Monday, January 25, 2010

When will Pepper Look Like A Macaroni?

Aviculturist Amy Graves recently returned from a working visit to Sea World in San Diego, CA. While there, Graves was able to observe and learn new techniques from the SeaWorld penguin keepers. It's the end of the penguin breeding season at SeaWorld, so Graves was able to observe how they raise penguin chicks.
Among the many things Graves learned relates to "Pepper," the macaroni chick born at the Tennessee Aquarium last June. Many people, visitors and staff included, have inquired about the crest feathers on the chick, and when those will start to appear. We now know that after the first molt that the chick goes through, most of the crest feathers will appear. This molt will be in the fall of 2010. However, a Macaroni chick does not have the complete crest until after it’s second molt, which for this chick will be the fall of 2011. So Pepper will be easy to identify on exhibit for a while to come. This lack of crest not only helps people spot the chick easily, but it also helps the other birds in the colony identify her as a juvenile.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Recruiting Volunteer Divers Soon

The Tennessee Aquarium is very fortunate to have nearly 170 volunteer divers. These dedicated individuals come from all walks of life and from all over the region. Irby Hartley is shown above gently cleaning the inside of the acrylic to ensure guests enjoy the crystal clear views of all the animals. While you have to "roll up your sleeves" and apply "a little elbow grease" while helping to maintain the exhibits, the fun is worth it. Nowhere else will you be able to see so many species up close in both fresh and saltwater. For many, the chance to scuba dive in excellent conditions at least once a month is worth the drive from Atlanta, Birmingham, Huntsville, Nashville or Knoxville. The Rice Family ventures to Chattanooga from a small community near the Kentucky border. See their story below.

Right now the Aquarium is seeking certified divers for weekday volunteer positions. If you have the time, talent and desire to join the team, go here for complete information and to download an application:

The Aquarium will be hosting a diver orientation on Thursday, February 11, 2010 from 5:45 PM to 7:45 PM eastern standard time at the Tennessee Aquarium Auditorium located in the Lower Lobby of the River Journey building.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Amazing Penguins

The next time you visit the Tennessee Aquarium you might be lucky enough to observe some interesting behavior called porpoising. Karen Estes, Aquarium graphic designer, captured Bug in mid-air during one of these athletic displays. Both the gentoos, like Bug, and the macaronis will show off with these bursts of energy from time to time. It's very exciting to see the birds racing back and forth across the exhibit, popping in and out of the water and reversing directions with amazing speed. If you're not fortunate to see this in person at the Aquarium, there are video displays in the penguin gallery that show this behavior in the wild. Penguins use this tactic primarily to evade predators. Kevin Calhoon, the Aquarium's assistant curator of forests, witnessed gentoos doing this near Antarctica and said it appeared to him that they might also porpoise to travel long distances swiftly. Either way, it's an awesome sight.

Another awesome sight was captured by Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society. This time it was an African penguin displaying some truly unbelievably bold behavior.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Too Cold for Penguins?

With much of the United States in the grip of a record-breaking cold snap, the question has been asked, "Can the weather become too cold for penguins?"
Tennessee Aquarium aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich has a surprising answer in this video:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Falling in Chattanooga

Light snowfall in Chattanooga today has decorated the downtown area with just a hint of winter.

The garden just outside the IMAX 3D Theater's Great Hall caught the attention of several people today. The waterfall and pond were icing over this afternoon. The garden is a really pleasant spot to relax before or after a movie, but today it was best viewed from inside.
We are not expecting any closings at the Aquarium or IMAX 3D Theater over the next several days. As they say, "Come on in the water's fine!" Even inside Penguins' Rock it will be considerably warmer that what we'll experience outside the next few days.
We'd like remind everyone to think of your feathered friends. Backyard birders might think about creating a decorative bird feeder for this cold snap.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rare Views Aboard the Explorer

This certainly isn't the type of weather that springs to mind if someone were to say, "Let's go for a boat ride." But if you haven't been in the Tennessee River Gorge during winter, then you might be surprised by what you can see. Right now is prime time to cruise into Tennessee’s Grand Canyon for an unobstructed view of the rocky mountain faces.
Passengers aboard the River Gorge Explorer can now see farther into the wooded slopes allowing for even more animal sightings. According to Kevin Calhoon, the Tennessee Aquarium's assistant curator of forests, several bird species are visiting right now that are rarely seen in the warmer months. Most notably, there are now three species of gull that choose to hang out in the relatively warm climate around Chattanooga.
They are:
  • Ring-billed gull

  • Bonaparte's gull

  • Herring gull
(Some have been tracked as regular migrants from the Great Lakes.)

Other winter bird species seen in the Gorge are:
  • common loon

  • pied-billed grebe

  • double-crested cormorant

  • gadwall

  • lesser scaup

  • American coot

  • bufflehead
Winter can also provide spectacular scenery if snow coats the landscape with white or ice glistens in the trees. While we'll have to wait and see, it's possible that Chattanooga could receive some accumulating snowfall beginning Thursday and lasting into early Friday. If that's the case, then grab your camera gear and head to the Chattanooga Pier for a weekend cruise aboard the Explorer. Snowy scenes from the water's edge to the mountain tops are rare photo opportunities.
Fear not fair-weather friends, the Explorer’s cabin will be toasty warm inside whenever it’s cold outside.
For excursion times and ticket information:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ringing in 2010 Aquarium Style

Happy New Year! It appears as though one of the Tennessee Aquarium's caiman lizards decided to ring in 2010 with a fresh start. Some people resolve to "turn over a new leaf" at the beginning of each year. I wonder how many would be willing to shed their skin? Evidently it must feel pretty good to the caiman. Early this morning the reptile was observed snoozing under a warm light looking rather content. Actually it's a great day to be inside where it's warm. Even though the sun is shining, we've had some flurries blowing around in the wind today.

Inside the Tropical Cove and Butterfly Garden the climate is much more favorable. You'll warm up quickly as the butterflies surround you. Festive, multi-colored fruit ornaments catch the eyes of visitors and hungry butterflies.

There's still time to enjoy the beautiful orchids on display and purchase one for your home. (Looks like the cold weather might stick around awhile this month, so you might enjoy having the bright colors of the tropics while you're indoors.)