Being Drawn to Magnetic Island

Welcome to Magnetic Island!
Welcome to Magnetic Island!

After a short stint in Cairns, I headed a few hours south to Magnetic Island to do a helpx. I met up with a super nice couple who have their own businesses. Joan has a nice boutique shop called Koko Blue near the ferry terminal and Colin has a Hop on Hop off bus tour that takes people around the island and talks about the history and wildlife. He took me out on it my first day here and I really enjoyed it. The island is about 52 square km with 27 square km of that being protected national park land. There are many species of birds here (I often see white cockatoos flying over in many pairs) and allegedly about 800 koalas live here as well (haven’t seen one yet). As for the ocean critters, there are blue marlin, black marlin, sail fish, mackerel, wahoo, tuna and of course sharks. I saw some cute blue spotted stingrays in the shallows at Geoffrey Bay yesterday.

IMG256
Flying from Cairns to Townsville with islands off the coast
Townsville with Magnetic Island to the west
Townsville (or “Brownsville” as they call it) with Magnetic Island to the west

I’m living in Joan and Col’s nice Queenslander home on a quiet street, just a 7 minute walk to the beach at Nelly Bay. These homes are built up high to catch the breeze and usually have a wrap around verandah and is a fully open house with super high ceilings. It’s never been hot in here, although we are heading into winter. The nights can get a bit chilly but refreshing…perfect weather to sleep in. The curlews often wake me up during the night with their blood curdling screams. Cute guys with big eyes! Ever so slightly annoying when you’re sleeping though.

Curlews
Curlews

Maggie Island, as I had mentioned before, was named by Captain cook 200 years ago and 1 day before my birthday, “Magnetical Isle” due to the compass on his ship doing strange things as he passed by the island. Nothing has been proven to suggest the cause of his failure came from the island, but nevertheless, the name stuck. It’s a beautiful place, with only about 2000 permanent residents. It’s big enough to not feel trapped and has 2 grocery stores (both a bit over priced as one would imagine). The beaches are clean, hardly anyone on them and lined with trees for shade if you want it.

Nelly Bay
Nelly Bay

IMG_0047

IMG_0035

There are quite a few bays here, one of the busier is Horseshoe Bay where they have a stinger net out during the season. They drag a net through the water (outside of the net, of course) and when none show up for 5 days they say the season has ended. I’ve gotten stung by something each time I go in, but I don’t think they were jellies. The pain subsided quickly.

Horseshoe Bay with stinger net set up
Horseshoe Bay with stinger net set up

There are rock wallabies here and at one spot near Geoffrey Bay you can feed them, then head over to the wall and look down on the colorful fish that are in a protected area. You can snorkel here and there are buoys that show you where things of interest are. God forbid you go further out to the orange buoys…those have shark bait on them. Don’t ask me why they do that…seems strange to have them so close to the snorkelers.

Rock Wallaby on Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island
Rock Wallaby on Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island
Fish on Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island
Fish on Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island

During the bus tour we went to this magnificent little patch of forest and was surprised to see thousands of blue tiger butterflies doing their thing. I don’t think I’ve seen this many in the wild at once…EVER. It must have been breeding season. I couldn’t stop long enough to check for eggs on leaves/vines, but I’m sure they were there.

Blue Tiger butterflies
Blue Tiger butterflies

On the same path were these tiny lizards who would flick the end of their tails at you.

We drove around a neighborhood and saw a couple of neat houses. This one, a grand Queenslander style newly built.

Beautiful new Queenslander style home
Beautiful new Queenslander style home
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef

The highlight of my day was going out to the reef again. This time with Adrenalin out of Townsville, on a smaller boat with a fraction of the people on it and to a reef were you couldn’t see any other boats in sight! It was so beautiful out there and we spent a good 5 hours in this one spot. The time flew by. After lunch, I went back in and to my surprise was surrounded by about 50 small black cuttlefish! They were very sweet and didn’t float away from me. We got comfortable enough with each other that the group turned into 100 and we all kept our eyes on one another. Some were within arms length from me and others below me, some to the side…they were EVERYWHERE! It was such a thrill to see these little families. The smallest was 2 inches and the mom and pop were about 5 1/2 inches. Their chromatophores were doing their thing, changing color from dark to light as they would sometimes speed off. Often, it reminded me of the pattern on the back of a hummingbird. ¬†I’m so happy I got to see them, after so many cuttlebones on the beaches ūüė¶ ¬†Unfortunately there were no cameras to rent on board and I really could’ve used one today.

There were nurseries of tiny fish hovering by their parents; the coral was healthy and colorful; there were midnight blue starfish scattered around and electric blue fish that looked like they had just been painted. It was a fantastic day, the weather was perfect and the sea was calm. It’s amazing to be swimming in mother nature’s aquarium, one simply has to come and do it in person instead of opting for a TV show about it. My suggestion would be to get away from the crowds, no matter the cost!

IMG_0114

 

 

 

Advertisements

Don’t Say, “But it’s a dry heat!”

IMG_1289

Forecast: Hot.  Damn hot.IMG_0771

Tempe, Arizona in June. ¬†106+ everyday. ¬†No sign of letting up. ¬†I feel like I’m living inside of a 1500 watt hairdryer. ¬†I didn’t think I could even find a reason to do a blog entry until I went out on a bike ride and saw all of the fruit trees here! ¬†I would never have guessed. ¬†Cactus, yes. ¬†Orange, grapefruit, pomegranate and kumquats? ¬†No.
Yeah, it’s still in the hundreds at 7, but at least the sun isn’t burning holes through my body, so that’s the only logical time to go. ¬†I’m pretty sure I’m not a vampire, but the jury is still out on that one.

In addition to that, my dad came to visit for a couple of days and got me out of the house and into my element: ¬†Animals!! ¬†Ahhhh, what a nice break to see ‘my people’ at the Butterfly Wonderland¬†and the¬†Wildlife World Zoo. ¬†They got their own personalized tour through one of the largest butterfly houses in the U.S. with me as their guide. ¬†There was a nice 3D movie about the monarchs and then we saw all of the chrysalis hanging in the windows (there were a TON of different species) then a walk through the large enclosure.

IMG_0798

IMG_0793
Huge moth the size of your hands with a lizard face on the wing!

There were the ones I knew of…postmen, julia’s, morphos and caligos in addition to others I hadn’t seen during my stint in Panama. ¬†The one thing that WAS missing were the munch marks on all of the foliage. ¬†I was looking for signs of eggs, baby caterpillars, etc. ¬†I was SUPER impressed by the fact that I found NONE which meant one of two things: ¬†1) people collected eggs constantly (although I didn’t see anyone doing it) or 2) there were NO host plants there at all!? ¬†I didn’t even see many butterflies mating which was unusual. ¬†I also didn’t see any of the plants that I knew to be hosts to the morphos, caligos and julia’s so that led me to believe that maybe there WERE no host plants there, so I asked. ¬†Assumption correct. ¬†This means that they were not raising butterflies at all, instead just buying the chrysalis, waiting for them to hatch and then releasing them into the house. ¬†None mated, no egg laying and this was their final destination. ¬†Sad for me to see that life did not go on here. ¬†A new concept to me, but understandable, nonetheless. ¬†They did a good job there keeping it neat and humid, but I felt a lack of ‘living’ to put it bluntly. ¬†I guess it really is too much work, as I had found during my time of raising them. ¬†For the price they were charging for admission, they could easily afford new pupae and the salaries for the workers. ¬†I felt good about what I had done in Panama and it was sort of an emotional day for me being around the butterflies.¬†IMG_0814

After that, we went to the Arizona Biltmore hotel which was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of my favorite architects.  I just found out we share the same birth date and happened to be there ON that day!

IMG_0850

It was a beautiful place with outstanding visual impact. ¬†You can’t help but feel at ease when you are looking at the structures and design. ¬†It obviously wasn’t one of these places where they lower the walls and floors in with cranes, complete with the bible in the desk drawer. ¬†This was someplace special and I wanted to linger as long as possible. ¬†We sat near the bar and celebrated my birthday with a lovely lemon/lavender martini.

IMG_0899

Some VERY cute bunnies hopped around outside enjoying the green grass and I just wanted to scoop them up and hug them for hours, but they were faster than me, so a picture had to suffice.

IMG_0851

IMG_0854

 

IMG_0875

 

IMG_0900

IMG_0901

 

The next day we headed out to the wildlife park which I was a bit hesitant about visiting at first. ¬†I’m typically quite upset¬†about visiting a place that has animals in cages, but left without remorse. ¬†I felt the area was ¬†large for most of the animals and the workers did a good job of keeping the cages clean and the animals fed. ¬†Rarely did I feel the enclosures could have been improved upon. ¬†I will admit, however I felt some of the animals were stressed and unhappy.

IMG_0972

There were some nice aquarium setups with fish I caught¬†in Guyana (and some I wasn’t able to see there like the arapaima). ¬†These were small compared to what they can get to. ¬† There were a lot of reptiles, primates and birds as well. ¬†Luckily we went on a Monday so there weren’t many people there. ¬†We also ate at Dillon’s which sported a huge aquarium where sharks swam while you enjoyed some BBQ. ¬†So without further ado, I will load the pictures below.

IMG_0927

IMG_0951

IMG_0931

Sloppy wet kisses all over your fat cheeks!
Sloppy wet kisses all over your fat cheeks!
Admit it, you can love this face!
Admit it, you can love this face!
Huh?
Huh?
What?
What?
IMG_0970
“Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut!”

 

Baby spider monkey clinging onto mom
Baby spider monkey clinging onto mom

IMG_0988

White tiger eye
White tiger eye

IMG_1006 IMG_1011

IMG_1023

 

IMG_1049

 

IMG_1057IMG_1070

Baby munching on grass
Baby munching on grass

IMG_1096

IMG_1099

IMG_1116

Wollongong shark
Wollongong shark

IMG_1125

It's official: stingrays are squishy!
It’s official: stingrays are squishy!
Red belly piranhas
Red belly piranhas

IMG_1161

Moray eels at least 4' long
Moray eels at least 4′ long
Ahhh so comfy!!
Ahhh so comfy!!

IMG_1192

Cuddling sharks are SO cute!!
Cuddling sharks are SO cute!!
NOT photoshopped! Humid aquarium with poison dart frogs
NOT photoshopped! Humid aquarium with poison dart frogs
This is a fish...I can't make this stuff up, folks!
This is a fish…I can’t make this stuff up, folks!
Nautilus floating effortlessly
Nautilus floating effortlessly
"Did ya hear the one about the priest that walked into a bar?"
“Did ya hear the one about the priest who¬†walked into a bar?”
Penguins ALWAYS have fun!
Penguins ALWAYS have fun!

Finally, to round out the socializing, my friend Dahnelle is in the final stretch of moving across the country and stopped in to see me for a couple of hours.  We went to The Watershed for an early happy hour and caught up over some drinks.

IMG_1305

I’m here for another month and will get my fill of cactus before heading back down south to be where I feel I really belong!

IMG_0768

 

Step Into My Office

My kids confined in boxes but being fed well and they get a daily cleaning.
My kids confined in boxes but being fed well and they get a daily cleaning.

I don’t believe I’ve given you a peephole into my world over here. ¬†I now have a zero minute commute to work which is great! ¬†I open my front door and there I am! No more traffic, lights, groggy people or parking lots. ¬†Above is the lab I go into first thing in the morning to check on the larvae, eggs and pupa that are growing in those boxes and cups. ¬†The table is where I clean boxes, change out food, transfer new kids to their respective boxes or remove pupae for hanging.

The lab i live in for a few hours a day
The lab I live in for a few hours a day

So when I get up and walk out my door, work awaits me.

My house
My house

Here are the grounds:

Looking toward my house from the yard
Looking toward my house from the yard
Casita where the goodies get made during the day
Casita where the goodies get made during the day
Side of the flight house and into the driveway with mountains in the background
Side of the flight house and into the driveway with mountains in the background
Walking in from the parking lot, cafe on left, Flight house on right
Walking in from the parking lot, cafe on left, Flight house on right
View of the mountains from the parking lot
View of the mountains from the parking lot

It’s a big yard, takes a while to water and tend to. ¬†But I saw a cute iguana today by the gate all fat and happy.

Out watering today I saw this little fatty iguana in a tree!  He must've been reall famous because he got down and tried to sneak away from the paparazzi that was me.
Out watering today I saw this little fatty iguana in a tree! He must’ve been real famous because he got down and tried to sneak away from the paparazzi that was me.

Then Fred, our dog, decided to hang out all day. ¬†We often find him at the bar or hanging on main street around the action. ¬†Although we never really SEE him in action, he seems to thrive in chaos. ¬†He is typically horizontal and has really bloodshot eyes. ¬†I saw him trying to pee against a pole the other day and he just stumbled over and didn’t even try. ¬†We’re convinced he has a beer habit. ¬†Or worse.

This is how he looks at any given moment of the day.
This is how he looks at any given moment of the day.

He’s spoiled now (he was a street dog) since I gave up part of my foam mattress topper. ¬†Now his shoulders don’t hurt as bad as laying on hard ground!

Our overly relaxed dog.  We're pretty sure he's an alcoholic.
Our overly relaxed dog. I said we should name him Bed or Dead, not Fred.

Looks comfy, huh?  Spoiled boy.

Speaking of being spoiled, I’m starting to delve into making gelato. ¬†The Sicilian type uses cornstarch which is kind of like eating frozen hot fudge. ¬†Wow…it’s good. ¬†Very creamy texture…silky, almost. ¬†Then I made some the normal way with egg yolks and I did a couple things wrong in the cooling process. ¬†I could feel the ice crystals in it so I’m being FORCED to make it again. ¬†DARN!!! ¬†I did make some mango yogurt popsicles tonight which tasted good in the un frozen form. ¬†We’re hoping these things will sell better than the baked goods.

Mix Mix Stir Stir Married Young It's All a Blur.  These are espresso coffee grinds with the cream, milk and sugar.
Mix Mix Stir Stir Married Young It’s All a Blur. These are espresso coffee grinds with the cream, milk and sugar.
Add that yummy chocolate
Add that yummy chocolate
Mmmm chocolate espresso gelato.  My newest adventure.
Mmmm chocolate espresso gelato. My newest adventure.
Put it in an ice bath minus the ice because i didn't have much of anything
I put it in an ice bath minus the ice because I forgot to make some, so it was just cold water.

You have to mix it up every 45 min or so to keep ice crystals from forming. ¬†I don’t think I mixed it enough times and it didn’t cool down quickly enough, ¬†Lesson learned…next time I’ll do better!

Speaking of chocolate, I’m SUPER excited because I noticed our cacao tree has little flower blooms on the trunk! ¬†That means cacao (chocolate) pods!! ¬†How awesome would that be!?! ¬†Now we’re talking organic chocolate making. ¬†I think I’ve found my calling. ¬†ha!

OOOO we have blooms on our cacao tree which could mean cacao pods one day!!  It's better to fall in chocolate than in love.
OOOO we have blooms on our cacao tree which could mean cacao pods one day!! It’s better to fall in chocolate than in love.
Cutest little flowers EVER
Cutest little flowers EVER

And since we’re already in the flight house, might as well show you what’s going on there too!

I was collecting larvae on the senna and didn’t even notice the two Sulfur’s sitting right in front of me. ¬†Man, nature is freaky. ¬†They really blend into that leaf. ¬†Their babies are a bright yellow then turn green later on.

Sulfer's blending in well on the senna.
Sulfer blending in well on the senna.

Our little morpho’s are growing still:

baby morpho larvae
baby morpho larvae
Me moving the baby caligo larvae to the banana plant with Orlando, the tour guide.
Me moving the baby caligo larvae to the banana plant with Orlando, the tour guide.

Here I am in action moving some baby caligo larvae out into the real world.  We ended up moving them again though because the wind was too rough on them.

So at the end of the day, this is what I see before going into my house:

Whispy clouds with high winds
Whispy clouds with high winds

More Weird Stuff and a Snake!

Blue Morpho Larvae
Blue Morpho Larvae

We had a butterfly expert come by to consult for a day and he found some neat stuff we overlooked in the flight house! ¬†Above is a large morpho larvae. ¬†He also peered into my cup ‘o Caligo eggs and said matter of factly, ‘Some of those are going to hatch tomorrow’. ¬†I’ve been waiting quite a while now and was starting to get worried. ¬†Sure enough, he was right! ¬†We had about 15 and today we had 6. ¬†More pencil looking larvae.

Caligo larvae
Caligo larvae

Yesterday, we found a LARGE caligo larvae that looks like an alien

Large caligo larvae
Large caligo larvae

then some saddleback moth larvae.  I call them the miniature schnauzers.  They have stinging hairs so best not to touch them.  They turn into quite an ugly moth, but sure do make up for it in the larvae stage!

P1040008 P1040001 P1030997

I don’t think I ever posted the picture of the dead caligo I found where it best showed its owl face:

P1030927

Then my Valentine’s present was finding this sweet little snake in the cafe (luckily after closing time!). ¬†I have no clue what kind it is and at first he got defensive and flattened out his neck. ¬†I calmed him down and then he seemed to play dead, but I think he was just dizzy. ¬†We talked for a while and I let him go in the empty lot next door. ¬†What a cutie!!

P1040025 P1040024