Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

The dinosaur museum in Goseong (and more)

December 7, 2011

Hi there!  Long time, no read.

I attempted the Nanowrimo project last month (the goal is to write 50,000 words- a novel – in one month) and didn’t get very far.  Still, that was the number one thing I was to do, so if I wasnt doing it, I couldn’t do things lower on the list either.

Anyway, I’m back.

December third was our wedding anniversary so like any middle-aged couple with a child, we did child-friendly stuff.  Heck, we all loved the dinosaur museum!

I sure didn’t love the trip to the museum.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been suffering from headaches occurring roughly every other day.  First, I went to a dentist but he found no problems.  Then I went to a hospital and I learned my cold has progressed to sinusitis and the infection in a sinus cavity has been causing my headaches.

On the drive to the museum, my head began to pound.  In addition to the anti-viral pills, my doctor had also given me Tylenol to help until the infection subsided.  I’m not the smartest man in Korea, but I knew better than to take pain-killers then drive in heavy traffic on unfamiliar roads. So, I suffered.

The tiny bit of blue paint scuffed onto the bumper of my car came from a low-speed accident.  Of course, this is the back bumper: I am in the clear, responsibility-wise.  In a tunnel, in heavy traffic, a car stopped.  The next two struck.  I stopped in time.  The truck behind me didn’t.  Not the smartest man, but in the top 40% of drivers (five cars and drivers, two blameless)!

I probably scared the very concerned driver who struck us.  I stumbled out of the car holding my head and looking at him from my left eye.  Anyway, it was a low-speed impact and we took some pictures and told the guy not to worry.

Then we got to the museum.  The little guy was out of control and could hardly breathe he was so excited.  We climbed some stairs and he looked left at some dinosaurs and right at some dinosaurs and was briefly rooted as he didn’t know which way to go.  Finally he went left.

After checking out the T. rex, we headed toward the museum proper.  The location is fantastic on it’s own, as you can see below.

The museum itself is good for all ages and includes a 3-d video for children.  My camera takes terrible photos indoors, so let me skip to what I found to be the best part.

I repeated the number “one hundred million years” to my son, but he didn’t seem so thrilled.  For me, though, these prints, the actual prints of actual dinosaurs from so long ago were more interesting than the models inside.

There is a ‘cafeteria’ onsite, but it didn’t have much to offer.  Bring your own food!  The little guy was energetic and uncomplaining through the whole visit although he didn’t eat much.

As we headed to the car, we found this roller-slide.


I would say this wasn’t the highpoint of the visit – nothing can beat dinosaurs – but it was a highpoint.

The little guy went up the escalator and down the slide many times.


Around four, the place was getting cold and we were ready to head home.  If I had been feeling better and the weather warmer (it was as good as one could expect for December) we could have stayed much longer.  I want to go back and hike along the shore more.

We spent the night at the in-laws farm and did some farm work on Sunday.  I also found this spider skeleton.  A photo of a skeleton is appropriate in a post about a museum, right?

I knew spiders have an ‘exo-skeleton’ but wasn’t aware of the internal frame that is clear in the photo.  Cool.

dragonfly eating a damselfly

October 27, 2011

Well, that’s what I think it is.  Click to biggify.


It was pretty cool to see the dragonfly go by and notice it seemed to be carrying something.  Luckily it landed nearby and I was able to study it briefly.

I was nervous about photographing it as it is on the windowsill of a bathroom at my university.  Not the sort of place I want someone looking out of and seeing a prof with a camera!

This time of year, I see many preying mantids.  They are easy to catch and seem to be at the end of their lives.  This dragonfly was still pretty spry, though.

Feral Cats

October 7, 2010

A co-worker recently posted a notice in the office of a baby cat near his apartment and asked whether anyone would be interested in taking it home.

I love animals and grew up with there always being a dog or a cat and often both in the home.  Yet, I didn’t even bother to bring the subject up with my wife.

If we opened our apartment to cute little furry critter, we would do it again for the next and the next…

I honestly – and sadly and despairingly – wonder if poison or traps or other lethal tools should be used to clean out the feral cat populations in Korea.  I guess that in Busan they are doing no harm – I am sure I could think of some way they might be- but the constant sight of them just fills me with pity.

Yonhap News has an article describing feral cats and a man who has been photographing them for years.  Much of the article describes Korea’s changing relationship with it’s cats, but there is also discussion on what to do with them:

Controversy over treatment of cats often makes headlines. In 2006, residents of a Seoul apartment culled scores of stray cats by driving them into the basement of their building and cementing over all exit holes.

Last year, the local government of Geomun Island off the southwestern coast moved to cull hundreds of feral cats overpopulating the fishing region, a controversial decision that was changed at the last minute to neutering them.

Park Yong-choon, an animal management official at the Seoul Municipal Government, said there is a sharp divide in animal treatment between young and old.

From 2008 the city government adopted a new policy to control the number of stray cats in the long term by having them trapped, neutered and released instead of being culled. Nevertheless, some elderly residents have complained of their unwanted presence.

“Young people have a strong idea that street cats should be protected, but the elderly don’t want the cats roaming the streets. They ask us why we bother saving them,” Park said.

Man!  Some Seoulites trapped cats in the basement of their own apartment building, then cemented the windows closed?  That’s monstrous!  Those bastards.  And crazy bastards at that: it wouldn’t be any better, but slightly more sane, if they chased the cats into a distant building.  The basement of their own building; that’s messed up.

The officials at Geomun Island might be in the right, though.  Although Korea has it’s own small mammalian predators, the idea of an island being overrun by cats makes me think of The Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand:

our land reserves are still threatened: apart from some islands where pests like rats have been removed, our land reserves are still threatened by rats, cats, stoats, goats, deer, pigs and possums. Add to that the pest from wasps and other insects, and our wildlife is still threatened. Constant culling, hunting and trapping of introduced species is necessary inside our land reserves.

Neutering the cats may remove the problem as well.

So, culling cats in Busan may not be necessary or compassionate, but culls elsewhere may well be.

If you want to save a feral cat or two, Brian in Jeollanamdo has investigated the problem and has at least three (possibly dated) posts: 1, 2, 3.

Cabbage and frogs

October 3, 2010

I’m back early from a trip to the farm.  Yesterday, I helped weed a cabbage patch.  It was a great job, because I was given a sharp hoe and could stand most of the time.  I just reached under the cabbage and scraped the soil around the side, scything several weeds down.  There were some bugs in the weeds and a few leaves looked well-gnawed, but the cabbage had defenders as well:

There was another problem facing the cabbage.  I think it is called ‘clubroot‘:

The symptoms first noticed will be a decline of the plant including yellowing of leaves, and a tendency to wilt during hot days. Examination of the roots will reveal swollen, club-shaped roots instead of the normal fine network of roots.

The photos at the linked site above don’t really resemble what I saw.  At the farm, the roots were more spongy than they appear at the website.  Here are a few roots we broke off the plants:

This problem may be the answer to Robert Neff’s question, “Where’s the kimchi?

UPDATED SEVERAL DAYS LATER (OCT 6):  Man, I had no idea we were picking gold!  Damn that clubroot – it may have cost us millions!  Millions!

Recent new reports on cabbage prices:

Korea Herald

Korea Times

Dong-a Ilbo

English Chosun

Joongang Ilbo

Vampires in Peru -they don’t sparkle

August 18, 2010

When I read in the Korea Herald that four Peruvian children had died from vampire bat attacks, I figured it was another example of bad reporting.  However, it appears the report is correct although the bats are not the ultimate cause of death:

Rabid vampire bats have attacked more than 500 indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon, according to foreign news reports.

At least four children are believed to have died in an outbreak of the disease, the Peruvian Health Ministry said Sunday.

Rabies.  Those poor bastards.

From CBS News:

The authorities are trying to battle an outbreak of rabies spread by the bat bites, and have given vaccines to more than 500 people attacked by the bloodsucking mammals.

I gotta say, I learned a lot in preparing this short post. Mostly, I learned, once again, not to jump to conclusions.  Much to my surprise, I might not, in fact, be smarter than everyone writing this story.

As my second example, I thought vaccines only work if given before infection.  In this case, if given before being bitten.  Apparently not (From the CDC):

Rabies vaccine is given to people at high risk of rabies to protect them if they are exposed. It can also prevent the disease if it is given to a person after they have been exposed.

I was also surprised that a vaccine actually existed for rabies.  I had thought treatment was entirely post-infection.

Eagles and magpies

August 10, 2010

There is a large sea eagle that lives, or at least hunts, near our apartment.  Like all such birds, it is beautiful and majestic and a symbol of power.  Still, it’s relations with other birds is a strong parable for ‘bigger isn’t always better’.  In the following photos, you can see a magpie torment and chase away the much larger eagle.

Oh, click to embiggen any of these photos.  The quality isn’t fantastic; sorry ’bout that.

First, we see two eagles sitting on a light-tower and a nest at the bottom left of the tower cage.  In Canada, osprey make similar nests and they are known as ‘sea-eagles’ so it must be the eagle’s nest.  Okay, that’s terrible logic and I don’t know what kind of nest magpie make, either. August is late in the season so I suspect it is an empty nest, whoever the original inhabitants were. Oh, apparently falcon nests look like this.

Anyway, along come the magpies.

And soon, the eagles are off.

It’s a little amusing seeing crows do this, then seeing sparrows chase away the crows in the exact same fashion.


Finally, a just barely pre-typhoon picture.

Busan Aquarium

June 6, 2010

On Saturday, I took the little guy to the Busan Aquarium with one of his friends and his family.

I’m still new to wordpress: I had trouble adding text after inserting a group of photos.  commentary either with or after the photos.  General comments about the aquarium are at the end of the post.

Hmm.  That’s not exactly what I wanted, but it does look good. Left-to-right, top-to-bottom, here are some descriptions.

1) We arrived early and walked through the Haeundae Sand Sculpture Festival.

2) The little guy loves doing this pose these days and it is infuriating!  Also in the pic are two of his friends.

3) The fish and other animals were great,but so were the railings!  It was hard to pull the boys away to see more fish.

4) The Moon jellyfish are in a cylindrical tank and I shot the boys through the tank.

5) Cast of a fossil shark jaw.

6) Just outside of the Aquarium proper is a 3-D video ride.  Here are the boys after their ride.  We saw a ‘Happy Feet’ based video, but earlier the little guy and I saw a dinosaur video. The video is 3-d but also, you are sitting on a hydraulically controlled platform that can lift and drop and tilt.  You really feel like you are moving.  In the dinosaur video, we felt like we were in a helicopter and the dinosaurs were all around.  It was terrifying for the little guy.

7) Swimming at Haeundae beach.


The aquarium is well-done but not large.  Don’t come to Busan just for it.  Still, it is right on the beach and makes an air-conditioned break from the hot sun.

The little guy and I have season passes (46,000 won each for Koreans, 40,000 won for foreigners). The passes came with two extra free tickets which we gave to the family that came with us.  After two visits, and including the price of the free tickets, we are already ahead from using the passes.

I have not tried the ‘shark dive’ experience- you can dive in the main shark tank, full of large grey nurse sharks- but I think I will try it.  The nurse sharks here do not look like the nurse sharks I was familiar with in Tobago, where I dove studying the coral reefs as part of my Biology degree.

Haeundae Beach looks great and was about at parity between foreigners and Koreans on Saturday.  The water was plenty warm enough and i hope to return several times before the August crowds (Haeundae is the busiest beach in Korea but I suspect will not be crowded until the school break.  Koreans seem to think the water is only warm enough between August 1 and August 31). A friend told me about Songdo Beach, which is apparently clean enough to swim in (compared to the much closer DaDaeBeach which looks clear enough, but is in a bad location, pollution-wise), so I will have check that one out.

Viagra- a tool for conservation of species

April 5, 2010

I am not referring to our species, although I guess I could be.

No, the species that viagra will protect are those previously used in oriental medicines.

Now, I suppose that a few oriental medicines have real and measurable benefits.  I suspect that as more medicines tested in double-blind studies become available, fewer and fewer oriental medicines will be sought.

From the Korea Times (in an ‘https:’ format as they often and inexplicably are):

The oriental medicine market has faced setbacks over the past few years and observers are pointing their fingers at the rapid spread of erectile dysfunction treatment drugs as one of the major causes.

According to the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) and related parties, Sunday, about 71,000 tons of materials used in traditional medicines were traded here last year, the smallest annual volume since 2004.

Experts pick up a couple of reasons why the fever for alternative medicines, which had been the go-to solutions for diseases for so long here before the advent of Western products, is falling.

One is demographical – accustomed to Western-style medication and surgery, young Koreans do not like the old-fashioned remedies involving herbal medicine and acupuncture.

…and they do like medicines that actually have more than a placebo effect.

…In other words, erectile dysfunction drugs are regarded as substitutes for traditional oriental medicines. Economically speaking, when inexpensive substitutes are widely available, the demand for the original products goes down and so do their prices and trade.

The solution is that the original products should cut prices to compete with the cheap substitutes or somehow differentiate themselves. The problem; neither of these are easy for the oriental medicine industries, analysts point out.

I suspect oriental medicine could easily compete with western medicine – all it needs to do is show it’s effectiveness in blind- and double-blind- tests.  Is this really so hard for the author, Kim Tae-gyu, to admit?

Anyway, I am happy with the news for two reasons.  First, as must be clear, it is good to see ‘woo’ and superstition be left behind.  Second, although I don’t know what ingredients go into oriental impotence medicines, I suspect that some  endangered animals will now be somewhat less endangered.  As oriental medicine loses it’s glamour, perhaps the harvesting of bear bile will become less common as well.

Bad news for beer drinkers

March 18, 2010

I don’t know if beer changes the smell of your sweat, although I do know it changes the smell of your breath.  One way or another, it attracts mosquitos:

[researchers had] 43 men in Burkina Faso to drink either a locally brewed beer or tap water. They found that the mosquitoes were more attracted to the beer drinkers than the water drinkers.

From Plos One, via Freakonomics.

Tests need to be made to see if Rum and Coke has the same effect.  Or Gin and Tonic (that would be ironic, and poetic!).  Or, Soju!