TWASI Visit Report
TWASI Visit to Middleton Lakes – April 2016
On a sunny day early in April, a group of us visited Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve, near Tamworth. Spring weather gave us a lovely day out, with emerging leaves, bluebells in the woods, and my first swallow of the year swooping above.
We watched herons flying in to the large heronry in huge oak trees, and they were obviously feeding youngsters, judging by the racket they caused as the food arrived!
Walking around the site, alongside a woodland stream, canal and the wetlands, we found mute swans, many waders and other birds, and stopped to sketch or photograph. Some grebes were starting their mating “dance”, but sadly too far off to see clearly. One bird we saw plenty of was an extremely friendly robin, and if we’d had some mealworms for him, I think he’d have eaten from the hand.
The cafe in nearby Middleton Hall gave us a very pleasant lunchtime meal and chatter together, after which some returned to watch birds again, while others had a tour inside the Hall itself.
Small Breeds Farm Park and Owl Centre, Kington, Herefordshire - Sunday May 8th
Sunday May 8th - the hottest day of the year so far - saw nine of us meeting up at the ‘Small Breeds Farm Park and Owl Centre’ near Kington in Herefordshire.
Apart from getting slightly held up by what appeared to be a marathon run in Hereford and a fairly heavy shower, our journey was good. We spotted a couple of red kites and a muntjac on the way.
The Centre is in beautiful countryside, with some spectacular views. It’s not huge but the facilities are good and the animals well housed and obviously happy due to the number of young being produced there.
As soon as we arrived, the owner took us into the owlet room to see the baby owls, one of which had only hatched the previous day. The older owlets were delightful and while the staff are present, adults are allowed to stroke some of the birds, who are obviously quite happy with that.
There are many goats, miniature horses, zebu cattle, donkeys and pigs and also the usual rabbits and guinea pigs for children to handle. The highlights for us though, were the owls and the red squirrels. The owner was really helpful and because of the difficulty photographing the squirrels through rather thick mesh, he was happy for small groups of us to go in the cage with them, for a photo session. They were really beautiful and quite friendly, climbing all over those in the cage! I think a number of squirrel paintings may be seen soon!
There were over 30 species of owl in the owl garden, some very unusual ones that our group had not seen before. Many of the owls were sitting on eggs, which was a great thing to see.
As well as the usual farm animals, there were rare breeds of sheep and lambs and four alpacas, all of which were roaming amongst the visitors and quite happy to be touched. There was also a group of reindeer and many different species of ducks, chickens and some spectacular looking pheasants.
All this, including a small cafe and shop and undercover picnic area, should the weather not be as good as we had, made for a really lovely and interesting day.
It was quite a long journey to get there from where we live but it was somewhere we would definitely visit again.
The website is www.owlcentre.com and well worth looking at.
Attenborough Nature Reserve - 12th June 2016
On 12th June 2016 a small group of TWASI members visited the nature reserve at Attenborough village owned and managed by the Nottingham Wildlife Trust comprising several lakes adjacent to the River Trent.
Unfortunately the weather on the day of our visit was not kind to us – it rained most of the day until we were about to leave! Our hope of seeing the many butterflies, dragonflies and other insects found along the water’s edge on a sunny day were therefore frustrated, however we still managed to have an enjoyable day out, starting with a morning coffee in the snack bar within the Nature Centre.
A highlight of the visit was watching the sand martins wheeling around and flying into their wall of artificial nests provided by the Wildlife Trust with an observation hide for visitors in the middle of the action.
There are miles of walking trails, round the lakes and along the River Trent, to enjoy on a fine day, but due to the rain, we only walked as far as the hide overlooking the Tween and Clifton Ponds. Here we were entertained mainly by a colony squawking black headed gulls with their young chicks and a very bedraggled goldfinch on the bushes below the hide windows. Returning to the Nature Centre for lunch, we sat out on the balcony overhanging the lake to enjoy an excellent snack and watch a pair of coots on their nest nearby. We spent some time trying to photograph the reed warblers which were flitting amongst the reeds from the bridge to the Nature Centre, and although the weather was not conducive to sketching, we were able to return home with a selection of photos for future inspiration, including pictures of swans, Canada geese, Egyptian geese, mallards and chicks, coots, little egret, black headed gull, goldfinch, reed warbler, red crested pochard, tufted duck and great crested grebe.
Written by Jennifer Horn
TWASI Visit to Dudley Z00 – July 2016
A small group of us visited Dudley Zoo Park in early July. It was rather a cloudy, muggy day, so unfortunately for us, many of the animals were rather sleepy and invisible in their enclosures.
We did see a large family of Asian short-clawed otters eagerly awaiting food, and they were actively moving around their pool and enclosure, and making plenty of squeaking noises in the process.
The African Painted Dogs in their wood were wonderful to see, and the group spent plenty of time watching their movements.
Despite obviously spending money on some of the zoo’s infrastructure, many of the enclosures at Dudley Zoo are certainly feeling their age, and one had the feeling that a great deal of money needs to be spent to give the animals larger and better-designed spaces. It was very depressing to see some animals displaying boredom or frustration from rather cramped enclosures with little to stimulate them.
Cat Survival Trust , Welwyn, Hertfordshire – Saturday September 3rd
My husband and I were first to arrive around 10:30am and were greeted by a volunteer who gave us a little tour while were waiting for the 13 other members still to come. We were quite lucky with the weather and while the sky was overcast for most of the day the rain didn’t start until we were ready to leave.
While these were not huge facilities, it was obvious that all the animals were well housed and well cared for. Humans too. We were welcomed in a quite modern conference room and offered to help ourselves to coffee and biscuits.
Knowing we were all pining to go see the cats, Dr Terry Moore first gave us a short talk to introduce us to the centre and its 25 wild cats & other animals they are keeping, and reserved the longer one until the end (when rain was expected) to talk of the Cat Survival Trust goals and accomplishments over its 40 years of existence.
Being able to see all the cats and few other animals from up close was like spending the day in a candy store. Not only most of the animals weren’t camera shy, I would say that some of them really enjoyed human visitors. I developed some kind of game with the lynx where he would crouch behind a little mound in his cage and when he thought I was not looking, would jump at me. This was so like my kittens playing together where the goal of the game is to jump at the unsuspecting one.
Having said that, the main attraction of the day was definitely the puma family. In the biggest enclosure of the centre, a very patient mother and daughter were raising three very naughty 10 weeks old cubs. Their antics and play-fighting were no different from my own kittens of the same age. They would even come and spit at us if we would stare at them for too long. What really surprised me though was to hear them chirp like birds. Definitely not like my kittens.
The rest of the day went quickly with us going from cage to cage, admiring Tara and Tikana, a magnificent pair of snow leopards, the handsome jaguar, the sleepy pair of servals, as well as some grumpier smaller wildcats. There were a few other animals as well like owls, raccoon dogs and lemurs…
It was with deep reluctance that I left and only helped by the fact that my memory card was full. While this is quite a distance from home (about a 2 ½ hour drive), I definitely plan to come back as our membership card allows us to do so in the year to come (but you need to phone first as visits are done by appointment only).
Their Website is well worth looking at: http://www.catsurvivaltrust.org
France Bauduin SOFA, UKCPS
Desford Tropical Birdland - Sunday 24th July
Another lovely day out. Free flying parrots of various species, lovely macaws, cockatoos and grey parrots and others, and with them out and about you can get mesh free photos. There was a beautiful Hyacinth macaw who was kind enough not to fly off and posed quite beautifully. A large aviary that you can walk through which has a variety of birds, bee eaters and weaver birds being a couple of them.
Lovely to watch but very busy although did manage some reasonable photos. Other aviaries are open to enter but the observation area is not very large and sometimes there are quite a number of people wanting to get in as well, but you’re free to go in and out as much as you like. You follow a one way system to start with but then it opens out and you can wander. Towards the back of the compound is a woodland walk which is more peaceful and quite relaxing. Heard plenty of native birds but didn’t see any. The walk leads you round back into the main area where the parrots are. Don’t forget to look up as you go around as you may find some perched on branches as they are free to come out of their cages.
The area near the café is where the majority of birds are perched and there is a children’s adventure type play area at the other side of the café. The food is good and reasonably priced.
You can purchase food for the birds as you enter which varies from seed and fruit to live mealy worms ! Lovely! As you exit you pass through a small gift shop. It’s not a large place but you can spend a good few hours there and the birds are very entertaining especially when they land on some unsuspecting person!
A nice place and well worth a visit.
Visit to Hammerton Zoo Park Saturday 20th August
After a couple of weeks of beautiful weather the forecast for our visit to Hammerton didn’t bode well, with warnings about torrential rain and strong winds. Luckily the east of the country seemed to miss the worst of the weather and the three of us enjoyed a dry fair day, if a little windy.
It is always nice to visit a place where the animals have enough room to move about in a fairly natural setting; the advantage to the animals’ welfare is obvious but there can be a disadvantage to artists who can sometimes have their view frustrated by natural obstacles or distance.
Again we were quite lucky because the weather had kept larger crowds away and the big cats, including Malaysian and white Bengal tigers, and cheetahs, obliged us by coming reasonably close for our sketching and photos. I particularly enjoyed watching the comical antics of the colony of Meerkats, or should I say I enjoyed comparing them?
In the end we all managed to obtain some really useful reference material.
TWASI visit to Cannock Chase October 2016
10 + 2 of us met up at the Barley Mow, Milford for coffee then it was of to Brocton to walk on the chase collecting reference material and hopefully seeing wildlife, mainly the fallow deer.
We hadn't gone very far when we caught a glimpse of a couple of stags these were soon chased off by some over eager photographers who barged through the undergrowth to get closer photos but all was not lost and we did see others later though with the grass so long they were heard rather than seen.
The changing colours of the trees, late berries on bushes and fungus on trees etc gave us lots of reference material.
We gathered together to make our way to the Clifford Arms for a very nice lunch that we had pre ordered. Suitably refreshed it was back to another area of the chase for a walk by the pond to see what wildfowl we could glimpse and more deer spotting, even the police woman decided we were relatively harmless and continued patrolling the area.
Then it was time for a cup of tea and a piece of cake before making our way home. We only covered a small area of the Chase and could have spent much more time there but I am sure we will go again.
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