The Zoo Road

I can’t stop walking. I walk around the neighborhood. I walk around the park. I walk when I am running errands in the neighborhood.

Thanks to gastric sleeve surgery and physical therapy for my “arthritic knee”, I have lost weight and can walk for a couple of miles at a time without any pain or discomfort. Please get out of my way and don’t slow me down.

The other day my Dear Friend and I went to the Houston Zoo. They open at 9:00 a.m. and we were there walking around by 9:30. It was cool and the sky was overcast. There was a nice breeze. What’s not to love?

Our first stop was the area that housed the elephants. There were no elephants. I am guessing that elephants are not morning critters. Bummer. I love elephants. DF and I kept walking.

We came upon the cougars. I love big cats. Let’s see the cougars! There were no cougars. Apparently they were up late last night partying with the elephants. I wish I had been invited to that party!

Finally we walked into a building that looked out on the gorilla section. Seems as though the gorillas were not invited to the elephant/cougar party either, because there were several gorillas looking wide awake and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. They didn’t seem to mind that we watched them and took pictures.

It was just DF and I and the gorillas. We could dawdle and slowly observe these magnificent creatures. They ate lettuce and drank from coconuts.

As we continued walking through the zoo we saw more and more animals. There were many flamingos. They had just finished their breakfast and were strolling around their area visiting with some ducks and other birds that came by for a visit.

I had never seen so many pink flamingos together in one place. Why yes, I did see a couple that stood on one leg. Did you know their knees fold backwards?

It was about this point when DF and I noticed that we were no longer strolling along without any other zoo visitors. Mothers were also strolling pushing baby strollers. There were parents with toddlers. Then there was one school group…and then another. Quickly the children were greatly outnumbering the adults.

One of our last stops was the giraffe area and these wonderful animals did not disappoint. There were several giraffes of various ages and sizes along with some ostriches and one zebra. I had never noticed before that both giraffes and ostriches have long necks. Who knew? Well, I guess I knew, but had never had cause to stop and think about this before. I had never seen them standing side by side for the comparison. The zoo is so full of all of these educational experiences. Unfortunately there was only one zebra. I wondered if there was another zebra who had partied with the elephants and cougars and was still asleep.

We weren’t able to visit with the sea lions, because several school groups were getting a private showing of the water creatures. Then the closer we got to the front there were groups and gaggles of students everywhere we looked. All ages and all sizes plus teachers and parental escorts. Adults were seriously outnumbered. Time to go.

After walking around for an hour, we had not seen all the animals we had hoped to see. Not a problem. This just meant that we get to go back for another zoo walk to visit the elephants and lions and tigers and bears! Oh My!

Until next week.….

Animals Watching Humans Watching Animals

6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and someone is knocking on my door. Surprisingly I was up, awake and dressed. How did this happen? I opened the door to see my friend standing there looking only slightly more awake than me.

Who’s idea was this?” I mumble.

Yours!” my friend replied.

He was right. This had been my idea. The Houston Zoo was hosting “Photo Day”. The only catch was that we had to arrive there at 7:00 a.m. Yikes, that was early. I used to get up at that godforsaken hour when I was employed, but not since I retired. Would my love of animals make this expedition worth while? We were about to find out.

In an email from the Zoo, we were told to bring whatever camera equipment we could carry. There would be a light breakfast and then we would have time to photograph the lions, tigers, and bears. I assumed that most of the attendants would take photos with their phones. Hardly anyone used actual cameras anymore.

Wow! Was I ever wrong. I haven’t seen that many cameras, lenses and tripods in one place since.….ever! A total geeky photo nerd convention. And, yes, I was right there in the middle of them. Here is what the crowd looked like when the picture taking commenced:

However, before the photo sessions began, we did enjoy a nice breakfast compliments of the Houston Zoo. Coffee and doughnuts and fruit…Oh My! While consuming sugar and caffeine, we gradually woke up and the sun came out. As photographers mingled around, I listened to several conversations:

This baby will zoom from 20 to 600.”

Yeah, but the 70D will shoot 7 fps continuous.”

I can’t believe I didn’t bring my polarizer.”

It cost a lot more than the f4.0, but I get better DOF control.”

Would you know what they were talking about? Me neither. I was way out of my league as far as how much I knew about operating my Canon camera. That’s why I brought my friend along. He’s an Engineer and knows pretty much how everything operates. He even brought his own monopod.

Soon we were off to see the lions. A male lion came outside, but did not walk very far. The keepers put out a lot of food to encourage the animals to move about, but this guy wasn’t that hungry. However, he was beautiful!

After visiting with the lion we moved over to the habitat for tigers. This wonderful creature was much more cooperative and walked around a lot while the “paparazzi” clicked away.

Then it was off to the bears! The two bears in their habitat were sisters. Their names were Bella and Willow. They walked around a good bit, but also spent a lot of time eating coconut. I watching these gals as they finished off the coconut and then gathered grapes and frozen fish. Is it my imagination or is Willow smiling at me?

Last, the male lion went back inside and three lionesses came out for their snacks and pictures. They were much more animated than their male counterpart.

All the while we were moving about to get the best possible pictures, Zoo keepers were talking to us about the animals. By the time Photo Day was over, my friend and I had taken approximately 350 pictures. I hoped I picked out some of the best to share with you.

Was it worth getting up before sunrise to do this? Yes! It was much more pleasant to wake up for Photo Day than to wake up to go to work!

Until next week.….