Friday, January 18, 2013

Penguins in the Midst

of a bunch of onlookers

Everybody loves a penguin. How can you not? They're adorable. So when I heard that The Calgary Zoo is hosting a "Penguin Walk" three times a week, I added it to my schedule.

And there it was, circled on my calendar this morning!

I wasn't sure how it would all play out. What I wanted more than anything were some great photos. The video I saw on the news made it look like you could actually walk with the penguins as they took a morning stroll. Would there be a huge crowd?  How close would I get to them?

I read that there would be a total of eight King Penguins participating in the event- four males and four females- named Arthur, Asa, Ceasar, Diana, Grace, Hera, Solomon and Tut.

I got to the zoo early, paid my $22 general admission (ouch) and was disappointed to see lots of people heading in from the parking lot, most with young children. Makes sense, of course. 

The penguin habitat was easy to find as it's fairly close to the main entrance. The first penguin I spotted was a sparkly statue, so when I spied another one standing tall on a hill, I wasn't sure it was the real thing. Then it moved its head. I may have gasped out loud because it was stunning- those gorgeous blasts of orange and yellow against the grey and white body. Bravo, Mother Nature!

A crowd gathered around the pen, which must have tipped the penguins off as to what was coming....

...because they lined up at the gate!

"C'mon, c'mon!! Let's go!"

I figured I'd better get a handle on what was going to happen, so I found a volunteer who told me the penguins would walk with their handlers and that we needed to stay behind the ropes (which she pointed out) or the orange barriers at the bridge. OK, so it would be more of a parade than a walk. Feeling superior and clever, I decided that the further away from the penguin habitat the better, as there would be fewer people. I headed for the bridge.

The only problem was that I had no idea where the bridge was. The zoo has a bridge? When I noticed that I was walking past giant dinosaur replicas, I realized I might be in trouble. I turned around, rushing back towards this sign:

Never fear, dear reader, Clever Caryl didn't miss the Penguin Parade! I spotted a bridge, asked another volunteer if the walk went past it and planted myself there. It turned out to be a great spot. 

The Penguin Papparazzi wait:

And then the waddling little creatures came down a small slope right towards me! Actually, there was a curve in the path, which they completely  ignored. The little group walked straight, stopping in front of the crowd, while their handlers coaxed them back on the trail with a bucket of fish.

OK, back on track and headed for me!

This guy played it really cool as he walked by.

Why does this remind me of the cover of Abbey Road?

(OK, it's a stretch, but that did pop into my head.)

After I took this photo, I put the camera down so I could experience being that close to these intriguing little beasts. But I did snap them walking away:

And then I ran around the loop in the opposite direction to watch them return home. Some of the penguins who didn't get to go were also "running" to greet them. So cute!

Once back inside, they huddled up and gossiped about us:

One of the most fascinating things about watching the penguins was the way they watched US. One of their handlers told us the penguins enjoy the new sights and sounds they experience as they take their walk. You can most definitely see them looking around and checking us out.

Another thing about these birds is they're so darned beautiful:

The Penguin Walk will continue until the end of February or early March, depending on the weather. It's held every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 11:00am- 11:15am.