Foxes and Lion Cubs and Other Critters, Oh My!

!  I made myself a light breakfast, rebooted the dishwasher, and did some laundry before heading over to the Sacramento Zoo.  My hopes were to see the new Fennec Foxes they have on display as well as the new lion cub triplets, but I wasn’t sure if any of them would be out because it was so cold (about 43º).

I had to go through the zoo a couple of times to get some of the shots I wanted (because the animals were staying out of sight, inside where it was warm.  But… I DID finally get some shots of the foxes, and got to see the lioness and her babies when they stepped out to play.  There was fencing all around the lions’ den so you couldn’t get as close to the railing as you normally could which meant it was harder to shoot through the loops in the chain link (because the camera kept trying to focus on the fence and not the animals on the other side of it.)  Still, I was happy I got a chance to see them.  The cubs are darling; they were pouncing on each other and running all over the place.  At one point, the mama picked up a big ball and brought it to them, but they weren’t interested in that.  When she went back into their den and sat in the doorway, one of the cubs ran up to her, crashed into her chest and then laid down between her front paws.  So cute!  The Fennec Foxes were much tinier than I thought they would be – and are “all ears” – They rushed out into the sandy-gravelly pit area where the aardvark usually is, and darted back and forth… then ran back inside their den to warm themselves under the infrared lights in there.  Smart little guys!

I didn’t get to see the bats because they were hidden in their cave, but I DID get to see the jaguar who’s usually “never” out.  He was pacing and chuffing; I don’t think he’d gotten his breakfast yet and wasn’t happy about that.  I also got to see an Orinoco Goose go after a kid who was standing too close to the fence when the ganders’ harem came up out of the water to feed.  It rushed the kid with its wings outstretched and tried to bite him in the knee.  His mother thought it was hysterical, but the kid wasn’t too happy about it.  Hah!

In the animal hospital on the zoo grounds, the doctors were giving a checkup to a huge turtle.  The signage said the turtle had a gall stone and the doctors were deciding what to do about it (whether the animal was fit for surgery or not).  It must be difficult to operate on a turtle; going through the shell would do so much damage – but if you had to work around it, you’d have to figure out a way to get a camera in there so you could see what you were doing…  Interesting stuff.

The chimps and orangutans weren’t out while I was there, so I didn’t get to see them, and I didn’t venture into the reptile house because there were screaming children all around it.  All in all, though,  I did get to see the foxes, the lions, the tiger, the Bateleur Eagle, the King Vulture, the Hornbills, lots of parrots and ducks, a Western Screech Owl, the White-Faced Saki, the Wolf’s Guenon, the jaguar and snow leopard, zebras, ostriches, giraffes, the White-Handed Gibbon, the giant anteater, the Red River Hogs, and the Yellow-backed Duiker (but not the baby one), the flamingoes and the White Pelicans… so it was a good day at the zoo.  AND I got my cotton candy!    On the way out to my car, I also found a rooster under a car in the parking lot – probably warming himself under the hot engine.  Hah!

Once I got home, I finished off my laundry and baked up a couple of veggie pies.  Then I crashed for the rest of the day with the dogs.

A video of a Merganser Duck:

A video of the lion cubs and their mama:

A video of Orinoco Geese:

A Few Birds at the Cosumnes River Preserve

I got up around 8:00 but stayed in my jammies until about 9:30 when I headed off to the Cosumnes River Preserve for my walk – after rebooting the dishwasher and starting a load of laundry…

There weren’t many people at the preserve even though this was one of their Ducks in Scopes Days, and they had spotting scopes set up along the boardwalk to get a close look at the birds around it.  There weren’t a lot of birds there, and someone complained that the season was over too soon this year.  One of the volunteers with the scopes said, no, the birds were all in the surrounding pastures where flooding had brought up all the worms and crustaceans and copepods.  They were in the region, just not within the preserve itself… which made viewing difficult.  Still, I did get to see some Pintails, Mallards, Cinnamon Teals, Green-Winged Teals, American Widgeons, female Buffleheads, and Coots, House Finches, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Red-Tailed Hawk and an American Kestrel.  They also had some dishes and a small microscope set up on a table so you could see a lot of the water-borne insects and larvae in it.  There were several dragonfly nymphs in it, including the cast-off shell of one that had already gone through its last instar and emerged a dragonfly, as well as a mosquito larva that curls and sprang around the water along with tiny worms and copepods. Creepy but interesting.  I walked around for about 2 hours and then headed back to the car.

Visit to West Coast Falconry

I slept in until almost 9:00 this morning; that was nice.  When I got up I did my morning ablutions stuff and brewed a pot of coffee, and then went through email, photos and journaling stuff before heading out to Marysville around 11:30 for my Owl Encounter at West Coast Falconry.  The write up for the encounter read: “…The most primitive and perhaps fascinating of all raptors is the owl. Its large, round eyes made ancient man feel as if it could see into his soul, and the mythology surrounding this stealth hunter from the land of our dreams is replete with images of arcane wisdom, to the fearful expectation of death.  Learn the facts about the most primitive raptor on the planet, its role in nature, its habitat, and how falconers have related to this enigmatic bird in the past and now in the present. Our Eurasian Eagle Owl is representative of the largest species of owl on the planet. Attending the experience gets you up close to this giant, silent flier. You will witness her grace in flight as her trainers take her through her exercises…”

I had to stop first to put some gas in the car.  I’d never been to Marysville before and the place I was going to was actually a residence, so I had some trepidation about going there and getting there in time for the appointment.  On the way there I saw a lot of ponds and flooded fields with huge flocks of geese in them, and a couple of them had SWANS in them, too.  It was so hard not to pull off to the side of the road to get photos, but I didn’t want to be late for my owl encounter.  I made it there just fine, and in fact got there about 15 minutes early.

There were 7 other people who attended this encounter.  We were all expecting it to be just about the Eagle Owl, but they actually had three owls there to show us the difference in size, facial composition, and feather colors.  Along with the Eagle Owl (which was huge!), we also got to see their Barn Owl and the young Speckled Owl, “Owlsey”… and we all got to “glove up” and call Owlsey to us, having him land on and take off from our hand, while others took photos of us.  The whole thing was soooo interesting and the birds were so beautiful none of us wanted the session to end.  Hah!

The Eagle Owl’s name is “Cailleach” (Kay-leesh) and means “Old Wise Woman” or “Crone” in Gaelic.  And she was magnificent; her large orange eyes were just mesmerizing.  She was totally silent during the demonstration, so I don’t know if she hoot or screeches.  Owlsey had a couple of different calls including a “knocking” click he made deep in his throat when he wanted a treat.  (We were told that other owls make a similar noise right before they kill something.)  The Barn Owl was “Amadan Ban Bheag”, a female whose name means “Little White Fool” in Gaelic; she was screechy, not hooty.

I also saw a lot of their other raptors, including “Zopi” the Yellow Headed Vulture, “Enkidu” an Aplomado Falcon who (as he’s still a baby) was very noisy, and several Harris Hawks, a Swainson’s Hawk and a Finnish Goshawk, etc.  Just gorgeous birds.  The visit was both entertaining and very educational, and I really, really enjoyed it.  I’d love to go back there and try a falconing lesson or an owl walk in the future.  So much fun!

When the session was over, I hung around afterwards to thank all the ladies for the presentation – and also asked them if they’d be interested in doing a presentation/lecture for Tuleyome next year.  They said they’d be happy to, so now I have to send them our open dates and get them onto the calendar.  Yay!

I got back home a little before 4:00 pm so it was kind of a long day… and I was hungry when I got home (as I’d only had a piece of toast and an apple during the day).  So, I made myself some BLT’s and then crashed for the rest of the day…

Oh, and here are some short videos:

Amadan the Barn Owl:

Cailleech the Eagle Owl