Sunday, February 20, 2011


…to keep me warm.

Oh, my… Snow leopard cubs, about nine months old. Definitely not pacing.

Aw, the poor little red fox only had its own tail to keep it warm…

(You know you wanted a close-up.)








A cat is a cat is a cat… (A bobcat, in this instance, even though it looks--and was acting--just like an overgrown housecat.)


…Will somebody please let me in?

Perhaps you would have better luck if you tried the front door?

::disdainful sniff::

If I look pitiful enough, surely someone will let me in.


This fellow was waiting at the back door of the aviary when I came out. What's that about having a brain the size of a pea(hen's)?


No, no, no… Not those flamingos. These flamingos:

Not exactly pink. Yikes. (Little too much shrimp additive? [I should talk; my mother tells me I ate so many carrots as a baby that my nose turned orange. {Same principle whereby flamingos turn pink, by the by.} I love carrots...])

Ah, that's better: soft pink.

At first I thought the darker bird (who was, I must say, huge) was merely strutting his stuff around his side of the indoor aviary, but the longer I watched the more it seemed that he was unhappy about the similarly-colored ibis carrying on all around in the treetops at the other end of the building. (A flamingo in a tree? Egads. Herons in trees are weird enough.)

Now I have to worry about pacing birds as well as pacing cats...


...on my chinny chin chin.

Fascinating creatures really, goats.


At least plants in conservatories don't pace… I'm not overly fond of zoos and the one thing sure to get me worked up when I find myself in one are big cats pacing back and forth, back and forth in their enclosures. But you can't deny the photo opportunities a zoo offers. And yes, they provide contact (of a sort) in a safe, accessible and controlled environment with other living creatures that share this planet that most people may not otherwise ever see. Yes, they have made great strides in recent decades to accommodate their inmates as well as their visitors. Yes, many species now (or very soon will) owe their continued existence to zoological gardens and parks.

But wildlife is wildlife and no matter how good, a man-made environment isn't Nature-made. Some are better than others. Our local zoo is county-owned and operated and free to the public, yet it is AZA accredited and even involved in captive breeding programs for many endangered species. But it's still a zoo, and quite a small one at that. And its lion and tiger and cheetahs pace.

On a recent cold and blustery day when I was out and about and had the camera in tow, I overcame my ambivalence long enough to drop in at our County Zoo (for only the third time in more than 40 years) to see if anything else was out and about on such a cold and blustery day.

Rather ironic that the first beastie I saw was one well-suited to the weather and one I personally have missed seeing in the wild in this county on more than one occasion. (Snowy owls often have years where they migrate farther south than usual, typically due to a drop in food availability in their normal wintering rages. This behavior results in at least one bird landing in Cape May County every handful of years or so.)

Ooh, the light! The bird wasn't as asleep as it first appeared; it moved fast enough when something overhead caught its attention. (And yes, if you've noticed the blemishes on the pristine white, it had been fed recently…)

Smile! Not only did the gators never once twitch--at least the iguana that looked even more dead made a token (if unsuccessful) attempt to get out of the way when a tortoise slowly steamrollered into it--I couldn't even see this thing breathing.


Some time ago I mentioned that my first and long-time favorite color was blue.

Erm, yes. This color. Bright, brilliant, electric blue...

Peacock blue, to be precise.



Truly, I do not know what I'm doing with this new camera. These photos are not what I intended to take when I hit the shutter button…

I was aiming for the name tag.

I was aiming for the camera.


Ah, well, I hate to practice anyway.

(If anyone knows who the nice man with the neat camera is, please let me know!)

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Speaking in metaphor? Moi? Hah. I'm a very down-to-earth person--I'm talking about these glass houses:

Living in Glass Houses: My Trip to Longwood Gardens

Everywhere I've worked as an interpretive naturalist up and down the East Coast at far-from-obscure sanctuaries and parks, I've heard the refrain "I've lived here x-number of years/half my life/all my life and never knew this place was here/never thought to visit before". I don't find this refrain at all surprising, because I'm guilty of it myself.

I have spent nearly half of my life little more than (sometimes less than) a half an hour away from not only locally-famous but world-renowned locations without ever having visited them more than once or twice or even at all. Not for lack of interest. Not one good reason for not going, really. So when a popular artist-author-naturalist-public speaker mentioned that she had updated her events calendar on her website, curiosity made me check it out. This past fall I attended a local event where her husband gave the keynote address and I wanted the matched set, so to speak.

Much to my delight I discovered that she was going to be giving the keynote address for a public event at one of those places I had been looking for an excuse to visit. One of those places that was located "just up the road" from where I'd lived half my life, yet had only visited twice in all that time. It was do-able as a day trip from my current abode, so I signed up and made plans for a road trip. (And she thought no one would wish to travel a hundred miles to see her… Hah! [Okay, so it was more like 80. Whatever. Close enough.])

A beautiful (if frigid) early morning drive took me to a snow-covered Longwood Gardens. (Check out their Facebook page for stunning winter photos!) Winter does have its good points--would the fantastically tangled and twisted trunk of this tree have been as visible were the tree in full leaf?--but by February I'm more than ready for greenery and at least a hint of warmth.

A brisk walk from welcome center to conservatory led me to the perfect retreat from a cold February day.

Aaaahhh… That's more like it. The current display theme: Orchid Extravaganza.

I have unintentionally, and with great dismay, killed my fair share of orchids* so I wasn't tempted to fill my pockets with new victims. Much. I figured I would be able to enjoy without coveting. The two hour drive home in temperatures hovering around freezing was my guarantee that I'd not be committing first degree murder of (more) innocent plants. This trip, anyway.

I have had to narrow down the shots I gathered throughout the day so as not to overwhelm either my blog or my readers, so let's start with the bigger pictures. Due to the quirks of blog scrolling, the "older" posts are in fact the continuation of this one.

One little corner of the Children's Garden. I had to resist delving deeper into the garden because it features water. Lots of water. Flying water as well as fountains. Fantastic for kids and kids-at-heart who like to make a splash, but not so good for the electronic equipment hung 'round my neck…

For some reason, the large orchid display intended for this location (the Exhibition Hall) had been removed the night before and was not replaced. Even so it is a beautiful space in and of itself, and I was lucky enough to take this photo before the water had completely drained off the sunken floor later in the day. (Reflecting pools are marvels of artistry in and of themselves, and what an incredibly brilliant design feature to have the ability to flood an exhibition area for the purpose whenever it's desired.)

The Palm House. Oh, my...

And that's just the top of trees. (This makes an absolutely awesome desktop photo, by the by; let me know if you want a larger version.)

This building is stories-tall, and yet as you can see it has a below-ground level as well. I was too enthralled by the vegetation to allow my vertigo more than a passing acknowledgement.

I found myself often asking the question "how old?" in regards to the incredibly large specimens found throughout the gardens.

Podacarpus, a type of conifer sometimes called "fern pine", provides visual support columns in many corners of the conservatories. Visual and actual height is a very prominent feature here, and is reflected in the disproportionally large number of vertical photos I snapped...

The Mediterranean Garden.

The aptly-named Silver Garden, for the powdery green sheen often found in succulent species.

Not all succulents are lacking color, however, if you look at them from a different angle. (Oh, alright, perhaps the management snuck in a few unrelated blooms for accent, like adding a bright pillow to an otherwise monochromatic room…)

From one extreme to the other, dry to literally dripping. (Oh my poor optics.) I love the dense, little-bit-of-everything nature of the display in the Tropicals section of the gardens.

In such regal, even grandiose, surroundings it was surprising and delightful to discover that somebody on the staff outside of those responsible for the children's section has a quirky sense of humor.

Of course I had to know how the tillandsias (so-called "air plants") were affixed to the door!

Orchids, naturally, were tucked everywhere throughout the conservatories. Here they are elegantly adding color to the Fern Passage.

Cascade Garden. Please do not show this photo to my poor philodendrons and Monsteras; they would immediately die of shame and disgust (instead of experiencing a painfully protracted descent into probable death due to unfair incarceration in a fluctuating, temperate climate with forced air heat and no humidity to speak of for half the year and a caretaker who fails to provide adequate enough compensations for such conditions) if they ever saw what they were meant to be… *sob* I feel guilty enough as it is.

Just add birds and fish, and I'd be ready to move in to these glass houses...

*It's not that orchids are difficult. Some of them are purported to be rather user-friendly. It's just that they seem to like consistency, and I'm not very good with consistency when it comes to plants. It's really not a positive thing to walk around a conservatory saying "Oh, I've killed one of those! And one of those. Oh and that too, and it takes some doing to kill one of those…"


Longwood Gardens has quite an extensive and diverse collection of orchids; these are but a handful of the plants on display, those that happened to catch my eye upon first glance. (I didn't look too closely. Orchid Death By Wren, remember…) You may have no interest whatsoever in orchids, but you cannot deny that these unusual and fascinating flowers are worth a few photos. Enjoy!