God gave us the gift of life;
It is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well
I was off on Friday cos I’m adding another year to my age. I never take birthdays for granted and I intend to celebrate them in style. Babe showered me with a card, knitted toys, a pot of blazing Bromeliad, a very sexy lingerie set from M&S (ooh-la-la) and a rain-cheque dinner at a restaurant of my choice. Thanks darling. Mwah. I’d a few outings planned but the weather wasn’t on my side.
More cold, wintry weather with snow, hail and frost was on the card as unseasonable cold snap continued on. Britain faced another week of Siberian weather. Earlier during the week, blizzard conditions were reported on the M40 with numerous rush-hour accidents. Strong winds added to drivers’ problems and traffic gridlocks hit parts of Coventry and Warwickshire. We continued to shiver in the bitter cold, as winter hadn’t relinquished its control. But hey, nothing’s going to dampen my day!!!
We wrapped up warm like the Michelin man and headed for Bradgate Park in the pouring rain. Since it was a working day, the main car-park was virtually empty. It was very strange to be walking in the park when it was always buzzing during the weekends. I guess the cold and the wet was also the main factor. I was excited to see drifts of snowdrops at the entrance. We didn’t walk along River Lin because it was water-logged. We kept on walking and walking and walking in the rain. Where had the natives gone???
We were at the rocky outcrops when we spotted a herd of Fallow deer feeding on the fields. As we crept closer, we spotted a pair of Red Deer watching us, well-camouflaged among the bracken. We quickly changed our direction and walked towards a tree enclosure, just in case they decided to check us out. Just look at those antlers. After rattling hundreds of shots, we left them in peace. We looked around to find the herd that we spotted earlier were sheltering from the rain under a huge oak tree. I guess they don’t like getting wet.
We decided to head back to the car when we saw a thick band of rainclouds heading slowly towards us. The cries of the Green Woodpecker were echoing around us and we tried to track them down. But we changed our minds when we spotted a herd of Red Deer walking down-hill. We crept closer and had a wonderful time observing their behaviour. A few were grazing, a few were practicing clashing their antlers and then one suddenly stood on his hind legs and started feeding on the leaves. It was hilarious to see such a huge beast trying to balance on 2 feet. The tender leaves were worth it.
We continued walking and tried to find the wood-pecker again. Babe spotted it on a tree before it flew off with its cries trailing behind him. We spotted a flock of birds feeding on the alder trees and saw Siskins, Goldfinches and Tits among them. As we were trying to get some photographs, this cute Tree-creeper flew in and started scrambling up the tree. All you could hear were our cameras rattling away. The rain began to fall accompanied by howling wind. It was time to leave.
Saturday was a bit calmer. The sun was doing her best to take the chill of the air but the wind was thumbing his nose at her. That didn’t stop us checking out a new playground. We were off to the Tropical Birdland Centre in Desford about 40 minutes from our casa. It was very cloudy on the drive up and we spotted a Buzzard on the ground, feeding on the worms at the roundabout for Hinckley. That made the journey a bit more bearable. When we arrived at the centre, all we could hear were the loud sqwakings. And it got better as we walked in when the first thing we saw was a colourful free flying Macaw.
Even before we paid our £6.50 each entrance fee, we were greeted by this pair of Snowy Owl. All I could think was Harry Potter and I bet thousands of children (and adults) were on the same wavelength. Unfortunately, they were in cages and we also spotted a few dead baby chicks lying on the floor. A bit gruesome but that were their food-source. After paying the fee, we also bought a very expensive bag of peanuts. We must remember the next visit, we will bring our own peanuts. And then the adventure began.
It was very surreal to be in the middle of the UK in the freezing weather and be surrounded by colourful tropical birds. Some were in cages and some were free flying all over the place, harassing the visitors for food. According to the keepers, 80% of the birds were pet parrots where the owners were not able to look after them and some were even problematic parrots (?). But at least they found a proper home. And a few were very polite too. Like saying hello when you get close to the cage. Aah… you just have to give them a peanut or two.
We saw this pair of Kookabura in a huge cage looking very majestic. Unfortunately they don’t eat nuts. There were coloured coded buttons at the cage which informed visitors what the birds eat. I couldn’t help singing to these gorgeous birds this nursery rhyme. I wonder whether they had heard it before.
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
What a life you lead
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry, merry little bird is he
Sing, Kookaburra! Sing, Kookabura!
Sing your song for me
We walked past the the Chick room where we able to view through large windows the hatching and hand rearing rooms. There were a few empty incubators in the room. Depending on the seasons, you can watch chicks hatching from the egg, then hand fed and nurtured until weaning. Unfortunately, it was still winter.
Babe was walking quite close to this cage when suddenly one by one started flying and begging to be fed. It was hilarious. You were literally playing catching-up trying to feed them through the cages. I think they were African grey parrots. Their sociability and intelligence made them excellent pets.
There was also a walk-in aviary where you can get very close and personal with some really beautiful birds which unfortunately some which we can’t identify. The usual colourful Mandarin ducks and Red-breasted geese were waddling about in the pond. Gorgeous, tiny macaws were flying from one end of the cage to another. An unidentified Plover was checking us out while we were busy photographing this very handsome Lady Amherst Pheasant. Not too many were around these days as they tend to hybridise with Golden Pheasants.
From here we walked towards the emu enclosure where this curious pair kept on poking their heads towards us. A native to Australia, these soft-feathered, brown flightless birds were huge with eyes protected by nictitating membranes. They were inquisitive animals, and were known to approach humans if they see movement of a limb or a piece of clothing. And we nearly jumped when they emitted an echoing thumping sound by manipulating an inflatable neck sac.
At the end of the park was a 6 acre woodland where you can go for nature walks. It would be a lovely walk through the woods because I could see drifts of snowdrops and wild garlic. Robins, chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits were also having a free run in the park. We didn’t check the woodlands because we wanted to see the rest of the birds. We might wander off when we come again. The bird-park was also provided a breeding programme for endangered species. We were very fortunate to see these rare Kia from New Zealand.
At the end of the park and the piece de resistance, was the compound or ‘play area’ where you can play with the birds. An adorable white parrot, named Stanley, came gambolling towards me. I gave him a peanut when he put his beak around my finger and wouldn’t let go. Err…ouch. Babe gently prised him off me. When we asked the keeper what was going on. She told us that he loved to be swung by his beak and he thought that I knew that he wanted to play.
I started feeding this gorgeous parrot when he started climbing all over me. And then he started grooming me. It was incredible to trust them. While I was busy playing with this cutie, I wasn’t aware of what was happening above my head. Thank goodness, I’m wearing a hat. I wouldn’t mind these smaller birds but not the bigger ones.
I’d a good laugh when Stanley started climbing up Babe’s walking stick and then climbing up to him. He wasn’t begging for food. He just wanted to play and said hello. It was so adorable. They really melt our hearts.
The huge Macaws freaked me out a bit. They were a noisy bunch. Check out those beaks, talons and eyes. They looked intimidating especially when you see them opening a walnut as easily as we would a bottle of water. Quite menacing but utterly gentle when taking treats. I have my gloves on when I’m feeding them. Still a bit wary of them.
Opening in 1984, there were 250 birds comprising of over 50 different species living in Tropical Birdland. These birds make wonderful pets but they require a special commitment by their owners to provide frequent one-on-one interaction and supervised time out of their cages. They must be kept entertained and busy with people and toys or they may become stressed and develop self-destructive behaviours. From what I saw, they really enjoyed to be fussed over. We will definitely come again.
On Sunday, we checked out the Edible Garden Show at the Stoneleigh as I’d won a pair of tickets to the event. Rain, hail, snow and frost accompanied us through the Warwickshire countryside. The atrocious weather failed to dampen the visitors as we joined the thousands all huddled in the two indoor exhibition halls. It was packed with visitors and 170 exhibitors showcasing innovative equipments and produce all linked to the “Good Life” theme. The first thing we did was followed our noses and checked out the eating area which was so crowded that we gave it a miss. I was really keen on tasting the ice cream made from water buffalo milk.
Then we wandered around the small-holders’ marquee. A huge enclosure with different breed of pigs greeted us. Among them was a sow and her very chill-out piglets. Junior members of the British Pig Association took part in Pig Olympics, a popular live event at the livestock demonstration ring. This adorable Kune pig was squealing with delight towards me after he’d completed his event. I guess he knew we were Muslims and wouldn’t have him for our dinner :-).
There was an enclosure of 10 very cute kid goats included a set of quads that were recently born. I’m gutted that we missed their bottle feeding sessions. That should have been hilarious and fun. I enjoyed getting close and personal to these handsome guys. He was very friendly and enjoyed having his ear rubbed.
We also got the chance to meet the various breeds of poultry on display. It proved very popular because it was standing room only when the premier backyard poultry vet, Victoria Roberts, gave tips on care and handling to those who were interested in furthering their knowledge of keeping poultry. Visitors could also purchase the chicks, feed and housing materials if they want a slice of the “Good Life”.
Finally we wandered around the huge exhibition halls. A few caught my attention like the lady selling grow your-own-snails kit for eating and for snail racing and a young guy with miniature chickens as pets. I was also interested in the raised beds. There were also lots of freebies. I was given a huge tray of rockets and a mini bottle of Encover laundry detergent. We couldn’t get close to the Cookery Theatre or the Potting Shed because they were so packed. There were plenty of stalls bursting with innovative products. I’m glad we were here because next year the show will be putting down new roots at London’s Alexandra Palace.
Sunday was St. Patrick’s Day. A pity that the Irish appeared to have forgotten how to play rugby as they got stuffed by the Italians. Italy defeated Ireland 22-15 on Saturday to record their first win over the Irish in the Six Nations championship on the final day of the 2013 tournament. Since everyone's a little bit Irish on St Patrick's Day, and Babe’s half-Irish, I tried a few Irish recipes. Sans the Guinness, we’d potato cakes with Irish stew and instead of Irish apple tart, a slice of pineapple upside down cake for dinner and a toast to all things green. Unfortunately, it was still snowing buckets.
For each petal on the shamrock.
This brings a wish your way
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.
I’d a wonderful weekend celebrating another year older. Thank you darling for sharing it with me and making it come true. And to top off the week was when I saw our 30th visitor to the garden, a Gold-crest. Woop…woop. Isn’t that incredible and I’m truly blessed.
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”