I have wanted an aviary since I was a child and obsessed with the one in my Grandads garden. He had canaries, finches and some funny little quail at the bottom, pecking up all of the dropped seed. I can still remember it now – a rickety structure he put together with old pieces of wood and rusty chicken wire- my grandad was good at building things like that.
This year I was finally able to make my dream a reality and together Gareth and I put together an aviary in our own garden. We’ve been slowly introducing our finches to it and it’s been somewhat of a process – but now we’re very nearly at the end and so today I really wanted to share it with you and give you a little tour of the aviary and its occupants.
Let me just preface this post with a warning: this is very image heavy!
As the weather gets colder, now more than ever is the time to start gathering up reserves for your garden visitors. During the harsh Winter months it’s really important to keep your garden birds well fed and your feeders stocked with a variety of seeds, nuts and fats to keep energy levels up.
As I have just moved house, I don’t yet know what types of birds will be visiting my garden so instead have opted to cover all bases. I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you what types of food you can and should feed the different varieties of bird you may find in your garden, as well as some dos and don’ts to keep your garden birds happy and healthy.
On the 12th of August (a Saturday), Gareth and I decided to travel up to Bourton-on-the- Water and stay in nearby Cheltenham for the weekend. After everything that’s been going on lately a mini-break was most welcome. Luckily we had some Tesco vouchers to spend on booking a nice little hotel room for the night and some left over for a day trip to Birdland and a meal at Zizzis – result!
In this post I’m going to talk about our trip to Birdland, but keep your eyes peeled for posts on Bourton-on-the-Water and what we got up to over the weekend!
Think back to your childhood. Do you remember writing your name and the date in the front cover of your favourite book? When I was around eight years old I found the most perfect – albeit battered and falling apart – book on birds for sale in our local library. I loved it so much that I wrote my name, the date and my age inside of it, thus claiming it as mine forever and ever.
I no longer have that book, and I no longer scrawl my name inside of book covers. But to this day, I’m still fascinated by finding secret hidden messages in books.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
My blog has been going for a little over a year now and, whilst I think I’m pretty good at updating it monthly (I haven’t missed a month yet!) I’m starting to feel that it needs to have a more structured publishing schedule. That said I’m going to aim to update it twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, starting from next week. I have a blogger event this weekend so I’ll try to get that written up and on the blog by Wednesday.
In the meantime if there’s anything you’d like to read or see here at Pretty Little Finch please let me know and I will try to cover it! Suggestions are really welcome as all the additional blogging is going to require more material!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Saturday is usually the day that Gareth and I try to have a day out and do something a bit different. This weekend he decided we would go to Woburn safari park. I had heard a lot of good things about it so was pretty excited. It’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed – and the day was full of unexpected discoveries!
When you drive through to the park you are greeted by wandering deer and goat. You can either walk through or drive through. We decided to drive through first and then do the walking bit so we could go at a more leisurely pace and see everything.
As we drove through the park we came across a wide range of fascinating animals. A lot of my photos were taken through the car window so are not perfect and I didn’t manage to snap everything we saw. To give you an idea of what kind of animals reside in this area, we saw bears, tigers, lions, monkeys, giraffes, elephants etc all divided up in to different sections. This was super fun but watch out for hoggers- people who stay in the same spot watching the animals for too long and blocking the road!
My personal favourite was the lion enclosure. Such beautiful animals. The lions seemed to be everyones favourite so there was a bit of queuing – it was worth it though.
We also enjoyed driving through the monkey enclosure and spotting the tiny babies- one even sat on our car bonnet which was a pretty fun experience!
In the monkey enclosure I spotted a black squirrel. I have never seen one of these before and I didn’t even know they existed – my first surprise of the day!
It probably took us about 40 minutes to drive around and see the animals. It could easily take you less or longer depending on the kind of people that turn up on the day!
Once we felt satisfied we’d seen everything we decided to walk around. Upon entering we were greeted by a lake with swan boats.
And we discovered some fairy mushrooms! I think these are Fly Algaric but I could be wrong. Either way I was really, really excited to see these as I have never seen them in real life before.
The area for walking around at Woburn isn’t that large so you probably won’t need a map to get around it all. It is divided up in to different sections though so if there’s something you especially want to see it could be helpful to get one.
The first area we came across was Desert Springs. This was a series of wooden walkways through meercats (a crowd pleaser) mongoose (my personal favourite) and porcupines.
From there we walked to the Lorikeet walk through. This was an enclosed area with a small pool, bridge, bird feeders and, you guessed it, a lot of lorikeets. You can buy nectar to feed the birds. This costs 70p and is a 70p well spent as it’s so very fun to have them land on you! One landed on my shoulder and proceeded to screech in my ear, evidently not interested in the nectar at all! As Gareth and I are bird people, we really enjoyed this one.
After this we stopped for lunch in the main canteen area. I wasn’t expecting much to be honest, not after the poor fare we found at London Zoo! However we were both pleasantly surprised at what was on offer and how nice it was! Whilst there wasn’t much in the way of cold food (just a few sandwiches and packets of crisps) the hot food counter had a lot of delicious options on offer. Gareth got a steak and ale pie, chips and gravy whilst I got Cumberland sausage swirls, chips and mushy peas – everything tasted amazing! Although it wasn’t cheap. If you’re bringing a family and don’t want to overspend it might be best to pack something yourself.
After lunch we stopped by the elephant meadow. There is a gallery of seats on which you can sit and just watch the elephants do their thing
After that we visited an Australian walkthrough with lots of wallabies and rheas. This was quite a wooded area and it was fun to walk through and get just that little bit closer to the animals.
Next to this walk through was another filled with tall trees and tiny squirrel monkeys. These were so adorable! We caught them at feeding time when there was much frenzy on the ground and the keeper gave a little talk about them. I loved the little babies clinging to mums back – how cute!
From here we visited the family of otters. I just love their little faces and cheeky manners. These were also being fed so we were able to get a good view of them.
There are quite a few walk-through experiences and chances to get close to the animals in Woburn safari. I think this is one aspect I enjoyed most and found quite different from other zoos I have visited. Towards the end of our day we walked through another monkey enclosure across wooden pathways- this one with various types of lemur. And lastly a meadow filled with chickens and goats who you could stroke if you chose to (we did!)
All in all we spent about four or five hours at Woburn – this is a lot longer than we usually spend at zoos or attractions. There was a lot to see although it wasn’t spread out over a leg-achingly long distance- it was all quite together and easily manageable to get through.
My favourite part of the day was seeing the Lorikeets and feeding them nectar. Gareth’s was seeing the lions. There is something for everyone here I think so I would definitely recommend it!
Last but not least, I’ll be making some changes to my blog shortly – so please look out for those!
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.
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!
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:
And this is Thimble. She’s much whiter than Penny but does also have brown feathers:
And here’s another shot of our little guy Peep!
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!
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.
On Sunday we were blessed with lovely sunny weather so we decided to make the most of our RSPB memberships and head over to Rainham Marshes reserve. The marshes were absolutely fantastic and whilst I didn’t get the shots I wanted, I did get to see a lot of wildlife and my most favourite- goldfinches! For anyone wanting to visit Rainham Marshes for the purpose of bird-watching I cannot recommend it enough. It is a lovely area also so if you’re not interested in the birds you’d still get a lot of enjoyment out of the walk. When I return I will make sure to take photos of everything and review it properly but for now here are some quick shots of the kind of wildlife you can expect to find there!
Spring has sprung; beautiful daffodils sway in the breeze, bumble bees hum gently around the blooming flowers and glimpses of white cotton tails can be caught as startled rabbits run for cover under the bramble. It’s a lovely season but with the ever-changing weather (sunshine one minute, showers the next!) it can be hard to dress for.
I think that Pretty Little Finch necklaces are a perfect way to embrace the new season and thought it would be fun to throw together some looks. So here they are – my ways to wear Pretty Little Finch this Spring.
Darling birds of May
Spring is the perfect time to showcase your feminine floral dresses. I’ve teamed this beautiful blue tit necklace with a lovely bright printed dress and felt hat – perfect for picnicking in the woods and gathering wild flowers when the sun starts to shine.
Dress: Forever 21, Hat: Primark, Necklace: Pretty Little Finch
With the weather being warm but breezy, now is the perfect time to whip out the vintage and silk shirts that may be too hot to wear as the temperature heats up. A vintage shirt layered over a printed dress is an easy Spring outfit that looks charming with a friendly robin necklace. Perfect for perusing your vintage field guides when you’re out bird-watching.
Shirt: Vintage, Dress: Primark, Necklace: Pretty Little Finch
On those days when the sun doesn’t want to shine, a knitted jumper is still an essential. Ease in to the new season with pastel shades. I’ve layered this light grey jumper over a striped dress and teamed with the beautiful bullfinch necklace – the grey, blue and red combination work well together and would make a lovely outfit for a day beside the seaside or a stroll in the shady woods.
Jumper: Primark, Dress: Primark, Necklace: Pretty Little Finch
Fun prints and patterns are a great way to banish Winter blues and look towards a brighter season. I’ve teamed this slogan tee in a pretty pastel shade with a dogtooth skort. To finish off the ensemble I’ve teamed it with a cheeky nuthatch necklace which I think encapsulates the fun found in nature.
T-Shirt: Forever 21, Skort: New Look, Necklace: Pretty Little Finch
If you’d like to work a Pretty Little Finch necklace this Spring, you can find them here!
Last week we decided to introduce a few new bits and bobs to the bird feeder menu. And what a difference it has made! We have seen a flurry of activity in our garden and rather happily, we have seen even more long-tailed tits.
Last/This week we have spotted robins, long-tailed tits, coal, blue and great tits, a dunnock, wood pigeons and wrens to name a few. Unfortunately we haven’t seen our parrot friend since the last garden birds update a few weeks ago. I hope she is okay. We also haven’t seen any goldfinches yet, but I am hopeful that we will!
The following photographs have been taken by myself and are of some of the birds who have paid us a visit. As always these have been taken through glass and may be blurry in parts. I hope this doesn’t detract from the overall quality and you enjoy these visitors as much as I do!