Tag Archives: safari park

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden—A Review

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
A Review

Hippos at the Los Angeles ZooI became a fan of zoos after my first visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, in summer 1966. If I had never seen a giraffe, or an elephant, or a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus…. I never would have taken such an interest in their plight in the world.

Chimpanzees at the Los Angeles ZooA couple of years later, a real live monkey showed up in our yard. My wise old grandmother told me to give it a banana. I though that was only in cartoons. The darn thing ate it. And as with just about any animal, if you feed it, it’s yours.

That monkey stayed in the trees in our back yard for several months. I named it Cheetah.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenThen, one day, people showed up to take Cheetah. They were people from the San Antonio Zoo. A monkey was considered an exotic pet, and exotic pets were not allowed in Kingsville, Texas. We had to let them capture Cheetah and take him away.

When San Antonio hosted Hemisfair in 1968, I convinced my wise old grandmother to take me to San Antonio. Sure I wanted to go to Hemisfair, but more importantly to this little boy, I wanted to go to the San Antonio Zoo to see Cheetah.

Serval at the Los Angeles ZooI don’t know whether or not Cheetah recognized me, but to this day I believe he did. All one has to do is watch YouTube videos about animals recognizing those who rescued them, fed them, and cared for them, even after being separated from them for weeks, months, and, in one case, 11 years. Yeah, our animals that we care for know who we are.

Los Angeles ZooYesterday, Jim and I went to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden. I had never been to the Los Angeles Zoo, but since I have been going to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on a regular basis for 26½ years, I already knew that the Los Angeles Zoo didn’t have anything that I had not already seen. Thus, my main interest was in the Botanical Garden aspect of the zoo with the possible intent of including a section in my forthcoming book, SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation.

Ostrich at the Los Angeles ZooThe Los Angeles Zoo opened in 1966, so it’s about fifty years younger than the San Diego Zoo. However, at 133 acres, it is 33 acres larger. However, there are only about 1,400 animals residing at the Los Angeles Zoo. After walking the whole zoo yesterday, I would guess that about 70 acres is simply unused land. Jim and I always are tired after a trip to the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t experience that after walking the Los Angeles Zoo.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenI was disappointed in the zoo but I might be unreasonably comparing it to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The L.A. Zoo was quite busy yesterday. However, it needs a serious cleaning, including a parking lot renovation. The asphalt probably is the original asphalt from when the zoo opened in 1966. The whole place was overgrown with weeds. Deciduous trees had dropped all their leaves; unfortunately, all over the exhibits, making a mess of them, making a mess of any horticultural exhibits beneath the trees, making a mess of the various play areas for children.

Notwithstanding all the problems, there were several things that made the visit worthwhile:

      1. I now have been to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden.
      2. The birds show was excellent because it featured birds that you won’t be seeing in your back yard: two African vultures (huge birds!) and a California Condor (another huge bird!)
      3. Although many of the botanical gardens were weedy and covered with leaves, I did get enough good pictures for my book.
      4. The giraffe feeding line was very long, and having fed the giraffes at the San Diego Zoo, I can tell you that feeding giraffes is quite an experience. This final picture shows a little girl feeding a giraffe. I believe this little girl will grow up with an appreciation of wildlife—my appreciation of wildlife started by feeding a monkey. Perhaps this little girl will get a college degree in wildlife conservation, maybe even work in a zoo providing this type of experience to the next generation.

Feeding a giraffe at the Los Angeles Zoo

All pictures in this post were taken by me
at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
on December 29, 2019.

Out & About—Safari Park birds

Out & About

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

At the beginning of 2017 I decided to upgrade my camera equipment. I was getting frustrated going to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park but not being able to get to some of the wildlife because their enclosures were too big and, in the case of the birds, enclosed with screen and wire. I knew that a longer lens would take care of both of those problems.

My daily walkaround lens since 2007 was a Tamron 28-300 mm, so I decided to look at the 150-600 mm lenses. They come in three versions: Tamron G2, Sigma Contemporary, and Sigma Sport. At that time they ranged in price from $1,399 to $1,999, so they weren’t cheap.

Online reviews led me to believe that I would be buying the Sigma Sport for $1,999. I decided that real world use would be better than online reviews for that price, and it just so happens that one of our local camera stores specializes in renting all things camera. So I rented the Sigma Contemporary first (the cheapest), then the Sigma Sport (the most expensive), and then the Tamron G2. Rental period was one week each, so I went out each day to places like the railroad tracks, Ramona Grasslands, San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, the beaches, and the mountains to see if I could lug those things around for 10 hours a day, get good pictures, and be ready to do it again the next day without being too tired.

To make a long story short, for handheld pictures, I did not notice any difference in sharpness between the three lenses. The Sigma Sport was very heavy because it is all metal construction. The weight coupled with it getting too hot to handhold after a couple of hours in the San Diego sun coupled with its price dropped the Sigma Sport out of the competition.

The Sigma Contemporary lost out to the Tamron G2 based on one factor: which direction the zoom ring rotated. I discovered that Nikon and Sigma zoom rings rotate clockwise and Tamron and Canon zoom rings rotate clockwise. Remember that I handhold my equipment, not being a fan of tripods and monopods because of their bulkiness and difficulty in using in crowded areas. Zooming from low to high in a counterclockwise manner using the left hand is not natural, thus difficult and, due to the size and weight of these lenses, sometimes painful for someone 62 years old. Additionally, I had been using the Tamron 28-300 for ten years, so I already was quite comfortable with a clockwise rotation.

Lastly, at the end of three weeks, I compared the pictures from the three cameras. I found that the Tamron G2 gave me better blurred backgrounds than the other two lenses when I really wanted to get up close and personal. Following are bird pictures from the Safari Park taken with the Tamron 150-600 mm G2 lens on April 26, 2017. I have not cataloged these pictures yet so the only birds I know the name of are the the same ones you know the name of, so we’ll start with those.

Spoonbill at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Bald eagle at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Safari Park opens at 9:00 a.m., and that’s when I go to avoid
the huge afternoon crowds. So I guess this bird was eating breakfast.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This great white pelican turned its pouch inside out, which makes
it look like something out of a Stephen King movie.
The mallard doesn’t look impressed.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

And now for the unknown birds.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkAt the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Mama and her little one.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

As I was leaving Safari Park, I saw a hawk soaring
overhead so, of course, I took a picture. Duh.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

…and we have #4

Picture of the Moment

When I was young and living in Kingsville TX, if I wanted to see dragonflies all I had to do was set out a bucket of water.

Multiple dragonflies within minutes.

Kind of like setting out a box if you want to see a cat.

In the 24 years I have been in San Diego, I have seen four dragonflies, with the fourth coming two days ago at a pond at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Since I was testing a Tamron 150-600 mm lens, my rental lens, I was able to get several shots of this beauty. Of the other three dragonflies, I only have a picture of one, and it’s not a great picture because you just can’t get close to these things without them taking off.

Here are three of the best from the Safari Park:

Orange dragonfly at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Orange dragonfly at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Orange dragonfly at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

The cotton ball tree

Did you know?

Although San Diego is defined as a desert in terms of annual rainfall, it also has a Mediterranean climate, so if you can meet the water needs of virtually any plant, it can grow here in San Diego. There even are redwood groves at the San Diego Zoo (coming out of the polar bear exhibit) and at Safari Park (going up to Condor Ridge).

One of the more unusual trees that grows here is what I call the “cotton ball tree.” Looks like this:

img_5749 floss silk tree stamp

img_5748 floss silk tree stamp

flower (21) floss silk tree flower stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The top two pictures were taken at the San Diego Zoo. The tree is so tall that I had missed it until a few years ago when it was dropping flowers and cotton balls. I asked at the Information Booth what the name of the “cotton ball tree” was. They knew exactly which tree I was talking about.

It’s a silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa).

The lower part of the trunk often is swollen, while young tree trunks and the upper trunk and branches of older trees are covered with thorns. Roses don’t have anything on this tree!

file000023991 silk floss tree stamp

_MG_9162 silk floss tree thorns framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The silk floss tree is a deciduous tree native to the tropical and subtropical forests of South America, mainly in Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, northeast Argentina, and southern Brazil.

It is resistant to drought and moderate cold, and grows quite fast when water is abundant. It can get up to 82 feet tall. In an unusual twist for trees, the trunk is green, which means that it is capable of photosynthesis when leaves are absent. In older trees, the lower part of the trunk usually turns to gray. The swollen trunk stores water, as do the thorns.

The fruit is a ligneous ovoid pod, which sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel. They look like this:

_MG_8748 framed

IMG_0917 framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Once the pods ripen, they burst open to reveal a mass of cotton balls surrounding seeds the size and color of black beans.

img_3021 floss silk tree stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The cotton is used as stuffing (think pillows) and in packaging, and to make canoes, paper, and ropes. The seeds provide both edible and industrial vegetable oil.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (3-30-15)—Hear me roar (or see me sleep)

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

There are many babies at the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park right now, including a baby hippo born a week ago, a baby lowland gorilla, and a baby jaguar.

This is not a baby:

African lion at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That is a big cat, an African Lion, the King of the Jungle. Doesn’t look all that ferocious to me. In fact, he looks suspiciously like another cat I know:

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have never seen the African Lions at the Zoo looking ferocious, only Zoey the Cool Cat:

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Every time I see lions sleeping, I think of Robert John and his 1972 hit, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Robert John peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s the version I grew up with; I was a junior in high school.

The song itself, though, is actually quite a bit older, having originally been recorded in 1939 as “Mbube” by the South African Zulu group Solomon Linda & The Evening Birds. Mbube is Zulu for lion.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Whenever I think of Zulu and Africa, I think first of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, best known for singing with Paul Simon on his #1 album “Graceland” from 1986. Sure enough, Ladysmith Black Mambazo did a version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

(YouTube and Wikipedia by far are my favorite Internet sites but they do cause me not to visit libraries as often as I should…….)

The Weavers had a #14 hit in 1952.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I found The Weavers themselves to be rather interesting because one of their members was the incomparable Pete Seeger (1919-2014). Seeger was a prolific songwriter, having written “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”, recorded by dozens of groups throughout music history and listed by New Statesman as one of the Top 20 political songs of all time. I am most familiar with the version by Peter, Paul & Mary:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Seeger also wrote “If I Had A Hammer,” a #10 hit for Peter, Paul & Mary in late 1962, as well as a #3 hit for Trini Lopez in the summer of 1963.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds also was written by Seeger and was a #1 hit for them in late 1965. The Byrds were one of three groups performing at the first rock concert I ever went to, that concert being at The Yellow Rose of Texas dance hall in Corpus Christi in 1972. (Chicago & Dr. John were the other two groups.)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

With that little side journey out of the way, let’s get back to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

The Tokens’ version arguably is the best known, having spent three weeks at #1 in 1961.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I say arguably because younger readers probably know best the version by Timon and Pumbaa used in the Disney movie “The Lion King.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I feel like I just played a musical version of Six Degrees of Separation.

And with that, I return you to your regularly scheduled Monday programming.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Bird art

So why do I keep taking pictures………………?

Out & About San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I never really much cared for wildlife art, especially when I can see the real thing at the beach, the various wildlife preserves, SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, and Safari Park.

So why do I keep taking pictures of bird art?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Flamingo art

Flamingo art from a home inspection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Flamingo art

Flamingo art from a Gay Pride parade

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pelican art

Pelican art from a plant nursery

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pelican art

Pelican art from a home inspection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bird art

Bird art bench in downtown San Diego at the harbor

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bird art in the street median in Mission Hills

Bird art in the street median in Mission Hills

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bird art

Bird art at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Parrot art

Parrot art at a San Diego Zoo store

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bird art

Bird art at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bird art

Bird art at a home inspection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Ostrich egg art

Fake ostrich eggs at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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If you’re looking for a home inspector,
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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Caracal

Nothing that a little ear trim won’t take care of

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It had been more than seven days since I went to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park so I headed out there this morning.

At 11:00 a.m. each day they have an Ambassador showing near the entrance. Today’s Ambassador needed a little ear trim:

Carical

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Carical

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Carical

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Caracal

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That’s a Caracal (Caracal caracal). In the past it has been called a Persian Lynx, Egyptian Lynx and African Lynx. However, it is no longer considered to be an actual lynx, instead believed to be more closely related to the African golden cat and the serval. It is one of the heaviest of the small cats, with males weighing up to forty pounds. Caracals are also one of the fastest small cats.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park location:

San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

View Larger Map

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos