Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mile-High Marvels

Denver, the Mile-High City, is located at an elevation of exactly one mile above sea level. Back when I was seven and when my parents and I lived in the neighboring city of Boulder, I would frequent Denver. I remembered the awe and thrill I experienced when I first encountered the magnificent dinosaur fossils at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (back then known as the Denver Museum of Natural History). While the ATS 2015 conference, which I was attending there, did not leave me with much time to explore, I knew I had to go back and meet my prehistoric friends again! In the end, I managed to make brief trips to the aquarium, the zoo, and of course the museum of nature and science. One of the most surreal experiences during the trip was dining at the aquarium restaurant where you can relax and watch shoals of fish swim around colorful corals while you relish a generous serving of their kin on your plate. 

Dining on fish and with fish at the aquarium

Macadamia-crusted trout and some creamy hot chocolate. Note: Colorado has some of the tastiest trout in the country. 

Downtown Aquarium

Aquariums are always fun. The Downtown Aquarium in Denver was no exception. The fabulous dining experience aside, the exhibits were pretty cool. I spent a while enjoying the view from inside the shark tunnel. As always, I spent time gazing at jellies and marveling at brightly colored corals. 

The shark tunnel

The giant ray looks down upon me with what looks like a happy face.

A ray and a blue tang fish swim through a rocky underwater arch (center) while a green Moray eel lurks in one corner (top right). 

A green moray eel lounges near the glass window not paying much heed to fascinated onlookers.

A fossilized mosasaur from the Cretaceous

A popeye catalufa with mohawk-style fins

Horizontal anemone and its image on the water surface

Upside down jellies. Simply gorgeous!

Colorful mini reef dwellers

Colorful corals

Vibrant corals reflect their bright hues off the water surface.

Lionfish gang up!

Lionfish loner swims past corals.

Diaphanous moon jellies.

A giant Pacific octopus sits put on the glass wall.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Colorado is a rich source of fossils spanning several geological eras. I wish I had a whole day to spend at the fabulous natural history museum in Denver. I visited only a handful of their exhibits and found each one of them utterly phenomenal. I only had time to cover Prehistoric Journey, one of the Wildlife Exhibits, the relatively tiny Egyptian Mummies exhibit, Gems & Minerals, and lastly the special exhibit titled "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids." 

A panorama of the dinosaur hall captured most painstakingly to ensure an unobstructed view during peak hours!

Fossils from the Miocene. Left: an elephant-like Gomphotherium, middle: a club-tailed tortoise, Hesperotestudo, and right:  a hippo-shaped rhino, Teleoceras

A Dimetrodon  to the left and another "mammal-like reptile" to the right. Until this trip, I used this think of Dimetrodon as an early dinosaur species. Turns out my childhood book "The First Dinosaurs" got it wrong, strictly speaking!

A full capture of the long-necked long-tailed Diplodocus.

A band of prehistoric mammals
I have seen wildlife exhibits in a lot of places. But the ones here were particularly memorable with the soothing lighting and the serene, uncrowded landscapes.

Polar bears preying on a seal. It reminded me of the first episode of the BBC Life series where the hungry mamma bear roams around in vain after a long dreary winter looking for a seal of two to prey on and feed her little cubs with.
Walruses in the twilight.

Pronghorns, one of the fastest runners. Although cheetahs surpass their top speeds, pronghorns are known for their ability to sustain their high speed.
Alaskan caribou graze on brightly colored lichens.

A Barong, a Balinese mythic lion at the Mythic Creatures exhibit.

Denver Zoo

I spent an hour or so here on a day when it was cold and overcast. A lot of the zoo animals had retreated to their warm shelters. What I did see in abundance were hordes of Canadian geese! They were everywhere -- be it the rhino pit or the flamingo pond. They came in all kinds -- loners, small families, extended families -- you name it! Thankfully though, the "anatine" abominations aside, I did have some fun experiences. I got to see a Madagascar aye-aye in its nocturnal habitat. I have marveled at the aye-aye ever since I read Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See and watched the followup BBC series by the same name. As a perpetual fan of orangutans, I was most amused when I found the zoo's orangutan cozily wrapped up in a white bed sheet catching a nap and keeping warm, not unlike a human on a cold lazy afternoon! I also saw a most curious (and slightly nutty) lioness hugging the tall grasses like they were a teddy bear (and possibly chewing at them too). Soon after, the lioness engaged in a brief skirmish with a fellow lioness. While the aye-aye could not be photographed in the dark, I did managed to capture photos and a video of the huddled up orangutan and the feline brawl.

This peacock was strutting around everywhere. In fact it was at the parking lot while I was on my way out!


The straw that did not break the camel's back

A baby elephant who was hyper energetic

Happy feet and thoughtful face.

This bald eagle caught on the telephoto lens was preying on what looked like a rat.

A restless hornbill captured using the telephoto lens.
The napping orangutan

That's the nutty lioness that was engaging in "grass-huggery" and "grass-munchery".

This lion, kingly as it was, chose one of the tallest peaks to perch on. 

Last, but not the least, here are the skirmishing lionesses

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