The five of us spent last Saturday, the 28th (a cold, windy January day), at Brookfield Zoo. Many of the exhibits are indoors, so the cold didn't bother us too much, and we decided that January is an awesome time to go to the zoo! There were very few people (unlike summertime, when we usually go), and many of the animals that are sleeping or subdued (or hiding out in their shelters) in the hot summer sun were actually very active in the winter.
We arrived at the zoo EARLY, about an hour and a half before the zoo even opened. Nick had a ticket to a Wild Encounter, the Aviary Adventure, at 9am. (And since he's under 18, a parent had to accompany him ~ I went along and enjoyed it almost as much as he did!) We were a little surprised that they let us in at 8:30, but they did, so Nick and I wandered around the zoo for awhile, seeing no other humans except for zookeepers. That by itself was pretty cool!
We walked over to the baboon exhibit, and the keepers were just opening the door to their indoor enclosure. About 6 baboons walked out onto the rocks, sat there for about 20 seconds, then they all got up and left, heading back where it was warm! I couldn't really blame them....
Then we walked over to the pond and watched the pelicans that were rescued from the Gulf a few years ago.
We spotted this peacock hanging out in front of the Feathers & Scales building:
And I took this picture of Nick in front of the Perching Bird building, where his Encounter was to take place:
At 9am, the zookeeper met us at the door of the building and led us inside. We went right into an office where we saw Cookie, Brookfield's famous cockatoo, who has been there since opening day in 1934. We've seen Cookie before, several times, but he's been off exhibit for 2 or 3 years now ~ we were happy to see him again! And Nick got to prepare his food dish and put it in his cage. :) Cookie seemed very excited to have company and "talked" to us every time we walked in the room.
Nick helped prepare all the other food dishes ~ probably about 10 in all. Then he pulled on some zookeeper boots, and got to go into the free flight exhibit, to replace all the old dishes with the new ones. Guests are not allowed to take pictures during the Wild Encounter, but I did take these afterwards. This is Nick with the bird's zookeeper (I can't remember her name, ack!). Bernard and Cleo the macaws (brother and sister) are in the background:
This white-crested laughing thrush was so funny! He just whistled and whistled and whistled at us the whole time we were in there....
There are many other birds in the exhibit ~ teals, motmots, cape thick-knees, and bali mynahs, to name a few.
This shows part of the free-flight exhibit. Nick put that food dish there, and also one in the cage in the back:
Nick and "his" exhibit:
While talking with the zookeeper, I mentioned to her that Nick is a fan of ALL animals, and hopes to be a zookeeper one day. She then decided to take us over to The Living Coast, another building, and take us behind the scenes to show us some more animals. We got to stand less than a foot away from several Humboldt penguins ~ easily the highlight of the day for me! :) I was so tempted to reach out and pet them, except that the zookeeper had already warned us that they are bad biters....
She showed us the stingray tank, the diving tank (penguins, leopard sharks, moray eels, etc.), a young speckled caiman, some cool moss frogs, and some teeny tiny frogs (I forget what they were called), and a rubber boa that Nick got to hold! We also saw two Birds-of-Paradise that are temporarily being housed at The Living Coast while they are doing work on the Perching Bird house. Nick got to hand feed the female (she took waxworms from his fingers) and throw waxworms to the male (he's not hand-tame, but is a good catch when someone throws food to him!) It was a wonderful experience for both of us, and one we'll never forget!
Our Encounter ended around 10:30 (it was supposed to end at 10, but with all the extra animals she wanted to show us, it went over). Then we walked over to Tropic World, where we met up with George, Emm, and Ben. Among other things, we saw the tapir:
and some gibbons. We saw a gibbon baby, only one month old, with his mom... but I didn't get any good pictures....
In the Hamill Family Play Zoo, we had fun watching the lemurs and other animals:
and Nick pretended to be a zoo director ~ his dream is to be in charge of his own zoo someday!
We enjoyed watching the alligators in The Swamp:
In Feathers and Scales we saw this snake:
and this cute Amazon Milk Frog:
We went back to The Living Coast:
where we saw sea slugs:
a life-size replica of a sea turtle:
and Incan terns:
In the Great Bear Wilderness, we watched the eagles:
the wolves (which we rarely see... they were loving the snow!):
the polar bear:
and the bison, who also seemed happy with the cooler weather:
We also saw giraffes up close:
and these bactrian camels, who were actually frolicking in the snow:
By this point, George, Emm, and Ben were getting worn out. They headed to the car while Nick and I rushed off to see a few more animals before leaving. We saw an Amur leopard:
and then inside The Fragile Desert, we had a blast watching the meerkats! We were surprised because when they saw us walk into the building, they came running to the front of the exhibit! Some of them even put their paws up on the glass, and were looking up at Nick expectantly:
We stood and watched them for quite awhile before heading on. We saw this sleepy caracal and several other desert animals:
Then we decided to go back to the meerkats ~ we got there just as a zookeeper (standing right where Nick had been standing earlier) threw food into the exhibit for them. No wonder they were so happy to see us, LOL!
This black-footed cat posed for me on our way out!
We had fun watching this sloth bear playing with one of his logs:
Then we headed over to the sea lion exhibit before going to the car. Our friends Steve and Karen "adopted" a sea lion named Josephine for Nick for Christmas. (The money they gave goes toward her care.) Here he is, standing by a Share the Care sign:
We arrived at the exhibit right at feeding time!
We're pretty sure the one on the right is Josephine. We heard the zookeepers talking to her and calling her by name:
After the sea lions ate, they went for a swim:
and then relaxed (and yawned!) by the rocks!
Nick and Josephine... we think!
It was such a fun day! :)