Phillips Park and Zoo, Aurora, Illinois
Last Saturday had the distinction of being warm, or at least not cold, so we planned an outdoor expedition. By “planned” I mean “why don’t we go somewhere?” and by “expedition” I mean a short drive involving minimal logistics. But where?
Phillips Park and the Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora, Illinois. Remarkably, we’d never been there before. The last time we were in Aurora, we went without children to see Max Raabe. This time, we went with children to see birds, mammals and reptiles. It’s a small, free zoo, one you can walk through in about 30 minutes, with a collection of mostly North American creatures – river otters, elk, eagles, a mountain lion, peafowl (well, introduced to North America and now wild in Florida), a turkey and others. Some of the reptiles were from far away, though. I’m pretty sure we don’t have any wild pythons on this continent, unless released pets have taken up residence in Florida.
The reptile house also sported some alligators, and in the next tank over, some crocodiles, for an exercise in compare and contrast for those of us who can’t distinguish them by sight. That would include me. But then again I haven’t had that much interface with either species, which is a good thing since I don't aspire to be another Steve Irwin.
The zoo is part of a large, well-wooded park created in 1915. Various improvements to the park have been made over the years, some by the WPA, and in the 1930s workers started turning up mastodon bones in the park. These are on exhibit at the visitors center. Cool, but not that photogenic, at least with my camera. More photogenic is the sculpture outside the visitor, depicting a mastodon rambling across Pleistocene Illinois.
On the other side of the building there’s a sculpture of a WPA worker digging up the bones.