Sunday, November 25, 2018

Pronghorn Antelope - Antelope Island

Antelope Island was named after a pronghorn antelope shot by John C. Fremont and Kit Carson on the island in 1845. 

However, it appears that pronghorns disappeared from the island at some point until 1993 when they were reintroduced. Ten years later, in 2003, another 99 pronghorns were introduced to the island to increase the herd size. Today there are an estimated 200 pronghorn antelope on the island and an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 pronghorn in the State of Utah. 

I've been to Antelope Island quite a few times, from my youth up, but I'd never seen a pronghorn on the island until last year when I visited with my granddaughters. I asked a ranger when we visited the best place to find them. She told us to look on the east side of the island, in the flats, down toward the Fielding Garr Ranch. We did see several, at a great distance, but I had a good lense with me. 
The Great Salt Lake and Wasatch Range in the background. 

This year I visited with my son, Andrew, and asked the same question of the ranger when we checked in. I got the same response. We hiked up to mushroom springs where we saw a small bison herd and Andrew pointed out to me a group of about 13 pronghorns sprinting in single file in the distance below us. Later, on our way out, I saw the antelope grazing off the road at some distance. I decided to stop the car and see if I could approach them on foot. I did get closer than we'd seen them earlier, but they still spooked at some distance. Unfortunately, I only had my iphone, not my SLR with a good telephoto lense. The photos aren't great, but they do show the 16 or so pronghorn I saw. 
Although not real clear in the photo, most of these pronghorns are running away from me. 

These are the only pronghorn I recall seeing in Utah, with the possible exception of some near the Utah/Wyoming border on the way to Evanston. I've seen them in Billings, Montana, in Buena Vista, Colorado and in Custer State Park in South Dakota and driving through Wyoming. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Plains Bison - Antelope Island

Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. It is 42 square miles: 14.9 miles long and 4.8 miles wide at its widest point. It has a mountainous central spine with the high point being Frary Peak, with an elevation of 6,596 feet, 2,500 feet above the Great Salt Lake. John C. Fremont and Kit Carson gave the island its name in 1845, just a few years before the Mormons arrived, in honor of an antelope they shot and ate there. 

The Mormons controlled the island from 1848 to 1870 when it was sold to John Dooly who established the Island Improvement Company. 12 bison were taken to the island by boat by Dooly in 1893. The State of Utah purchased the northern part of the island in 1969 from the Island Improvement Company and the southern part, including the Fielding Garr Ranch, in 1981. Antelope Island State Park was formed that same year. The bison herd is kept at numbers between 550 and 700, the amount deemed sustainable. Extra bison are rounded up each year in October and sold, some to be transported to live elsewhere and some are slaughtered for meat. 
Antelope Island is accessed by a seven mile long causeway from Syracuse, near Hill Air Force Base. When the water level is low, like it was when Andrew and I visited in November, the island basically becomes a peninsula.  
The Fielding Garr Ranch is 11 miles south of the causeway on the east side. That is where the paved road ends. A dirt road continues on for a ways. About a half mile south down the dirt road is a parking area for the 5.6 miles Sentry Trail. About a half mile up the trail, which is a dirt road, is Mushroom Springs, a series of springs which were mostly dry when we visited. Andrew spotted it on the map and asked if we could hike to it. It was a nice choice because we saw a herd of about 40 bison to the south, a smaller herd of about 13 bison near the spring, and a lone bull above the spring. 
Small bison herd with the Wasatch Range in the background. The white in the background is salt flats where the water in the Great Salt Lake has evaporated. 
The same herd with a different view. 
One of the springs has been turned into a nice guzzler, with continuously flowing water surrounded by rocks. Large goldfish or small koi live in the water and presumable keep the algae down. 
The guzzler surrounded by large rocks and gravel. 
Herd near the guzzler.
The solitary bull came down while we were there and we ended up being between it and the small herd. He seemed a little agitated and let out a series of quite loud grunts (see this Youtube video of a grunting bison). There was a solitary Russian olive tree which I found sanctuary under in the event that the bull decided it didn't like me. 

View from under the tree. 
The solitary bull went to one of the dry springs and rolled around in the dirt. He walked right by the tree I was under, near the small herd, then retreated again. 
Bull rolling in the dry spring.
The dust still flies as it gets back up.
The same bull rolling in a different place, in the grass. I'm viewing from the hoped for safety of the Russian olive tree.
The bison are a real treat and make Antelope Island a fun destination. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

North American Porcupine

Andrew and I spent about three hours at Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake in November of this year and had a wonderful wildlife sighting experience. One of the wildlife highlights was seeing a porcupine. 

I had stopped the car to look at some pronghorn antelope on the west side of the road and Andrew looked in some heavy brush trees on the east side of the road. When I got back I called out to Andrew wondering where he was. He yelled, "I see a porcupine." 
Looking down at a porcupine from a ridge above it. Its head is at the bottom, tucked down. 
I hadn't seen a wild porcupine since I was a young boy at our ranch outside of Kamas, Utah. This was Andrew's first experience. 
Andrew keeps a safe distance from the porcupine. 
He noted that it appeared sick. It was listless and had a white substance coming out of its mouth and/or nose. Our best guess is that it had rabies and was near death. 
The black head of the porcupine is to the left and you can see the white substance coming out of its mouth. Its tail is to the right. 
That puts our sighting on a sad note, but it was a thrill to see a porcupine again after so many years. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Zebra Grilled on a Spit

Before going to Southern Africa I'd had zebra once before. It was a ribeye and looked beautiful, but once cooked I found it stiff, chewy and with a strong and unappealing taste. 
Zebra ribeye
Grilled zebra ribeye
So as we visited Southern Africa I was hoping to get another chance to try zebra, but without any expectation it would be any better. 
A Burchell's zebra in Etosha NP in Namibia. Burchell's zebra is the only zebra that can be sold for meat in South Africa. 
So I was more than pleasantly surprised when we visited Carnivore Restaurant outside Johannesburg, South Africa and they were serving zebra on the spits that they carry around to the tables. I got a slice, expecting to have the same experience, and was completely startled at how good it was. It got a nice rare slice, and found it savory and pleasing, without any gaminess at all. Judy concurred.  
Zebra is at the back. The lighting was bad at Carnivore and so my pictures are lacking. 
The next time the zebra came around I get several more slices. It was my favorite of the meats we tasted that night.  

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Ostrich Meat: Carpaccio and Steak

Despite a pretty far ranging experience in eating exotic meats I'd had little experience with ostrich, except for ostrich eggs which I'd tried a number of times. 
An ostrich near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
So I was surprised in several respects on the ostrich front in Southern Africa. First, at how prevalent it was. It was on many different menus. Second, I was surprised at how good it was. The ostrich steak we had at Karibu in Cape Town was probably the single best piece of meat on our entire trip, both in Judy's opinion and my opinion. It was delicious, wonderfully rare, moist and flavorful. 
Ostrich is on the far right of this safari platter at Karibu in Cape Town. 
A close-up of some of the wonderfully rare ostrich.
We also had ostrich carpaccio, which is raw ostrich sliced or pounded thin. 
Ostrich carpaccio is on the left side. Crocodile is in the middle and springbok on the right side. 
I also had an ostrich steak at Arnolds in Cape Town and, although it was good, it did not live up to the standard set at Karibu. 
Ostrich steak at Arnolds in Cape Town. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Gemsbok Meat: Wellington and Biltong

The gemsbok is one of four species of oryx and is found in arid regions of Southern Africa. 
Gemsbok in Etosha NP in Namibia. 
One of the best meat dishes we had on our trip was a gemsbok Wellington at Arnolds in Cape Town. The gemsbok steak was wrapped in bacon, coated with duxelles (a mixture of mushrooms, onions, herbs and black pepper sauteed in butter and reduced to a paste), then wrapped in a puff pastry and baked to medium rare. It was amazingly good. 
We also purchased some gemsbok biltong in Namibia. 

It is hard to compare it to any of the other meat we ate because of the special preparations what we ate went through. But it has to be pretty good, because that gemsbok Wellington was excellent. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Eastern Food Bazaar - Cape Town

Our guide in Cape Town, South Africa, Ryan Strauss, wanted to take us to where the locals eat. That place was Eastern Food Bazaar, built over what used to be the Wellington Fruit Growers Market between Loop and Darling Street. It serves a variety of food cafeteria style, or as they say there, "canteen-style." It includes Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and pizza, all halal. 

The primary reason he brought us was so that we could try bunny chow. Bunny chow is a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry. It was created at Kapitan's Vegetarian Restaurant in Durban, South Africa in the 1940s to feed migrant Indian workers working on the sugar cane plantations. The loaf of bread served as the container to carry the curry in, the inner bread served as the cap, and the workers ate the contents with their hands. One of the best parts was the gravy soaked walls of the bread. In our case we got lamb curry including chunks of lamb. It had a wonderful taste, both the curry and the lamb chunks. There was a lot of curry, but we finished it and were stuffed. In addition to tasting great, it was very fun visually and fun to eat. 
Lamb curry bunny chow.
The innards of the loaf of bread are placed on top imitating bunny ears. But that's not how it got its name. There are a number of theories, but that's not one of them. Most of the theories relate to words that sound like "bunny," like "banya chow," banya being the name of the Indian population of Durban. 
Ryan also ordered us biryani, rice filled with other ingredients, and some lentil soup. 
Biryani and lentil soup.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Sea Tree - Cambridge, England

In planning for our visit to Cambridge, England, during a layover on our way to Cape Town, I had several restaurants picked out for us to potentially visit. Judy's niece, who lives in London, met us at Heathrow and joined us on our drive to Cambridge. As we drove, I was informed they were hungry and wanted to get something to eat. Of the restaurants I'd scouted out, fish and chips sounded really good, so I had Judy put The Sea Tree address in her Google Maps. Unfortunately, Cambridge has very small and windy streets and is very crowded. It also has a large parking problem. So it seemed like it took us forever. Ultimately, with parking problems at other sites in Cambridge and bad traffic, the main event of our visit to Cambridge was lunch. But it was a good lunch. 

The Sea Tree was one of many businesses set side-by-side in old buildings along a busy street: the commercial equivalent of council houses with common walls. It had a small glass case inside the front door with a few types of fish and a several tables in a relatively small space inside. 

Judy, with our niece, Lisa. 
I ordered what had drawn me to it: Cod fish and chips, along with "mushy marrow fat peas," pickled onion and some oysters on the half-shell. 

The oysters were in deeply cupped shells which were cavernous compared to the small oysters and their oyster liquor resting in the bottom. I like cocktail sauce with my oysters, which includes horseradish. What they provided was Tabasco sauce. Not tempted, I had mine straight and they were nice, salty and good. 
We got two pickled onions and no one else had any interest in them. They were vintage English, large and very vinegary. I enjoyed both. 
Marrow fat mushy peas are not mushy peas with added marrow fat, unfortunately. Marrow fat peas are mature green peas that are allowed to dry out in the field, rather than harvested when young. While mushy peas using young peas are boiled for three minutes, then blended with cream, butter salt and pepper; mushy peas using marrow fat peas are covered in boiling water and soaked for 12 hours, then simmered for 20 minutes until mushy. The difference in preparation accounts for why I felt these mushy peas were a little cold, not as mushy as I'd recalled, and virtually tasteless (no added cream or butter). Very little of them got eaten. 
The chips, or french fries, were very large and cooked crispy golden. I don't generally like real large fries, particularly with fish, but these were pretty good. 
The cod, on the outside, did not look particularly good, but it was some of the best deep-fried fish I've ever eaten. The fish was still very, very moist and juicy. I would take a bite and just luxuriate in the hot, salty, crunchy moistness. The fish was worth the drive. 
Judy got a fisherman's pie which had white and smoked fish, prawns, egg, white sauce, mashed potato and cheddar cheese. She gave me a couple of bites and it also was worth the drive. I don't think I've ever eaten anything quite like it. I would love to try some more. 
Our niece got sauteed tiger prawns that had garlic, chili, and spring onion. I did not try them, but I would not have traded the cod and chips or the fisherman's pie for it. 
It was a meal I will remember.