Posts Tagged North Carolina Zoological Park
For many citizens of the US, Thanksgiving Day is about feasting with family, and perhaps counting up blessings. That’s great; it’s harder than ever for many to get multiple generations of kin in the same place for any length of time, and if food is the motivation that accomplishes this objective, so be it.
Over the last 15 years or so, Wonder Spouse and I have observed a different Thanksgiving Day tradition: we visit the North Carolina Zoo. I know that some lovers of the animal kingdom despise zoos, and I understand those feelings. But the NC Zoo is one of the finest examples of what a zoo can be here in the US, and I would argue that its benefits outweigh any misgivings about maintaining wild animals in captivity. Plus, there are the plants. Let me explain.
In 2009, I was lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes horticulture tour at the NC Zoo. I saw their greenhouses, learned about the extensive efforts the horticulture staff makes to find and propagate plants native to the regions of the animals, and learned about their ever-expanding programs to preserve and protect rare plant communities on the many acres of land they manage in North Carolina. I think they do an amazing job, and every area of the NC Zoo — from the sides of walkways, to exhibits, to play areas for children — is adorned with beautiful plants.
Every year with decent weather, Wonder Spouse and I rise early and drive to Asheboro, where the NC Zoo is located, timing our arrival for when the doors are just opening at 9:00 a.m. A short hike takes us to our objective — the aviary — just as it opens up around 9:30 a.m. Most years, we have this magnificent place to ourselves — except for the keeper — for at least an hour. This year, we were undisturbed for over two hours.
The chill late-November air disappeared as we stepped into the humid warmth of a tropical paradise. Imagine towering leafy trees, blooming bromeliads and orchids, the sound of water gently trickling through a constructed stream, where water birds dabble happily, appearing and disappearing as they move beneath tropical foliage. Everywhere there are birds — flying through the trees — calling raucously or melodically, depending on species. The aviary is their little corner of paradise, and they thrive here, as do the tropical plants.
Wonder Spouse and I begin our NC Zoo visit at the aviary for two reasons. First, we love having the place to ourselves. Boisterous children inhibit bird behavior. The feathered ones are still relaxed when we arrive. Second, the keeper feeds the birds first thing every morning. This Thanksgiving Day, she was a little behind schedule. Wonder Spouse and I were already in the aviary and wandering around when she arrived with her many bowls and cages (for the live crickets) of bird goodies.
Because Wonder Spouse and I were the only humans wandering about, the hungry birds assumed we must have their breakfasts. I felt like Snow White in the Disney movie, when all the creatures of the forest surround her as she sings to them. I have never seen so many of these beautiful birds so closely in all my years of visits.
In case you’re wondering, Wonder Spouse took all these photographs of our NC Zoo visit. I shrank them some to minimize loading times, but you can click on any of the images to enlarge them. I recommend this, so you can appreciate Wonder Spouse’s skill with the camera — and the exquisite beauty of these birds.
I think the best time to visit the aviary is winter. The humid warmth of this glassed-in tropical paradise feels heavenly on a bitter January morning. The NC Zoo is usually far less crowded during the winter. Most school groups tour during warmer months. When the crowds are smaller, the knowledgeable keepers are happy to answer questions and share stories about their charges.
For example, the aviary keeper we chatted with on Thanksgiving showed us how she had taught this Crested Coua to emerge at a specific spot in return for special treats. This allows her to inspect the bird more closely without having to catch it.
After we’d had our fill of the aviary, we walked through the rest of the African continent display. Wonder Spouse took many great photographs. He has a soft spot for the lion family currently residing at the NC Zoo. The four cubs were born last year and have grown from adorable kittens to magnificent cats.
We have been avid supporters of the NC Zoo for decades. Their conservation and research work in the native lands of these animals is critical to the preservation of remaining populations. I believe that work, plus the educational opportunities provided by this institution among beautiful, multi-hundred-acres of rolling piedmont trail-crossed hills makes this institution worthy of every North Carolinian’s support. Tax-deductible contributions are critical to the well-being of this state treasure.
If you don’t live in NC but plan to visit, I encourage you to add the NC Zoo to your itinerary. If you do live in NC, but you haven’t visited, or you haven’t visited lately, I encourage you to rectify that oversight soon. Visit their Web site to learn more about their exhibits and conservation work.
Lend the NC Zoo a helping hand.
Consider donating to protect the future of wild ones everywhere.
2019 UPDATE: I have been informed that the NC Zoo will no longer be open on Thanksgiving Day, so that employees may spend the holiday with their families. They will still be open the day after Thanksgiving.
Yes, that’s right, folks. Wonder Spouse celebrates another trip around the sun today, and like fine wine, he just keeps improving with age. I took this shot of the Ace-Photographer-in-Action last weekend, when he shot all those pictures I told you about in my previous post. You’ll see more of those as he finishes post-processing them.
Wonder Spouse believes his birthday should be ignored, but I could not be prouder of my spouse and his achievements, so today, I want to share just a few more of his amazing photographs. These were taken over the course of the last 4 years, and I think you’ll agree they are spectacular.
Lest you think Wonder Spouse only shoots botanical subjects, I thought I’d include a couple of his photos from our trips to the NC Zoological Park in Asheboro, NC. We try to get there at least once a year, usually in the late fall when there are fewer visitors, but the animals are still active. This shot speaks for itself, I think.
I love this one. It proves that wrinkles can be beautiful!
Long-time readers may remember this photo. Our now 50-foot-tall Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ glows magnificently in our landscape when she’s in full bloom. But you really need to view her flowers closely to fully appreciate this tree.
I love the details visible in this close-up of a Luna Moth — the feathery antennae, the almost fur-like look of the wing scales — exquisite, yes?
This Wonder Spouse photo really highlights the subtle beauty of this daylily. If you click on it to enlarge it, you’ll see the petals almost shimmer. Daylily blooms only last one day. I’m so glad Wonder Spouse preserved this blossom for eternity.
This photo really shows off Wonder Spouse’s artistry. He wanted to play with light, so he brought a bloom into the house and experimented with lighting until he got the effect he wanted. I think he got it right. What do you think?
I think this shot really shows off the beauty of our native Common Buckeye Butterfly. Although, I don’t think its looks are “common” at all. Wonder Spouse makes it look easy to photograph butterflies and other creatures, but, trust me, those little critters never stay in one place for very long. It takes considerable skill to frame a shot like this one. Even plants are trickier than non-photographers might think. The slightest breeze can turn a perfect shot to blurred fuzz.
We haven’t had a photo-worthy snow in a few years now. I love the way a good snow obscures all the imperfections in a landscape while highlighting structural elements like trees and garden benches. The Birthday Boy’s skill in framing a landscape shot is fully evident here. I think you’ll agree with me that he is a true artist with the camera.
He has many other praise-worthy attributes as well, but he’s likely going to be unhappy with me as it is for making him the subject of a blog post.
Too bad, Wonder Spouse. Today is your day. It deserves to be celebrated. And I count my blessings daily that I get to share your journey with you.