Saturday Surprise — Birds’ Tongues!

This is a reprisal of a post from fall of 2019 … it was fun to research some burning questions about bird anatomy and I thought it was worthy of sharing again!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!


A few days ago, a friend and I were having a conversation about whether birds have tongues, and if so, whether they have taste buds.  Of course … a perfectly normal conversation!  What?  You don’t discuss such things?  Anyway, naturally the question kept burning in my mind, keeping me awake far into the wee hours, and I simply had to satisfy my curiosity.  Well … turns out they do have tongues, and this ferruginous hawk just had to prove the point!ferruginous-hawkJust as birds come in all different shapes, sizes and varieties, so do their tongues — long tongues, short tongues, spiky tongues, curly tongues, forked tongues, frayed tongues, brush-like tongues.  Care to take a look at a few?

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This rainbow lorikeet has a brush-like tongue

These hummingbirds have forked tongues that are rolled up inside their beaks until submerged in liquid, at which time they partly unfurl.  As the hummingbird drinks, the forks of his tongue furl and unfurl, so it’s almost as if he is drinking through two straws.hummingbird-1

hummingbird-2Isn’t this guy pretty?  He’s a purple honeycreeper (looks blue to me) and has a very long tongue, to enable him to drink nectar from flowers (or the hummingbird feeder you have on the back porch).purple-honeycreeper.jpgWoodpeckers also have very long tongues that are also sharp and spiky … the better to get the bugs out of the holes in trees!  And here you thought they just liked waking you at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday!  This guy decided to take the easy way out, though, and drink from the hummingbird feeder.woodpeckerWhile we’ve established that birds do have tongues, what they don’t have is teeth, so birds of prey, such as fish-eating birds, have tongues with little rear-facing hooks or spikes to prevent a captured fish from slipping away from them.  Penguins have very spiky and partially keratinized tongues, meaning that parts of the tongue are made strong and stiff by keratin.

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Gentoo penguin chick

Geese and ducks also have spiky tongues, as well as hairy tongues and tongues with hard flat surfaces that, from a distance, seem to resemble a human’s tongue.  However, they are really nothing like our tongues, for they are covered with hairs and spikes that act like a sieve, allowing the bird to filter food particles from the water.

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Canadian geese

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Mallard duck

So, we’ve seen that birds have tongues, but do they have taste buds?  Now, this whole conversation started because my friend’s budgie had stopped liking one food that he was once very fond of, and nearly gobbled another that he never used to like at all.  Turns out that yes, birds do have taste buds, but not very many, and not on their tongues, but rather in their bills!fieldfareTaste buds in birds haven’t been the subject of much research, so not as much is known, but what is known is that birds have far fewer taste buds than we humans.  Depending on the species, birds may have fewer than 50 or up to roughly 500 taste buds, while humans have 9,000-10,000 taste buds. Birds can taste sweet, sour and bitter flavors, and they learn which of those tastes are the most suitable and nutritious food sources. The sensitivity to different tastes varies by species, but most birds use other senses—sight and hearing most prominently—to locate the best foods.

And now you know more than you ever thought you wanted to know about birds’ mouths!  Hope you enjoyed the pictures and the mini-lesson!  Now go forth and have a fun & wonderful weekend, my friends!

For more fun reading about birds and their mouths, here are the sources I used:

Let’s talk about bird tongues  (Research on Dark-eyed Juncos and why animals do what they do)

Bird Senses and How They Use Them  (The Spruce)

How Do Birds Taste Their Food?  (Audubon)

Saturday Surprise — Sphen & Magic! — A Purposeful Reprise

I first wrote this story back in October 2018, and have since written an update (link at bottom).  I felt a need to reprise it today in light of the fact that a similar story about another penguin couple, Roy & Silo, written into a children’s book in 2015, has been banned in Florida.  As you will see, it is a wonderful story, a heartwarming story, but apparently some feel threatened by inclusion, compassion, and love.  Sphen and Magic will always be welcome here at Filosofa’s Word!


I have long said that we could learn a lot from other species, those we refer to as ‘animals’, when I often think it is we who are the animals.  Animals don’t kill because they don’t like the colour of another’s fur.  Their hierarchy isn’t based on religion, ethnicity, fur colour or gender … it is merely survival of the fittest.  They may not have these opposable thumbs, but what they do have is acceptance … acceptance of ‘other’, of those who are different in some way or another.  Which brings me to today’s Surprise!

Sphen and Magic are Gentoo Penguins

Magic and Sphen

Sphen & Magic

Gentoo penguins are characterized by bright orange-red bills and unusual white patches above the eyes that make them stand out in a crowd. Gentoo penguins are most closely related to Adélie and chinstrap penguins, all of which live on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Gentoo penguins typically live in ice-free areas like flat, rocky beaches and low-lying cliffs where large colonies of individuals can gather. Like other penguin species, gentoo penguins rely on the ocean for food and are never far from the water.

When it comes to breeding and nesting, gentoo penguins have been dubbed one of the more romantic seabirds in the animal kingdom. Gentoo penguin pairs start by building intricate nests of rocks and pebbles together, and individual pebbles may be shared between potential mates beforehand as a sign that they are interested in becoming a breeding pair. The nests are then used for laying the egg in during incubation, which lasts for close to 40 days. Males and females work together closely during the process, taking turns incubating the egg and forming long-lasting bonds with each other that continue after the chick has hatched.

Sphen and Magic, who are both male penguins, live at Sea Life Sydney, a large aquarium in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and they have just become the proud parents of a 91-gram chick!  According to the Sea Life website:

Sphen and Magic began developing a strong bond and became inseparable before breeding season, and are constantly seen waddling around and going for swims together in the Penguin Expedition.

As breeding season fast approached, the couple started collecting ‘pebbles’ to create a nest in their spot, and now have more pebbles than any other couple! Gentoo parents keep their eggs warm on pebble nesting rings scattered throughout the Macquarie Island exhibit. Swapping duties daily, while one of the parents are doing their best to incubate the egg, the other is patrolling the perimeters of the nest, warding off any potential pebble thieves or over-inquisitive neighbours.

To ensure the couple were not excluded from the season, Magic and Sphen were given a dummy egg to allow them to practice incubating and develop their skills. They were absolute naturals and displayed great care for their egg, so much so, the team at Sea Life Sydney fostered a real egg to them from another couple who had two.

Whilst Sphen is older and is excellent at incubating, Magic is younger and still mastering his skill. The pair make a great team, and there are often days where the egg cannot be seen (which is really good for penguin breeding!).

And then, just last week, on October 19thpenguin chickIsn’t he just adorable?  It is too early to tell the sex of the chick just yet, but a blood test to determine gender will be done when the chick is a bit older.  Personally, I think it’s probably a girl.  And as for Sphen and Magic, according to Tish Hannan, the supervisor of the aquarium’s Penguin Department …

“The first day, the younger of the two males was an absolute star, he fed the chick a lot. The older male looked a bit disinterested at first, but as soon as he got on the chick he did an amazing job as well, so we are really, really proud of them both. Both males and females have a strong urge to be parents and they share that parental responsibility 100 per cent between the two — it doesn’t matter if they have a male-male or female-female pair.”

penguin chick 1 week old

Under daddy’s watchful eye — 1 week old, 10/26/2018

Awww … now tell me that doesn’t just warm your heart?  I was chuffed for a minute when I found that tickets to spend an entire day at the aquarium and 75 minutes on the ice with the penguins were only $119!  But then … I remembered … somehow I would have to get to Australia, and I think that is probably a bit out of my price range.  Perhaps my friend Andrea will go and take pictures to send me?

There have been several other famous same-sex penguin couples. Silo and Roy, two male chinstrap penguins, had a happy relationship for six years at the Central Park Zoo in New York. Harry and Pepper, two male Magellanic penguins, also lived together as a couple for six years at the San Francisco Zoo.  And none of the other penguins threw stones or tried to kill them.  Yep, humans should spend more time observing nature.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks!  Put last week’s detritus out of your minds for a day or two if you can and just enjoy living.


Here is the link to the update about Sphen & Magic from 2020:  Saturday Surprise — Sphen & Magic Are Back!

Saturday Christmas Eve Surprise!

Somehow it just didn’t seem right to do a post about political turmoil on Christmas Eve, and especially since it’s Saturday and I haven’t done a Saturday Surprise post for several weeks now.  So, let’s combine Christmas Eve and Saturday Surprise into one fun (hopefully) post!


I thought it might be fun to look at some of the Christmas food traditions around the globe. In Portugal, for instance, Christmas means lampreia de ovos, a sugary likeness of a blood-sucking eel-like parasite.  It is a curved, eel-shaped mound of egg yolks, sugar syrup, and almonds that will stare at diners with candied-fruit eyes and a big smile.

Looks pretty friendly and harmless, doesn’t it?  If you’d like to try making one at home, you can find the recipe here. Now, you might be surprised to learn what the Christmas feast in Japan is …

Yep, good ol’ Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken, complete with all the trimmings including a side dish of shrimp gratin.  Every year, some 3.6 million Japanese families celebrate Christmas with fried chicken, courtesy of Colonel Sanders. KFC has become such a big deal in Japan that Christmas accounts for roughly a third of the franchise’s annual sales there.

Now in some of the Central European countries, notably the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, they really like their carp for a Christmas treat.  They like it as a savory aspic, a fish soup, or perhaps breaded and fried.  But they don’t just go to the grocery store and purchase a dead fish … oh no!  They catch the fish a few days ahead of time and then keep it alive in the bathtub until they’re ready to cook it!

They swear that giving these bottom-feeders a chance to clear their digestive tracts results in a cleaner flavor profile.  The only real glitch with this method is that you can’t catch feelings for your temporary housepet. In The Carp in the Bathtub, a 1972 children’s book about a Jewish family in New York, two siblings valiantly attempt to save their catch from becoming gefilte fish.


And on to another Christmas food venture … Gingerbread is a holiday favourite, at least in many places.  This year, The Museum of the City of New York invited top bakeries and amateur bakers from across the city to enter Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off.  Bakers from around the city made gingerbread replicas of famous landmarks in New York City.  I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of them …

Long Island City’s Sans Bakery fashioned the iconic 7 train and Silvercup Studios out of gingerbread

John Kuehn designed a gingerbread version of Manhattan’s Madison Square Park.

Kozlowski used food coloring to paint an edible copy of the classic mural at Madame Sousou’s Cafe in Astoria.

Staten Island’s Bruno’s Bakery reconstructed the borough’s famous ferry as part of its entry.

Bruno’s Bakery, which has been open in Staten Island for 40 years, made the borough’s famous Snug Harbor buildings.


Well, friends, as they say in da history books, “‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, there was clutter enough to scare off a mouse.” I must go bake a pie, make some cranberry sauce, toss some towels in the wash, and whatever else it is that needs to be done around here.  I hope you all are having a fun time with wrapping, baking, etc., and I hope you are staying warm!  The temperature as I write this is 4 below zero here! And that’s farenheit … in celcius, it’s -20°! Luckily, we still have electricity, for many power lines came down in last night’s winds and heavy snowfall.  Also luckily, I don’t have to leave the house today!

Good People Doing Good Things — A Reprise And An Update

I briefly considered skipping the ‘good people’ post this morning, for my energy seems to have flown the coop and I just really want to go to bed.  But then … I saw a post from our friend Bee Halton and something about it looked familiar.  The light bulb in my head came on!!!  I wrote about these people!  So, I searched my archive and sure enough … I wrote about them in 2018, a quirk of fate brought them together, and today, they still spend every Thanksgiving together!  So, I decided to redux my original post with an update from Bee’s!  This is truly one of the most heartwarming stories …


From my 2018 post titled Saturday Surprise — A Nice Story And A Cute Video …

Every now and then it happens that Saturday Surprise collides with Wednesday’s Good People and the result is … awesome, heartwarming and fun!  Today is one of those times!

The story begins at Thanksgiving 2016, when Wanda Dench made a text-a-boo-boo … or an erroneous text sent to the wrong person.  The story is told in the following text messages … the recipients of the original text inadvertently included Jamal Hinton, a complete stranger …

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Wanda DenchJamal HintonAnd so it happened that 17-year-old Jamal went over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house for dinner! Wanda-JamalSince the heartwarming story first broke Dench has named Hinton as her ‘honorary grandson,’ which is quite fitting.  The two stayed in touch, and last year, he was invited back for Thanksgiving 2017.   In an interview with the Arizona Republic last year Dench said, “It was really nice having everybody here, we got to laugh about last year and reminisce about how it all blew up on our phone and how I had to change my number. We had a laugh and a good time.”

The two have stayed in touch, and ‘Grandma’ Wanda even sent Jamal a couple of gift cards at Christmas last year.  And this year … well of course Jamal was invited back and his girlfriend too!

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text-6Hinton finds the dinners and his newfound family meaningful. “The world is becoming a better place than it used to be. With all the Donald Trump going on and all the racial comments going on, it’s kind of good to see there’s still good people out there.” Dench gave her new ‘grandson’ an open invitation for all future Thanksgivings at her house, so this is a tradition likely to live on for a lifetime.

A small thing?  Perhaps, but … seems to me that a whole lot of these “small things” add up to a whole lot of good in the world, a whole lot of heart, a whole lot of love.

Okay, so that was nice and heartwarming, but the holiday season has now officially kicked off and I think we need to start the weekend with something funny, don’t you?  So, you know what that means … a funny animal video!!!  I considered taking the cute animal video out for this reprised post, but thought, what the heck … we can all use a bit of a smile anyway, right?

Have a great weekend, folks, and don’t let the crowds crush you if you go shopping!  I went shopping from the comfort of my own chair, in my jammies, while sipping coffee last night!  Keep warm & safe!


And the update from Bee’s Good News TuesdayI Absolutely Love This Story!  Thank you, Sweet Bee!!!

Saturday Surprise — Uniquely Interesting Critters!

I thought we could all use a short break from the world of news & politics this morning, so I popped over to Bored Panda to see if I could find us some cute critter fun, and LO & BEHOLD!  I found some!!!  Just a few cute critters with some unique traits and habits to, hopefully, bring a smile to your face before you start out on your weekend chores that might include a bit of Christmas shopping this weekend.

Some of these are animals you’re already familiar with, but have unique features or traits you may not have known about, while others are likely new to you!

Here’s Twinzy, A Half-Sider Budgie, Half-Siders Are Budgies With A Condition Called “Chimerism” Which, In Genetics, Means That It’s The Result Of Non-Identical Twins Fusing Together Early In Their Development To Become One!

Although It Takes Newborn Elephants Only A Few Hours To Master Standing And Walking, They Need 1 Year To Figure Out How To Use Their Trunks To Drink Water

The Resplendent Quetzal Is A Sacred Symbol In Mesoamerica And Guatemala’s National Bird, Pictured On The Country’s Flag. They Favor Eating Fruit In The Avocado Family, Eating Them Whole Before Regurgitating The Pits. Essentially Making Them The Avocado “Gardeners” Of Their Forest Habitats

The Maned Wolf Is The One Of Largest Canid In South America. This Species Is The Only Member Of Its Genus. Although Technically, It Is Not A Fox Or A Wolf. Its Long Legs Are Likely An Adaptation To The Tall Grasslands Of Its Native Habitat

The Wild Iberian Lynx Population Has Increased Tenfold In The Last Two Decades, From 94 Individuals In 2002 To 1,111 Lynxes In 2021, A True Success Story Owing To Conservation Efforts And Public Awareness. Listed As “Endangered”, The Lynx Lives In Fragmented Wilderness Areas In Spain And Portugal

The Olinguito (Bassaricyon Neblina) Made Global Headlines When Scientists Announced Its Discovery In 2013, A Notable Event As This Was The First Carnivore Described In The Western Hemisphere Since The 1970s. It Is Native To The Forests Of Colombia And Ecuador. This Is A Photo Of A Baby Olinguito

The Indian Giant Squirrel Can Grow To A Full Length Of Over A Metre

Blue-Footed Boobies Have Bright Blue Feet Due To Their Diet, And The Level Of Brightness Shows How Healthy The Bird Is To Their Mate!

Bat-Eared Foxes Sleep Mostly During The Day In Their Burrows And Emerge At Dusk To Feed Mainly On Termites And Other Insects. As You Can Guess, They Have An Incredible Sense Of Hearing

Gray Wolves Eating Blueberries; Wolves Actually Covet Berries And Other Fruits, During Their Growing Seasons Berries Can Make Up 80% Of Wolf Packs’ Diet

Hey, maybe that explains why I love berries — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries — I always knew the wolf was my spirit animal!!!

The Appaloosa Is An American Horse Breed Known For Its Distinctive And Colorful Leopard Complex-Spotted Coat. Each Horse’s Color Pattern Is Genetically The Result Of Various Overlay Patterns On One Of Several Recognized Base Coat Colors. This Particular Appaloosa Is Sporting A Peacock-Leopard Coat

This Is A Baby Giraffe, Giraffes Are The Tallest Mammals On The Planet. Baby Giraffes Usually Will Be Able To Stand And Walk Within 5 Hours Of Being Born. They Stand Most Of Their Life And Need Very Little Sleep. Plus They Have The Most Adorable Babies

The Tufted Coquette Is A Hummingbird That Breeds In Eastern Venezuela, Trinidad, Guiana, And Northern Brazil. The Male, Pictured Here, Has A Rufous Head Crest And A Coppery Green Back With A Whitish Rump Band That Is Prominent In Flight. Tufted Coquettes Are Known For Being Quite Approachable

The Male Of The Purple-Gold Jumping Spider (Irura Bidenticulata) Is Recognized By Its Striking, Shiny Magenta-Gold Patterned Body. It Was Discovered In 2011 In Southeast Asia. The Purple-Gold Jumping Spider Typically Measures 5–6 Mm. It Is Not Considered Harmful To Humans

Costasiella Kuroshimae (Leaf Sheep) Are Capable Of A Chemical Process Called Kleptoplasty, In Which They Retain The Chloroplasts From The Algae They Feed On. Absorbing The Chloroplasts From Algae Then Enables Them To Indirectly Perform Photosynthesis

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today, folks.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Just Watch!

Oh what a week it’s been!  Election results slowly trickling in, frigid temperatures in parts (including my own) of the U.S.  It’s time to kick back and relax, and I’m here to help you start the weekend off with something fun!  My friend Herb sent me this and I think you’ll have a smile on your face once you watch it!

Now go have a fun weekend … probably the last peaceful one for a while, since next weekend is Thanksgiving weekend, which kicks off the holiday chaos of baking, shopping, mailing, wrapping, writing cards, decorating, etc.  Bah Humbug.

Lots O’ Funny Critters!

I have been at a bit of a loss for motivation to do Saturday Surprise posts of late, so I haven’t.  But last week, this years Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards finalists were announced, and that’s always fun stuff!

The annual Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are fun, sure, but there is a deeper purpose behind the project.  The project began when co-founder Paul Joynson-Hicks, a professional wildlife photographer who was living and working in East Africa at the time, was going through some of the photos he had taken and found himself laughing at a few of them.  At that point, he realized that the humour of these photographs was both entertaining and a means to engage people with the threats facing these same animals.  Says Mr. Joynson-Hicks …

“Our world is extraordinarily beautiful and interconnected, yet the human race is doing its best to over-exploit and damage it. Issues of wildlife conservation and sustainability are gaining momentum globally, yet the messages and images tend to be negative, depressing and enervating.”

If you have time, check out their website … you’ll find not only lots of fun pictures from the current competition, but from years past as well, and a number of ideas for things you can do to help protect and preserve wildlife!  And now, for the fun pictures!

“Talk To The Fin!” By Jennifer Hadley — This was shot on the Falkland Islands. These two gentoo penguins were hanging out on the beach when one shook himself off and gave his mate the snub.

“Tight Fit!” By Mark Schocken — I was going to see and photograph this eastern screech owl nest in a local park in Florida. One morning, a few days before the two owlets fledged, one owlet tried to squeeze into the nest hole with Mom, maybe to see the outside world for the first time. It was hilarious and I was glad I was there that morning to photograph it. The moment lasted only a few seconds as Mom didn’t seem very happy with the arrangement. Check out the expression on her face.

“The Wink” By Kevin Lohman — An American Red Fox casually walked up to the edge of the woods and sat down, then turned around and gave a wink. Moments later, this sly fox disappeared into the trees.

“Mum Life” By Sophie Hart — A baby long-tailed macaque clings on to its weary mother.

“Pegasus, The Flying Horse” By Jagdeep Rajput — Actually this is Indian Saras Crane attacking a Bluebull from behind, the bull happened to venture close to Saras’s nest, where in, it had laid a single egg. The Saras Crane, which is tallest flying bird in the world, opened it’s huge wings and attacked the bull from behind, driving the bull away from the nest.

“Curtain Call II” By Dave Shaffer — This little guy had a blast playing with a stick . I also had a very good time watching him .

“Fight Back” By John Chaney — This salmon decides to punch the bear in the face rather than be lunch.

“Not So Cat-Like Reflexes” By Jennifer Hadley — This 3 month old cub and his sibling were in a tree. The other lionesses were in other trees and on the ground. He wanted to get down and walked all over the branches looking for the right spot and finally just went for it. It was probably his first time in a tree and his descent didn’t go so well. He was just fine though after landing on the ground. He got up and ran off with some other cubs.

“Jumping Jack” By Alex Pansier — A red squirrel jumps during a rainstorm, so you can see the drops flying around.

“Maniacs” By Saverio Gatto — Lappet-faced Vultures in display.

“What Shall I Write Next” By Torie Hilley — Most bear cubs do cub-like things. Like, follow mom around, nurse, and be generally cute. But this cub took it to another level of cuteness. She found an eagle feather and started to play with it for a good 10 minutes! As she danced and rolled with the feather, she held it in her mouth for a moment – as if she was thinking of what to write next! Cuteness overload!

“Say Cheeeese” By Arturo Telle Thiemann — A couple of triggerfish looking into the camera, captured at the Azores.Even they may look funny, these fish can be quite aggressive. In this case they didn’t attempt to bite me, but the domeport of my camera housing ended up with some scratches… life is hard… at least it wasn’t me who was hurt.

“Rushing Little Owl Fledgeling” By Shuli Greenstein — I was told that I can find a lot of little owls in the Judean Lowlands in Israel. So, I went on a journey early in the morning and really, I found a lot of little owls standing on the ground, on stones, near the nest and on tree branches. Suddenly, my eyes were caught by two fledgelings that were playing with each other on the ground. One of them crossed my field of vision. I started taking pictures in sequence and this is what came out…

“It’s All Kicking Off!” By Michael Eastwell — Apart from its beauty, Cape Hillsborough is renowned for its resident kangaroos and wallabies. I visited the area for three consecutive sunrises, but it was on my final morning that I captured this beautiful spectacle, two wallabies playing / fighting on the beach as the sun burst through the surrounding clouds.

“I’m Gonna Strangle You!” By Emmanuel Do Linh San — I was following a group of meerkats on foot in the Kalahari Trails Game Reserve, in South Africa. Most individuals, including adults, were in a playful mood. It gave me a unique opportunity to capture very interesting and dynamic interactions between some members of the group. In the photo that I have selected, there is no aggression between individuals, but rather an interaction that reminds us of humans when one of your friends jokes about you and you pretend to strangle them and, in response, they open their mouth like a simpleton.

“Uncomfortable Pillow” By Andrew Peacock — These elephant seal weaners were practising their jousting skills for many minutes before they collapsed in exhaustion. One looks to be resting far more comfortably than the other!

“Monkey Wellness Centre” By Federica Vinci — Walking near a cambodian temple where groups of wild monkeys lived, I came across this scene: a wild monkey in total relax, while its friend was taking care of it.

“Misleading African Viewpoints 2” By Jean Jacques Alcalay — Hippo yawning next to a heron standing on the back of another hippo.

“Stop And Stare” By Andy Evans — After hearing Borneo’s borders would reopen again in April 2022 I couldn’t wait to visit and photograph some of the weird and wonderful wildlife on the island. After 2 years with no tourists it seemed like the wildlife was just as shocked to see me as I was to see them. This young proboscis monkey watched in amazement as I cruised by on the kinabatangan river.

Saturday Surprise — A Trip to Hong Kong!

I didn’t do a Saturday Surprise post last week, and while I had one started for this week, I simply deflated — lost my motivation.  But, I have it started and you’ll see it sometime soon … I promise!  Meanwhile, though … I dug back through my archives for one of my more popular Saturday Surprise posts and came up with this one that I think you’ll love!  I first posted this in July 2018, so for many of you it will be a first anyway, and the rest of you can pretend you’ve forgotten it and enjoy it again!


A ‘feel-good’ story crossed my path today, and it led me on a journey.  I came back to get you all and take you with me on a journey to … Hong Kong!!!  We are going to Hong Kong to see the Dragon Boat races and to meet one very special team of racers who I think will really impress you!  Don’t worry, you’ll be back in time for whatever is on your Saturday docket.dragon-boat-carnivaldragon-boat-carnival-2.jpgThe Dragon Boat Festival takes place every year on the 5th day of the 5th Lunar month, normally in May or June in our calendar.  This year it was on June 18th. The festival is best known for its colourful Dragon Boat races where teams of paddlers race the long narrow boats accompanied by the beat of the drum down to the finish line.  The drumbeat is to keep members of the team in time.dragon-boat-1.jpgAccording to one popular legend, the Dragon Boat Festival has its origins in the old man Qu Yuan, an official that was so disillusioned with his country’s government that he drowned himself in protest by jumping in the river. The locals rushed to the site, paddling on their boats and banging drums, gongs and everything they could find to scare away anything that might harm Qu Yuan in hopes to find and rescue him but they were not successful. They also brought offerings of rice to calm the old man’s spirit. The pilgrimage with the long boats, the drumming and the rice evolved into massive and colorful events and the dragon boat races and competitions that characterize the festival of today.dragon-boat-2The races last for three days, and every year, thousands compete.  This year, though, was special for there was a new team on the block called the Darkness Fighters. Their mantra is “Challenge the impossible.”  You see, this team is special for they are all blind and most are well beyond retirement age!  For some, it is their first time competing in any organized sport. Darkness Fighters-1.jpg“I’m really happy to be here today because I didn’t think I would be able to do things like this,” said Tsang Jau Rung, 72, who began losing her sight 16 years ago and joined the Fighters this year.

“It is a group effort,” said Annie Wing Chee Lo, 60, who steadily lost her sight over the past 10 years. “It requires our utmost focus and perseverance for us to do well.”Darkness Fighters-2.jpgFor the blind paddlers the race has its own sensory delights: the thrum of the drum, the spray of the water, the crowd’s cheers. By the end of the race, they are sopping wet, exhausted and beaming with pride. They placed fifth out of eight teams.

“We were all on point with our rhythms and didn’t mess one another up,” Mr. Lau said. “That alone is a win for us.”

Now wasn’t that a fun journey with which to start the weekend?  I hope you all enjoyed the trip to the Dragon Boat Festival and enjoyed meeting the Darkness Fighters!  Have a safe and wonderful weekend!dragon-boat-3

Saturday Surprise — LOVE!

For today’s Saturday Surprise, I wanted something more than cute animals, beautiful birds, or fun street art.  Those are all good, all fun, but I know that angst levels are high right now all over the world.  The war in Ukraine, the upcoming election in the U.S., the chaos in the United Kingdom … these are the times that try people’s souls, as has been said before.  So, I went in search of … and found … something to not only warm the cockles of your hearts, but remind us all that we can learn a hell of a lot from the animal kingdom if we just look … and listen.  This story is a simple one … love.  It might just be the best 4 minutes you’ll spend this weekend.

Saturday Surprise — Animal Myths

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  In all honesty, I almost took a pass on Saturday Surprise this week, for I really wasn’t in the mood for light-hearted or humorous.  But then, I came across this post I did just over four years ago back in 2018, and thought this a perfect time to redux it!  The topic, of course, is animals, but not just cute little animals.  Today we shall look into some of the ‘myths’ surrounding animals, like an elephant’s memory, or the sneakiness of weasels, and find out, as Paul Harvey used to say, “… the rest of the story”.

The story, from ThoughtCo, is titled …

12 Animal Stereotypes and the Truth Behind Them

… but in the interest of time and space, I am only sharing 7 of the 12.  However, you can see the whole lot here if you feel so inclined!


Are Owls Really Wise?OwlFolks think owls are wise for the same reason they think people who wear glasses are smart: unusually big eyes are taken as a sign of intelligence. And the eyes of owls aren’t only unusually big; they are undeniably huge, taking up so much room in these birds’ skulls that they can’t even turn in their sockets (an owl has to move its entire head, rather than its eyes, to look in different directions). The myth of the “wise owl” dates back to ancient Greece, where an owl was the mascot of Athena, the goddess of wisdom — but the truth is that owls aren’t any smarter than other birds, and are far surpassed in intelligence by comparatively small-eyed crows and ravens.


Do Elephants Really Have Good Memories?elephant“An elephant never forgets,” goes the old proverb — and in this case, there’s more than a bit of truth. Not only do elephants have comparatively bigger brains than other mammals, but they also have surprisingly advanced cognitive abilities: elephants can “remember” the faces of their fellow herd members, and even recognize individuals whom they’ve met only once, briefly, years before. The matriarchs of elephant herds have also been known to memorize the locations of watering holes, and there is anecdotal evidence of elephants “remembering” deceased companions by gently fondling their bones. (As to another stereotype about elephants, that they’re afraid of mice, that can be chalked up to the fact that elephants are easily spooked — it’s not the mouse, ​per se, but the sudden wriggling movement.)


Do Pigs Really Eat Like Pigs?pigWell, yes, tautologically speaking, pigs really eat like pigs — just as wolves really eat like wolves and lions really eat like lions. But will pigs actually gorge themselves to the point of throwing up? Not a chance: like most animals, a pig will only eat as much as it needs in order to survive, and if it does appear to overeat (from a human perspective) that’s only because it hasn’t eaten for a while or it senses that it won’t be eating again any time soon. Most likely, the saying “eats like a pig” derives from the unpleasant noise these animals make when chowing down their grub, as well as the fact that pigs are omnivorous, subsisting on green plants, grains, fruits, and pretty much any small animals they can unearth with their blunt snouts.


Are Weasels Really Sneaky?

There’s no disputing that their sleek, muscular bodies allow weasels to slip through small crevices, crawl unnoticed through underbrush, and worm their way into otherwise impenetrable places. On the other hand, Siamese cats are capable of the same behavior, and they don’t have the same reputation for “sneakiness” as their mustelid cousins. In fact, few modern animals have been slandered as relentlessly as weasels: you call someone a “weasel” when they’re being two-faced, untrustworthy, or backstabbing, and a person who uses “weasel words” is deliberately avoiding stating the unvarnished truth. Perhaps the reputation of these animals derives from their habit of raiding poultry farms, which (despite what your average farmer might say) is more a matter of survival than of moral character.


Do Crocodiles Really Shed Tears?crocodile.jpgIn case you’ve never heard the expression, a person is said to shed “crocodile tears” when he’s being insincere about the misfortune of someone else. The ultimate source of this phrase (at least in the English language) is a 14th-century description of crocodiles by Sir John Mandeville: “These serpents slay men, and they eat them weeping; and when they eat they move the over jaw, and not the nether jaw, and they have no tongue.” So do crocodiles really “weep” insincerely while they eat their prey? Surprisingly, the answer is yes: like other animals, crocodiles secrete tears to keep their eyes lubricated, and moisturization is especially important when these reptiles are on land. It’s also possible that the very act of eating stimulates a crocodile’s tear ducts, thanks to the unique arrangement of its jaws and skull.


Are Sloths Really Lazy?sloth.jpgYes, sloths are slow. Sloths are almost unbelievably slow (you can clock their top speeds in terms of fractions of a mile per hour). Sloths are so slow that microscopic algae grows in the coats of some species, making them virtually indistinguishable from plants. But are sloths really lazy? No: In order to be deemed “lazy,” you have to be capable of the alternative (being energetic), and in this regard sloths simply haven’t been smiled on by nature. The basic metabolism of sloths is set at a very low level, about half that of mammals of comparable sizes, and their internal body temperatures are lower as well (ranging between 87 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit). If you drove a speeding car straight at a sloth (don’t try this at home!) it wouldn’t be capable of getting out of the way in time — not because it’s lazy, but because that’s how it’s built.


Are Hyenas Really Evil?hyenaEver since they were cast as the heavies in the Disney movie “The Lion King,” hyenas have gotten a bad rap. It’s true that the grunts, giggles and “laughs” of the spotted hyena make this African scavenger seem vaguely sociopathic, and that, taken as a group, hyenas aren’t the most attractive animals on earth, with their long, toothy snouts and top-heavy, asymmetrical trunks. But just as hyenas don’t really have a sense of humor, they aren’t evil, either, at least in the human sense of the word; like every other denizen of the African Savannah, they are simply trying to survive. (By the way, hyenas aren’t only negatively portrayed in Hollywood; some Tanzanian tribes believe witches ride hyenas like broomsticks, and in parts of western Africa they’re believed to harbor the reincarnated souls of bad Muslims.)


And that is all I’ve got for today, folks!  I hope you all have a terrific weekend!happy dog Saturday