Sunday, December 29, 2013

Two buck fruit cup...

I paid two US dollar for this fruit cup.
Yes, that was all the fruit I got for my money.
Believe me when I tell you: 
It was the best fruit cup I think I have ever had.
This fruit cup...
had the power to bring me...
flying rainbows.

How cool is that???

As part of my on going 12 Days of Christmas celebration, I decided I would finally get around to going to our Tracy Aviary for a "Feed the Sun Conures" adventure.
I own an Aviary Pass, otherwise the feeding time would have cost me $3 and an admission fee of $7.
Which would have still been a bargain if you ask me...

I had seen the enclosure a few winter's back when there were about 20 conures being fed.
This day there were only eight.

The bird keeper gave a short lecture about the do's and don't of feeding the conures first:
Watch were you step as the birds may land on the ground.
Don't try to snuggle or pet them.

She explained that this was the normal breeding season for the birds so they are behaving very territorial right now.
Six of the birds would not be coming out for feeding because they were in "Birdy Time Out" for being too aggressive.

The birds sort themselves into three levels; an Alpha bird level, and a bottom of the pecking order level and then there are the middle level birds that are fighting to climb up the pecking order.

The birds are named either a color or a number.
I think this was Purple.

(And no Picasa, it wasn't snowing!  But thanks for the fun unasked for snowflakes addition to my photo!)

It was really hard not to want to pet the birds.
Tracy Aviary has several "bird encounter" places where one is in the same space as the birds.
Horrifically, on more than one occasion, people have reached to pet a bird and either because of a reflex reaction to the bird movement or because of a sick nature, people have killed birds.
The "No Touching or Petting" helps to keep that from happening.

The birds tended to pick out one piece of fruit, take one bite, then drop it.
The keeper told me about how there was a wild flock that formed from a released captive conure pair.
The flock settled into a farming area and drove the fruit farmers nuts by taking exactly one bite out of every piece of ripe fruit.

The bottom of the pecking order birds waited until my Alpha bird buddy was finished eating before flying in for their meal time.

Three at a time!

Then down to two.

I absolutely LOVED this!

Up to eight people can be in the enclosure feeding birds at any one time.
I was with a young "uncle" who was spending some time with his niece.
Kind of hard to tell what made him smile  more:
the birds or seeing his niece smile!
Someday...can't wait to do this with Luke.

That smile!

See what I mean about a flying rainbow?

After the birds had eaten they flew back inside their warm housing area which is full of bird toys and cages.
(And where hopefully the time out birds are readjusting their attitudes...)

Just so you know:
They do bird feeding three times a day, 7 days a week.
There is also a pelican feeding once a day, which I got to do on Christmas Eve a few years back.
And...there is an option to go inside of cages with a keeper to do bird photography.
Oh yeah...sign me up real soon!

I spent about an hour walking around the Aviary before I fed the conures.
The mallard ducks are freeloading, the owls are glaring, the toucans are amazing.
It was very cold as I walked around wearing my down filled jacket and thermal pant lining under my jeans.
For a Saturday winter afternoon adventure it was perfect.
As always, I wished I could have had my blogging camera happy friends along too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Temple Square: Gotta do it!

Salt Lake City's Christmas time showplace: Temple Square.

I usually try to get to the Square during an semi off Christmas season night.
By that I mean not on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, a weekend night, or a Monday night.
(Monday night around this town is LDS "Family Home Night" when families do things together either at home or out and about.  Visiting the Square on Family Home Night is an obvious choice for a lot of families, and by families I mean groups of up to 20 people moving along together.)
My targeted times slipped away...the night after Christmas was designated for our own kind of family outing.
Bernie and I found street parking a half a block from the Square right after the park meters shut down for the night.

Jeff, Rachel, her brother and his girlfriend were coming to meet us on the north gate of the Square.
With Luke, of course.
I had been eager to see his reaction to all the colored lights!

The Holy Family on an island in the middle of the reflecting pool surrounded by golden glowing bubbles is always a stunning sight in the middle of the Square.

This year I was more fascinated by a tyke in a blue ski jacket and "Elmer Fudd" style plaid hat.

He liked what he saw.
He liked the shoulder rides even better.

With temperatures well below freezing and crowds galore, Luke took in the sights probably wondering what on earth this was all about.

Some of the time it is possible he actually had no sight himself.

Well  maybe his blue peepers did get a peek now and then.

Frost covered tree stood out in natural beauty compared to the light covered ones close by.

In some places hardly an inch was left unlit.

I have difficulty getting my camera to focus once it gets below freezing.
Add trying to shoot rapidly to capture a squirming child and dodging crowds of people...well, any almost in focus shot became a keeper.

Luke wanted down...we played hot potato with him, passing him between ourselves.
Letting him walk around with so many people did not seem wise.

When we found a slightly less crowded space he did get to walk about for a tiny bit.
Moments later Bernie and I saw a child who was probably the same age as Luke  (20 months) walking along beside us.
The crowd thinned...and no one seemed to be with the little guy.
He made a U turn, walked a bit more, turned again, then froze with his small mitten clad fists pressed up against his eyes.
Bernie and I were scanning the area looking for anyone who might be looking for their lost child.
I rubbed the boy's back gently and wondered what we should do.
After what seemed like an awfully long time but was probably more like four minutes, a man came and swooped the boy up.
 Smiling and calling "Thank you!" to us,  he hurried off.
Gave. Us. Chills. thinking of losing our own little boy in such a setting.
Families with 5, 6, 7 and more children seem a lot more relaxed about keeping track of their kids...
Just sayin'. 
The outcome is not always so good either.  :-(
We had made a group decision to only make a loop around one side of the Square.
A quick peek inside the original tabernacle building served to warm us up a bit, and then we decided to cross the street on the south side of the Square to go over to City Creek Mall.

City Creek Mall entrance.

My camera focused on the fountain stream of water?
And caught THAT in focus and left the people out of focus??
Cold weather does strange things to cameras.

Rachel's brother and his girlfriend...out visiting from Boston.
The cold didn't faze them at all.


There is a music coordinated fountain area that puts on shows regularly.

Part of the Mall is outdoors and part of the Mall has a retractable cover.
Going inside the covered area to warm up had a lot of appeal just then.

City Creek Mall is so named because it is built with City Creek (a natural creek) flowing through the center.
I comment that fishing is allowed inside the Mall.
Jeff challenges me on that detail and asks if I want him to go ask a security guard about that.
I said "Go ahead and ask!"
(No guards were around to ask.  We may just have to go over there with a fly rod and check this out for ourselves after the  holiday crowds have cleared out.)

Maybe fishing is or isn't allowed.
Ditto throwing rocks into the creek.

When one is a boy and 20  months old, creeks and rock throwing go unquestionably together.

He threw three rocks and was so dismayed when he was forced to move on to see the rest of the mall.

We rode up the escalator to the mall's second floor where one could look over Temple Square.

Lights gleamed everywhere.

Luke checked out the scene down below.

Longing looks...

Another boy was busy tossing rocks into the creek.
Oh the inhumanity of it all!
To see the creek and NOT be able to stand on the shoreline and throw rocks all night long.
(Luke also felt that riding the escalator was just great.  Why we had to go ruin it by walking off the thing at the top and bottom was beyond comprehension!)
And so ended our annual Temple Square visit, and Luke's first visit to see the lights.
I've have had visits there in falling snow, and misting rain (which produced the absolute most amazing photos with the lights reflected on every wet surface.)
This time...was special in its own way too.