Warthogs and other zoo experiences

Lions and tigers and bears–that is what zoos are all about. Right?  I had not been to Kansas City’s zoo for years But I charmed my great friend, Denise, into a weekend visit.  We never did see any lions, or tigers or bears.  It was hot outside and they were hiding somewhere cool.  This wonderful leopard was alone worth the visit.  Even as it slept in the shade, we knew we wouldn’t want to meet it in the wild.

Today’s zoo is nothing like the zoo of my childhood.  Once packed into a small area within Swope Park, the zoo has grown to provide an environment for animals and visitors that give us at least some sense of how the animals might actually live in the wild–well, absent the whole process of catching and eating other zoo animals!

Some areas of the zoo property appear to the eye to be in the wilderness.  It is easy to forget we are in the middle of a metropolitan area. The challenge is that it can actually be difficult to find, let alone photograph, the zoo’s inhabitants. The sense of isolation is worth it.

Denise and I bought platinum tickets which allowed us to ride the trains, buses, trams and gondolas without standing in additional lines. The rides themselves became part of the fun.

With many animals we expected to see napping in the shade, we transferred our attention to animals and birds that seemed to thrive in the sun. We had a great time watching the warthogs bath in the muddy stream. Seriously, I have rarely seen animals in greater need of a makeover!  But they were wonderful to watch.

While giving the appearance of open country, the zoo’s exhibits are carefully divided in such a way that the animals are safe from each other.  Often multiple animals and birds were in the same areas.  They happily ignore each other.

There were a wonderfully rich variety of colorful birds throughout the exhibit.  Many were best seen from the gondola.

We will return in cooler weather.  Hopefully we will find an entirely different group of interesting zoo inhabitants to photograph.  I am looking forward to it.

They’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere–Canadian Geese

Have you noticed that Canadian geese are everywhere?  No?  They are if you live in the Midwest.  They are in our parks, our ponds, our golf courses, our lakes and rivers.  Ten years ago Kansas City had Canadian geese flying overhead with the change of the seasons.  Slowly we noticed that a few stayed through the winter.  Now they raise their young within a few feet of city traffic. Their waste is on our streets, our sidewalks and in the grass. Plaza traffic literally comes to a halt whenever a mom and her babies cross the street.

With the number of geese so nearby, I thought it would be fun (and easy) to photograph them for the blog.  I took photographs in Loose Park and near Kauffman Garden.  Most of the shots were just boring.  Then I found a beautiful spot on Brush Creek that catches the morning sun at a great angle.  Having seen geese swimming in the area I decided to take my camera to get photographs of the geese just at the beginning of day.

It isn’t that easy. Five mornings I have made the trip, looking for birds that are in the water right at the right place and time to create opportunities to photograph them when the colors of the water are most vibrant.

The geese sleep on open land, maybe 20 or 30 feet from the water.  Depending on factors known only to geese, they begin to move toward the creek between 8:15 and 9:00 a.m.  Most move toward the water in groups, a few move individually.

After arriving at the water’s edge they begin to primp and preen.  Finally, they enter the water, almost en mass, and only slowly spread out as they begin to swim upstream, downstream and under the bridge.

For a few wonderful moments the sun’s rays cause patterns of light to reflect back from the water, causing the beauty of the ducks to combine with the richness of the colors of sun, the rock and shade. When I am lucky I can find a goose in the water at the right time and place to catch them at their photographic best.

All too soon the suns rays are too strong to catch the colors, the ducks have moved too far on the water to easily shoot, and the water itself seems to turn a muddy green.  It is time to leave the geese for another day.