A little more than a year ago, my dad emailed me to let me know that the Detroit Zoo had opened a new penguin habitat. The habitat looked amazing, and my dad suggested that some time when I was home, we should make a trip to Detroit to see the penguins. We almost went over Christmas, but the weather wasn’t ideal. One thing led to another, and eventually, my mom brought up the idea of coming home some time during the summer to go to the zoo and go to a Tigers game. I don’t know if May 20 counts as “summer,” but regardless, that’s when our Detroit adventure took place!
The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is a state-of-the-art facility that’s home to more than 80 penguins, including gentoos, kings, rockhoppers, and macaronis. The habitat features a 326,000 gallon, 25 feet deep pool for the penguins with two above-ground viewing areas and one underground viewing area with an acrylic tunnel for us non-aquatic creatures to walk through while the penguins glide overhead.
The penguin habitat is immediately to your right upon entering the zoo, so naturally that was our first stop. I DIED.
We first encountered the rockhoppers, who were not feeling particularly active. It’s molting season for the rockhoppers, and when penguins are actively molting, they don’t swim or eat at all. Most of the rockhoppers we saw stood off to one corner, scratching and grooming as their old feathers fell out and their new feathers grew in. Coincidentally, when I went to the Shedd Aquarium in September, their penguins were molting, too, so clearly I have a thing for going to see penguins when they’re at their worst. Sorry, guys 😦
The underground part of the exhibit was super cool. Obviously walking through the acrylic tunnel while the penguins swam around was awesome, but the technology they had down there was also incredible! They had these amazing projections that looked like they were in the water. Apparently these are called heads up displays, and they were developed by the auto industry (#detroit) for cars. It was really amazing, and I learned lots of interesting information, like the fact that gentoos can reach swimming speeds up to 22 miles per hour!
The second side of the exhibit was probably my favorite. This seemed to be gentoo territory, and some of the gentoos were so social! They’d come right up to the windows and hang out.
I waved hello to one and it didn’t get startled or run away, which basically made my entire day/month/life.
We watched the penguins for a really long time. It was just SO adorable watching them waddle around! Sometimes they’d get in a line and parade around, sometimes the kings would try to pop out of the water and bite it on the edge instead, and sometimes the gentoos would come shooting out of the water into the air right in front of us! It was seriously so, so cool, and that exhibit alone made the entire trip worth it.
Of course, we didn’t just see the penguins at the zoo. We stopped by a fair number of the other habitats, and saw everything from camels
to an ostrich
to a cuddle puddle of lemurs (!!)
to a gorilla
to a tree full of black crowned night herons (and their nests)
to all sorts of pretty birdies in the aviary.
We also saw the meanest goose of all time. Now, I have very little use for geese in general. I find them dirty and territorial and categorically mean. There aren’t many birds I don’t like, but I don’t like geese. Well. While watching the Chilean flamingos, we saw this creature stroll up:
He seemed fairly innocuous, and we marveled over how interesting he looked. Then this started happening:
He chased down the Canada geese first, and then spotted a mama mallard duck and her collection of ducklings, and chased them, too! At that point the zoo employee in the habitat at the time started yelling at the goose, and he backed off, but only because the mama duck and her ducklings had slipped into the neighboring habitat. We asked her what was going on, and she explained that the mean goose, who turned out to be an Egyptian goose, doesn’t like female non-Egyptian geese waterfowl in his space, so he chases them away.
After the zoo, we headed south to Detroit for a Tigers game!
I hadn’t been to Comerica Park since 2009 and haven’t followed the Tigers much since I moved to Illinois five years ago. Most of the people on the team were new to me, but I certainly remembered Justin Verlander (who happened to be pitching that day!), Miguel Cabrera, and Alex Avila. To top it all off, it was also alumni night at Comerica Park, and Ivan Rodriguez (aka Pudge) was there as well! We even saw him doing an interview before the game, which was super cool.
The Tigers had a fantastic game that included three back-to-back-to-back home runs in the FIRST inning, followed by another homer later in the game! They won 9-3, so it was definitely a fun baseball game, and a fun way to wrap up my month of nearly constant weekend traveling 🙂
Have you ever been to Detroit?