Saturday, 28 September 2013

Arctic Skua beating up terns

Arctic Skua, Hunstanton Beach

I managed a great 45 minutes under the cliffs in Hunstanton this afternoon. Lovely late autumn sunshine and a turning tide. Gull numbers are pickimg up and there were lots of Herring Gulls, a few Black Heads and Common Gulls and a single Great Black Backed but no Fulmars. Way offshore 20+ Gannets plunge dived into the Wash and closer in 4 Sandwich Terns fed. Shorebirds included Bar Tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Turnstones.

Best bird though was the pictured Arctic Skua which I picked up resting on the sea and which would every so often take flight to beat up the Sandwich Terns.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Autumn Birds at Titchwell

Although I only live a few miles along the coast its been a while since I've visited Titchwell Marsh, so it was great to be able to spend a couple of hours there walking and talking with some work colleagues and do a bit of gentle spotting at the same time.

What struck me most of all was that the site was just hooching with birds. On the Fresh Marsh migrating waders fed within a few feet of the path, Wigeon grazed the islands and Bearded Tits called from within the reedbeds.

Greenshank, Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk
For me the first of two highlights of my visit were a flock of 17 Greenshanks picked up on call flying in at height from the west and slowly circling and descending low over the marsh whilst still calling, something very enigmatic about the sight and sound of this flock of birds on a north Norfolk Marsh in the autumn.

The second highlight were the wild geese. On the Fresh Marsh a flock of 20 Brent Geese were the first I have seen this autumn and the wink wink calls of a skein of Pink Footed Geese alerted me to 15 - 20 birds flying over again my first of the autumn.

Other great birds seen included a Snow Bunting, a couple of Curlew Sandpipers, a Little Stint and Spotted Redshank, as well as some splendid looking Little Egret's. All in all a very pleasant couple of hours.

Little Egret, Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk
Pictures taken with Panasonic Lumix TZ30 and cropped.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Dodging wasps and petting Lemurs a family day at the Zoo

A week or two ago I went with the family (wife, grandma, no 1 son age 4 1/2 and no 2 son age 21 months) to Banham Zoo in Norfolk. I've blogged about Banham Zoo before see here.

Visits to Banham are always with the kids and therefore my visitor experience is not that of a measured relaxed adult visit, but one overlaid with the demands, stresses and rewards of taking two small people out and about.

Banham operates a variable entrance fee policy over the course of a year and is at its most expensive in the summer. For our small party it costs about £63 to get in and then we spent another £6.50 on ice creams. The entrance and ticket booths were well organised with all of them being manned and two 'hosts' on hand to keep the queue moving efficiently to the next available booth.

Apart from the fact that the zoo was very busy (I would normally prefer quieter out of season visits) the big added distraction were the wasps that were everywhere, attracted by the fruit in the animal enclosures, the food waste in the litter bins (which we saw being emptied through the day) and visitors' picnics. We saw two people get stung (one very loudly). Signs around the zoo acknowledged this seasonal problem and offered ice packs for anyone who got stung.

With no 2 being so young and the drive home taking the best part of 90 minutes, we only had about 4 1/2 hours in the zoo and adopted a fairly ramshackle approach to where we went and what we saw. I briefly popped into the new Tropical House and was a little underwhelmed as I thought it would have free flying parrots, free range marmosets, but instead there were some nice tropical butterflies and a animatronic crocodile.

As we walked round both boys really enjoyed watching through a glass panel a penguin swimming underwater and the Sealion’s really got no 2's attention. As ever no 1's favourites the Tigers were sleeping in the heat of the day and we had to leave before they woke for feeding time.

I took no 1 and Grandma through the walk through lemur enclosure, a lovely concept and the Ring Tailed Lemurs were feeding as a group by the side of the path. A volunteer keeper stood out of sight around the corner from where the lemurs were and so could neither supervise visitors nor interpret the lemurs. As you can see below this led to parents allowing and even encouraging their very young children to 'pet' the lemurs. And the more who did this the more others assumed it was something that was ok to do, and the harder it was for others to stop their children from doing so.

Child 'petting' Ring Tailed Lemur at Banham Zoo, Summer 2013

Now Ring Tailed Lemurs are lovely, but as the close up below shows they have some formidable teeth that I am sure if upset they would use to protect themselves by biting the nearest person. Not sure what it would take to upset one, but I guess that even the most chilled and habituated lemur can have an off day or be freaked by something seemingly inconsequential, let alone by an over enthusiastic under 5 pulling its tail.

Ring Tailed Lemur, with incisors just showing, Banham Zoo
 I always try and grab a few shots on my visits with half a mind to enter the zoos annual photography competition. On this visit what with herding two hyperactive Kids, keeping an eye out for wasps and navigating the crowds I seemed to have less opportunities than ever and certainly very little time to photograph my favourites the Marmosets, Tamarins and Rainbow Lorikeets. I was though quite pleased with the image below of a pair of Fennec Foxes. This was taken on my Panasonic Lumix TZ30 using it's 'through glass' setting. When I took the picture whilst showing no2 son the foxes I'd clocked that the dark interior framed the foxes nicely and I under exposed the foxes a bit to reduce glare and burn out of their fur in the bright sunshine. What I hadn't noticed was the way the right hand fox has pushed its feet forwards a nice extra touch to add a spot of dynamism to the image.

Fennec Foxes, Banham Zoo

You can see more of my Banham Zoo images from previous visits here.