Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Whole Alligator - Grilled and Sous Vide

I went by the office of Exotic Meat Market recently and they had just received a shipment of whole alligators. I was able to look through their stock and get the smallest one they had, weighing 5.88 pounds, and it fit in my freezer which had been a concern. 

Squirrel and Bug, my granddaughters, were going to be visiting and I hoped the alligator would be a hit with them. The last time I visited them at their home we cooked lobster and dungeness crab and I wanted a fun addition to our cooking experiences together.
Squirrel and Bug with the small alligator. 
We were impressed with the many small and very sharp teeth.
I've read that the best alligator meat is in the tail and it was fun to examine a whole alligator and see how the meat was proportioned. Even in this small alligator, I was surprised at how much meat was in the tail and how easy it was to cut up. I cut the tail into sections, then cut the meat off the bone in strips and put them in vacuum sealed pouches for the sous vide. The only add-ins for the sous vide were a little bit of oil and salt and pepper. I also cut off the four legs and put them in vacuum sealed bags for the sous vide. 
There is actually quite a bit of meat on this small alligator. 
Upside down.
The tail, where the majority of the meat is found. 
A section of the tail cut into thinner pieces. Another section of the tail is below.
Some of the tail meat in a vacuum sealed bag for the sous vide.
I knew from past experience that alligator is very mild and is ruined if over-cooked. So I put the sous vide at 55 degrees Centigrade and cooked the meat for just under an hour. When finished I cut the tail into bite-sized pieces. 
Part of the the tail sliced into bite-sized pieces. 
Part of the tail (left), the two hind legs, the end of the tail and the two front legs, all out of the sous vide vacuum-sealed bag. I added cayenne pepper for a little bit of heat. The meat was very moist and just fell off the alligator legs. 
I put the rest of the carcass on my gas grill, with olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked it for a short time. The grill added some smoky flavor and crispy pieces. When it was finished, the carcass was easily cut into sections with kitchen shears. 
A portion of the carcass that was grilled and cut up into pieces. 
The grilled carcass was good. We were able to pick up the pieces with our hands and gnaw the meat off the bones. It was a nice alternative to the sous vide. 

I was blown away by how good the sous vide cooked meat was. The tail sections had the look, texture and plump pop of lobster tail. It is very mild, had no gaminess at all, and has a taste profile somewhere between chicken and lobster. Bug, my youngest granddaughter, couldn't get enough, she kept going back for more. I too, was taken by it. Even Rachael and Nate who have been vegan for about three months ventured to try it and had multiple helpings. 

I'm not sure if small alligator is more tender than large alligator, or if this was just fresher than prior alligator I've had, but the meat was fabulous. The small alligator was also easy to carve up for cooking, much more so than other carcasses I've worked with. And because it is not gamy at all, it does not require any brining. 

For anyone venturing into exotic meat for the first time, this would be a wonderful starter. It is easy to prepare, easy to cook, tastes great and has a wonderful exotic look. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Quick Trip: Minnesota and Wisconsin

Judy found some cheap tickets for a flight from LAX to Minneapolis/St. Paul, where her sister lives, so we decided to take a short trip to Minnesota to visit her and also to spend some time in Minnesota which neither of us had ever visited, except for layovers in the airport. We also decided to make a quick trip into Wisconsin which Judy had never visited. This is a summary of that trip and links to our posts that relate to it. 

We flew out of LAX just before 8:00 p.m. and did not arrive in Minneapolis until 1:18 a.m. We got a hotel near the airport with a shuttle so we would not have to bother Judy's sister that night and so that we could get to bed as soon as possible after arriving. We also arranged to pick up a rental car at the airport the next morning. 
We met Judy's sister at the Mall of America at 10:00 a.m. when it opened the next morning. We took about an hour to walk through and get a sense of it, then, with Judy's sister joining us, drove to nearby Fort Snelling State Park, where we saw amazing open space right next to the Twin Cities, which included beautiful lakes and wild turkeys. Then we headed for Minnehaha Park where we visited the beautiful Minnehaha Falls, itself within an urban setting, and ate at the nearby Sea Salt Eatery which had pretty good seafood offerings. That afternoon we visited the Basilica of St. Mary, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and then met our brother-in-law at the restaurant, Piccolo, a favorite of Andrew Zimmern. That night we stayed at Judy's sister's home in Anoka, right off the Mississippi River. 
     Snelling State Park and Minnehaha Falls  (Judy)
     Eastern Wild Turkey  (Bob)
     Sea Salt Eatery - Minneapolis   (Bob)
     Minneapolis and St. Paul: A Tale of Two Cities and the Basilica of St. Mary  (Judy)
     Basilica of St. Mary  (Bob)
     Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (Judy)
     Minneapolis Institute of Art (Judy)
     Piccolo - Minneapolis  (Bob)

The next morning we visited the St. Paul Farmer's Market in downtown, with both Judy's sister and brother-in-law, then the Cathedral of St. Paul. Afterwards we drove by the Minnesota Capital Building which was closed for renovations, then visited the Hmongtown Marketplace where we had lunch, another favorite place of Andrew Zimmern. That afternoon we spent several hours at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus, then drove to Wisconsin where we visited Caddie Woodlawn Historical Park, then Legacy Chocolates in Menomonie for some dessert. Later that afternoon we drove back to Anoka where we visited some local sights and spent the night at Judy's sister's home.
     St. Paul: Farmers' Market and Hmongtown Marketplace (Judy)
     Cathedral of St. Paul - Minnesota  (Bob)
     Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum (Judy)
     Wisconsin: Caddie Woodlawn Historical Park (Judy)

Sunday morning we went to an LDS sacrament meeting in Anoka, then headed off on our own for the North Shore Drive along the west shore of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota. It was a drive of 175 miles, just under three hours, to get to Duluth, the beginning of the North Shore Drive. From Duluth we started up Hwy 61, which is the North Shore Drive, and drove 20 miles to Knife River and stopped at Russ Kendall's Smokehouse for smoked fish, another of Andrew Zimmern's favored places to eat. We drove another 20 miles to Gooseberry Falls State Park where we saw multiple waterfalls on the Gooseberry River. Another 5 mile drive took us to Split Rock Lighthouse where we toured the lighthouse and got a dramatic view from the edge of a cliff of Lake Superior. Then we drove another 15 miles to Tettegouche State Park where we took a 3 mile round trip hike into 60 foot high High Falls, where we looked at it from the top on the south side, crossed a bridge to the north side, then followed a trail down to the bottom of the falls. We finished the day by driving 50 miles to Grand Marais where we ate at the Angry Trout Cafe and stayed in a Best Western right on the shore of Lake Superior.
     Russ Kendall's Smokehouse - Knife River, MN  (Bob)
     Angry Trout Cafe - Grand Marai, MN  (Bob)

We got out early for a drive to the Canadian border, 44 miles north. Grand Portage State Park is on the U.S. side of the border. We took a 1 mile round trip hike into High Falls, the highest waterfall in Minnesota with a 120 foot drop. We drove back to Grand Marais, then headed west of Lake Superior toward Eagle Mountain in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness. We hiked 7 miles round trip to the top of Eagle Mountain, the tallest point in Minnesota, in a constant drizzle. The highlight of our hike was seeing a gray wolf in front of us on the trail before it loped off and disappeared into the trees. Then the long drive back to Minneapolis for our flight home the next morning. We stopped briefly at Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth for a sandwich for dinner, drove across the Aerial Lift Bridge, and back, then continued on. We stayed at the Super 8 Hotel near the airport that night, the same one we stayed at on our way in.
     Eagle Mountain and Northeastern Minnesota Waterfalls (Bob)
     Minnesota Varying Hare  (Bob)
     Northern Waters Smokehaus - Duluth, MN  (Bob)

We were up early for our 7:00 a.m. flight back to LAX the next morning. This was the perfect time to visit Northern Minnesota. The weather was relatively cool, so the mosquitoes were gone and the autumn colors were in full swing, with beautiful swaths of reds and yellows

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep - Washington

Sam and I experienced an extended "National Geographic" moment last week that will be tough to beat. We spent about 45 minutes watching 3 groups of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, totaling 40 or more.
Close-up of ram.
The focal point of our viewing was a group of about 7 rams in rut. I saw and heard them butt heads 15 times or more.  
One of my favorite photos: two parallel rams. 
They were so occupied with each other that they hardly seemed to take notice of us. 
Different head poses. The size differential between the young ram and his elders is substantial. This young ram split off and is not a part of most of my pictures. 
I was visiting my son, Sam, who lives outside Leavenworth, Washington. We drove out to Chelan for lunch, then followed the north side of the Columbia River back toward Wenatchee. About two miles east of the Rocky Reach Dam, which forms Lake Entiat on the Columbia River, Sam spotted a group of bighorn sheep off the side of the road. We pulled over and watched a group consisting of one ram and at least seven ewes as they walked up the side of a mountain and then over the ridge. 
Four ewes scramble up the side of the mountain.
The ram lagged behind.
The ewes waited for the ram, then scrambled up and over a ridge.
We got in the car and drove a half-mile to a mile and I spotted a group of about seven rams in the foothills. They were on the other side of a fence about 100 yards or more away. We walked up to the fence and took some photos, then found a gate and I ventured in closer toward the bighorn sheep. I could hear an occasional crack and echo and realized they were in rut, but they were grouped together so closely that we had a hard time seeing the rutting behavior. 

I moved in closer, then caught my breath as one ram headed my direction, then a second, then the whole group of seven. The thought occurred to me that I ought to run, as these guys had heads lowered, noses jutting forward, and looked like they were in a mood to tangle. I wasn't sure if they were intentionally heading for me and I knew I would not fare well if I took one of those head butts. 
One alone is grand. A group of them is a feast for the eyes.
Autumn colors added to view.
This ram, like the other smaller ram, separated from the rutting group and headed up the mountain.
For a moment I caught their attention and they stared at me.
More varied poses. 
They pulled up short of me, then congregated, and started rutting behavior in earnest. I was about 30 yards distant with a 500 mm lens. They were fascinating to watch, grouped constantly, jostling and nudging, at times so close together I was reminded of a a rugby scrum. 
A ram rugby scrum. I am reminded that the Highland Rams, a Salt Lake City high school, have a great rugby team. 
More scrum, but now more engaged, heads butting against bodies.
They smelled each other's rear-ends, nudged and butted their heads against each other's bodies, kicked out with their legs, extended their noses forward and up, which I started to recognize as behavior that preceded a head-butt, then would extend up on their hind legs and then drop down and rocket forward into a head-crushing blow against another ram. Now the term "battering ram" has more meaning for me. 
These two separated themselves, then turned on each other. 
Nose extended forward and head tilted back. The hair on the back of the neck stood up. 
Smelling noses preceding a head butt.
Smelling and nudging.
Body blows.
Part head, part body blow.
Another body blow.
Head butt to the side.
Kicking and head butt.
Raised up, just a moment before a charge.
Two back on hind legs, ready to uncork on each other.
Raised on back legs, hair on the back of the neck standing straight up, testosterone filled the air. 
A clash: one went low and the other went high. 
High and ready to charge.
Crashing heads.
Crashing heads.
Glancing head blow.
The punctuating sound of butting heads had the woody sound of an ax striking a tree, but was much louder. Two or three tired or lost interest and wandered off, up-hill. The remaining rams continued their rutting behavior. I remained as still as I could, but did move around a bit and did not seem to concern them. 

I could have watched for hours, but the trickling rain was soaking me and we had to get Sam back for work. I took 564 photos and regretted afterwards that I'd not taken any video footage. About the time we were ready to leave, Sam pointed out a large group of bighorns off to the east, mostly ewes, but some rams, spread out over the lower reach of the mountain.   
10 sheep are in this picture, but an additional two were cropped out. 
12 sheep are in this picture, but an additional 3 were edited out. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Travel: Wildlife

I love animals. In our travels, we have sometimes specifically scheduled wildlife viewing opportunities, but more often,  we have just stumbled on wildlife unexpectedly. In this post I am going to share some of my favorite spots for viewing wildlife and some of my favorite wildlife encounters. 

We've visited Yellowstone NP and Teton NP several times, but it has probably been 20 or more years ago. Yellowstone is one of the premier animal viewing venues in the world. We've seen moose, elk, bighorn sheep, bison, black bears and one grizzly bear in Yellowstone. I would like to get there again some day. 

In 2010, I visited an area in and near southeastern Joshua Tree National Park, a drive of about 1 1/2 hours from our home, at two week intervals, to see how the desert changed over short periods of time. I made seven trips there that year and have subsequently been back several times. I fell in love with the ever-changing desert flowers and found some spectacular wildlife, including a desert tortoise, chuckwallas, spiny lizards, zebra-tailed lizards, desert iguanas, leopard lizards, a Sonoran gopher snake and a speckled rattlesnake.
Desert tortoise in Joshua Tree NP.
Leopard lizard
Black-tailed jackrabbit
Desert iguana
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, in southern Arizona, next to the Mexico border, is my favorite desert. We drove through it for the first time when our children were young and I've subsequently been back seven or eight times. This is a land of huge cactus, jagged mountains and stunning plains. Unfortunately, Mexican border immigration issues have turned it into somewhat of a battlefield and it is no longer possible to do overnight backpacking there. One of my favorite wildlife sightings ever, a gila monster, was found on a hike with scouts up Estes Canyon. In a hike with our young children, near Alamo Canyon, we walked toward an area with circling turkey vultures and stumbled on a huge group of javelina. I've seen multiple western diamond back rattlesnakes there, and one or two of those sightings were the only time I've ever really felt fear in seeing a rattlesnake. They were big and aggressive. Yet on another occasion with my two boys, backpacking in Alamo Canyon, we watched with wonder just a few feet away as a western diamondback slid along seemingly oblivious of us and swam across a small pool of water, another one of my favorite wildlife sightings. 
Gila monster in Estes Canyon
Western diamondback in Alamo Canyon
Turkey vulture in Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Over the years I've gone out to the desert in the evening near Palm Springs (Whitewater Canyon, Snow Canyon and Verbenia) to look for snakes. I've done it with my children and with friends. I've encountered red diamond rattlesnakes, sidewinder rattlesnakes, rosy boasglossy snakes, long-nosed snakes, a lyre snake, a shovel-nosed snake, a banded gecko, toads and tree frogs.
Sidewinder rattlesnake in Snow Canyon.
Red diamond rattlesnake
Over the course of about eight years I visited Colorado every summer, usually with my boys, to climb fourteeners. We had a spectacular visit to the top of Mt. Evans where we got very close to mountain goats and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. We saw moose and ptarmigan near and on Mt. Bierstadt and  lots of ptarmigan on Mount Oxford. I saw an endangered boreal toad and a beautiful pine grosbeak near Mt. Yale and had a great view of a mountain goat and an encounter with a gray jay near Quandary Peak. I saw sooty grouse and a gray jay with Judy on Mt. Elbert and we've seen pronghorn antelope and mule deer in and around Buena Vista.
Mountain goat kid on Mt. Evans.
Rocky mountain bighorn sheep on Mt. Evans.
Boreal Toad near Mt. Yale.
Pine Grosbeak near Mt. Yale.
White-tailed ptarmigan on Mt. Oxford.
Gray Jay near Quandary Peak.
Mountain goat near Quandary Peak.
Pika near the summit of La Plata Peak.
Swainson's hawk in Colorado
Hiking in our local mountains I've encountered desert bighorn sheep on Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. Baldy multiple times, a bear on Mt. San Gorgonio, deer on Mt. San Jacinto and speckled rattlesnakes, collared lizards, horned lizards and a red racer in the area of Mission Creek Canyon and Whitewater Canyon.
Desert bighorn, Mt. Baldy
A young great horned owl
The hike to Mt. Timpanogas, just outside Provo, Utah, is a place where you can regularly see mountain goats and moose (near a lake on the Timpooneke Trail) on the same hike.

A hike up Henry's Fork to climb King's Peak, the tallest mountain in Utah, with my youngest brother, yielded great encounters with moose: large ones with huge antlers, cows and some babies. We also saw deer, a sharp-shinned hawk, pika, marmots and a coyote. 
Young moose in Henry's Fork, Utah
Least chipmunk in Henry's Fork
On drives up the California coast we've seen elephant seals, harbor seals, sea lions, cormorants and pelicans. On one of those drives we took kayaks up the Elkhorn Slough near Monterey with our children and saw sea otters and harbor seals.
California brown pelicans near San Simeon, California.
Elephant seal near San Simeon.
When the kids were young we took a trip to Washington State and British Columbia. We circled Olympic National Park and stopped at many of the attractions, such as Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rain forest and Lake Quinault. In Lake Quinault we had what Judy describes as our "National Geographic moment" when we were walking carefully out into a field with tall grass that included a herd of Roosevelt elk. The elk in front of us and elk in other areas started to bugle back and forth to each other. It was haunting and beautiful. A magical moment for us as a family. Later we saw a black bear and black-tailed deer as we enjoyed seeing our first temperate rain forest. 
Roosevelt Elk near Lake Quinault.
Florida is a treasure trove for wildlife, particularly birds, turtles and alligators. Everglades NP, especially the Anhinga Trail, which we visited three times in the two days we were there, was a great place to see alligators, anhinga, black vultures, turtles and herons. Shark Valley is also a good place to see wildlife, walking or on the tram, but it is more crowded than the Anhinga Trail.
Anhinga in Everglades NP
Black vultures near the Anhinga Trail.
Florida Redbelly Turtle near Anhinga Trail.
American alligator in Everglades NP.
Great blue heron in the Everglades.
Wood stork in the Everglades.
White ibis in Everglades NP.
Merritt Island NWR, southeast of Orlando on the Atlantic Ocean, is a great spot to see herons, ospreys, ducks and other swamp birds, and alligators. It is the only place I've ever really seen a wild raccoon (I've seen them in residential areas at night where I live). Canaveral National Seashore, nearby, is a wonderful spot for shorebirds.
Osprey with fish at Merritt Island.
Raccoon in the swamp at Merritt Island.
Snowy egret at Merritt Island.
Ruddy turnstone at Canaveral NS
Sanderlings at Canaveral NS.
Willet at Canaveral NS
Northern pintails at Merritt Island.
The J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR on Sanibel Island, near Fort Myers, on the Gulf Coast, is also a fantastic area for swamp and sea birds. I could have watched the pelicans for hours dive bombing into the water and coming up with fish.
Roseate spoonbill on Sanibel Island.
Eastern brown pelican at Sanibel Island.
Reddish egret at Sanibel Island.
Great white egret at Sanibel Island.
Little blue heron at Sanibel Island.
Another of my favorite wildlife experiences happened at Crystal River, northwest of Orlando, on the Gulf Coast. I took a boat out to spot manatees and was snorkeling in a murky area when I encountered a manatee face to face. It was so big, so close and so unexpected that the instant of that encounter is one that often replays in my mind.
Manatee at Crystal River. Photo taken with an underwater camera.
We've had other fun swamp experiences. In Louisiana, we took the Cajun Man Swamp Tour, about t0 miles outside Houma, where we took boats into the swamp and saw alligators. We also took the Honey Island Swamp Tour outside Slidell where we saw more alligators. In South Carolina, we took a row boat into the swamp in Cypress Gardens and saw alligators and turtles, including the yellow-bellied slider.
Yellow-bellied sliders in Cypress Gardens, South Carolina.
We visited Kyoto, Japan with Rachael, Nate and our newly minted granddaughter and walked among snow monkeys in Iwatayama Monkey Park.
Snow monkey or Japanese macaque
In the Peruvian rain forest we saw blue and gold macaws, hoatzins and bats near Lake Sandoval, saw a black caiman in the Madre de Dios River and had brown agoutis scampering around our netted sleeping quarters. We took a walk on suspended walkways in the rain canopy and saw the beautiful black-tailed trogon, a bird I'd never heard of before. We took a night walk into the jungle and witnessed fire ants, huge tarantulas, howler monkeys and a blunt-headed tree snake slithering through the branches of a tree.
Black-tailed trogon in Peruvian rain forest.
Blue and gold macaw
Blunt-headed tree snake an Peruvian Amazon.
Brown agouti
Eye-shine of black caiman in Madre de Dios.
Bats on tree near Lake Sandoval.
We took a dream trip several years ago to East Africa. In Mount Kenya NP we stayed in a hotel overlooking a water hole and were able to watch elephants and cape buffalo from our room balcony. We took a hike into the forest and saw colobus monkeys swinging around in the trees above us, another thrill for me.
Eastern black and white colobus money in Mt. Kenya NP
Bushbuck in Mt. Kenya NP.
East African epauletted fruit bat we saw at a stop on our way to Mt. Kenya.
Egyptian goose
In Buffalo Springs NR, perhaps my favorite of the spots we visited in Africa, we saw reticulated giraffes mingling with the beisa oryx, the long-necked gerenuk standing on its hind legs to reach for leaves in the trees, the desert warthog, the endangered Grevy's zebra, the yellow-necked spurfowl, the fascinating secretarybird, a bateleur eagle, herds of elephants, including a male that chased down a female near our vehicle where it consummated its ardor, Nile crocodiles, common waterbucks, Grant's gazelles and a huge Verreoux's eagle owl eating a genet in a tree.
Common waterbuck in Buffalo Springs.
Reticulated giraffes in Buffalo Springs.
Grevy zebra in Buffalo Springs.
African bush elephants in Buffalo Springs NR.
Desert warthog.
Beisa oryx in Buffalo Springs.
Grant's gazelle in Buffalo Springs.
Yellow-necked spurfowl.
Eastern pale chanting goshawk.
Red-billed hornbill
We stayed at a hotel in Shaba NR and saw a Nile monitor and a colorful superb starling (which really was superbly beautiful) right outside the front door of our room, a crocodile and sacred ibis near the river just a stone's throw from our room, and vervet monkeys roaming the grounds.
Superb starling
Nile crocodile with sacred ibis behind it, near our overnight cabin in Shaba NR.
In Lake Nakuru NP we had the thrill of seeing multiple white rhinos, flamingos out on the lake, the endangered Rothschild's giraffe, our first lion (a male), helmeted guinea fowl, and olive baboons climbing into the trees at dusk for the night.
White rhino in Lake Nakuru NP.
Helmeted guineafowl
Marabou stork with cape buffalo in background.
Olive baboon in Lake Nakuru NP
Masai Mara NR was a highlight. We saw multiple cheetahs, including one munching on a young waterbuck while it's mother looked on in distress and a hyena hid nearby scheming on how to snatch the waterbuck from the cheetah. We got wonderful views of lions, including multiple mothers with cubs, while we watched them hunt, and two lions munching on a downed zebra. A water hole full of hippos was fascinating and disgusting and Nile crocodiles congregated on a bank of the river gave the thought of ever entering that river a chill. We watched huge Masai giraffes battling each other with their huge necks, in a ritual called "necking." We took a night excursion with large searchlights on our vehicles and saw hippos wandering miles from the river and a rare sighting of an aardvark.
Lilac-breasted roller in Masai Mara.
Masai giraffes necking in Masai Mara.
Nile crocodiles
Mwanza flat-headed rock agama near our cabin in Masai Mara.
Defassa waterbuck with two Grant's zebras behind it, in Masai Mara.
Cheetah in the Masai Mara.
Verreaux's eagle owl during our night safari in Masai Mara.
Topi in Masai Mara.
In Serengeti NP we had encounters with tsetse flies and their bite really hurts. We saw more of the disgusting, absolutely fabulous hippos, saw a huge Nile monitor, a leopard laying on the limb of a tree and a mother hyena running by the base of that same tree with one of its young in its mouth, trying to save it from male hyenas that were trying to kill it. We saw Grant's zebras, mongoose, Masai giraffes, and more lions.
Banded mongoose in the Serengeti
Leopard in the Serengeti.
Central African warthogs in the Serengeti.
Mucky, dirty, big, beautiful, fascinating hippo in the Serengeti.
Thomson's gazelles in the Serengeti.
Impalas in the Serengeti.
Huge Nile monitor in the Serengeti.
Ruppell's griffin vulture in the Serengeti
White-backed vulture in the Serengeti feeding on a cape buffalo. 
In the Ngorongoro Crater we encountered herds of wildebeest, zebra and cape buffalo, lounging lions, snoozing hyenas, and one hyena that circled our vehicles. Hartebeest, crested cranes, ostriches, jackals and hippos were among the other animals featured in this natural stadium.
Crested crane in Ngorongoro Crater
Grant's zebras in Ngorongoro Crater.
Male lions
Red-billed oxpeckers on a cape buffalo in Ngorongoro Crater.
Hartebeest in Ngorongoro
Wildebeest in Ngorongoro
Cape buffalo in Ngorongoro
Spotted hyena in Ngorongoro
Speke's weaver 
Golden jackal
In Nairobi NP we went out on our own with the guide while the others in our group slept in. We were rewarded with our only eland sighting of the trip, mating lions and giraffes, hyrax and some fun birds.
Eland in Nairobi NP.
Rock hyrax in Nairobi NP.
Ostrich in Nairobi NP
Kori bustard in Nairobi NP
In Ghana, West Africa, we encountered the hooded vulture, pied crow, red bishop (a spectacular red weaver), and the beautiful red-headed rock agama lizard.
Red-headed rock agama in Elmina, Ghana.
Hooded vulture in Cape Coast.
South Dakota has some great places for wildlife. In Custer SP we saw elk, white tail deer, turkeys, bighorn sheep, many bison, prairie dogs and pronghorn antelope. I view Custer as a Yellowstone without the huge number of tourists. I really loved it there. In Badlands NP we saw many bighorn sheep, some bison and prairie dogs.
The most amazing, muscled, bison I've ever seen - in Custer State Park, South Dakota. 
Pronghorn antelope outside Badlands NP.
Black-tailed prairie dogs - Custer State Park.
White-tailed deer - Custer State Park.
Merriam's turkey - Custer State Park
Near the baptism site of Jesus on the Jordan River in Jordan, we viewed a huge beaver/rat-like nutria along the bank and then slide into the river.
Nutria near the Jordan River.
In the Boundary Water Canoe area of northern Minnesota we stumbled across a lone wolf in front of us on the trail about 30 yards. Its thick, beautiful, white coat tinged with black. It lingered just a second, before loping off into the trees. As we traveled into the Boundary Water Canoe area I saw a river otter running along the ground at some distance off the side of the road. I stopped the car and went to see if I could get a better look. I did not see the otter again, but did see my first snowshoe hare.
Snowshoe hare
We encountered Barbary macaques in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco, near Azrou. Years earlier we saw them on the Rock of Gibralter, and Andrew had one sit on his shoulder.
Barbary Ape in Morocco
Several mornings at our riad in Marrakech, Morocco I got up early to watch the nesting white storks on the walls of the Badi Palace. It was nice to be able to spend several hours watching them mate, build nests, take flight and land. 
White storks in Marrakech
More recently, we took another dream trip to Alaska and drove through Denali NP, seeing caribou, grizzly bears, moose and Dall sheep.
Grizzly bear in Denali NP.
Caribou in Denali NP
We took an eight hour cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park and saw bald eagles, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, sea otters, puffins and humpback whales.
Bald eagle outside Seward, Alaska.
Harbor seals near Northwestern Glacier in Kenai Fjords NP.
We took a small boat out to Gull Island, off Homer, and saw a humpback whale, puffins, common murres and sea otters.
Horned puffin near Gull Island
Sea otter near Gull Island.
We took a float plane to Chichagoff Island to view brown bears and a float plane to Anan Bay to view black bears.
Black bear in Anan Bay
Brown bears on Chichagoff Island
In October 2016 we had an amazing encounter with bighorn sheep near Chelan, Washington, close to the Columbia River. A large group of males were rutting.
In the spring of 2017 I visited southern Arizona and northern Sonora and had some great encounters with wildlife. 
This red-tailed hog was water-logged after unusually heavy rains in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. 
I watched a couple of Gila woodpeckers feeding their young holed up in a saguaro cactus. 
I had an encounter with a Gila monster in Estes Canyon.
Then in March we took a trip to the Caribbean. 
We saw lots of huge green iguanas on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. 
We found a number of different species of anole, including this St. Lucia anole, flashing its colorful dewlap.
Off Barbados, we swam with green sea turtles and saw a stingray nearby and these tarpons following it. 
There are other places I would love to go to see animals: Churchill, Manitoba for polar bears; Indonesia to see komodo dragons and orangutans; India to see tigers; the countries in southern Africa to see more African wildlife; Antarctica to see penguins; Australia to see kangaroos and other unique Australian wildlife; and the Galapagos Islands to see the marine iguanas and large tortoises.