Birthday at the Zoo

My husband and daughter took me to the zoo yesterday for my birthday. It was the first time we had seen our daughter in 6 months. I felt especially celebrated because Mount Rainier came out splendidly.

The zoo is now offering timed entrance tickets and has done a good job of adapting to necessary COVID-19 restrictions.

We had a beautiful day for our visit: sunny and clear but not too hot. We got a good look at two of the zoo’s tigers, one lolling in the shade and the other enjoying a catnap in the sun.

One of the zoo’s biggest attractions right now is Trebek, the muskox calf born last spring. He’s named after Alex Trebek, host of the TV game show Jeopardy, whose favorite animal is the muskox.

You can read more about Trebek and his mother, Charlotte, here.

This was my first visit to the new Pacific Seas Aquarium, which showcases sea animals from the Pacific Ocean area. This building opened late last summer.

I was happy to see lots of families with children enjoying the zoo along with us. Everyone wore their masks and did a good job of maintaining appropriate distancing.

walrus statue wearing mast at zoo entrance

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Once again it’s time for the blog challenge Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”


Also once again, thanks to my husband for #1 and #2.

1. A Heron’s Lunch

My husband came upon this great blue heron just as he (the heron, not my husband) found his lunch.

Great Blue Heron

I love these large, magnificent birds, even when they’re not flying.

2. Peacock Mating Season

This proud guy was in full strut one afternoon when my husband dropped in at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.


His feathers appear rather thin and wispy. Is he sick? Or will his feathers fill out more as mating season advances?

3. Out of the Frying Pan…

We moved from St. Louis, MO—land of tornadoes, flash floods, and even the occasional earthquake—to Tacoma, WA—land of rain, the occasional earthquake, and the possibility of a volcanic eruption.

Version 2

Mysterious and majestic Mount Rainier, which I love so much and which you’ll see photographs of all over this blog (just look at the sidebar on the left), is an active volcano that, sooner or later, will blow its top.

I’ll have more to say about this in the next week or so. In the meantime, I choose to view this sign with some amusement rather than fear. But if the worst-case scenario comes to pass in the next 20–30 years, I’ll be very glad to have these directive signs about.

Three Things Thursday

Last Friday morning I realized that I had not done a post for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.” I don’t know how I forgot to do it, since it’s one of the things I most look forward to in my week.

However, I’m back this week with…

A Walk Through the Woods

We live within walking distance of the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. All we have to do to get there is cross a road and walk a short path through the woods, and there we are, on the edge of the parking lot and about a block from the zoo entrance.

Last Saturday was a beautiful day here in Tacoma, WA, USA, and so we took off for a visit to the zoo. We saw lots of interesting things there, both animals and plants, but what I’d like to show you this week is three interesting things I noticed while walking the path through the woods.

1. Fiddleheads

fern fiddleheads
Fern fiddleheads

I think these are sword ferns. You can see why the new fronds growing out of the center of the plant are called fiddleheads.

In the Stephen King novel The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, a young girl gets lost on the northern end of the Appalachian Trail and wanders through the forest for several days. One of the things she eats to survive is fiddleheads.

But I don’t suggest that you go out and get some of these to boil up for dinner. Check with a local naturalist before consuming anything you find growing in the wild. Better still, just don’t eat anything you’re not absolutely sure about.

2. Two Trees

two trees
Two trees

The tree on the left, with the shaggy bark, is an evergreen, most likely a Douglas fir. It grows straight and tall, with spindly branches at the top that drape down. The tree on the right is a madrona—or, alternately, madrone—which often grows at an angle to reach any open space of sunlight beneath the evergreen canopy. Madronas are all angles and elbows as they send out lots of branches in search of sunlight. They are much shorter than their evergreen neighbors.

Perhaps these differences are what allowed these two trees to snuggle up so closely while growing. Douglas fir and madronas often grow near each other.

Madronas grow along a limited stretch of the Pacific coast, from northern Oregon up to southern British Columbia. They are easily recognizable by their brownish-red bark that peels off in thin sheets.

3. Hemlock? Cedar?

unknown tree
Do you know what this tree is?

I’m still trying to figure out what tree this is. I will have to go back and look at the bark more closely.

When we touched the brownish areas on the leaves, a very fine brown dust wafted off. The bluish berries near the ends of the leaves resemble those of cedar trees.

If you know what tree this is, please let me know in the comments. It grows in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA, USA.


Cover: Plants of the Pacific Northwest CoastPolar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon British Columbia, & Alaska
Revised edition, 2004
Vancouver, British Columbia: Lone Pine Publishing
ISBN 978–1–55105–530–5

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