Sunday, October 17, 2010

Birds and Things at the Zoo

I attended a birthday party at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday. This has got to be the greatest idea for a birthday party ever! The food was good, the setting fabulous, and a zoo person brought around live animals for us to see and touch. It was lots of fun.

First up was this cute little Eastern Screech-owl, named Van Gogh because he only has one ear. Actually, he does have two ears; what we call "ears" are really only tufts of feathers. He is not a baby, he is a 3 year old adult. I never heard what happened to the feathers on the left side of his head. And no, we couldn't touch him.
Next was a Dwarf Rex rabbit. A Rex has fur like a chinchilla - all soft, downy undercoat, no outer guard hairs. Very soft!Some people got the shivers when the next animal was brought out to us - this little American Alligator. Isn't he the cutest?I liked him so much I had to include this close-up of his "smile."Finally, what I considered to be the coolest of the four critters - this armadillo.It looked just like a pillbug, all curled up so tightly. I would have loved to have held it. Even better would have been for her to put it down, so I could watch it trundle around the room.

As the party was winding down, I took the opportunity to wander around the zoo a little. I saw these flamingos outside on one side of the building which houses the Treetops party room
and got these Impressionist-style photos of the koi in the pond on the other side of the building.

Since there was only an hour before closing time, I was limited in how far I could go. I decided to check out the bird house, and found these guys waiting for me in a cage outside.The sign said that Kookaburras are members of the kingfisher family. When I read that, I thought, "Of course - that big head and huge bill are typical of kingfishers. Why hadn't I noticed that before?"

Inside, we had a wide variety of birds, including:

Rhinoceros Hornbill
Pesquet's Parrot
Louisiana HeronHarlequin Duck
King Penquins getting a meal
(with a Marconi's in the background)
and Least Auklet.
Trust me, that's what this is. The thing was more flitty than a kinglet. It never sat still - not on land or water.

There were more birds in the bird house, plus many more outside as well, but I wanted to end with this Mystery Duck.
I know it is not one of our native wild species, but couldn't decide if it was an exotic or some sort of hybrid. A "helpful" zoo guest told me, "I'm a duck hunter; that's a Hooded Merganser." I answered, "I'm a birder, and I've never seen a merganser that looked like that."

Anybody got an idea what this might be?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Planning ahead

I have an unused acre of land on the east side of my property. I call it my meadow. Once a year, before the rains of November, I have it bush hogged to keep it in check, but otherwise, I let it go wild. It probably makes the neighbors angry, to see this messy, unkempt field next to their carefully manicured, but woefully sterile, lawn. Hey, folks - we're in the country. Get over it.When I first moved in, I mowed this acre regularly, to keep up with the neighborhood standard. It was never used by anything or anyone, including me. Now, it is full of meadowlarks and butterflies, sparrows and all manner of wildflowers. This summer, I found myself frustrated when I was unable to get into the heart of the field, to examine a flower or chase a butterfly. Next year, things will be different.

Since the field was just bush hogged, and the day was bright, warm, and dry, I decided to carve some walking paths through my little meadow. One long, swooping, lazy "S" runs from top to bottom,
and a second, twisting windy trail crosses the first at several points. I added a couple of extra accesses and a connecting spur, then seeded the meadow with some common milkweed, from pods I picked up this fall.I think I have the basis for a nice little nature trail.The dogs inspected my work and pronounced it satisfactory. To be specific, it rates "Two Sniffs" on their Smell-o-meter. Deer or rabbit poop would have given me more points, I think.I am already excited to see how this area developes next spring. I hope to be able to bring you updates as the seasons progress. All I have to do is keep my pathways mowed and let nature do the rest.