Saturday, November 12, 2011

Raptors at the Falls

Knowing the wind would be cold and blustery at the Falls of the Ohio in November, we dressed warmly and joined the Beckham Bird Club on a Saturday morning bird walk. We hit the jackpot today for raptors, sighting a Peregrine Falcon, three American Kestrels, a Cooper's Hawk, and a Red Shouldered Hawk camouflaged at the top of a tree snag.

It was bound to be a great day when this juvenile Bald Eagle soared over the parking lot as we got out of the car! It was considerate enough to circle around a few times till I got my camera out and turned on.

A few minutes later, we spotted a second juvenile Eagle, and for a while, both were visible at the same time as they walked around on the fossil beds. Remember, it takes five years for a Bald Eagle to mature and get its white head and tale, but until then, they have varying amounts of white on their wings and body. This one has quite a lot of white on its belly.

We only saw one or two vultures this morning, which is unusual for the Falls, but it was easy to distinguish the flat wings of the eagle from the dihedral of the vultures.

Before we left at the end of the morning, one eagle swooped over the water with his feet extended and grabbed a fish out of the water. The gulls scattered thinking he was coming after them instead!

We climbed to the top of the levee, as as we caught our breath, a Kestrel swooped around, flashing his wings, then landed on a perch next to a female which is probably his mate. A third Kestrel flew off in another direction. What a wonderful way to start the day!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Glacier Run

Traditionally, our family goes to the Louisville Zoo in spring or summer, but the sun shined so warm and bright today, that we decided to take the grand baby for his first visit (of many) to the Zoo on his 6-week birthday.  My daughter volunteered there while in high school, and worked during the summers while in college, so she's very familiar with the ins and outs. It was like having a private tour!
The Glacier Run exhibit has been under construction for several years (at least it seems that long to me), and it was well worth the wait. Before, there was simply a large pool for the few polar bears, and they seldom seemed to be out when we were there.
I was surprised to find two grizzly bears when we walked into the surrogate Alaskan village of Glacier Run! They chased each other around, jumping into the water, and vigorously shaking the water off again! The Zoo website identifies them as Otis and Rita, one year old cubs. Their mother Inga lives at the Zoo as well, but she chilled out in her room during our visit.
The Louisville Zoo works hard to keep their new residents engaged. We watched the keepers hiding food around the exhibit for 26 year old Arki to find. They have an excellent sense of smell, so she had no problem finding the food. Sometimes they give her a paper bag with just the scent in it. She stands in one spot just moving her nose around, sniffing, then walks off to find...
...a nice fish, or maybe her favorite un-natural snack - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Her tongue and all skin are black to help retain heat. Her fur is hollow and tends to reflect whatever color is nearby, so they don't always look white.

Qannik was born in January 2011 and rescued on Alaska’s North Slope in April. She took up temporary residence at the Alaska Zoo before moving to her permanent home in Louisville in June. She enjoys a constantly changing set of toys and enrichment items in Bear Alley. It doesn’t take her long to figure them out, push them around and make a wild playground of barrels, tubs, balls, igloo, tubes and hay. The windows to Bear Alley were originally completely covered and are still being slowly unveiled to allow for Qannik’s ongoing acclimation to Bear Alley and the full wall of glass windows. This same strategy was used very effectively with the grizzly bear family, Inga, Otis and Rita.
We can't miss the elephant barn on any Zoo trip, since Mary Beth worked there and knows both Punch and Mikki up close and personally! In fact, Mikki gave Mary Beth her ring when Brian proposed.
Remember that song from Oklahoma! about the corn being as high as an elephant's eye?  That's what I hummed as I looked at Mikki's incredibly long eye lashes. But no amount of skin softener would smooth our her wrinkles though.

As we stood by them chatting with the elephant keepers, Mikki moved her trunk around, trying to sniff out a treat from one of the humans. I was amazed at the size and flexibility of her trunk.
Statues of the various animals are strategically placed for good photo ops, and we took advantage of this baby elephant for Kittrick's first photo at the zoo!