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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Birds

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge seemed like a good opportunity to share these shots that I captured at Brookfield Zoo the other day. As any of you who have been following these posts for any amount of time will know, there is no way I’m going in the bird houses at the zoo. But large birds, outside, are not quite so terrifying, even if the bald eagle did give me quite the glare.

The peacock had lost most of its tail feathers but still looked very colorful and appeared to be sporting some rather snazzy legwear.

Cooler Days At Brookfield

Now that the days are somewhat cooler, I thought I would take the opportunity to visit Brookfield Zoo. The Zoo is quite large, covering some 216 acres, so I’ve found that it’s much easier to focus on one or two areas rather than trying to take in everything in one visit. My favorite animals to watch are the big cats like the snow leopards, lions and the Amur leopard.

There was quite a scrap going on between the two snow leopards when I got there. The last time I was at the zoo it was a combination of mother and daughter that was on view, but this time, the younger female having been sent to another zoo, it was a male and female. No wonder they were fighting!

The lions, brother Brutus and Titus, were doing their usual lazing around, still managing to look majestic in the process.

And the Amur leopard kept up a constant keen-eyed vigil, pacing up and down, watching for any unsuspecting chipmunk or mouse that might come into play.

Meanwhile, over by the bears, the sloth bears were not exactly living up to their name, showing quite a bit of activity, probably because of the cooler weather. One even looked like it was whistling a tune, or maybe it was just pouting for the camera like some female celebrity wannabe.

Grizzly bear Axhi was busy tearing into a coconut and had absolutely no intention of sharing. Speaking of bears, Well done, Chicago Bears! Another win! They have already exceeded many people’s expectations.

Over at the Seven Seas area, the sea lions were making a lot of noise and one appeared to have heard a hilarious joke, beginning with a stifled titter and ending in roars of laughter. Goodness knows we could all do with a good laugh from time to time.

Bonsai

There aren’t too many areas in the Chicago Botanic Garden that I haven’t included in many of the posts here, but I’m fairly confident that this is a first for the Bonsai Collection. There are nearly 300 specimens in the Garden’s collection and many are featured in a display that fills two courtyards.

The collection is made up mostly from donations including 19 imported from Japan by bonsai master Susumu Nakamura. This amazing display can be viewed at the Garden from mid-April to early November.

I’ve always been fascinated by miniatures, mostly in the form of doll houses, so these are especially appealing to me. But considering how long they take to cultivate, I’m not sure that it would be something I would want to take up as a hobby, other than maybe just collecting them.

Most of the trees on display are from 50 to 100 years old, but the one pictured below is considered to be 600 to 1000 years old. This pine tree was collected in the Rocky Mountains.

The Last Rose Of Summer – A Tribute To The Queen

I was feeling in sombre mood when I visited the Rose Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden yesterday. I’d been watching, via the BBC website, the Queen’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall and wishing that I could have been there to say a final farewell. I had already planned this visit to the Garden so I thought I’d see it through and I must admit, the sight of so many lovely roses still in bloom, lifted my spirits.

I clearly remember seeing the Queen’s coronation on a TV newly acquired by my Aunt for the occasion, my first introduction to the ‘goggle box.’ Even then, at six-years-old, I was aware of the pomp and ceremony that surrounded Her Majesty. I’d been given a coronation mug at school and my parents had bought me a miniature coronation carriage so I knew something big was happening. After that, I got to see the Queen twice in person during the years that I lived in the UK. Only brief glimpses admittedly, but none the less awe-inspiring. Since then, I have admired her from afar.

In loving memory of Queen Elizabeth II. What a remarkable woman she was!

Garden Science

While I was visiting the Evaluation Gardens at the Chicago Botanic Garden a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in at the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center.

The Center provides laboratories and teaching facilities for more than 200 Ph.D. scientists, land managers, students and interns. It is also home to a doctoral program in plant biology and conservation with Northwestern University. The Center covers 38,000 square feet and a viewing gallery is open to the public.

A stairway leads to the second floor where a 16,000 square foot Green Roof Garden is also open to the public. From here you get a good view of the nurseries where they are preparing hundreds of plants for autumn planting and displays.

Evaluation

Wednesday morning found me at the Chicago Botanic Garden, crossing the Trellis Bridge to the Evaluation Gardens. I don’t very often visit the far side of the Garden but on this occasion I was in for a very pleasant surprise.

This is the part of the Garden where they evaluate plants to see how well they do in our extremely unforgiving climate, with bitterly cold winters and broiling hot summers, droughts and deluges and temperatures that can change by as much as 30 degrees in a matter of hours. Here, they are checking out old favorites like hibiscus, aliums and butterfly bushes. I did find it interesting to note that the many monarch butterflies that were about seemed to prefer the yellow cup plant to the purple blooms of the buddleja.

The Mitsuzo and Kyoko Shida Evaluation Garden, a new part of the Evaluation Gardens, has only been open for about a year and this was in the nature of an exploration for me as I followed the perimeter road. At the beginning of the garden, on either side of the road, are some lovely seating areas where they are testing out different varieties of clematis.

I took the gravel path nearest to the lake, past beds where they are evaluating various varieties of hydrangeas and Crepe Myrtle. It is very peaceful here as not many people seem to have discovered this new area yet.

Following the path, I came to a tunnel that will soon be covered by crabapple trees. Inside, it was lined with what appeared to be some kind of aster plant. At the end of this tunnel was another pleasant seating area.

Crossing over the road, I headed back in the opposite direction, through another tunnel of crabapples that culminated in yet another quiet seating area.

On this side of the road are the huge nursery greenhouses where most of the Garden’s plants have their beginnings. I must sign up to take a members-only tour of these greenhouses. It should be very interesting to see how things operate in there.

But of more immediate interest were the plantings on the other side of the tunnel. Bed after bed of colorful zinnias, cornflowers and cosmos, interspersed with roses and tall grasses, were so beautiful I found it difficult to tear myself away from them.

You can bet I will be heading back to this part of the garden very soon.

Human Nature – At The Morton Arboretum

A beautiful day at the Morton Arboretum and the perfect setting for their latest art exhibition entitled ‘Human Nature.’

Gingko

These magnificent sculptures by artist Daniel Popper should definitely be viewed from all angles, not only to enjoy the piece itself, but how it relates to the surrounding landscape.

Hallow

These 15 to 26ft tall sculptures were created exclusively for the Arboretum and are made of aluminum, steel, fiberglass, wood and concrete.

Sentient

Each sculpture weighs several metric tons but despite their size, they are sometimes dwarfed by the surrounding trees of the Arboretum.

Umi

The sculptures are spread throughout the Arboretum and although there are parking areas by most of them, some require a short walk to gain access.

Ephemera

The exhibition will be open through March 2023 and I’m looking forward to making a second visit later in the Fall when the surrounding trees will take on a whole new appearance.

Heartwood

The artist, Daniel Popper, is from Cape Town, South Africa, and his art installations include the memorial sculpture for the Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Basilica

Water, Water Everywhere – In Oshkosh

Thanks to Jez for hosting the WWE Photo Challenge, a great opportunity for me to share a few pictures from my recent trip to Oshkosh in Wisconsin. I had no idea that Lake Winnebago was so large!

Lake Winnebago
Asylum Point Lighthouse
Nature Reserve in the grounds of the EAA Aviation Museum
Gardens at the Paine Art Center
An evening stroll in South Park

Shalom Wildlife Zoo

On a recent visit to Wisconsin, we stopped in at a place we’d heard a lot about but never seen before, Shalom Wildlife Zoo in West Bend. Shalom covers about 100 acres, all in a lush, natural setting. The gravel path that winds for 4 miles through this animal sanctuary is not the easiest to traverse but golf carts are available for rental, although we were feeling adventurous and made it around on foot, led by our tour guide who also showed us how and which animals to feed.

The spacious enclosures are in mostly wooded areas and the animals seem quite at ease here. The fences are minimal, where appropriate, and allow easy access for photography and little hands to feed the deer and other creatures that inhabit the sancuary.

Birds are plentiful and include ducks, geese, peacocks and some rather strange-looking emus (do not feed) that gazed at us curiously through the fence.

Their breeding program seems to be thriving as their white tiger recently gave birth to 4 cubs which have yet to put in a public appearance. We did see two other tigers but when your group leader is an active 4-year-old, you’re not allowed to linger too long in one place so I wasn’t able to get a usable shot. I was, however, able to capture a llama that looked please to see us, two tortoises that were up to some hanky-panky and a prairie dog that stood sentry duty while another attempted to dig his way out of the enclosure.

Shalom Wildlife Zoo is home to 75 species and more than 750 animals, including wolves, bison, bears, camels and zebras. The sanctuary is open on weekends January through April when you are allowed to drive your own car through the grounds. They are open daily May through December.

I hope I get another opportunity to visit Shalom as it was a most enjoyable experience, although next time I will be sure to wear more comfortable walking shoes.