Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Marwell Zoo on a Cold Spring Day




In the last week of the school holidays, we went on a family visit to Marwell Zoo, near Winchester in Hampshire.    

Marwell Zoo opened in 1972, in the grounds of Marwell House, a fine country house with its origins in the fourteenth century. In the 1500s, the house was owned by the Seymour Family. Their daughter, Jane, was the third wife of King Henry VIII.

Marwell Zoo was founded by John Knowles, the then owner of the house and land. By building a collection of animals, many of which are extinct in the wild or severely threatened, the aims are to conserve species and to educate the public. The animals are well cared for in environments which are adapted to their specific needs and enriched to provide as natural behaviour as is possible within a zoo setting.

More information can be found at http://www.marwell.org.uk and on Wikipedia.

We saw a fraction of the 1200 animals, of 235 different species, currently being cared for and bred by Marwell Wildlife, the conservation charity that runs Marwell Zoo. Photography isn`t easy through wire fences, so only a few images were reasonable enough to post.

Above and below is a cheetah. Like all the animals, it appears to be in very good condition.



The Giraffe House provides a warm, loose-box type of environment, where the animals can come and go at will. They have a field to wander, but preferred to be inside on the cold day when we visited.
Giraffe breed here, so the photographs show animals of all ages. Below, a group are feeding from their high hay rack.







We wondered if this young one was teething on the wire?



They have strange and beautiful faces.



Child with Mother.



A Hartmann`s Mountain Zebra



Grevy`s Zebra, grazing a large field alongside Scimitar Oryx from Sub Saharan Africa. Both species have been successfully bred at Marwell. The oryx was extinct in the wild but is now being reintroduced by the captive breeding programme.







Dorcas Gazelle - again from the desert lands of Africa.



A member of the large colony of Meercat who live at Marwell. Sunbathing under a heat lamp was the best place to be on a chilly afternoon.


Marwell House, behind part of the large, enriched enclosure for the Rhinos, who were all inside sleeping when we visited. We could stand on one side of a transparent wall and watch them dozing in a group, just yards from where we stood.



A lizard, camouflaged to the slightest difference of colour and light of its background rocks. 



A snow leopard feeding; one of another species endangered in the wild.


South American Capybara, grazing.



 It was a busy day at Marwell when we visited. Spring daffodils brightened the park and many excited children were enjoying a day seeing animals from across the world. It was heartening to see the next generation being encouraged to learn about and to love the wild creatures so endangered in their native lands.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Happy Birthday Bonfire




To celebrate the Queen`s 90th birthday on Thursday, beacons and bonfires were lit across Britain, as they have been for centuries to mark special occasions.

In one village, a local farmer invited villagers onto his land and the Parish Council encouraged people to build the bonfire with garden prunings and woody waste. 

Villagers gathered round at dusk. "Happy Birthday to You" was sung to the absent Queen, who was enjoying a birthday dinner with her family at Windsor Castle that evening.

The farmer lit the bonfire to loud applause, although the green prunings took a while to catch alight.







The local herd of red deer wandered nearer, as they usually do before nightfall, but were startled by the fire and a crowd of human beings on their familiar fields. They turned tail and headed back towards the woods.




People gathered to chat and exchange news. Cider and apple juice, from the local cider farm, were enjoyed. Children played in the field as the darkness fell, before being shepherded home to bed as they all had school in the morning.

Some of the village dogs came too.









The fire took hold as night fell. We stood in the heat of the blaze, warmed on a chilly evening.
Flames hypnotised the watchers, as they have since early human beings first made fire.





The crowd began to thin. A small community had celebrated for the Queen and come together for a few friendly hours.
People wandered homewards across the dark field and left the bonfire burning through the  night.



Monday, 18 April 2016

Easter Flowers at Kingston Lacy





Spring is here. Light evenings and ( sometimes) better weather means more time spent outside, so I am falling behind with my blog yet again.

Here are some photographs from Easter weekend, which began with warm sunshine when we walked through the grounds of Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne. It was a beautiful day. 

The Slate Grey Dog is growing well and enjoys her outings with the family. She is pulling less and walked nicely around the woods and park. She met friendly dogs and children, which she loved.




An Easter Egg Hunt was in progress, so the woods resounded with the voices of children.......




....and the calls of birds.




Most of the woodland daffodils are the small, wild varieties but drifts of larger flowers grew nearer to the paths.











Trees beside the "snowdrop walk" have been coppiced.







Early spring is the time for yellow flowers. Drifts of celandine shone in bright sunshine.




Across the lane, in the old kitchen gardens, glasshouses are being renovated and used again. Allotment holders were busy preparing their plots for a new season`s growth.




Walking back towards the house, we passed the Japanese Garden, waiting among wintery trees for the blossoms of spring.



Flowers bloomed in bright colours in the  camelia walk.




















Rooftops of the fine old house showed above the treetops.




Clumps of pale primroses were quieter, lovelier flowers in unexpected places.




At the end of the woodland path, the way opened out onto acres of grassland and bare trees. 





Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Winter Feast for New Forest Ponies





Every winter there are tree works as part of the management of the New Forest. The Electricity Board tree surgeons have been pollarding and clearing branches or trees that are growing dangerously near to overhead power lines. Piles of pollarded holly have been left for the ponies and deer to eat.




They enjoy leaves and branches .....




....and the sweet bark of mature holly trees.




A good, thick moustashe helps when eating holly and gorse.




A group of ponies have been following the tree surgeons around, waiting for the spoils of their work.




Strong teeth and tough gums are essential.











Bark is patiently scraped and chewed from logs of beech and holly....



....but the tougher bark of oak has less appeal.










Out in the rusty bracken, groups of ponies are finding sweet shoots of gorse to eat.



















By evening, they will have wandered away, leaving the piles of holly and logs to shy roe deer who come to the heathland edge to feed at dusk.

This young pony was looking for her grey mother. Soon they had found each other and joined their family group as the ponies wandered off, through long established tracks across the heath.