Saturday, July 28, 2012

At the zoo

Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo.
I do believe it.
I do believe it's true.
--Paul Simon

So it was high time I had another adventure anyway, and who am I to gainsay Paul Simon on matters of zoological importance?  So I grabbed my trusty digital camera and gallivanted off to my friendly neighborhood cavalcade of critters.

And what better time to visit the zoo in the Pacific Northwest than on a spectacularly overcast July day?

(In truth, it felt like the perfect day to go to the zoo.  When I was a kid, for some reason the days our family ended up going to the zoo in San Francisco or Oakland were almost always gray, with high overcast, so today's unseasonably cloudy weather seemed perfectly suitable.)

The Cougar Mountain Zoo, established in 1972, is small.  Like most small zoos it has chosen to focus on specific groups of animals, most of them endangered -- big cats, reindeer, lemurs, parrots, camelids, emus and wallabies.

Oo, look, a penny pressing machine!  I am such a sucker for these things.  There's something satisfying about squishing an image into a penny, and it's one of the most reasonably priced souvenir items you can buy.

And very handsome souvenirs it made, too.

With this crucial task out of the way, let's get right to the animals, shall we?

With a name like "Cougar Mountain Zoo," you would expect this zoo to have a few of its namesake beasties on the premises.

They did not disappoint in this regard.  Here, the brother cougar rips up grass for his own entertainment in the background...

...while his sister paces the perimeter of the fence in the foreground.

Cougars (also known as pumas, mountain lions, catamounts, screamers and American lions) are known for their screaming cries when they are hunting or looking for mates.  Several cultures consider it extremely unlucky to hear a  mountain lion scream.  But mountain lions also make adorable little squeaky noises when they are curious about something.  They purr when they're content, and are in fact the largest species of cat that can purr continuously, like a house cat.

There were, of course, some other big cats on the premises.

Currently there are four tigers at Cougar Mountain Zoo, two of whom are royal white tigers.

This guy was feeling fairly mellow, languidly rolling around and washing a paw.

The zoo is planning to add a cheetah exhibit some time soon, but at the moment the World of Cheetahs area is completely empty.

At a reasonable distance from the big cats was the enclosure for reindeer, also called caribou.  If you look carefully you can see these reindeer are losing the last of their heavy winter coats.  At Christmastime Santa Claus comes to the zoo to collect these particular reindeer for Super Secret Santa Reasons that Cannot Be Divulged.

There are at least three kinds of lemurs at the Cougar Mountain Zoo. This group was calm and collected when I first passed by their enclosure, but later the entire band started hooting and hollering for reasons known only to lemurs.  I cannot fathom how a noise that loud can come out of a creature that small.

 There were several parrots...

...who seemed to enjoy being photographed.

Now seems as good a time as any to mention that this zoo has a beautiful physical plant, with fountains...

...numerous bronze sculptures scattered throughout the park...

...and fantastic views of Lake Sammamish.

What other critters were nearby, you ask?

This critter, for one.

He had big, beautiful eyes and was not particularly shy of strangers.  I think he was probably expecting to be fed.

The alpaca wasn't sold on the idea of being photographed, but after a little while of patient waiting and some gentle words, finally came around.

And this one's wooly coat was just too good to miss.

It was a little odd to see mule deer in a zoo.

I'm used to seeing them just wandering wild around my mom's back yard, eating her tomatoes.

Behold the East African Crowned Crane.  The zoo also has some West African Crowned Cranes, but they decided to be coy and stay in their enclosure, so no pix.

This is a Sarus crane, a little shy due to crane pattern baldness.

Then, of course, there were the emus.  I love emus.

And for some reason this emu loved me too.

That, or he just really loved being photographed.

Or possibly both.  Take your pick.

The wallabies looked a bit confused to be stuck in the same general area as the emus.

I finally tore myself away from these critters and went off to commune with the parrots and other hookbills.

This is Paco, an African grey parrot.  Paco wasn't much enjoying the weather, fluffing up his feathers and shivering to keep warm.

Marvin and Trillian (yes, Douglas Adams fans, that's really their names!) are Illiger's macaws.

Molu is a Moluccan cockatoo...

...who likes to preen.

And this is Max, another African grey.  Max enjoys attention and likes to talk, especially as a way of getting you to come back when you pass by his cage.  He says "Hi, Max" very clearly and also enjoys making kissing noises, and he seems to enjoy being told he's beautiful.  Quite the character.

Rama is a military macaw who can give quite the come-hither stare.

Manduvi is a hyacinthine macaw with the most amazing indigo blue plumage.

Kiwi is a gorgeous scarlet macaw.

And here's Ejea, a blue-and-gold macaw who was feeling rather silly.

This is Tambo, a green-winged macaw.  Green-winged macaws are nearly extinct in most of their native habitats.

And this is Orion, who isn't a parrot at all.  He's a kookaburra.

The red-ruffed lemurs also seemed a little confused to be placed at the end of the macaw exhibits.  But they made the most of it by swinging all around their enclosure at breakneck speeds whenever anyone came near.  I probably should have tried filming them, rather than trying to take photos.

The zoo also has a wildlife tracks library...

...which it claims to be the first, and so far the only, one of its kind in the world.

Friends of the zoo have paid a donation to put various phrases on bricks and other pavers scattered around the walkways.  Some are fairly amusing.

Having exhausted the limits of the zoo, I did what anyone who knows anything about Issaquah would do next:

I went to XXX Root Beer and got a bacon burger.  And let me tell you, with a side order of deep fried mushrooms that thing was delectable.


Gretel said...

Oh I love zoos, what an interesting one that is - white tigers! Some great shots there, especially the birds. :)

Soozcat said...

The birds were fun to photograph. Most seemed to enjoy it, although a few turned their backs with a "ha, photograph THIS" look. And a few, like the emu, were just fascinated by it.

The nice thing about a small zoo like Cougar Mountain is that they seem to be making every effort to take on only the types of animals they can care for and make comfortable. I've been to zoos and aquariums where the animals looked unhappy. Not at Cougar Mountain. Even the female cougar who was pacing around the fence seemed to perk up and respond vocally every time a keeper came by and talked to her.