Tag Archive | animals

Lego At The Zoo

Having spent countless hours with the grandchildren, over the years, trying to make anything remotely recognizable out of Lego, I can appreciate how much work went into creating the more than 40 life-size creatures that featured in Brookfield Zoo’s Brick Safari this summer.

Do these creations qualify as sculptures? I’m not sure, but they are certainly works of art.

The resulting photos have the rather weird effect of looking over-pixelated ( if that’s the correct term.)

One of my favorites was Lance the Leopard who required 42,500 bricks and 340 hours to complete.

It took 375 hours and 110,000 bricks to make Grace the Giraffe who weighs in at 1,652 pounds.  That’s a lot of Lego!

The rhinoceros took 155,000 bricks and 403 hours to complete, while Eli the Elk took a mere 87,464 bricks. 

The grizzly bears were quite impressive, taking 136,569 bricks and 382 hours to build.  They looked quite at home in this woodland setting.

I’m not sure who worked on these amazing pieces but all I can say is, “Well done!”

 

Advertisements

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Man’s Best Friend…….A Salamander?

We don’t have any pets now, nor likely to have in the future.  So what to do for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge which Tina has designated as Precious Pets this week. I gave it some thought and decided to re-submit an article that I wrote many years ago for our camera club newsletter, with a few updates and some new pictures.

Many years ago, when my child’s teacher asked the angelic tots in her classroom whose mother would be willing to baby-sit the class pets over the summer vacation I was immediately volunteered, and before I knew what was happening or could lodge any kind of protest, a garter snake and salamander were installed in our living-room. They weren’t the first pets to find their way into our home and the family albums, but they were certainly the most unusual.  Up until then we had merely shared our living quarters with a giant white rabbit called Snowy who considered the wallpaper and my best lace tablecloth as a legitimate part of its diet, and a tank-full of sex-crazed guppies – not the easiest things in the world to capture on film.

The only time we’d had a dog in the house was on the occasion when, in a fit of desperation, I’d borrowed my in-law’s terrier – a feisty animal that had forced its way, on more than one occasion, to the forefront of our family’s group photos – in the hopes of quelling an unexpected insurgency of mice brought about by the clearing of an empty lot two doors down from us. The perfidious creature took one look at what it took to be an exceptionally belligerent mouse, promptly threw up on the carpet and was instantly sent home in disgrace.

There eventually came a time, however, when we were pet-free, which was when our youngest child asked if we could get a monkey.  “You could take pictures of it,” I was told magnanimously.
My reply, if I remember rightly, went something like this.  “If you bring anything else into this house, it will immediately be slung out on its ear. When you kids grow up and move out you can get whatever you want.”


Strange the way things work out. The kid who brought home the class pets and wanted a monkey eventually moved out and for several years never kept anything more demanding than a houseplant, and even that was handed over to me with a request to “make it better.”   Now, as well as a 15 month-old daughter, she has a 15 year-old cat called Sugar.

Our second-born was slightly more adventurous and at one time shared rooms with a friend who owned a Doberman, a ferret that learned how to open the fridge door, and an electric eel.
Some years later she branched out on her own and bought an aquarium, but as she traveled extensively on business and her home was too far for me to conveniently visit on a regular basis…. you guessed it. Other children come back home with laundry. Mine came back with a glass tank and two buckets full of tropical fish, all of which took up large amounts of space in the family room. Not wishing to let the opportunity go to waste, however, I took so many pictures of fish swimming about that I could have probably given Jacques Cousteau a run for his money. Now that she has a family of her own she is getting to experience the joys of dog, cat, fish and hamster ownership. The kids may say they’re going to take care of them, but don’t hold your breath!

Our eldest daughter, on the other hand, took me at my word. When she moved out, got married and had kids of her own, their home took on all the characteristics of Noah’s ark.  Dogs were just the beginning. Everything from a hyper-active Chihuahua to a deaf Great Pyrenees found its way to their door. They bred boxers (dogs, not fighters or shorts) and gave house-room to a variety of waifs and strays including a St. Bernard, a Basset hound, a Neapolitan Mastiff, and a Shih Tzu.  Cats were soon added to the mix and from then on, every visit became an adventure.

 

A Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, that in a burst of porcine exuberance blundered into the pantry and consumed an entire loaf of bread before it could be apprehended, was introduced into the family, much to the boys’ delight and after a while a lame Shetland pony and a blind horse quickly joined goats, ducks, chickens, boa constrictors and iguanas.

It was a far cry from those early days when a rabbit took center stage in our house but even then, with all that great variety of livestock on hand, when we got together to discuss the latest antics of the gerbils, guinea pigs, monitors and bearded dragons, someone invariably said wistfully, “Remember that salamander we used to have?” I wish now that I’d taken a picture of it. Now that the boys have grown up and have homes of their own, my daughter’s own menagerie has dwindled once more to a very large rabbit, although I did see her looking rather longingly at some Westie puppies that were being sold at the flea market other day.  My eldest grandson, who already has a cat and a Great Dane, has a son of his own now, and if things run true to form I’m sure there will be many more pets to follow in the years to come.

Brookfield Bears

Next to the great apes, I think bears are probably my next most favorite animal to watch at the zoo. On this particular day, Hudson the Polar bear was taking a dip in the pool. And what better way to dry off afterwards than a luxurious roll in the grass.

Meanwhile, over in the next enclosure, a grizzly bear was homing in on some lettuce that had been thrown over the wall, while another was diving for carrots in the pool. I was impressed by it’s swimming skills, rather like an underwater ballet, and the ability to hold its breath for quite long periods of time while foraging for these tasty snacks.  To conclude, just let me say, “Go Bears!” both Brookfield and Chicago.

 

The Great Apes

Tropic World at Brookfield Zoo features monkeys, primates and other animals from South America, Africa and Asia and there’s no doubt that among my favorites are the orangutans. Watching their agile antics and the interaction between family members, it’s not difficult to see why they are considered among the most intelligent primates. It’s also a tragedy that they are now a critically endangered species thanks in no small part to poaching and habitat destruction in their native home of Borneo and Sumatra.

Another critically endangered species and arguably the stars of the show at Tropic World are the gorillas. As much as I love taking the grandkids to the zoo, it’s also nice to take a solo trip especially if I want to concentrate on photography and on this particular day I had plenty of time to watch these great apes as they went about their daily business, without being urged to move on to something else.

The babies are always popular, drawing lots of oohs and aahs from the crowd, and the juveniles get plenty of laughs with their boisterous play but when the old silverback male arrives on the scene everyone keeps a respectful distance.

When a tempting snack of lettuces is thrown into the enclosure, he grabs one for now and tucks another under his haunches for later consumption. He’s the boss and nobody is going to argue with that if they know what’s good for them.

Cats

From meerkats to cats. Big cats! Zoo animals are very much creatures of habit, doing more or less the same thing at the same time every day, so I knew exactly where to find the snow leopard. He was taking a snooze on the ledge right by the viewing window.

Both the lions and tiger were also taking their morning siesta. They can sleep like this for hours so I decided to walk around for a while and come back later in the hopes that they might actually be moving around.

This plan paid off, at least as far as the tiger was concerned. He was on the prowl having taken a dip in the pool (something that I just missed) and appeared to be looking for something. He padded around the enclosure a few times and settled down to chew on some grass.  Eventually, feeling that he’d fulfilled his obligation to entertain the customers, he returned to his ledge and went back to sleep.

 

 

Meerkats

Last Thursday I spent five hours capturing images at Brookfield Zoo so be prepared to be bombarded with animal pictures.  I thought I’d devote each post to one particular species or group of animals and I’m starting out with meerkats. They all looked happy and healthy on a zoo diet of cat food, dry dog food, vegetables, bugs, fish and mice, and were, as always seems to be the case, in a very playful mood.

Taking pictures without flash in low light without a tripod was a bit of a struggle but, thanks to the digital camera, I got off so many shots that there were bound to be one or two that were usable. I couldn’t have done that with the old film camera when I could only afford a few rolls of film and then pay to get them developed.

I love meerkats! They play to the camera so nicely. There were two that appeared to be enjoying a game of hide and seek. First one, then both would curl up in a ball and then look out to see if anyone was watching.

It seemed like such a good wheeze that another pair joined them until eventually the whole clan was involved.

From The Window

I spent much of yesterday birdwatching from the kitchen window.  A family of grey catbirds had become resident in the garden but although we could plainly hear them, they proved rather elusive to spot, so I figured the only way I was going to stand any chance of capturing them on camera was to sit and wait patiently by the window. Any kind of bird that isn’t a sparrow is a welcome sight in our garden, we usually see little else, although we do get quite a few goldfinches at this time of year.

Now don’t get me wrong. Sparrows are fun to watch. They are a rowdy bunch and quite resourceful when it comes to finding food. There are a lot of young sparrow families out there right now so there is quite a bit of activity around the birdbath and surrounding area.

Naturally, the birds are very cautious as there is always the threat of attack from the local hawk who is constantly keeping an eye on what’s going on down below.

So I wait to see what develops and, wouldn’t you know it, my old friend the rabbit shows up, followed closely by a squirrel.

 

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever catch a glimpse of the catbird when all of a sudden, there it is! Gotcha!

Then two more show up!  I think they are nesting in the tangle of shrubs that have grown rampant following earlier rains. Anything could be living in there! I half-expect to see Big Foot step out of the undergrowth first thing in the morning, or at the very least a stray cougar.

Getting one catbird in the frame was great but two was even better. They loved the birdbath and were even willing to share it with the sparrows.

Then, just when everything seemed to be going along splendidly, a shadow swooped overhead and the hawk made a pass across the rooftops. I don’t think he was successful but every creature in the garden scattered, putting paid to any further activity and I had to be content with what I had.