Many couples try to have a "date night" when they can just have fun together on a regular basis. Dick and I have started having a Thursday date morning, since neither of us usually have a volunteer job then, a rare thing indeed for us. It's fun to take a hike somewhere we wouldn't go otherwise, such as the Zoo before they are open, or one of the new Century 21 parks. Birding and wild flowers are always great activities for us and we get in some exercise as well.
Yesterday we went to the Salato Wildlife Center, near Frankfort, KY, which is operated by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Dept. For a change, ours was the only car in the parking lot, so we looked forward to a quiet morning. Salato has large areas housing native wildlife, such as these bison, elk, deer and turkey, bear, the wildcat of UK fame, and a Bald Eagle. This is the only opportunity many school children may ever have to see such animals.
As Nature Interpreters, we really appreciated the stellar signs and learning exhibits at Salato. Outside the Bald Eagle enclosure, for example, is a huge sample eagle nest, with a large ruler. Another sign explains the size of the largest eagle nest ever (20 feet tall, 10 feet across, and weighing 2 tons!), and invites children to climb into this nest themselves. All the signs are first class quality, and I can only image some rich corporate sponsor paid the bill, since signs like this don't come cheap. Some signs included the QR code (that little black and white grid looking thing). I used my new iPhone to scan the code and listen to the pod cast of our friend Jamie Cook talking about the bison. Too cool! When it started to rain, we looked up the weather map, and decided to turn back since we had no plastic bags to protect my camera or the binoculars. (I fought getting a smart phone for years, but now I love it!)
The recently added a quail, or Bob White, exhibit. Yesterday all the birds were all quiet, but they had been calling the last time I visited. Again, Bob Whites have become a rarity in Kentucky, and we get excited when we hear them.
The small covey wandered around freely nibbling on seeds from native grasses, or on a supply of chicken feed. The native grasses give them a hiding place if they don't want to be seen, and it's amazing how well they blend in. Upon exiting the enclosure, children are taken on an adventure to "find" a lost chick by learning about the habitat needed by these small birds. The "chick" itself is a six foot tall statue!
At the raptor aviary (empty yesterday) children are invited to compare their own wingspan to that of Kentucky raptors! Sometimes the handlers will bring a live hawk out for a little free flight before he gets fed. I would like to have some signs like this for Raptor Rehab to use.
People who don't care about wildlife, birds or native plants, go to Salato for the fishing. As we walked along the fishing lake, a loud squawk preceded the flight of a Green Heron to a small island in the middle of the lake. If you are looking for a fun date, give Salato Wildlife Center a try!