Park Hawk and The Missing DSLR

2012-04-15_14-49-16_116On Sunday, NHL had a birthday party to go to.  While he was having fun there with B, I decided that JSL and I should have a father-son day out.  After all, he had just endured 8 days of Passover food and none of the food he usually likes.

After a quick lunch at Five Guys (grilled veggie sandwich for me and grilled cheese for JSL), we headed to a big park.  There, JSL ran through the hedge maze, played tag with me in the big fields, led the way through a hike on the wooded path, and finally played on the playground.

As the time to leave approached, I let JSL know we’d only stay five minutes longer.  While we were waiting for a swing to free up, suddenly, the playground was invaded.  A hawk flew right behind the swinging kids and swooped towards a black bird on the ground nearby.  The bird got away so the hawk then, without skipping a beat, flew back up to the branches of a nearby tree.

Usually, I’d have went over to take photos with my DSLR.  However, in an effort to travel light, I decided to leave my DSLR at home.  I had my new camera phone, but JSL really wanted to swing.  So I resorted to that old parental standby: bribery.  I told JSL that if he came with me to get some hawk photos, I’d not only restart our "countdown until we leave the park" timer, but I’d also add five extra minutes.  JSL reluctantly left the swing area and came with me where I (and someone else with the same idea as me) took a few hawk photos.

Unfortunately, they didn’t come out great.  Camera phones can take decent photos in some situations, but this wasn’t one of them.  My DSLR would have taken a much better photo.  Still, at least I got some record of the hawk that almost turned the playground into a feeding ground.  I also learned an important lesson: The more times I can take my DSLR out with me, the better!

Snakes and Lizards and Cockroaches, Oh My!

IMGP5193This past Saturday, we braved heavy crowds and insane parking to attend the Hannaford Kidz Expo in the Empire State Plaza.  There were many interesting booths with various fun options for the kids.  I couldn’t possibly blog about them all, so I wanted to focus on one of them today: Reptile Adventure.

B wrote about them previously when they stopped by a local library.  That time, NHL went with B to see the various creatures that Reptile Adventure had to show.  This time, however, NHL was a bit overwhelmed.  Perhaps it was the crowds or the anticipation of seeing the Radio Disney booth.  In any event, he didn’t want to be anywhere near snakes or lizards.

Thankfully, JSL didn’t seem to mind much.  So while B took NHL out of the room to calm down, JSL and I marveled at the various creatures they had.  I’ll admit that I didn’t get as good a look as I would have liked.  There were a lot of people walking through and I wanted to make sure that JSL stuck by me.  Still, JSL and I each got to touch a snake and we each loved seeing the turtles, lizards, snakes and even the hissing cockroaches.

IMGP5196Yeah, about those cockroaches.  When we first walked in, we saw a Reptile Adventure employee sitting down with a big snake around her neck and a hissing cockroach walking up one arm.  This was easily the biggest bug I’ve ever seen.  It was at least four inches long.  To be perfectly honest, I just looked them up on Wikipedia for that length.  My eyeball estimate was going to be 8 inches but Wikipedia says they grow to 2 to 4 inches.  Perhaps my estimating skills can be forgiven seeing as they are HUGE!

IMGP5189Moving on from the cockroaches, we saw this turtle and a buddy of his relaxing near the entrance.  It looks like someone got him some reading material.  I’m not sure if it’s ironic or not for a turtle to be reading the "Race Day" section.



IMGP5190This fella (or ma’am… I really couldn’t tell) was on top of his cage.  I had to lift JSL up so he could see him.  I couldn’t tell if we were more fascinated by this spiky lizard or if he was more fascinated by us.



IMGP5191Then, there were the snakes.  They had small snakes and large snakes.  Each of these, at some point, was able to be touched by kids (and grown ups) to see how they feel.  By the way, I assumed that snakes would feel slimy, though in hindsight I’m not sure why.  They don’t.  Smooth, yes, but not slimy.

JSL was hesitant at first, but finally decided to try petting the small one in the photo to the left.  I didn’t get a good photo of that, but, luckily, JSL decided to pet this larger snake as well.  He did a great job on both.  (And, yes, Reptile Adventure provided a station for you to clean your hands afterwards.)


All in all, my only gripe about the Reptile Adventure room is that I couldn’t spend more time there taking photos of every creature they have.  The nature photographer in me can get frustrated by the lack of wildlife in my day-to-day life.  (Though the boys can be wild enough.)  We left wanting more (and JSL left wanting a stuffed snake).  Hopefully, we can see more of Reptile Adventure soon.

More about the Kidz Expo in general and the Radio Disney book specifically in the coming days.

A Look Back At Disney: Kilimanjaro Safari

One of my favorite “rides” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Kilimanjaro Safari.  I use “ride” in quotes because, despite the “chase the poachers” storyline at the end, it feels more like an actual African safari than a ride.

Of course, a big reason why I like it is taking photos of the animals.  This can be a bit frustrating, though.  The car you’re riding in goes over bumps and doesn’t always stop for every animal.  Some animals might be right in the clear, giving you the perfect shot.


“Who says I need a bath?  Want to come closer and say that?” *sharpens nose-horn*

Other animals hang back and make you use your camera’s zoom to the fullest… and then make you wish you had an ultra-super-mega zoom lens you could attach.


I promise there’s an animal in there.  Lying down.  No, really, there is.

Of course, when you go on safari, you never quite know what to expect.  One trip can be a washout for elephant sightings while another one can have the most unexpected cuteness around!

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Yes, that’s Mommy and Baby Elephant walking to the pond.  Isn’t Baby Elephant so cute?!!! Lots of awwww’s were uttered, I assure you.

The big things (like elephants) are great, but it’s the small touches that turn this from a “ride through a glorified zoo” into “African safari moved into Florida.”  Small things like these termite mounds.


Given Disney’s quest for realism, we’re left wondering if that’s a fake termite mound or if they imported actual African termites.  I’m leaning towards fake only because real termites would be tricky to keep confined.  They’d tend to get out and munch on other sources of wood.  Pretty soon you’d have these mounds popping up all over Disney World and that wouldn’t look too good.  As a side note, while impressive, I’d *hate* to see one of these pop up in my yard.  I think I’d just wave a white flag and surrender my house to the wood-munchers at that point.  Those things can clearly out-build me!

If you find yourself in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, whatever you do, don’t miss the Kilimanjaro Safari!  But before you get on, make sure your camera is ready.  You’ll need it!

Squirrel Abandonment Issues

Months ago, NHL began expressing fear that a squirrel would come up to him and bite or scratch him.  I explained to him that squirrels would run away from any people that approached.  Eventually, he understood and his fear went away.

Fast forward to today.  I was going to pick NHL up at Hebrew School, but I was running early.  I decided to go to take some photos for a website I’m working on.  I parked in the parking lot, grabbed my camera and got out of my car.  That’s when I saw the little guy.


At first, I thought he might be injured.  I approached slowly and took his photo, intending to move on once he ran away.  But he surprised me and ran towards me.  No matter which way I dodged, the little guy would look around for me and hop over to me.


I tried taking a video, but he wouldn’t cooperate – running closer to me than I could shoot.

I tried leading him to a tree in the hopes he’d climb it, but he kept coming back to me.  Eventually, I couldn’t wait any more.  I had to pick up NHL.  But I didn’t want the little guy to run to me and get crushed under my car.  So I ran over to and around a parked car.  As the little squirrel hopped over to find me, I quickly went around, made a beeline for my car and got in.  The last I saw of him, the baby squirrel was peaking out from under the car, looking to see where I went.

I know it was just a squirrel and could have even been sick, but I felt awful.  Almost like I abandoned my own child.  I called the Temple as I picked up my son to see if someone could call Animal Control, but nobody was there.  Maybe it’s the dad in me who hates to see any baby alone.  Maybe it’s the animal lover in me.  Maybe I’m just a big softie.  All I know is that the baby squirrel will haunt me for awhile.

Should I have done something different?  What would you have done?

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