TWASI Visit to The British Wildlife Centre, October 2018.
Despite the weather forecast, the promised thunder, lightning and torrential downpours failed to show.
The overcast and drizzly skies meant it wasn’t great weather for sketching or painting, but it was fine for a bit of light sketching and taking reference photos. The wet weather did bring out some fabulous autumn colours, with sloe berries, rosehips and autumn leaves in the wetland nature reserve.
The British Wildlife Centre has mainly UK mammals on display, alongside UK snakes and an Owlery.
Whilst most of the animals are ones you might be familiar with, it was great to see them up close and have the opportunity to photograph them.
There were also talks every 30minutes on the animals and conservation efforts of the centre.
The highlight had to be the hyperactive pine marten that never stopped moving – a member of the weasel family, with only 3500 in the wild in the UK, there are conservation plans to reintroduce them to more parts of England.
The Centre has a Scottish wildcat breeding programme which is crossbred with other populations at centres across the UK.
It is thought the captive population is now purer than the wild population.
The autumnal visit meant that some animals were starting to head into hibernation – the sleepy hedgehog was making one of its final public appearances for the season.
The Hedgehog now has an estimated population of only 1 million in the UK, down from roughly 40 million, 40 years ago.
The staggering population decrease is thought to be from a number of factors including roads, lawn strimmers, slug pellets and enclosed garden habitats.
It is thought it will be extinct in the wild in the UK, 15 years from now.
There were some success stories, including otters which can now be found in every county in the UK and the badger (despite culling), which has healthy numbers that are helped by a healthy earthworm population.
TWASI Visit to Linton Zoo, September 2018
TWASI members met at Linton Zoo on a lovely sunny Saturday in September.
Linton Zoo, located a few miles south of Cambridge, is a fairly small zoo with a somewhat old fashioned feel, but it is lovely and shady for a visit on a hot sunny day and has some interesting animals.
There are three lionesses and three lovely lions that spent most of the day sleeping in the sun with paws in the air in somewhat inelegant poses.
One of the beautiful Amur tigers strolled round its enclosure and then emulated the lions by snoozing whilst showing off its pure white belly.
There are also a number of types of lemur including white ruffed lemurs from north east Madagascar.
I was particularly pleased that the two resident binturongs woke up in the afternoon and we were able to photograph these strange looking animals from south-east Asia which usually spend most of their time in zoos fast asleep during daylight hours. Binturongs, also known as bear cats, are animals about whose life in the wild we still know very little.
Some of the enclosures, including those for the lions and many of the birds, have small mesh fences making photography difficult, but there are also some glass panels at strategic positions.
The tapirs, with their highly mobile noses, can be clearly viewed in their open paddock as can the giant tortoises which appeared to be feeling amorous during our visit.
The zoo has a small snack bar and we started our visit with a welcome cup of coffee, meeting there again for lunch when there was a reasonable choice of food, soup, sandwiches, burgers, pasties, chips, etc.
If you are in the Cambridge area, it is a pleasant place to visit for two or three hours.
TWASI Visit to Sandwell Valley, 20th May 2018
In May, a small group of TWASI members visited the RSPB nature reserve at Sandwell Valley, which is part of a larger reserve managed for nature on the outskirts of Birmingham.
For someone who doesn’t know this area, it came as quite a surprise, after driving through a suburban area and a housing estate, to arrive at this haven of peaceful river valley, woodland walks and lakes. The day we visited, the weather was perfect; a hot, sunny spring day, ideal to be out and about.
At this time of year, birds were nesting around the lake, including Canada geese, oystercatcher and lapwing. A pair of little ringed plovers were doing their best to imitate the rocks on their chosen small island.
The RSPB visitor centre serves hot and cold drinks and small snacks, but especially with the beautiful weather, we were glad to have taken picnic lunches. There were plenty of shady places to sit and admire the lush white and pale pink May blossom which seemed especially prolific.
If you are in the area, this is a lovely spot to visit and wander about.
TWASI Visit to Birdland, Bourton-on-the-Water, 8th August 2018.
If you like birds, then visit Birdland!
Opened in 1957 in nine acres of land, it is a lovely place, with the River Windrush running through it, and is very nicely laid out with paths and bridges over the river.
Birdland houses around 130 species of birds the most popular are the Flamingos and King Penguins.
There is a viewing window on the Penguins so you can see them in their element, although unfortunately when we went, they were refilling the pool after cleaning, so we didn’t see them swimming, and as it takes about a day to refill, there wasn’t much chance to see them even if we’d stayed longer. Not to worry, though, as they’re always worth going to see, even if they are only waddling about.
Talks on the penguins and flamingos are quite frequent, and you can get close to them, although best to try to get at the front, otherwise heads large and small can get in the way if you want to take photos or sketch.
Luckily we had good weather and it wasn’t too hot, so it was very pleasant to walk around.
There is also a Nature Reserve area to walk around with a couple of hides where you can see various wildlife if you’re lucky, and this incorporates a Jurassic Journey with some Dinosaurs plain to see and others hidden – very popular with the children!
There are temperate and desert houses for birds from hotter and drier areas, and a very nice café to get refreshments, and plenty of picnic tables throughout the park.
Bourton itself is a pretty village with plenty of cafes and shops, and is lovely to walk round with plenty of picturesque bridges over the river.
There is a model village of Bourton itself to walk around, a Dragonfly Maze, Motor Museum, Toy Collection, Perfumery which does tours and courses, and for those who like a pint, the Cotswold Brewery with sales and tours – lots to see and do.