WBEZ | Kevin Bell http://www.wbez.org/tags/kevin-bell Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The bird man of Lincoln Park Zoo http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-10/bird-man-lincoln-park-zoo-103132 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LP%20Swan%20flickr%20stirwise.jpg" title="(Flickr/Kerry Lannert)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F63538745&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Lincoln Park Zoo opens at 7 a.m.</p><p>By then, most of its animals have snorted, stretched, wiggled, flapped and, without benefit of any coffee, otherwise roused themselves for another day of exhibiting their easy wonder.</p><p>Kevin Bell, my guest later in the show, does have coffee in the morning: One cup; he needs it. He gets to the zoo at 6 a.m.., something he has done almost every day for nearly four decades, ever since he was 23 and came here from New York to become curator of birds&mdash;the youngest curator in the zoo&#39;s history.</p><p>Birds were the zoo&rsquo;s first animals. They arrived in 1868, a pair of mute swans that were a gift from New York City&#39;s Central Park. They came by train; it took two days.</p><p>Many things have changed at the zoo during the last 144 years, but one wonderful thing has not: It&#39;s free, one of only three major U.S. zoos (the others are in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis) that charge no admission.</p><p>Those two swans soon multiplied to 13, and by 1874 the animal population swelled to 48 birds and 27 mammals. That year a bear was bought for $10 and the Lincoln Park Zoological Gardens was officially formed, making our zoo-though arguments come from Philadelphia&mdash;the first in the U.S.</p><p>It has grown&mdash;more animals, more land-over the years. But it has always bee&mdash;and remains&mdash;a special slice of the city.</p><p>A zoo, especially one as accessible and democratic as Lincoln Park&#39;s, sits in a pleasant spot in one&#39;s memory and provides a strong thread through one&#39;s life. It is a place where virtually every Chicago-area child is taken by his parents and where, in turn, these children take their children and their children and on and on through the generations.</p><p>It is an early morning last week. Outside, people stroll. Inside and outside, animals prowl. Lincoln Park Zoo shakes its furry, feathered self to life.</p><p>Kevin Bell is there, of course.</p><p>Bell says, &quot;For a little while, my time is my own. This hour is mine, and I spend it with the birds.&rdquo;</p><p>We are outside and a couple of tiny sparrows, prosaic city birds free to scurry about the trees above Bell&#39;s head, make some funny noise&mdash;you know, that chirping noise that always sounds happy. They fly off and Bell watches them, until they are but specks in the city sky.</p></p> Mon, 15 Oct 2012 12:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-10/bird-man-lincoln-park-zoo-103132