Tag Archive | animals

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.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

This week, guest host Ana from Anvica’s Gallery, recalls the song ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow‘ as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.

Last week we were blessed with some exceptionally fine weather for November and everyone seemed to be enjoying the warmer temperatures. There also appeared to be some leg and wing stretching exercises in progress in preparation for those long winter days ahead. The first two images were captured at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg where there were a few mallard ducks, a couple of frogs that refused to be photographed and a lone turtle doing some calisthenics.

The creatures at Brookfield Zoo were certainly making the most of this late autumn reprieve and were soaking up the rays with evident pleasure.

Meanwhile, at the Chicago Botanic Garden, a tardy heron, who should probably have already been on his way south, stopped for a wash and brush up and gave his wings a bit of a stretch while an armada of geese sailed calmly by.

The sun may come out tomorrow but it probably won’t get much warmer and will definitely get a lot colder than this in the months to come.

Flurries

We have seen quite a flurry of activity in our garden recently; birds flying south, and who can blame them, while critters get ready to hunker down for the winter along with the rest of us. Robins have flocked here by the dozens, attracted by the red berries in the shrubbery, that also appealed to some passing starlings.

My arch-nemesis, the rabbit, and his pals have been frequent visitors, as have the squirrels. The rabbits just get on with the job of eating whatever’s there, while the squirrels rush about like mad things, nibbling at tasty morsels and burying the rest, then looking around in puzzlement, scratching their heads and wondering where they left it. No wonder random plants keep popping up all over the garden! Squirrels are the first ones up to the buffet in the morning and the last to leave at night. They believe in getting their money’s worth.

Although I’ve often heard and glimpsed the flicker flying around the neighborhood, going from tree to tree, I’ve rarely seen it on the ground so I was quite happy to get this shot, even though he stubbornly refused to turn around so I could capture the black medallion on his chest.

Another fairly rare sighting in the garden was this woodpecker. We usually see the smaller downy woodpecker that shows up when I hang the suet basket out.

The blue jay caused a flurry as it usually does, squawking and making a fuss, so unlike the placid mourning doves that go about their business with just the occasional mild “Coo.”

Mr. & Mrs. cardinal arrived one afternoon, watched closely by a line of sparrows. Later, what appeared to be a dialog between the male cardinal and a male sparrow ensued. Perhaps they were sharing a joke.

Sparrow-: “Have you heard the one about the bishop and the actress?” Cardinal-: “Haha! Nice one!”

Sparrow-: “I figured being a cardinal, you’d appreciate that one. Know what I mean? Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.”

The juncos, goldfinches and purple finches snuck in when the sparrows were not hogging all the food. I think I identified them correctly but welcome any input if I didn’t.

Normally, at this time of year, if I saw these swallowtail caterpillars, I would bring them inside to await the emergence of some beautiful butterflies in the spring, but since the last batch produced almost nothing but parasitic wasps I decided to let this lot fend for themselves. Sorry!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Inspiration

This week, Tina has chosen Inspiration as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. With so many places closed down, travel restrictions in place and family gatherings limited because of Covid, and trips to the city put on indefinite hold because of increasing violence, I’ve been finding it hard lately to get motivated enough to get out and take pictures. I decided to look to the younger generation for some inspiration. Youngest granddaughter loves going to the zoo and great-grandson adores dinosaurs so yesterday I took my cue from them and headed over to Brookfield Zoo where by happy coincidence they are featuring a dinosaur exhibit. I think the kids would have approved.

Although the place was quite busy, most people wore masks and practiced social distancing and it was good to see families out there enjoying themselves, taking a break from all the turmoil that health, politics, social injustice and natural disasters has thrown at us this year.

Although the zoo itself is open, not surprisingly, all the indoor exhibits are closed which meant no pictures of gorillas in Tropic World and only a limited view of the bears. Add to this the fact that most of the animals were sleeping (when aren’t they?) and with the usual challenge of trying to get a decent shot through the intervening fences and wires, it proved to be an interesting exercise in zoo photography.

Despite so many of the attractions and services being unavailable, the zoo more than made up for it with the addition of the Dinosaur Exhibition. These prehistoric giants looked quite at home in their various settings and the animatronics and sound effects had all the kids (and some of the adults) squealing with excitement.

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Spring in Spring Valley

This week, Tina is celebrating Spring for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. One of my favorite local places to visit is the Spring Valley Nature Center and Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg. Sadly it wasn’t open this Spring for obvious reasons and and will remain closed at least through August. That being the case, here is a nostalgic look back at Spring in Spring Valley.

Spring Things

Despite the fact that the weather has been freezing one minute and tropical in nature the next, I did manage to capture some Spring things in the garden with the camera. Because of all the rain, everything is looking very lush and green with flowers bursting out all over.

In fact, everything has been growing so well that even the rabbit can’t keep up. We have had what amounts to a bunny explosion here, of late, but thankfully there have been enough weeds to keep them occupied while my lilies and other tasty bits have continued to flourish unmolested.

On the butterfly front, We had a disappointing outcome to the dozen or so Swallowtail pupa that we kept overwinter, when all but one produced nothing but very mean looking parasitic wasps which were evidently the result of the parent wasp laying its eggs in the caterpillars in the fall. I had all but given up hope when the final Swallowtail emerged from its papery parcel and, after sufficient time to dry off, was released it into the garden. What happened to it after that, I cannot say, but it reminds me of a little anecdote regarding a moth.

When our daughter and her husband lived in Texas they spotted a moth that had fallen into the swimming pool.  It was making a gallant effort to extricate itself without much success.  They were fully clothed at the time (the kids, not the moth) so they couldn’t dive in to assist it but being the tender-hearted people that they are, they searched for the net that was used to scoop out unwanted debris and after much faffing about, finally managed to haul the moth in and laid it gently on the deck to dry whereupon a bird promptly flew down and ate it.

I hope our Swallowtail managed to survive at least long enough to have a look around. We have caught fleeting glimpses of other butterflies  in the garden and received a more prolonged visit from a monarch that appeared to be enjoying the chives by the back door as did a rather large bee which put up with me sticking the camera in its face for only so long before it became irate and chased me off.

Usually at our house, at this time of year, you’ll hear the cry go up, “Ducks are in!”  For nearly thirty years, we have played host to passing mallard ducks that are making their way to the pond at our local park. They’ll return several times and one year they even made a nest behind one of our shrubs. Unfortunately something ate the eggs, but the following year they returned, this time with ducklings in tow. They appear to feel right at home, helping themselves to the bird seed that I put out, sometimes marching up and down on the roof or paddling in the little ground-level birdbath.  They normally arrive first thing in the morning and twice this week I’ve looked out of the window and seen them actually standing on the door mat. They’ll be knocking on the door next.

Strangely enough, ducks are one of the very few species of bird of which I am not afraid. I can’t explain it other than the fact that they don’t do a lot of fluttering, which accounts for the clarity of these pictures as I was standing outside right next to them, rather than taking a hazy shot through a window which is how I get a lot of my bird pictures.

However, it was a different story with this baby robin. The neighborhood probably heard me scream when, going around the garden with the camera and taking pictures of the flowers, I realized that I was within touching distance of this little guy who just sat there looking puzzled as I shrieked and fell backwards into the irises. I ran back into the house to get a longer lens and took this picture from a safe distance.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Countryside Or Darkside

Another brilliant piece of timing by Amy in choosing Countryside for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week!  Last weekend we rented a log cabin in the Wisconsin countryside (a first) so the whole family could get together.  Daughters, spouses, grandkids and us, experiencing the joys of country living, at least for a couple of days.  As someone once said, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  Don’t get me wrong. We had a wonderful time but there are just some things that I cannot get used to.

The bugs! My God! The bugs!! If nothing else, the size and quantity of bugs in the countryside make this city girl want to stay close to the city.  When we arrived at the cabin we were greeted by screams and shrieks coming from inside. “Aaaagh! Kill it! Kill it!”  This coming from the kid who once travelled up the Amazon in Peru and trekked through the jungle in Thailand. Even she was having a hard time dealing with the bugs in Wisconsin.

I don’t know why it is, but I feel far less comfortable in the countryside than I do in the city.  My imagination seems to get the better of me and my nightmares threaten to become a reality. Speaking of nightmares, I have this recurring one where I am walking in the country and suddenly come upon a wild animal, usually a lion.  I don’t doubt there is a psychological explanation for it but it makes me very nervous when I’m hiking through the woods.

Everything seems to take on a sinister appearance in the countryside and my fear of birds takes on an added dimension.

Even the most innocuous country scene promises to hide some new danger. Was that a bear I saw lurking among the bushes?

We were obliged to take refuge in the cabin for several hours one afternoon when we heard the sound of someone taking target practice close by.  Apparently I feel far less threatened by all the shooting that takes place in Chicago, even though, looking at it logically, the odds are probably in my favor here in the Wisconsin countryside.  And I probably stand more chance of being mauled to death by a pit bull in Chicago than I do of being dispatched by a bear in Wisconsin. But there it is. Give me the city over the countryside every time, except for short visits.

 

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!”