A Close Up With – Bottlenose Dolphins of Cromarty Firth

A while back I wrote about my face to face encounter with Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park. It got me thinking of the many wildlife encounters I have had over the years. The first memory that popped into my head was the 2011 encounter with wild Bottlenose Dolphins in Cromarty Firth.

302483_10150791441890271_3722727_n

Bottlenose Dolphins Cromarty, Scotland.

In 2011, David and I incorporated a Grand Tour of Scotland to our travels. We started in Stirling, then headed to Inverness before returning south to Edinburgh. While B&Bing on the Black Isle we booked an hour+ long tour with EcoVentures to see their local pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.

On the day I remembered we were kitted out in waterproofs. After a safety briefing we were escorted towards the RIB.

David and I sat near the back of the RIB which didn’t detract from the experience. The RIB coursed into Cromarty Firth and then followed the headland where there were nesting birds. Within 30 minutes of the trip we came close to a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. Though we didn’t see any Harbour Porpoises or Pilot Whales on our trip, the Bottlenose Dolphins more than stole the show. They followed the RIB as it coursed through the water. It is a memory I shall cherish all my life.

340651_10150791441930271_1210702_o

Bottlenose Dolphins

Afterwards, back on land, poor David succumbed to seasickness, but the memory of seeing these wonderful creatures in their habitat more than overcame the discomfort. The below video shows some of the best moments we experienced.

Have you experienced dolphins close at hand?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Advertisements

A Close Up with Red Pandas

Recently a friend shared a picture of Red Pandas being fed grapes on my Facebook wall. It made me reminiscent of when I fed Red Pandas in 2010 at Paradise Wildlife Park. I paid £99 for 30 minutes with their then Red Pandas, Ros and TJ. So I decided to write a post about the experience.

36892_10150215455945271_5271108_n

Feeding a Red Panda

Looking back at the memory I believe I was very fortunate to have got so close to one of my favourite animals. As you can imagine the 30 minutes went past so quickly. Part of the experience was to collect the pandas’ dinner, a bowl of fruit, vegetables, pellets and panda cake, which is a mixture of essential nutrients added to their meals. We then visited the Red Panda enclosure. The Red Panda’s habitat had tall trees in which they could rest among the boughs or seek privacy from one of their nest boxes on a purposely built platform.

On our arrival both Red Pandas were looking eagerly for their lunch. It gave me such a buzz seeing both cute faces peering down at me. Ros seemed more used to human contact than TJ, who was much more reserved.

36892_10150215455935271_5452520_n

Feeding Red Pandas

While I fed each panda, the zoo keeper, Matt gave informative facts about Red Pandas, where they come from etc. I was surprised to learn that they have adverse effects to anesthetic, so any operation carries a higher risk for Red Pandas.

After feeding slices of pears and apples to the pandas, it was time for them to have their favourite food, young shoots of bamboo! I held the leafy branch up to TJ while Ros bravely came down to feast on the lower leaves. I even got to stroke Ros. I was ecstatic! I had read before the encounter that touching was not allowed, but I was offered the chance to feel how coarse and dense a Red Panda’s fur really is. They need the insulation for the cold climes of the Himalayas.

36892_10150215455985271_7258644_n

Feeding bamboo to Red Pandas

36892_10150215458870271_3119901_n

Stroking a Red Panda

More recently there are many other UK zoos and wildlife parks offering the chance to meet their Red Pandas. Paradise Park in Cornwall have a similar experience where the Red Pandas can even sit happily on your lap. Something to think about in the future. A possible present for me next year David? :p

I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscing? Has there been a time when you came face to face with your favourite animal? Do share your experiences with us below.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

P.S. If you are interested in more information on the Red Panda, a past post, My Love for the Red Panda, has many facts about the history of the Red Panda, anatomy and conservation.

 

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.

20161027_131608-2

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

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Too Much of a Good Thing…

…you can never get enough!

Here’s video and more pictures of the International Red Panda Day at Welsh Mountain Zoo… Enjoy!

The stare of the Leopard.

Day Three:

Sunday was a much more relaxed kind of day. After getting up too early on a Sunday morning (7.30) for 8am breakfast which was nice, granola and coffee. David and I headed to Banham Zoo only 30 minutes drive from the B&B. We arrived at 10am and spent the next five hours there, walking the pathways looking at the Amur Tiger, Sri Lankan Leopard, Red Panda and taking in yet another flying display! The highlight of the day was catching a Mongoose with its baby! So cute!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After 3pm we left the zoo, I with two cuddly Red Pandas in tow. 🙂

For the evening meal we went to a local pub, Brewers fayre, which was like a Wetherspoon’s to me. The place was buzzing with people enjoying the carvery and kids screaming!! What joy!! David had yet another curry while I after requesting a vegetable lasagna ended up happy with a chilli bean and rice, my favourite! Nice! 😀 We even had dessert of chocolate and strawberry sundaes 🙂 You can imagine which one David had? 🙂

Now after 10pm, we are relaxing with cups of tea after a nice bath. We are getting ready for bed… sleep tight.

Back to the Herd!

Day two.

A very tired Christine is updating this blog tonight.

This morning I awoke at 6.30am with the sun blazing into the bedroom. Breakfast was a jovial and friendly affair, with us talking to Gill about our love of visiting zoos, my passion for Red Pandas and the many street art exhibitions we have seen throughout the UK. After 9am we reluctantly left the B&B and headed towards Colchester Zoo.

Today has been a long day, of walking around the Zoo for hours, looking at all the animals and catching the Stand Tall giraffes. We saw the Red Pandas and Binturong, watched a bird of prey display and caught a glimpse of the impressive Amur Leopard!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The weather today has been much better, with lots of sunshine, though the wind was quite brisk at times.

Then after 3pm David and I, tired from all the walking, headed back up to Norwich for the two night stay at 175 Newmarket Road B&B. Dawn welcomed us in and showed us to our room for the two nights. She was very helpful asking if we knew what places to go and eat.

P1010553

After 5.30pm we headed back out, and went to the Raj of India restaurant for a curry. I had a vegetable dupiaza and David the chicken biryani. It was lovely and the service was commendable too. I loved the little warm towels given at the end of the meal to wipe your hands on. It was a nice touch!

Now back at the B&B I have had a nice bath, sitting with a cup of tea and feeling the ache of a headache. I just hope it doesn’t turn into a migraine, for tomorrow we are visiting Banham Zoo for the first time, and yes more Red Pandas!!

Night!

Mission Complete… Baby Red Panda in Sight!

On Saturday as a late birthday treat, David and I drove the two hours down to Dudley Zoo near Birmingham to see their third baby Red Panda. Jasper. It was third time lucky for us as the previous two years we saw little of the other Panda cubs, (much to my dismay), though this trip was filled with Red Panda madness for hours!

We arrived at Dudley Zoo at 10am and all through the journey, it had rained! I despaired as I thought it was a wasted journey, but once we had entered the zoo gates, the clouds cleared and a lovely bright, crisp autumn day prevailed. The male Red, Yang was seen running here, there and everywhere for hours. He must have really liked the cold air, though David and I were shivering come four hours at their enclosure.

Jasper and mum Yasmin played for about 40 minutes in their next box, before to my wide eyes of excitement and wonder, baby Jasper bounded out into the enclosure and I took lots of video of them, David snapped about 300 pictures!

It was a good day! I was thoroughly happy to have seen a baby Red Panda, it had been far too long for me without some cuteness in my life!