Vilas Zoo, Madison, Wisconsin

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During my annual visit with my brother we took (created?!) the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through his corner of Madison, Wisconsin and visit the Henry Vilas Zoo.  In fact, this walk was part of my plan to adjust to the time change and, more importantly, recover from the red-eye flight the previous night from San Francisco.  Although we were actually in the zoo for only about 10% of the walking distance, it was the major destination and highlight of the walk.

GPS track

GPS track

Since my brother and I both enjoy birds, we checked out nearly all of the bird-related displays.  First up was a penguin display.  These black-footed penguins are native to the area off the shore of South Africa.  It’s kind of amazing that an outdoor display apparently is on view year-round in a place with a fairly wide temperature variation, but perhaps this mirrors the native habitat.

image of black-footed penguins

Black-footed penguins

Next we entered a wonderful walk-through aviary that has a variety of exotic (i.e., mostly tropical and/or southern hemisphere) species.   Here is a pair of laughing kookaburras, from Australia.  When they laugh (ahem, sing) they stick their beaks up in the air and stretch their necks.  And they sound just like the ones on nature programs on TV.

photo of laughing kookaburras

Laughing kookaburras

This white-cheeked turaco is native to subtropical forests and scrublands in East Africa.  The white spot on the cheek is not a reflection!

image of white-cheeked turaco

White-cheeked turaco

Our visit was in the late morning, and some of the birds seemed to be taking a mid-day nap.  These yellow and blue macaws seemed to be more asleep than awake.

picture of sleepy yellow and blue macaws

Sleepy yellow and blue macaws

After leaving the aviary we proceeded to a small pond that featured a black swan, the state bird of Western Australia.

photo of black swan making a pretty reflection

Black swan making a pretty reflection

A bit farther along our route was a flamingo display.  As we approached we were surprised to see both pink and white flamingoes mingling together.  It turns out that the white ones are Chilean flamingoes, with a range that includes Bolivia and Uruguay as well as Chile.  The more familiar pink ones are American flamingoes, which are native to Central and South America and the West Indies.  This pose strikingly shows just how long the legs and neck are – and symmetrical, too!

picture of flamingo with long legs and neck

Flamingoes have long legs and necks!

Another individual demonstrated how to rest one’s head on the end of such a long neck.  I thought it was particularly interesting to be able to observe the individual vertebrae in its neck.  I could only assume it did not wake up with a stiff neck.

image of flamingo resting

Flamingo resting

Just outside the zoo there is a larger-size pond with a pretty reflection of a red barn that is part of the Children’s Zoo.  There is also a sign indicating that it is a speed skating track.  After my initial surprise, my brother reminded me that it is common for outdoor ponds in Wisconsin to freeze solid for the winter.  I still don’t know how the surface is properly cleaned for speed skating.  Is there such a thing as an outdoor Zamboni?!

photo of pond in the summer, speed skating track in the winter

Pond in the summer, speed skating track in the winter

Our walking path continued along the north shore of Lake Wingra, where it overlapped with a walk I had taken on a previous visit to Madison.  Once again I enjoyed the water lilies that proliferate in this part of the lake.

picture of water lily on Lake Wingra

Water lily on Lake Wingra

From the lake shore we proceeded to stroll through the neighborhood back to my brother’s house.  At just under 4 miles, it was a very pleasant walk and a perfect way to adjust for the time change.

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