Vacation Day #3: Sacramento Zoo… Mostly

DAY THREE OF MY FALL VACATION… Columbus Day; the office is closed.  I got up around 6:30 this morning, and initially headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve to see if there was any water there yet or any sandhill cranes in the rice fields.  I saw some cranes in the distance, but the preserve was dryer than dry.  I walked for a little bit – to the end of the wooden boardwalk and back – and then I decided to leave the preserve and headed back to Sacramento.

By the time I got there, I knew the Sacramento Zoo was just about to open.  I thought with it being a “holiday” the zoo would be packed, but the parking lot was nearly empty when I got to it, so I spent the morning at the zoo instead.

At the zoo, I spent a lot of time watching the Wolf’s Guenon monkeys. The whole family was out: mom, newborn baby, the two older siblings (by the same mom) and dad. The baby is getting more and more brave, and wants to go searching around their enclosure, but mom is very protective of him and won’t let him too far out of reach. At one point, she had all of her children around her, and the baby squirmed away from her and started to climb down a branch. One of its older siblings caught the baby by its tail and slowed it down enough for mom to get up and scoop up the baby.  Hah!

The male Eastern Bongo was out, but the female and her baby weren’t. While I was watching the male, I noticed some tree squirrels running around, and saw one of them climb a sturdy cane of bamboo straight up into the overhanging limbs of a tree… where the squirrel had built a dray (the name for a squirrel’s nest).

Of the big cats, only the lions and jaguar were out. The female lion was perched on top of the “cat tree” in their enclosure, so I was able to get quite a few photos of her. But the male was pacing, so it was hard to get any good shows of him.  I heard him bellowing later, though, and assumed others got pictures of that. The jaguar there is very “secretive”, so you don’t get to see him at all very often.  Today, though, he was standing right by the fence on one side of his enclosure where there’s a small pond.  He was cleaning himself, licking his paws… I’d ever seen him that close before. His was sitting at kind of a weird angle from me, though, so most of the photos I got of him were from over his shoulder. His coat is soooo gorgeous…

I got to see the baby flamingoes again today and, wow, do they look different from the last time I saw them. All of their white baby fluff is gone, and they’re starting to get their fledgling feathers. They’re a mix of dark gray and pink now.

The zoo has built a new bridge and viewing platform the crosses through the middle of the big pond where the adult flamingoes hang out with many other birds (some of them wild, some of them belonging to the zoo). There were several pairs of Wood Ducks in and around the pond, and I got some photos and a video snippet of one pair as they were grooming one another and nibbling at one another’s bills.

In the Kangaroo enclosure, there were quite a few ‘roos and wallabies out hopping around. Usually, I hardly get to see one or two of the critters; today, they were everywhere.  The Red Panda, in the enclosure across the walkway from the ‘roos, was out, but was sleeping in his tree.

Here are some pix & videos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157686030399802

Around 11 o’clock I stopped and had a hot dog, fries and a beer for lunch. After that, I walked through the reptile house before heading out of the zoo.

By the exit, there was a docent holding one of the zoo’s “animal ambassadors”, Tim (short for Timbuktu), a Mali Spiny-tailed Lizard. It was really cool-looking. His dark skin was really loose-fitting on his body, and he’s able to “inflate” himself in defense if he needs to. His tail looks like a major weapon: covered in rings of hard-scale spines… The docent said Tim was about 13 years old.

I got back to the house right around noon.

 

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.