Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Finkley Down Farm

2 February, 2018

Last Friday we had an Inset day so decided to make the most of it with a day out. We went to visit Finkley Down Farm in Hampshire.

It is so much more than a farm and has lots to see and do both inside and outside. We started off visiting the birds of prey outside – at some parts of the day they have talks and you can hold the birds.


Then we went to explore some of the animals outside. We first headed towards the field areas where you can find sheep, goats, alpacas and at some times of the year there is even sheep racing! I was pleased we were getting some fresh air after weeks of rainy days.

Afterwards we headed inside to the play barns. There are 5 different areas in the barn, catering for different age groups. A favourite for my son was the giant Lego blocks where he made himself a castle! There other areas are made up of various soft play, slides and a ball cannon area.

We worked up an appetite so decided to head next to the Happy Cow Cafe for lunch. There was lots of hot and cold choices – my son went for the children’s lunch box where you could choose 5 items for £4.95. I decided I wanted something hot, but didn’t want an adult sized portion so ordered myself the kids chicken and chips which was plenty. Prices for the hot food ranged up to about £7 but it was all freshly cooked and looked good.

Finkley5After lunch we headed out to the farmyard side to meet more animals. There was so much to see – rabbits, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, ponies, bird watch area and a reptile centre. Our favourite were the cute baby lambs. My son thought it was funny watching two lambs chewing at their heat light and told them to be good!

We treated ourselves to an ice cream back at the cafe before heading outside again for more play. There were tractors you could ride, trampolines, a large playground with different areas suitable for different ages, a sandpit area and a crazy golf course.

Finkley16There is lots going on throughout the day, rabbit handling, lamb feeding, pony grooming etc or you can go at your own pace. I think the only activity that cost extra were the pony rides which were £3. Overall it was a great day out and there was so much to do at Finkley we’ll definitely go back again!

Florida Manatee Adventure Tour

7 June, 2011

Florida Dolphin ToursSo in my last post I shared my experience of snorkelling with the manatee, but I wanted to write a bit more about the rest of the trip.  The trip was known as the Florida Manatee Adventure Tour and we first heard about it through the airlines.  However, when we tried to book they wouldn’t let us saying we could only book with them if we had booked our whole holiday not just flights.  I didn’t let that put me off though and with a little search on google found lots of hits of tours where you could swim with the manatee.  Unfortunately most of them required you to self-drive and that is all they included.  We had really liked the idea of having our whole day planned for a change and let someone else take care of the driving so I persevered and found the Florida Dolphin Tours offering the same trip (and clearly where the airlines used as the wording was identical!).

Our trip started at 7.30am when a mini-coach picked us up from a hotel just near our villa.  After a couple of other stops to pick up more guests we headed to a Sizzler restaurant for an all we could eat breakfast buffet.  My favourite chain for doing the breakfast buffet is still the Golden Corral restaurants, but the Sizzler was quite nice and had a good choice.  I always go for the pancakes with fresh melon, pineapple, strawberries and some chocolate sauce!

After breakfast we headed to Crystal River which is where we got to go snorkelling with the manatee.  The drive probably took just over an hour and wasn’t the most exciting of scenery, but they showed a film on the coach so the time flew by and it gave us time for breakfast to go down!

BobcatAfter the snorkelling we got back on the coach to go to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.  On arrival we were all given a good packed lunch of cheese roll, crisps, cookies, fruit, fruit drink and a bottle of water.  Stef and I headed into the park and found a park bench overlooking the hippo pool to eat ours.  Here we were quickly joined by two rather hungry looking squirrels who didn’t want to leave us alone!

After lunch we were free to wander around the widlife park.  The 210 acre wildlife park was set around a 45 foot deep natural spring and contained much of the wildlife that is home to America – such as the bobcat, cougar, bears, alligators and of course the manatee.  The park is nicely laid out with board walk areas around the springs.  Most of the enclosures were a reasonable size and the animals seemed well cared for.  I was of course keen to see the bobcat and the cougar.  We were lucky to catch the bobcat up and about for a while, but the cougar was fast asleep right up close to the viewing area so nowhere I could get a good photo.

Patriotic EagleI spent a little time trying to get some good shots of some of the birds, but the sun was quite bright, and the enclosure often quite dark so it was difficult to get a shot right in the time I had.  I was very pleased with one of the shots I got of the bald eagle though – they’d put this American flag up at the back of his enclosure which made the photo look a bit different!

After our visit to the park we headed out on the coach again back in the direction of Kissimmee, but we had one more stop first.  We stopped at Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours in Inverness.  The airboat tour lasted 45 minutes and took us down the Withlacoochee River in search of alligators and other wildlife.  We chose the front of the boat and managed to get quite sprayed with water – so not too many photos from this part of the trip! 

Stef with Alligator 4After the airboat ride we had a short wait for the second half of our group to return.  During this time Stef got to hold a baby alligator and I got to take lots of photos and have a quick stroke of it’s tummy.  Finally we returned back to Kissimmee to arrive about 5.30pm.

The whole day trip cost about $118 which when you consider how much we got I think is extremely good value and I’d say was well worth every penny. More photos from the day on my Florida set on Flickr.

The Hawk Conservancy Trust

17 October, 2010

Hawk Conservancy 55Back in July I visited the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover with some fellow photographers from the Talk Photography forums.  It is somewhere I have wanted to go for a while so I made a proposal on the forums and it was good to find some people to go with.

My main aims for the day were to try and practice some more of my photography skills and not just rely on the camera.  So it was good to have help at hand from the others who were more experienced and encouraged me to try out some new settings.  Weather wise the skies were blown out, and grey so not great for photography and it made it difficult to capture the birds detail rather than just silhouettes.

Hawk Conservancy 81The other challenge of the day was to try and get some action shots.  Throughout the day the Trust put on a number of flying shows which are really impressive – from owls in woodland to eagles flying home from miles away, and hawks swooping low over our heads. I took hundreds of photographs and was pleased that a few came out okay! 

Hawk Conservancy 17In between the shows you could wander around and visit the birds in their enclosures.  I particularly liked taking some shots of the bald eagles – it was challenging to get the contrasting colours both showing up, but I was really pleased with the results.

Overall the Trust is a nice day out and I easily managed to stay there from opening time about 10 until nearly 5pm.  It was good to go on a week day as it was pretty empty although I do imagine they get school groups in too.

More of the photo results can be seen in my Flickr set.

Hamble River Valley

7 March, 2010

At long last Spring finally seems to be coming and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky today.  After weeks of snow and then rain it was a great opportunity to finally get out with my camera and go for a nice walk.

Village StreetThis afternoon I picked Walk 4508 from the Walkingworld website as it looked to be fairly pleasant walk by the river which wouldn’t be too strenuous as I haven’t done one for some time.  The website said it would take around 3 hours, but it only took us just over 2. 

The walk starts from Bursledon station, which offers a small free car park, and then heads through countryside past a lot of horses before ending up in the nice village of Hamble-le-Rice.  There were lots of nice pubs and interesting shops there, which would make a good spot for lunch – although we’d already had ours today.

Pink FerryBefore you can head any further on the walk you need to take the bright pink Warsash Ferry across the river.  It costs £1.50 for adults and £1 for children, and runs as soon as there are people there wanting to get across.  We were lucky to find it just pulling into dock as we arrived so we didn’t have to wait at all before it headed out again with us aboard.

The second half of the walk takes you along the river and mudflats where a lot of people were also out enjoying the sunshine.  It makes a really pleasant walk with lots of birds to spot along the way.

More photographs from the walk on my Flickr set.
River front property


30 January, 2010

Red-billed ToucanThis morning we visited Birdworld just up the road in Surrey which is a bird park combined with a small aquarium – Underwater World, and a farm – Jenny Wren Farm.  We have been once before about ten years ago, and I remember thinking it was nice but quite small for the entry price so I was pleased to find a voucher for 2 for the price of 1 entry on the South East Offers website.

The birds all seemed well cared for, and the park was nicely laid out so it made for a pleasant stroll in the Winter sunshine. 

Western Grey Plantain EaterI, of course, took my camera to try and get some shots.  The wires on the bird cages varied but I was able to get some nice shots of most of the birds, although some of them were a bit tucked away out of the cold air.  The macaws were the most difficult to capture as they had very close mesh wire, and weren’t in the mood to sit still!

We wandered around the Jenny Wren farm, which mainly seemed to consist of chickens today, as many of the other animals were tucked away.  The chickens were amusing though as they pecked their way through the ice to get a drink of water.

Give us a kissFinally we headed into the grandly named Underwater World – which in reality was a very small, but nice set of aquariums and an area with some crocodiles and turtles. 

One of my favourites inside the aquarium were the Axolotl, which are a type of salamander.  They were sitting at the front of their tank and looked like they had big smiles on their faces!

Yellow and whiteI attempted to get some more photographs, but it was extremely challenging.  The light inside the building was quite dark, and not all of the tanks were very well lit – add that to the fact that fish don’t stand still and pose for you, and I was hand holding my camera, and the result was I ended up with quite a few photo’s that were a bit blurry.  However, I did get a few nice shots and it made me want to go scuba diving again!

Lots more photographs of the birds and fish can be found on my Birdworld Flickr set.

Earnley Butterflies & Noah’s Ark

4 September, 2009

Black and redYesterday we decided to visit Earnley Butterflies and Gardens near Chichester.  I see the brown tourist sign every time I head along the A27 and thought it would be a good opportunity to get some nice butterfly shots.  Alot is under cover too so thought it would be good in case the weather didn’t hold out.

On arrival in the carpark we had a feeling it didn’t look promising inside as the outside isn’t that well presented.  As we entered it got worse!  The reception area and shop looked a bit like an old charity shop.

The butterfly room was pretty tiny and there wasn’t very many butterflies at all.  It was rather sad, as the room they had at Epcot wasn’t much bigger but had been presented so much nicer.  I don’t think it would take too much work to make it nicer, but it just felt neglected.

I did manage to capture a few nice butterfly shots but overall I was really disappointed – as after all it was supposed to be a butterfly place!

Sleepy lovebirdAfter the butterfly room we went into a bird room.  This felt slightly better – it looked a little better kept.  Many of the birds are rescue birds so it was nice to see they were taking care of them in their new home.

After the bird room we wandered into the gardens, and wished we hadn’t bothered!  Maybe at a different time of year it may look pretty if there are flowers out, but at the moment it was a very sad excuse for lots of interlocking areas with hedges and not much else.  The Japanese garden only differed from every other part by the fact someone had stuck a Japanese style ornament in one corner!

Big boyFinally we wandered into the Noah’s Ark Animal and Reptile rescue.  This seemed much better kept.  The animals all seemed happy and well looked after and there was plenty to see.  There was a variety of animals from farmyard – goats, chickens, rabbits – to reptiles such as snakes, lizards and tortoise.

There is also a nostalgia centre there but it looked like a dark, dingy and run down museum so we didn’t waste any time going in there.

Overall I am happy to have spent the £6 entry fee (normally £7 but they have a voucher on their website for £1 off) as I think the money will go towards a good cause of caring for the animals.  I was very disappointed with the butterfly enclosure – which is after all the reason I went in the first place.  The whole place is in need of some care and attention and I wouldn’t go again or recommend it unless you were going for the Noah’s Ark rescue centre which is nice enough.


10 January, 2009

Marwell Ducks and their frozen fountainI woke up this morning to find it was a rather chilly -7 degrees outside… not so appealing when I knew I would be outside driving the trains at Marwell all day!  It was really pretty outside though and I couldn’t resist taking my camera with me up to the zoo.  I wasn’t however, expecting to find 10 inch long icicles hanging off the Hippo House and the duck pond totally frozen.  The funniest was their fountain which had gradually built up and looked a little like a giant ice claw coming out of the water! 

The day never warmed up to more than about -3 all day, and at one point looked like we might not even open as a lot of the pipes had frozen meaning some of the catering outlets and toilets couldn’t be opened.  Yet we made it through the day and there was a surprising number of visitors despite the cold.

On the way home I decided to pop to Hursley to take some pretty shots of the frost and the fog… here are a couple I particularly like.
Sepia Hursley in the fog
Pink Frost

Cute babies at Marwell

22 December, 2008

Neither a pygmy hippo or an ostrich are the most attractive of animals, but the two new babies at Marwell certainly have the cute factor!

Wendy and Lola 4Lola, the new baby pygmy hippo, is already a television star after making her debut on the BBC news in this cute video just a couple of weeks after she was born on 13 November.  I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her when she was just about a week old, but now at just 5 weeks old she is getting quite familiar to making an appearance for her public! 

On Saturday she decided she might go for a paddle, but mum, Wendy, had other ideas and encouraged her in for a full blown swim. 

Baby Ostrich 4Just a little further along the South road at Marwell is another of Marwell’s babies – a young ostrich chick.  It is really cute, with its feathers just beginning to develop.  It was having fun on Saturday pecking at its food and wandering around its house.  It even came right up to knock on the window a few times as if to say ‘hello’!

Marwell is doing well for babies at the moment with these and also the birth of three dorcas gazelle in November.  It’s a great time to visit as the animals and it’s open every day apart from Christmas Day – a great way to walk off all the Christmas indulgences!


Jardim Botânico da Madeira

1 November, 2008

Covered PathWhilst on holiday in Madeira we went to visit the Botanical Gardens at Quinta do Bom Sucesso.  We caught the bus up from central Funchal, which was an adventure in itself. The bus hurtled up steep, windy streets barely wide enough to fit through!  I couldn’t believe that people still found room to park in places, and trust their cars would be safe.

PointyThe gardens only cost 3 Euro’s for adults, which is a really reasonable price for the amount there is to see.  The gardens stretch out up the side of the mountain and there are stunning views over Funchal and the coast.

We started near the top, admiring the view over the beautifully kept and colourful gardens.  Then slowly wandered down through the cactus garden, indigenous plants from Madeira and palm trees.  I could easily have spent hours there with my camera, but had to limit my photograph taking as I had limited memory cards on holiday! 

MulticolouredAt the bottom end of the gardens is an exotic bird park with Macaw, Cockatoo, Parrots and Lory birds.  I was pleased to get some reasonable photographs despite the aviaries having quite intrusive bars.  I had to be careful taking photos of one lot of parrots who kept flying right to the front of the cage and looking like they were within aiming distince!  I was also slightly amused to see an area with pigeons in – they didn’t seem so exotic!

Going down to Funchal in the cable carOnce we reached the bottom we climbed all the way back to the top of the park and took the Teleférico Jardim Botânico cable car up to Monte, and then the other cable car back down to Funchal.  The rides on the cable cars were not cheap, but offered stunning views and were worth a ride.

More photographs from the gardens can be found in my Madeira set here.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

14 September, 2008

Young MaleOn my way home from Warwick on Friday I decided to make the most of the small gap in the clouds to get out and take some photographs.  I decided to stop at the Cotswold Wildlife Park as it was not far off my route home.

My first stop in the park was to find the big cats.  I knew they had lions and leopards and didn’t want to miss them!  I wasn’t disappointed as the two lions were both out and about posing.  They had a young male and a female.  The female decided to have a play with a piece of piping which was fun to watch.  She then called the male inside for a while and they came right up close to the glass so I got a good look.

B&W GrowlThe leopards were doing what cats do best and sleeping!  They both did put their heads up for a quick look around while I was there.  They had quite a nice sized enclosure and there are some big picture windows for you to view them from.  Unfortunately the glass had quite a lot of reflections on so I found the best way to take photographs was to climb up a slightly muddy slope under a tree and balance myself on a rock to take the photographs through the bars!  Luckily thanks to my new 70-300mm lens I was able to get some nice shots without the bars in.

Side onWandering further round past the camel and rhino I came to a walkthrough area with waterfowl and wolves.  I got some nice shots of the flamingo from the hide area.  The wolves were harder to capture though as all bar one were further away in a darker wooded area.  The one nearer the front was right up next to the fence and so although from above I could peer over and get a good view of him it didn’t make such a good angle for photos.

HenThere is also quite a good sized farm area where you can get up close to the animals and stroke them.  I nearly got bowled over by some sheep when I was coming out of the shed with the rabbits and pigs!  There were a large group of pygmy goats and they had some really cute babies that were just a week old.

Alongside the main house there were a number of primates and a large reptile house.  I tried to get some macro shots of the leaf cutter ants too but they were too fast for me!  There was quite an extensive collection of owls and birds but some of the paths around there were a little muddy and as it was a spontaneous visit I hadn’t got very sensible shoes with me so I didn’t spend long there.

Snack timeAround the front of the house they have a walled garden and tropical house.  They have obviously fairly recently developed a new Madagascan area where you could walk through with the lemurs.  I could easily have spent longer there but I run out of camera memory cards and it also started to rain.  It costs £10 to get in currently and isn’t too far a drive so I’m sure I’ll go again.  More of my photographs can be found here.

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