Thursday, February 9, 2012

California Living Museum

I usually don't discuss our visits to zoos, and actually we rarely visit them because of the great zoo we have back in St.Louis. John and I, however, were a bit intrigued by the zoo in Bakersfield. It advertises that its focus is exclusively on California native plants and animals. That sounded interesting to us. But what we actually liked about our visit today  was that so many of the 200 plus animals in the zoo were very active and responsive to us while we were there. I have never in my life had a porcupine come up to me and beg. I had nothing to feed him and there was no way I would pet him! He was so cute gazing up at us and making some kind of a soft snuffling sound. We later talked to a staff worker about the porcupine and he commented that the animal was slow to come around but now is friendly to staff workers- even likes them to rub his belly! Maybe that was what he wanted from us.
 Shortly after coming into the zoo I kept hearing the "who-who" of a owl. So after visiting the porcupine I hurried over to the aviary section of the zoo. There I found, in one of the cages, a great-horned owl giving me a fierce look, all the while continuing to hoot. It was interesting to watch the owl's neck puff out with his vocalizations.  And how unusual to see both him and the porcupine out in the open during the day, as they are supposed to be nocturnal animals. While I was watching the owl, I heard a talking bird in a nearby cage. A zoo keeper, who happened to be walking by, informed us that they have a talking crow- his only words are "so what". And speaking of birds, there was a roadrunner in the desert section of the museum who came up to the edge of his cage to check us out- it was great to see that bird so close-up. And in another cage an acorn woodpecker was chattering away and  kept flying against the bars.
 I am not sure whether he was just being friendly or wanted his freedom. It especially disturbed me to see both the golden eagle and bald eagle in cages-  when we have seen them soaring high in the sky in the wild. But we did learn later that many of the birds/animals at this zoo are unreleasable because of physical disabilities. I also learned that the word "balde" in the old English language means white, which explains how the bald eagle got his name; he certainly is not bald! As I mentioned earlier, many of the animals in the zoo were out and active, and that was true also of the big cats. The mountain lion, pictured below, struck a good pose for me. What a fun day we had at the zoo! Only the black bears did not come out to play with us.
The zoo overlooks the Kern River Valley. On our return trip home we stopped at Hart County Park, through which the Kern River flows. There are many river canyons in the area with hiking and biking trails through them. We took a quick walk on one of the trails at sunset. The land is semi-arid and, except in the riparian area, desert plants dot the landscape.

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