Tag Archives: san diego zoo

We come in threes

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yes, Jim and I made it to opening night for the San Diego Nighttime Zoo yesterday.

In three hours I took 141 pictures and 13 videos.

It was the night of threes, though.

WE COME IN THREES

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego Nighttime Zoo starts today!

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Today marks the beginning of the San Diego Nighttime Zoo for 2014. Instead of being open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m each day., the Zoo will stay open until 9:00 p.m. each and every day through September 1, 2014.

I love the Nighttime Zoo! Yahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! (Smile if you think I’m excited!)

Remember that if you come to San Diego on business or vacation, contact me because I often have free tickets to the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, or SeaWorld. With enough notice, I can usually play docent for a day!

Also, if you fly into San Diego, sit on the left side of the plane. The view of downtown San Diego as you are landing is awesome!

Following are some of my favorite pictures from past visits to the Zoo. Eventually, Photographic Art will be created from these pictures and Julian will upload them to my galleries at Fine Art America for purchase in many different forms (traditional prints, prints on metal or acrylic, posters, cell phone cases, etc.).

Komodo dragon at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Necking flamingos at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Albino burmese python at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Shoebill at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Ocellated turkey at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Hippopotamuses at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Giant panda at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bakka, cheetah ambassador of the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Peacock at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Koala female and one-year-old joey at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bald eagle in residence at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Woma at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Maned wolves at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sudanese striped hyena, San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Polar bear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Flamingo chick at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Cape clawless otter, San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Malayan tiger at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Hibiscus blooming in November at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Monkey at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Red kangaroo at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Camel at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Red Panda at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Serval at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Desert Bighorn Sheep at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Knobbed Hornbill at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Meerkat at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Female red-cheeked gibbon at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bornean Sun Bear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Elephant at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Striped hyena at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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A selection of birds from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yesterday was the San Diego Zoological Society’s Members Appreciation Day. Each year they have a big dinner and entertainment at the Safari Park since it has more room (about 2,000 acres more!) than the Zoo. However, I only have to travel seven miles to go to the Zoo whereas Safari Park is forty miles from me. The dinner and entertainment also take place after Safari Park has closed which means we have the whole park all to ourselves, which is kind of nice.

I averaged 99 pictures per hour for the time I spent at Safari Park yesterday. I have decided to share ten pictures with you today! All of birds. Now tell me you’re excited. Go ahead. Tell me….

Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impeyanus)
Native to the Himalayas.
Himalayan Monal at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The little guy above was very aggressive, charging anyone within about eight feet and attempting to peck them. He was pretty fast, too. We think he was protecting a nestmate, which would be logical since its mating season is April through August.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

White-headed Lapwing (Vanellus albiceps)
Native to tropical Africa, preferring areas near large rivers.
White-headed Lapwing at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

African Spoonbill (Platalea alba)
Widespread throughout Africa.
African Spoonbill at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Southern Bald Ibis (Geronticus calvus)
Native to grasslands and semi-desert areas
in the mountains of southern Africa.
Southern Bald Ibis at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber)
Native to the Caribbean and tropical areas of South America.
Scarlet Ibis at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata)
Native to Africa and South AmericaWhite-faced Whistling Duck at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)
An endangered bird from Eurasia.Red-breasted Goose at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Coscosroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba)
Native to South America, it is the smallest of the birds called “swans.”Coscoroba Swan at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens)
Native to Africa, Arabia, and India.Pink-backed Pelican at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lastly, I would be remiss in my dedication to Julian, Database Manager at Russel Ray Photos (and all-around AWESOME guy!), if I did not include a picture of his favorite bird, the Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex). Safari Park has two of these magnificent birds. I walked around the island and finally found a spot where I could get both birds in the same picture. (If Julian reads this post and finds this insert, I shall provide him with a monetary bonus.) They are solitary birds, but these two are on the same island together, and they were having a stare-down that lasted the full 15 minutes that I spent watching them. The expression of the one bird seems to indicate a slight displeasure with the other shoebill being in its territory.

Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)
A vulnerable species native to swamps in Africa.Shoebill at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Penny for your thoughts

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Scott #1340 HemisFairI remember the first time I went to a Zoo. It was the San Antonio Zoo, and it was the weekend that my wise old grandmother also took me to HemisFair ’68 in San Antonio.

I had known since my birthday in March that I was going to get to go to HemisFair and to the Zoo. It was a combination birthday present and school’s out celebration.

I loved HemisFair! That’s where I found out via a handwriting analysis that I was a little, hyperactive monster.

I was disappointed with the Zoo because I didn’t get to see the big cats. All of them were in their hideways for the day and would not come out just to see me.

When I moved to San Diego in April 1993, one of the first things I did was get an annual pass to the Zoo. A pass meant that I could go anytime I wanted, ensuring that I would probably see all of the big cats at least once a year.

Most of the big cats are easy to see in their romper rooms. However, one of the larger romper rooms holds the Malayan Tigers (Panthera tigris jacksoni). The mere size of their romper room means that they aren’t always visible from the three viewing areas. When they are out, though, pictures can be quite spectacular.

Following are three pictures of one of the Malayan Tigers that I took on my trip to the San Diego Zoo last Saturday. I’m not sure I like the intense look on its face and in its eyes, but I would give it a penny for its thoughts.

Malayan tiger at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Malayan tiger at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Malayan tiger at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Malayan tiger is an endangered species due to habitat fragmentation from development and agriculture, as well as poaching. An estimated 493 to 1,480 tigers were in the wild as of 2003, and only 54 located in 25 zoos as of 2004. Regretfully, the genetic diversity of the 54 zoo tigers are descended from only 11 mommies and daddies (called founders), creating a lack of the genetic diversity needed to ensure successful breeding programs.

Malayan tigers live about 15-20 years, so with breeding tigers in the wild numbering, at best, about 250 individuals, and unsuccessful zoo breeding programs, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when these beautiful big cats will be extinct.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Happy birthday to me!

I livew in my own little world

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you were wondering what happened to me today since I didn’t post anything, well, I was celebrating my last birthday before the sun sets on my life. Yep. Sixty is just 365 days away. I turn 59 at 11:58 p.m. today. As I write this, that is only 34 minutes away. Of course, technicalities aside, I have been celebrating all day. Who needs to be exact in life?

My intent was to go to the San Diego Zoo from 9:00-10:30 this morning, then over to SeaWorld from 11:00-12:30, then to teach my chess class at an exclusive rich private school, then to On The Border for Taco Tuesday and a margarita!

I didn’t make it to SeaWorld because I was delayed at the Zoo due to a fire in a car parked just three cars from me. Here’s the smoke as seen from inside the Zoo, when I thought to myself, “That looks like where I parked my car.”

Car fire at the San Diego Zoo on March 11, 2014

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The police and firefighters had several rows blocked off, including, of course, the row I was parked in, so I stood and watched the fire for 43 minutes. By the time the fire was out and we were allowed to go to our cars, there was no way to get to SeaWorld to make the trip worthwhile.

It’s alright, though, because for my birthday, SeaWorld sent me a buy-one-get-one-free “Dine With Shamu” dinner, so Jim and I will be dining with Shamu real soon. We dined with Shamu a couple of years ago and it was awesome. You get real up close and personal! Here’s Shamu from our last Dine With Shamu dinner:

Dining with Shamu at SeaWorld

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

After eating lunch, I went to teach chess for the first time at Francis Parker school, a rich private exclusive school.  3:30-4:30 class.  A bell rings at 4:00 and my eight students jumped up and went screaming out of the room!

Huh?

Turns out that they get a 10-minute break every hour. What do they do? The school—remember, a rich private exclusive school—feeds them junk food. The kids came back with Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, cheese & peanut butter crackers, etc.

These are K-6 students, and this rich private exclusive school is serving them junk food?

Confused, I am.

I did, of course, make it to On The Border for Taco Tuesday and margaritas:

Taco Tuesday at On The Border in El Cajon, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Margaritas at On The Border in El Cajon, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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….right there by mama’s side!

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As much as I love going to SeaWorld, the Zoo, Safari Park, botanical gardens, and aquariums, there is a certain sadness connected to those places because many of the plants and animals they have there are endangered in the wild, usually because of human hunting or development.

Thus there’s always a certain king of joy when one sees plants and animals in their natural habitats.

Such was the case recently when I was way out in the boondocks where I saw many barrel cactus growing in the wild, specifically the fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni). Other common names include Arizona barrel cactus, candy barrel cactus, and Southwestern barrel cactus. It looks like these beauties:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That second one looks like it is growing out of solid rock!

Tradition says that the barrel cactus is a source of water for people lost in the desert, and there are records of Native Americans using it for that purpose. However, the water within the plant contains oxalic acid, which can cause diarrhea on an empty stomach. Great! If I’m lost in the desert without water, it’s highly likely that I probably don’t have any food, either!

Barrel cactus (Echinocactus sp. and Ferocactus sp.) are sometimes called “compass cactus” because they are great exhibitors of phototropism–growing towards the light–as shown by this golden barrel cactus:

Golden Barrel Cactus in Balboa Park, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Look at the shadow from the rock and you can see that it is, indeed, facing the sun. Here in the United States, most of the sun comes from the south, so the barrel cactus commonly faces south. Ergo, “compass cactus.”

Phototropism is exhibited in houseplants, too, as they usually grow towards the light—smile if that makes you think of Poltergeist, “Come towards the light Carol Anne.” Unfortunately, phototropism can cause house plants to look rather ungainly, which is why my wise old grandmother always rotated her houseplants, to give both sides the opportunity to get some of the light.

As with most cactus, the barrel cactus needles are quite dangerous. In my home state of Texas, we called them “horse cripplers” because a horse accidentally stepping on one, even a rather small one, could cripple it.

Additionally, a barrel cactus puncture wound is considered a dirty wound. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, lots of antibiotics may be needed, as well as several months for the wound to heal properly.

Barrel cactus can get quite large and tall. The golden barrel cactus in the picture above is one of the largest I had ever seen. That one, and several others, are located in the Desert Garden in Balboa Park here in San Diego.

However, my trip to the boondocks in East San Diego County provided me the opportunity to see some fishhook barrel cactus that were as tall as me (6’3″), like this one:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My favorite one, though, was this four-feet-tall gal with her three little ones clinging to her side:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Even plant babies know that the best place to get love and food is right there by mama’s side!

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Get up high enough and you can see ‘em!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The African Lions are very popular at the Zoo and at Safari Park. There are two at the Zoo, and they usually are visible because their playpen is not that big. At Safari Park, it’s a different story. They probably have a few acres to run around in, so actually seeing them is hit or miss.

However, I found out recently that if you get up high enough, you can see ‘em!

I went on the Balloon Safari:

Balloon Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Balloon Safari holds about thirty people and takes you up into the wild blue yonder, about 400 feet up. From that high, I could see my hometown of Kingsville, Texas. Well, maybe not that far, but you can see a lot, such as these two female lions doing what all cats like to do: sleep!

Female African Lions at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is out near Escondido, and it gets extremely hot out there in the summer time, often up in the triple digits. That’s triple digits Fahrenheit for my Canadian friends.

Consequently, now is the best time to go to this beautiful 1,800-acre park comprising over 2,600 animals representing more than 300 species, as well as 3,500 plant species. It’s also very hilly in some areas, so wear comfortable shoes.

Remember, if you’re coming to San Diego, give me a call! I often can play docent for a day—Zoo, Safari Park, SeaWorld, Scenic 59-mile Drive, etc. And if you fly into San Diego, sit on the left side of the plane; the view of downtown San Diego as you’re landing is awesome!

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Best Holiday Lighting award for 2013

video logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This year’s Best Holiday Lighting award, something I just made up, goes to the San Diego Zoo with their Jungle Bells, and the Balboa Park Railroad, which is directly across from the Zoo entrance.

Couple them together and there was no other competition.

Even separately, there was no other competition.

Jungle Bells continues through January 4, so you still have time to get to the Zoo, even if you’re flying from somewhere on the other side of the world!

I chopped about 15 minutes of video down into a mere 2:50 and added some music. Enjoy!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

California Least Tern

Which is the weed?

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My wise old grandmotherMy wise old grandmother,
a Master Gardener
before there was such a designation,
always told me that a weed
is any plant
that is growing
where you don’t want it to grow.

Okay then.

Picture 1, weed or not?Weedy rose

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Picture 2, weeds or not?Not weeds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The first, a yellow rose, grows in my cactus garden. I cannot get rid of it. I have tried cutting it down, chopping it down, drowning it, withholding water, digging it out. It keeps coming back. It is a weed because it grows where I don’t want it to grow.

The second picture shows weeds that are not weeds because they grow where people want them to grow. Who are these people?

Oh, I’m so confused….

Weeds…. Not weeds…. Weeds…. Not weeds….

The weeds that are not weeds surround a runway at the San Diego International Airport.
Hmmm.
Great picture for those looking out the window while their plane is landing

 “Wow, honey, look at all the weeds.
Why doesn’t someone mow them down or something?”

Well, the weeds that are not weeds are a nesting site for a rare colony of California Least Terns.

California Least Tern

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1973, there were only about 300 nesting pairs of California Least Terns in all of California. Today, thanks to projects like this one run by the San Diego Zoo and the County Regional Airport Authority, there are over 6,000 nesting pairs in California, still not enough to ensure their survival because there are only thirty colony nesting sites in the State.

Birds lay their eggs directly on the sand/gravel surface. The warmth of the sun and sand apparently helps the birds develop within the egg. Areas like this near the airport are critical because the birds don’t have to compete with beach-goers, the planes chase away most predatory raptors, and the airport fence keeps out dogs, foxes, and other four-legged hunters.

Look at the second picture and you can see a little fence in the bottom foreground. That fence is a whopping ten inches high and defines the actual nesting site within the airport fence. During nesting season you can see eggs laying on the surface, and parents closely guarding them.

Their wintering location remains unknown, which I thought was interesting, but biologists suspect that they winter along the Pacific Coast in South America.

I intend on going back to this site during breeding season (April to mid-June) to see if I can get some pictures of parents and eggs, maybe even some little chicks.

For more about the California Least Tern, see the Wikipedia page.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bornean Sun Bear at the San Diego Zoo

What’s all the hubbub about?

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Our Thanksgiving tradition here is to spend the day at the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, or SeaWorld.

Yesterday we did the Zoo and found this Bornean Sun Bear whiling away his time, wondering what all the hubbub was about:

Bornean Sun Bear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos