Monday, June 4, 2012

Day Ten: Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo is a mix of the old and the new. Some of the exhibits - like the brand new, only open this week, Elephant exhibit are very stylish and have had a lot of thought and care put into them to make them both aesthitically pleasing and provide stimulus to the animals. Others, like the indoor bird enclosures, are not. I felt sorry for the poor kea, in a glass-fronted cage the size of a small closet, all alone. It was a wonder he was not feather plucking out of boredom. Instead, he sat hunched at the back, regarding passerbys with dull-spirited eyes. For the smaller birds, the closet-cages allowed them enough room to spread their wings, and the painted backdrops lent a two-dimensional authenticity to the photos. There were a few walk-through aviaries as well, where the birds could free-fly and interact with one another in a glorious, noisy manner. Here is a selection of the birds (ie: the photos that didn't come out blurry).

Bearded Barbet (South America)
Pygmy Falcon (Africa)
Rhinoceros Hornbill (Asia)
Piping-Guan (South America)

South America was well represented, with a lot of bizarre birds - currasows and guans being some of the lesser known bird species. These large birds somewhat resemble pheasants, and maybe fill a similar niche. There were also a number of my personal favourites, most of which I had never seen in reality before:

Sunbittern (South America)
Secretary Bird (Africa) - this guy was TALL!

Crowned Crane (Africa)
Egyptian Vulture (Africa)

 Also, a Bali Starling, but I could not get a decent photograph of him. 
And some awesome mammals:

Coatimundi (South America)
Okapi (Africa)
Tapir (South America)
Spotted Hyena (Africa)

Striped Hyena (Middle East, Asia)

Gerenuk (Africa)
Red Ruffed Lemur (Madagascar)
The Snow Leopard was gorgeous, but the bars made him difficult to photograph and the Clouded Leopard vanished by the time I got the camera out. The Aye-aye was in the nocturnal house, and too difficult to photograph and the Maned Wolf was nowhere to be seen.

And a couple of Americans:

Grizzly Bear

Bighorn Sheep
I would have liked to see the wolves as well, but we had bypassed them on the way in to make our time at the Elephant House (you had to book the time) and by the time we had completed the circuit it was midday, starting to get very hot and the four-year old (and her parents, and probably Tim as well) were getting tired.

So, we set out to find lunch, which was to be at  Good Times - a fast food-style place found only in the Colorado region that specialised in frozen custard.

It was not to be.

Heading over a rise, our driver came upon a row of traffic, stopped at a light. She braked hard, stopping with inches to spare but we were only given a second to sigh in relief as THUMP, we were hit from behind, not once but twice. Technically speaking, it was a four-car pile-up on the motorway. Her accident recognition radio-phone jumped into action and the emergency services were dispatched. The fire engine arrived first, saw nothing was on fire or leaking, and left. The Police and Ambulance arrived shortly after. The first car - the one in front of us, was barely touched, ours had been pushed into it and it suffered minor twisting in the number plate. The one behind us was pushed against our rear so close that it was impossible to investigate for damage. All of the drivers and passengers were okay, albeit shaken and possibly a little sore from the impact. We had to stand for an hour in the baking Colorado sun on the median strip of the motorway, whilst insurance papers were examined and a tow truck arrived to remove the only undriveable car - the last of the four. The person who had hit us was a primate keeper from the zoo, she looked after the Orangutans and Chimps. The young Orangutan had been adorable, but alas his position had made him too difficult to get a clear shot of. Her car rattled away when she left, but apparently she had only a few blocks to go. Ours rattled too, having lost part of the bumper and having a bit hanging lose that caught the wind in a disturbing fashion on the freeway. Nothing a bit of duct tape couldn't fix, although the car was later to be written off. Still, if I have to be involved in an accident in the US, a four-car accident in which three of the four cars drive away and noone takes more than minor damage is coming off pretty lightly. Harley was excellent through it all. She had been in her car seat and did not whine or cry despite the length of time we had to wait. I entertained her in the car a little, it was the only shade we had. If only we had managed to have an accident near a McD's or shopping mall, instead of in the centre of an industrial area.

After that, we didn't feel much like going anywhere, and had toast and jam for lunch. Tim had to go and swap our silver Camry (which wasn't involved in the accident, but had been showing "maintenance required" and needed an oil change), bringing back a red vehicle of the same make.

For dinner we finally made it to Good Times. It was dry and the wind was coming in sharp, hard gusts. I had a chicken and avocado burger, followed by a "Turtle" frozen custard - that's pecan and caramel to those of you not in the know. It tasted good, but had a lingering aftertaste that was not so pleasant. Then the four-year old dragged us back to the shopping mall. It was... unexciting, although there were some relatively nifty stores.  All up, not the best day of our adventures, but given how much worse it could have been, things turned our all right in the end. Even if my back did feel a bit stiff and sore for the remainder of the day.

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