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Meeting the birds of lake Bogoria

Flamingo at lake Bogoria.

Nestled in a narrow basin, Lake Bogoria is dominated by towering cliffs.

Some call it the most beautiful lake in all of Kenya, and as the three of us descend upon it in our pickup truck, we can easily see why.

It has a shimmering, pea-green color, the result of a rich supply of algae.

These tiny plants thrive because of abundant sunlight and the warmth of the multitudinous hot springs that feed into the lake.

Lake Bogoria is thus a popular feeding ground for the dozens of pink, algae-eating flamingos that adorn it.

Picture of flamingos at lake Bogoria.

But flamingos are just the first of many feathered wonders that Paul, his wife Paula, and I will observe on this camping trip.

We drive slowly along the rocky, arid western shore.

Steam jets shoot their white plumes skyward.

Just beyond, perched on a rock jutting up from the water near the shore, sits still another feathered benefactor of the rich algae supply: the African fish eagle.

“There are no fish in this alkaline lake,” explains Paul. “So why do you think the eagles are here?” he asks.

The answer comes flying over—another fish eagle carrying a flamingo clutched in its sharp talons!

Now I understand why these pink beauties keep a safe distance from those perched predators!

The fish eagle is easily identifiable from a distance.

Its pure white head, back, chest, and tail contrast sharply with its chestnut abdomen and brownish-black wings.

When found at alkaline lakes where there are no fish, the eagle feeds almost exclusively on flamingos, a pair of eagles killing one every two or three days.

In freshwater lakes, however, the fish eagle truly is a fish-eater.

Picture of a fish eagle.

Imagine, though, walking along the shore of an African freshwater lake and having a fish dinner drop from the sky in front of you!


Not at all.

This white-headed fisherman has slippery talons and is known for dropping its fish catch—to the delight of local residents!

Nevertheless, the fish eagle is a distinguished flier, putting on stunning displays of aerial acrobatics.

A pair may soar at 200 feet [60 m] and then abruptly clutch each other’s talons.

With wings held out stiffly, they will go into an exciting spin, which ends only 30 feet [9 m] above the water!

Pulling out of the spin, they resume soaring, catching the rising thermals.

Winged Dancers

The dusty, rocky road around the southern edge of the lake becomes increasingly hilly and difficult to navigate.

As we climb the final stretch, we pass a pair of crowned cranes quietly picking insects off blades of grass.

Picture of a pair of African grey crowned crane.

It is now late afternoon, and with a sigh of relief, we reach our destination—Fig Tree Camp.

Situated on the extreme southeastern edge of the lake, it is a welcome oasis for tired travelers.

After a night’s rest, we sit around a morning fire, sipping hot coffee.

Then, suddenly, there it is!

Just a few feet [a meter or so] overhead, the male paradise flycatcher is hovering, busily building his nest in a tree only a few feet [barely a meter] from our campsite.

Picture of a paradise flycatcher.

“What a beautiful, long white tail!” exclaims Paula.

Long indeed.

The length of the male without tail feathers is only seven to seven and a half inches [18 to 19 cm].

But its two tail feathers may reach an astounding 16 inches [40 cm] in length.

Though relatively small, the paradise flycatcher is quite a fighter.

Even when much larger birds of prey venture too close to the family nest, the male does not hesitate to attack!

“It’s going to be difficult to get a good shot of this one,” says Paul as he sets up his camera.

Not sitting for long in one place, the busy nest-builder makes frequent trips to an abandoned leaf-clogged cobweb high in a tree.

His purpose?

To collect the sticky substances that he uses in building his nest.

Anxiously searching for the best parts of the web, he hovers first here, then there, executing rapid sideways body motions that send that spectacular tail whipping about furiously.

We enjoy his showy dance!

Finding his choice pieces, he returns to the nesting site, his graceful tail flowing behind him like a wave.

Later that morning we spot another pair of crowned cranes.

 Picture of pair of crowned cranes.

They have decided to feed in the grassy meadow in front of our camp, between the lake and the fig-tree forest.

One of the tallest East African birds, the crowned crane stands over three feet [almost a meter] on stilt-like black legs.

Its plumage is a beautiful blend of white, maroon, black, and gray.

But the remarkable features are seen above the neck.

The velvety black forehead is bordered by white and scarlet face wattles—large fleshy lobes.

And the crown?

A regal tuft of straw-colored, bristle-like feathers.

No wonder it was chosen as the national bird of neighboring Uganda!

“Have you ever seen a crowned crane dance?”

Paul calls out to me from a distance. I immediately head in his direction.

 “What do you think of that?” he whispers as we approach them.

The cranes face each other, those elegant heads bobbing and bowing as if participating in some bizarre royal ceremony.

With both wings open and raised high above the back, a span of some four feet [over a meter], they dance and pirouette in a solemn fashion for several minutes.

 “Is this the mating dance?” I whisper.

“No, they do this anytime,” he replies.

“In western Kenya I’ve seen a flock of a hundred or more dancing.”

During the mating season, the male really puts on a show.

(How could he ever hope to impress her with just his everyday dance?)

Standing hunched up and stooped over, with only one wing raised, he proudly throws his head back and, with bill pointing skyward, utters the booming bass mating call.

Impressive indeed!

Our trip has been far too short to see all there is to see in this area.

However, it has stimulated our appreciation for this animals and makes us eagerly look forward to the time when all earth’s animals will live together peaceably in perfect ecological balance earth.

Amazing animals found in the Amazon jungle

Picture of a blue yellow macaw.

The Amazon jungle is known as the richest plant area on earth.

Tens of thousands of varieties have been identified.

On just about every square mile (2.6 square kilometers), well over a hundred different kinds of trees flourish.

Depending on geographical differences in altitude, there may be dense thickets of mangrove trees, ebonies, fine mahoganies, cedars and aromatic rosewoods, chestnuts, tall brazil-nut trees, various types of willows and the handsome rubber trees.

Interspersed among all of these are numerous varieties of palms and tropical fruit trees. Branches drip heavily with vines and creepers.

So thick is the greenery that treetops struggle toward a barely visible sky.

What about animal life?

Animal life in the amazon jungle

Fat-bellied Tangarana ants swarm over the Palo de Santo tree.

In return for a permanent dwelling, these ants protect the tree from the slightest touch of any invader.

Down on the jungle floor, leaf-cutting ants march in single file, each carrying a sizable piece of leaf.

Picture of a leaf cutting ant.

Countless beetles dart here and there or quickly take to flight.

Especially noticeable is the largest of all beetles, titanus giganteus, measuring about six inches (15 centimeters) in length.

Picture of titanus giganteus beetle.

Occasionally one may catch the flash of a firefly, visible in the permanent dusk of the dense underbrush.

Picture of a firefly.

Brilliant butterflies and huge, strange-looking moths take wing.

Nearby, frogs are croaking.

Picture of a frog.

Underfoot, curious green and gray lizards dart away, while little salamanders scamper up trees.

Picture of a lizard.

Somewhere out there are giant anacondas—with measurements of up to forty feet (12 meters) in length and two and a half feet (.8 meter) in diameter being claimed for some of the largest of these snakes.

Picture of an anaconda basking on a rock.

Of the 250 kinds of reptiles said to dwell in the Amazon jungle, few are actually poisonous.

Unless surprised or molested, the predatory varieties kill only for food, and humans are not a part of their diet.

Contrary to popular opinion, the jungle is not entirely populated by large and dangerous animals. In the South American jungle, the largest animal is the hog-sized tapir, with pumas and jaguars as runners-up.

Catlike tigrillos, long-snouted anteaters, armadillos and ocelots share the underbrush.

Picture of two armadillos.

Foxes, raccoons, little deer and many types of rodents find their niche on the jungle floor.

Picture of a raccoon.

Under ordinary conditions none of these are known to be a threat to humans.

Of the 14,712 varieties of animals reportedly inhabiting the Amazon area, over 8,000 are said to be unique.

Animals life in the trees

By far the greatest concentration of fauna lives in the trees.

Screams and raucous screeches identify worlds of parrots, macaws, toucans and multitudinous other known and little-known kinds of birds.

Picture of two macaws flying.

Add to this the chattering of  raccoons, the coos and warbles of doves, whippoorwills and the like, as well as the rat-tat-tat din of the woodpecker, and you begin to sense the busy world above you.

Picture of a woodpecker.

Several kinds of quaint-faced, loose-membered monkeys swing nimbly from limb to limb, chattering and scolding.

Picture of a monkey climbing a tree.

Circling high above the treetops, alert vultures await a meal.

Picture of a vulture on a tree.

Their voracious appetites keep the area clean of decaying flesh.

Here and there are pools with giant lily pads hiding bright, tropical fish.

Everywhere there are little streams of brownish, leaf-dyed water.

Eventually everything flows to the Amazon, the highway of the jungle.

Life in the waters

In the waters of the Amazon jungle, there are stingrays, electric eels, caimans, turtles and the sharp-toothed piranhas that may strip an animal of its flesh in just a few minutes of seething activity.

Picture of a piranhas underwater.

One has to check with the local natives before swimming in any of these waters.

Jungle waters are not necessarily good swimming pools!

Nevertheless, you will see little groups of native children splashing in some of the sluggish jungle rivers.

This brings us to the people of the “Great River” area, an interesting contribution to the temperament of the jungle.

Its People

Amazon native tribe people.

Three or four centuries ago there may have been at least 230 different tribes of Indians inhabiting the region.

They lived in small isolated communities, generally confining themselves to certain geographical areas.

Among the domains of tribes still recognized today are those of the Jivaros, Aucas, Campas, Chamas, Machiguengas and Shipibos.

Perhaps only twenty or so well-defined tribes remain.

Their needs are few—perhaps a log home, a hammock or two, a blow gun and a spear.

Their diet consists mainly of yucca, bananas, turtle and fish.

The Amazon jungle is indeed a fascinating area—a tranquil place.

The still, humid atmosphere is occasionally disturbed by tropical thunderstorms.

These and the exotic sounds from a great variety of animals, however, do not really ruffle the immense, placid jungle.

Although many kinds of animals make the jungle their home, it is not an environment fraught with tremendous perils for those who respect the “Do Not Disturb” signs.

A tour to Nepal's royal chitwan national park

Experience wildlife in chitwan national park.

It was almost midnight.

The jungle around us was pitch-black.

Above our heads, the tall trees obscured the starry sky.

To see where we were going, we kept our faint torch close to the ground.

We were looking for a tiger!

But as we stumbled along in the dark, a fearful thought kept popping into my mind—was the tiger also looking for us?

To see some of Nepal’s treasured and endangered animals in their natural habitat, my wife and I had come from Calcutta, India, to Tiger Tops, a jungle lodge in Nepal’s Royal Chitwan National Park.

This is a 360-square-mile [932 sq km] reservation of grassland and beautiful forests in the northern reaches of the Terai, among the foothills of the great Himalayas.

Getting to tiger tops

The journey was an adventure in itself.

First we flew from Calcutta to Kathmandu, the capital of the mountainous kingdom of Nepal.

The flight offered us a spectacular view of the towering peaks of the Himalayas, including the 29,028-foot [8,848 m] Mount Everest.

Kathmandu—the name evokes a sense of what is ancient and remote.

So we were surprised to find Western-style buildings standing along traditional, narrow, winding streets.

Ancient bazaars with their handcrafted goods vie with arcades selling imported perfumes, tinned goods, and stereos. It is a changing but still fascinating city.

At the Kathmandu airport, we boarded a 19-seat plane for Chitwan Valley.

After a 30-minute flight through lofty mountains with terraced slopes and deep valleys, we landed in Meghauli on a grass field, apparently one of the world’s smallest airfields.

But the journey had not ended yet.

Via Land-Rovers and dugout canoe, we came to a small clearing.

Transportation by canoe.

To our surprise, six huge elephants emerged from the tall grass to meet us.

This was to be our transportation for the rest of our journey to the jungle lodge.

Sitting on the padded platforms on the elephants, we found the gentle, steady rhythm of the elephant walk a real contrast to all the different modes of transportation we had used to get this far.

Transportation by means of elephant.

At last we arrived at Tiger Tops.

It was a two-level cane structure with thatched roof, standing on 12-foot [3.5 m] stilts.

Our rooms were pleasantly furnished.

Just as we were noticing a sign in the room that said: “Don’t leave food out for unwanted guests,” we heard a thumping sound from outside.

The “guests” were several langur monkeys scrambling along our veranda, looking for handouts.

Meeting the elephants

At the nearby elephant camp, our naturalist instructor explained the vital role the elephants had in the lodge operation.

The camp maintains a herd of 12 elephants for transportation.

Camp elephants taking a bath.

Ten of them are females as they are more gentle than the males.

Each elephant eats 500 pounds [230 kg] of fodder and drinks more than 50 gallons [200 liters] of water daily.

The cost of maintaining one elephant comes to $2,500, U.S. a year, and an elephant lives 65 years, on the average.

This gives real meaning to the term “white elephant.”

Since white elephants were considered holy, they could not be put to work but would become a liability.

Thus, an ancient king could easily ruin a minister not in his favor by giving him a white elephant.

We were told that the elephant can be trained by its mahout, or keeper, to obey a number of verbal commands and other signals.

To move forward, for example, the mahout sitting on its back will prod his toes behind the elephant’s ears, and to make the elephant move back, he will dig his heels into the animal’s shoulders.

Other interesting and fun commands are like giving you a wash.

An elephant giving tourists a wash using it's trunk.

It takes five to eight years to train an elephant thoroughly; it then becomes very sensitive to such commands and responds quickly in spite of its four-and-a-half-ton frame.

In search of rhino

A rhino at  Royal Chitwan National Park.

The great Indian one-horned rhinoceros is found in only one location in the world—the area between Nepal and the territory of Assam in India.

To get a glimpse of this rare animal, we set out in a caravan of elephants, with two or three persons sitting atop each animal.

The elephants formed a single file, each gently plodding along in the steps of the one in front.

For years the habitat of the rhino was threatened by widespread cultivation of the Terai grasslands and by government-sponsored malaria-eradication programs.

Only in the last two decades or so had conservation efforts been put forth to stabilize the situation.

Now, about 300 of the estimated 1,000 one-horned rhino left in the Indian subcontinent roam in the Chitwan Valley swamplands.

Soon our lead elephant headed straight into a wall of elephant grass that towered well over our heads.

We began to feel the excitement of the chase.

Through the grass we could hear one mahout calling excitedly to the other.

Suddenly, the elephant alongside us raised its trunk and issued a piercing blast, and our animal reacted by swerving to one side.

Amid all the commotion, a rhino dashed out of the grass, brushed past us, and disappeared into the grass ahead.

Quickly, we rushed forward to get a further glimpse of the animal.

As the grass cleared, there, in full view, was a baby rhino scurrying to keep up with its frantic mother. Together they vanished into the safety of the trees.

Picture of mother and baby rhino.

We were glad that the rhino chose to run away from us.

For even though an elephant can usually handle a tiger, it is cautious with this third-largest land animal.

When provoked, the rhino will fight furiously either with its foot-long [30 cm] horn or with its long, sharp lower tusk, which can cut the underside of the elephant like a scalpel.

Despite its short legs, the rhino can match a horse in speed for short distances.

This, coupled with its weight, makes the rhino a formidable enemy.

Tiger call

Picture of a Bengali tiger.

It was after ten-thirty one evening, and nearly everyone was in bed.

Suddenly the silence of the night was broken by rushing footsteps and shouting.

A tiger had been sighted!

Three of us along with two Gurkha escorts dashed off into the darkness.

We walked about a quarter of a mile.

Then we were told to remove our shoes, for they would create a vibration that a tiger is sensitive to.

Not used to being barefoot, that last part of the walk was silent agony for us.

We were also not allowed to talk, whisper, cough, or sneeze.

Was the tiger really in front of us, or eyeing us from behind?

What had we got ourselves into?

Our guide signaled us to stop.

We listened but could hear nothing in the dark, still night.

By the light of our faint torch, we inched forward until we found we were moving along a seven-foot-high [2 m] thatched partition.

When we came to a right-hand turn, we were motioned to stop and position ourselves behind cutouts in the partition.

We stood as still as we could and listened.

Yes, we could hear the tiger devouring its prey, and it sounded very close—too close!

Suddenly powerful lights came on, and there it was, a Royal Bengal tiger!

He was just about 40 paces from us.

Instinctively, I tensed, not knowing what his reaction to our intrusion would be.

But to my surprise, there was no response from the tiger.

The lights did not disturb him.

Yet I was told that if we were to click our cameras, he would be gone.

What a beauty!

There he lay beside his kill, a young buffalo.

His powerful body, over nine feet [3 m] long to the tip of the tail, was full and rounded, probably weighing about 450 pounds [200 kg].

Markings of white, black, and golden orange stood out vividly.

His obvious strength would lend support to the claims made by some that the tiger is more powerful than the lion.

Using our binoculars, we were able to get a close-up look at his beautiful head and body.

Truly one of the world’s most magnificent animals!

It was worth every bit of the effort to see the famed Royal Bengal tiger.

My impression had always been that the tiger is an inherently aggressive animal that will attack at the mere sight of man.

But as I was finding out, the opposite is true.

Unless provoked, it is normally shy and mild-tempered.

When it comes across a human, it usually runs away after giving the situation a brief look-over.

Wildlife photographers report that they have come within 10 to 15 feet [3-5 m] of a tiger in its natural habitat, only to be stopped by a warning growl.

This is also the signal to back off and slowly withdraw. 

The tiger may follow until the intruder has gone beyond the boundary of its territory.

Fond Memories

The next morning we had another urgent call:

“Get ready quickly for takeoff!”

Automatically I envisioned the hustle and bustle of getting to the airport in a taxi.

Only this time our taxi was an elephant.

Soon, our lovely lodge, our gentle elephants, our feline friend, our meandering river, were all behind us.

But with us we carried away memorable pictures of the way life is for these magnificent animals of the wild.

A journey through Jurong Bird Park

 Jurong Bird Park

“Fire the cannon!”

At his keeper’s command, Sudden Shot, a beautiful blue-fronted Amazon parrot, bends his head.

His powerful beak presses the trigger.

Instantly a table-tennis-type plastic ball shoots from the metal tube.

But it does not have the chance to travel far.

Mr. Horn, a well-groomed toucan, is waiting for it.

A toucan with trainer.

With a deft flick of the head, his extraordinary orange-colored bill opens to pluck the ball from the air with the greatest of ease.

The keeper rewards our feathered duo with seeds readily at hand as the audience in the small amphitheater breaks into spontaneous applause.

Every year, close to three quarters of a million people visit Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park, a 50-acre (20 ha) site that has become home to more than 3,000 birds, over 300 species gathered from around the world.

Visitors to Singapore Jurong Bird Park.

What a fascinating, delightful place it is!

Five acres (2 ha) of the park are now “the world’s largest enclosed walk-in aviary,” as the official guidebook describes it.

As we stroll through under the fine mesh draped high above the trees, birds are everywhere.

Brilliantly colored parrots chatter noisily as a fairy bluebird quietly flits from tree to tree.

Parrots at Jurong Bird Park.

A purple gallinule deftly walks across the water lily leaves, its enormous feet giving it perfect balance.

Numerous waterfowl splash in a stream fed from a one-hundred-foot high (30 m) artificial waterfall.

Waterfowls at Jurong Bird Park.

At the end of the path, we join a group of tourists to admire a proud peacock with tail open in full display.

Picture of a peacock.

In complete contrast, all is quiet in the nocturnal house.

Rare owls perch motionless as we whisper to each other in the darkened corridors.

Picture of a owl.

Black-crowned and nankeen night herons wait patiently in their mangrove-swamp setting.

Picture of Black-crowned Heron.

But the rarest birds we had hoped to see, the kiwis, New Zealand’s national symbol, remain elusive to us.

Then we see the unusual Australian tawny frogmouth unexpectedly staring down at us.

Picture of the strange Australian tawny frogmouth.

Out in the open once again, we pass the lake, resplendent with its flock of flamingos, and go on to quieter pathways.

Picture of flamingos at Jurong Bird Park.

We marvel at the birds of prey and move on to watch breathlessly as the hummingbirds so delicately sip nectar from the hibiscus.

How is it possible that this, the smallest of birds—some weigh less than an ounce (28 gm)—can beat its wings up to 70 times a second?

Truly, it is a magnificent marvel of design.

To care for the inhabitants of this Jurong Bird Park is a prodigious task.

Correct foods and habitats have to be maintained carefully.

Yet, despite Singapore’s tropical heat, penguins from the cold waters off South America’s west coast breed contentedly here, just as the native songbirds do.

Picture of penguins at Jurong Bird Park.

Now we are just in time to see Mac the macaw go through a circular loop.

As he pedals across the stage, the young children shriek with delight.

Picture of macaw doing a trick at Jurong Bird Park.

“It took three months to teach Mac to do it,” explains the park’s public-relations manager, “and we train between 50 and 60 birds a year.”

Trainers have to be kind and patient.

Birds are rewarded, never punished.

“We are still looking for two more bird trainers.”

But it is not for us.

Soon we must return to our northern clime, to our friendly robin, whose red breast will bring a little color into our garden.

Picture of a robin.

Then, how pleasant it will be to recall memories of this glorious pageant

Giant squid-The mysterious legendary sea monster

Two boys fishing a mysterious sea monster.

Three Newfoundlanders—Daniel, Theophilus, along with twelve-year-old Tom—were fishing in their little dory when they noticed an unusual object floating nearby.

Out of curiosity they hit it with a boat hook.

What a shock they received!

Suddenly the waters foamed and a giant squid appeared, attacking them with its flailing tentacles, finally wrapping these around their boat and threatening to capsize it.

Quickly young Tom grabbed the hatchet they were using to cut bait and chopped off a tentacle of the monster.

To their great relief, it then gave up the fight and slid back into the ocean.

But if it were not for the portion of the tentacle that lay in the bottom of the boat, it is doubtful that the other fishermen at Conception Bay would have believed their terrifying account.

The tentacle portion measured nineteen feet long and three and a half inches around.

For centuries people had heard of legendary sea monsters of all descriptions.

It may well be that some of these hair-raising accounts were occasioned by sightings of what scientists now refer to as the greatest living cephalopod, the giant squid.

Imagine sighting a sea creature about sixty feet long, having eight powerful arms and two longer tentacles attached to a bullet-shaped body.

Its eyes are the size of plates.

Its parrot-like beak of a mouth is strong enough to cut heavy wire.

It is the largest creature on earth without a backbone.

Discovery of giant squids

Sailors capture a giant squid sea monster.

Although one can find smaller squids in every ocean, there being over 300 different kinds, the giant species lives at depths of 1,500 to 3,000 feet.

No wonder it is seldom seen by humans!

Although old records tell of sailors’ sighting and even capturing these marine giants, such incidents were usually discounted by scientists until about a century ago.

The skepticism was caused to some extent by fanciful stories.

Scientists got their first good look at Archy the Squid, as we might call it, in the 1870’s.

For some unknown reason, possibly due to oceanic changes, many surfaced off the coast of Canada. They were sighted and some were captured.

Then in November 1873, just a month after the three Newfoundland fishermen were almost drowned by one, a giant squid was caught and carefully examined.

It turned out to be a thirty-two-foot specimen.

Giant Arms with Swivel Suckers

Illustration of a giant squid attacking a whale.

Because of its long, snakelike arms, many think that the giant squid is some kind of octopus.

But not so.

There are many differences.

The octopus has a round, baggy body with eight tentacles.

The largest may weigh fifty pounds and have an arm spread of about ten feet.

Now picture the giant squid. It is ten times the size of the largest octopus.

Its cylindrical body is about fifteen feet long, with, not just eight, but ten of the most awesome arms imaginable.

Eight of these arms can reach out as much as twelve feet.

In addition it has two tentacles with sucker-studded tips that can stretch out forty to fifty feet!

The arms also have rows of sucker disks raised on short, flexible stalks that allow the suckers to swivel in any direction.

And, depending on the species, these suckers may have sharp teeth around their rims or claws that can be sheathed or extended at will.

Just fine for catching and holding on to a potential meal with slippery skin!

Jet-powered speedster

An illustration of a giant squid powerful long tentacles.

While the octopus crawls along the ocean floor and lives in crevices, Archy the Squid will be found swimming about in the open sea.

Using two fins along the sides of his body, he can cruise in leisurely fashion.

But when he wants to go places in a hurry, he goes by jet!

In some species this jet thrust is sufficient to hurl him out of the water and a hundred feet through the air.

How is this possible?

The mantle holds the secret.

The mantle is composed of thick skin and muscles that not only protect the vital organs of the squid but also give it its propulsion with jet power.

When the muscles in the mantle relax, water enters through a loose edge around the neck and fills up large cavities inside.

Then as the mantle contracts, the opening is sealed and the water is forced out under high pressure through a funnel-like passage underneath the head.

By changing the direction of this “nozzle,” the squid can get instant reverse thrust, moving forward or backward without turning.

If frightened, the unusually large nerves of the squid trigger a spontaneous generation of power that propels it at top speed in moments.

These nerve fibers, which are one hundred times the size of man’s, are so sensitive that when the squid is threatened, a nerve impulse flashes to all parts of the mantle simultaneously.

Reacting with tremendous force, the muscles contract to create a powerful jetlike thrust.

Other Unusual Equipment

The squid is literally a blue blood of the marine world. 

Its blood has a bluish color because of a copper compound in it.

When it has been depleted of oxygen, it is cycled through the gills by two hearts, pumping it into one gill each.

Then a systemic heart serves to pump the fresh blood through the tissues.

So, the squid actually has three hearts!

The organs of this living jet engine give wonderful testimony to the handiwork of its Creator.

Archy and his mate are each equipped with an ink sac.

This releases large amounts of black fluid for camouflage, shooting out a blob approximately squid-size to confuse pursuers.

An underwater “smoke screen”!

Also helping the squid to elude attackers are small color cells that give it the ability to change colors.

These cells are so efficient that they can closely match the color of their background, even causing a wave of color to flow across the body of the squid as it swims from one background to another.

Giant, indeed, are the eyes of this amazing sea monster.

They may grow to fifteen inches in diameter, which is as large as some beach balls.

Mr. Squid’s eyes are surprisingly similar to the human eye.

Both have eyelids, transparent corneas, outer and inner chambers, retinas, lenses, rod cells yielding black and white images and cone cells for registering color impressions.

The structural resemblance is so striking that Dr. N. J. Berrill, a noted biologist, commented:

“I think if you asked any zoologist to select the single most startling feature in the whole animal kingdom, the chances are he would say, not the human eye, which by any account is an organ amazing beyond belief, nor the squid-octopus eye, but the fact that these two eyes, man’s and squid’s, are alike in almost every detail.”

The 100,000 receptors per square millimeter in the eye of the squid make it possible to see even fine detail.

A question of size

A huge sculpture of a giant squid.

Many wonder how large these giant squids really grow.

The largest one examined was found in Lyall Bay, New Zealand, and measured fifty-seven feet long.

But only twelve different species of these giants have been classified, and it is possible that other larger ones may exist. In fact, some evidence suggests this.

For example, sperm whales live almost exclusively on squids, from the smaller species to the giants.

Many of these huge whales weighing fifty tons have deep cuts from encounters with the giant squid.

Often their skin is pocked with circular scars measuring from two and a half to four inches across.

These were apparently inflicted by the suckers on the squid’s tentacles during wild undersea battles, as these scars are approximately the size of the sucker disks on a fifty-foot squid.

But if sucker size is proportionate to the size of the squid, then the oceans may contain some truly enormous giants.


Because some of these scars measure eighteen inches in diameter!

By comparison, a squid with eighteen-inch suckers would be about two hundred feet long.

The existence of such gigantic squids has never been confirmed, and it is true that these large scars may have been the result of the suckers stretching the supple skin of the whale. 

However, a travel writer of the nineteenth century claimed to have seen a squid tentacle that was as thick as a human’s body and with suckers the size of a saucer.

Cacique unique nest for protecting it's young

A picture of cacique nest.

Protective measures

The cacique bird of Central America has a way of protecting its young that even the most intelligent human would find a test of his brain power.

Forest cats, giant lizards and raccoonlike animals all could easily raid the caciques’ nests, even those built high in the trees. 

But these birds foil their enemies by enlisting the help of an ally, without the ally’s invitation. 

They build a colony of nests, often 50 or more, on a single branch of a large tree.

A cacique colony of nests.

They also select a branch that holds a large nest of tropical wasps. 

The wasps do not seem to be annoyed by the nests, or by the activities of the birds, but woe to the intruder that tries to reach the nests!