Archive for the ‘Winter Break 2014/2015’ Category

Red Panda Village at the Knoxville Zoo   Leave a comment

Red Panda Portrait
Our last stop on our way home was at the Knoxville Zoo. One really nice perk of a zoo membership is reciprocal agreements with other zoos. Most either offer free admission or give a signficant discount to members of other zoos. In Knoxville, all we had to pay for was parking. Our museum membership has a similar network–definitely a great way to support local institutions and at the same time save money on vacation.

It was, however, a somewhat grey day, with showers on and off. There were very few other attendees, as the animals were also taking it easy. The river otter, however, was having a good time doing back flips.
Otter Backflip

Otter Backflip 2

They have a striking profile.
Otter Profile

My daughter has been taking up the photo habit as well.
Otter Paparazzi

There were a pair of non-releasable bald eagles hanging out.

The red wolf is a very endangered species. The core wild population is actually in my old neck of the woods: southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.

I think we woke the lion.
Relaxing Lion

We went to go see the Malayan tigers, where a keeper was just wrapping up a talk.
Tan the Tiger

We spoke with the keeper. Tam, and his brother, were cubs five years ago in the Cincinnati Zoo. They were some of my first cat photos! I showed them a few baby pics, with a lot of “awwws.” They looked at my favorite shot of them, below, and they thought it might be Tam.
Snug in the Logs

The drizzle picked up, and Tam got bored of us.
Tan Wanders Off

The centerpiece of the Knoxville Zoo is their Red Panda Village.
Firefox Trio

In fact, more red pandas have been born in Knoxville, 101, than any other zoo in the Western Hemisphere. Only a Dutch zoo has had more.
Panda Ball

Red pandas are the only remaining true panda species. The giant panda–the black and white kind–are actually bears.
Boop the Nose!

Red pandas were actually discovered (and named) first.
Firefox Logged On

They also happen to be my daughter’s favorite animal.
Caits and the Red Panda

We had a lot of fun wrestle and chase each other.
Wrestling 5--In the Tree

Wrestling 1

Wrestling 2

Wrestling 3

Wrestling 4--Pounce!

We could have spent a long time watching the firefoxes, as red pandas are also known, play. However, we had to make our way back to Cincinnati.
Bye Bye, Firefox

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina   1 comment

Our path back to Cincinnati from Florida took us through South Carolina. We took a break at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, in Columbia. It was a smaller zoo, but had some wonderful exhibits. The first thing we saw was one of my wife’s long-standing favorites, koalas.
Sleepy Koala

We saw two, each in their own tree. We looks a bit closer, and realized our count was off.
Mom and Joey

One of the koalas had a joey, a little baby, sleeping snuggly with its mom.
Snug Little Baby

Neither did much other than doze. We talked to a keeper, who showed us a video on her phone of the joey riding around on its mother’s back. Cute!

The koalas weren’t the only antipodal animal.
Who's Looking at You, 'Roo?

Dragons were hanging out.
Dragon Pile

One thing I did not like, at least in th aquarium/reptile area, was the lack of signage. I’m not sure if this is an alligator or crocodile. He looked happy either way.
Croc Grin

Perhaps because they were playing “dogpile on the turtle.”
Crocpile on the Turtle

One of the many things I learned reading Bill Nye’s book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, is that a group of giraffes is called a “column.”
Column of Giraffes

They had a pretty good cat collection, divided between large and small cats. In fact, they had the largest cat, the Amur tiger.
Amur Tiger

They had two lions, this handsome male…
Perched Lion

…and this shy female (actually, she was just washing her face).
Embarrassed Lion

Winking Lion

The website indicated they had black-footed cats. Other sources didn’t mention BFCs, but did allude to fishing cats. We weren’t sure what we’d get to see. We first came across a pair of fishing cats.
Fishing Cat Profile

They are among my favorite felids. We got to see a surprising number of different cats on this trip: snow leopards, jaguars, cougars, leopards, tigers, lions, servals, caracals, lynes, bobcats, fishing cats, sand cats, and black-footed cats. Fourteen in all (fifteen if you include a felis silvestris catus we saw at a bookstore).

Perched Fishing Cat

I like to take pictures of cats yawning.
Big Yawn!

As I mentioned, they had a representative of the largest of the cat family, the Amur tiger. The black-footed cat is the second smallest cat.
Black Footed Cat in Front

They are fierce predators–I wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley. These two, however, were having fun peeking around their log.

BFC Stalks the Feather

It was a fun stop, and we enjoyed seeing some of our favorite animals.
He's Looking Right At Me

Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center   Leave a comment

From the time I was about six, I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. Given my age, it was clear that the then-new Space Shuttle, or one of its successors, would be the vehicle I flew to space in. I had a plan–Air Force Academy, fly Blackbirds, test pilot school, then NASA. Other career paths popped into my head, but that was probably the most consistent one.

It was sometime in high school that I let go of it, realizing that, for me, it was not an attainable path. Sometime in college, it was replaced with “amature bike racer” as unattainable dream. But, I never lost my interest in space flight.

So, on New Years Day, we left Tampa to head west. The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is the “retirement home” for Atlantis, one of the surviving Space Shuttle Orbiters.
First View of Atlantis

Where other sites, like Udvar-Hazy, simply have their orbiter sitting on its wheels, the KSC has mounted their orbiter at an angle, with multiple levels of viewing platforms–you can really see all over the spacecraft.


Goodbye, Atlantis

They also have the payload bay doors open, so you can get a sense of how Atlantis performed its missions.
Atlantis--Payload Bay

I tried to explain to my daughter that, when I was her age, I wanted nothing more than to sit in this cockpit. Right now, however, US manned space flight is more museum artifacts than a reality.

They had a unique way to explain the 22° glidepath the Space Shuttle used to return to earth–a slide, which my daughter loved.
22º Glide Slope

That Was Fun

The exhibit hall had many other shuttle-era artifacts, such as this glider model. The film at the entrance explained that the director of the program that started the orbiter gathered his team to announce the project, throwing this glider over their heads. One thing I found amusing was how the film showed the delays the project had–a contrast to “we will get to the moon in this decade…”
Shuttle Model

Also on display was the bus that would take astronauts out to the launch pad.
Crew Transport

In the area about the International Space Station, was a mockup of the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, used to help astronauts maintain their muscles and bones.

I remembered why they named it that way…
Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill

We visited the rest of the facility, including a bus tour that took us past the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB).
VAB and New Tower

The buildings are already being used for new programs, such as the Air Force’s X-37B.
Home of the X-37B

The Kennedy Space Center happens to sit on a wildlife refuge. During the bus tour, I saw a few alligators, a manatee, and the nest of a bald eagle.
Eagle Nest

They are one of three locations that have a Saturn V (the other two being the Johnson Space Center and the US Space and Rocket Center). In the building is a full-scale mock-up of the Apollo Command and Service Module.
Apollo CSM Mock-Up

It also is the home of Apollo XIV.
Apollo 14

Back at the visitor’s center, there were a number of vintage artifacts, such as Gemini 9A.
Gemini 9

A full-scale mock-up of a Russian Soyuz hung over the entrance.

Anyone know how old you have to be to get a driver’s license on the moon?
Who Let Caitlin Drive?

The Rocket Garden outside had a Mercury-Atlas stack, which took the first Americans into orbit (Mercury-Redstone was used for the first two, suborbital flights).

The Saturn IB booster was used to take Apollo capsules up for their first flight, then subsequent flights to Skylab and the ASTP.
Caitlin and Rebecca by the Saturn 1B

The future of US manned space flight was represented by a mock-up of the Orion capsule.
Orion Mock-Up

Even though there is a fee for admission and it’s in the middle of nowhere, the KSC is probably the best place to see a Space Shuttle and really get a feel for it. For me, it was bittersweet, as it shows that this era of space flight, the one I grew up with, is truly over. Hopefully, the next chapter will be written soon.
Me and Atlantis

Posted 2015-01-20 by Mr. Guilt in Aircraft, Winter Break 2014/2015

Big Cat Rescue   Leave a comment

Tampa is home to Big Cat Rescue, a rescue for, well, big cats. Big Cat Rescue is home to cats that have retired from circuses or part of the exotic pet trade. We took the opportunity to join one of the tours of their facility.

Big Cat Rescue got its start when rescuing bobcats from a fur farm. It takes forty bobcats to make a fur coat, and they are usually kept and killed in a brutal fashion. There really is no humane fur.
Bobcat Yawn

Their cougars (or, as they are known in Florida, panthers) were having a mellow afternoon.
Lazy Cougar

Bengali was a circus tiger, moved from city to city. He seems quite relaxed here.
Bengali the Tiger

He keeps it clean.
Clean Toes are a Tiger's Friend

Big Cat Rescue’s odd couple are also retired circus cats: Zabu, a female white tiger, and Cameron, a male lion.
Cameron and Zabu

Cameron had to be neutered to ensure he and Zabu wouldn’t create a hybrid (a liger). Because of the reduced testosterone, he no longer can grow a mane.
Lion Strut

Hybrids are a serious issue: usually, they are caught between competing sets of instincts, and have health issues. Jojo, a caracal/serval hybrid, has serious digestive system issues. While I would not want to create hybrids, I do think he’s a very striking cat.
Serval/Caracal Hybrid

Sabre is a melanistic leopard. He was a pet, but abandoned by his owner. Fortunately he made his way to big cat rescue.
Panther Up High

Why do I find myself drawn to silly black cats?
Enrichment Ring

He does have striking eyes.
Pretty Black Cat

Frosty is one of their many servals.
Frosty Paws

Many of these cats were pets, who, well, aren’t domesticated animal. they have no reason to be in someone’s house.
Lounging Serval

When such animals are surrendered by their owners, they sign a contract to never own another exotic cat.
Serval in the Ferns

My personal favorite was their caracal pair, Sassy…

..and Rusty.

Big Cat Rescue is a great organization, committed to the welfare of their cats. They advocate against the many ways wild cats, when put in inappropriate settings, are a problem. We need more folks looking out for animals in these circumstances. The humans are at fault, as they expect the cat to act in a tame fashion, millenia of instincts to the contrary. Unfortunately, too often, it’s the animal that is punished.
Bobcat Silhouette

Manatee Viewing Center   Leave a comment

We made our way to Tampa, Florida, to check out some of the sites, and enjoy the warmer weather. Our first stop? Here:
Tampa Electric Power Plant

Why would we go to a power plant? It happens to be the site of Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center. At this plant, water is taken in from the bay to cool one of the units, then discharged back into the bay. The water leaves the plant warm and clean, and has become a popular hangout for manatees. Tampa Electric has set up a great site to see the manatees.

Manatee Backs

OK, seeing wild manatees is not the same thing as seeing them at the zoo, with a window to get eye to eye with them. You had to look. See if you can see them now:
Manatee Backs - Highlights

Usually, we could only see a back.
Pair of Manatees

Or a nose.

One did like to roll over.
Manatee Belly 2

There were plenty of spots for education and fun.
"Mama" and "Baby" Manatee

There were a network of hiking trails being built, including a long walk.
Path to the Tower

This lead to a tower, affording great views of the bay.
Observation Tower

Looking Out Over the Bay

This was a great attraction, and opportunity to see these creatures in the wild.
Free Rider

Posted 2015-01-17 by Mr. Guilt in animals, manatee, Winter Break 2014/2015

A Second Visit to the Chattanooga Zoo   Leave a comment

Winter Break came after merely a month of winter-ish weather, but we were ready for a break. Driving south sounded like a good idea, so that’s what we did. As is our tradition, we mixed driving with lots of fun stops, putting reciprocal agreements with many great Cincinnati facilities to good use. The first stop was a second visit to the Chattanooga Zoo.

I like the Chattanooga Zoo because, even though it is small, it is comfortable in its skin. It tries to make great presentations of its collection, while ensuring the animals are well cared for. It’s also the birthplace of Renji, the female snow leopard at the Cincinnati Zoo. Czar, her dad, was out on the day we were there.
Czar on Alert!

My daughter is a huge fan of red pandas.
Red Panda Banner

They were spending the afternoon in one of the interior enclosures. They have access to one outside; they just wanted to be in.
Bamboo Snack

They coyotes opted to be outside.

There was also a beautiful pair of cougars out. We loved watching them.
Mountain Lions on the Rock

One thing I like is that some of the older enclosures remain to show how zoos used to be. A cage for a big cat, really too small for such an animal, is more appropriate for a bobcat.
Bobcat Watches...

We must have missed the desert exhibit the first time we visited. We missed several animals, including a road runner, a favorite of my wife’s.
Alert Road Runner

It shared an enclosure with a rock hyrax. Something I learned on Winter break: rock hyraxes are closely related to manatees and elephants. You’d never guess looking at these three critters.

There were fennec foxes there.
Fennec Pair

Some just wanted to relax.
Snoozing Fennec Fox

One was being extremely talkative. I’d never heard a fennec fox vocalize before. There was a keeper, who explained she wanted a bit of attention, and was never shy about making that known.
Fennec Pettins

It was close to closing time–you could forgive the sand cat for being tired…

…having a quick bath…
Quick Wash of the Paw

…and calling it a day.
Sand Cat Nap

We were able to get a good view of the jaguars.
Stalking Jaguar 2

Jaguar Grin

We stopped for only a couple hours, but we really enjoyed our time at the Chattanooga Zoo.

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