Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peppy Penguin Now LOVES to Swim

Yesterday the Tennessee Aquarium's youngest gentoo was really putting on a show. This juvenile penguin was racing all over the exhibit displaying that amazing ability to reverse direction at blazing speeds. Take a look:

This isn't unusual for penguins. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium at the right time and you might see several of the gentoo or macaroni penguins racing each other. But it does seem unusual that the baby penguin that refused to go in the water for such a long time is now hard to get OUT of the water. Remember this video?

We still don't know if this juvenile bird is a male or female yet. All of the Aquarium's penguins will get physicals soon. That will be the first time a blood sample will be drawn from the newest gentoo at Penguins' Rock. A DNA sample will be sent to a lab and that's when we'll learn whether this amazing swimmer is a boy or a girl. That's also when the Tennessee Aquarium will begin another penguin naming contest. (More details ahead here, The Tennessee Aquarium's website, Facebook and on Twitter.)

Last year's chick was named "Pepper," which suited that macaroni penguin's feisty personality. After viewing the top video, maybe "Pepe" or "Peppy" would be good names. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Color Update from the River Gorge Explorer 10.27.10

This has certainly been an unusually hot and dry autumn so far, but recent rounds of severe thunderstorms have turned our short-term dry conditions around. Yesterday, the River Gorge Explorer returned to the Chattanooga Pier as ominous clouds were moving into the downtown area. Our thoughts go out to those who suffered damage from the tornado that touched down at the Chickamauga Dam about 10 miles upstream from the Tennessee Aquarium.

Many people don't realize that southeast Tennessee has a secondary severe weather season in early November. Most of our severe weather occurs in the spring, but the atmospheric ingredients come together in just the right fashion this time of year as the air masses collide with the transition to autumn. You can keep track of current weather conditions in Chattanooga with a real-time, high-definition webcam here:

Before the storms, we enjoyed the fall colors in the Gorge. Our timing for the cruise worked out well as we missed showers that occurred early in the afternoon and missed the severe weather later last evening. Aquarium naturalist John Dever supplied us with the images above and says the recent rains seem to have brought out some of the autumn hues. Here's his weekly fall color and wildlife update: "The rains came and the fall color really seemed to perk up, from a dull dry crispy appearance on Sunday to a fresh, new sharpness. The evergreens of places like the Dividing Hollow (seen above showing eastern hemlock), and Palisades (Virginia pine), are coming into stark relief against the colorful surrounding forest. Much of the forest is still green, especially the water oaks along the river, so there is more color to come. The Williams Island area has been hosting some great egrets and a more consistent presence of our Brown's Ferry Eagles (pictured above). A couple of young osprey are still fishing the Gorge and our crows and vultures are also present in big numbers."

With prime autumn weather conditions forecast for the next several days, now might be a great time to enjoy the scenery and a relaxing trip into "Tennessee's Grand Canyon."

Check out schedule for Awesome Autumn Fall Leaf Cruises aboard the River Gorge Explorer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall Color Update from Aboard the River Gorge Explorer

October temperatures have been bouncing up and down quite a bit lately, from a record high near 90 one week ago, to overnight lows dipping down into the upper 30s in some areas this past weekend. Dry conditions have caused some trees to lose their leaves a bit earlier than normal and a few brush fires have occurred in the region. In spite of the generally hot, dry conditions, there's still quite a bit of color to be enjoyed.

Want to look in on the weather before a cruise? Thanks to a support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Tennessee Aquarium has added a new weather station atop the IMAX 3D Theater. Check the current weather conditions and a real-time HD camera view of downtown Chattanooga.

Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever has seen a noticeable increase in fall color from aboard the River Gorge Explorer this week as well as some interesting bird sightings. "There is a higher percentage of color this week. The foliage is now at around 40% of peak. We've been seeing some teals, great egrets and bald eagles in the Gorge. And, we still have been seeing some osprey activity, at least for now."

Looks like we may see some showers tonight and tomorrow, then some more fantastic fall weather is ahead. Check the schedule for Awesome Autumn Fall Leaf Cruises aboard the River Gorge Explorer to enjoy the weather and the view in "Tennessee's Grand Canyon."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

River Gorge Explorer Fall Color Update

Even though the area could use some rain, we have been enjoying the outstanding weather conditions lately. Warm, sunny days and cool nights are helping to set the color in the area's changing leaves. As usual, the higher elevations surrounding Chattanooga have more advanced color than valley locations. But as Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever reports, the reds of autumn can be seen down to the river's edge from aboard the River Gorge Explorer. "The leaves are now turning color in the 20% range with maple red, hickory yellow and four colored sweet gum, especially along the shoreline," Dever said. Along with the increase in color, there has also been an increase in wildlife sightings. "We've been seeing Bald Eagles with greater frequency over the past several days and the Osprey are still in the Gorge as least for a little while longer. Other sightings include deer, the northern flicker, many mallards and even some green winged teals."

Friday, October 8, 2010

RiverRocks Finale This Weekend in Coolidge Park

The ten-day RiverRocks festival wraps up in Chattanooga this weekend with a bang. In addition to the numerous outdoor activities, this grand finale includes a lot of FREE entertainment.

Friday night you can check out Circus Juventas at 7:00 pm at Coolidge Park. Here's a sample of these amazing performers in action:

Saturday at 7:00 pm the AscenDance Project will thrill the crowd at Coolidge Park. Fans of NBC's "America's Got Talent" already know about AscenDance. If you missed it, the crowd went wild over their performance:

Chattanooga will also get a special musical treat Saturday night at 8:00 pm when Fitz and the Tantrums rev it up in Coolidge Park. This group has a fun sound that will have everyone ready to dance:

This will be followed by a special light show designed specifically for RiverRocks. The "Circle of Light Finale" is scheduled to set Coolidge Park aglow at 9:30 pm.

A quick reminder: The Adventure Film Festival at IMAX runs through Thursday, October 14th. Extend your RiverRocks fun by taking advantage of this special offer: Five IMAX films for just $20!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tennessee River Gorge Fall Color Update

There's always a lot of interest in fall color updates in the Chattanooga area, so Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever will be assisting leaf peepers with reports from aboard the Tennessee River Gorge Explorer. According to Dever, hints of color are on schedule, there are some interesting bird sightings and one environmental concern. Here's his first update for the week of October 4th, 2010.
"As of Sunday, October 3rd, we are still around 5% in terms of color, with tulip poplars showing a little yellow. Some maples are in red, but mostly at the higher elevations and oriented along north facing slopes. Migrant bird species visible along the river include the double crested cormorant and great egret. Hawks species like the broad-winged have been spotted in large numbers while our summer Osprey will be leaving the area through the end of the month. In the woods, the smaller bird species such as warblers, thrushes, grosbeaks etc., have been moving along the Cumberland Plateau flyway. Unfortunately, as reported in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Wooly Adelgid has been spotted in Chickamauga, GA and the spectacular hemlock stands of the River Gorge will soon be in jeopardy as well. Hemlock education and awareness is a must!"

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Celebration of Life!

The Scenic City Survivors recently held their calendar unveiling party in the IMAX garden. This is the sixth annual A Celebration of Life! calendar produced to support the MaryEllen Locher Foundation.

This amazing calendar project has raised more than $75,000. As a result, the MaryEllen Locher Foundation has provided college scholarships for children who have a parent affected by breast cancer. The Scenic City Survivors say this unique scholarship fund helps lift the financial and emotional burdens faced by the growing number of children affected by breast cancer in our country.

More than 140 local breast cancer survivors have been featured in the calendar since its inception in 2005.

The spirit of this group can be felt while reading the survivor quotes in the calendar. Their messages of love, support and gratitude are inspirational.

Their secondary message is, "Attitude is Everything." Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please consider supporting this organization by purchasing one of these calendars or making a contribution to the MaryEllen Locher Foundation. To lift the spirits of breast cancer survivors during October, send a 40 character message of hope and inspiration to those affected by breast cancer via Twitter to @TNAquarium, or post a message of support on the Tennessee Aquarium's Facebook page.

The Tennessee Aquarium was honored to be this year's A Celebration of Life calendar location.