Monday, July 18, 2016

July 10 -- part 1


The day after coronation, my dad took us all out for breakfast.  It was nice to spend a bit more time together, and to celebrate my Mom's birthday a couple of days early.

We were very sorry to learn that one of my nieces-to-be lost a stepbrother overnight.  Sad and shocking.

As we finished breakfast, it got stormy.  We were planning to spend another couple of days in Des Moines.  Six hundred miles each way is too far to drive for just a day and a half.....

Everyone else was headed for home.  We all said goodbye at the restaurant, and went our separate ways.

We decided to move to another hotel that was closer to the things we planned to do in Des Moines on the 10th and 11th.  We ended up in the Holiday Inn in the Mercy area (meaning -- right across the street from Mercy Hospital).  We moved into our new room before noon.

It was still cloudy, but not raining.  We checked the weather.  The rain was supposed to be over, and it was supposed to be cooler on the 10th than the 11th, so we decided to go to the zoo, and save the science museum for the 11th, when it was supposed to be hotter.

Did I say we rented a car to take to Des Moines?  We did.  We like our Versa, but it it is not very big, and it rides stiff on the highway.  Not comfy for a long road trip.  We drove this dark gray Jeep Compass, and liked it well enough.  Its seats didn't adjust high enough for me.  I ended up tipping my head back, so I could see "higher", and gave myself a stiff neck.

I forgot to mention, when I described July 8, that we made a trip to Target after supper.  That is -- we didn't plan to go to Target, but after those fat hard pillows at the lodge, I wanted to buy a pillow.  And I was also thinking about something to sit on in the car, to be higher.  So we went trolling for a place to buy a pillow, and -- yay -- we found Target, which we were pretty sure would have everything we were thinking about needing.  So we bought a pillow, and then I had to have pillowcases.  I picked out a nice fat towel as something that could give flexible extra height when sat upon (depending on how it was folded).  I picked out some souvenir socks (my Chicago socks were from Target -- why not my Iowa socks?).  Then we got breakfast for the last part of our trip.  Cheerios, Raisin Bran, milk, and oj.  And some microwave popcorn, just because we could.

We trundled all of that stuff (well, ok, the towel stayed in the car), in addition to all the stuff we started with, up to the hotel room, and then headed for the zoo.

I'd never really used Google Maps on my phone for navigation all that much.  I am  happy to report that we used it quite a bit in Iowa and it worked like a charm.  (I also used it to find the Holiday Inn we picked.  It gives prices as well as locations for hotels.....)

This nice clematis was at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines.

The first critters we saw were otters!   They were big.  It said they were river otters -- I wonder if they were Amazon river otters, or something.  I think the USA river otters I've seen are smaller than these.  But I may be wrong.

Right near the otters are the flamingos.

A recurrent theme of the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is that you can get closer to the animals, with fewer barriers, than elsewhere.

I wonder if Iowans are more respectful of (and less dangerous to) the animals than people elsewhere?  I hope there are people somewhere who are more respectful of animals than most people seem to be, and why shouldn't they be Iowans?  (Noting that Iowans are not more respectful of impending red lights than are Michiganders, which surprised me a bit..........)

Close enough to the flamingos to note their pale eyes, as well as their orange feet and knees (above).

Zoo-goers walk right in the same area with the wallabies.  No barriers at all.  I believe I have been in the same area with kangaroos before (Ft. Wayne, maybe?).  The wallabies were quite skittish, moving off the moment they perceived I was paying attention to them, so maybe that level of respect I was describing earlier wasn't quite what one could hope.  I don't know.  But none of my wallaby pics were interesting.

Here is a kookaburra.  Don't they have excellent striped tail feathers?

Black swan.

The black swan's babies.  You can't tell from this pic, but these cygnets are almost as big as a full-grown mallard duck, despite being young enough that they have no apparent adult feathers.

Fuzzy guys.

This interesting individual is a crested pigeon.  With fancy wings.

I suspect this means people were constantly hunting for keepers, to tell them they'd seen injured birds.  Good for people who try to do the right thing!

I was glad I had seen the sign -- this looks a lot like blood!

Wandering on.....  This is easily the biggest tortoise I've ever seen.  He was huge.  Massive. 

Both of us thought he was fake, until he moved.......

You can tell from the video that he's big enough that movement was non-trivial.  We saw a sign that said he weighed 500 pounds...............

His name is Barnaby.  He's described as calm and friendly ("A 500-pound lap tortoise!").  He is an Aldabra tortoise, which is not common, but is not critically endangered.  He eats grass, when there is any within reach.

When there isn't, he moves on.

I think this is another Aldabra tortoise.  I'd never seen orange on a tortoise before July 10....

When he approached her, I thought he was checking on what she was eating.  Perhaps he was.  He touched noses with her, and then (slowly) this happened.

I show the pic mostly to show how much bigger he is.  You can tell from the grass that she's no dainty little thing, but in comparison?  I suppose her shell is meant to carry his weight as well as hers....  And I don't suppose her keepers would let her be in harm's way.  But you can see that she is holding up most of his weight, and this is less than there was just a moment before I took this shot..............

I believe she allowed this to happen.  I am pretty sure she could outrun him without trying too hard.  She did not struggle or seem distressed.

He got up there fairly handily, but then found it hard to get down.  In the end, she basically walked out from under him.  He braced his hind legs so he wasn't hauled along, and eventually sort of slid off.

No wonder she's got mud all over her back (see that first pic of her, above..........).

He does some pretty audible groaning as part of this process.  I was asking a keeper if babies were expected.  He said not, though attempts had been made all day.  Apparently breeding is very chancy for these guys, so even when they are enthusiastic about it, success is a surprise.  I wish them luck..........

There were more tortoises in the same enclosure.  This one's shell seems different (smoother, less orange).  I have no idea how much variation is usual for Aldabra tortoises.  Maybe this one and the next two are Aldabra tortoises.  Maybe not.  All three of the next ones are about the same size as the girl above.

I think these shells look very different from those of the three individuals above.

Moving on -- more swans.  These are trumpeter swans.  Very rare.  We read that there are pairs of trumpeters here and there who have clipped feather so they cannot fly off.  They raise babies, who can fly away.....  I didn't see anything about migration patterns or anything like that.  Wondering where those babies go, since no one is teaching them where to migrate.  Do they stay in place?  Or what?  I didn't think to wonder, at the time, but I'm wondering now............

This pair was doing what looked to me like a pair-bonding dance, but I saw no attempts at cygnet production.  Their heads went up.  And down.


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