Saturday, October 8, 2016

Iguazu Falls (10/08/2016)

I have visited all the major waterfalls in the world and considered Victoria, where I visited in 2004, the most impressive.  This is my second visit to Iguazu Falls on the Argentina/Brazil border - first in 2009 and just returned this past September. Now, Iguazu Falls is the greatest because this time when I visited, the volume of water due to the rains was overwhelming although the roar of the falling waters was not as loud as those in Victoria Falls. Below is an HDR image of the falls from the Brazilian side as are those below.  Some of the images in the blog were taken with an iPhone; you may be able to notice the difference.
 So you can have an idea as to how big the area is, below is a guide of the falls. The actual falls are mostly on the Argentine side but there is a better view from the Brazilian side.  It is easy to cross the border without problems. You will need to spend a day on each side. Since this is an Argentine map, the trail for the Brazilian side was not marked so I added a black line for it.  The Brazilian trail is easier to follow.  There are small trains on the Argentine side since the distances are long, so be prepared to walk steep, slippery and narrow elevated trails.  The photos below are from the Brazilian side.

 The following images are from the Argentine side of the border, where most of the falls are located. The second image is that of the Throat of the Devil and next are of the White-collared swifts that usually nest behind the waterfalls; it is one of the largest swifts.  Their photo is not the best because the curtain of water interfering with autofocus.

 The raccoon is to the USA what the coatimundi is to the southern neighboring countries.  Also known as a coati, it is mischievous, cute, and at times, aggressive. In Iguazu Falls they are not afraid of humans and will come to steal your food without hesitation and usually get their way.  If confronted they will attack and cause injuries as the warning sign below documents. There are also signs warning against poisonous snakes that I found funny.  And next, the flower of the passion fruit that grows wild in the forest. All these are iPhone images.

I will leave this blog with a couple of videos of the falls so you get an idea of the volume of water going through these falls.  


Monday, September 26, 2016

Ibera, Argentina

I missed my goal to publish a monthly blog, but travels have taken me away.  I will skip some locations visited in the meantime and leave incomplete my France blog and go on to my most recent adventure.  Ibera is the second largest wetland of the world in the Province of Corrientes, Argentina. I have known about this place for several years but I was not able to find a contact to get there since it is not easily accessible; it took me long hours of driving for about two days to get there Buenos Aires.  After two days of great weather the rains came, so I moved on north to the Iguazu Falls. 

 Ibera in some ways resembles the Everglades because of the vegetation and canals where wildlife is abundant. It is the home of the capibaras or carpinchos (above) as they are known in Argentina.  These are widespread in South American and I have seen them before in Venezuela and Brazil.  They are the largest rodents in the world but those in Ibera seemed larger in size and darker in color. They are aquatic but also forage on land for grasses.  In my opinion, they occupy a niche similar to those of the hippopotamus in Africa because of their behavior. The other mammal I saw was the marsh deer (below) but there also otters.

 There more than 300 species of birds in the area but I did not see all of them.  All those I saw, except for the common gallinule, were new to me, so I will bore you with birds. The Southern Lapwings (Teros) are a common species and common throughout Argentina.  It is a beautiful and noisy bird and has vestigial claws (notice the pink spines sticking out in the dark chest of the male bird below) in the wing shoulder that is a remnant from ancient birds that were used to climb.  But these claws are also present in the Southern Screamer (Chala) clearly visible in the extended wing as well as in the Wattled Jacana (Jacana) where they are seen as yellow spines in the wing elbows. Vestigial claws are present in a few other birds but I never noticed them in so many birds as are here in South America.  There is also an image of ascreamer with chicks; this is the beginning of spring south of the Equator so it is the beginning of the nesting season.

 Another bird that was surprising was the Scarlet-headed Blackbird (Federal), it is a marsh bird and we have a close cousin here in the USA but with a yellow head (photographed in Camas, Utah).

Other closely related birds that when I first saw them, promptly confused them with those in the USA, such as the White-necked heron (Garza mora) with our Great Blue Heron, the Chalked-browed  mockingbird (Calandria grande) with our Northern Mockingbird, both share the same Genus.

There is no way that I can include all the birds I photographed in this blog so as to avoid boring you, I will make a few entries. The blue period:  First a pair of Magpie Tanagers (Frutero uvero) exhibiting pairing behavior where the male is courting by feeding the female (I did not witness the final outcome.) Then, the Plush –crested Jay (Urraca comun), a very aggressive bird and similar in behavior to our Blue Jays followed by a  Screaming Cowbird (Tordo pico corto) followed by a Sacaya Tanager (Celestino comun).  And then my favorite, the Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird 
( Picador tijera); not only colorful but big.

A rainbow of colors period.: The Blue and Yellow Tanager (Naranjero), Green-headed Tanager (Saira arcoiris), female Blue Dacnis (Sai Azul) and a lucky shot; 3 species in one frame.

But wait, I almost left out the rainbow of colors, a pair of Yellow-fronted woodpeckers (Carpintero Arcoiris); the male is the one with the full red head and the yellow spot in the forehead.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

France II--The Confluence

Confluence means where bodies of water come together. In this case it is in Lyon, France, where the Rhone and Saone rivers merge forming a point of land.  This is an area undergoing urban development with old structures going down and new ones going up.  It a huge complex, with multiple buildings, most of them being constructed on the shore side of the Saone river.  Below is a photo of a huge shopping center that serves as the anchor for the project. There is a canal called the Place Nautique where the shopping center faces and across from it; there are various apartment building that look like each unit is a box stacked at random above each other.

Walking south from the above area by the Desserte du Port Rambaud Street, one runs into a zone called La Sucriere, where there is a conglomerate of wild colored architectural marvels in. I wonder as to the practically of their designs with such large holes, or rather cones that penetrate into the building.  Do not know their practical purpose if any, but it sure takes lots of floor space from the inside the buildings. They are all in the final stages of construction.  Do not know about the orange one but the green one is the headquarters of Euronews.  The image of the crane is to give an idea of the perspective of the area and the side of the buildings; the last image is that of the structure under the crane.

Another example of what is called deconstructive architectural design, the Musee des Confluences, is located at the end of the point where the rivers actually merge; it resembles the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (my favorite) and the War Museum in Manchester among others. To me they are examples of plagiarist design since they look very similar. It is an anthropology and science museum that opened in 2014 and it has 3 major exhibits dealing with who and what; trying to answer questions regarding scientific issues such as the origin of the Universe, evolution, etc.  Impressive and difficult to photograph, even my 12 mm lens was not wide enough.

To balance the deconstructive buildings, below are examples of the old that probably will be gone in the near future.  The old Chamber of Commerce that appeared was recycled into apartments…UGLY… it must go, and graffiti under bridge walkway leading to the museum.  Can’t pass graffiti, great street art with a short life spam… and better than those so called works of arts hanging in museums.

 I stayed in the Confluence area because at the time, the European Soccer Championships were going on and could not find a hotel closer to the center of Lyon.  The Confluence is not far from the old city and to get there one must take a tram. The Confluence complex is quiet, with great restaurants and abundant shopping stores.  On one occasion while riding the tram, ran into a group of Belgian Red Devils fans there to support their soccer team; they were drunk, loud and colorful.  While in the Confluences Shopping Center, one day I witnessed a security guard accosting a client that was playing one of the pianos on the second floor.  The guard was pointing to the sign to the American tourist that does not speak French; why have pianos if they cannot be played?