Most recent escape to the Bronx Zoo!

2 Ready for Safari in the Heat

Nathan and I went prepared with plenty of water. This was the first sign you saw as you entered the Main Zoo at the Southern Boulevard Gate.

I’ve been a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York City Zoos and Aquarium) for twenty-one years now—I’m lucky enough that I live just about an hour away.

In my earliest days of being a member, it was because I was heavily involved volunteering for two aquariums, and there were volunteer opportunities at the zoo—such as decorating for the Holiday Lights—that were offered to members, so I joined. I was also dating a guy at the time who was, like me, an aquarium volunteer and loved animals. Most of our dates involved, if not the Bronx Zoo or New York Aquarium, some other zoo or aquarium.

The guy turned out to be a class-A jerk, but I’m grateful, because it was the zoo that became a true love.

Over the years, the zoo has been a place to escape for a few hours, an inspiration for several short stories, and a place where magical memories are made. Nathan and I have been the busiest we’ve ever been since the beginning of 2020—and recently, I’ve had so much on my plate I’m basically working through nights and weekends. There has been very little time to see each other, let alone hang out. So when Nathan suggested I take the weekend off and go with him to the zoo—well, that sounded great!

Our usual course is have a couple of beers and lunch, see two or three exhibits, and hit the gift shop. Because the zoo is so big and can never really be completely done in one day, this is a great system. Every visit is different, and we can key experiences based on conditions (the last few times, we have stuck to outdoor or large indoor exhibits, like World of Birds, due to the pandemic, or if it’s pouring rain, we stick to a small area and do the larger indoor exhibits at the bottom half of the zoo, like Wild Asia, which has Jungle World and isn’t too far from Congo Gorilla Forest. In the winter, we do all the warmer things in the center of the zoo and jump from Mouse House to Reptile House to Madagascar).

We can also base them on other factors. World of Birds was on my list last June because of one particular bird I wanted to see—a bleeding heart dove, for a story idea (which is still germinating, but will eventually come to pass). Sometimes, it’s just to go do a big-ticket exhibit like Dinosaur Safari, or participate in a particular event, like Holiday Lights (which we spent mostly just boozing at the ice bar) or Boo at the Zoo (which we mostly spent at the extinct animal cemetery and photographing an informational wall of extinct animals). Sometimes I want to Christmas shop or just pick up the annual Members-only t-shirt. And regardless of what we do there, we love to bird. We always do a bird count!

We ended up picking a 95 degree day, but because we’re members, we never feel like we have to push ourselves, so we agreed we’d go see just a couple of favorites.

1 Bronx Zoo Ready for Safari in the Heat

It was our first sweltering, humid day of the year! I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Heat Miser!

First stop was lunch! We couldn’t sit at the usual outdoor patio across from the Dancing Crane Café because there was an event, but we found a nice little table away from the action. My favorite is always chicken fingers. I can’t drink a lot of beer, so Nathan always gets a giant one and I get to have some.

Then we went down to see the lions, because that’s Nathan’s favorite, and passed a bunch of sunning turtles on the way.

5 Turtles

Turtles sunning themselves in the turtle pond across from the Reptile House. Never too hot for a turtle!

On the way back up to the Dancing Crane area, we took a rest (that’s actually quite a hill to climb in the heat) at the Somba Village, which is a souvenir/snack stand area Nathan’s never been to (Jerk and I used to hang there because it was near World of Darkness, our favorite exhibit, which has long since closed). Nathan, who grew up on a farm and used to raise goats, of course still loves them. He was thrilled to get an ice cold beer and watch all the goats that were in the baboon exhibit. It was really fun to take him to an exhibit he’d never been to (and we have been many times, so I was surprised there was still something he hadn’t seen!)

6 Goats in Somba Village

This beer was a little bit too “hoppy” for me, but clearly the booze did its job, because this was a pathetic attempt at an “artsy” photo with beer and goats.

Also, Somba Village seemed to be peacock haven. Peacocks sort of run freely throughout the zoo, but there were three or four in this tiny spot. There were lots of kids around, though, and they were clearly annoying—I mean, that’s okay, tiny kids see this big pretty moving thing and scream and laugh and chase them. That’s what kids do; no matter how hard you try to wrangle them, it’s going to happen. So I soon figured out the reason the peacocks liked it there was because there were elevated patches of brush they could duck into to get out of the fray. Several did. Smart birds!

We stopped to visit the brown bears, who were keeping cool in the water in their exhibit.

The heat was mighty, so we took a rest in the gift shop. I got a really cool dinosaur mood necklace. I have tons of necklaces I’ve bought at that zoo. I don’t know—they just have cool stuff you can’t really get anywhere else.

9 Gift Shop Treasures

Me and Nathan’s Dinosaur Mood Necklaces! He got the round one that looks like the Jurassic Park Logo.

We walked through Zoo Center to pick up our members-only t-shirt; I give our allotted one to Nathan every year. The magic I saw on his face when the t-shirt was for the 50th anniversary of the WORLD OF BIRDS exhibit—he has this face he makes when you’ve just blown his mind. An innocent child-face. I WISHED I’d had my camera ready at that moment. I think I’ll remember that joy forever, to be honest.

10 WCS 2022 Member T-shirt

The WCS 2022 Members T-shirt.

After that, it was time to see TINY. OWLS!!! They’re called burrowing owls, and their average size is ten inches. Bronx Zoo got these owls from the Queen Zoo, where they’ve had a successful breeding program, and had to build them a specialized exhibit—we learned that in Season 2, Episode 3 (“Bears Will Be Bears”) of the TV series The Zoo, which examines all behind-the-scenes goings-on at the Bronx Zoo (you can watch all five seasons on Discovery+, which you can also get through Amazon (here) , and you can learn more about the series here: https://bronxzoo.com/the-zoo). Nathan and I were both charmed by these tiny guys when the episode first aired in 2018, and I’d been dying to see them in person, but every time we went to the zoo to see them, they weren’t out.

It took four years, but I finally got to see them! I was so excited! We stood there for a long time. While I was watching, one of them popped out of his burrow and flew up to the top of the enclosure. It was surprising, and adorable.

The last thing on our list was the re-vamped Dinosaur Safari (read about my last visit here). This time it was a walk-through, which gave us plenty of opportunity for cool pictures.

 

14 We're at the Safari finally

I LOVE THIS SHOT! Nathan’s idea.

We were only there from noon until a little after three, but as always, we had a great time—and it turned out to be the mini-vacay we needed. Did it set me back in terms of all the work I have to do? Sure. But you know what? Sometimes you just have to realize that taking breaks is part of the work, too. If you don’t recharge, you’re likely to burn out.

If you’d like tickets for the Bronx Zoo (note that you need to get tickets in advance because of COVID, but YES, YOU CAN DO AS LITTLE AS THE DAY BEFORE AND EVEN THE SAME DAY!), visit here: https://bronxzoo.com/shop/ticket-options

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of both the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Writers Association. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.

Posted on May 28, 2022, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, The Writing Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. A bleeding heart dove? I had to look it up to see what it was. What a striking bird! Cool tee shirt. You two had an amazing day!

    • Thank you! Yes, I first learned about bleeding heart doves in a book called BIRDING WITHOUT BORDERS, which is a wonderful creative memoir and I highly recommend it. Right about the t-shirt? Man, I’m JEALOUS of his t-shirt! But I always give the shirt to my hubby. He goes through t-shirts way faster than I do, and he really looks forward to seeing what he’s going to get every year.

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