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More Chaffee Zoo for Safari Practice

May 31
Written June 1
Dear Diary and Friends and Family,

d180531_00_overall.jpgOn the last day of May, I woke up completely uninterested in the normal gym-exercise routine, or in much of any of my normal activities.  However, as soon as I had decided to be inactive, my Mom's orders from 60+ years ago came back: "Go outside and play."  Nowadays, for me, "play" seems limited to exercising, gardening, or taking pictures.  I opted for photography and the only target-rich location I could think of was Fresno's Chaffee Zoo.  It is smallish, but nicely done and, on a relatively quiet weekday morning, should be fun.
Loaded down with four cameras (two Canon DSLRs, my trusty Canon point-and-shoot, and the ubiquitous iPhone), a tripod, and my "safari lens" (150-600mm Tamron), I started my safari in the African Adventure section of the zoo.

I really had no plan, just plenty of time and the most pleasant weather I expect we will see here for the next three months (65-75F, sunny, clear air).  Here's roughly how the day ran.
My first encounter was with the cheetahs.  Normally, these big cats are just lounging in the tall grass of their compound, but I had arrived early enough to see some morning activity.  The oldest of three was pacing around the edge of the field, inspecting the fence perhaps.  Her repeated laps were hypnotic as she seemed more to flow than walk.
d180531a_04_hidden.jpgd180531a_06_visible.jpgOn one lap, she abruptly jumped into a tree. From one angle, she disappeared among the leaves, but from another, she could be seen looking royally out over the vast open expanses (of the Chaffee Zoo pedestrian paths.)

Elsewhere in the cheetah compound, a younger cat was playing with a same-age zoo fan, or visa versa.

Meanwhile, the lions were also getting their morning exercise, sort of.  Initially, the male was sunning up on "Lion's Roost", but then he ambled down to join the female as they paced back and forth along the fence, just feet from my camera.

Around the large "water hole" an assortment of animals and birds went about their breakfast routines.

d180531a_28_eye.jpgThe White Rhinos were particularly fun and easy to photograph.   No quick movements, but always moving.  Young "Bambo" squeezed under mom for his breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, out at the giraffe pen, kids were working up their courage to give the long-tongued animals a morning snack.

I think my favorite animals to photograph in the water hole grassland are the ostriches.  They're really pretty goofy looking, if one takes the time to focus closely.  Their necks alternate between being straight poles and curvy snakes and those giant eyes always draw the camera.

One of my favorite places at Chaffee Zoo is the Winged Wonder Bird Show.  By now, I have seen the show a half-dozen times and can predict all the various bird and announcer activities.  Still, it's fun. 

Mostly, however, it is a time for me to practice "wild" life in case we ever go on a real safari.  Sure, these are predictable animals, but still I tried my best, including a focus on eyes - the secret to pictures of people as well as of animals.
d180531b_02_first.jpgd180531b_04_firsteye.jpg d180531b_12_hawkeye.jpgd180531b_10_hawk.jpg
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It's not all just bird eyes, though.  The bird show had an audience full of cute and excited kids and everyone appreciated the pair of talking parrots.  This pair does reasonable versions of chicken and horse sounds, greetings, and songs. ("I left my heart in San Francisco ...")
A brave audience volunteer gets to be "attacked" by an owl, the largest bird in the show.  The volunteer is supposed to snap a picture just as the big bird approaches.  Sometimes it works, but other times nerves interfere.
Another popular audience-participation event is crane feeding.  The emcee seems to select only cute kids like this little girl in pink.  She shuttered as the bird first dug into the food bucket, but at the end said it was fun.
An audience member is also asked to offer a folded dollar bill to this white cockatoo.  The bird flies up, snatches the bill, and flies back to the emcee.  No one ever volunteers to do this with $10.  (All money is, in fact, returned.)
d180531b_62_catch.jpgAt the afternoon version of the bird show, I tried to snap pictures of flying birds.  That's a lot harder.  This first guy was making it even harder by catching grapes thrown in the air.  He really twisted and turned.  The crane and eagle flew gracefully, but it will take more practice to get the dynamic shots I'd like.

And that was it.  It was a fun five or six hours and did help me get used to picture taking yet again.  This will be useful next week as we take our trip to Anacapa Island.  Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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