Monday, June 28, 2010

Four Osprey Chicks

I have been out on the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer twice in the past couple of weeks and have enjoyed observing the osprey family in the Gorge. These shots were sent to me by Aquarium naturalist John Dever. At first glance it looks as though the mother osprey is perched on the channel maker's beacon, but she is actually just landing on the nest. There has been a bit of a debate about the number of chicks in the nest. Thanks to these digital images, you can see four rather large chicks. Hmmm. Four?
You may need to click on the image above to see the full-sized picture. Look closely, on the right-hand side of the picture you'll see a rather stealthy osprey chick hunkered down in the nest. No wonder there have been some debate all summer long about the number of babies in the nest. It won't be long now and passengers may be lucky enough to see the parents teaching these young birds to fish. Our naturalists have observed "fishing lessons" in the past and say it's pretty spectacular. If you book a trip aboard the Explorer soon, you'll still be able to see this family. Book a trip on the three-hour long Sunset Special and you will pass by three active osprey nests. And our naturalists are still reporting quite a few bald eagle sightings as well.
Follow this link for ticket information and a cruise schedule:

Monday, June 21, 2010

A chance to see Jelly

When 10 year-old Saunya came to the Aquarium, she was on a mission. She had never been through a revolving door before, and she was intent on mastering the skill before she left. Her instructor and family had already taken her to Hamilton Place Mall to learn how to use elevators and escalators. These are devices that most of us don't even think about. But close your eyes. How would you negotiate a revolving door if you couldn't see? The sound might be intimidating, and if inexperienced, the device could be even be a bit dangerous. Saunya boldly stepped into the revolving door and picked up the skill immediately. In fact, she was soon leading sighted members of her family and even one Aquarium employee through the door with ease.
Many Aquarium visitors have mentioned that they have never actually seen a live opossum before. So when our Animal Encounter Specialists bring "Jelly," a Virginia Opossum, out to meet guests, many are surprised. And in most every case, the good-natured creature wins the hearts of those who meet her. Saunya was eager to see Jelly - through touch. "Her body felt like a dog and her tail felt like a snake," said Saunya. "And she smelled sweet."

I think the smile on Saunya's face speaks volumes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aqua Kids at the Tennessee Aquarium

We are honored to have the Aqua Kids cast and crew at the Tennessee Aquarium this week. The Emmy-Award winning television program showcases organizations that are inspiring tomorrow's environmental stewards. The fun, fact-filled shows encourage young people to take an active role protecting and preserving aquatic environments and animals. This photograph shows the Aqua Kids filming an introduction to their program on the Aquarium Plaza. Left to right are Aqua Kids Raychel, Drew, Izzy, Molly (the host) and Jennifer.
They are currently working on season six. Episodes from the new season, including the Tennessee Aquarium, will begin airing nationwide in September. The above shot shows Carol Haley, the Aquarium's assistant curator of fishes with the Aqua Kids at the Animal Care Facility.

Dr. Anna George discusses Saving the Sturgeon and other conservation and restoration projects that keep her busy at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute.

Outreach educator Bethany Lloyd introduces the Aqua Kids to an alligator snapping turtle aboard the River Gorge Explorer. Lloyd is gearing up for a busy season in area classrooms providing NOAA funded ocean literacy programs to students. Her new presentations won't include freshwater species like snapping turtles. They will feature animals like horseshoe crabs that you might encounter in a tide pool.

We hope they had as much fun visiting as we had hosting them. Check your local television listings for the times and stations that Aqua Kids airs in your city at:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Magic Moments Happen at the Tennessee Aquarium Every Day

Pictures can sometimes really lift your spirits and we're so glad that a Cookeville, TN family chose to share a couple of their pictures and story with everyone. The top one shows volunteer diver Fernando Ribeiro creating a magic moment for four-year-old visitor Shaylynn. The second picture needs no explanation, but we'd like to say that Shaylynn's smile is contagious. Here's what Shaylynn's mom Bobbie had to say about their visit to the Tennessee Aquarium:
"We came from Cookeville Tn. Our Daughter Shaylynn just turned 4 in April and has been enjoying underwater life through her books and Disney movies. We decided it was time to expand her imagination to reality. We had been there already for about 2 hours or so and she was just totally fascinated with the fish and sharks. She became very excited to see a real scuba diver with the fish. This was a wonderful experience for her just as much as seeing the underwater life. The concept for children of a scuba diver is just something a child/person can imagine underwater unless you actually do it. This was just WONDERFUL.To see it as if you were in the ocean/water. The scuba divers were wonderful to the people watching. This scuba diver was so sweet towards my daughter. He showed her he was cleaning the tank as she stood there watching and then took the time to pay attention to her. As she waved he reached his hand out on the tank glass and she just naturally put hers on his and kept it there. It was almost like it was set up. :-) We never told her to do that either. The people around us were enjoying the view just as much as we were. All the employees at this Aquarium were all so generously nice and helpful. This was a wonderful experience for us. I hadn't been here for 9 yrs and my husband hadn't been there since he was a young boy. He is now telling his friends at work about his experience and suggesting they too should take his family if they haven't already. I felt something very moving with this moment and captured it on photo. I have shown it to family and friends through email and have received some great comments and that's why I thought I would just share it with you and tell you THANK YOU.. Maybe the scuba diver will get the message and that he wasn't just "Cleaning the tank." Thank you again!!!!!!"

Bobbie - Cookeville, TN
Thanks Bobbie for sharing your story with everyone and putting a smile on our faces at the same time.
The summer fun continues........

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ospreys Aren't The Only Birds With Chicks

This bald eagle picture was taken by River Gorge Explorer naturalist John Dever this past winter. Apparently the harsh conditions farther north caused an abundance of eagles in our area. Dever reported seeing as many as eight individual bald eagles on one cruise last winter. Passengers often see eagles in the Gorge throughout the year. There are also a few eagle nests in the area, including one that's a short distance from Williams Island. It's a large nest that's perhaps five to six feet tall and nearly as big around.

A relative of one of the residents who lives next to the nest had this report today: "The eagles are back and once again, have "eaglets." It's sort of amazing that they continue to return and reproduce."

Unfortunately these baby eagles are too far from the river to be spotted from aboard the Explorer, but it's nice to know some of the birds seen overhead and in the trees within the Gorge are successfully raising their young nearby.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Osprey Chicks Pop Up For a Peek

Ron Smith, a crew member aboard the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer, snapped these pictures of this year's baby ospreys. The nest is seen by Explorer passengers twice on every cruise. According to naturalist John Dever, two other osprey nests are seen farther downstream on the longer, three-hour sunset special cruises. Whether viewed with binoculars or a nice telephoto lens, these birds are truly awesome to see. Their size and markings make them remarkable sightings when perched on a limb or tending to their young in the nest. But if you see them in flight, or are lucky enough to watch them snatch a fish out of the water, you'll be even more impressed. The chicks are just big enough now to pop their heads up for a peek above the top of the nest, but they'll grow quickly in the next six to eight weeks. Frequently you'll either hear them calling to their parents or the parents calling to each other. One adult is usually on the nest while the other is usually perched in a tree nearby. (Click on the image to see it full-sized.)