Leopard seal in Antarctica

4 01 2010

I photographed numerous leopard seals in our back-and-forth jaunts in the inflatable boats from the MS Disko to land. They look sweet and cuddly, but leopard seals are the second largest species of seals and by far the most aggressive (something I didn’t know at the time). The whiteish throat with black spots gives the seal its name.

According to Wikipedia: The leopard seal has an unusually loose jaw that can open more than 160 degrees, allowing it to bite larger prey. It can live up to twenty-six years, possibly more. Orcas and large sharks are the only natural predators of leopard seals. The leopard seal is the Antarctic’s equivalent of the polar bear and is the top predator on the continent. Visit Wikipedia‘s link on the leopard seal here. (In the section on “attacks on humans,” I read that “leopard seals have previously shown a particular predilection for attacking the black, torpedo-shaped pontoons of rigid inflatable boats….” Hmmm…sounds like what I was in while photographing this guy!)

If you possess a morbid curiosity about how leopard seals devour penguins (one of their diet staples), take a look at the incredible still photos (many underwater….brrrr!) of leopard seals in Antarctica by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen in a video he narrates here. Nicklen’s latest book, Polar Obsession, is available on Amazon here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Hmm. I don’t remember planting that.

16 10 2008

Honestly. Although I have been known to squeeze plants into every square inch of our gardens, I have no recollection of planting this one. I just noticed it blooming last Thursday. It looked familiar. It looked just like beautiful purple Ageratum, which I no longer even bother to grow. Why? It never thrives in any place I put it. It’s an annual. It looks terrible when it’s not in bloom. Yes, it’s beautiful on the nursery shelf. It’s a whole ‘nother thing when I add it to my garden. So each year when I’m out buying plants to fill all those imaginary holes in my garden, I put blinders on when I see that spectacular flash of purple-blue.

So I’m walking around the garden Thursday morning and see this familiar plant—the one I no longer purchase each year. Only this one is huge. Shrub-sized. It can’t be Ageratum. But it really looks a lot like Ageratum. When I was at Nalls Monday photographing baby Jonathan, I saw the same plant. The tag identified it as a Hardy Ageratum (Eupatorium Coelestinum). Hmmm. Didn’t know it even came in a non-annual, hardy version. Finally, an Ageratum that thrives despite neglect. I do not remember purchasing it. I do not remember planting it, either. Perhaps a garden fairy brought it here? A wayward Weedette from my Garden Club, looking for a caretaker for her overages? Anyway, here’s a photo of said plant—and yes, I am aware that this photo won’t win any awards.

By the way, in my online research I learned that although this plant’s common name comes from its remarkable resemblance to the annual Ageratum, it is not related to it. Hardy Ageratum prefers moist soil, and although it likes shade for most of the day, it will tolerate some sun. (I question that fact since it is thriving in full sun all day long in my garden!). Forming a clump about three feet tall, it begins to bloom in September. A member of the Aster family, it is a magnet for butterflies. How fortunate is that for this butterfly-crazed photographer?

P.S. I also read that, after a few years, it can expand aggressively via underground runners. Rut roh.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.