Dorset holiday part 4

Our next trip out on our Dorset adventure took us to the New Forest Wildlife Park. While I do favour seeing animals in their natural environments some I would never get the chance to see. The New Forest Wildlife Park has many animals that are rescue animals that have required a home to survive. While the ethics of keeping animals in this way is hotly debated as more and more animals become endangered captive animals may offer opportunities for reintroducing species back to the wild.

We were greeted by a bear.

The park holds a number of species of owl and these were some of the first animals we saw. Alice was still riding high on the coattails of seeing the Gruffalo characters the day before and was excited to see the owls again. As mentioned before I have a fondness for owls.

Having recently read Simon Cooper’s excellent book, “the otters’ tale” I was excited to see the otters at the park. The park has several species: the Asian short-clawed otter, giant otters and the North American Otters. Our native otter Lutra lutra was absent. But I enjoyed seeing the otters on offer bounding around. Truly amazing animals. Slick through the water and bounding playfully on land.

Alice was quick to spot them.

Inside we found the rather cute harvest mice and hedgehogs. I’m glad to say Alice correctly identified both.

The park feeds the birds in the forest. Blue tits and great tits were enjoying the feeders.

Underneath the feeders a taste of the wild, Rattus Norvegicus, the brown rat. While generally not a welcome visitor it was good to see this animal moving around the forest floor.

The lynx was very accomadating for photos.

Alice stopped for a brief break with Amy.

Wallabies roam the enclosure with you.

Alice was keen to spot the wolves with her binoculars, but no luck.

Another wild invader of the park.

Alice enjoyed digging in the play area.

The bees are starting to come out in greater numbers a sure sign Spring is here.

We didn’t make it round all the animals. There were more deer and bison across the other side of the park, but we didn’t think Alice’s legs would take any more.

Before heading back to the house we stopped off at IKEA for a few things for Alice’s room. It was just a short journey on from the park. While it was hell on Earth for me Alice seemed to think it was just a giant soft play area.

Once back at the house a tired Alice tucked herself into the blanket.

One last day to discuss of the holiday and then that’s the lot.

Nest box week

A quick shout out for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) National Nest Box week. My local area currently has a good supply of natural nest spots. But with new housing estates destroying many of these I’m aware the birds may be short of nest spots in years to come.

Traditional advice is to place between 1 and 3 metres. Some species do have specific height requirements, so check if you have your heart set on particular species.

Open fronted nest boxes should have a bit of cover around them. Mine has a lilac tree in front and honey suckle growing over the fence. These open fronted nest boxes are favoured by robins, pied wagtails and wrens.

Nest boxes shouldn’t be placed too close to feeders as these may make an area too busy putting off nesting birds. This is tricky in a small garden like mine, as I can’t put either too close to the house, so I’ve tried to place the feeders and nest boxes with what distance I can apart. Birds need clear flight paths into the nest, but it helps fledglings if there are branches they can get out onto near the nest box.

If you have predators in the area ensure cats can’t get to the boxes. Metal plates can be used around the holes to stop squirrels and some other birds attacking the eggs.

In addition to the nest boxes I have nest lining materials in the garden. Natural wool in a hanging store and straw are available to be claimed. As this is only my second year in the house I’m not relocating nest boxes yet, but if in another year none of have been used I may try different spots.

Follow on twitter to see if I have any nesting success.

Alice is eagerly waiting to see if anything comes, imitating my binoculars with her popoids. I can see I’ll need to get her set.

Alice binoculars

Hawk Walk

Today saw me out with my dad and nephews at South Cave Falconry. We previously visited to see one of my nephews fly a hawk at the end of the Summer. For Christmas we booked a hawk walk for my dad with space for one other to share the experience. The hawk walk takes you from the centre through the woods with one the centres handlers.

As you go the hawk leaves your arm to explore the branches and returns to your arm for food. My dad had his turn on the way out.

The hawk explores the trees, stumps and the ground. On the way out we were heading uphill, so the hawk mainly stuck to short flights between branches and back.

Then on the return walk I took my turn with the glove and the hawk did slightly longer glides as we headed back down hill.

We had a Harris’s Hawk for our experience. These are beautiful birds found through South Western United States to Chile, Argentina and Brazil. They are sometimes found in Britain, where they have in all likelihood escaped from falconry centres. They live in woodland habitats as well as semi-desert. So the woods around the centre are not a million miles away from their natural habitat. They exist on a diet of small birds, mammals and lizards. Within the woods today the hawk found the remnants of a few unidentified mammals distracting him from the walk. Harris’s hawk is unusual in that it will hunt in packs, where as most raptors are fairly solitary. They will hunt in family groups giving them the chance to catch larger prey than they otherwise could on their own.  They are popular amongst falconry centres for the comparative ease to train in comparison to something like owls, which take much longer if they can be trained at all. Harry Potter has a lot to answer for with people thinking owls will make god pets.

Truly a magnificent bird. A wonderful shared experience I would recommend treating someone to.

Big Garden Birdwatch

Last weekend saw the Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB is survey has been going since 1979 and provides useful information on the rise and fall of garden birds. I have been putting out a variety of food across Winter attracting in a good variety of birds. However the weekend before didn’t bode well.

The snow started to come down. At first slow, then in proper flurries.

Thick enough to settle.

Come the day of the birdwatch the snow had gone, but it was still a cold, grey day. Not ideal conditions, but I’m pleased to say I still had good numbers in. The way the survey works is you count the greatest number you see at once, so you don’t count the same bird again and again.
So my results as follows:

4 Blackbirds
5 Starlings
14 Sparrows
3 Wood pigeons
2 Great tits
1 Crow
1 Wren
1 Blue tut
2 Jackdaws
10+ common gulls

So I just managed to break double figures. This was a quiet day as my garden goes, so several regular visitors didn’t show. No robins or goldfinches, which are out there now as I write. But still a respectable variety of species for a small garden.

A mass of gulls made up one of my highest counts. Though only in briefly they swoop in, quickly, and in large numbers.

The missing birds.

A little disappointed that a few birds didn’t show, but I’m still happy that my garden is helping support a decent variety of garden birds. The initial results nationally seem to be showing the sparrow as top, followed by starling, then blue tit. Being by the sea my results differ from the norm. Hopefully over next year as the cover in the garden builds at a variety of heights I will see further wildlife visiting.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

It’s the time of the year to register for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The birdwatch is over one weekend. Just an hour is needed to sit and count birds in your garden. The data collected is invaluable for conservation efforts. 

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/packrequest/
Last year saw me record a respectable 11 species, but I’m hopeful for more this year after a year of feeding the birds and making the garden more wildlife friendly. 


Bill Bailey’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Yesterday saw Alice and myself visiting the Hull Maritime Museum to see the temporary exhibit; Bill Bailey’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Bill Bailey is one of my favourite comedians, but he has also presented some wonderful natural history programs. His exploration of the life of Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-founder of the theory of evolution, is well worth keeping an eye out for on eye player. Watching Bill sighting the orangutans is great viewing.

The exhibit is, of the nature of cabinets of curiosities, a display of various items from the museums collections. Bill, in collaboration with Hull school children, has written whimsical fictionalised accounts of the origins of the items. A handful of dusty artefacts have been transformed into amusing centre pieces. The collaborations with local schools is a nice touch and some super imagination has been put into the installation.

An elephants foot.

The head of local Hull merchant looking very Lovecraftian.

The back massager 360

Alice wasn’t quite sure what to make of the peculiar exhibits.

There was also a little info reminding people that collecting many of the items on display is no longer an appropriate past time for the up and coming gentlemen in society. Collecting items of this nature is not only a social faux pas, but also illegal. It is worth contemplating the fact that wildlife crime is still common. Not just abroad but here in the UK as well.

Today was sadly the last day of the exhibit, so I’m glad I caught it before it went. The display was done in collaboration with Burton Constable. For those of you who missed out Burton Constable has a fine collection of curiosities ranging through fossils, taxidermy and a giant whale. So thank you to Bill Bailey and Burton Constable for putting on this whimisical display of wonders.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust magazine

This was my first week back at school. My outdoor area is still a building site and my garden area is looking overgrown again, so I’ll be needing to get out to tidy it all up.

I did get a nice surprise through the post. The Autumn edition of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust magazine came through the door.

I had sent in a few photos a while back and they said they’d use one, but not which. So opening up to the back I discovered my mouse photo. It was nice to see in the magazine.

As we have a family Wildlife Trust membership we get the children’s magazine. This season they covered stranded animals, animal poo, wood mice and Autumn. While Alice isn’t quite at reading point she enjoyed flicking through.

The main magazine has a good article on identifying different ducks and a feature on Autumn wildlife gardening I think I’ll enjoy reading. The magazine is a nice perk of the membership. I’m happy to of contributed in a small way.

mouse