Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baby Macaroni Has Plenty of Caretakers

Everyone was relieved after the first examination of the Aquarium's new baby macaroni penguin. Dr. Chris Keller, seen above with senior aviculturist Amy Graves, said the chick is growing quickly and appears to be well-hydrated. The little bird weighed in at 484 grams which is a bit heavier than average one-week-old macaronis. So Graves and other keepers breathed a sigh of relief. And for a moment, Loribeth Aldrich, (Seen with Amy Graves below) Kevin Calhoon, Graves and Dr. Keller got a good look at the new addition to Paulie and Chaos' nest.
One of the other things Dr. Keller noted was the response of the parents to the exam. He was really pleased that the parents appeared to recognize that the keepers were not going to harm the chick and didn't get too upset by the brief encounter.
Paulie and Chaos have been very good parents so far, they have had excellent care from the keepers and even from one unexpected source.
Visitors may notice Sweet Pea, the macaroni penguin with the hot pink flipper bands, standing near the nest for long periods of time. This interesting behavior caught Graves attention awhile back. "According to the experts I spoke to at SeaWorld, Sweet Pea is an "Auntie," Graves said. "Sometimes a curious female penguin without a chick of her own will move in and help protect the nest and the chick." If you watch Sweet Pea, she never really squabbles with Paulie and Chaos. She simply hangs out and keeps an eye on things, perhaps ready to lend a flipper if she's called upon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leaps and bounds.

It was pretty surprising to visit Penguins' Rock today and see how quickly the baby macaroni is growing. I hadn't seen the chick since Friday and in just a few days it has grown by leaps and bounds. Last week, you could barely get a glimpse of the tiny bird. Today there are many times when you can see the baby's downy feathers under the parent. You will also see the parents feeding the little one quite often. Either Paulie or Chaos will open their beak to let the baby get some food. Almost the entire head disappears inside the parent's wide-0pen beak. The other macaroni penguins are all very curious to see the little bundle of joy. So much so that Aquarium staffers had to build a small acrylic fence to keep the onlookers out. This gives the parents a break, but still allows visitors and the other penguins to look into the nest site. A couple of times a squabble broke out across this see-through barrier which looked a little comical. Amy Graves explains that this kind of interaction is an important part of penguin life. "Even though it looks pretty aggressive, it is mainly a territorial display. Usually it's nothing more than squawking and snapping at each other. Most of the time it only lasts for a few seconds."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oh Baby! One hatchling and yet another egg.

This picture shows senior aviculturist Amy Graves checking in on Paulie, Chaos and the new macaroni penguin chick. It was shortly after this image was taken when Amy heard the baby vocalizing. "I heard a soft, but strong, 'peep, peep, peep.' Paulie spent most of the day keeping the newborn warm. It wasn't until about 8:15 pm last night that he was relieved by Chaos. During that "shift change," we got a good look at the baby. It has soft, slate-gray downy feathers and a very cute little beak. Visitors will have limited viewing of the new chick over the next couple of days as Paulie and Chaos will continue to keep it covered and warm. But viewing opportunities should improve if everything continues to go well. The parents should start feeding the chick which will allow for some interesting viewing from time to time. Graves says the parents should feed the baby three to five times daily. Should the chick need more food, gets dehydrated or is being pestered by other penguins, Aquarium keepers will take the baby off exhibit and place it in a brooder. Graves says this warming shelter keeps the baby warm and comfortable, simulating being under the parents. They also have all of the ingredients to produce "penguin milkshakes" for the baby. This nutritionally balanced formula would be fed to the chick three to five times daily, similar to what the parents should do. Penguin infants face a number of challenges, so we'll hope Paulie and Chaos continue to be good parents and that the chick can remain strong and keep growing.

Today, Graves found another surprise. "Peep" has laid her first egg. So we should see her second egg within a few days. Like the other gentoo eggs, we won't know for awhile whether or not Peep's egg is viable.

So here is where we stand today:

Macaroni - "Paulie" & "Chaos" - one baby

Gentoo - "Big T" & "Bug" - two eggs
"Blue" & "Biscuit" - one egg
"Poncho" & "Peep" - one egg

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Video of Big T and eggs

Visitors need to spend a little time observing the nesting penguins if they would like to get a glimpse of their eggs. They are doing a good job of keeping the eggs warm and covered, so it's a bit difficult to get a good look. Persistence paid off yesterday when penguin intern Hayley Grinder captured this video of Big T on the nest. While Bug was off getting something to eat, Big T was handling the incubating duties. It appears as though he was adjusting his posture to comfortably keep the eggs warm beneath his belly. Even from the overhead view in the backup area it is sometimes difficult to see the eggs. The mate not currently on the nest often stands nearby with wings outstretched to block the view. Maybe they are getting wise to the "penguin paparazzi."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another gentoo pair being watched.

Amy Graves says everything appears to be going fine for Paulie & Chaos, Bug & Big T and Biscuit and Blue. But there's a possibility that the egg count could go up. Poncho and Peep have been on the "possible" list for awhile, but yesterday and today Peep has been observed spending a significant amount of time on the nest. Poncho and Peep can be seen in the exhibit on the upper level nearest the keeper door on the far right-hand side.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Update from Penguins' Rock

Here's some video of Bug and Big T and their two eggs. If you look closely, you'll see both eggs in this clip. Senior aviculturist Amy Graves says they seem to be caring for their eggs today, however yesterday she observed Bug not doing a great job keeping the egg covered. These two are a very young pair.

Meanwhile, the dented egg that was in Biscuit and Blue's nest has been crushed by one of the parents. Biscuit laid her second egg yesterday, so the total egg count in Penguins' Rock remains the same at four.

Macaronis Paulie and Chaos - one egg

Gentoos Bug and Big T - two eggs

Gentoos Biscuit and Blue - one egg

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Special Visitor Happy to Learn About Chaos & Paulie

Thanks to Stephen from Chattanooga for sharing his fun story about his recent visit and special connection to "Chaos."

"Just wanted to write a few words about our recent visit to the Tennessee Aquarium. We have been members for years now and have enjoyed bringing guests from all around the local area and country to see this great attraction. This time it was two friends (soon to be family) from Ottawa, Canada. The Aquarium was the first thing they had put on their list when we asked what they wanted to do during their visit. They were thrilled with the Aquarium (both River Journey and Ocean Journey). We actually spent 5+ hours there because we couldn't get enough, and may have been the last guests to leave. The day we visited, another pair of penguins laid an egg, which was a great surprise. Speaking of penguins, I had personally wanted to visit Chaos, who had recently laid an egg. Chaos was the unfortunate recipient of the name I submitted in last year's naming contest. I wanted to express my apologies to the poor bird-- I really didn't think anyone would choose "Chaos"-- but ironically it seemed to have boosted her spirits enough to produce the first egg of the new penguin exhibit-- we were very excited to see the egg and the proud parents-to-be. Both aquariums offered new surprises for us all, as they always do-- from the Jellies: Living Art to the big blue Macaws mimicking our movements for at least 10 minutes (which was hilarious). Thank you for a continued great attraction. We'll be keeping our eyes open for the baby penguins! Stephen and Karen"

While we don't want to count penguins before they hatch, we do encourage everyone to check out the behavior of these amazing birds right now. Not only is the nesting activity highly interesting, but you may get lucky to see Nipper or one of the other birds putting on a splashy, high-speed swimming demonstration. Yesterday afternoon everyone in the gallery was cheering his athletic ability.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nesting News from Penguins' Rock

Penguin keepers at the Tennessee Aquarium are extra busy right now, carefully watching THREE pairs of penguins with eggs. On Saturday, Amy Graves discovered an egg in Bug and Big T's nest and this morning she learned Bug had laid her second egg. Bug and Big T are the first gentoo penguins to have an egg in Penguins' Rock, but they're not the only ones. An egg was discovered in Biscuit and Blue's nest yesterday. Graves observed a dent in this egg this morning. It's too early to tell if that indicates a non-viable egg. But Biscuit should lay a second egg within the next couple of days.

On the macaroni side, Paulie and Chaos continue to display strong parental instincts. They both maintain lengthy stays incubating their egg and defending their nest from other penguins that may get too close.

If you spend much time observing the birds right now, you'll notice many interesting behaviors. For example, it doesn't seem to bother Paulie and Chaos if a gentoo wanders past their nest. But if a macaroni ventures toward the nest, both parents go into an alert posture. That switches to a defensive posture if a macaroni crosses an invisible "personal space" line. This also seems to be the case with the gentoos. A wandering mac is no problem, but another gentoo will bring about an alert status.

Check in from time to time on the live webcam at: http://www.tnaqua.org/Animals/Penguins.asp

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gearing Up for Some Special Events

The Chattanooga Riverfront will be buzzing with activity this weekend as Riverbend kicks off tonight.

The Tennessee Aquarium will participate in a unique way by hosting "The Bend Unplugged." These intimate one-hour concerts will be heavy on storytelling, history and give the audience opportunities to interact with the performers. So hit the Riverbend venue a little early, set up your chairs and then come inside for one of the coolest new events at Riverbend - "The Bend Unplugged."

The Music of Coal – Sunday, June 7th at 5:00PM - The Tennessee Aquarium Auditorium in River Journey - Cost: $5.00

The Music of Coal will be the first ‘Bend Unplugged at the Tennessee Aquarium's River Journey Auditorium at 5:00pm on Sunday, June 7th. This event features a group of mountain musicians from the Wheeling, West Virginia area, who will also be playing at the Riverbend Festival at 6:30PM on the Unum Stage later in the evening. “The Music of Coal" came from a book of the same name published a few years ago by Jack Wright, Paul Kuczko and Lonesome Records and Publishing that tells the story with words, pictures and pictures of American coalminers and how they turned their hard work and misery into stories of human success and dignity.

The books will be available during the performance at the Tennessee Aquarium Auditorium, and also throughout the month of June at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library. Visitors to the Library will also be able to view a massive, one-of-a-kind traveling photographic exhibit from the Wheeling Jesuit University's Appalachian Institute sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield during the month of June.

Be sure to visit the Hunter Museum to view a series of black and white photographs by Lewis Hine from June 1 to January 31st. Hine, an American sociologist and photographer, was hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority to document the construction of Norris Dam. Building the dam provided jobs for thousands of people during the Depression, and it also brought electricity to a region where previously only 10 percent of the population had power. The images are striking and will leave everyone with a deeper appreciation for how these people lived and how hard they worked.

The Persuasions – Thursday, June 11th at 5:00PM – Tennessee Aquarium Auditorium – Cost $5.00

America’s premier doo-wop band, The Persuasions will be the second and final ‘Bend Unplugged' act presented by the Chattanooga's African-American Museum. They will take the stage at the Tennessee Aquarium Auditorium at 5:00PM on Thursday, June 11th. They shared the stage with musical superstars of the last four decades. From Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles to the Grateful Dead, U2 and even Frank Zappa.
They will be playing a full set at the Riverbend Festival on the Unum Stage on Thursday, June 11th night from 9:30 to 11pm, but "The 'Bend Unplugged" will allow the participants to truly interact with these living legends.

Learn more here: http://www.tnaqua.org/planYourVisit_riverbend.aspx

We are also honored to have a group of U.S. Navy divers at the Tennessee Aquarium on Monday, June 8th. These divers are from the U.S. Navy’s Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two (MDSU-2). MDSU-2 based at Little Creek, VA is on-call to assist with rescue and recovery to the Atlantic Fleet. They responded to the I-35W bridge collapse tragedy near Minneapolis, MN in 2007, the recovery of TWA Flight 800, and the recovery of the space shuttles Columbia and Challenger. They were also a key participant in the recovery of the USS Monitor, an Ironclad from the Civil War and the former Soviet Submarine K-77.

Here are some shots of U.S. Navy Divers visiting the Tennessee Aquarium in 2007. Those divers were Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians. As you can see, visitors young and old enjoyed meeting the group and checking out the gear they had on display. Especially one young man who couldn't wait to show the Navy personnel his diver.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Visitors come to see giant cats or relax.

Visitors often tell us they are surprised by how much Chattanooga has changed in recent years. Today while a father and three sons were riding the electric shuttle bus to the Aquarium, they were discussing this trip and another recent adventure. It had only been a few years since their last visit to Chattanooga, yet the father remarked how much he was surprised by all of the recent additions and improvements in the downtown area. Meanwhile, one of his sons was eagerly anticipating seeing the huge catfish in the Lake Nickajack exhibit. "They're almost as big as my dad!" That kind of excitement will happen after dad takes you fishing and you have your first experience reeling in a six-pound catfish. The young boy explained to everyone within earshot, "You have to drag them up on land real careful or the line will snap." He also wondered aloud, "How in tarnation did they land the big catfish at the Aquarium?"

Although not as humorous, here's another visitor who was taken aback by the city and our friendly residents:

"My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting downtown Chattanooga. Our plan was to have lunch and visit the aquarium. I had not been to Chattanooga in at least 40 years. I was so impressed! Friendly and helpful people at the info desk told us about the wonderful elec. shuttle system. We rode it to the library, where I was able to print out our airline boarding passes for the next day. The shuttle driver gave us directions, was friendly and polite. A couple of residents who work downtown spoke with us and one of them thanked us for visiting your city! We had a delicious lunch at the Big River Grille while sitting on the terrace...PERFECT weather on Thursday. Then a great 3 hours at the aquarium. Everyone was so helpful, polite, truly showing southern friendliness. We will be back before another 40 years! Thank you!" - Linda

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sunny weather, great time for cruising

Tennessee Aquarium Naturalist, John Dever aboard the River Gorge Explorer.

Temperatures were approaching 90 degrees yesterday, but there was still a pleasant breeze in the Tennessee River Gorge. The warm air rises quickly above the water in between the mountain slopes producing excellent thermals for soaring birds. The 3:30 pm cruise offered some pretty spectacular views of several hawk species gliding effortlessly above the River Gorge Explorer. A kettle of vultures, numbering nearly thirty birds, were seen spiraling upward in a tight circle directly overhead. And everyone was able to observe a male osprey floating on air, carefully scanning the water below for a meal. While we didn't get to watch him dive in for a fish, you could see him through binoculars moving his head right and left in search of a snack. The female osprey was diligently tending to her fluffy-feathered chick. It is now nearly half as large as the parents.

Today I received this nice note from Carol:

"A small group of us took the 12:30 cruise this past Friday, 5/29. This was my second time but it was more enjoyable this time due to the tour guide. He was so knowledgeable about everything - the river, the wildlife, the civil war, Chattanooga. He is definitely in the right job. He also had a great sense of humor and just made the trip very nice. You could tell he loves his job. I could have listened to him for hours and hours. Several people in my group made the same comments about him.

Just wanted to give credit to such a great employee.

- Carol, Chattanooga

Thanks for your nice note! Others might consider cruisin' in style before a night of music downtown: Cruise around Moccasin Bend before attending Riverbend (June 5-7, 9-13) Enjoy a thrilling ride aboard the River Gorge Explorer before you enjoy the entertainment at Riverbend. During the festival, passengers on the Explorer's 3:30 pm excursion get a Riverbend wrist band for just $5. Cruise in style aboard the southeast's only high-speed catamaran, then arrive in style like the main stage artists.