It Was an Awesome Photo-Day at the Zoo, 01-20-18

Wow, the dog really let me sleep in this morning! We didn’t get up until about 8:45 am. Day 2 of my 4-day Birthday Weekend: Zoo day! But the zoo doesn’t open until 10 o’clock, so I was able to have some coffee, go through my emails, and do a little journaling before I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo (I’m a zoo member, so I get in for free.)

It was an awesome photo-day at the zoo. I got my favorite parking spot, saw a female Western Bluebird perched in a tree near my car (which I took as good omen)… The air was cool, the sun was warm, and all of my favorite critters posed for photos – even the Roadrunner, who “never” stands still was standing still for me.

Saw lots of babies today, including the young boy Bongo, and the new Wolf’s Guenon (who is almost as big as his slightly older sibling now). He’s still not used to all of the people walking around the enclosure, so he’d run to mom for hugs and then scamper off to play with his siblings or eat his breakfast. I also got to see the baby flamingos again. They’re getting really tall (almost as big as the adults now) and are just starting to get their pink blush.

The chimpanzees and orangutans were out, but they didn’t like the chill in the air and were huddled together or wrapped in their blankets, not looking thrilled to be outside at all.  Two critters that were loving the cool air, though, were the Red Pandas and the Snow Leopard. I’d never seen the pandas so active before. They were moving all over the place inside their enclosure.

The Snow Leopard was waiting for her breakfast, and would go to the door of her enclosure (where she could hear the zookeeper setting things up for her), sniff around, then turn around and walk through her enclosure.  She’d get up on a ledge, go back to the door, turn around and walk back through her enclosure again, then repeat that: up on a ledge, back to the door, turn around and walk back through her enclosure, up on a ledge, back to the door, turn around and walk back through her enclosure… I left before I saw if she actually got her breakfast or not.  The African Lions were out, but very sleepy, and the Tiger was out but sitting in the rear of her enclosure, dozing in the sunlight.  The Jaguar put on a show of movement I’ve seldom seen him do. He’s usually lying around, but this morning he was walking, jumping over the little “river” in his enclosure, coming right up to the fence and looking at the people…

I heard one of the docents say that the jaguar doesn’t show any interest in the small children who walk past his enclosure, but the male Lion often singles out a kid in the crowd and stares it down. “You can see his prey drive kick right in,” she said. “The little kids looks like snacks to him.”  Yikes!

In the middle of my time there, I got some lunch. The café was shut down because they’re refurbishing the floors, but they’d brought out some grilles and hot plates and were cooking outdoors in front of the building. I had a bratwurst sammich with chips, coleslaw, and some sweet tea.  Before leaving I also got a soft-serve ice cream cone and  some cotton candy. (Must haves whenever I go to the zoo.)

The funniest thing I saw at the zoo today were the River Otters playing with one another. When I usually see them, they’re dashing back and forth in the water and it’s hard to get picture of them. Today, the two of them were rollicking right in front of the glass along the front of their enclosure, rolling over one another, scratching and rubbing each other’s bellies.  One of them got under some fallen branches around their pond and started doing bench presses with them: pushing them up with his feet, letting them down, pushing them up again…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

One thing I’d noticed at the zoo that I’d never seen before were bat boxes posted in the trees throughout the zoo.  I asked one of the docents about them, and she said they’d been slowly going up since last year. I wonder what species of bat they’re attracting: most likely Little Brown Bats and Mexican Freetails…

The only disappointment of the day was when I tried to get some photos of the Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, my favorite birds.  They were doing their courting ritual of serving one another dead mice, and for some reason my camera decided that THAT would be the moment when it froze up and refused to function properly.  Arrrgh!! I got a few photos of the birds, but none of them were very good. Still, having only that one disappointment didn’t dampen my spirits.  I had a fun day at the zoo.

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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.