Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gentoo Penguin Birthday Celebration at the Tennessee Aquarium

 Birthday cakes take on a different look when you are "baking" a surprise for a penguin birthday party. Tennessee Aquarium aviculturists made this heart shaped fish cupcake for "Peep's" 20th birthday today. The recipe is pretty simple. Mix a handful of savory smelt with enough water to fill a baking pan. Let stand in a freezer overnight. Voila! Penguin cupcakes. (Two pans serve 21 gentoo and macaroni penguins.)
 Peep, seen in the hot pink flipper bands, was curious about the treat. However, that interest quickly turned toward her favorite past-time - swimming.

 Everyone in the Penguins' Rock gallery enjoyed the celebration. They learned fun facts about Peep and the other penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium.

We'd like to invite you to visit our "surfing penguins" during the Aquarium's Tropical Holiday Adventure. Or check in on these little characters anytime by viewing the Penguins' Rock webcam.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gentoo Penguin "Peep" Celebrates Her 20th Birthday

 The Tennessee Aquarium will celebrate a special birthday on Wednesday, November 30th. That's when gentoo penguin "Peep" will turn 20 years old, making her the oldest penguin on exhibit at Penguins' Rock. She, along with all of our other gentoos except "Shivers," came to Chattanooga from SeaWorld in San Antonio, TX. Shivers was the first gentoo reared here at the Aquarium.

In the wild, the life span of gentoo penguins is estimated to be between 15 and 20 years. Want more cool penguin facts? Go here.

Penguin keepers will mark the occasion with special treats for the gentoo and macaroni penguins. They will give the birds special fish cupcakes during keeper programs that day. Visitors can enjoy the fun while singing Happy Birthday to Peep.

According to aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich, Peep is kind of a sneaky penguin. "Peep is one of the most sly penguins in our colony," said Aldrich. " She isn't really afraid around keepers, but she kind of sneaks in the back of the group while we are hand-feeding the birds. The next thing you know, she's in front of you ready to eat!"

Peep is not only the oldest penguin at the Tennessee Aquarium. She is also the lightest and smallest gentoo. According Aldrich, she has two favorite activities. "Peep, Biscuit, Pebbles and Blue prefer to spend most of her day swimming. She also likes to paint when we offer that as an enrichment activity."

Look for penguin art in the Aquarium Gift Shops. Here's a shot of Peep painting and an example of her work.

Check in on Peep and the rest of her penguin pals anytime on the Penguins' Rock webcam.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Shopping Made Easy at the Tennessee Aquarium

Monte, the Tennessee Aquarium's new keel-billed toucan, has the right idea. He simply follows his beak for special treasures.

In this case it's blueberries, his favorite treat. We hope this video illustrates how much fun you can have at the Tennessee Aquarium throughout the year. When new exhibits open, like Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari, Aquarium members have opportunities to enjoy special member previews and related programs. And members get a year's worth of unlimited visits and other benefits like discounts at the gift shop.

 These photos were shared by Aquarium members. Each one captures a special family moment.

 Plenty of stay at home moms visit weekly with their memberships. Others plan frequent family outings as a nice way to spend time together.

If you've ever heard someone say they're struggling for meaningful gift ideas that will get a lot of use, an Aquarium family membership is the perfect choice.
If you have someone special on your list that deserves a fun-filled experience, you might consider a gift certificate for Aquarium tickets, IMAX passes or an excursion aboard the River Gorge Explorer.

The Aquarium's online gift shop has plenty of options available for animal lovers. Browse the selections knowing that all of your purchases help support the Aquarium's conservation and education initiatives.

The Tennessee Aquarium is a non-profit institution.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gourmet Feast for the Beasts Served Daily

Hats off to everyone getting ready to prepare family feasts. Shopping for groceries is one thing. Bringing all of the elements together, cooking it and timing it to arrive on the table at the same time is another. So imagine if you had a huge gathering of hungry mouths to feed every day. YIKES!

Tennessee Aquarium aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich shows us how she uses her culinary talents to create a beautiful and nutritious meal for the birds of the Cove Forest exhibit each morning. After watching the video, consider how much care goes into all of the restaurant quality food served throughout both Aquarium buildings.

The numbers for the Aquarium's daily gourmet feast for the beasts are rather staggering. Carol Haley, the Aquarium's assistant curator of fishes, estimates our seahorses eat literally millions of mysid shrimp eat year. "We serve our seahorses mainly frozen mysid shrimp," said Haley. "Our seahorses are fed three times daily. We have 100 seahorses in our collection. If each seahorse eats 20 shrimp per feeding, that's 2,190,000 shrimp in a year." (Math teachers might want to add that word problem to the next quiz for bonus points.)

So there's just two examples. Want more big numbers to munch on? Check out this classic blog post:

Earlier this year celebrity chef Alton Brown visited the Aquarium's kitchen with Haley. He was pretty amazed at the amount and quality of the food served to our critters.

Once we get past this week of turkey and dressing, check out our website for some of Alton's sustainable seafood recipes. Catfish soup or Baked Oysters Brownfeller might make tasty additions to your upcoming holiday parties.

We still have a few Alton Brown signed cookbooks available in our gift shops. They make nice gifts if you want to say, "Thanks for a great Thanksgiving dinner" or get a jump on your holiday shopping.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. The Aquarium will be closed for the holiday on Thursday, November 24th.

Bring the family by to relax and enjoy a "Tropical Holiday Adventure" this weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Enjoy the Sounds of the Season

The holidays are upon us once again and we'd like to invite you to spend some time at the Tennessee Aquarium. In addition to the Tropical Holiday Adventure daily lineup of fun programs, we have some special musical acts for you to enjoy.

Atlanta steel drummer Paul Vogler will provide a taste of the Caribbean while he performs in Ocean Journey on Friday, November 25th and Saturday, November 26th from 11 am to 2 pm. You'll find him playing just outside Penguins' Rock. Here's a sample:

From December 10th through the 15th we'll showcase the talents of two Aquarium folks. Brad Brown is one of our penguin volunteers and is also a wonderful musician. Brad will be playing keyboard in the River Journey main lobby from Noon until 2:00pm. During the same dates and times you will be able to hear Aquarium staffer Matt Downer playing traditional Appalachian music in the Tennessee River Gallery.

Matt may be best known for his banjo pickin' with The New Binkley Brothers. Here they are playing at Riverbend in Chattanooga:

Tap your toes with Matt again from Friday, December 16th through Thursday, December 22nd from Noon until 2:00 pm. He'll wrap up the Sounds of the Season on December 24th.
Plan on spending some extra time at the Aquarium to relax and enjoy these performances during the holidays.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Color in Tennessee Peaking Right Now

 The Tennessee River Gorge is putting on quite a show right now with fall color peaking. In spite of a record-breaking dry August, the carpet of color spilling down the mountains surrounding Chattanooga is pretty amazing. These pictures were taken aboard the River Gorge Explorer yesterday.
 The autumn bronze, orange, red and yellow look fantastic against the deep blue skies. One of our crew members took these with a cell phone. They have not been digitally enhanced.

Captain Kyle Payne reports bald eagle sightings recently adding to the "Wow" factor of several of these fall excursions. Explorer passengers got an extra thrill yesterday when a deer was seen swimming across the Tennessee River from Williams Island to the shoreline near the Baylor School. Captain Kyle says they have been spotting more deer on cruises lately. "They have been seen on Moccasin Bend where the new riprap has been installed," Payne said. "Apparently they like the new grass that was planted in those locations."

Here's a quick video of what it's like to be aboard the River Gorge Explorer in the fall:

For a cruise schedule, or to purchase tickets online, go to:

***Special Note***
Chattanooga is proud to host the “Head of the Hooch,” the nation’s second largest regatta this weekend. As a result of the rowing events on the Chattanooga Riverfront, the River Gorge Explorer will board at MarineMax from Thursday, November 3rd through Sunday November 6th.  MarineMax is located at 201 Riverfront Parkway, approximately two blocks west (or downstream) from the Chattanooga Pier.