light from the distant image and focuses it on the lens closest to your eyes for viewing. Binoculars are really two small telescopes put side by side so that you can view the desired image with both eyes instead of just one. This imparts some measure of depth of field, much more so than with a single scope.

When selecting a pair of binoculars you will immediately find that two numbers are used to describe their capability. These numbers are often expressed as "6 X 30" or something similar. Let's break the code so you will know what these numbers mean.

The first number refers to the magnification power of the binoculars, or in other words how many times the image is magnified. So if the number is 6, that means that the image that you view through the lens is magnified 6 times it's normal siZe.

The second number has to do with the size of the objective lens at the end of the binoculars.It's good to know this number because the larger the diameter of the objective lens, usually the more light will be let in for viewing the distant image.

Now, let's put this information in use in the real world. You may think that it's best to just get the highest magnification that you can get for binoculars, but this is not true. At some point, hand holding the binoculars will affect the clarity of a highly magnified image and the resulting shake will render the magnification benefits useless. Generally speaking, anything above ten times magnification should be mounted on a tripod instead of handheld. So if you are planning to use binoculars for activities that do not allow you to be able to bring along a sturdy tripod, you probably want to stay with a pair of binoculars with 4 -7 times magnification.

As far as light gathering properties are concerned, if you plan on using your binoculars in any kind of low light situation whether indoors, or at times of day when there is low available light outdoors, then you need to have a large objective lens, usually 30 or above, to make as much use of available light as possible.

Finally, consider the weight of the binoculars before buying them. If weight will be a consideration for activities such as hiking, then perhaps plastic lenses will be best that are specially coated to produce a high quality, sharp image. These can be more costly than glass lenses, but they are considerably lighter. Glass lenses usually make for much better optics and clearer images at a lower overall cost, but they can also be more fragile.

Generally speaking, more expensive pairs of binoculars have more atention paid to fit and finish and will stand up to more vigorous use, but if you only plan to occasionally use your binoculars, then a less expensive pair will no doubt work fine. Also, remember that after the purchase you should be sure to protect your investment with a suitable binoculars case.

About the Author

Duane Brown - All About Binoculars provides free information, tips, and resources on binoculars, telescopes, rifle scopes, and spotting scopes, and how to find them at the very best price.


Birding Trails – Florida

If you’re into birding, finding new trails is always an enjoyable task. Here’s a primer on birding trails in Florida.

Birding Trails – Florida

It goes without saying that Florida is a rather large state. The following birding trails represent a mere sample of what is out there, but are proven birding spots. With that being said, let’s get on with it.

1. St. Joseph’s Peninsula Park – Over 247 species of birds can be seen on the trails at St. Joseph’s. The real attraction, however, happens every October and September. During this period, hawks and falcons are all over the park as they migrate from northern areas to the Gulf of Mexico for the winter season. You can expect to see sharp-shinned hawks, broad wing hawks and even a few copper hawks. If you’re lucky, you can sight one of the smaller numbers of red-shoulder hawks, red-tail hawks and the elusive, endangered Peregrine Falcon.

2. Bahia Honda State Park – If shorebirds and wading birds are a delight to you, Bahia Honda offers birding trails with excellent sighting potential. Shorebirds include Plovers, Sanderlings and Willets to mention a few. Wading birds are plentiful and you can expect to glimpse a wide variety. Plentiful species include herons, ibis and egrets. During summer, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the endangered White crowned Pigeon in the local trees along the trail.

3. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park – Kissimmee Prairie is very popular, so you probably already know about it. Nonetheless, in the recent past the Park has become the home of a new species, the White-Tail Kite.

4. Big Shoals State Park – Big Shoals is an excellent birding park with a wide variety of species. On the birding trails, you can expect to see egrets, hawks, owls, ducks, warblers, wrens and swallows to mention only a few. If your karma is good and you’re having a good day, you may also see bald eagles, northern mockingbirds, scarlet tanagers and indigo buntings. Wild turkeys are plentiful as are wading and shore birds.

Florida is a great state for birding. This list is only a small sample of bird trails, buy should you get started on adding to your life list.

About the Author
Rick Chapo is with - makers of diary and writing journals for bird watching. Visit for more articles on bird watching and the great outdoors.

Bird Watching Journals – Preserve Your Bird Watching Experiences

Bird Watching is a great way to escape the rat race and be one with nature. Alas, your bird watching experiences can fade with time. The best way to prevent this is to keep a bird watching journal for your sightings and trips.

Bird Watching Journals

Take a minute to give some consideration to your most recent bird watching experience. What sticks out in your mind? Now think about the first time you ever went bird watching. Undoubtedly, you remember few things about the geography, people you went with, every bird sighted and so on. The experiences you’ve forgotten are lost to time. If you had kept a bird watching journal, this wouldn’t be the case.

There are famous instances of people keeping journals throughout time. Of course, Anne Frank’s Diary is the best example. In her diary, Anne kept a running commentary of the two years her family spent hiding from the Nazis. While your bird watching experiences better be more lighthearted, keeping a journal will let you remember them as the years pass.

A good bird watching journal combines a number of characteristics. First, it should be compact so you don’t have to take up unnecessary space for other things. Second, it should have a case to protect it from rain, spills and so on. Third, the journal should contain blank areas to write your notes. Fourth, the journal should contain cue spaces to remind you to keep notes on specific things. Cues should include:

1. Who you went birding with,

2. Where you stayed and if you enjoyed it,

3. Who you met and contact information for them,

4. The geographic and weather conditions, and

5. The birds you sighted and added to your life list.

At the end of the trip, you should be able to get the following from your journal:

1. Contact information for other bird watchers and people you met,

2. Enough detail to provide you or a friend with a guide if you travel to the location a second time.

3. Memories to reflect upon years later, and

4. Something to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

To get the most out of your bird watching journal, you should write in it during and immediately after birding. Every sighting brings new experiences even if you’re just sitting in your backyard.

Bird watching is a great way to commune with nature. Make sure to preserve the experience.

About the Author
Rick Chapo is with - makers of diary and writing journals for bird watching. Visit for more articles on bird watching and the great outdoors.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Zoos in Australia

Emu watercolour by Sarah  Stone c. 1790
Since Captain Cook's exploration of the east coast of Australia in 1770, with the botanist Joseph Banks, Europeans have been fascinated by the strange flora and fauna of Australia. However, the first zoo in Australia, Melbourne Zoo, wasn't established until 1862.

The history of zoos

Human interest in keeping animals dates back to at least 1500 BC when Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt built a zoo. Many zoos were created by rulers in Africa, India and China to demonstrate their wealth and power.

The Greeks established the first zoos to study animal behaviour. They charged admission to view the specimens, and set up an education process. One of the most notable teachers at a Greek zoo was Aristotle. One of his best-known students was Alexander the Great, who collected many animals for the zoos.

British and European exploration of the world in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the discovery of many species of animals that they considered to be unusual. This encouraged the keeping of animals as exotica in Europe and Britain. The idea of zoos as places of entertainment also developed.

The role of the zoo today

Modern zoos undertake environmental education and conservation of endangered species, zoological research, and provide for recreation through exhibiting animals to the public, special events, and 'behind the scenes' tours and overnight stays which include close encounters with the animals:

Zoos now are a place where people can get in touch with the natural world by experiencing a variety of flora and fauna in a close-up real-life situation. There is still no experience quite like seeing the real and unpredictable animal - who knows what it will do next? There are sights, smells, and sounds of a zoo which take people away from their daily surroundings.

Judith Henke, Melbourne Zoo, 1998

Today Australia is prominent in pioneering new practices for zoos, sanctuaries and aquaria. Zoos are one of the institutions charged with trying to counter the threat to species extinction in Australia and throughout the world.

Melbourne Zoo assists in survival programs for animals species under threat and we also run extensive educational programs, both for the general public and for students. Over 100,000 students a year benefit from our program.

Judith Henke, Melbourne Zoo, 1998

Australia's endangered species

The two main threats to the continuation of species in Australia, which have already caused extinctions are:

* loss of habitat - this may result from climate change, activities of humans or natural events; and
* the introduction of alien species which prey on and compete with native species for food and habitat.

Hundreds of Australian species have become extinct since Captain Cook and Joseph Banks explored the east coast of Australia in 1770. These include at least 41 bird and mammal species and more than 100 plant species. It is likely that other species have disappeared too, without our knowledge. Biologists have now listed all those plants and animals that they know are at risk of extinction in Australia - these are called endangered species.

The endangered list includes 10 species of fish, 12 frogs, 13 reptiles, 32 birds, 33 mammals and 209 plants. In addition, there are many more species that are listed as vulnerable and some that are classified as rare. Many zoos focus on the high profile animals in danger, in order to attract paying visitors although there are also less popular species which contribute to biological diversity and which are necessary to keep our ecosystems healthy.

Australian zoos
Koala at Taronga Zoo

Australia has a wealth of public and private zoos. Many include exotic (to us) species such as big cats and elephants, while others focus on Australian animals and birds. Some emphasise their breeding programs for endangered animals.

Public zoos

Taronga Zoo and Western Plains Zoo are jointly administered New South Wales public zoos. Taronga Zoo in Sydney has about 340 species and over 2600 individual animals. Western Plains Zoo is an open range zoo in Dubbo, in the central west of New South Wales. It has over 100 species and 850 individual animals and primarily caters for large, open range animals. Visitors are encouraged to sponsor individual animals, both exotic and Australian native animals.

Melbourne Zoo, Victoria, is Australia's oldest zoo. Significant historic features such as the design of the Main Walk and an early 20th Century menagerie exhibit are preserved in an historic zone so visitors are able to measure the great improvements which have been achieved since the zoo opened in 1862 . The zoo displays a representative sample of the world's fauna and flora in a series of bioclimatic (or habitat) zones and boasts 350 animal species on 22 hectares of grounds and enclosures.

Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, is an example of a publicly managed zoo which displays Australian animals in their natural environments, even providing a reversed day-night cycle for vistors to see nocturnal animals. All of this visitor activity pays for an extensive research and conservation program. In 2002 the Sanctuary was home to more than 200 species of Australian native fauna.

Minifie Nixon’s design for the Australian Wildlife Health Centre at the Healesville Sanctuary takes a highly experimental approach in creating what is believed to be the first open veterinary hospital in the world. The centre was designed on the basis that it is no longer the humans who are protected from the dangerous creatures behind bars. We, the gawking hordes, are now recognized as the true threat. Visitors are able to view the work of the sanctuary within a doughnut shaped structure.

The Adelaide Zoo, South Australia, focuses on endangered and rare animals from the continents which made up the super continent Gondwana - South America, India, Africa and Australia (also South East Asia). The Zoo is home to over 3,400 animals and almost 300 species of exotic and native mammals, birds, reptiles and fish.
Australian Wildlife Health Centre

Monarto Zoological Park, South Australia, is an open-range sanctuary undertaking a major role nationally and internationally in breeding programs for rare and endangered species. The Park is operated by the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia. Monarto ranges across 1100 hectares designed to let larger species like zebra roam as if in their natural environment.

Cleland Wildlife Park, just outside of Adelaide, is part of the Cleland Conservation Park. The Kaurna Aboriginal people of the Adelaide Plains know the area as Yurridla. The Yurridla Trail offers a chance to hear Aboriginal guides bring to life their Dreaming stories and explain the inseparable relationship between Aboriginal culture and Australian wildlife.

Private zoos
Dingo pups at Cleland Wildlife Park

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland, is the world's first and largest koala sanctuary with over 130 koalas. The sanctuary is home to over 130 koalas and a large variety of other Australian wildlife.

Billabong Sanctuary, near Townsville, Queensland, has three habitats of rainforest, eucalypt forest and wetlands in the one location. The native animals are displayed in their own environments in natural surroundings.

Wave Rock Wildlife Park, at Hyden in the south west of Western Australia offers visitors the chance to enjoy and observe hundreds of birds and animals from the area, as well as from around Australia, in the three hectares of Wildlife Park.

Australia Zoo is situated on the Glasshouse Mountains Tourist Drive, Beerwah, Queensland. The zoo features both Australian native species and exotic species of mammals, birds and reptiles.

Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria, is an African adventure just 30 minutes out of Melbourne. This zoo enables its animals to live in an environment similar to their natural habitat. The Zoo focuses on research into conservation and biodiversity.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, on the Queensland Gold Coast, is set in 27 hectares of Australian bushland. It is home to hundreds of native birds and animals, many of them endangered. The Sanctuary caters for over 1400 mammals, birds and reptiles.


Zoo Month or 'Zootober', held each year in October, provides an opportunity for zoos to promote particular features of their animal collections and also to provide the community with access to information about animals, their environments and the challenge of maintaining zoos.
Giraffe at Melbourne Zoo

Zoo Month is used to highlight the gardens as well as our animals - our horticulturists offer courses through the CAE on how to create wildlife-friendly gardens and this is an important issue so we can help native wildlife survive in the suburbs. We also hope Zoo Month will help us achieve increased recognition for many of the projects we support - such as conservation programs for endangered native orchids and the plants of the Western Victorian Basalt Plains. These are often overlooked for the more high profile projects like the conservation of the Western Lowland Gorilla or Sumatran Tiger.

Hawaii Helicopter Tour

You know that Hawaii is so spectacularly beautiful and that is why you intend to have your next vacation in Hawaii. However, with so many interesting places to visit and discover in your short vacation trip, you will have insufficient time to visit all the tourist attractions there.

Well, there is a solution actually. You can have an overview tour of Hawaii without spending too much time traveling from one place to another. Yes, have a bird's eye view of the breathtaking Hawaiian islands by taking a helicopter tour.

The birds in Hawaii are certainly very fortunate to be able to gaze down on one of the most awesome sceneries on Earth such as from the skies of Kauai, they can get to view the Waimea Canyon, Mount Waialeale's majestic waterfalls, hidden reclusive sandy coves and the jagged Na Pall Coast. Now you too can have a bird's eye view by taking a helicopter tour on your vacation holiday Hawaii.

Take a flight over Hawaii's Big Island and view the resplendent volcanic activities of Kilauea, especially when it is erupting can be very exhilarating.

I want to sound word of caution here. Do not be like many tourists who regretted for the rest of their lives because they have forgotten to bring along their cameras. However, do not get too engrossed taking too many photographs and videos because you will miss the scope of your beautiful surroundings.

Many tourists have a tendency to glue their eye to their camera's viewfinder that they forgot that the main purpose for the helicopter tour is to experience the space and the breadth of their surroundings.

Yes, a picture paints a thousand words but no photographs could ever hope to capture the panoramic view as you hurtled across the Hawaiian sky! How can the photographs or the videos capture the feeling of the land suddenly dropping off beneath you as you fly across the edge of cliffs and volcano craters? Your helicopter tour of Hawaii will certainly be wasted if you do not enjoy the experience of your freedom in space.

However, there is a controversy in experiencing your trip over Hawaii in a helicopter. As there is a profusion of companies offering chopper tours there are many such tours everyday and this creates noise pollution which is very jarring for tourists and locals alike who wants to enjoy Hawaii's famed tranquility. There are loud calls for the number of helicopter trips and tours to be cut down.

So if you want to enjoy a memorable holiday vacation in Hawaii, try taking a helicopter tour.

Kenyan animal safari: Animals, Lakes, Rift Valley & Desert Kenya tours

The spellbinding Maasai Mara Wildlife Park

The Maasai Mara offers visitors unparalleled quantity and variety of Kenyan animals. There can be found the smallest antelope in the world-the dik-dik, to the biggest-the Eland. The dik-dik sticks to one partner for life and rarely leaves each other’s side. From the large herbivores like the giraffe and the hippopotamus, the cheetah, which is the fastest land animal in the world, to the largest and heaviest bird, the ostrich, all are found here.

Between June and October each year, three million Kenyan animals make an annual migration from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Maasai Mara in Kenya, in search of fresh grass. If you are fortunate you will be able to see the Mara River crossing, where hundreds upon hundreds of Zebra and wildebeest cross the river simultaneously where crocodile await. The migration has recently been named the seventh new wonder of the world.

If it is within your budget, a hot-air balloon ride is strongly recommended. There are several unpaved air strips in Maasai Mara on which small aero planes can land, although it can also be reached by road via the town of Narok.

Amboseli National Wildlife Park

Amboseli National Wildlife Park is situated just north of Mount Kilimanjaro and is a very popular tourist destination. This is due to its variety of Kenyan tour animals and breathtaking sceneries. Mount Kilimanjaro is situated in Tanzania just south of the border of Kenya.

Lake Naivasha birds’ paradise

Lake Naivasha is the highest of the Rift valley lakes at an altitude of 1880m. It is also the second largest fresh water lake in Kenya and is unusual that it has no known outlet, normally a requirement for a fresh water lake.

The dense vegetation in the edge of the lake supports a thriving bird population-the area has a list of over 350 species. The waters of the lake draw a great range of Kenyan game to these shores; giraffes wander among the acacia, buffalo wallow in the swamps and colobus monkeys swing in the treetops while the lakes large hippos sleep the day out in the shallows. Walking is permitted, making it ideal for hiking, biking and rock climbing. Due to the relative closeness to Nairobi, it is a good place for a one-night stop while traveling north from the capital. Boat trips on the lake are widely available, making it a great way to spend an afternoon or morning. There is also an airstrip in Naivasha with charter flights available. Take the A109 north from Nairobi for a one and a half hour drive; alternatively there are frequent bus services.

Mt. Longonot hiking bluff

Mt. Longonot stands alone over the shores of Lake Naivasha and this massive dormant volcano dominates the landscape for miles around. A climb up Mount.Longonot is an ideal day trip from either Nairobi or Naivasha. Its vast crater is an awesome sight, the jagged edge surrounding a broad expanse of vegetation. Geothermal steam puffs upwards from the walls, while buffalo and other game make their way across the crater floor.

Lake Baringo birds’ congress

Lake Baringo is at the threshold of Northern Kenya, and its fresh waters are an oasis in the dry plains. The 129sq km lake is well stocked with fish, and attracts many pelicans, cormorants and fish eagles- as well as a healthy population of crocodiles. The lake itself is truly beautiful, surrounded by volcanic ranges that stretch as far as the eye can see. Boat trips are available and are ideal for bird and hippo spotting making Lake Baringo an ideal stopover on safari to Northern Kenya. Of the 1200 different species of birds, over 450 of them have been spotted in Lake Baringo. Main road access to Baringo is directly from Nakuru by Bus or private transport to the Kampi ya Samaki, the nearest town to the lake.

Lake Magadi, the natural microwave

Lake Magadi is completely surrounded by vast natural salt flats. These sweltering hot plains prevent any Kenyan animals reaching the alkaline lake at its centre. For this reason, thousands of flamingos descend on the lake each year to nest on the elevated mud mounds at the lake’s edge safe from any potential predators. Fresh water springs at the lake’s shore attract a host of other birds.

Lake Nakuru National Wildlife Park, taking it all.

The national Wildlife Park, North West of Nairobi is home to thousands of flamingos joined into a massive flock fringe on the shores of this soda lake. This provides the visitor with one of Kenya’s best-known images. The landscape includes areas of marsh and grass lands alternating with rocky cliffs and outcrops, stretches of acacia woodland and rocky hillsides covered with Euphorbia forest on the eastern perimeter, and about 550 different plant species including the unique and biggest euphorbia forest in Africa, picturesque landscape and yellow acacia woodlands. Nakuru provides the visitor with one of Kenya’s best known images. A great opportunity for photography. By road, take the main Nairobi Nakuru road. There are also frequent bus services.

Lake Turkana Oasis in Kenyan desert

This is the largest and most Northern of the Rift Valley Lakes and is truly a breath taking sight. Lake Turkana is source to Kenya’s most remote tribes, the main one being the Turkana tribe-a visit to a Turkana tribe village is strongly recommended for all visitors to Lake Turkana. The lake has been described as “the cradle of mankind” due to the fossils found there recently. The East and West Shores of Turkana are reached from different points; the East shore is reached via Mararal and Marsabit; the west shore is accessed from Lodwar. There are airstrips on both shores for chartered aircraft. Turkana should be visited as part of a professionally organised safari.

Article Source: ABC Article Directory

Robert Muhoho is a tour consultant with Landmark Safaris. He is degreed in tourism and hospitality management and author to 500 Kenya tour articles. For free Kenya safari info visit them @