Lincoln Swans Update 4 (26-28th May 2015)

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You can read my previous entry here.

Over the last 3 days I have been keeping an eye on the two Mute Swan nests, there hasn’t been much change though. Both of the Cobbs are now way from the nests leaving the Pens on their own; that said the Cobb is only slightly upstream. The above photo is the Cobb for the University Nest.

The Pen on the St.Marks nest however has been much more active, the series of photos were taken on Tuesday 26th May.

When I first arrived the nest was getting a touch of maintenance:
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The next order of the day was a quick preening session:
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Don’t forget above the leg (just hit that spot):
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The final activity before a bit of a breather was to turn the eggs, first one:
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Then the next egg
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Not forgetting one at the back:
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Finally a quick inspection of the turned eggs:
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As you can see there are only 4 eggs now (from 7) and I have only ever seen 1 cygnet which I also haven’t seen for a while either.

Update: Thursday 28th May:
I visited both nests today and there was no change, the University swan stayed on her nest and the St.Marks swan showed me that she still had 4 eggs on her nest. There was still no sign of the Cobbs in the vicinity of the nests. On my way back to work (it was my lunch break) I looked down the river (upstream) and saw a Cobb and swimming around it was a single cygnet; this is most likely the same cygnet that hatched a few days ago from the St.Marks nest. I was nice to now that the cygnet was OK, there won’t be much predators who will take on a fully grown adult swan!

Lincoln Swans Update 3 (25th May 2015)

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After yesterday’s no show of further cygnets I went back this morning after my Hartsholme Photo shoot (to be published later this week) I parked up at PC World as before and went to the St.Marks swan first. She was alone now sleeping on the nest (see above), I saw no signs of any cygnets at all (not even the one I have already seen).

After this I visited the University Swan nest, as I approached she was sitting down on the nest, although I had my camera ready this was the shot that I got:
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If I had been a few seconds earlier I would have a better shot. It’s a mute point (no pun intended) as there were no cygnets present and unlike the St.Marks swan this one’s mate was swimming nearby.

I am back at work tomorrow but after work on my way to the bus stop I will divert via these two nests and report any changes (i.e. more cygnets).

Lincoln Swans Update 2 (24th May 2015)

I visited both swan nests yesterday afternoon. I parked up at PC World and walked down to the St.Marks nest first (it was the nearest one). Both the Cobb and Pen were a few meters away from each other. The Pen was on the nest and I couldn’t see any evidence of more cygnets. The Pen’s left wing was extended slightly and moving a bit as though there was one or more cygnets moving underneath, nothing appeared. After waiting for a few minutes, my father (who had come to see the nests too) and I agreed to visit the other nest and come back to this nest on the way back.

University Swan Nest
As we approached the University nest, like the St.Marks nest both the Cobb and Pen were near each other but there was no sign of any young. After a few minutes, the Pen rose from the nest and started to turn her eggs; there were 4. I hadn’t got my camera out at this point so in quick fashion I opened the bag, released the camera, removed the lens cap, switched on, focused and she was back on the nest – damn!

Rule 1 of (any event) photography – Always have the camera ready to shoot, the few seconds it takes to get the camera ready can take longer than the event itself. It only took about 5 seconds to get ready but the event was in place before I started and was over before I was ready :(

This was the shot of the nest after she sat down, the nest needed a bit of a tidy. I joked with my father that the egg was obviously causing bit of discomfort to the Pen so had to be moved a bit:
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The Cobb was not as concerned like he was the day before (no hissing this time):
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St. Marks Swan Nest
When we went back to the St.Marks nest we could see that the Cobb was swimming away from us in the water and a small grey blob on the Pen:
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So it look like we only have the single cygnet, this one looked very comfortable:
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So no more cygnets yet – I’ll have to keep checking over the next few days and report back.

Lincoln Swans Update

Over the last few days I have been keeping an eye on both of the Swan nests near Lincoln University and the one at St. Marks, my previous blog post can be found here. I have photographs taken at both sites on 2 separate occasions (17th and 23rd May) and rather than post them separately I will post them together in this single post.

Sunday 17th May – University
Unfortunately where I now work is quite a way from both the Swan nests so I only really get a chance to view them at the weekend, this is compounded by the fact that it’s quite a task to take my DSLR with me as well as the other items that I need for work. This is one area where the smaller frame mirrorless cameras proved their worth.

So last Sunday (two days after visiting Woodside) I was in town on an errand which needed the car so I grabbed my Urban Photo Sling 250 (that contains the D810, a few lenses and the other essentials) to see if there was any update on the nests whilst I was in town. I went to University nest first.

The Pen was sitting on the nest and whilst I was there apart from a bit of preening there wasn’t much to see, I have been told that she has 5 eggs under her but I have yet to see them:
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For the first time I saw a Cobb (Male swan) swimming just up river a bit, I assumed that this was most likely the Pen’s mate. On the following Thursday (21st May) when I was passing on the way to Firth road I saw both the Pen (on her nest) and the Cobb close together:
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Sunday 17th May – St. Marks
After not seeing too much I ventured (upstream?) towards St. Marks to see if there was anything happening; the weather had turned and it had been drizzling a bit. On the way to the nest I noticed this small bird drying itself; I think that it’s most likely a young house sparrow:
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On the ground was this (very wet) blackbird, I like the way that he stared straight back at me:
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So I arrived at the nest and noticed there was a large number of male Mallard Ducks around too, I tried to take my photos without disturbing them. The Pen was maintianing the nest:
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I was hoping that she would “turn” them whilst I was there but no such luck:
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The Cobb was also in the vicinity:
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Here are a couple of examples of the sleepy ducks:
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One of the ducks seemed to be a loner and was not welcomed wherever he went:
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He eventually he went back into the water and swam off somewhere.

The final shot of the day was this male blackbird (a photo which I quite like):
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Saturday 23rd May – St. Marks
Today I went into town on the bus and with my trusty D810 in its Lowepro Urban Photo Sling 250 I decided to visit the swan nests first as I had a hour to kill before I met up with my parents for a meal (in town). This time I got off the bus one-stop early and headed to the nearest nest, the St. marks one.

As I walked up I could here a tweeting noise, and I thought that the swan had may some cygnets. I was pleased and confused at the same time as I got nearer. Yes there was a cygnet hatched and in the water:
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It was swimming with the Cobb, I have never seen a single cygnet hatch and then get into the water before the others (you can see the egg-tooth in this photo):
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Whilst the cygnet was swimming around the Pen decided to check the eggs:
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She gave them all a good turn:
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I noticed that there were only 5 eggs left (she had 7), so either an egg went missing or the egg hatched and we have a cygnet missing – we’ll never know. My other concern is that with only 1 egg hatched so far, we may only get one cygnet. The other eggs had no cracks in them but we may see others later (I will have to go back tomorrow and check).

After the Pen had settled down on the nest both the cygnet and the Cobb left the water. The cynget wanted to be with its mother and was trying to get onto her back:
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After failing to get up on its mother’s side, the cygnet went around the back:
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And started to climb:
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It’s gone all dark:
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Let me help you:
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Nearly there:
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Sorted:
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Lets all preen together as a family (father in the background):
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An almost too adorable portrait shot of mother and cynget together.
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I also took a 30 second movie and posted this on YouTube:

Saturday 23rd May – University
After watching and documenting lots of things that I have never witnessed before I eventually tore myself away to go to the other nest. I was hoping that this swan had had one of more cygnets hatch too. As I got nearer I passed the Cobb who hissed at me (not good) but he was far enough away from the Pen to allow me to see if there were any cygnets.

Unfortunately no cygnets yet:
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I have yet to see any eggs, the mother is very patient:
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The presence of the father (Cobb) does show that we cannot be too far away from hatching day:
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Whilst I was taking pictures he ventured nearer the Pen, I made sure to keep my distance:
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Wrap Up
As you can see I had a great time today and will have to venture back tomorrow and see if the St.Marks swans have any more cygnets and see if the University swan has any too. I have to say that I am very lucky to live somewhere I get to witness such wonders almost on my doorstep. :)

Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park

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This is my second visit to Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park; the first was many years ago and the park has expanded quite a bit since then. The park is now much larger and although we have lost the Pig Racing we have gained a Tiger enclosure and a Wolf enclosure too.

Once you walk through the reception and gift shop area and into the park the first animal you see is the Green Winged Macaw:
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He seems quite tame and isn’t phased by all of the people that pass him.

Following the Macaw, you have a medium sized Meerkat enclosure, like the Meerkats in Skegness these are inquisitive animals and I had to take a picture of them all looking at us through the glass:
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After taking a few shots of a Peacock who wouldn’t face me when he had his fantail up we decided to venture down the side of the park towards the wolves enclosure. I noticed that my Mum was in a much better location to get a better shot of the Peacock.

On the way we passed a Fallow Deer who was having a rest in the sun:
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Just past the Fallow Deer structure I noticed this House Sparrow on the wall and managed to get a couple of photo’s before he tok his straw to a nest:
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After taking a few unspectacular photographs of the Hudson Bay Wolves we passed a lake at the back of the park, the small lake (more of a pond actually) was teeming with thousands and thousands of tadpoles. There was also a reasonable number of White Storks too:
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Just past the Storks there are a couple of CapyBara which look like large version of a Guinea pig crossed with a Rat:
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The next enclosure housed 3 Tigers which were not going to have their photo taken whilst we where there so after a few minutes I arrived at the Siberian Lynx enclosure which had two of what looked like larger versions of normal tabby cats:
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After visiting the Tigers and Lynx the next enclosure (which was full of young school kids too) was where they fed the Lemurs. We weren’t sure if we should enter the area but were invited by the couple of keepers into there.

Just prior to releasing the Lemurs, the two keepers placed the lemurs favourite food strategically around the enclosure, the Lemurs had what look like a small playground with climbing frames and a slide to use. When the Lemurs were “released” it was almost like an explosion; the 4 or 5 Ring Tailed Lemurs knew where the food would be and the went straight for it navigating around the enclosure and the structures with ease.
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Here is one of them sitting inside one of the structures (just below the slide):
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Both my parents and I (as well as all of the school kids) enjoyed watching the lemurs, they were great fun. The only disappointment was that of the 3 species they have at Woodside only the Ring Tailed Lemurs were released.

After we left the Lemur enclosure we carried on going around the park towards the restaurant (we wanted to eat our food before the kids descended upon the restaurant which they aren’t allowed to do – never mind).

The next bird was this beautiful Bengalese Eagle Owl:
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There were many more birds but the cages obstructed a decent view and this unfortunately affected the photographs too greatly. Yes you can throw fences out of focus with long focal lengths and wide apertures if you can get close to the fence (which we couldn’t here) and the subject is a reasonable distance back from the fence too.

There was an enclosure with a couple of Sacred Ibis, I managed to get an OK shot here:
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The final enclosures before we left the area housed the two species of Marmosets at woodisde. The cages are next to each other and I managed to get a good photograph of this really cute Geoffroy’s Marmoset Baby:
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All together now: AAAWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

Just before going for our lunch we quickly had a look at what at first looked like a couple of Peregrine Falcons. I was almost right as these were two Peregrine x Saker Falcons:
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Woodside’s literature states:

By crossing a peregrine falcon, the fastest bird on earth, reaching speeds of 200mph in a stoop, with a Saker Falcon, a very large species of falcon, it is hoped that both the size and speed valued in each of the pure parents will combine and be shown in the offspring. Peregrine falcons hunt exclusively feathered prey. The Saker falcon, ion the other hand, will frequently take ground prey.

Nice head shot of the Peacock again on the way to the restaurant:
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We now ventured into the Restaurant for Lunch, I was hoping for a Jacket Potatoes but as they weren’t available that day I had to make do with the soup of the Day (tomato) with a side salad. If I was to come again I might bring a picnic. The Tea and Coffee served was very nice though.

We had to eat fairly quickly as the Bird Display was about to start, I finished before my parents so I left early to get to a good place to sit. I was a bit too late for that so this limited the number of photographs I could take.

After a few rules and do’s and don’ts from the keepers they released the first bird, the Barn Owl:
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It was nice to see the bird fly around and fly from post to post.

The next bird was the Striated Caracara – all of my shots either had someone’s head or body part in the way or I ended up with what is known as a “butt-shot” :(

The next bird was really the star of the show for me, the Crested Caracara:
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This bird liked to tackle (fake) snakes and (fake) scorpions and bring it back to the keeper:
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Although it spent most of its time on the floor, it did fly around a bit too, here it is perched on one of the poles:
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The final bird was quite young a Red Legged Seriema:
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The keepers weren’t sure how she would behave as she is still learning, but after a little bit of delay she came out performed her piece and then went back on cue too (a first from what I can gather).

We had some time before the next display (feeding of the wolves) so we went around the park some more. Here are some of the photographs.

White Stork:
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Meerkat on back (this reminds me of our dogs who sleep on their backs too):
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Meerkat portrait head shot:
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Sulcata Tortoise eating the grass – who needs a lawnmower:
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So after a bit of delay (waiting for the schools kids to arrive) we were shown the Hudson Bay Wolves being fed (their meat was thrown into their large enclosure). The leader of the pack is unusually a female wolf and she has to eat first but will let the other wolves eat food too. Here are three of the best photographs I took (taking into account the problem with the enclosure)

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Almost straight after the feeding of the wolves was the Reptile handling session (a great hit with the kids). Sometimes they also bring out the tarantula but the keepers pointed out that lots of legs and lots of small hands and fingers do not agree with each other and the spider would certainly loose a limb or two.

Unlike the flying display I managed to get a front-row seat this time (which made little difference here). They first brought out a male and female Dumeril Boa Snakes (small ones) and one each one was taken around the right and left sides of the audience. I was very surprised by how the snake felt – its’ not what you think.

After the snake I managed to stroke the bearded dragon:
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He was very happy with all of the attention. Apparently he had been abandoned by his original owner, it was found by the side of a road and brought into Woodside where it is now a resident. I would have given him a home if he needed one.

I am still amazed by people who have a pet and then for some reason or another they abandon them, our pets are part of the family. The trouble is people underestimate the responsibilities and costs involved in owning a pet.

After the reptile handling session we decided to venture into the heated Tropical House where a number of species live (some have the roam of the entire building).

Towards the rear of the building was a pool with lots of fish, you could tell it was warm as there was a log in the middle covered by Terrapins, here is a close-up of one of them:
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There were many birds flying around, the most common were the Java Sparrows:
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Some of the animals were inside special cages or rooms such as bats and this one of a Brown Rat:
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Finally the building also has rooms with ouside areas for the various Lemurs as well as others such as the Common Marmoset, this isn’a great shot as the glass between the Marmoset and I was very dirty:
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The final part of this building had a Butterfly room, I managed to get a few nice shots of various butterflies:
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Unfortunately for me I saw the butterfly area in Skegness which was almost 3 times larger than this room so although there were a few butterflies it couldn’t compare.

My final shot of the day was one of the Asian Short Clawed Otters, their enclosure prohibits any better shots than this:
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I (and my parents) had a great day at Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park; I can certainly recommend a visit. I would try and pick a day when they haven’t got huge number of school kids present though :)

Lincoln Swans – May 2015

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Over the last few years I have documented and photographed a number of Swans that inhabit the Lincoln Urban areas and apart from the Precarious swan from 2014 they seem to nest in the same areas every year. This year we have two Mute Swan nests that are fairly close to public footpaths, one of these is located near the university where a number of the students seem to have an interest in the swan, going so far as naming the Swan and posting some do’s and font’s about what to feed the swan (and when they are born) the cygnets too. The second nest is a bit further along the bank in the St. Marks’ area where we usually has a pair of swan take up residence; although we did not have any last year for some reason or another.

University Swan
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I started to take pictures of the swan with the 50mm f1.8 lens attached to the camera as you could get quite close; that said, I always like to keep a reasonable distance between myself and any wildlife as this ensures that we are both safe – the last thing I want to do is worry any wildlife. The Mute Swan on the nest kept a watchful eye on me; there was no sign of they swan’s mate.

As I was taking pictures a pair of Mallard ducks jumped out of the water as they were interested in some of the food not far form the swan; despite the signs stating that bread should not be fed to the swan there was a reasonable amount in front of her. She took particular note of them and at one point shooed them off:
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I decided to switch to the 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR lens.

Both the Male and Female Mallard ducks in these pictures got quite close to me allowing me to take a nice picture or two:
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Once the ducks had walked some way off form the swan, she went back to sleep on the nest:
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I couldn’t see any sign of the eggs or cygnets yet but from the people I have spoken to we are probably only a few days away, maybe a week. I’ll have to keep any eye out for them.

St. Marks Swan
After not seeing any more action I decided to walk down the river bank towards St.Marks where I have seen a swan on a nest too. This one has her mate swimming around near by. Like the previous one she was also on her nest and was spending a great deal of time preening herself:
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This swan was the female (called the Pen)and she was also checking the nest to make sure that it was well maintained:
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As I said earlier the male swan (Cob) was not far off:
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After a few minutes he came ashore allowing the Pen to check the eggs and make sure they were suitably covered:
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Here we can see seven eggs:
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Two of the eggs seemed to get more coverage than the other 5:
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After the Pen had finished covering the eggs the Cob moved nearer to keep an watchful eye out for any predators:
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Here is the final photo just showing the eggs
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Like the swan further up the bank, I will have to keep an eye out for any sign of hatching. The eggs typically take around 36 days incubation before the hatch so we are not too far away, this nest has had a swan for at least two weeks that I’m aware of.

Skegness Seal Sanctuary – May 2015

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On Monday 11th May both my parents and I went to Skegness for a day out as we haven’t been to Skegness for some time; it’s just over an hour’s drive from Lincoln. After visiting the craft shop for my mum to get some essential crafting supplies we went to our favourite chippy for fish, chips and mushy peas – I don’t have this very often as this is totally “off-plan” as far as my diet is concerned.

After replenishing the car park meter we picked up our cameras (well my Mum and I did) and walked the short distance to the Skegness Natureland Seal Sanctuary. Although their number one function is to rescue any seals that would die in the wild (typically young seals) they also have a few animals that are permanent residents too; they range from small animals like spiders and Guinea Pigs to larger ones like seals and Alpacas.

Most of the proceeds for the tickets to Natureland as well as their merchandise goes to the up-keep of the seals; each one on average costs £2000 to nurse back to health and feed before they are released bak into the wild.

So in return for helping in a small way by visiting, I like to take a few pictures of the animals that are there.

As soon as you leave the entrance you will notice two things; on the right is the large pool for the seals that cannot leave the sanctuary for one reason or another, these are the some of the permanent residents of Natureland. The other is in front and slightly to the right, here we have a small Meerkat colony:
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I don’t know what it is about Meerkats but they are adorable animals:
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They are also very inquisitive:
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Not long after taking a few photos of the Meerkats we came to the smaller seal pool, this is where the healthier seals stay whilst they build up their strength and body fat needed to survive in the wild. Once they have reached their natural body weight they are released into the wild. Natureland have a news section that details the releases as they happen.
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Being young seals they are naturally cute like neatly all young animals:
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There are also a few Jackass Penguins there too:
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There are many other “normal” animals too from Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Goats, Chickens, Pigeons and Tortoises:
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There are also more unusual animals like Alpacas too:
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Natureland also has a 3 section “Floral Palace” where they keep rare flowers that need a hot humid environment in the first part, birds from hot climates in the last part and in the middle one many species of Butterflies and Moths. These were all taken with a 70-300 zoom lens with in-lens stabilisation technology called “VR” which stands for “Vibration Reduction”, whilst not as sophisticated as the 5-axis IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) it is adequate most of the time.

Some of the images are not as sharp as I would like and I had to move to a higher shutter speed and ISO to get them:
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However for a first outing of camera and lens not bad:
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This one is my favourite:
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One of the hot-houses also had small non-local birds in there such as this Quail:
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Once we left the last section of the Floral Palace you come out near the restaurant/cafe and a large fish pool. There were 3 Mallard ducks in this area that seemed to had claimed it for themselves, here is a comical shot with one of them mid-step on his way back to the pool:
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We all had a great day at Natureland and I recommend a visit if you are in Skegness, they are only a few minutes walk from the large car-park near the sea front:
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