Category Archives: Holiday events

Woodside Wildlife Park

This was my third visit to Woodside Wildlife Park although every time I come it has a slight name change, last time it was Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park and the first time (admittedly a few years ago it was simply Woodside Falconry Park. The change in name is simply to detail that it now hosts a very diverse selection of animals. I went there on the 10th May with my parents as a Birthday trip out doing something that I quite enjoy which is (taking pictures of animals).

The park opens at 10:00 and closes at 17:00 and it has several events on throughout the day, on the day we went we had the following itinerary:

  • 11:00 Wolf Feeding
  • 12:00 Amazing Animal Show
  • 13:00 Big Cat Feeding
  • 13:30 Meet the Reptiles
  • 15:00 Bird Show
  • 16:00 Raccoon Feeding

In addition to the activities on during the day we went around the park a few times and took photographs of the other animals that are not necessarily park of any “activity”.

Wolf Feeding
Woodside has 4 magnificent Hudson Bay White Wolves called Saska, Nuna, Toba and Mr. Hudson and their names come from the regions of Canada they originate from. The wolves knew feeding time was near as we arrived at their enclosure. Shortly before feeding they were let out of their sleeping pen. It was very interesting watching them eat the fresh meat as it was thrown over the enclosure’s fence; sometimes the wolf would catch the meat in their jaws as the meat was thrown over. From a photographic view (a common theme at Woodside unfortunately) was that between the enclosure fence and the fence nest to the path where you stand there is a gap of a few feet; this means that you cannot throw the enclosure fence out of focus. Therefore all of my wolf shots have fence in them like the photo below which is a shame as they are amazing animals to observe:

Amazing Animal Show
The show was in the Barn towards the rear of the park and the theme was that each animal had one amazing characteristic that was showcased by the animals. These photos were taken at high ISOs in a very dimly lit barn.

There was a hand reared fox (so could not be released into the wild):

Spotted Genet:

Kinkajou:

We even had many rats walk along a suspending rope from one end of the barn to the other, here is one of them:

Big Cat Feeding
Although Woodside have Siberian Lynx, Geoffrey’s Cats and a Bengal Tiger called Julia , the only big cat I saw them feed was the Tiger. There used to be two but the other one (Tango) passed away late last year. It was difficult to get a reasonable photo of the Tiger:

Meet the Reptiles
For this activity, they bring a number of reptiles out to show you that you can either touch in the case of the Bearded Dragon or Blue Tongued Skink or hold such as the Dumeril Boa Snakes. Here is a picture of my Mum holding one of the snakes:

Bird Show
This show featured several birds of which some had a trick or two to perform. It was quite amusing watching the birds that for the most part were well behaved. I managed to get a few nice shots of them during their respective routines. I have noted the different types of birds if I know what they are.

Crested Caracara:

Short Eared Owl:

White Stork:

Red Legged Seriema:

Blue and Gold Macaws

Jackdaw gate-crashing the bird show:

Other animals in the park
Situated throughout the Park are other animals in their various enclosures or areas, here are some of them.

Not far from the entrance to the Park we have a colony of Meerkats (all wildlife parks seem to have them these days), there are very fun to watch and were clearly popular with the visitors to the park. There were even a few young pups running around:

Sulcata Tortoise (there were two these visible):

Geoffrey’s Marmosets (they were quite active running around their cage and a few young Marmosets were visible:

Canada Geese Goslings duking it out:

Bengalese Eagle Owl:

Asian Short Clawed Otters:

I’m not 100% sure about this bird, it seems to be a cross between a Blackbird and an American Robin:

Turtle Dove:

White Stork:

As you can see from my photos I had a nice day out a real treat for my birthday. I need to go back any maybe try out some of their experience days.

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Warwick Castle

Last week my father, sister, brother in law, nephew and his friend Jamie went to Warwick Castle. As we all (except my father and Jamie) have a Merlin pass it’s free to enter and we also get 20% off food and gifts. I have never been to Warwick Castle before so was not sure what to expect.

My father and I were to meet up at the car park just before 10:00 as he others would meet us there. The entrance wasn’t the easiest place to find as both the TomTom sat-nav and local signs both didn’t help at all. It took a lot of driving around until purely by chance we found what looked like an entrance, a quick call to my sister confirmed that this was the entrance and after what (for me) a frustrating journey we went into the castle. Although I’m used to it in the US, more and more places are now performing bag searches and Warwick Castle is no exception.

As we were going out of season we knew the Jousting would not be on but there was still plenty to see and do, just before you go into the main castle was a guy showing some long bow archery, he was very entertaining.

He also managed to not only pick on my nephrew for a “demonstartion” but also my father who from now on will be known as Sir Guy of Gisbourne.

After a short walk around the castle we visit the Birds of Prey enclosure where I got some nice shots (all taken with the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens). Here are the birds:

White-Tailed Sea Eagle:

Grey Eagle Buzzard:

African Fish Eagle:

Bald Eagle:

Stellar’s Sea Eagle:

(Younger) Bald Eagle:

There was also an Egyptian Vulture and a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl but due to crowding at their enclosures from other people I couldn’t get a good shot, the song side lighting (evident on my other pictures) didn’t help either.

After looking at the birds we sat down to watch the Trebuchet in action and unfortunately that wasn’t working either as it was in the midst of being refurbished. However, the guy who was shooting the long bow earlier gave a talk about the device and other medieval machines of war which was quite interesting:

For me the highlights of the day were the two birds of prey flying demonstrations. And unlike other places I have been each one showcased different birds. Also, some of my shots are static I pushed the OM-D E-M1 markII to the limit trying to get the birds in flight. Although there is definitely room for improvement, my overall keeper rate has increased. This coupled with the hand-holding ability of the camera & lens combo makes getting the shot much more fun and doesn’t give you arm-ache like mother camera/lens combo’s I have used in the past.

Grey Eagle Buzzard:

Stellar’s Sea Eagle:

Bald Eagle:

Verreaux’s Eagle Owl:

I’m embarrassed to say but I’m not sure what this bird is:

There were many more birds that flew on the day, but these are my favourite (and best shots).

Along with the birds in flight we had many others around including this Pea Cock who was very vocal:

Towards the end of the day as we sat on the almost dry grass these two ducks came to visit us:

My final shot of the day is of my nephew Jack, he’s a much better subject if he’s not aware of you taking his picture:

I had a great day at Warwick castle and I can recommend it for a visit, it would be nice to see the Jousting and Trebuchet in action too – maybe another time.

Portland Bill in March

In early March I ventured down to Winchester to take part in the free OLYMPUS Experience Day at Marwell Zoo, you can read more about that here. I used to live in Winchester before I moved up to Lincoln and when living there the company I used to work for paid for me to go to college on a day release course. This was an ONC level Electrical and Electronics Engineering course – a requirement for the work I was doing at the time. The ONC course was run by Eastleigh College and whilst there I made a good friend – Gary, although at first I wasn’t too keen on him. We have been friends ever since although I don’t see him as much as I would like but there are almost 200 miles between us.

Gary sitting down taking pictures:

As I was in the area I contacted Gary and we decided to do a photo-shoot at Portland Bill, a location that Gary has been to before but is a new one for me. It took almost 2 hours to get there but was well worth it and I was surprised how busy it was. There were also several photographers there trying to get some good shots as well as the smartphone snappers.

Whilst Gary’s previous visits were when the sea was calm it wasn’t the day we went; the tide was coming in and you got covered in sea spray if you ventured to close the shore line. Needless to say, when I got back to my hotel I gave my gear a very good clean.

Some examples of the sea’s conditions:

We then went to the the local cafe “The Lobster Pot” where we both had tea, Gary has a sandwich and I had the largest scone I have ever seen, if I knew it was so big I might have chosen something else:
Don’t get me wrong it was very nice but quite filling too.

After our warming up at the cafe we went back to take some more pictures. As this was Portland Bill I tried another shot of the Lighthouse:

As the day progressed we (after a cheeky pint at the local pub) went on to try to some long exposure photography, this requires a tripod (which I did have with me) and an ND filter which I don’t have (at the moment). Fortunately, Gary had a spare filter which he lent me and I attached this to my 12-40mm PRO lens on my OM-D E-M1 Mark-II. Gary used his other filter on his 12-100mm PRO lens on his OM-D E-M1 Mark-II. This was my first experience with this kind of photography and after many attempts I have two photos that I quite like:

After we finished taking these we had another cup of tea at “The Lobster Pot” along with a small meal. At about the same time the weather started to turn and and chance of good light was gone so we decided to call it a day.

I had a great time out with Gary – thank you for suggesting Portland Bill and for driving us both there.

Disney Animal Kingdom – April 2016

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This is the third and final blog post about my trip to Orlando, you can read about Busch Gardens here and SeaWorld here. During our stay in Orlando we visited three of the Disney parks too: Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Whilst they all had great attractions there was one unifying factor, they were very busy all of the time. The Hollywood studios were a bit disappointing this year, there were a few rides closed and the fast pass selections were poor as well. However Epcot and Animal Kingdom, the subject of this post were very good.

One other common thing with other parks like Epcot and Animal Kingdom is their sheer size, it takes a lot of time to see everything; Epcot really needs 2 days to do it justice.

Onto the pictures:
There were a lot of birds around like this Metallic Starling, that red eye follows you were ever you go:
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Green Winged Dove:
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There were a lot of apes and chimpanzees around too, like the one at the top of this post. They also like to play with each other, there are two of them here:
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One of the most impressive (and dangerous) animals are the Hippopotamuses (yes that it the correct term for the plural of Hippopotamus). you get to see them swimming around and under water but this picture shows what you can see above water which isn’t much:
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Finally one of most endangered species around tofay a rhino:
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SeaWorld – April 2016

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This is the second of my blog posts about my trip to Orlando, you can read the previous one about Busch Gardens here.

This post shows some of my favorite pictures from both visits to SeaWorld; I used my DSLR camera on and off throughout the day on our first visit during the first week of our holiday and for the entire morning of the second trip (second week) whilst Louise, Simon and Jack visited Aquatica.

Pictures from the first visit (6th April)
After trying out the Manta ride (similar to what “Air” was in Alton Towers before it was changed into Galactica) a few times we ventured around the park to see an Animal show and tell.

The first was what looked like an Owl but isn’t called a Tawny Frogmouth, an unusual looked bird:
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The second animal was more obvious, a Common Green Iguana, he (she?) liked being the centre of attention:
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During the day we visited the Shark Encounter attraction, the highlight of which is walking through a translucent tunnel being surrounded by sharks. At one point there is a large set of Jaws form a great white shark, a perfect photo opportunity, Jack of course could not resist. Unfortunately I picked far too low a shutter speed so I have played with this a bit in Lightroom (not one of my best shots):
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Like we have black headed gulls in the UK, Florida has a lot of Snowy Egrets around, here is one of them:
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Here is one of my favourite shots of the holiday (already seen on Facebook), it’s Jack looking in awe at the Manta Rays – his favourite animal I think.
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And here he is a few minutes later trying to feed them with small (dead) fishes you can buy, after this we called him “fish-boy” due to the smell he picked up thanks to his tee-shirt getting soaked from that pool:
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Pictures from the second visit (12th April)
On the second day I was on my own for the morning so I managed to get around the park to photograph the animals at my own pace. In addition to going on the Sky Tower I took a lot of photographs and here are my favourites:

At some point of the day I noticed that there were many House Sparrows flying around, they all seemed to be nest building, here is one of them that paused flying allowing me to take this photo:
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A better (closer) photo of a Snowy Egret:
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In addition to the Snowy Egrets, there were also a number of Wood Storks too:
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And like the common sighting (even in the UK) of the sparrow above, there were also grey squirrels running about the area (can’t resist a squirrel picture):
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Like Busch Gardens,there are large numbers of birds in the park like this Hooded Merganser:
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My final picture of the (half) day was of this terrapin:
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Just after mid-day we all met up back at SeaWorld entrance and after a spot of lunch we did some more rides, saw a show or too, did the Sky Tower together and had a great day!

Busch Gardens – April 2016

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Back in April this year I was fortunate enough to go with my Sister, Brother-in-law and Nephew for 2 weeks to Florida. During our stay we visited most of the usual places in Orlando (Disney and Universal as well as SeaWorld), we also went to Busch Gardens twice.

This post shows some of my favorite pictures from our first visit to Busch Gardens, on the second visit I didn’t take the DSLR with me as we wanted to concentrate on the rides; the Cheetah Hunt being our favourite one in the park and possibly the best ride anywhere. That said, Sheikra, also in Busch Gardens is a close second; its like the Oblivion x2 mixed with the Nemesis (both in Alton Towers) all in one. Kudos to both my nephew and sister for both conquering their fears and doing this ride.

My nephew pretending to his arm trapped in a tree trunk, good acting Jack:
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Typically it was hot both days of our visit, thankfully it wasn’t humid at all. Nevertheless, the animals are quite laid back and like all cats, this Lion was no exception:
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Every Zoo or animal sanctuary has Meerkats it seems and Busch Gardens is no exception. They are cute and the red-sand they were playing is reflected nicely on their coats:
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There were a lot of birds at Busch Gardens and whilst most were in captivity of some kind, there were the usual sighting of black-headed gulls everyewhere:
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This Parakeet was one of the many varieties of captive bird:
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As well as Lions and Cheetahs, there were also a large colony of Bengal Tigers there too:
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Towards the front of the park, there is a large pool full of Alligators and Terrapins and they seem to cohabit quite peacefully, I was surprised by this. Both species did like to sunbathe in the warm heat though:
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My final image is one of the many common lizards that are almost everywhere you go in Florida, less common in the UK. This photo was taken whilst waiting fit the Cheetahs to come closer to me in their run, it was just sunbathing on the rock next to me:
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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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