Snow leopards, that is. Here are a few of the images that I captured at Brookfield Zoo recently, when I spent some time with two of their snow leopards. It’s estimated that there are fewer than 10,000 mature individuals surviving in the wild and the numbers are expected to decline due to habitat destruction and poaching. As much as it saddens me to see these beautiful creatures confined to such a limited space, I fully recognize the need for conservation and the importance of the work that Brookfield and other places do to ensure that such endangered species survive.
Despite the current pandemic, life goes on. Preparations must be made for future events such as Spring at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The last time I was there they were planting thousands of bulbs which will eventually provide a colorful display of flowers in every area of the garden but more especially in the Crescent Garden.
They were also getting ready for their annual outdoor holiday display of lights, which I see from their website is already sold out. It certainly helped to make up for the lack of flowers on this trip. From what I could make out, part of the display will include installations depicting star constellations which would explain why they had the moon dangling from the bridge to the Japanese Garden.
Meanwhile, over at Brookfield Zoo, they were draining the ponds in preparation for winter and getting ready for their ‘Holiday Magic’ light display. Outdoor displays like this are an excellent way to lift our spirits while wearing masks and maintaining safe distances between fellow visitors. I just hope the weather cooperates.
This is the first time in over 40 years that I’ve managed to get a half-way decent picture of the leopards at Brookfield Zoo. Just in the right place at the right time the other day.
I’m pretty sure, if you zoom in on the next picture, you can see a reflection of me, leaning against the fence, in his eyes. Possibly sizing me up as the next meal.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
We recently hosted two of our grandchildren for a visit during their summer vacation and the first place our granddaughter wanted to go to was Brookfield Zoo. We’re always happy to put our membership to good use, so off we went. The zoo covers a large area, some 216 acres, so there was plenty of walking involved, with lots to see and do.
The giraffes, largest animals in the ‘Habitat Africa! The Savannah’ exhibit, are always a favorite. The last time we were here we caught one of them in a scuffle with a pair of geese. Things were more peaceful this time. I’m always fascinated by the way these graceful creatures deal with the advantages and disadvantages of their height.
The featured attraction at the zoo this summer is the ‘Amazing Arachnids’ exhibit. Display cases housed in a large tent hold a wide variety of these scary spiders most of them well hidden from view. Only the larger ones were easy to spot, if you could get near enough to get a look in. The zoo is especially busy just now and a certain amount of patience is required if you want to see these creepy-crawlies up close.
The bears, meanwhile, were snoozin’ and cruisin’ in the summer sun, which was kind of surprising given how hot it was. You would think that they’d be favoring the shady areas (like the rest of us) with those thick fur coats they’re wearing but that didn’t prove to be the case.
When the ‘Tropic World’ exhibit opened in the 1980s it was, at that time, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the world. It’s still a popular feature at Brookfield especially when there are young Western Lowland Gorillas getting up to all kinds of antics.
Large birds were much in evidence in all areas of the zoo, including a penguin that wasn’t the least bit camera shy, a couple of pelicans taking it easy by the Formal Pool, an emu that we got to meet up close and personal at the Hamill Family Wild Encounters exhibit, an eagle that appeared to have discovered something interesting in the undergrowth of its enclosure and a peacock that was just showing off in all directions.
After spending many hours walking around the zoo, our pace had slowed down to that of this tortoise so we figured it was about time to call it a day.