When we were camping last week south of Detroit and near the Ohio state line, we had made plans to visit Toledo Zoo.
We arranged to meet up with a friend (Jenny) and her two kids once in the zoo and so at 10:20 on Friday, we entered the realm of the wild animals. Now Toledo Zoo claims to be in the Top 10 of such establishments in the US but I've done a bit of checking and I can't agree. The one Top 10 list it DOES appear in is for Top 10 Kids Zoos and even then I don't agree - but then I'm not a kid, so what do I know. I just think it's a throwback to the old days when you were kept away from the animals and had to peer through glass or from a distance through bars or netting.
But it was a zoo and as I've not been to many, it was still a treat. We saw bald eagles, bears and penguins by the time we got the call that Jenny and the kids had arrived and so we met for lunch. After introductions (I'd not met them before) and food, we went back to looking at the animals and first up was a crocodile - or maybe an aligator.
At any rate it didn't move at all and could've been a stone model. It needed someone jumping in beside it and poking it on the nose, by crickey, and I know just the person for the job !
Sadly that didn't happen and we wandered off to find something more lively.
I've always been fascinated by hippos as they look such slow cumbersome creatures and even appear quite docile. Then I saw a documentary many years ago when 2 guys in a canoe in Africa got too close to a group of hippos and man did they get a shock. Those docile looking creatures went into a frenzy and with their huge jaws and awesome power, they made mincemeat of the canoe and the men only just escaped with their lives. Brown pants were the order of the day.
This exhibit was very well set up as we went into an area with huge glass 'windows' giving us a glimpse of the hippos above and below water at the same time. This was fun and the hippos seemed to act up accordingly. They'd spend a while with just their eyes and snouts above the water and we could also see their little legs treading underneath. Then they'd drop down to the bottom of the tank and walk from one side to the other - giving everyone a closeup view which was very thoughful of them.
Sadly they did something else which I won't go into in detail but suffice it to say, the tank water wasn't quite as clear afterwards and the term 'floaters' didn't just refer to the hippos !!!
They also had some sort of electronic tag device around their necks although that's just my guess. But I mean, why bother as they've nowhere to go ? Hey, one of the hippos is missing. Oh no, there it is......under the water. Phew. So glad we had it tagged !!
No, I've 2 other explanations : it could be a hippo fanny pack (ok stop laughing you Brits) just in case the hippo wants to have a snack underwater or it could be a hippo ipod. I like that idea best. The hippos walk to the beat of, say, Seal or the Arctic Monkeys or even Crazy Giraffes.
Ok so I made that last one up but I only knew the first two and examples are always better in threes.
I was keen to get to the reptile house as they really interest me. From a photographic point of view it's pretty easy to get good pics of them as by nature they stay still !! It's simply a matter of turning off the flash and getting the lens close to the glass. It amazes me how many people do neither of these things and wonder why they get a photo of a blinding spot of light and little else.
I've no idea what any of the snakes and lizards are called but I loved their bright colours. By reptile standards, this little fella was quite active and I had to wait till it stopped slithering about and posed for me.
Early in my blog posts I put up photos of my trip to my local reptile house in Leeds called Tropical World. The one thing I noticed about the snake tanks there was that they were dark and fairly dirty and it was difficult to see the snakes inside them.
So it was a thrill to see these well lit and clear tanks at the Toledo Zoo and visitors were rewarded with wonderful views of the inhabitants. Like a lot of others, my camera focuses by sending out a beam of light and 'measuring' the distance to where it hits. When close to the subject, this light can be distracting and I was amused when this lizard seemed to take an interest in it. I did it a few times before pressing the shutter and each time it would cock it's head to one side as the light hit it.
I finally decided that this 'look' was much more interesting than it's normal straight ahead stare and so here it is. Maybe it wants to give me an insurance quote !
We were in time to see a hands on event where 3 staff members came to a small viewing area and brought some snakes and a millepede - I think. I didn't count the legs but it had plenty to spare.
It was my first time touching a snake so I took it.......the chance, not the snake. I knew all about them not being slimy so I wasn't surprised by how it felt. I was more interested in the millepede and not many people wanted to touch it. It was huge. I let it run over my hand and it's little legs were so soft and tickly that it was cool. Glad it didn't poop on me but as if she'd read my mind, a staff member was following along behind the ones with the critters and had a pump action bottle of sanitiser so we 'touchers' could clean our hands and be ready for french fries and hot dogs right away !! God bless her.
It was time to move on to the fishies and other aquatic critters and one tank blew my mind as it contained 2 of the strangest and cutest little sea horse type lookalikes I'd ever seen.
It seems they were sea dragons and for some reason I found it hard to get a decent photo of them. They'd float by with a sort of superior air and only their tiny fluttering fins would show they were alive at all. Yes I know that fins isn't the right word but I'm no expert on the locomotion and propulsion techiques of sea dragons.
All I know is they were mesmerising and we all stayed by their tank for ages. The aquarium also had a good walk through rain forest but I have to say the one back home in Tropical World was slightly bigger and better. This one did have birds in it and they'd dive bomb the visitors showing no fear at all. They'd land inches from us on the guard posts and only fly away if you actually tried to reach out to pet them.
But enough Zoo stuff for now and I'll return to it another day and in another post ..............