RSPB – Leighton Moss

LOW RES Leighton Moss map

Itching to go out walking again, I was looking for ideas for places to go to this weekend. I don’t know why but sightings of bearded tits at RSPB Leighton Moss popped up on my Facebook wall. So I decided to look at their website and planned on taking a few hours walking along their trails of woodland and reed-bed habitats.

Leighton Moss is the largest reed-bed in the NW of England. They have breeding bitterns and is the only home to bearded tits in the region.

We visited after a 1.5h drive, on a cloudy mid-September afternoon. Unfortunately too late to see the bearded tits on the grit feeders. However we did manage to see plenty of other wildlife, predominantly garden and woodland birds.

Among the many feeding stations we passed, we managed to spot hungry blue, great and long tail tits. A friendly robin sang to us for food but we had none. There were many chaffinches having squabbles, but the stars of the day (for us) was a small marsh tit and surprisingly bold nuthatches!

We also saw goldcrests flittering about the trees, but they were so fast that David couldn’t get a picture! Maybe, one day!

Leighton Moss has many walking trails to choose from. David and I did them all save the salt-marshes as they were not on the main reserve. For the three hours we were there, we put in a reasonable four miles of walking.

We stopped for lunch at a bench on the Causeway path, and watched as house martins swooped overhead and red and blue dragonflies darted about. Even the odd speckled wood butterfly made an appearance.

Of the many hides on the reserve I was very impressed with Lilian’s hide. It looked newly made and was very spacious, with bowed windows looking out towards the reed-beds and comfy seating. David snapped a good photo from here of a grey heron.

Not far from Lilian’s hide is the nine metres tall skytower, which gives unparalleled views over the reed-bed towards Morecambe Bay.

The path leading from Grisedale hide offered us two wildlife experiences. The first was on noticing something moving inconspicuously in the reeds, we looked a little closer to find a tiny field vole. He was so cute!

field vole

Field Vole

Further along the path we were surprised by a sudden splash of water! We did not see what made the noise but there are otters residing in the area. I’d like to think we startled one as we made our way along the path.

Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Leighton Moss. At first the £7 per person admission fee for non members seems a little steep but there is free car parking, a shop and cafe in the visitor centre, with the reserve open from dawn to dusk. So £7 for the whole day is good value for money especially as you can walk around the paths as many times as you like and rest a while in the hides.

Membership at £4 a month would be viable if we visited these places more often, but alas only every now and again do we visit an RSPB site. Perhaps that is something to be rectified in the future?

Have you visited Leighton Moss reserve? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Wild October – Week Four + Three Days!

20161022_075401-2It’s the finale of my Wild October!

Though the weather did not play ball towards the end of the week, I packed as much autumn into the days as I could! This dramatic sunrise was a precursor to what was planned!

Phew, what a week it’s been!

Since our membership for Chester Zoo ran out on the 29th of this month, David and I headed back to say farewell to the red pandas! I snapped the colours of autumn as we took the lazyboat ride in Islands and even some painted dogs got in on the action!

This week the garden was visited by this gorgeous looking robin. Also while walking to get the bus to work, I captured some lovely autumnal sunlight through the trees.

Thursday and Friday was our much awaited short break to the Lake District! For months I have been dreaming and planning two jam packed days! Thursday dawned oppressive and overcast yet we made the most of the day and visited Grizedale Forest.

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Friday turned out to be a perfect day! We took in a white dawn at the shores of Derwentwater and later on the sun put in a show bringing all the autumnal colours to life!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oIn the evening we headed towards Loweswater in the hope of chatching a sunset and ended up playing with more leaves!

There will be subsequent blog posts with more detailed information and pictures re: the lakes holiday coming soon!

Our last day in the lakes was spent around Aira Force and Ullswater!

Rather aptly, I have an autumn birthday, clebrated on the 30th. This year I turned 40! (I still don’t know whether I am happy about that fact or not!) I shared the day with all the people I hold dear in this world, and celebrated by making a video, screaming and splashing about in Derwentwater (as you do)!

Diwali, the Hindu ‘festival of light’, this year was also on the 30th, so I lit a candle or two in honour of the festival.

And finally, the 31st October, renowned throughout the western world as being All Hallows Eve, or Halloween! It is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.

I celebrated it by dressing up as the devil!

So, that was my Wild October. How did you celebrate yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘Tyger, tyger burning bright’.

The title of this blog is a line from a William Blake poem, The Tyger. It came into my mind when David and I last visited Chester Zoo‘s Islands. This time, we did go in search of tigers, Sumatran Tigers in fact. It has been a joy to follow each stage of Islands as they open to the public. After visiting Panay, Sumba and Papua in phase one, it was then the turn of Monsoon Forest a few months later, and now Sumatra is finally open with the introduction of the tigers to their new enclosure.

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

It was my birthday on Friday, 30th October, so David and I ventured forth to Chester Zoo in the drizzle. However once we arrived at the zoo, the sun started to fracture the grey clouds. As we ventured towards Islands and reclined on the Lazy Boat Ride (which I love!), the sun’s rays shone, unseasonally warm upon us.

The downside to the tiger enclosure however, was that the glass windows that feature in the outside part of their home, was full of frost and condensation. Perhaps it will be a forthcoming issue for the zoo in winter months? Fellow guests commented about this to the keepers, though I don’t know of how they can combat it. We have been to other zoos that have also had condensation on the windows. I think this is a universal problem for most zoos. It did make for poor viewing of the tigers who were sat on a rock right opposite the frosted window!

However, it was not just the tiger enclosure that suffered from condensation, the new orang-utan enclosure (yet to be occupied,) also had issues with this.

We ventured around Islands twice in the hope that the condensation would lessen as the day warmed up, but alas it didn’t.

The army of volunteers that populate Islands needs a mention, they offer a friendly, helpful and informative service and they make the Islands experience even more fulfilling.

We visited Monsoon Forest twice on our tour of Islands, the Sunda Gharial is an enclosure that is always busy, (I’ve still not got a good picture of them). There are more free flying birds introduced into the tropical forest and looking over the canopy of plants really gave the impression of being in a forest.

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

Part of Monsoon Forest is the Tripa Forest Research Station. I’ve commented on this before but I really love the authentic feel to the place.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

During our visit to Chester Zoo we purchased a joint yearly membership, at £135. This means unlimited visits and special days when family and friends can come along with members and pay half price admission. Then there is the 10% discount in shops at the zoo and one visit a year to a number of zoos in the scheme, including Twycross Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park! I am so happy we have the membership again. We can visit Islands whenever we have a free weekend. It will be nice to see Islands evolve throughout the seasons. 😀

I’ll end by sharing the William Blake poem.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Monsoon Forest at Chester Zoo

Monsoon Forest, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK is finally open!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

David and I decided to use what time we had left of our Chester Zoo membership, and take a day trip to see how the new exhibit had taken shape.

Monsoon Forest is part of the bigger project, Islands, at Chester Zoo and I have reviewed our preview visit here: https://redpanda08.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/islands-at-chester-zoo/.

After walking through the islands of Panay and the mysterious Papua with it’s Cassowary’s and mist.

We finally reached Sumba with it’s Lazy Boat Ride. I personally love this ride, it is so tranquil and today was no exception. While the zoo filled up with guests we sat in a boat and relaxed in the quietude of the river ride.

We saw the Visayan Warty Pigs and later on the Banteng, both enclosures look lovely!

After disembarking the boat we made our way to Bali where we watched doves and Javan Sparrows flit about freely. It made me comment that Islands is almost like a zoo within a zoo! There are many facets of Islands yet to be discovered.

Finally, it was onto Monsoon Forest! The biome is temperature controlled and the first area we entered was Tripa Forest Research Station which has views of the Orang-utan’s enclosure for when they are finally settled.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

The research station was well designed and very authentic feeling. I loved the display of research papers amongst actual exhibits for the smaller insects/animals in the zoo’s collection.

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Then it was into the rainforest itself, where apparently it rains sometimes! There were no birds free flying but there will be in time!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

As like any other exhibit you see the animals when they want to be seen, and today the Rhinoceros Hornbill was sitting on it’s perch but the Sulawesi Macaques were fast asleep high up in their enclosure. The Sumatran Tigers have been relocated to islands but are acclimatising to their new surroundings. It will be wonderful to see them in their huge new home when it is open to the public.

There have been many pictures of the new exhibit, the Sunda Gharial crocodile but all David and I saw was the head of the animal, it’s huge body and tail was submerged under water!

We spent a good hour in Islands, this our second visit. It is an exhibit that can be visited again and again and something new would be witnessed each time. The new venture for Chester Zoo can only go from strength to strength. Also with this new land being available it is opening up more space within the zoo to bring in more species. The Sun Bear is an excellent example which will be housed in the old tiger enclosure. Something to look forward to in the future. 🙂


Today was also The Red Panda Network’s International Red Panda Day!

I celebrated it at the Red Panda enclosure of Chester Zoo, while waiting and failing to see the two baby Red Pandas. Maybe next time?

International Red Panda Day

International Red Panda Day

Later on while leaving the zoo and perusing their gift shop, David and I came across Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda, and I just had to have her for my ever growing collection of Red Pandas!

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Happy International Red Panda Day!!

Christine xx

Islands at Chester Zoo

On Saturday David and I headed towards Chester Zoo for our pre-booked members preview of their new ‘most ambitious’ development, Islands.

Chester Zoo. Islands

Chester Zoo. Islands

The premise of the new enclosures, of six South East Asian Islands, is for them to be an immersive exhibition where the visitor is to be the ‘intrepid explorer!’ The project has taken over five years and cost in the region of £40 million! It is the ‘biggest’ development in the history of UK zoos! It opens to the public on the 13th July 2015 but I think that is slightly premature as there are still building works going on, a few of the Islands are not completed and only the Visayan Warty Pigs are in their enclosures. The Sumatran Tigers and Orang-utan’s have yet to be relocated!

I thought that the opportunity for members to see the new development before it opens to the public was a nice gesture on behalf of the zoo. It was an opportunity I jumped at, though I was a little trepid on finding out that not all of the animals were in their enclosures and that the Biome – Monsoon Forest was not open.

Our allocated time was 11am. With ticket in hand David and I headed for the queue at the entrance of the new development. There was an excited buzz in the air from the other zoo guests.

The adventure begins!

The adventure begins!

The sun shone down and I regretted bringing my jacket and not having sun screen on! The Islands that are open to the public in this first phase are: Panay, Bali, Papua, Sumba and Sulawesi as well as the Lazy Boat Ride. 😀

The first Island you encounter on your exhibition, is Panay with its white Coral Sands! It is based on a real island in the Philippines.

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The vegetation changes as you enter Bali.

Bali

Bali

The Island of Sumba is where you catch the Lazy River Boat Ride. It can be a very long wait on busy days, but we only queued for about 5-10 minutes! They despatch two boats at a time each carrying up to 17 explorers! David and I hopped into one and enjoyed the leisurely cruise. For me it was the most enjoyable part of the experience! It will be even better once the project is complete and the animals are happy in their new homes! For now we enjoyed the warmth of the sun, drifted past the Visayan Warty Pigs and watched as the new enclosures and exhibits were being developed.

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Our preview lasted just over half an hour. Some people stopped off at Sulawesi and lunched at Manado Town. I was really energised by the experience and look forward to visiting again once the project is fully completed. It will be a shame that by that time our membership will have run out by then!


Afterwards we had lunch at the Red Pandas, two of whom came out for bamboo.

Male Red Panda

Male Red Panda

We went to visit the Giant Otters but because there were too many people at the enclosure we decided to leave them for another day. I haven’t been to the zoo for a while and forgot how busy of a summer it can get!

We enjoyed seeing lots of baby’s. One was of a Spectacled Owl chick who was bigger than its parents and Red Breasted Geese chicks. We also saw the recent Giraffe calf and the Onager foals. The pictures below were taken by David!

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Even the two baby Asian Elephants were kidding about in the mud!

I always love going to Chester Zoo, even if we only stay a few hours we always get to see something new! I will be sad when our membership runs out, perhaps I can bend David’s arm and renew again soon? :p