Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Pacific Ocean - A Peaceful Sea

Palm trees on the Pacific

Our blue planet is dominated by the five great seas from which the Pacific is the biggest, deepest and most inhabited. The vast ocean fills the gap between the Americas on the east and Asia and Australia on the west.

The massive body of salt water is an astonishing 64 million square miles and it's spread across one-third of the earth's surface. In the northwest section there's an incredible chasm known as the Mariana Trench. At 35,797 feet down, it's the deepest point in the world.

The ocean's current name was given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan during the Spanish circumnavigation of the globe in 1521. He called it Mar Pacifico or the Peaceful Sea because after sailing around the treacherous Cape Horn, the expedition entered into much calmer waters.

The place is hardly peaceful, though. Enclosing the ocean, the volatile land that forms the Pacific Rim is known as the Ring of Fire because of all the volcanos and earthquakes. Tsunamis born from underwater earthquakes have taken a devastating toll on countless inhabited islands.

I've only experienced the Pacific while in southern California where a blue-green surf smashes into the rocks and cliffs, sculpting a coastline of unsurpassed beauty. The exotic foliage of palm trees and colorful wildflowers enlivens the laid back atmosphere.

Since the very beginning, powerful waves have pounded the land in a therapeutic rhythm while shaping the malleable earth. Today, eternal waters continue to churn with relentless force in a graceful sequence sure to last until the end of time.

The biggest, deepest and most inhabited

Mar Pacifico

The peaceful sea

Hardly peaceful

Southern California coastline

Unsurpassed beauty

Exotic palm trees

Colorful flowers

Powerful waves

The waters continue to churn

Until the end of time

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Broad-tailed Hummingbird - An Energetic Visitor

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Rocky Mountain summers are distinguished by warmer temps, colorful wildflowers and the metallic trill of thin air whistling through the wings of tiny migrants. Zooming through our high meadows, the broad-tailed hummingbird is an energetic visitor.

Bursting onto the scene around May, they arrive from their sun-drenched homeland situated south of the border. These hearty birds have developed a unique characteristic that allows them to survive the harsh conditions present at such a high altitude.

Broad-tailed hummingbirds save enough energy to survive the bitterly cold nights by lowering their internal thermostat, becoming hypothermic. This reduced physiological state is an evolutionary adaptation that is referred to as torpor.

Torpor is a type of deep sleep where a bird's heart rate drops, breathing slows and its metabolic rate lowers by as much as 95%. By doing so, a torpid hummingbird can save up to 60% of its available energy as opposed to when it's awake.

Their diminutive nature is complimented by an elegant palette of iridescent colors that sparkle in bright sunlight. Adult males are described by a dazzling ruby-red throat, green crown and back and white underparts with green flanks.

The females are single parents burdened with the domestic tasks of nest building, incubating the eggs and feeding the brood. The promiscuous males flit about on a quest for the foothill's sweetest nectar while defending their territory with considerable zeal.

These little dynamos perform an impressive array of arial maneuvers when hunting for spiders, small insects and sugar water feeders. Propelled by powerful muscles and a limber shoulder joint, they can flap their wings at an astonishing 50 beats per minute.

By late August these forest jewels begin making their way back to the Mexican highlands where they will spend the winter. Their sudden disappearance is a sure sign of changing seasons and the start of a new school year.

An energetic visitor

Bursting onto the scene

Hearty birds

A diminutive nature

Colors that sparkle

A little dynamo

A forest jewel