Tuesday, May 26, 2009

But wait, there is more!

After Roxy and I left the Zoo (see the previous post) we didn't go straight home, as one would expect from two very tired people. Instead we decided to catch the nice evening light and do some wildlife exploring at the nearby creek. The place is teeming with life, especially birds - it's a birdwatcher's paradise.

There are at least 6 different kind of birds in this photo - can you name them all?

Well, how many did you get? The black skimmers seem to be the largest group, but there are also gulls, Brant geese and snowy egrets mixed with them, and there is a brown pelican and a few mallards swimming in the background.

Here are the skimmers up close. I still can't get over the strange appearance of these birds.

They may look awkward on the ground, especially those weird beaks, but in flight it all starts making sense and all features appear to be perfectly functional.

This anxious little bird is a killdeer. It spotted us coming from the bush where it was hiding, and jumped out of it, chirping, as if it was trying to get our attention.

The bird seemed unafraid of us; at least it was not running away - just standing there chirping, but as we came closer to the bush, it started doing some strange things on the ground. This was, in fact, quite a textbook behavior - the bird was feigning injury to draw us away from the bush, where it had its nest. "Look at me, I am an easy prey with a broken wing and all"...

We did find the nest with four pretty little eggs in it, after which we quietly went away, pretending we fell for the trick.

Here is a black-crowned night heron giving a speech.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo was one of those places I always wanted to go and never got around to. Driving along the Cabrillo road, I often saw the giraffes from behind the hedge and wondered about the Zoo, but somehow we always seemed to have other agenda. This May they had a new California Condor exhibit opened, and that decided it: we had to go. So, last Saturday Roxy and I hit the road early in the morning and got to the Zoo just as it opened. Spent the whole day there, couldn't walk very well the next day, but boy, was it fun! Though SB Zoo is smaller than the LA one, it has got some animals we don't have here, and it is very nice, clean and fun. Here are just a few photos to give you an idea.

Amur Leopards were snoozing when we first passed by their cage.

We went back after a while, and they were up and pacing, so I was able to get a few mug shots through the glass.

A serene little pond right in the middle of the Zoo...

Toucan... the oversized plastic-looking beak seems like an overkill for the small pieces he was eating.

Titi monkeys - mama and the baby. It was fun watching them - a typical curious toddler and an anxious mom trying to keep him close.

Humboldt penguins... There was a whole lot of them and they were having fun chasing each other through water, doing some spectacular jumps out of the water, grooming each other, waddling around, trumpeting... I think we spent 1/2 hour just watching them.

Scarlet macaws in the aviary.

Blue-and-gold macaw - the Zoo's welcoming committee. His enclosure is near the entrance and he is all smiles, talking, bowing, even doing a little dance for the guests.

There are a lot more interesting and rare animals at SB Zoo - well worth the visit and the drive. Plus, it's not as hot as the LA Zoo - an added benefit.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The bugs that are not

This is NOT a butterfly, it's a threadwing, and it's related to ant lions and lacewings. Most of you will probably never see one: it's endemic to Southern Caucasis region.

This is NOT a stretched-out ladybug, but a totally different beetle, called blister beetle.

NOT a bear. A very large (size of your palm) moth.

NOT you garden variety tiger swallowtail, but the endangered European counterpart.

NOT a ritual mask from a Japanese kabuki theater. Just a juvenile assassin bug.