Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Chance Encounter at the Zoo

Florida 2013 continued

Thursday was somewhat of an unplanned day. The weather had turned chilly and breezy, and I did not want to spend such a cold day out in the open at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. I know, I'm from Michigan and should be used to the cold, but hey, this was Florida! I decided Friday looked like a better day for the refuge, so that left Thursday blank.

Looking over some literature I'd brought, (I am a brochure whore, picking up fliers and pamphlets and maps at every rest area and hotel), I found a brochure for the Brevard County Zoo. Only about a half hour away in Melbourn, I hadn't been there in years. The pamphlet was old so I got online and checked their website. Looking over the list of animals I saw they had a jaguar. That settled it for me! Off to the zoo we went.

I am on the fence about zoos. I hate caging animals--I don't even like having our chickens penned. Zoos are certainly getting better about providing their animals with stimulating environments but some do it better than others. The Brevard Zoo is small so the enclosures are small, and I couldn't help but feel bad for some of the animals who where clearly suffering in their confinement.

We made our way to the Central/South American section of the zoo and to the jaguar enclosure. He was up on a platform, with his back to the glass, snoozing. It is, after all, what cats do best. He stirred occasionally, but he refused to look toward the viewing area. Can't say as I blame him.


I got a few shots that might be usable but nothing that I am real excited about. If I'd been by myself I would have sat there pretty much all day, but I wasn't going to leave my mother to wander the zoo by herself so we came and went a few times.

On our last visit he had moved off the platform to a sunny patch on the ground near the glass, but still had his back to me. Mom went out to the car to have a cigarette and I stayed, waiting for him to move. He did, finally, walking to the back of his cage then around to the platform. I got one good shot of him as he glanced my way. Hopefully I can find something in the batch of photos that I can use for a new piece. I love the big cats, so intelligent and intense.

The highlight of the day was completely unexpected and did not involve a zoo resident. We had lunch at the cafe, which I was delighted to see had black bean burgers and sweet potato fries.  While we sat in the picnic area and ate, my mom asked what the brown bird behind me was. I turned and saw an immature boat-tailed grackle on a fence post--nothing to get excited about. A few minutes later she asked me again. I got a little annoyed and repeated, boat-tailed grackle! But she pointed and said, no, that one on the ground behind you. I turned around and looked, and gave a little yelp, and grabbed my camera. There, rummaging through the wood chips, where four or five Northern bobwhite!

Sweet little chicken face! Northern bobwhite hen.

We have bobwhite here, have heard them on our property, but I'd never seen one before. (That's not quite true--Lori and I were out doing some target practice with the .22 a few years ago and on the first shot flushed a bobwhite and a pheasant. But I only caught a glimpse and obviously didn't get a picture!)

Male Northern bobwhite.
The Northern bobwhite is a game bird with a pretty wide distribution. There are 22 subspecies of bobwhite, most of which inhabit Mexico and Central America.  This is probably the Florida bobwhite, Colinus virginianus floridanus, although I am not certain about that. As these were clearly not zoo inhabitants I am counting them on my life list (I only count birds seen in the "wild"). Perhaps a pair of bobwhite will be on my list of future works!

Next up:  Many firsts at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge!

1 comment:

  1. what great shots!!! and the bird is so camouflaged!