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Entries in Zoo (45)


Zzzzzz zoo

We really enjoy going to the zoo. I know it's a controversial thing, zoos, and I can see both sides of that argument, but since they're here, and while they're here, we like to take advantage of seeing animals we would never otherwise have the good fortune to see. Still, while I love going to zoos, I'm not fond of the crowds, the heat if it's summer, or the crowds, or definitely, definitely the crowds. There's something about zoo going that brings out the worst in people. I swear the idea of calmly and patiently waiting in lines, a thing we all supposedly learned about in kindergarten, goes out the proverbial window faster than the proverbial baby in bath water. And since the jostling, pushing, constant people in the way, and overall monotony of voices drives me batty after a time, I can only imagine what it's like for the animals, who from their small spaces must put up with, day in and day out, the human cacophony that accompanies any crowd.

But the work day is blessedly short for your average zoo animal, and although I never put much thought into zoo after hours before this week, I can now say with utmost certainty that happy hour is a thing at the zoo. Think of it this way: once all that cacophony, all that humanness, walks out the front gate, all panda-monium breaks loose.

They're gone! the animals are thinking, Let's get our party hats on!

The minute the after hours hush falls over the zoo, the animals come alive. Whatever animal you couldn't find because it was hiding behind the rock is now out cavorting with whatever enrichment device was just now placed in their enclosure by the equally relieved keeper. It's better than happy hour beer, it's happy hour frozen fish, or crackers in a box, or grubs in a ball. This is the life.

And you know what else? All the animals that don't officially live at the zoo, all the free-loading rabbits, ground hogs, geese, and ducks also come out for the fun. And everyone's in such a good mood, the rabbits don't even think of taunting the wolves, who are too busy galloping all over the enclosure now that nobody can see them to give a hoot anyway.

Yes, zoo closing time is just like closing time anywhere else, and I know this because now I've seen it thanks to a summer time homeschooling field trip. Just as everyone else was skipping out the front gate, about twenty of us were sneaking in (not really, because we were there by invitation) to take part in the happy hour festivities. We toured the grounds, we made enrichment activities, we saw (as best we could) animals playing after dark, and we slept with the fishes in the zoo aquarium, the sharks, rays, and sea turtles slowly floating by all night long. Then the next morning, functioning on only as much sleep as we'd been able to muster, we were given another tour of the zoo before the front gates opened and we were set loose with all the other zoo goers.

Of course, by then we'd been privilege to the zoo as it is in its off time, and the open hours were less impressive, but we did get to feed the giraffes.


Birthday Zoo

If all Spike Jones and the Chipmunks wanted for Christmas was their two front teeth, all Calvin really wanted on his birthday was a trip to the zoo. The poor kid had earned it weeks ago with a good showing in his end-of-the-year school work and had patiently been waiting ever since then, but one thing or another (weather, car trouble, and other events) had gotten in the way...until last week, and then it just seemed fitting to wait. And maybe to surprise.

Recently, in talking with my parents about fun memories and events, I mentioned how fantastic it was that they were so spontaneous when we were kids. I distinctly remember several days, sprinkled here and there through the years, that started like any other day but ended at a fair, or a zoo, or eating ice cream the next town over. The best example I had was my brother and I being awakened early one morning and asked if we'd like to go to Cedar Point. You have to ask??? Of course! I mentioned to them how wonderful that seemed, both at the time and even now, looking back, and they had this to say: it wasn't spontaneous at all. They'd planend it all out, they just didn't want us to be disappointed if it rained and we ended up not being able to go. I guess you could say said spontaity was a little like Santa Claus.

So when we got up on the morning of Calvin's birthday, and we'd filled his floor with balloons in the night, then served him the breakfast of his choice and given him a card I'd been saving for for him for years, I asked him what, if he could do anything in the world, would he like to do for his birthday. Go the zoo, was his obvious answer, and I simply said yes. And it seemed spontaeous, and it felt like a gift in and of itself, and it was great! And I'd planned it all ahead. I learned from the best.

So to the zoo we went, along with, apparently, dozens of schools taking elementary kids on equally well-earned end-of-the-year field trips. That's okay, though, because outside venues don't get crowded the way indoor museums do, and we were able to avoid most of the cumbersome foot traffic. We did do several of Calvin's favorite things: the dinosaur exhibit was back after several years away, we rode the train, we visited the penguins, and, because this was top on his list of things to see, we visited the Black-crowned Night Heron roookery, which is not an official zoo exhibit, as the birds are entirely wild but have made the zoo trees their home for decades. We also saw a tiny baby Oriole being fed by his parents and a family of Wood Ducks in the free pond (i.e. also not zoo animals), and there were two entirely new animals, Gentoo Penguins and Wolves, which delighted both of us.

Although sad that Jon could not join us, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this little boy turning nine.

Mexican Bluewing

Owl Butterfly

Scarlet Ibis

Read the sign, don't remember

Taveta Golden Weaver

Wood Duck family

Baltimore Oriole


Red Panda

Amur Tiger

Polar Bear

Grizzly Bear

Black-crowned Night Heron (wild)

Gray Wolf

Pairie Dog

American Robin (wild, bathing)

Giant Anteater

Flamingo (bathing)


Detroit Zoo

Our time at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago made us miss our own zoo. So, with just a few days between travels, that's where we went. Some may wonder how we can stand to visit the same zoo so often, but if you really spend time with the animals while you are there, you'll find that while the exhibits are fairly much the same from time to time, there is always something different to see. This trip we thought it would be baby otters, but it turned out to be a number of other things, from the Black Crowned Night Herons nesting in their rookery, to the polar bear performing for a crowd. Yes, it's always a different place for us.

What did the turtle say to the cormorant?

that is one sleepy camel...

This is Talini, the polar bear that was born the year before Calvin.


Detroit Zoo, 4/1

No fooling (to be honest I've always hated the concept of April Fool's Day), it was practically summer at the zoo today. All through March I tentatively predicted at least one more major snow fall, and in the end I believe we received exactly zero inches of snow for the whole month. Now here we are on the first day of April sweating in shorts and t-shirts and reaching for ice cream during an afternoon at the zoo. I still won't hold my breath—snow in April is always a possibility in Michigan—but could it be that spring is really here?


Zoo days are here again

The weather has been unbelievable as of late. On Tuesday, with temperatures reaching near 60, Calvin and I spent our day at the Detroit Zoo. This is the best time of the year for the zoo—if you don't mind the occasional mating dance, the animals are the most active in the spring before the heat has set in but after the cold has passed, and the zoo is uncrowded yet warm enough to enjoy. I think this is the first time that Calvin and I have gone to the zoo as just the two of us, and I think it might become our favorite new weekday activity. At least until the schools get out, that is.

The otter was sleeping. I think I have about a dozen other pictures just like this.

The female tiger was busy. Jon and I remember the year she was born—the year we first joined the ranks of zoo membership, six years ago.

The peacock joined us for our picnic lunch, even though we didn't share.

And we took the time to stop in the butterfly house on our way out of the park. We don't usually hit any of the indoor attractions, but now that we have our own butterfly garden at home Calvin thought we might get some pointers from the zoo's butterfly garden, so we stopped. So beautiful.