Sunday, December 14, 2008

Aquatic Life

During a tour I recently guided and during which we also spent a few days in Namibia, a boat trip on the lagoon/sea at Walvisbay was included - certainly a highlight on this particular tour's itinerary.

As soon as one sets off, the sky "whirls" with birds, which "expect" a treat - sure enough the skippers hold out sardines or small fish and either a gull or pelican swoops down, masterfully accepting (grabbing) the offering.

Luckily for "photographers" like me, there's always the opportunity to "snap" aquatic birds
like these White Pelicans (right) swimming on the water around the boats, instead of only flying about. Pelicans feed predominantly on fish whilst the pouch (beneath the bill) is attached to the throat. This pouch is usually "folded away" but can be "distended" (see on photo) to accommodate a store of fish.

Did you know that in Christian art pelicans are regarded as symbols of charity = a symbol of Christ? This rests on the assumption that the pelican pierces its own breast with its bill to feed its young with "sacrificial blood" - whilst in fact the pelican transfers "macerated" portions of fish from its pouch to the bill of its offspring.

Kelp Gulls (left) are a very common species and are well-known
for their loud "mewing" call - an evocative sound of the sea and coast.

Did you know that this gull's Latin name - (Laridae) dominicanus - is derived from the distinctive black of its back and wings, which is supposed to bear a resemblance to the black mantles Dominican friars wear?

This Kelp or Southern Black-backed Gull (right) supposedly has a name = Michael (at least that's what our skipper called it!?). Tame like a pet, Michael kept returning to our boat and to my delight, "posed nicely" for this close-up photo.

And then there was...... (?) sorry, forgot the name of this fur seal (right). Yes most "visiting" animals or birds are "recognised" by the skippers, and sometimes, seals are "invited" on board!

Obviously to its chagrin this seal (left) didn't receive an invitation! It nonetheless tried its best to get noticed BUT....

.... with these 2 gentlemen (right) blocking its way, I don't think the seal had a chance to get on board!!??

On a more somber note - the pelt of fur seal pups is greatly coveted in the fur trade, which has often led to indiscriminate commercial exploitation of this species by sealers.

Last but not least - a dolphin. I still have to meet a person, who doesn't get excited when this sea creature is in the vicinity. This playfully exuberant mammal is known as a highly intelligent creature and fast swimmer, which seems to enjoy "surfing" as much as many coastal dwellers do.

Not are dolphins only known to enjoy the surf but also for "riding" the bow waves of ships for long distances. In our case and during this trip, the dolphins appeared to play games by either riding the waves behind the boats, or suddenly surfacing ahead - I say suddenly, because they were so fast and dived down as quickly as they reappeared that trying to get a "good" photo was a real mission!!

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