Saturday, September 30, 2023

A Second Day with Mom: September 21, 2023

See my first day with mom here. Four and a half months after my first day with mom I felt that I needed to see her again. In the interim she had turned 97 and I was looking at ways to get away to see here. I finally decided on September 21 and 22, 2023. I would leave Redlands on September 20 after an appointment I had, drive as far as I could (which ended up being Beaver, Utah), then get to mom the next morning (she suggested 10:00 a.m.). The day before I left, September 19, I got word that my mom's twin brother, Maynard, had died. I tried calling mom all that day and she was not picking up. I was worried about her state of mind. The 20th, the day I was going to leave, my sister Merilee said mom was looking forward to seeing me. I felt relieved and felt my visit was that much more important. 

Encouraged by the words of the Bear River Blogger, quoted in my last post, I decided that it was okay to take mom to a place we'd already been (Antelope Island). He was taking his mother to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge about three times a week. I picked up mom a few minutes after 10:00 a.m. and we headed for Brigham City, Utah and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It took us about an hour and a half to get there. Along the way I stopped at Maverik and bought some water, smoked almonds, cashews and shelled pistachios. Mom particularly liked the pistachios. 

It was a cold, rainy and windy day. As a result I did not take any photos because it was just too wet and cold to roll down the car window. So any photos below are representative of what we saw but taken by me previously in the same area. 

Before getting to the auto route we saw a female ring-necked pheasant run across the road and into some bushes. 
We slowly drove the rectangular Auto Route which is 12 miles. It was a poor day for birding. Not many were out and about. The first bird we saw was a single white pelican just as we crossed the bridge onto the auto route. Later we saw large groupings of pelicans. 

We probably saw more grebes than any other bird, both western grebes and Clark's grebes. The way to differentiate them is that in Clark's grebes the dark cap is above the red eye and in western grebes the dark cap goes around the red eye. 
Clark's grebes

Western grebe

Mom spotted a number of groups of Canada geese flying and we saw a few individual birds on the ground. 
We saw lots of gray and white gulls, mostly far away, likely ring-billed gulls. 

A few ducks, most likely cinnamon teals.
Lots of American coots. 
A few great egrets.
We finished the auto drive and were hungry. So we drove to Maddox Drive-Inn in Brigham City, a place we were familiar with from our days driving up to Willard Bay with our boat. In those days Maddox was right on the main road. Now with the I-15 it takes a detour off the freeway. It was raining, so we drove into the covered Drive-Inn and ordered from our car and had food placed in a rack on my partially rolled-down window. Mom was unsure of a turkey burger or a fried chicken breast, so we ordered both. She talked about how she always loved turkey and got it whenever she could. Mom also got a small salad with extra tomatoes that came in a separate container with large round slices. She also put tomato on her turkey burger and ended up being too full to eat any chicken. I got a steak sandwich with onion rings and ate some of our order of fried chicken. 

On the road again we drove to Antelope Island. We drove up near the buffalo corrals and saw two great-horned owls in the open-sided barn, just as we had last time. Then as we drove back to the road down the eastern side of the island we spotted about six pronghorns quite a distance west in a group. Mom was quite excited and said that was her favorite view of the day. We had to be at Chuck-A-Rama Buffet in Lehi to meet Rachael and my granddaughters at 5:00 p.m. So we drove fairly quickly down the east side road and turned back before getting to Fielding Garr Ranch. We saw some bison, but mostly at a distance and did not stop for any length of time to view any. 

With mom in the car we used the HOV lane during rush hour traffic and got to Lehi only a couple of minutes late. Rachael and the girls met us and we had a nice dinner at Chuck-A-Rama. By the time we finished both mom and I were quite tired. I got her back to her assisted living facility in Taylorsville and arranged to meet again at 10:00 a.m. the next day. I'd suggested a drive into the mountains or a drive out into the west desert to see wild horses. She wanted the latter. I headed to my hotel for the night in Lehi.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

A Day with Mom: May 5, 2023

My mother lives in an assisted living facility in Taylorsville, Utah, which is in the central/western part of the Salt Lake Valley.  I try to call regularly and visit a few times a year, but as she ages, she was 96 at the time, it just doesn't seem satisfactory. She mentions that people don't like to visit her because it is boring. Visiting usually consists of sitting and talking for awhile, but there is only so much new going on in her life and in the life of her family to sustain real long conversation. It is also way out-of-the-way for many family members which makes it difficult to pick her up, take her home for dinner, and then take her back. Most of the friends she originally made at her facility have died  which is also very depressing. 

Earlier this year I decided to try something new. I asked her if she would be interested in having me pick her up at the facility and drive out to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake to view bison and pronghorns and see how the decreased water level of the lake is impacting the island. She said she would. So on May 5th I picked her up at 9:00 a.m. (her suggested time). It took us an hour and a half or more to drive there. Once checking in at the ranger station, you have to drive a seven mile long causeway to reach the north end of the island. 
When we reached the island we drove west past the Ladyfinger Campground and Trail and shortly after mom spotted two pronghorn, a male and a female, quite close to the car. She was quite excited to see them, as was I. 

From there we drove down through the White Rock Campground, looking for burrowing owls, which we did not see, then up near the Park Headquarters to a barn (a roof with open sides) near the buffalo roundup corrals (not shown on the map) and saw two great-horned owls in the rafters. 

We drove back down near the Visitor Center and took the road that follows the eastern end of the island. 
View of the snowy Wasatch Mountains and a lone tree in the foreground. You can see from the photo that it was still quite cool.  
We saw a number of bison along the side of the road. I didn't take any photos of them, but include a couple of bison photos from a prior visit. 

We drove down to the Fielding Garr Ranch, but mom's mobility is such that we didn't get out of the car. We drove beyond the ranch a bit, which is normally the end of the road, closed off by a fence. But for the first time I've ever seen, the dirt road down to the end of the island was open (the map doesn't show the road, but the South Island Trail which is on the map is roughly equivalent to it). The road is quite rutted, but mom handled the bumps just fine. We saw a number of birds, which I got a few photos of.
A mourning dove

Red-winged blackbird

We got to the south end of the island, then turned around and drove back the same way we came. Beyond the Fielding Garr Ranch I turned to the left (west) up a new road that is not on the map. It goes to some orchards. There we saw a number of western meadowlarks. We talked about how dad use to say that the meadowlark was singing, "Salt Lake City is a pretty little place." 

When we got to the north end of the island and out on to the causeway we saw lots of birds in the water. Here are a few photos of some of the birds we saw:
Cinnamon teal (male and female)

Eared grebe in mating plumage with a deep red eye, a crest off the head and gold feathers like ear-patches, a bizarre looking bird.  

Franklin gulls with a black head, red bill and goofy looking eye. 

Red-necked phalaropes

Afterwards we drove to Chuck-A-Rama Buffet in Draper where we met my sisters, Wendy and Merilee, and several of her children, my brother Matt and his wife, Carol, and their children, and my daughter Rachael and her children. 

I loved the day with mom. It was just her and me for many hours. I love to drive and mom liked getting out and seeing something other than the walls of her assisted-living facility. Mom shares my love of wildlife, and in fact, enabled me as a boy, when I brought home birds, snakes, lizards, etc. She loved them as much as I did. I was afraid I was going to bore her to death, but she seemed genuinely happy to be with me on the drive. 

As I drove home and reflected on that day I decided that it was the best day I'd had with mom since I'd left home 48 years ago. It was just the two of us, for hours, and looking for wildlife which is one of my favorite things to do. 

I decided I needed to do it again, but I was worried that it would be too much for mom to do the same thing. Then I ran across an article by Jeff Strong, the Bear River Blogger, titled "Bird Photography and Nature Blogging May Never Be The Same For Me Anymore," dated August 8, 2023.  In the article he talked about the passing of his mother who used to accompany him 2 to 3 times a week, for several hours each time, on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Auto Route. He notes, "These drives soon became a cherished activity in their own right...where my mom and I could just go and have fun." That article really struck a chord with me and I thought, maybe I can do the same thing again with mom? See the next post. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Tanjung Puting NP, Borneo - Indonesia

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, more than 3.5 times larger than Great Britain, at 288,869 square miles. It is one of the four Greater Sunda Islands of Indonesia. It is east of Sumatra, north of Java, west of Sulawesi (the other Greater Sunda Islands), southwest of the Philippines and southeast of Malaysia and Vietnam.
From Wikipedia
However, only 73% of Borneo is Indonesian. In the north of Borneo, Malaysia occupies 26% and Brunei occupies 1% of the island.  The Indonesian portion of Borneo is called Kalimantan and is broken into the five provinces of North, South, East, West and Central Kalimantan. 165,100 square miles of Borneo was lowland rainforest, with other much smaller portions being mangroves, montane rain forests, montane alpine meadows, peat swamp forests, heath forests and freshwater swamp forests. Between 2002 and 2019 Borneo lost 36 million acres of tree cover and between 1999 and 2015 Bornean orangutans declined by 148,500 individuals, more than one-half. 
Borneo and Indonesian political divisions.
The equator crosses Indonesian Borneo (see 0 degrees on the map below). 
Tanjung Puting National Park ("Tanjung Puting") is located in the southeast portion of Central Kalimantan and covers 1,600 square miles. 
Map of Tanjung Puting from
It is on a peninsula that goes into the Java Sea. It is swampy with a spine of dry ground that rises no more than 100 to 200 feet through Tanjung Puting. We got there by flying from Jakarta, on Java, to Iskandar Airport (PKN) in Pangkalan Bun (see the map above). We were picked up by our guide, Sam, at the airport and had a 20 minute drive to Kumai, on Kumai Bay, on the Kumai River, where we boarded our boat, called a klotok. A klotok is a wooden river boat with a shallow draft used to navigate the waters of Indonesia. They are primarily used to transport goods and people up and down rivers and are the boat of choice in Tanjung Puting. It is named for the loud noise the engine makes: "klok tok tok tok." That four part rhythm was endless and loud and we got to where we would repeat four part words that came into our minds, three or four times, such as "Tawn joong Poot ing, Tawn joong Poot ing, Tawn joong Poot ing" or  "eggs for brek fast, eggs for brek fast, eggs for brek fast." We had a lot we came up with but without the inspiration of the noise my mind has gone blank. Our klotok had two levels. We spent the day on the second level which was covered by a tarp for protection from the sun and rain, had a table where we ate our meals, a two person bed where we would have slept if we had not otherwise decided to stay at the Rimba Lodge, and deck chairs. 
Another kotok from later in the trip. 

Klotoks lined up along the Sekonyer River getting ready to spend the night. 

More klotoks lined up along the Sekonyer River. In the foreground is part of the upper deck of our klotok.  
In addition to Sam, our nature guide who was independent of the boat, there were three other people on the boat: the captain, his younger associate who did the small boat transfers and much of the other work on the boat, and our cook, who was marvelous. 

We started off going south down the Kumai River toward the Java Sea. At this point the river was huge and more an extension of the ocean. Sam told us to watch for river dolphins. I saw one several times but didn't have a hope of getting a photo given my camera problems. I got a pretty good view and it had a very round head and was pinkish. 
Irawaddyi dolphins. Photos are from here.  These dolphins are endangered and found along the eastern coast of Sumatra, the coasts around Borneo, the coasts around Malaysia and the coasts of Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bangladesh.  

After a couple of miles we turned left, east, onto the Sekonyer River which is a tributary of the Kumai River and also fed by the Camp Leakey River. This was the beginning of Tanjung Puting NP and had some signs and a statue of a large orangutan.
To the right is the continuation of the Kumai River to the Java Sea. To the left is the Kumai River. 

The Sekonyer is salt water at the beginning and gradually turns from salt water to fresh water. As it does so the vegetation begins to change. 
Sam, our guide, at the front of the klotok as we go up an early portion of the Sekonyer. Nipa palms, also known as mangrove palms, line the sides of the river. It is native to the coastlines and estuaries of the Indian and Pacific Oceans and is the only palm that can live among mangrove trees. Its trunk grows below the ground and only its leaves and flowers, which can exceed 30 feet in height, extend above the surface. 

The Sekonyer forms the northern border of Tanjung Puting NP and it and other rivers are the only way in or out as there are no roads or airfields inside Tanjung Puting. As the water gets more brackish and then fresh the vegetation changes. We saw three orangutans near the Sekonyer River as we traveled upstream. They were difficult to see as they were enmeshed in the tree leaves which were so prolific. My camera problems made getting good photos of them more difficult. Following are photos of two of the orangutans. 

This is the vegetation along the Sekonyer just above Tanjung Harapan our first stop, also known as Camp 1.
Tanjung Harapan, also known as Camp 1, is about 1.5 to 2 hours up river. It used to be an orangutan rehabilitation center and now has a plant nursery to aid reforestation efforts. The photo below is us docking at Camp 1. Docking was always tricky as we had to tie-up to other klotoks and climb through them to get to the dock. 
Just less than a mile walk in from the boat there is wooden platform where food is placed for the orangutans every afternoon at 4:00 p.m. The ride on the boat up the river was very pleasant. We had a breeze from the moving boat, were under a tarp and were not exerting ourselves. The walk in to the feeding platform was a different story. It was very warm and humid. At the feeding a big male dominated the feeding and there were lots of mothers carrying babies. We estimated we saw 12 to 16 Bornean orangutans.  

After Camp 1 we went up-river about a quarter-mile and stopped at the Rimba Lodge for us to check-in. 
The dock at Rimba Lodge with several klotoks already docked there. 

Judy on the klotok in front of the Rimba Lodge. 
The lodge is set-above very swampy water on wooden platforms. We could have slept on the klotok, but there would be no air conditioning, electricity and a cramped toilet and shower shared with the other people on the klotok. At Rimba we got our own room with two double beds, a mosquito net, air conditioning, electricity and a private bathroom and shower. It was primitive, but amazing considering where we were. Just off a platform next to the Rimba check-in we were shown a Bornean keeled green pit viper, also known as a North Philippine temple pit viper. It is poisonous and stays station-less for weeks or days waiting for pray to stumble across it, then strikes. It was there, in the same place and position both nights we stayed at Rimba. 
After checking in at the lodge we went back out to the klotok where we went further upriver looking for wildlife along the river. We saw lots and lost of proboscis monkeys, also known as Jimmy Durante monkeys because of there long noses, endemic to Borneo. We also saw quite a few long-tailed macaques. In particular, we stopped at one place along the river with lots of proboscis monkeys settling down for the night in the trees. We probably spent 20 or 30 minutes watching them there. We only saw the proboscis monkeys near the river, never at the camps, and we never got a real close, good photo of one. 

A long-tailed macaque with a proboscis monkey behind it. 

A proboscis monkey with a small baby.

We slept that night at Rimba Lodge and enjoyed the air conditioning and privacy of our own room. In the morning we had breakfast at the lodge, then joined the klotok for our continued trip up-river. About an hour upriver past Rimba Lodge is Pondok Tanggui or Camp 2. The feeding platform is just short of a mile from the dock (.9 miles). Again, hot and very humid. So nice to do most travel by boat. We saw about seven Bornean orangutans at Camp 2. 
The most striking thing about the Camp 2 feeding station was that it was dominated by a female, much smaller than the dominant males at Camp 1 and 3. and the orangutans seemed much more afraid of her than of the dominant males we saw at Camp 1 and 3. 

The fear of the dominant female was best illustrated by this mother with a baby. She came to the edge of the platform holding on to the branch/vine with her foot, making sure she had an escape route. She packed bananas into her mouth, into her free hand and into her babies mouth before flying away on the branch/vine. It was probably the most entertaining scene among the Bornean orangutans. 

This mother, with a much larger baby clinging to her back, and another female, came walking into the platform just off to our side. 

They made it to the platform and then cowered together in the corner, snatching a banana here and there, while the dominant female glared at them and wolfed down (or orangutaned down) bananas. This dominant female was not Mother Theresa - perhaps Atilla the Hun. 
As we walked back toward the klotok we had to walk a long stretch of boardwalk raised above the terrain below by about 15 feet. There we encountered a series of long-tailed macaques on the edge of the boardwalk and in the trees near the edge of the boardwalk. One in particular seemed to take a disliking of me. He started to show his teeth at me and scream, then he jumped over my head to a tree on the other side of the boardwalk, just missing me, four times. Our guide, Sam, shielded my head as he did so and as I ducked. Sam asked me if I'd stared at the monkey. I had. He said they don't like that, they take it as a challenge. 
Up close and personal with a macaque. 

Others were less aggressive.

Then we encountered Atlas along the boardwalk. A 5 year old male orangutan that had been orphaned, then left several years ago, and now just recently returned. He was on the boardwalk between us and the boat. We watched him quite awhile, with many people posing for photos near him. Then we got an up-close and personal view of him. I eventually asked Sam if it was okay to go around him (this was right after my encounter with the macaque - an angry macaque is one thing, an angry orangutan would be another). Sam said it was okay so we slid by, just a foot or two away. Amazing. Atlas made 8 orangutans at Camp 2. 

We went through the complicated boarding process of klotoks. Ours was down river a little bit, so we got on one near the dock and it took us down river to board ours. The klotoks show a lot of courtesy, I suppose a necessity where they all have to cooperate to make it function. We got going again, further upriver toward Camp Leakey, also known as Camp 3. I don't find anything reliable on the distance, but it seemed like 2 or 3 hours. Further vegetation changes. 

At some point we deviated off to the right (east) down what I believe is the Leakey River. 
There we saw a boat which was too large for the shallower Leakey River waiting for a smaller speed boat to pick them up for Camp 3. We arrived at the boat dock for Camp 3 and had another long walk in. It seems like the feeding was supposed to take place at 2:00 p.m., but they were about 30 minutes or more late. A number of orangutans waited in the trees in addition to a wonderful Bornean white-bearded gibbon, which was my favorite of all the monkeys. It had extremely long arms and legs and could swing through the trees like Plato's form for the true tarzan. When bananas did arrive it quickly scaled down a tree to the platform, scooped some up in its mouth and a free hand and sped back up the tree. It later came back several times for more banana raids, once comically running across the platform with its arms held in the air before latching on to a tree and quickly elevating. I could have watched the gibbon for hours. 
The gibbon waiting patiently for the bananas to arrive.

Getting closer to the stage, but farther up in the trees. 

Getting closer to the stage.


A really large male, Jabba the Hutt like, dominated the platform and the bananas. 

A mother with a baby dangled in the trees. She eventually got to the platform to sneak some bananas. 

This mother, with a baby on her back, walked right by us up to the platform for bananas.
The mother in the video below, chased after her baby going down the tree to the platform, and got the baby on her and back up the tree. 
We made our way back to the Rimba Lodge for the night. We saw three or four more orangutans along the river, other monkeys and some birds. The next morning we got up early, starting about 6:30 a.m. and headed back to Kumai. The boat had some more clients to pick up that morning and go back out. It was an amazing experience.