Wednesday, June 30, 2010

St. Louis Zoo - Part 1

Hi!  Remember me?  The blogger that keeps disappearing for weeks at a time?  Well, I'm back...for now.  And I've got lots of lovely pictures to keep you entertained!  I'm splitting this post up into 3 parts...mainly just to drag it out long enough for me to get my act together and get another post done.  Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, Ryan and I spent a lovely day at the St. Louis Zoo.  We are so lucky to have such an amazing zoo right here in our hometown.  The Zoo is located in Forest Park and it's recognized as a leading zoo in animal management, research, conservation, and education.  Plus, admission is free!!  (And they serve ice cold Bud Light at all the concession stands!  Score!)

The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair is credited for the birth of the St. Louis Zoo.  The World's Fair brought with it a walk-through flight cage commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution. St. Louisans fought for it to remain in the city once the Fair concluded. The City of St. Louis chose to buy it for $3,500 (original cost to build was $17,500) rather than have it dismantled and sent to Washington, D.C.  The popularity of the bird cage inspired civic leaders to build a real zoological garden in St. Louis.  In November 1910, the Zoological Society of St. Louis was established. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the St. Louis Zoo.
One special feature is the Zooline Railroad, a small passenger train that encircles the zoo, stopping at the more popular attractions.  The Zooline Railroad offers a 20-minute narrated tour weaving through tunnels and past favorite animal exhibits on a 1½-mile round trip. One of the Zoo's most popular attractions, the Zooline Railroad has transported more than 27 million visitors in the past 40 years. The railroad operates year-round, weather permitting.

The Zooline Railroad is Ryan's FAVORITE part of the zoo.
Can you tell he's a little excited?
We're on our way to "The Wild."  Exhibits in The Wild include: the Bear Pits, the Fragile Forest (home to the chimps and apes), and Penguin and Puffin Coast.  DID YOU HEAR THAT??  PENGUINS!!  The penguins are my FAVORITE part of the zoo.
As we made our way to the penguins, Ryan made up a song to sing to me about the penguins at the zoo.  The "Penguins in St. Louis Song."  It was a good song. :)
 
But before we could get there, we had to pass this guy... yikes!
And these guys. 
It was pretty hot, so they weren't moving much.
But these guys didn't mind the heat at all!
Oh those lazy hazy days of summer.
Speaking of seals, have you seen Andre?  Because you totally should.

As we approached the Bear Pits, we knew we were getting close!  In the 1920s, the St. Louis Zoo replaced barred cages in the Bear Pits with open, moated exhibits. These exhibits represent some of the earliest examples of moated enclosures. Made from molds taken of the limestone bluffs along the Mississippi river locally, they showcase a variety of bear species including grizzly bears and sun bears.
This guy kinda freaked me out with his wonky eyes.
I think the polar bears were hiding.
This big dude was pacing back and forth, back and forth.
And this guy was just chilling.
Finally, we made it to Penguin and Puffin Coast! 
We hung out with the Humboldt penguins outside for a while.
Humboldt penguins of coastal Peru and Chile are outside. Their exhibit is enclosed by a glass wall, and includes a pool and 22-foot (6.7 m) waterfall. These penguins help debunk the myth that penguins live only in the cold, as they can survive the extremely hot St. Louis summers; however, all of the Humboldts' water enclosures are constantly refrigerated. The Saint Louis Zoo is involved in research to protect Humboldt penguins' native habitat.
Aren't they so stinking cute!
I wanted to take this guy home with me and keep him in the fountain in my backyard.
He was willing to go.
I told him he'd have two sisters; a cat and a dog.
He was ok with that.
And I told him we eat a lot of fish at our house.
He was ok with that too.
But then I sang him the "Penguins in St. Louis Song"...
And he gave me this look.
And left.
Whatever.

We made our way inside to check out the other penguins.  Inside Penguin Cove are two spacious domed exhibits, complete with rugged coastlines, towering rockscapes and underwater viewing of lively penguins. Penguin Cove is the first walk-through sub-Antarctic penguin exhibit in North America and takes you through high coastal cliffs, like those of the island of South Georgia, to watch penguins on land and underwater. This watery world is a shared habitat for the small Gentoo Penguin, the agile Rockhopper Penguin and the stately King Penguin.
The exhibit's barrel-vault ceiling features theatrical lighting, which can be used to simulate a colorful sunrise, a sunset over the horizon, or the reversed seasons. Sounds of crashing waves and a sea lion's bark can be heard in the distance. With a constant temperature of 45-50ยบ F., this walk-through habitat is a sure-fire visitor favorite in summer.  It felt amazing!
The King Penguins appreciate music (we know that from Happy Feet).
And remember these Rockhoppers from Happy Feet?
They have a Spanish accent.
(sorry if the majority of my zoological knowledge comes from Disney)

The little Gentoo Penguins...
...they like to jump in the water and splash you as you take their picture with your fancy expensive (not-waterproof) camera.
It's hilarious!


Then, we arrived at Puffin Bay, home to these fast-swimming birds of the Northern Hemisphere. Puffin Bay, complete with rocky cliffs and frigid water, houses both the Horned Puffin and Tufted Puffin.  Other northern water bird species live in Puffin Bay too, like the beautiful King Eider.

I love Puffins!  They're so weird-looking.

Like their penguin counterparts, puffins are black-and-white birds skilled in diving and swimming. They are known as "sea parrots" or "clowns of the sea."
Aren't they funny?
Don't you just want to grab one and cuddle* with it?
*They don't let you do this.  Unfortunately, the Zoo discourages cuddling with the wildlife.  Except for the goats in the Children's Petting Zoo, but who the hell wants to cuddle with a goat? 

Stay tuned for Part 2...



All Zoo information in this post was found on the St. Louis Zoo website: http://www.stlzoo.org/

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tarpon Fishing

The whole reason we took this vacation was for the tarpon fishing.  This was our 4th (and best) year yet!  If you're not familar with the story of how this tradtion began (and for a little background info on tarpon fishing), you MUST read HERE and HERE.

Since we had Mally with us, I ended up only going out on the boat with the boys one of the two days.  Ryan had a successful day one, but I definitely picked the better day, weather and fishing-wise.  I was prepared for some action and had a really good feeling about the day.  I bought a new telephoto zoom lens just for getting great pictures of the tarpon jumping.  I was ready!

We got out on the water before dawn and watched the sunrise. 
It was gorgeous.
Ryan was at the helm and ready for some action.
We saw another boat in the distance. 
This must be just what we looked like.
All of a sudden...tarpon spotted.
Ryan hooked him.
And the tarpon was not happy!
This fish jumped like crazy!
It was awesome!
The fish eventally snapped the line before we could get her to the boat.
But it was a good sign.
Time to get serious.
Ryan got to use the reel that I got him as a wedding gift.
I think it was good luck.

Round 2.

Tarpon spotted.
Tarpon ON!
Another jumper!
This time Ryan's rod came apart and the top 2/3rds slid down the line into the water and we had to chase it down and reattach it.
Meanwhile, the tarpon was still jumping like crazy!
And I was LOVING it!
This is where I fell in love with my camera's high-speed continuous shooting mode.
And that new lens.
We eventually got her to the boat.
She was probably about 90+ pounds!


And then came Round 3.
The last tarpon of the day.
The tarpon that would make my husband the happiest man in the world.
Tarpon on.
Ryan battles her, wearing her down.
This fish didn't jump as much, but she put up a hell of a fight once we got her to the boat.
She's at least 85+ pounds.

Ryan has always wanted a picture of himself holding a tarpon.
It's illegal (not to mention traumatizing) to pull the fish out of the water and into your boat.
But you can get in the water with the fish!

As luck would have it we were in shallow water and close to a beach.
Ryan steered the boat to the shore.
The tarpon was hanging on for the ride.
Basically just swimming along next to the boat.
And recharging.
Once we were to the shore, Ryan had to battle her again. 
Finally, she was close.
And really heavy!
Come on, Ryan!
Victory.
Sweet sweet victory.
This is the picture he's been waiting 6+ years for!
And then we quickly put her back in the water.
I've never seen my husband so happy.
And I've never been more proud.
Congratulations hubby!