In the late 90s, I made a very brief trip to South Africa for work. I had one day spare while I was there and so took a trip to Pilanesburg National Park, a wildlife reserve. I spent a day driving around looking at various different wild animals, mostly at a great distance. Since it was the middle of the day, lots of the interesting stuff was out of sight. Near the end of my time there, I took a drive down a side road to a watering hole that was supposed to be popular with hippos. I find hippos fascinating so was hoping to see some. No such luck.
As I drove back up towards the main road and started contemplating a return to Johannesburg, I saw a bunch of cars on the main road that had stopped. I slowed down, figuring that they had seen something off to one side so I started looking. Sure enough, they had. An elephant was wandering through the trees and coming straight for me. I sat watching it approach. It didn’t seem bothered that I was there and came straight for the car. When I realized that it was going to come right through me, I put the car in reverse and quickly got out of the way – grabbing a close up shot as I did so. It came on to the road and turned away from me walking towards a camper van. The van soon came to the same conclusion that I had. The elephant wasn’t interested in stopping or going around them so they had to reverse up the road as the elephant paced them appropriately. Finally it turned off and I imagine they breathed a sigh of relief.
Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle was holding a fundraising event this summer. It was called Wild Bites. Taking place in the evening, it consisted of a bunch of Seattle restauranteurs having food stands throughout the zoo along with some drinks stands. You could wander around between the enclosures, take a look at the animals, stop for some snacks themed on the part of the zoo they were in and grab a drink too.
It was an enjoyable evening with some really interesting food and a nice atmosphere. I will have some follow up posts with specific animals from the evening but overall we had a really nice time. A minor problem was that a lot of the animals seemed to turn in for the evening once normal closing time came around. We found quite a few were settling down or were already asleep. Also, the drink stands seemed to run out of stuff later in the evening and, since we had waited to sample some of their stuff, to find it was out seemed a bit off.
Still, it was a nice evening and the zoo was a great place to wander as the light gently faded away. It was all raising money for the zoo too so a worthwhile cause. Keep an eye out for something similar if you live in the area.
There are four tigers at Cougar Mountain Zoo. They are in two pairs and they move them between enclosures to give them some variety in their surroundings. They were pretty active compared to tigers I have seen in other places. They spent a lot of time checking out where they were. Of course, being cats, they also enjoyed lying around for some of the time. The staff also did a demonstration with them when they showed how they carry out physical examinations for the cats when necessary.
The tigers would come up to the fence and would stand up on their hind legs with their paws up on the fencing. This allows the staff to CA them out from the safety of being behind the fence. It is a good opportunity to realize just how big a tiger really is. Those paws are something and, if you were in there with them, you can see how easily they would dispatch you!
If you head across the Dumbarton Bridge at Fremont, you will pass Ardenwood Historic Farm. On the right side of the highway as you head towards the bay, this farm has been a feature of the area for over 100 years although it is now a fraction of its former size. However, it is now under the control of the East Bay Parks District and open for the public to visit. It is a combination of little bits of what a farm would be. You could say it perpetuates some of the myths you have as kids about what farms are like since we grow up thinking that all farms have a bit of everything rather than just being a cattle farm, growing a single crop or raising chickens en masse.
However, it does provide an opportunity to see some aspects of an old style farm much as they once were. The farmhouse itself is quite impressive. The family that owned it became quite influential in the area and had the house to match. The grounds are nicely laid out and it was a pleasant spot to spend some time as the chickens that were scrabbling around in the dirt near us also seemed to think.
There are goats, sheep, pigs, horses and cows in the grounds. They get a lot of attention from the visitors and we were no exception. The goats were the most active seeming to be more interested in the leaves on a tree above a bench in their enclosure than the food that they had been provided. A couple of the kids were desperately reaching under a fence. I guess the grass really is greener…
We took a trip to Brookfield Zoo to see the young snow leopards. However, we also were aware that there had been some other new arrivals at the zoo since we had last visited. One of these was a baby White Cheeked Gibbon. After visiting the leopards, we headed for the large primate building to see how the new arrival was doing.
Shooting in the primate house is tricky since the light is not always great. I also hadn’t planned for this so didn’t have a flash with me. After the cold outside, the warm and humid building also made for a lot of steaming up of the gear so we spent a lot of time just looking around while everything cleared up. The baby was certainly pretty cute. Mum was taking good care of him while some of the other gibbons seemed to be a bit annoyed about the lack of attention they were getting. This could involve trying to poke the baby. However, Mum was up to the task of fending off any unwanted attention!
As members of the Brookfield Zoo, we get regular emails telling us about changes that have taken place at the zoo. A recent email caught our eye. Two new Snow Leopard cubs have arrived at the zoo. There was a YouTube video of them playing in their enclosure. They are not related but are of similar age and have been paired. Just like any small cat, they were full of energy and were rolling around and fighting. Exceedingly cute!
We figured we need to get there to see them. When Hudson the polar bear was a cub, we were a bit slow in getting to see him and he was a little large by the time we first caught him. Still very cute but certainly a lot bigger. It seems that Snow Leopards grow fast too! With winter (supposedly) here, animals outside are a rarer event since a lot fo the zoo’s creatures are not suited to Chicago winters. We also wanted a sunny day to make some photography opportunities.
We did get to the zoo and we were lucky to have a great weather day. Both the leopards were out in their enclosure. They are already quite large so we missed the cutest stage. However, they are still quite playful. They have some high locations that they like to rest on but they would still fight with each other. I watched one sneak up on the other and the leap in the air that resulted was very funny.
Shooting them in the enclosure can be tricky. There is a glass wall which gives great viewing but makes shooting a little tricky. The glass is thick and the light is very shaded. In the enclosure open spaces they are more easily shot. However, the high rock area they like to rest on is very close to the netting that keeps them in. When they are further in, a shallow depth of field will remove the netting from the shot but when they are close to it, there is nothing you can do. Hence, I apologize for the net in some shots but I still think they look cool!
Brookfield Zoo is a regular haunt for us. It is a great zoo, constantly being improved and an obvious source of photo opportunities. Recently, they sent out an email telling us that the African Wild Dogs had a load of puppies that were now old enough to be on public show. (I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t just their age but also that is was now warm enough for them to handle Chicago!)
We took a ride down to the zoo to see how the pups were looking. As with all animals at the zoo, when we got there to see them, they had decided that taking a nap was more important. I always find that a zoo trip requires a fair bit of patience (which is why I am mystified that so many parents take tiny kids – they always seem to be bored while the parents look like they are obligated to take children to see the animals.)
We wandered around to see some of the other wildlife before heading back. The new bear exhibit at Brookfield is nicely done and well worth the visit so we spent some time watching the bears before heading back. A peacock wandered by in the meantime and suddenly decided to do his display. It was very dramatic, particularly if you are a peahen apparently, as a bunch of them came running over. Certainly and unexpected surprise and a very welcome one.
Back to the African Wild Dogs and a few of them were up and about. They were no longer a huge pile of sleeping pups. They weren’t bounding all over the place but they were a lot more active. It was certainly fun to see them and good to see them before they get too big. They are already half their full size so it won’t be long before you can’t tell them from their parents.
On the way out, it was impossible to avoid taking a peak at the lions. The lion was roaring loudly as we approached and was giving the lioness a fair amount of attention. I wondered whether lots of children were about to have their eyes covered but the lioness obviously had other plans and moved off. I guess spring really is in the air. First the peacock and then the lion!