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.
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.
It’s still summer at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg and the pond is like a gently simmering soup. At first glance it would seem that all the wildlife is hiding but the longer you look, the more you see.
We haven’t had much rain lately, although that could change tomorrow but, for now, the water levels are quite low and the frogs must be wondering how long they can hold out against the sharp eyes of the great blue heron that is standing on a partially submerged branch in the water.
On the far side of the pond is a convenient bench underneath a shady tree and I sit looking at some kind of heron that is perched on a branch at the water’s edge, staring right at me. It doesn’t seem to be bothered by our close proximity and continues to eye me as I click away with the camera. Those of you who have been reading my posts for any amount of time will know that I have a terrible bird phobia. I’ve had this fear of birds, which is a distinct problem for someone who enjoys doing wildlife photography, ever since childhood, but for some reason, larger birds don’t scare me quite so badly. That much becomes evident when a mallard duck creeps up behind me and proceeds to practically walk across my feet, while I merely let out a stifled “Arrg!” I’m not saying I wouldn’t have uttered a piercing scream if it had started flapping its wings, but I am quite proud of myself when two more show up and I do no more than make a slight movement with my foot to ensure they don’t get too familiar.
Autumn is fast approaching but, for now, the summer soup of Spring Valley pond continues to stir and bubble with activity.
Meanwhile, back in our garden, summer’s progress has provided us with an array of colorful flowers and interesting creatures.
The butterflies, bees and dragonflies are a welcome sight, the Japanese beetles not so much.
Sunflowers and nesting material continue to attract the goldfinches, and the hummingbirds love that Brazilian Blue Sage!
The rabbit has been busy as there are baby bunnies dashing about all over the place when I go out to work in the garden. It’s one of the reasons I let a few weeds grow in between the plants. I hope the rabbits go for the weeds. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
I just happened to spot this goldfinch taking an interest in someone’s car as I was walking through the parking lot at the Chicago Botanic Garden yesterday. I think he was quite convinced that there was another goldfinch taking the same interest.
It seems like autumn has only just begun but, the way time seems to fly by, I thought I’d better pay a visit to Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg before fall turned to winter.
Water levels were rather low on the pond. Up until this week we hadn’t had much in the way of rain and all the water lilies had died off but there were still lots of frogs to be seen.
I’d noticed a heron standing on the shoreline some distance away and was trying to get him in focus when a disturbance broke out a little nearer to me. A beaver had been swimming between the water’s edge and the lodge in the middle of the pond when all of a sudden a hawk swooped down and attacked it. The resulting pictures are not that clear but I thought I’d include some of them anyway. The hawk made several attempts to get at its prey, returning to nearby branches to regroup and try again, but eventually it gave up and flew off.
I took my cue from the hawk and walked to the other end of the pond where I watched two very small turtles trying to climb up on to a log and then not quite knowing what to do once they got there. They were being watched by a much bigger turtle who sat looking on with a rather superior air.
From there I went on to the farm where all was quiet except for the sound of two cows munching at the grass.
It seemed to me, upon reflection, that most of the action that day was taking place on the pond and, afraid that I might miss something, I headed back there, and had I not been so preoccupied, faffing about taking umpteen pictures of frogs, I might have captured something more than a shot of the beaver’s backside as it swam away from a spot where I usually sit by the water’s edge.
Oh well! You can’t win ’em all, and if I’ve learned anything about wildlife photography it’s that you have to be in the right place at the right time. The church bell was chiming the hour. Time for tea, so like the catterpilar, I hurried home.
This week, Tina is thinking of cool colors like blue and green for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. The majority of birds that visit our garden are sparrows so, when this little guy showed up the other day, it was quite an event. What was even more surprising was the fact that he stuck around long enough for me to run and get the camera. I’m no expert so I had to resort to my Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. The closest I could come to it was an indigo bunting but, if anyone knows differently, I’ll be happy to hear from you. This is the first time in 30 years that we’ve seen one of these in the garden so I’m guessing he was blown rather off course.
I’ve been working hard in the garden for the past few weeks, restoring the area that was damaged when a main sewer line had to be replaced at the end of last year. It’s going to take a while for everything to grow and fill out, but in the meantime I was happy to see that the irises are looking absolutely fantastic. These are just the ones that appear in different shades of blue.
The false indigo is just starting to bloom too and will hopefully attract the bees. I’ve also taken delivery of some Blue Brazilian Sage plants that, when the blue flowers eventually emerge, should prove to be absolute hummingbird magnets. We’ll see!
This week, Amy is taking a view of Now and Then for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. These pictures are not that great but they help to illustrate my take on the theme. I have to confess, I was feeling rather blue yesterday at the thought of spending Thanksgiving Day on our own. Despite a Zoom meeting with the family in the morning, which just isn’t the same as actually being with them all, I was positively down in the dumps and, just about when we would normally be sitting down to dinner, I had a bit of a cry.
Then I looked out of the window. There, in the garden, were no less than fourteen mourning doves, all sitting comfortably outside the kitchen, waiting to be fed. It was just the number that would have been gathered around our table. What are the odds!! I’ve never seen that many doves at one time before and it lifted my spirits more than I can say.
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