Family is what you make of it

The first time Mom laid eyes on Shere Khan, she was answering an ad for a kitten who needed a new home. “He doesn’t like people,” the man said. Mom sat down, and Shere Khan promptly jumped up on her lap to say hello. She brought him home. He was to be a companion cat to Tiger, a lovely ragamuffin kitten my brother-in-law had found in a parking lot in Virginia, and brought him on a family trip to see my parents. Tiger ended up staying, but he was about to claw my Dad to death. The vet said he needed a playmate.

Enter Shere Khan.

upside down
Shere Khan’s motto: The more attention, the better.

The first time I laid eyes on the gray tabby, he was full of the usual kitten antics, but he had a new trick to share, one I found hilarious. He would sit back on his hind legs and rise up, front feet dangling, like a meerkat. He was warmly affectionate, and highly entertaining. I called him my Little Buddy.

Tiger was always more aloof. My sister and mother call him snooty. But I think he’s just a little shy.

lookin lovely
Tiger, bird-watching on the deck.

That was until last fall, when I started traveling to check on Mom, on a more-or-less regular basis. I tried each trip to make friends, and he eventually became less standoffish. He even stood still for some petting, now and then.

tiger playing
Tiger’s pretty fond of sleeping, but he and Shere Khan both like to play.

A few months ago, when Mom got sick, I essentially moved in to help her out. Both kitties got used to me pretty quick, and I’ve discovered most of Tiger’s hiding spots for sleeping. Shere Khan likes to curl up beside me and take a nap. He lets me know, either by staring, winding around my legs or by talking, that it’s time for me to stop what I’m doing and dole out some attention.

Watching them play is fun, but I’ve come to enjoy seeing them groom each other. While one is licking, the other usually has a blissful look on his face.

wash dah face
Shere Khan thinks Tiger does a purr-fect job washing his face.

I caught them at bath-time this afternoon, and they ignored me for a while.

aaah
Mmmmm. You got the right spot.

That is, until I turned on the flash.

tiger licking
Hey! I’m takin’ a bath, here.

Luckily, Shere Khan is quick to forgive. Like Tiger, I’ve been the recipient of several of his loving head-bumps.

headbump
Shere Khan gives Tiger an affectionate head-bump.

 

Going ape at the Greenville Zoo

I’ve never spent much time watching or learning about monkeys or apes. The first fact I remember learning about either was that spider monkeys bite (according to the neighbor down the street, who was happy to show hers off, as long as you didn’t touch the cage).

But lately I’ve paid more attention, and a recent stop at the Greenville Zoo, I stopped to watch several. The orangutan curled up in a blanket was adorable. I’ve seen them swinging by their great, orange, hairy arms before, but not snuggling like a toddler getting ready for a nap.

The red-tailed, or Schmidt’s guenon was, for me, something new, and I didn’t even notice its famous long tail. I was instead drawn to its colorful face.

red-tailed guenon
Red-tailed guenons are from Africa. Apparently, they are well known for making faces at humans.

The black and white ruffed lemurs were acrobatic, and excitable, at least when it came to dinner time.

Black and white ruffed lemurs are critically endangered, but do well in captivity.
Lemurs make good use of their limbs, and their tails.

And, I stopped to watch some gibbons, who, I learned are a noisy lot, too. Their calls can be heard two miles away.

Gibbon with teething baby.

My apologies to Walter

There’s really no rhyme or reason when I visit a zoo. I may have a certain animal in mind I want to see; if it’s been more than a few months since I’ve seen a big cat I may head in that direction first, but mostly, I meander around and stop whenever something catches my attention.

I was moseying along at the Greenville Zoo last month when I spotted a beautiful Masai giraffe. Actually, there were three, but one was really tall and sort of wandering out by himself, so I stopped. I looked. And he looked at me.

miles hello there
Miles seems to love attention.

I looked some more. And so did he.

miles mmm
Alas, visitors are not invited to feed the giraffes at the Greenville Zoo.

We chatted. Or I did. I think he asked me for some food. In his own way.

miles itch
Miles considers his next move.

I told him he was beautiful, and I would love to feed him, but it was against the rules.

no food really
No food, really?

He grew bored after a while, and walked away. I enjoyed our chat, and reluctantly, got ready to move on. But not before another picture or two.

miles profile
Miles looks good from any direction.

miles standing.JPG

I noticed the name of the male giraffe on a sign as I left, so I assumed it was Walter. I posted some pictures of him on Instagram and a zoo page I follow. But on reviewing the zoo website, I found that Walter, for breeding purposes, had moved on to another zoo. This, apparently, was Miles, who had been hand-reared before relocating to Greenville. That accounts for his open manner, I think.

Walter, I apologize. And Miles, I hope we meet again.

Big cats in Greenville

If it weren’t for these pesky allergies, I think I’d run away and join the zoo. Let me rephrase that. Work at the zoo. There’s not much I’d rather do than spend hours at the zoo watching and learning about all the animals.

While in an ideal world we’d actually live in harmony with all the animals nature has to offer, zoos do offer glimpses of creatures we may never otherwise see, and in some cases, cooperative breeding programs work hard to help keep endangered species from dying out.

The latest zoo to capture my attention was the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina. It’s not a large zoo, and one drawback to taking photos is nearly all the animals are in cages of some sort, so it’s hard to get a clear view without some kind of distortion. But I managed to spend almost three hours trying!

ocelot 2
I snapped a few clear shots of this pacing ocelot.

The Greenville Zoo has several big cats including two ocelots, Oz and Evita. Wild ocelots are found in Central and South America, although they have also been spotted in parts of Arizona and Texas. Like all big cats, they are quite beautiful.

amur leopard
There are two Amur leopards at the Greenville Zoo. I caught this one napping.

I discovered Amur leopards only recently, while visiting another zoo. Amur leopards are the most endangered big cats. It is estimated there are only about 70 left in the wild, which is a tragedy. The few that are left are in Russia and northeast China.

amur 2
The cats were napping when I stopped by their habitat the first time. I was happy to see them awake a little later.

The zoo does have lions, but I was unable to get good pictures of those.

There were many more animals to see at the Greenville Zoo, including a very inquisitive giraffe. More posts coming soon.

 

 

The downside of bird-watching

I’ve got a new zoo post coming, but in the meantime, I wanted to share what I found swooping down in my backyard a few days ago.

I saw some big wings rise up out back, but when I got to the door, I didn’t see anything. I was out weeding a bit later, and stopped, dropping the weeds, and stared. There it was – a hawk – right back there in the woods. I moved as quickly and quietly as possible around the front of the house to get my camera. I snapped a lot of photos, but these two are the best.

red-shouldered-hawk-one
This turned out to be a red-shouldered hawk – a new one for me.

When I reviewed all my pictures, I realized the hawk was chomping down on one of my little yard-birds. I’ll spare you that photograph.