Well I've been here almost a week and am kind of settling into a routine. I finally unpacked my clothes and got them stowed in my dresser--it's perpetually annoying to look through two boxes and a suitcase when trying to decide what to wear. We spent a lot of time running errands this week: shopping trips, lunch with friends, and a trip to Home Depot to do some new plantings in the back yard. No matter what else is going on, and no matter the weather, I just can't stay away from Balboa Park and the Zoo.
I visited the Zoo yesterday morning, getting there just after 9:00 in an attempt to avoid the worst of the holiday rush. Because it had poured down rain overnight and the sky was still full of clouds, there were far fewer visitors at opening than I expected there to be. An uncrowded Zoo experience is always a good one. My top exhibits, and sometimes the only ones I visit, are the Galapagos tortoises and the Orangutans. Then, depending on how much time I have and how much walking I want to do, I'll stroll down to the pandas and check out some of the aviaries.
Yesterday I stopped in an often-overlooked spot, the Hummingbird Aviary. Hummingbirds may just be my favorite animal (though they certainly fight with horses for first), and I love watching them flit around. There are at least two living in our back yard, but being to experience them just a little closer at the Zoo is certainly worth stopping at the aviary. The aviary is conveniently provided with benches, where I sat for awhile to watch the birds zoom around. After sitting there for a while I caught sight of a female hummingbird building a nest--how cool is that?! Her chosen nest site is less than two feet from the railing that keeps the public out of the bird area, not the most intelligent choice to try to raise a family of tiny birds. While I will be very surprised if she completes the nest and is able to raise a clutch of little hummers, I did enjoy watching her work yesterday. The nest she is building looks like a ball of lint that you would pull from your dryer and is lined with downy feathers. There are nesting materials available in the aviary, to which she'd flit, work out some hair, and bring it over to her nest. Her beak works as a great weaving tool, similar to the way that people use needles to felt wool. When not working in new hair, lint, wool, etc., she'd wiggle her butt around in a way very unbecoming of a lady, but I'm sure it's important for getting the right shape and compression for the nest. The fiber materials used for her nest are in contrast to one I found last summer in Balboa Park that was slightly smaller and made of mud. All birds have their differences!
Along with the birds in the Hummingbird Aviary, there are a few plants that will catch your eye. The one I found most beautiful is this hoya that was hanging discreetly by the exit. Isn't it just a great color?
And, last but not least, hippos rhinos. These Indian rhinos are brothers and are part of the Backstage Pass experience where Zoo visitors can pay a little extra and get to give them a bath. Yesterday they were chasing each other all around the exhibit and having a few head to head skirmishes. I, and the other visitors watching, were surprised to watch them run full speed into the pool that is in their exhibit. Now, I've seen rhinos wallowing in shallow pools before, but at its deepest point these guys just get their nostrils out of the water, reminding me more of hippos than rhinos.