Monday, November 28, 2016

2016 Connecting with Animals Calendar – November Story

Aurora daintily reaching for that precious snack

As I mentioned at the end of last month's post, this is a first for my calendars: a polar bear being the featured animal in a month other than December or January! (You'll understand why I used the photo for December that I settled on when you see it.) But there's something else a little special about this shot of Aurora (dear mother of Hudson, Humphrey, and Juno) that sets it apart from every other photo that's appeared so far: I was using a borrowed lens this day. My dear friend and co-Volunteer Peter Lynch urged me to try a macro lens that belonged to his daughter, likely hoping to see some really interesting close-ups down the road. Well, I did try. And I did take a few macro shots that I was happy with, but nothing calendar-worthy. However, it was a tremendous lens and, as such, the best "glass" I had in my kit on the day I attended this noontime feeding and keeper talk. So I left it on my camera and just used it as an ordinary zoom lens...with stunning results. I've kind of been reluctant to discuss it until now, though, because the quality of this photo makes it obvious to me that I really should invest in some faster, sharper, better-quality equipment. You know, someday. Sigh.

A clearly stressed Aurora 
But for now, I'll just have to continue with my "Brute Force Photography" and use my patience as the most-effective tool in my kit. It's still serving me very well, as (spoiler alert) will be very obvious in 2017's calendars. I was at the Zoo so often this past spring and summer because of the myriad babies that were popping up all over the place, and I spent many hours waiting for one or several of those sleeping beauties to wake up, if only for a moment, so that I might finally get just one shot of them doing something. It was all worth it in the end, trust me. It's not a problem I've really ever had with any of the polar bears, though. Even when they are sleeping they are supremely photogenic, as Aurora is so kindly demonstrating in the picture shown here. In fact, I have so many shots of all of the various polar bears in full-on lounge mode that I could do a pretty popular calendar of just that subject matter!

Nikita dreaming she's a table
I do think that Aurora spends more time "supine" than the others generally do (for one thing, it's her preferred method of swimming: the backstroke); however, her sister Nikita and occasional friend-with-benefits Inukshuk certainly have no problem with allowing the sun to warm their bellies on a regular basis. Now that Hudson and Humphrey are temporarily back in the fold – and Juno is still here – it's become quite clear to all who love these huge marine mammals that polar bears are, in general, just extraordinarily happy to be alive. Their unabashed joy so readily apparent whenever they are leaping onto their favourite pool toys does not diminish whether they are 16 months or 16 years old. For many of my winter shifts as a Volunteer over the years I will try to sign up to work at the polar bear exhibit because I don't mind the cold at all and the solitude that comes with the lack of visitors at that time of year affords me a very Zen-like experience as I watch these fuzzy goofballs frolic around their exhibits.

These bears are so adorable, that virtually anything they come across can become a "toy" with a very minimal amount of effort. least appear to be a toy when captured in a still shot, such as the one at left. Inukshuk loves his veggies – he frequently would eat his head of lettuce (yes, seriously) with his eyes closed and a blissful expression on his face. This particular day he was savouring a carrot that he was fiercely clinging onto with both paws. Well, at least that what he probably wanted us to believe. But I knew better: Inukshuk was clearly daydreaming of the career as a lounge singer that he had always wished for himself. He'd probably do an awesome, stripped-down rendition of "Cold as Ice" if he had half a chance. Or "Winter Wonderland." Or perhaps "There's No Business Like Snow Business." Or anything by Seal.

Ok. Sorry. I'll stop now.

In any event...Inukshuk and Aurora have produced some absolutely beautiful offspring, each of whom has acquired the playful gene from one or the other of them. Here is Hudson, at 14 months old:

And here he is at five years old, after returning to Toronto last month: 

And a couple of Humphrey, first at right around a year old:

And the second at a little over three years old, upon his return with his brother:

And, for good measure, one of Juno – who's not actually gone anywhere yet:

I'm really looking forward to spending a huge chunk of the upcoming winter with the three siblings. Juno is getting more adorable every day. Hudson was always a huge fan favourite with a giant personality and that doesn't seem to have changed. And Humphrey....well, what can I say about Humphrey. He and I have had a....special relationship. I'm going to see how close we can get again.

Humphrey and Grumpy P sharing a moment

One more month to go! Hope you've enjoyed the stories and extra photos this year. I hope to do it again next year – and more consistently! 

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