Saturday, June 27, 2020

Stripes & Spots–Photo Practice at Melbourne Zoo

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Booking in advance one takes a chance on the weather at this time of year, in that it could turn out to be an awful cold and miserable day.

But we struck it lucky last Wednesday, it being a particularly mild winter’s day with ample sunshine. Perfect for a visit to Melbourne Zoo, where I have not been for over 20 years or so.

Though public admittance was restricted due to the covid19 pandemic to 2500 people, there were quite a few persons in attendance mostly parents with children.  I hate to think how many bodies would have been there on a normal day, so am thankful that numbers were limited as it was easy to snap unencumbered photos of the exhibits.

Upon arrival we headed off to the right, hoping it would lead us to the big cats who according to map were over there somewhere.

On the way we came across the comical meerkats, wonderfully photogenic beasts.

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Meerkat on guard duty

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Another meerkat on watch

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From there it was onward to the giant tortoise, a peculiar sculpture indicating it was nearby.

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Tortoise sculpture

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Giant tortoise photographed through glass

We passed the Japanese garden…

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Japanese Garden

…then headed back towards the centre pathway and came across the beautiful  old 19th century carousel, which was not operating, due to covid restrictions no doubt…

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Old carousel

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Carousel detail

…and the Peter Pan statue, an Australian version commissioned in 1926, created by Paul Montford.

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Peter Pan statue

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Peter Pan statue (detail)

On the way to the snow leopards we passed the pelicans and penguins…

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…and eventually came to the Snow Leopard enclosure.

Mother leopard was sunning herself high up on the other side of the enclosure and the cubs were hidden, though when we returned a bit later one cub was visible, unfortunately slightly obscured by mother leopard’s  leg.

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Snow Leopard cub

The Coatis and Tasmanian Devils were not visible, so we moved on to the lions, of which there were two males, gnawing on a snack of bones.

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Lion close up

Close to the lions were the African wild dogs.

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African wild dogs

Moving on, the peccaries and tapir were nowhere in sight, but we soon came to the giraffes and zebras and baboons.

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Two zebras side by side – stripes in tandem

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Giraffes – mother and foal

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Long neck

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Giraffe and zebra

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Giraffe head shot

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Baboons enjoying the sunshine

Walking back down the left side of the zoo, we ambled through the great flight aviary where a variety of water birds were on display.

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Some kind of ibis?

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Some kind of curlew?

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more birds

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Black cockatoo

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Black Swan

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The cassowary was in an enclosure by itself. Strange to see one up close and note how like a dinosaur it is.

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Next up was the elephants and the tiger.

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Elephant herd

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More elephants

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Another elephant

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Tiger again

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and again (after all it’s not every day you can photograph tigers)

We’d been at the zoo for over three hours by this time so there were only  a few more sections to visit – the monkeys and primates.

Unfortunately the gorillas were too far away to get good shots and my monkey photos were not a success except for this spider monkey.

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Spider monkey

The zoo charmers turned out to be the Lemurs who seemed almost tame, unenclosed, and sitting on perches close to the public walkway.

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Lounging lemur

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Lemur – such a long handsome tail

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Lemur in an aura of afternoon sunlight

We were somewhat footsore by the end, but it had been an interesting outing and we even ran into an old acquaintance in Arch, who has been a zookeeper at Melbourne Zoo since 1988. Keeping to the regulatory social distancing we reminisced about old times when we were part of a social group that gathered at the Dan O’Connell Hotel in Carlton back in the 1970s and ‘80s.

And it was a pleasant change to take photos of beasts other than race horses.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Killing Time in Covid Times

Our blue eyed boy Bingo

It’s Winter already, though we’ve had plenty of time to get used to it with late May being quite chilly.

That’s not to say I’m looking forward to the next few months of cold weather in this icebox of a house, and being obliged to stay home with the pandemic still limiting movement.

I must admit that even I am getting a bit stir crazy, having not gone anywhere interesting for months; my weekly shopping trips to Victoria Market being the only outdoor diversion I’ve undertaken.

However, I have been keeping occupied with computer games and books, and tinkering with a new design for the Nu Country website.

After finishing the final book in Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy, an extraordinary literary masterpiece, I’ve been binge reading a series of detective novels by Alan Bradley, which feature 11 year old Flavia De Luce.

9780752883212I am grateful to the friend who introduced me to the Flavia books, as I certainly would not have stumbled on them by myself.  He gave me the first book in the series as a present and I  enjoyed it enormously.

There are  eleven Flavia De Luce novels, I was pleased to note after reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, so I’ve stocked up my Kindle with several to keep me tided over with entertaining reading matter, and have become addicted to Flavia’s small village world of the 1950s.

Described as a cross between Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle and the Addams Family, the novels are set in the fictional English village of Bishop’s Lacey where Flavia and her family inhabit  the large manor house Buckshaw.

Flavia is the youngest of three sisters, the others being Ophelia and Daphne, her arch enemies, against whom she tests her knowledge of poisonous chemicals.  For Flavia, as well as being an unusual detective, is also a master chemist having inherited her Great Uncle Tarquin’s fully equipped laboratory in the east wing of Buckshaw.

Full of eccentric characters that include family retainers Dogger and Mrs Mullet, the Flavia de Luce novels are tremendous fun and a great escape from the real world which only seems to be getting worse.

Curiously, one of the computer games I’ve recently played also features a feisty schoolgirl detective called Jenny Le Clue, a fictional creation of successful (fictional) author Arthur Finkelstein.

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This is a charming game with wonderful graphics, great characters and a long involved story. Jenny and her friends and family live in the fictional town of Arthurton and Jenny is the heroine of a series of soft boiled detective novels by Arthur J Finkelstein, solving cases such as missing eyeglasses and test papers. Jenny longs for a real case to solve and soon enough in the game the Dean of Arthurton’s Gumbold University  dies mysteriously and Jenny’s mother is framed for his murder.

The game follows Jenny’s adventures in pursuing the investigation into the Dean’s death to clear her mother and unearthing in the process the many secrets hidden in Arthurton.  It is one of the best and cleverest computer games I’ve played of late.

I also played two rather interesting and creepy supernatural mysteries set in Cornwall – Barrow Hill: Curse of the Ancient Circle and Barrow Hill: The Dark Path.

On the home front nothing much has changed, with only Bingo the cat recently giving us some worry with his behaviour.  Earlier this week he would disappear for hours and efforts to find his whereabouts were in vain. He also was suffering from a  sore back foot with a wound around the claw area. Heaven knows how he came by it, but it didn’t seem like a cat fight injury.  Happily he has returned to normal over the last few days and his foot is on the mend. Perhaps he was avoiding us in fear of being taken to the Vet, but really who knows what goes through the feline mind.

As public venues slowly open up again I’ve been itching for a change of scene, so have booked to go to the Zoo later this month to see the new Snow Leopard cubs.  My reasoning was that with a limit of 2000 people a day, the Zoo will be sparsely populated, occupying as it does a wide expanse of real estate, so it will be ideal for photography practice and of course viewing the wildlife.

Speaking of photography practice it will be some time before the general public will be admitted to the horse racing - the only sport that continued over the course of the lockdown. Naturally I’m looking forward to the Spring Racing Carnival in whatever format it takes, but hope to be there in person for some meetings.