Archive for the ‘Summer Vacation 2012’ Category

Baby Cheetah and Stalking Snow Leopard   4 comments

Summer vacation was four zoos in three states. The fourth zoo (the second in Ohio) was the Cincinnati Zoo. We had been seeing pictures of Savanna, the baby cheetah, and we wanted to see her again. When we got there, she was asleep.
Dozzy Cheetah Girl

She did wake up with a yawn.
Happy Cheetah!

Savanna and the Plush Tiger

She walked about her cage, just looking cute.
Up and At 'Em



Hi Little Girl!Savanna will be joining the Cat Ambassador Program. This is the group that does, among other things, record-setting cheetah runs. A trainer from the program came by and say “hi.”

She got to walk around the nursery.
Hiding Behind a Chair
Such a cute little girl–I’m sure there will be more pictures.

I recently got a new (to me) lens for my camera, and wanted to test it out in the Night Hunters exhibit. I find the fishing cat to be one of the more challenging cats to get there.
Fishing Cat at F/2.8 (Final)

The blue light doesn’t really help.
Fishing Cat on Her Side

But I think it does a decent job at a wider range of focal lengths.
Fishing Cat Protrait

We stopped by to say “hi” to Nubo. At first, he was quite relaxed.
Nubo at Rest

Starting to StalkHowever, something caught his eye. He went into full stalk mode.

This is actually my favorite picture of this set.

One last but wiggle, he was off! What was he after?

My ibex sized daughter, who was sitting near the window. At a cheetah talk, a trainer explained that they are programmed to follow “animals” the size of typical prey, such as toddlers pacing by. It would make sense that it applies to other cats. Personally, I think he’s smart enough to know there was glass there, but he wants to keep his skills sharp.
Caitlin & Nubo

After saying “hi” to my daughter, he went to chat with Renji.
Renji & Nubo

Louisville Zoo   1 comment

On our way back to Cincinnati, we stopped by the Louisville Zoo. They had a lot of interesting animals, though I think the mom showing these kids around were guests, not residents.
Baby Ducks
Louisville is a fine zoo, though there were a few things I found odd. Most zoos ban smoking on the entire grounds, for the health of all animals (including the hairless primates visiting). Louisville actually had designated smoking areas. I found this to be extremely disappointing. Another factor was the walking path was very limiting–there were few cut-throughs to get to other areas quickly. This made doubling-back to see if an animal was awake difficult. Finally, they rotated some animals among enclosures, as enrichment. This is a good thing, however, it does make it difficult to see all the animals–this could likely be remedied by improved signage.

One area had both vampire bats…
Vampire Bats

…and fruit bats.
Fruit Bat

I liked this spotted turtle.

And this guy tried to sell me some insurance.
Insurance Salesman

Our first cat was a jaguar.
Jaguar Stare

She was busy doing her nails…
Jaguar Pedicure

Jaguars are the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere–only lions and tigers are bigger among felids. This one was a bit…ahem…fluffy.
Pretty Jaguar

I suppose it’s not nice to say such things about a lady.
Silly Kitty!

Next door was an ocelot. She was the only small cat out (the snow leopard and cougar were staying in cooler spots).
Dozing Ocelot

They had two juvenile bears (about a year or two old).
Bear Cub Fight!

They were playing around in their pool.
Bear Cub Fight 2!

Amur Tiger PropogandaOf the nine subspecies of tiger, six remain among us. All of them are endangered in the wild, mostly due to poachers (who sell their parts for “traditional” medicine) and habitat lose.

The Cincinnati zoo has the Malayan tiger, the second smallest subspecies. The largest tiger is the Amur tiger, who, at 320 pounds, is about a third heavier. They were more commonly known as the Siberian tiger. “Amur” has become preferred as it more accurately reflects its habitat, which includes parts of China.

(That doesn’t stop me from referring to Beso, my largest cat, as a “Big Sigh-beer-ee–ann Tiy-grrr,” in a cheesy fake accent. He is just a big orange cat.)

The tiger exhibit at the Louisville Zoo is perhaps the best tiger exhibit I’ve seen. It allows the cats plenty of space, including a small pool to jump in, and a small slope. People can observe from two different angles, one of which has two stories, allowing good vantages on the animals. The signage is great. They also have some great murals, reflecting the art of the region. My personal favorite was the Soviet-style propaganda poster to the right. I would have loved a t-shirt with that design (perhaps in an earth tone, with the logo slightly distressed). Alas, they didn’t sell them.

The tiger was quite handsome.
Big Siberian Tiger

Also, he was quite clever, moving under a sprinkler (note the upper left corner of the picture). It was a hot afternoon in Louisville.
Cooling Off

The tiger decided to vocalize a bit. I was able to catch the last one on video (it seems slightly delayed relative to mouth movement). The tiger even gave a half-hearted encore.

Pretty cat!
Lazy Tiger Afternoon

The African section was actually rather good. They had a pigmy hippopotamus.
Caitlin & the Pigmy Hippo

Did I mention it was a hot day?
Camel Down!

More Masai giraffe!
Sitting Masai Giraffe

They had a vulture hanging out with them.

The lions were in the shade.
Lions in the Heat

Big yawn!
Lioness Yawn

Fang close-up!
Lioness Teeth

They had two species of elephants–one African, one Asian. The African elephant was on the left (with the larger ears).
Two Continents of Elephants

Overall, it was a decent zoo with several very interesting exhibits.

Mammoth Cave   Leave a comment

Heading north out of Nashville, we stopped by Mammoth Cave National Park. If nothing else, it would ensure I would stop obsessively checking my SmartPhone. It is beautiful country.
Sunset Overlook View

We signed up for the “Historic Tour,” which took us down the original entrance.
Historic Entrance

Cave Wall

We entered the Rotunda, where our guide started talking about the history of the cave.
Rotundra and Our Guide

There was some equipment was left behind. The cave was a saltpeter mine around the time of the War of 1812. It was extracted as a liquid and processed.
Saltpeter Extraction

Trees from the area were actually used as pipes.
Wood Pipes

We walked to the chamber where the Giant’s Coffin was located.
Giant's Coffin

The guide turned off the lights and told about one of the original guides. He used a replica of a whale oil lamp which was used then (with lard standing in for whale oil).
Stories by Lantern Light

Cave Wall 2

We passed over the small pit–merely fourty-two feet deep.
The Small Pit

Shadow Portrait

One chamber had a great deal of smoke writing, dating back to before the Civil War.
Smoke Writing on the Ceiling

Cave Wall 3The large pit was described as “bottomless”–105 feet.


AFter climbing a fire tower, we were back in the Rotunda.
Rotundra 2

All told, we were three hundred feet deep, and walked two miles.
Rotundra Ceiling

Ascent from the Cave

Posted 2012-08-14 by Mr. Guilt in Summer Vacation 2012

The Parthenon of Tennessee   Leave a comment

For its centennial, Nashville held a large fair. In part to celebrate it’s reputation as the “Athens of the South,” they built a replica of the Parthenon.
Nashville Parthenon

Inside is a statue of Athena.
Athena in the Parthenon

Back of Athena's Shield

The doors are huge. Again, my daughter (and wife) for scale.
Brass Doors

Posted 2012-08-13 by Mr. Guilt in Summer Vacation 2012

Adventure Science Center   Leave a comment

We went to the Adventure Science Center. This is a great place for kids to explore. They have a T-Rex skull. I’m not sure if it’s Sue’s, but I made “rage face” just in case.
Rage Face

It was also home of the Sudkum Planetarium. It was a very interesting hybrid of an optical and digital system.
Nashville Planetarium

This set of lights represents stars in the galaxy. The placement seems random, but, when you stand in certain spots, you can see constellations. It is meant to demonstrate how the stars exist on on a flat plane but in three-diminsional space.

They also had several simulators for walking and working in space.
Caitlin in Flight 2

Overall, this was a neat place to spend a morning with kids.

Clouded Leopard Cubs at the Nashville Zoo   6 comments

DSC_6227The main reason we were interested in going to the Nashville Zoo was to see the clouded leopard cubs. The Nashville Zoo as one of the most successful breeding programs for this endangered cat. Earlier this year, four cubs were born. At least two were earmarked for other zoos. A cub born around the same time was brought to Nashville from the National Zoo in Washington, DC. This is a common strategy for breeding clouded leopards–get the potential couple together at an early age results in more success. So, there were five clouded leopard cubs.

Quite frankly, we were entranced. We probably spent about a quarter of a time just watching them–sleeping, bouncing on each other, and just being cute kittens. They are simply amazing animals, that are absolutely unique among the felids. It’s also not that often you get so see so many baby animals romping around. Even at that young age, they are masters of their habitat.

I took literally hundreds of pictures of them. It’s easy to do with small, active things. Every time I saw them do something cute, almost as soon as the shutter snapped, they were topping it. I heard a professional on a podcast explained that if one out of a hundred photos was good, he was happy. As an amateur, my standard isn’t quite as high for “good,” so there are more you’ll see in this post.

Clouded leopards are adapted to live in trees–they will spend most of their time there.
Clouded Leopard Belly
Apologies for the annoying reflection from lights on the glass.

Two Cubs in a Tree

Their long tail helps them balance as they navigate tree branches, and can go along a limb upside down, or descend a tree head-first.
Descending Head-First

Big paws with big claws allow for sure-footed movement.
Clouded Leopard Claws

I Can Almost Reach It

Leaping from a tree to a fence is second nature to them.
Clouded Leopard Leap!

Hanging from a Fence

Or even just hopping up on a branch.
Hopping Up on a Branch

These cubs didn’t know how special they were (aside from the inherent specialness of being a cat, of course). They were just little cubs who liked romping with each other.
Photobomb Level: Clouded Leopard!

Clouded Leopard Belly (2)


Ignoring the Sibling
“My brother bit me on the butt, and I just ignored him, because if you respond to him, it just makes it worse.”

Happy Clouded Leopard

Clouded Leopard Slurp
Three hanging around

The cubs could be sweet together, too.
Clouded Leopard Piggyback Ride

Wet Behind the Ears

Two Cubs on a Rock

Two on a Branch

When viewing the clouded leopards, you were in a “hut,” with windows facing two enclosures. The cubs were in an enclosure usually used by the red panda. More than once, I heard someone come up and complain about the lack of a firefox. I didn’t quite get it. These cubs were simply amazing to watch…
Climbing a Tree

…even if a bit goofy.
Big Tongue

The other side of the hut was the normal spot for clouded leopards, occupied by mom and dad. More than once I heard someone ask why they were separated from the cubs–none of whom were parents.
Dozing Parents

The other comment I heard was that the adults were as cute as the cubs.
Being Watched by Dad

I couldn’t agree more–they were absolutely stunning!
Papa Cloudd Leopard

The cubs were just as adaptable to being on the ground as the trees, stalking each other.
Stalking Cub

Sitting Clouded Leopard

Ultimately, they settled down.
Laying on a Rock

Lazy Clouded Leopard

Just Hanging Around

These really are amazing cats, ones that are not well known, and little is known about them. Unfortunately, their numbers are dwindling. You can learn more about efforts to save them at the Clouded Leopard Project.
Hugging a Rock

Animals at the Nashville Zoo   4 comments

Part of our summer vacation took us to Nashville, to see the Nashville Zoo, and a special animal. Of course, we looked at all that they had. They had an ostrich, which did two things I’d never seen one do before. First, it kneeled.
Kneeling Osterich

While kneeling, it made a very interesting vocalization–I didn’t get video, but you can see how its throat expands.
Osterich, About to Vocalize

The ostrich was hanging out with zebras, as you can see. All at once, the zebras made a move to the center of the exhibit…no idea why.
Zebra Meeting

The alligators were relatively small.
Floating 'Gators

One had a friend on his back…kind near his hind legs. Can you see it?
Lazy Gator

How about now?
Butterfly on the Gator

The meerkats were working out some issues, apparently.
Aggressive Behavior May Be Observed

The snowy owl was demonstrating why his species is an internet meme.
Chattin' Owl

An albino mom and not-so-albino dad produced two different baby wallabies.
Normal and Albino Wallabes
I don’t think those are both babies, but you get the idea.

Here’s a mouthful of a species: short-tailed leaf nose bat. I’m rather fond of bats, though I know many who are a bit creeped out by them.
Short-tailed Leaf Nose Bat

The golden frog is the national symbol of Panama.
Golden Frog

One challenge I had in the reptile house is that I misplaced my zoo notebook. Usually, as I go through, I write down what I’m taking pictures of (if I’m not sure myself). I accidentally left it in Cincinnati. I assumed I could get it from the zoo’s web site. This proved to be incorrect. I did like this little guy.
clingy Lizard

He could cling to glass.
Clinging to the Glass

Extreme close-up! Check out under his feet.
Close-Up of Clinging to Glass

I’m pretty sure this poison dart frog is thinking, “He’s right behind me, isn’t he?”
He's Right Behind Me, Isn't He?

They seemed to have both Masai and Rothschild giraffes, including a six-week-old baby.
Baby & Big Giraffe

Baby Giraffe

Baby Giraffe Crouching Down

Amazing how the baby is at once tall (compared to me) and small (compared to adults of his species). On the right is an older juvenile, who is two years old.
Three Giraffes

Pretty animals!
Big Giraffe

Were there cats? Of course there were! How about a bengal tiger, dozing on a hot summer day?
Peeking Bengal Tiger

The Eurasian lynxes were having a staring contest.

Until one just gave up.
Sleepy Lynx

Their oldest cat was a cougar, who was in her late teens.
Nashville Cougar

There was one last kind of cat there, who I took literally hundreds of pictures of. This is the “special animal” I mentioned earlier. They will be a subject a separate post, but here’s a peek…

Big Muskie’s Bucket   2 comments

I mentioned that the Wilds were created by land previously used for strip mining coal. Much of the mining was done with Big Muskie, the largest drag-line mining machine ever build. After it completed it’s work in 1991, it was disassembled and sold for scrap. However, it was determined that doing so to the main bucket was not cost effective. It’s now the centerpiece of the Miner’s Memorial Park, near The Wilds.
Big Muskie's Bucket

No part of this is small. Banging on it’s wall, it sounds solid–no “ringing” to it. Here is my seven-year-old, four-foot-tall daughter in the back.
Caitlin in Big Muskie's Bucket

The chains that connected it to the machinery are still, to some extent, there.
Big Muskie's Chain

Again–no part of this is small. Here’s my daughter again, next to a chain.
Caits Next to the Chain

Its scale is absolutely amazing. This is about seven or so miles from the Wilds, which itself could be described as “the middle of nowhere.” I’m not sure I’d have made the trip had we not been right there, but it was certainly interesting to see. Coal is the largest generator of power in the United States today. Between the machines used to extract it, and the land left behind, this trip was a bit of an education into that process.

Posted 2012-08-06 by Mr. Guilt in Ohio, Summer Vacation 2012

At The Wilds   6 comments

Zebra on the Hill
The Wilds is a fourteen square mile zoological park in Central Ohio. For about fourty years, this land was strip mined for its coal. Once complete, the American Electric Company donated the land so that a conservation site could be established.

It is a very large place. A variety of tours are offered–we took an open-air bus, similar to the one pictured above. The tour takes about two-and-a-half hours, with two stops.

Wide View of the Prarie

One of the first new-to-me animals was the Persian Onager. They are donkey-like creatures native to Iran and Iraq. This one seems to think I owe him money or something.
Persian Onager, Looking Annoyed

They foal in August. This one was born either the night before or the day we were there.
Persian Onager Family

This one the day before we visited.
Persian Onager and Foal

And this one was a bit early–a few weeks old.
Persian Onager Foal

A similar animal was Przewalski’s Wild Horse, native to Asia. These have the most impressive manes.
The Mane Thing

They, too, had babies.
Baby Przewalski’s Wild Horse

Foaling Around

Three different subspecies of giraffe were represented. There was the Reticulated Giraffe.
Reticulated Giraffe

The Rothschild Giraffe.
Rothschild Giraffe

And my personal favorite, the Masi Giraffe
Masi Giraffe

Though I’ve seen plenty of emu, I don’t think I’ve seen ostriches that often in person.
Who Are You Calling Birdbrain?

Who are you calling birdbrain?

I feel the need to pull out a bar code scanner…
Lone Zebra

The Wilds is dedicated to conservation. Our guide told us of efforts to save ospreys and butterflies, all very successful. Currently, there is a study with bees.
Bee Experiment
You can sort of see a bee near the second hold from the right, bottom row (green and white box).

There were many species of antelope, including the fringe-eared oryx.
Fringe-Eared Oryx

The banteng is a wild cow, native to China. The Wilds has one of the few pure herds in the world–they have been mostly cross-bred with more domesticated subspecies.

Rhinos use a common latrine, which is also a marking technique. We drove by one.
Rhino Poo

Which led to their herd of Southern white rhinos.
Southern White Rhino

They had a baby rhino, which was cute…for a rhino.
Baby Rhino!

One of the stops was the Mid-Sized Carnivore Conservation Center, which was more appropriately the Mid-Sized Carnivore Lounge Center, as these African wild dogs demonstrate.
Painted Dog Day Afternoon

The Dhole is a dog-like Asian animal that I had never heard of before. It preys on bantengs, and has a very bush tail.
Bushy Dhole Tail

Happy Dhole

Of course there were cats! Specifically cheetahs. In one enclosure was a mom and two eight-month-old cubs.
Dozing Cheetah Family

Mom enjoyed rolling on her back.
Silly Cheetah Family

The cubs demonstrated camouflage. See them?
Cheetah Cub Camouflage

How ’bout now?
Lazy Cheetah Afternoon

In the next enclosure was Steve, a handsome, two-year-old cheetah.
‘Sup, ladies?

All-in-all, we had a great time. It is an amazing facility which is committed to conservation, both through action and education.
The Barilleauxs at The Wilds

Dublin Irish Festival   2 comments

We went to the Dublin Irish Festival. Though she was not performing, my wife did dance.
Dancing at the Festival
I love how my daughter’s hair is flying. I love even more how my wife’s feet automatically go into perfect Irish dancer positions.

The big act we got to see was Eileen Ivers, a well-known fiddler among Celtic fans. She spent some time touring with Riverdance. Ironically, my favorite song of the night was a Cajun tune.
Eileen Ivers

Posted 2012-08-05 by Mr. Guilt in Ohio, Summer Vacation 2012

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