Sunday, February 20, 2011


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.