An African Safari and Birding Expedition on a Budget ~ The NC Zoo!

Not every artist can afford to travel to Africa to study wild animals in their native lands.  Nor can many artists travel to Central and South American to backpack through the jungles looking for exotic birds.  This weekend I managed to see both wild animals and exotic birds at the impressive North Carolina Zoo!  Because my sister is a friend of the Zoo, the usual $12 charge for an adult was reduced to just $10!  It was money very well spent. :-) 

When my sister mentioned that the Zoo had a very nice Aviary, my ears perked up.  It was her birthday, she loves the Zoo, and as you all know I love birds, so we decided to make the one and a half hour drive from her home.  

On our way to the R. J. Reynolds Aviary at the NC Zoo we stopped to tour the enclosed Sonora Desert reptile and bird domed facility, where we came across the Burrowing Owl.  He was so captivating it was hard to move on.  

The Burrowing Owl photographed by William R. Beebe

The Burrowing Owl photographed by William R. Beebe

Next, we entered the magnificent, glassed domed Aviary, full of tropical plants, many of which were in bloom.  As you enter there is a paved path that winds its way down several levels to the ground floor.  Exotic birds, most of which I had never seen before, were flying freely!  Light filtered down from the glassed dome, highlighting plants and birds, creating a dramatic setting for these colorful birds.  It was a photographic field day and a challenging test for quick manual setting adjustments due to the strong lights and darks.  

Here are just a few of the exotic birds I was able to capture during our brief jungle expedition!  ☺

Chilean Flamingos photographed by William R. Beebe

Chilean Flamingos photographed by William R. Beebe

A Pair of Sunbitterns on a Nest photographed by William R. Beebe

A Pair of Sunbitterns on a Nest photographed by William R. Beebe

Eclectus Parrot photographed by William R. Beebe

Eclectus Parrot photographed by William R. Beebe

Scarlet Ibis photographed by William R. Beebe

Scarlet Ibis photographed by William R. Beebe

The Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot photographed by William R. Beebe

The Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot photographed by William R. Beebe

I could have spent a week waiting for each species to land on the perfect perch.  The tropical plants, light, and color offered up a photographic bonanza.  Given enough time one could take pictures that might take years to capture in the wilds.  

We moved on, following the paved path, in search of lions and tigers and bears.  It was getting late in the day, having spent so much time in the Aviary.  When we arrived at the Lion station, the whole family was active.  Four cubs were playing in the grassy field; big Daddy was lounging and stretching on a fallen tree, and Momma Lion walked up on a rocky ledge in order to supervise her cubs.  I thought they looked unusually happy and active for zoo animals.  

Reilly the Father Lion photographed by William R. Beebe

Reilly the Father Lion photographed by William R. Beebe

Reilly and Mekita the Female Lion photographed by William R. Beebe

Reilly and Mekita the Female Lion photographed by William R. Beebe

Mekita and cub photographed by William R. Beebe

Mekita and cub photographed by William R. Beebe

Lion cubs playing photographed by William R. Beebe

Lion cubs playing photographed by William R. Beebe

Reilly Stretching photographed by William R. Beebe

Reilly Stretching photographed by William R. Beebe

On our way to see the Gorillas we spotted the Giraffes running through an open field.  The golden hour light was hitting the long-necked animals as they pranced around like show ponies.

Giraffes Prancing photographed by William R. Beebe

Giraffes Prancing photographed by William R. Beebe

When we arrived at the Gorilla station, crowds were gathered.  Three young gorillas were wrestling like little boys.  It was hard to get a good look over the onlookers’ shoulders.  We moved on to another vantage point and as luck would have it the Gorillas made their way over to us!  They were fascinating to watch through the glass partition, so human-like. 

Baby Gorilla photographed by William R. Beebe

Baby Gorilla photographed by William R. Beebe

Momma Gorilla photographed by William R. Beebe

Momma Gorilla photographed by William R. Beebe

Gorilla "kids"  Bomassa and Apollo photographed by William R. Beebe

Gorilla "kids"  Bomassa and Apollo photographed by William R. Beebe

Finally, we saw a large Elephant with its trunk swaying back and forth in synch with its front feet in a rhythm we found curious.

Sunlit Elephant photographed by William R. Beebe

Sunlit Elephant photographed by William R. Beebe

As an artist, the Zoo is an invaluable resource for access to a wide variety of animals in close proximity.  Zoos have always made me a little sad, seeing wild animals in captivity.  Seeing the North Carolina Zoo with its extensive natural habitats and lively animals, helped change my perception.  Hopefully, a Zoo like this one will inspire in many a love for animals and create a desire to help save their natural habitats.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these photographs.  I sure enjoyed taking them.  Thank you as always for following my art, my photographs, and my journal.


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe