The Other Half and I made the epically awesome decision to walk the Rock Creek trail up to the National Zoo instead of just catching the train. The hike is about 6.5 miles if you take the scenic route next to the creek. As long as you don’t look to the right where the road is, it feels like you’re in the wilderness. We saw several wood ducks and some cool bridges while we were walking. There’s also some kind of fitness regimen on the side of the trail as you get closer to the zoo, but since Washington, DC, is apparently built on a Mobius strip, everything is uphill, so we didn’t play with it too much.
We were actually trying to head toward a Falafel shop for lunch before we went to the zoo, but we wound up walking right up to the back entrance, so we decided to go in anyway. Thank the CVS and the bagel shop for the bagels and peanut butter we had in our bag, though, or we would have had to pay upwards of $20 apiece for lunch!
Someone that obviously likes to have his way over food is Jabba the prairie dog, who was so fat that I’m not sure he could even fit into his burrow:
He was nonchalantly munching hay and telling Han to shove off.
We actually walked the zoo uphill (Once again, DC was a Mobius strip. Why couldn’t it be all downhill?) since we came in the back side. When we got to the lion pen, there was a huge crowd gathered; it turns out the lionesses had killed a bird. We caught the tail end of them enjoying their snack before the zookeepers came to clean up. Unfortunately they refused to share with their buddy, so instead he wandered around to the other door to see if he’d get a treat there.
I have to say, for as crowded as the zoo was, the animals were very active, though some of them didn’t seem to have too many hidey holes to get away from it all. This little pygmy falcon was definitely not feeling it. I asked one of the keepers if they had checked her out recently (yeah, they were feeding the birds. Like I said, we’re just that talented), and she said that she just didn’t like being on display.
Poor little thing. The real winner was this little thing, though:
This is a Socorro ground dove, a relative of the mourning dove, which is extinct in the wild. Several zoos are using captive breeding programs to try to bring them back from the brink.
Something else the Other Half hadn’t seen before were giant pandas (He also hadn’t seen Komodo dragons before, but who’s counting?):
Besides the Komodos, there were also all manner of colorful reptiles, including these eyelash vipers:
Funnily enough, when we got to the zoo it was pretty crowded, but quite a few people cleared out within an hour or two of our arrival, leaving it relatively uncrowded. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it until we met this guy:
We thought he was trying to escape through the aviary door, but apparently he was just being smart, since it was the only place that provided protection from the impending rain. Yep, everyone had left because they saw the thunderstorm approaching on the radar, leaving us to our soaking. Even this centi-quail was feeling the wet:
(“Wait, centi-quail? You made that up!” You may be thinking. Well, yes, I did. But look how many legs this quail has. She was hiding 4 chicks under there.) After the storm let up, we still got to see some cool stuff, like dozens of these:
Black-crowned night herons were literally everywhere. And then we saw the sign saying that 300 of them nest on-site every year. Go figure. In the middle of the flock was this single pen:
Notice anything about this vulture’s picture?
Yep, that’s right, there’s a delicious rat next to that stump so him and his buddy can come eat it.
All in all, I was pleased but not overly impressed with the National Zoo, mostly because of the crowds (but who’s going to say no to a free zoo? No one, which is why so many people were going), but also because it seemed as though the keepers weren’t enthusiastic about their work (except for you, clawed otter lady; you were awesome!) and the bathrooms were extremely far apart. If you’re going to volunteer somewhere, you should at least enjoy yourself instead of having a long face all day.