Holding on and catching up

It’s funny how life unfolds. One minute, I’m creating a blog because I’m bored and miss writing, and the next thing you know, I’m back to writing part-time for pay. On my off days, I sometimes travel to spend time with my husband, and I also drive out of state to care for my Mom.

Enter a couple of medical emergencies, and I’ve relocated to become a full-time caregiver, and the writing has just about stopped.

I haven’t quit taking pictures, however, although I’m away from my familiar photo-editing software. As things continue to improve, that should change soon, and in the meantime, I’m still learning — about my camera, digital photography, and life in general. I’ve had to give up my zoo trips for now, but I’m rediscovering birds. It’s amazing what a few seeds and a hummingbird feeder can bring to a deck or a yard! (See the young tufted titmouse, above.)

I have enough photos to write probably three or four posts, but it will be a few more weeks until I can starting blogging on a regular basis again. In the meantime, you can keep up with me @ddiljak on Instagram. Here are some of my recent pictures:

Monarch butterfly
This monarch butterfly (on milkweed) surprised me on a recent morning walk.
Ruby-throated hummingboard
Mom’s flowers, and the new hummingbird feeder, have attracted at least four of these fiesty beauties.
Flowring allium
An allium in Mom’s yard, opening earlier this summer.

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.

 

 

Beauty in December

You don’t have to travel far to find scenes worthy of a photograph. Bill and I had some free time this week, and found we were overdue for a visit to Umstead State Park. I have some vivid memories of that place, mostly involving a copperhead and a “death march” I took with him a few years back, but that is another story.

This time, I had a new camera in hand, and we searched out photo opportunities.

December is not the most colorful time of year in Raleigh. I think we’ve had a late fall; still, most of the leaves have turned and nearly all have fallen, but there are a few, colorful stragglers here and there.

last-leaves
Gumball trees are an annoyance when they get big and start to reproduce.

We took off from the visitor’s station, which Bill warned was a bit of a walk to the main park, but I shrugged off his suggestion to drive in further and off we went.

I kept hearing birds I didn’t recognize, and managed to locate one with the zoom lens.

white-throated-sparrow
I identified this white-throated sparrow by the patch of yellow just above its eyes (and some help from the Internet).

We walked on the road for a while, but the trails along the creeks offered the best views.

december-shadows
The play of light through the trees makes for interesting patterns, even in late fall.

After 90 minutes or so of walking and stopping, we decided it was time to head back to civilization to find some lunch. But not before discovering a few more birds.

nuthatch
Nuthatches are one of my favorites.

Another beauty perched above our heads. I’m not sure, because of the winter feathers, but I think it’s an American redstart. My first time seeing this bird, as well.

redstart
I’m still working on getting the camera to focus on the bird, not the branches.
redstart-1
The same bird, from another angle. It’s about the size of a robin.

I’ve got four feeders set up around my house, but the birds have been scarce this fall. I’m not sure if it’s the location, the mild weather, or the number of hawks in the neighborhood. The squirrels are another story.

creek-in-umstead
This clear creek runs through Umstead State Park in Raleigh, NC.