Saturday, March 26, 2011

Springtime at Lincoln Park Zoo

Starting next week, my life will take another turn, so on Monday the 21st I met JT at the Lincoln Park Conservatory for Mission: Eurasian Lynx, Lincoln Park Zoo’s latest feline addition. First, however, we roamed the conservatory, focusing on the “Cretaceous Chorus” wafting among the ferns.

At the zoo, the black rhino seemed unimpressed by the yard improvements, while the polar bear was nowhere to be seen in its outdoor exhibit. At Regenstein African Journey, the African dwarf crocodile peered over a crowd of fish that obscured her submerged body. We had better luck outdoors, where we found an Andean bear swatting a suspended container, then foraging underneath it. Finally, he came to rest in a picture-perfect model’s pose by the exhibit’s pool. Further south, the spring sunshine shone on the African wild dogs’ beautiful coats.

At the McCormick Bird House, we watched as the male fairy bluebird preened himself, the shorebirds foraged in the water, the tawny frogmouth perched (and probably slept), the Inca terns checked us out, and the kookaburras perched (but didn’t sleep).

Nearby at Regenstein Birds of Prey, one of the cinereous vultures carried large twigs around somewhat officiously. The real attention getters, though, were they European white storks, whose neck-dipping, bill-clattering displays drew in even casual passers-by. Time will tell if the storks deliver baby storks.

We headed to the Kovler Penguin-Seabird House, where a molting rockhopper dueled with a sleeker neighbor. On the seabird side, a murre flapped its wings at the glass, startling a little girl who ran screaming to Mommy. Thus begins a lifelong terror of birds.

Across the way at the Kovler Lion House, Adelor the male African lion deftly maneuvered the female into a corner, where she lay down for a catnap. He paced, rubbing the left side of his face obsessively on the wires. JT said his left eye appeared to be bothering him, but I couldn’t see any inflammation or drainage. On one pass, though, I spotted the trouble. He has a well-developed cataract and is probably trying to clear his clouded vision. I remember Adelor’s arrival at the zoo when he was just a scruffy youngster, but that was many years ago, and his age is showing.

We’d been hoping the Eurasian lynx would be outdoors, but they were lazing around inside. One sister was nearly invisible on top of the rock wall, while the other’s front half was visible as she lay behind rocks on the opposite side. Mission: Eurasian Lynx was only partly successful. We saw them, but not in the best light.

We headed straight for the white-cheeked gibbon exhibit at the Brach Primate House, where a crowd had gathered. Male Caruso sat center and center as is his wont, but this time female Burma was out of hiding with her infant, born in January. She pawed at it, carried it to the wall, and returned to her original spot. The infant alternated between clinging and nursing and letting go somewhat adventurously, which may explain the pawing. When it held out its arms, we got a good look at its curved hands and long fingers—it’s truly built for a life in the trees.

At some point, the usually placid Caruso slammed into the glass, displayed an impressive set of teeth (including prominent canines), and began urinating on the glass. Highly agitated, he grabbed a vine and swung, spraying a steady stream of urine in an arc on the glass. He displayed at least twice more, minus the urine marking. He was reacting to a particular young women, who, when she realized she was the cause, sensibly stood back. Dressed in black, she was about the same height as the elevated Caruso, and her hair was streaked dark brown and blond. I heard her say that he must think she’s from a different monkey tribe. Aside from the “monkey” bit, she could be right; he may have perceived her as another primate with strangely striped head markings. All I can say is, “My, Caruso, what large, healthy teeth you have.”

By now the lakefront temperatures had dipped significantly, so, after checking out the impressive rack on the reclining Père David’s deer, we went to R. J. Grunt’s, where I recommend the raspberry shake with low-fat yogurt. Mmmm.

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