Sunday, March 3, 2002

They Passed!

To our considerable relief, we learned Friday from our local vet that Mitzi and Astra passed the rabies antibody test. This means that we can now start the multi-stepped process for transporting them (and us) home. Ironically, the registration tags for both of them arrived on the same day that we received the news so, just as they've become legitimate canine and feline members of San Mateo County, we're about to commence the task of turning them back into Aussies. Ah well, at least the new registration tags make cool clinking sounds when Astra and Mitzi move. Debs thinks that this sound makes Mitzi sound like a large dog. This goes well with her throaty bark and with Mitzi's own delusions of her size and import, but sits incongruously with her 5kg weight and 25cm stature.

It's Sunday today, as it was the last time I blogged, but it's getting warmer and sunnier. Spring is not far away and the squirrels have returned to our backyard, though neither Mitzi nor Astra seem interested. Astra, I guess, sees squirrels as rats of a disturbingly large size - a bit like the large 'mouse' that Sylvester used to take on in the Looney Tunes cartoons (that was actually a baby kangaroo) - and Mitzi, I suppose, can't find them on her list of known enemy species and so ignores them.

Onward then, to today's daytrip :

Coyote Point Museum - Feb 21

About 15 minutes southeast of us sits the Coyote Point Recreation Area. It includes a large area of parkland, a golf course, and the Coyote Point Museum, our destination for today. From the outside the Museum resembles every other zoo, nature park and nature museum I've ever visited. Uniformly the buildings are squarish in design, of wooden construction and painted a dark brown that is reminiscent of rich compost (perhaps that's the idea).

Our first experience in the museum was a touring exhibit entitled "Bats in My World", which included a variety of interactive stalls and booths designed to educate visitors about the unique characteristics of bats. The web site describes the charm of bats thus: "They fly with their fingers, eat half their weight in bugs every night, see with their ears, and sleep upside down." which sounds, to me, like the voiceover for a new sitcom promo.

Suitably educated, we moved through to an exhibit of nature photos. Many of them were undoubtedly exceptional - shots of forests, elephant seals and otters - though the asking price of US$235 per print still seemed a little steep. We marvelled at a few of the photos but kept our credit cards locked away.

Next followed a series of exhibits each depicting a different eco-zone - Riparian, Grasslands, Chaparral, Broadleaf Forest, Redwood Forest and so on - and linked by a zig-zagging ramp which ran up the middle of a vast, multi-levelled room. Much emphasis was placed on the effects, which were consistently negative, of human habitation on each ecosystem. Towards the top of the room a few displays held live creatures, in one a staring and motionless owl, in another a disconcertingly alive tarantula. Amongst all members of the arachnid family, the tarantula must surely win the "Most likely to cause death by heart attack in the victim" category. They just look threatening.

Finally, we visited the most enjoyable parts of the museum : its aviary and its 'wildlife habitats'. In the latter we saw a coyote, a bobcat, various snakes and frogs, a fox, an otter and a badger with an extraordinary habit of sticking its snout up against the edge of the glass door to its enclosure and then expelling air in sort of a reverse-sniff. I don't know what benefit the badger derived from this behaviour nor what he hoped to achieve by it, but it certainly served to startle and then bemuse we passers-by.

Coyote Point Museum Aviary The aviary housed a blue heron, egrets and a variety of small birds (see photo at right) none of which could be tremendously happy about having a coyote for a neighbour, an animal whose dietary habits I've seen described thus "Coyotes are versatile in their eating habits and eat just about anything" (for more details see The University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web.)

Two Planes on approach to SFO At 5pm the museum closes but the grounds stay open. So, we walked a little bit and then watched the planes as they approached nearby San Francisco airport. As you can gather from the photo at left, the airport's parallel runway system was in-use on the day and planes were therefore permitted to approach two-at-a-time, side-by-side. Landings of this type are permitted only when visibility is good as the two runways are only 750ft (about 230m) apart. It certainly makes for spectacular viewing.

In the next post, I'll cover our excursion to yet another museum, this one the only one of its kind in the world.

Originally posted by TC

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