Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Chester Zoo

Being controversial here, not everyone will agree with our views, but here goes....

Last week we went up to Chester and spent a day at the Zoo. Now as I've probably posted before we are not huge Zoo fans, but after watching Secret Life of the Zoo on C4 and the good way that the Zoo is portrayed we thought we would give it one more go!

Our big mistake was that when we arranged a Hotel for the previous night, thanks to a great Groupon offer, but we forgot, when we booked it, that it would be in the Easter holidays so lots of children, not that that's a bad thing for the Zoo, just for us, when you are trying to look at the animals.

Having said that there were some incredibly well behaved and interested children there.

Anyway on the whole it wasn't bad, although some of the enclosures looked a lot smaller than on the television, especially the Chimps enclosure. After being lucky enough to see so many animals in the wild, it just didn't feel right, especially when we saw the Sumatran Tiger pacing up and down along the fence. Now we know how endangered the Sumatran Tiger is and that the Zoo breeding programmes are vital to its survival, but it still makes you so sad to see them like that.

Indeed that goes for a lot of the Animals. Another case in point are the walk through aviaries, which are fabulous and make you feel as if you are almost in the wild, but in fact the flying area is actually very small, but again many of the birds are red-listed, so it's a huge dilemma. I don't have an answer.

Towards the end of our visit we came across some small aviaries, all next to each other, containing a variety of Owls. Now an Owl of always wanted to see in the wild and would go to Finland or Norway to see is the Great Grey Owl and to see this fantastic bird for the first time in a tiny (relatively) aviary was just awful.

I think this will be our last visit to a Zoo, as we find it too upsetting, although I see no alternative for some of the animals if they are to survive and the conservation side of the Zoo needs the income from people through the gate to keep the breeding programmes going.

I'm not going to add any photos to this post, but I have put them on Flickr, here's the link if you want to have a look;

Chester Zoo Photos

Friday, 6 April 2018

A Lovely Sunny April Afternoon at Upton Warren

After a month devoid of birding for various reasons, we made a welcome return to Upton Warren on Thursday. It was great to be out and the weather was marvellous although a tad cool in a couple of the hides.

We visited all parts of the reserve starting with the Flashes mainly to get our first views of the returning Avocets,

and Little Ringed Plover,
The Shelduck were also looking splendid in the sun.
The birds today all stayed quite distant from the hide so good photo opportunities were limited. Other distant birds at the Flashes were Stock Dove, Gadwall, Shoveler, Lapwing, Mallard,Tufted Duck, Black-headed Gull, Canada Geese, Coot and a couple of Oystercatchers. A couple of Buzzards put in an appearance over the far hill side, briefly causing some excitement among the rest, but that was about it.

So we wandered (drove, much too muddy along the Salwarp!) over to the Moors Pools.
We started at the New Hide, this was pretty quiet, just some Tufted Duck, Coot and Mallard on the water, Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinch and a Bullfinch on the feeders. We sauntered (trying to use different verbs instead of 'walked'!!) up to the Lapwing hide and had coffee (this was our second)
Seeing a couple of Lesser Redpoll on the feeders at Lifestyles on the way.

From the Lapwing Hide we added a single Cormorant, some Teal, another pair of Oystercatchers, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and a young Fox!, (gave a pair of Canada Geese a bit of a scare, before disappearing back into the reeds). We eventually found after much scanning two Snipe in the scrubby area in front of the Sand Martin box, that made our day as it's one of our favourite birds.

We now strolled back, purchasing a couple of Goose Eggs on the way and continued to the concrete hide. Here a Gadwall gave me a couple of nice shots,

as did a Dunnock
and a Reed Bunting
Finally from the tower hide a pair of Tufted Duck gave me a nice-ish photo,

So a very nice afternoon totalling 43 species in all. I haven't mentioned them all of course. We then completed a lovely afternoon with Afternoon Tea at Webbs, courtesy of my cousin Jane and family, who bought us this for a significant birthday!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Attingham Park, Shropshire

Our winter visit to Attingham for the Snowdrops and a lovely walk took place on Thursday, it was a bit of a dull and cold afternoon, but the Snowdrops still looked fantastic and there were plenty of birds about too. Hoever they were all pretty camera shy, or I was just to slow to get a shot.

At least the Snowdrops don't move, perhaps I should ditch birding for 'flowering' !

I did manage one bird photo!
The back of a Treecreeper!

We did see quite a few birds on our walk though...
Blue Tit
Carrion Crow
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Tit
Grey Heron
House Sparrow
Long-tailed Tit
Mute Swan
Pied Wagtail
Song Thrush

So not bad at all!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


After a week on the west coast of Scotland, we had a brilliant weekend in Edinburgh with our daughter, before travelling north and stopping in Tomintoul for 5 nights. The weather was pretty good for the drive up, and we stopped at the Lecht for a few minutes, just in case there were any Snow Buntings. We found one on one of the buildings.

We then carried on to Tomintoul, but once we had checked in, the weather turned and the roads were closed behind us, so for a few days we couldn't visit our usual haunts on the east side of the mountains.

Luckily the west side roads were open, with care....

It was all very pretty though.
Our first destination was Abernethy Forest and the RSPB Loch Garten, for Crested Tits and whatever else we could find..
Crested Tits Galore!

and at least 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker,

There were a couple of Treecreeper about too..
plus plenty of Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch;
Coal Tit,
Female Chaffinch and
 Male Chaffinch.

No Red Squirrel this time at Garten.. never mind.

The weather thwarted us on day two, we tried to negotiate Findhorn Valley, but there was a blizzard blowing and some of the drifts on the single track road were looking serious even for our Land Rover, so we turned around half way to the end. We did see quite a few Red-legged Partridge down there, but with the weather, I couldn't open the window to get any photos.

Day three we attempted to get up over the Lecht to the Braemar side, but even though some of the snow gates were open (to let the skiers up to the Lecht) as we went further we heard that a gate ahead of us had been closed due to drifting, so we turned around and went for plan B.

We drove back through Tomintoul and down to RSPB Insh Marshes, by the time we got there the weather was fairly miserable again, but we settled down in the viewpoint 'hide' for a couple of hours.
We didn't see that much as most of the wintering water fowl that should be there had disappeared.

Some Wigeon put in a brief appearance and there were about a dozen Whooper Swans over the far side of the marshes, but the main activity was on the feeders in front of the window,
where we saw our first Siskin of the year

 As you can see the Whoopers were very distant, these are two more flying in to join their mates.

We also saw a couple of Roe Deer through the trees, then just as we were leaving a Brown Hare turned up..

On our last day all the roads were open, so we had to decide where to go and we plumped for Glen Muick as we fancied a bit of a walk in a beautiful place.

We were well rewarded for our efforts, near the visitor centre we happened across a Red Squirrel, we had never seen one here before and we have been many times over the years,
then as we walked on in to a frosty head wind, with lots of ice under foot, we stopped to admire some Red Deer on the ridge.

As we were admiring the Deer a Snow Bunting came and landed next to us, so close that I had problems focusing the camera on it with my 500mm lens on, but I did manage a couple of shots;

The Red Grouse were also behaving well today,

As we completed our circular walk, we also had a Buzzard fly through the Glen,
the to our surprise we came across at least four Stonechat near the bridge on the approach back to the visitor centre.

So we stopped there for a bit to watch and have a coffee, I haven't mentioned coffee yet, but this was our second on the walk! We hoped that from the bridge we might see a Dipper, and with the way things were today, two turned up. Albeit quite distant, one either side of the bridge.

We finally made it back to the visitor centre, where we had a late lunch (and more coffee). We had another surprise there with a number of Rabbits about and a Red-legged partridge running through the yard. This was followed by six Black Grouse flying through, so a very productive walk, in a brilliant place.

After Glen Muick, we drove through Braemar and up to Glenshee, where we saw at least 200-300 Red Grouse flying in the valley, a number of Mountain Hare and more Snow Bunting around the top  car park at the Ski Centre.

It was very murky up the top of Glenshee and with all the skiers, it was bit like wacky races!
So that conclude our first Scottish trip of the year!