Category: Birds

Birds of Prey Experience Day

I just want to preface this post with an explanation; I will not be including the name of this organisation/company because although the experience wasn’t wholly negative it also wasn’t the best ever either. And I really don’t want to spread any bad vibes or tread on anyones feet – this is just my personal experience.

Anyway we booked in for this particular Birds of Prey Experience Day when we saw it advertised on Groupon at just £15 per person. Most Birds of Prey handling days are over double that in price so it seemed like a really great deal – especially for a whole two hours.

Now, myself and my partner have been to many aviaries, bird centres and bird experience days so we did hold a certain level of expectation. We have both held and flown different types of owl and hawk and have always enjoyed the experience so we were really looking forward to this one.

When we arrived we were instantly disappointed to find that there was over 30 people in our group. That’s about 20 too many if you’re wondering. We knew from the offset that with so many participants we would not be doing a whole lot of flying/handling of the birds. Another thing to note was that there was just one person on hand to show us the birds.

After a 40 minute introductory talk we were finally allowed to handle our first bird which was a brown chested barn owl. Barn owls are lovely creatures so I was quite happy to hold one again. We had to line up and take it in turns to have the bird fly to us (just once.) Unfortunately this process took a matter of minutes to experience personally and then another 30 odd as we stood waiting for everyone else to have a go.

Nevertheless the barn owl was a pleasure to hold and to fly.

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After flying the barn owl we flew and held a Harris Hawk. I have handled these before on a couple of occasions so again, this was nothing new to me but Harris Hawks are very lively birds and I enjoyed holding this one. Actually, as the hawk was much perkier this process took much less time than the previous and we probably each held the hawk for mere seconds before it was taken from us and instructed to fly to the next person.

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And in terms of flying/handling the birds that was it. I’m not going to lie; I was very surprised and quite disappointed that in two hours we were only able to hold two birds – eek! But as I mentioned earlier, the problem was that the event was oversold and there really was just too many people!

Next we were treated to some talks on different birds and shown a very beautiful Goshawk and Crowned Eagle. The remainder of the time was spent showing us these birds and educating us on how they are reared/handled and their numbers in the wild.

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The talks were very in-depth and informative and it was nice to see these wonderful birds up close. If I have one criticism though it’s that there was more talking involved than actual experience.

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All in all we had an enjoyable time holding, flying and getting up close and personal with the birds. However, I really don’t think I’d do this particular experience again as there are so many others out there that are much more hands on and personal. If you’re thinking of going on one of these experience days I recommend doing thorough research before booking anything!

Spring Appreciation Post

Sunlight filters through lush green leaves and the sky is a brilliant blue,  dappled with soft, lazy clouds. The scent of lavender hangs on the crisp air and birds can be heard singing and chirping from high above. Everywhere you look there is life and colour; Spring heralds a new season and new beginnings.

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There’s something about the seasons Autumn and Spring that speaks deeply to my soul. One brings death, the other brings birth; both bring a spectacular change in the flora and fauna around us. Both dazzle me with their beauty.

And there’s something about Spring that always makes me feel like I have a fresh start. A fresh chance to take adventures, appreciate natural beauty and find inner peace. March through to July are happy, calm months for me. I enjoy sitting outside in the comfortable climate and soaking up my surroundings. Walks in the countryside are particularly pleasing; I still feel a thrill every time I see a white cotton tail darting out of sight or spot some delicate crocuses pushing through the soil to soak up the sun.

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The moment I spot daffodils I feel that Spring is on its way in. The buttery yellow flowers are symbolic of the changing of seasons to me, and I love how cheerful and bright they make everything seem. I love the flowers that begin to bloom as it gets warmer, and the heavily scented blossoms that hang from the trees.  I love to watch the butterflies finally emerge with their powdery wings, and the bees buzzing between the flower beds and borders of a beautifully manicured garden. Most of all I love to watch the birds collect twigs and straw to make their nests, raise their young and start to fill the mornings with their beautiful song.

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Spring feels like a gasp of fresh air after the dark nights, stark trees and bitter chill of Winter. It is a beautiful season and it is almost upon us. Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful that is?

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A Frosty Trip to Langdon Nature Reserve

The ground was thick with frost this morning, but with the brilliant sunshine beaming down and chasing away the cold it was a lovely time to take a walk. We decided to visit Langdon Nature Reserve as we have driven past it a few times but have never stopped to take a proper look, plus it is only a short 15 minute drive from our house which makes it ideal.

The Essex Wildlife Trust reserve is set on 461 acres of woodland, meadows and former plot land gardens and at the very heart sits a huge, glassy lake, filled with ducks and water fowl.

A shop and cafe are nestled in the parking lot. We did not stop to eat here but we did take a quick peek and it looked very cosy, serving cakes, sandwiches and crisps as well as the all essential garden bird feeders and fat balls.

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Next to the cafe/shop was a small manicured garden with benches and lots of bird feeders. We spotted plenty of plump, well fed robins as well as blue tits, great tits, sparrows and dunnocks. Areas with bird feeders are always my favourite so we spent a lot of time here, lurking around and listening to the birds.

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Walking through the reserve we spotted lots of different species of birds – some we couldn’t identify, as well as a little mouse/water vole (I couldn’t get close enough to check!) The area was abundant with wildlife with the lake being a real hub for water fowl. The lake had actually frozen over from the cold and the ducks looked quite happy to skid and flap across the ice.

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The park also has a wonderful Peter Rabbit trail to keep younger minds occupied and happy. As someone who read and adored Peter Rabbit and friends as a child, I myself really enjoyed wandering around and spotting the beautiful wooden sculptures. Mrs Tiggy Winkle was always my favourite so I was delighted to find her!

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All in all we spent an hour at Langdon Nature Reserve and really enjoyed it. The mix of open fields / woodlands and water worked really well making it a good all round country park to walk in with something interesting to spot around every corner. In the summer time there is fruit picking in the orchard with apples, pears, cherries and more – so I will definitely be heading back then to pick some fruit!

Bird World

 

Last weekend we made our second visit to Bird World. We had throughly enjoyed it last year so decided another trip was in order.

Bird World is set on 26 acres of land in Farnham, Surrey. Large, well-built aviaries nestle among tall trees and landscaped gardens making the place idyllic even in the colder months. During the Autumn and Winter seasons opening hours are limited and certain areas of the park are closed so it’s worth checking the website before making the trip. The website can be found here.

On the Sunday we visited -my 27th birthday- it had been raining all morning and it was positively cold and drab. This meant the park was very empty – perfect for us as it enabled us to take our time looking at the birds, wandering around and we didn’t have to contend with screaming children.

It took us around three and a half hours to get around and explore everything. The park is well laid out and easy to navigate, with clear sections for different types of birds. Owls and raptors in a series of large aviaries, an outback walk through aviary with Australian birds such as budgies, zebra finches and doves that fly above your head and nestle in branches, colourful and exotic birds from around the world and vibrant macaws in a towering structure at the very heart of the park. There’s also a penguin bay and a flamingo cove to walk through as well as a little Jenny Wren farm with friendly chickens and a peacock meandering around.

We purchased some mealworms and bag of cracked corn/seed at the reception to feed the birds with and I recommend doing this as it’s a fun way to get a little closer to the birds, some of which are surprisingly friendly. And if you’re lucky you’ll catch the flashes of gold, orange and red of the beautiful pheasants hiding among the foliage of the pheasant woodland walk – although these shy birds definitely won’t be tempted out with the promise of food!

Asides from the wide variety of birds you will find at Bird World, the best thing about the park is the large and natural enclosures/aviaries in which they live. If you’re undecided about paying the place a visit, I definitely recommend you check out the photos below!

Just a quick disclaimer: the following photos are not perfect. It’s pretty hard to take clear photos of birds through bars so some are quite fuzzy. I hope this does not detract from the overall post and will give you some idea of how great Bird World is.

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My favourite bird in the park – very friendly and wanted lots of mealworms!

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BKA Bird Fair – Some new friends!

Today we went to the Bird Keepers Association bird fair in St Augustin’s Hall, Thorpe Bay.

Sadly one of our Orange Cheeked Waxbills – Clementine- passed away a few short weeks ago, leaving her little pal Wotsit behind to live with the Owl finches. So our aim today was to get a hen Orange Cheeked Waxbill to befriend Wotsit as he was displaying some behaviours that suggested he might be lonely.

We were in luck! There were lots of absolutely beautiful birds at the fair, including three Orange Cheeks. We picked out a lovely little hen. We haven’t named her yet but we are very happy with her.

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After we purchased the hen we expected to go home. But rarely do we leave a bird fair with just one bird – and today was no exception.

When I spotted this tiny Chinese Painted Quail I just couldn’t help myself. I had to have him. He is much much smaller than our Japanese quail whom we love dearly. And has just spent some time out of his cage chasing them around! (Much to our amusement) We haven’t named him yet but will do shortly. We’re also hoping to buy him a little female friend in the week. I’m so excited – he’s so cute!

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EDIT:

A couple of days later we went to visit a man who kindly gave us two hens to keep our little guy happy (we named him Peep.)

This is Penny:

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And this is Thimble. She’s much whiter than Penny but does also have brown feathers:

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And here’s another shot of our little guy Peep!

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They are all settling in fantastically with Penny and Thimble already laying eggs. They get along perfectly with the Japanese quail so all in all we are very happy!

A visit to RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Today we woke up and decided upon adventure. Our last few weekends have been lovely but incredibly lazy and we thought it time we got out exploring again. Luckily for me the weather was somewhat overcast (perfect for healing tattooed arms) yet warm with a cool breeze. After some researching we settled on RHS Garden Hyde Hall because it’s a 20 minute drive from us, a relatively cheap day out and because we’d almost visited before – before turning away at the last moment.

I have to say, I may have just found my new favourite place in Essex! I am so glad we paid a visit.

Upon arrival the staff were very helpful, explaining to us where everything was and highlights of the park. We were handed a map and headed off in search of flowers! The garden itself is not huge although it is a good size with plenty to see and explore. If you’re going to pay a visit an ideal amount of time to allocate to your trip would be about 3-4 hours. You can easily explore the gardens in around 2 hours but if you want to take your time (and lots of photos) it’s best to allow for a little more than that.

The gardens are divided up in to sections, with a large pond and converted barn at the very heart. The converted barn cafe is a gorgeous building strung with fairy lights and serving fresh handmade cakes, sandwiches, soups and more. I tried the Victoria sponge with a cup of tea whilst Gareth went for chocolate – we were both surprised and delighted with our choices – if you’re paying a visit to RHS gardens I can’t recommend the cake enough!

The gardens are full to the brim with beautiful flowers, sprawling herbaceous borders, shrubs and fragrant pines.  Alongside all this natural beauty you will find a plethora of birds including goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, sparrows, pigeons, song thrushes and many many more. I happily snapped away at as many birds as I could – feeling particularly excited at spotting some goldfinches.

We spent a good few hours in the gardens just marvelling at how beautiful everything was. Both myself and my lovely boyfriend were very impressed and will be visiting again. I took far too many photos to edit, but here’s a snapshot of our day.

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Mama duck and her ducklings. Aren’t they sweet?

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A beautiful song thrush taking a load off on a bench.

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The stunning goldfinch is my favourite bird – so we were happy to spot lots of them!

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Are these giant leaves or do I have a tiny boyfriend? You decide!

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Another beautiful song thrush

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We found a fried egg!

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A bumble bee rearranges his pollen.

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Gareth caught this little sparrow in flight

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The beautiful converted barn

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An unusual spot for England!

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Blackbird pecks eagerly among the shrubs

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This song thrush was in the process of smashing a poor snail against a rock!

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Thanks for reading!