Sunday, March 30, 2008

Old MacDonald had a Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife Park has all sorts of animals that are alien to the British countryside. As I have posted about recently it is not often you will see a rhino and zebra in front of an old English mansion, or hear lions roaring while walking around a lake full of ducks, geese and swans, but this is all part of it's particular charm. However, there are some more familiar residents at the park which are not so 'wild'. In fact they are rather domesticated as the park has a corner full of farm animals.

In a barn full of animals in comfy straw lined pens I found a simply huge pig snoozing noisily. Piggy was far more interested in napping than saying hello so after taking her photo I moved on to the bunnies. We think of rabbits as being small and cuddly creatures but these seemed huge. I had to wonder what on earth they were feeding these animals but I recall the rabbit our family had when I was a child. It was called Harvey after the rabbit in the film as he was white. He was meant to be a dwarf rabbit but grew to the size of a donkey with a kick to match! (Okay, not really but he was bigger than quite a few dogs!). Turned out his name was apt as he also turned out to be a giant rabbit as well. The rabbits in the park regarded me with the suspicion that prey animals reserve for anything bigger than them with teeth but sat still for photos save the twitching of their noses.

Back outside I found the goats, together with their kids. One particular kid was obviously testing his boundaries and trying to discover if goats can climb. He was quite thorough in his testing, trying again and again to shimmy up the fence post, but despite actually getting three legs off the ground he had to admit that cloven hooves aren't the best for gripping vertical surfaces, though I recorded his endeavours for posterity.

Afterwards I made my way to a small paddock full of goats that you could walk in and pet. Despite all this free attention the goats seemed far more engrossed in eating the spring grass and acted like the people walking amongst them were invisible, apart for moments when a small errant child tried to mount one like a pony. The goat simply walked off leaving the child hopping on the spot with his leg cocked in the air and didn't break it's feeding momentum for a moment. It was quite comical to watch but I guess you had to be there.

The farm corner of the park was extremely sweet and obviously aimed at children as most of the animals were hand tame and could be petted. There were also sheep, chickens, a couple of ponies and some guinea pigs there. I loitered for awhile but then a sign for the reptile house caught my eye and I knew where I wanted to go next. So that is what I did.

Friday, March 28, 2008


You Are Miss Piggy

A total princess and diva, you're totally in charge - even if people don't know it.

You want to be loved, adored, and worshiped. And you won't settle for anything less.

You're going to be a total star, and you won't let any of the "little people" get in your way.

Just remember, piggy, never eat more than you can lift!

I like these little tests. They are handy for blogging when I am very busy and have little time to blog. They are also a bit of harmless fun in a world that has either lost it's sense of humour or has nothing much to laugh at at times. When I saw this one I just had to take it, having been a fan of the Muppets as a child and adult. I can remember sitting down to watch them while we had our tea as a family, on a Sunday I think it was. Actually it must have been as we were invariably having sandwiches and cake which were always the offering for Sunday tea, having had a huge Sunday roast dinner, all sat round the table, earlier in the day.

Anyway, I digress. It appears that my Muppet persona is Miss Piggy! So, in line with the Forer Effect of subjective validation, I will try to draw parallels between this result and how it applies to me! Violence and glamour probably isn't so far off the mark as I practice Western Martial Arts (I have a big sword, and I know how to use it) as well as do boxing training. I also don't suffer fools gladly (mind you, who are these people that actually do?!), so that is similar to the 'little people' reference. I wouldn't describe myself as a Diva at all though, being nowhere near as attention seeking as Miss Piggy, but a bit of adoration wouldn't go amiss at times. So what Muppet Personality are you?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

More from Cotswold Wildlife Park

I had finished my MBA project a few weekends ago so I decided to actually get outside and taste the fresh air once more. The fresh air I headed for was in the Cotswolds, which are not too far away, and specifically my love of animals drew me to the Cotswold Wildlife Park which I have already posted about *here* and *here*. It is a fantastic open place set in parkland and the grounds of an old Victorian mansion which you can see in the first photo. It's not often you see a rhino grazing on the lawn in front of an old English house and it looks quite incongruous but the rhino and it's zebra friends seemed content enough

The rhino and zebra are two of the animals that you see when you first enter the park. They have a huge enclosure to roam in and nearby the camel have another paddock and on the other side the ostrich jealously guard their paddock from human interlopers. At the top end of the rhino and zebra enclosure though is where the big cats live. I am used to big cats being shy. They often spend their time in a quiet corner in the sun away from prying eyes or in the comfort of their pen on more chilly days. On this visit however I walked up to the large glass window in the wall of the pen and was rewarded with the sight in the photo below.

The leopard emerged from the bushes as if on cue and walked past on a few feet away from me. I was very happy that a large piece of glass separated us but at the same time I was in awe of being so close to such a beautiful and magnificent animal; it was all I could do to gather my camera, point and shoot so I was very pleased when I saw I had got the shot!

The leopard did a couple of circuits of his territory while the crowd that had gathered 'ooed' and 'ah-ed'. Content that all was well in his world he decided to make the most of the weak early spring sun and climbed a tree to take up station on a wooden platform to sunbathe. Next door was where the lions lived. I had heard the male roaring when I reached the park entrance, a deep guttural roar which pronounced his place as king of all he surveyed. When I got to the lion pen the male was nowhere to be seen but one of the females had visited the pool for a drink, a mere few yards from the glass viewing window. Once her thirst was slaked she simply sat and took in the view and I took the opportunity to snap her portrait.

After a while I left the throng that had gathered to watch her sitting and watching nothing in particular and braved the path past the ostriches and made my way towards the farm animals. I will post about these soon :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Let's Pretend

"I keep thinking I'm a grown up, but I'm not"
~ Victoria Tennant as Sara McDowell in LA Story

Do you ever feel like a big kid in an adult world and wonder how long it will be before you are 'found out'? I find myself feeling this way at work sometimes. I feel like I am playing 'let's pretend I'm a business woman', like a kid in her mothers wardrobe the shoes I am wearing are much too big so I am in fact clumping around. I have been dealing with some pretty important big things at work that my boss (who is 2 grades higher than me) would normally deal with but as he is off ill it has come down to me. So far my secret is safe though. I might even be doing good work.

It is strange though. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I have my own house which I run myself. I earn money, I manage my own budget and pay bills, vote and feed and clothe myself. Inside though there is a big kid who has a big sense of mischief and who enjoys to play. I think the child inside me is a little frustrated at the moment though. All work and too little play.
I have been super busy (no change there) so I haven't been around much. Here is a quick run down:
  • I am tired! The pre-Easter rush to get things completed has had me working long hours.
  • My boss is still off sick so there is so much to do.
  • Work politics are still rife. 'Alpha Male' is still trying to take advantage of my boss being off ill to undermine my work so he can grab the resources.
  • I did score a small victory against him recently though. I am not the push over he thought I was but it is still stressful dealing with this rubbish.
  • My home is a mess as I have had precious little time to tidy and clean.
  • I am normally a fastidious person so having a messy home has added to the stress.
  • I have been suffering from migraines lately. I have had at three in the last couple of weeks.
  • The upside is that I now get 5 days off in a row. Bliss!
  • I am not even going to think about work.
  • Good news - I passed my MBA project! How on earth did I manage that?
  • Yay for me. Now I have one open book examinable essay left to do.
  • The light is at the end of the tunnel and it is NOT a train!
I am now looking forward to a few days off. I will have to do some work on my Masters essay and I will be cleaning the house but I also intend to indulge in something I have precious little time for these days. Myself.

Pics of the big cats from my visit to the Wildlife Park coming soon.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Birds

During my recent day out to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, I crossed paths with a few animals of the feathered variety. Birds are wonderful photographic subjects. They often have gorgeous plumage (a la the Norwegian Blue of Monty Python fame) and some have bags of character. Some occasionally stay still long enough to photograph. The park has a wide range of bird life including water fowl, birds of prey and exotic birds. I didn't take photos of many as they were either too active, too shy or the enclosure wire was too intrusive for a decent shot.

The Macaw (above) was sat on his tree in the walled garden with his mate. Macaws can live for up to 60 years and mate for life and this pair has been at the park for some time. They obviously know it is their home as their tree is set out in the open with no netting to stop them leaving. I think it is nice that they choose to stay and they obviously enjoy human company. As I snapped one or two pictures of him, the macaw in the photo happily posed and squawked hello at me. It was only polite to reply but after that the conversation became a little limited, never really moving pass the greeting phase.

As the park is set in several acres of woodland, meadow, ponds and gardens there are many ducks, swans and geese that visit and are free to stay and leave as they wish. There are also several stately looking peacocks mixed in with these and roaming free. They pop in and out of enclosures as they wish (except for the large carnivores which are more enclosed!) and the one in the photo above was enjoying the early spring sun while sat in the enclosure reserved for the capybara who didn't seem to mind sharing at all.

I reached the penguin enclosure just in time for feeding (the penguins, not me). The park has Humbolt penguins from areas of south America, and the sight of these little birds waddling excitedly over their pebble beach to claim their fishy prize always makes me smile. They are so comical! Their keeper also threw some fish into the water and they came into their own swooping gracefully through the water to catch the fish. Some of the penguins took up station next to the keeper and demanded to be fed, looking up at her with hungry stares. Their patience was soon rewarded as she hand fed them and they all clamoured for the proffered food, managing to convey disappointment when the bucket was finally empty.

Their appetites (mostly) sated they went back to their penguin business and I wandered on. After all their was still the big cats to see. Photos of them coming soon!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fluff 'n' stuff

I was determined not to do any work or study this past weekend, so I was a bit miffed when I woke up on Saturday to wind and torrential rain. However, Sunday dawned much brighter, with the sun pouring through the clouds eager, it seemed to dry them out of the sky where they floated. There were no complaints from me, as having been holed up in my study or office almost exclusively for the past few weeks I was eager for some fresh air, sun and to stretch my legs.

I decided I would like to visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park which is a great place for getting out in the fresh air and stretching your legs as it is set in 160 acres of parkland set around a Victorian mansion. The larger animals all have huge paddocks to roam in while the smaller ones are housed in conditions mimicking their natural habitat. The park is a member of EAZA (the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) which shares and exchanges animals to further breeding programmes of conservation importance.

Of course I took my camera along with me and happily snapped away. Animals in zoos make great subjects as you can get fairly close to ones you wouldn't normally see. I have posted a few of some of the small furry critters that I came across: the Prairie Dog, Meerkat, Mongoose and the Otter. It was great watching these creatures for a time as they all live in family groups and interact with each other, playing, washing, chasing, scalding, feeding and going about whatever business is important to small furry animals. They are so used to visitors that they largely ignore them, with the exception of the otters who were curious about everything going on around them.

The Otters were one of my favourites of the day. There was something so endearing about them. It is hard to think that they became endangered at one point in many parts of the UK as they were treated as pests! Happily that is not the case now and these gorgeous creatures are protected.

I took many more pictures that day and will share some more soon. Hope you like these :)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Things to do

I'm back! Thanks to those who popped by and offered words of support. I managed to get my MBA project done and handed in at two minutes past midnight on Wednesday night. Then it was back in work Thursday where I disappeared under a virtual Everest of emails. It has been a long week and I am very tired. I am however, very relieved to get that project out of the way. Fingers, toes and everything else crossed that I get a pass mark so I don't have to retake the whole year. I have one more essay to do before the course is over now (assuming I pass!), which is an examinable open book essay. I have the question already but I am not going to look at it until next week. This weekend I am going to recharge. I have been thinking of all the things I want to do this year once I get my life back:
  • Catch up with friends.
  • Tame my back garden. A year or so of unchecked growth has meant that there are likely to be lost tribes and wild beasties living out there.
  • Have a big clear out! Get rid of the rubbish and then take the rest to a car boot sale.
  • Get fit! I intend to convert my garage to a small home gym with bike, rowing machine elliptical trainer, weights bench and punch bag. I then intend to use it.
  • Book a holiday. I need a break!
  • Improve my photography.
  • Get back into my Western Martial Arts training.
  • File all my paperwork. There is a stack about a foot or so high!
These are not long-term goals but they are all do-able. Some of them I have to do and will be glad once they are done and others I will enjoy doing. All will give me a sense of achievement. At some point I hope to get a letter which says that the last 5 years of study have all been worth it and I have my Masters degree.