Sunday, 10 December 2017

Al-Fatehah

Inna-lillahi-wa-inna-ilayhi-rajioon

إِنَّا للهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ‎

Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return

My brother-in-law left us suddenly at  Puchong General Hospital at the age of 56.

He was hospitalised for a blood clot.

He will be dearly missed.

May Allah has mercy on him and placed him in Jannah al-Firdaus.

Al-Fatehah

1:1 بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the merciful and compassionate

1:2 الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds

1:3 الرَّحْمـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

The merciful and compassionate

1:4 مَـالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

Ruler of the day of judgment

1:5 إِيَّاك نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

[It is thee] we serve and [it is thee] we implore for help

1:6 اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ

Guide us to (or show us) the path of the straight (i.e., righteous)

1:7 صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ

Path of those whom you favour, not those who anger you and not those who have gone astray

Khamaruddin Adnan

(10 August 1961-31st August 2017))

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going--
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

Like dew drops on a lotus leave

I vanished.


(Kozan Ichikyo)

China in our hands

Groby Pools - August

20 years.  Where had the time gone? A 20th year of marriage was a big milestone, two whole decades together. It was a testament of our love and devotion to each other. It hadn’t been a smooth journey all the way. We went through some really tough patches but we survived and it  made our love and commitment stronger. We’d so many wonderful moments together which made us appreciated each other even more. I could be very difficult to live with some of the time and I’m so blessed with Babe’s patience and understanding. Thank you darling from the very bottom of my heart for being mine.

Happy Anniversary to us

Happy Anniversary to us

Happy 20th Anniversary to us

May Allah bless our union and may it last until our last breath.

Amin.

China was the traditional gift for a 20th wedding anniversary. It symbolized the beautiful, elegant and delicate aspect of dedication and love over the past 20 years. We joked that we might just share a china toilet bowl but fortunately it was beyond our means. The modern gift for the 20th anniversary was platinum.  To commemorate the momentous event, I received a pair of Fortuna Creole earrings with Swarovski crystals and for Babe a Uniden Scanner UBC 125 XLT. I took the rest of the week off to celebrate as we made a few plans.

Shots from Home - July

We went into the city centre to have lunch at my favourite Noodle Bar. It was very busy but we managed to find a seat. I chose my usual Fried udon with the seafood special and Chinese vegetables while Babe had the egg fried rice with chicken and vegetables. I washed it down with a pot of steaming Chinese tea and Babe had a glass of coke. I really enjoyed my meal but not Babe. Never mind, we’ll try a different restaurant next time. We browsed a few shops and I found it hilarious that I came home empty handed. That never happened beforeSmile I guess I was just overwhelmed and excited.

‘A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person’

~Mignon McLaughlin~

Back at the casa, we  checked out the garden which was teeming with birds. The House sparrows were chattering away in the hedges. A blackbird was foraging in the raise bed while a Robin was keeping an eye on things. Great and Blue Tits with the Starlings, Pigeons and Collared doves were taking turns on the feeder. A pair of Goldfinches were feeding on the nyjer seeds.  Opposite us was an old elderflower tree and we saw an exciteable flock of Long-tailed tits gathered, flitting between the branches, chasing one another, tumbling and somersaulting. They were gossiping gregariously, black-white-grey-pink, tails longer than their bodies and we could hear their soft chut, chut contact calls. They flew straight to the bird-feeder and joined the party. I was so chuffed to see all of them.

Shots from Home - July

“Oh pretty bird with a hint of pink

Of shy modesty to make you think

Took me a while to recognise it

The sissing sound of the long-tailed tit

~Patricia @blog.gardenlifedirect.co.uk~

Shots from Home - July

Since, it was such a nice, balmy evening, we decided to have a barbecue, our first for this year. We brought down our George Foreman Electric Barbecue Grill which was stored in our spare bedroom. While Babe was in charge of barbecuing the burgers, I made re-heated the baked ratatouille which I made earlier to accompany the meal. This recipe was a keeper.

Yann and Pam's 'recharge' ratatouille recipe

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 x 500g carton Italian passata with garlic and herbs
  • 6 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 1/2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large courgettes, sliced
  • 2 medium aubergines, sliced
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) Parmesan, or vegetarian hard cheese, grated
  • handful basil leaves (optional)
    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm baking dish with some oil. Pour in the passata.
    2. Arrange tomato, onion, courgette and aubergine slices on top of passata, standing up on their sides, in straight lines. Scatter half of the Parmesan over the top, allowing some to fall between the vegetables.
    3. Cover with foil and bake for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the foil. Brush the tops of the veg with the oil, season with black pepper and sprinkle remaining Parmesan.
    4. Return to the oven for 30 minutes until the veg is cooked through. Scatter over the basil, if using, and serve.Shots from Home - July

    The highlight of our anniversary was a trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park. This was our third trip to this park and I was so looking forward to the adventure. We left the casa at 9.15 am on a bright, sunny day with the mercury reaching 15.9C. We’d to queue to get in but were lucky enough to get a parking space very close to the entrance. It was the end of the school holidays and families were taking their children to take advantage of the lovely weather. The queue to purchase the tickets was so long that I took the opportunity to use the ladies and then joined Babe in the line.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    As usual we were greeted by the cheeky meerkats and playful yellow mongoose in their manor. Their enclosure had been purposely built to replicate the harsh South African desert landscape with heated outdoor rocks, deep sand for digging, burrows and termite mounds. Meerkats lived in large family groups called clans, mobs or gangs. A ‘look-out’ or sentry was standing out in the open on its hind legs keeping an eye out for danger while the rest were sunbathing, playing, grooming and foraging. If the lookout spotted a predator, it gave a warning bark and the rest will quickly escaped into the underground burrow.Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    They shared their burrows with the yellow mongoose. Don’t take their cheeky faces for granted because mongoose were known for being ‘snake-killers’ and in their native Kalahari Desert would even take a full grown cobra. They utilised their thick bushy tails and communicated by growling, barking and purring. These slender ferret-like carnivores were quick on their feet  and their natural foraging behaviour were encouraged by hiding insects and food in substrates and log piles.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    We headed straight to Lion Country where the pride of lions were happily roaming in their nine acre reserve with a lake, waterfall, rocks and grassland. This was the largest non-drive through lion reserve in the country. The lions were rehomed from Oradea Zoological Garden in Romania and in 2010, Lion Rescue was the largest big cat rescue in Europe. Seven years on, there were 8 majestic lions here. They were Simba, Maria, Carla, Crystal, Julie, Allis, Adel and Ares and were split into three prides. They’d lots of space but seemed to be sleeping and lazing around a lot.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    We walked along the 700m long path that wound around the 3 enclosures which gave us uninhibited eye-level view of the lions. The bridge spanning the lake gave the visitors panoramic views of all three enclosures. Elevated areas also allowed the cats a panoramic view of the surroundings outside of their enclosures and other exhibits. These lions were non-breeding as they’d no records and may all be inbred. Once they’d lived out their natural lives, a breeding group of African lions will be brought in as part of the breeding programme of the EAZA felid TAG.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    In the jungle, the mighty jungle
    The lion sleeps tonight

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August
    In the jungle, the quiet jungle
    The lion sleeps tonight

    ~The Lion Sleeps Tonight~

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Lion Country was part of the newly-opened Into Africa section, which was home to Hodari and Dayo, two critically endangered Eastern Black Rhino. The pair arrived from their birth place of Berlin Zoo in October 2016 and was the raison d’etre we were here. They were both born in October 2014, were half brother as they shared the same father, Jasper, but different mother, respectively Kumi and Maburi. Normally solitary animals, it was lovely to see the bro-mance. We saw them munching  together and seemed to have built a relationship of mutual respect despite it being unusual for males to live on the same reserve. Just in case one of them wanted to be alone, the rhino reserve  were designed with three separate areas for them to move into. There was a large hut at the back as well as several mud wallows and piles of wood to keep them entertained.Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    The Black Rhino or hook-lipped rhinoceros was a critically endangered species. The population in Africa had declined by 96% from 65000 in 1970 to less than 3000 by 1993 from a devastating period of poaching for their horns which were used to make ornamental crowns, cups and ceremonial daggers as well as for herbal medicine. Year on year poachers took the tally of rhinoceros killed and mutilated for their horns to record levels.  It highlighted the absurdity of the demand for the horns which was made from keratin, the same substance as toe and fingernails. Might as well chew your own!!! Both parties, poachers and purchasers, needed to be educated on the plights of one of the earth’s most iconic creatures.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Into Africa was formerly the African Plains, had larger interlinked reserves to allow more animals to range around. Apart from black rhinos, this new immersive reserve was home to the Common Eland and Kafua Flats Lechwe antelopes, ostrich, giraffe, Addax and the endangered Grevy’s zebra. These animals roamed together in the landscaped reserve characterised by grasses and small or dispersed trees that don’t form a closed canopy, allowing sunlight to reach the ground. In the bright sunshine, it was the closest view over the Savannah that I would find outside Africa.

    A herd of Kafue Flats Lechwe were lingering by the water-holes that were dotted in the compound. These elegant antelope, distinguished by their golden brown colour and white belly had beautiful long elegant legs and huge dark eyes.Only the males had the beautiful swept black horns. They typically lived in swampy floodplains and had hooves that spread wide, allowing them to move easily in swampy conditions. They fed on grass and plant material around the floodplains. Since they spent a lot of time in and around water, they were known to completely submerged themselves in water to avoid predation and search for food. I was hoping to see one doing that but not today.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Nearby, the world’s 2nd largest antelopes were strutting across the plains.The Common Eland found in East and Southern Africa, had large majestic horns with beautiful black and white bandings on their legs. When the walk, they were accompanied by a loud clicking noise from their knee joints clicking and it communicated dominance between individual eland. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear anything. They were crepuscular, eating in the morning and evening, resting in the shade when hot and remained in sunlight when cold.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    I was chuffed to come face to face with possibly one of the most critically endangered animals in the world, the Addax. A recent survey by IUCN had found only 3 remaining in the wild. How sad was that. The were also known as Screwhorn or white antelopes. As suggested by their names, these pale antelopes had long, twisted horns typically 55-80 cm for the females and 70-85 cm for the males. The pale colour of the coat reflected radiant heat in the desert and the length and density of the coat helped in thermoregulation. Due to their slow movements, they were easy target for predators and extremely rare in its native habitat due to unregulated hunting.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    The endangered Grevy’s zebra refused to come out and were taking refuge in their house. Also known as the Imperial Zebra, they were the most threatened species of zebra in the world. There were now less than 3K remaining in the wild. They were also the largest of the wild horse species weighing up to 450 kg. They differed in appearance from the other species of zebra were due to their mule-like characteristics especially their long narrow heads and large ears. They were vocal too, producing numerous sounds and vocalisation.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Also being anti-social was the largest and heaviest bird in the world, resting at the end of the plains. Contrary to popular beliefs, Ostriches don’t burrow their heads in the sand, but when they spotted a predator they couldn’t outrun, they placed their heads and necks close to the ground, From a distance, this looked like their head was buried in the sand as their head and neck were a similar colour  to the sand. I wonder if  it was trying to do the same. Excellent at evading predators, they had acute hearing and eyesight and could sense predators from miles away. They also had been known to run at speeds in excess of 40 mph, making them the fastest animal on two legs.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    As we walked along the path, at the end we met the tallest species of animal in the world. Into Africa was home to Behansin, Jengo, Jambo and Palle. There were 2 subspecies of Giraffe, one endangered Rothschild’s and one hybrid. They were busy feeding on the shrubs that were tied on tall poles which were dotted around the paddock.  I was trying my best to photograph their black/blue tongues which was adapted to avoid getting sunburnt. They also had a special system of vein s in their neck to stop them getting a rush of blood to the head when they bend down.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Next was Leopard Heights. It was home to the most endangered big cat in the world which was also the largest Amur leopard facility in Europe. Drake, Freya and their 2 cubs, Anadyr and Teva born on the 28th June 2015. They lived in their spectacular home, designed as a purpose-built breeding and reintroduction facility to help preserve this precious species. We’d been here several times but only managed to see glimpses of at least one of them. They were so well camouflaged. A constant sight was this Kestrel which had made the 10 metre climbing frame its personal perching stand.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Round the corner was the Land of the Tiger, home to endangered Amur tigers Vladimir, Sayan, Tschuna and Tschuna’s  cub Hope. It was one of the largest tiger exhibits in Europe and was built in 2011 which included woodlands, grasslands, pools and waterfalls. Tschuna had moved to Dudley Zoo after she was rejected by her own mother at birth at Wuppertal Zoo in Germany. She then moved into the Park’s purpose built two-acre facility as part of the breeding programme for endangered Amu tigers in September 2013. She was introduced to Vladmir and the rest was history.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    The Amur triplets, 2 males and a female, was born on 29th March 2015 and were named Hector, Harley and Hope by the public. The birth of these cubs was a worldwide sensation considering only 450 Amur tigers survived in the wild in their native Far East Russia. Hector was moved to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio as part of a global conservation breeding programme. This was the first time an Amur tiger had been moved from the UK to the USA. Harley meanwhile had moved to France to play his part in the breeding programme.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    On the 150 metre walkway, we felt just a heartbeat away from the wild as we observed these tigers sleeping, feeding and even marking their territories in the woodlands and waterfalls. One of them was sleeping on a raised platform which would enabled him to survey his territory and also gave the visitors a chance to get even closer at eye-to-eye level. In the wild, tigers used elevated positions as vantage points to look out across their territory to find prey. The reserve had 2 different  characteristics. One had a waterfall and grassy slopes with trees, while the other had pool for these water loving cats to wallow in and with a woodland hollow.They were built to stimulate and enriched their lives in captivity.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    The South America viva was next. We joined a huge crowd around a round enclosure with a huge oak tree  in the centre and check out what they were looking at. A few Six-Banded Armadillos were scuttling about, stopping here and there, digging with their forefeet and sharp claws, flinging the soil behind them as they dug. It was so cute. They were primarily solitary with very poor eyesight, relying on their keen sense of smell to detect prey and predators. They were extremely efficient diggers, and used burrows to live and search for prey. They curled up in a ball, like a woodlouse, and their bony armour protected them from predators in the South American forests and savannahs. Once they’d their fill, they scuttled back into their burrows.Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    After the excitement, we just realised that the Common Marmosets were hiding up in the oak tree. They’d very expressive facial expressions and vocalisation that conveyed their emotional and social status. They started to swing down from the tree and had a fun time chasing each other. These primates shared a living space with the armadillos. They lived in extended families and only a few members were allowed to breed. Breeding members utilised the non-breeding members to help raise their young which behaviourally supressed their reproduction.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Another part of the viva was an enclosure where visitors got close and personal with the wildlife. The animals run wild here but we have to keep to the path on a one-way route system. There were Capybara, Mara, Azara’s Agouti and Squirrel Monkeys out and about. The Capybaras were fast asleep in their hut but the rest was enjoying the sun. The Patagonian Mara was hopping and racing around with its long ears resembling a hare and a body resembling a small deer. Definitely one of the most unusual looking rodents in the world.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Nearby was the Azara’s Agouti found throughout Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Their diet consisted of nuts, fruits and plant materials and were thought to be the only mammal that could open a brazil nut due to their exceptionally sharp teeth. Unlike other rodents that tend to live in groups, they lived a solitary lifestyle. They were sometimes known as ‘jungle gardeners’, as they often buried nuts and seeds and forgot where they’d hidden them, a bit like the squirrel.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    At the end of the path were the adorable but very naughty squirrel monkeys. The wardens were keeping an eye on us not to get too close because they gave nasty bites. It was quite difficult to avoid them because they were wandering very close to the visitors. In fact, we were asked to move away if they came close. They were extremely sociable new world monkeys found in Central and South America. They were very vocal too. The black and white face gave them their German name, ‘skull monkeys’. Unlike other monkeys, their tails were not used for climbing, but as a kind of balancing pole and a tool.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Then straight to the Project Polar Bear corner where a huge crowd was already gathering. We noticed that the reserve had been extended and a walkaway divided it in half with a connecting  tunnel for the bears to move in between. The ground-breaking reserve was now 10 acres and featured several lakes, the largest one covered an area of 6,500 square metres, containing over 25.5 million gallons of water. It was divided into four sections, featuring landscaped hills, valleys, lakes, pools and waterfalls. The reserve was built to reflect the habitat of the summer Arctic tundra. The polar bear population of South Hudson Bay spent up to 7 months of the year on habitat like this – and not snow and ice! The temperatures in summer could reach up to 26 degrees

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    The Project Polar reserve was home to four polar bears. 19 year old Victor, was the oldest bear who arrived from the Rhenen Zoo in The Netherlands on August 2014. He was retired from the European breeding programme after siring 10 cubs. He was father to nearly all of Europe’s polar bear!!! Wow, what an achievement. He was the first polar bear to live in England for about a decade. He was born in captivity in Rostock, Germany before moving to Rhenen. His three year old grandson, Pixel, arrived at the park on the 25th of March 2015 from a zoo outside Eindhoven in The Netherlands. He was 2 when he arrived and it was perfectly natural because male polar bears left their mothers at that age to roam the wilderness and find other males to hang around.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    When we first saw them together in August 2015, Pixel was a third of the size of Victor and now we couldn’t tell them apart especially with the addition of 2 more polar bears. 4 year old Nissan arrived all the way from Moscow on the 13th of October 2015. He was born at Izevesk Zoo on December 12, 2013 and was part of the European breeding programme (EEP) but currently not needed. Here, like Pixel, would spent the next couple of years growing and building their strength to start a family of their own if they were needed elsewhere. Nissan hit the national headlines when migrants attempted to get into his transportation lorry in Calais. I wonder who was most shockedSmile

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    The latest arrival, was Nobby who arrived from Hellabrunn Zoo, Munich on the 18th of February 2016. Nobby and his twin, Nella, was born on 9 December 2013. Nella took up residence with a female group in Emmen Zoo in The Netherlands. Again, the timing of the move reflected the call of the wild where the young split from their mother after two years and struck out on their own. The 4 bears, unlike brown bears, were not territorial and kept the crowd entertained with their antics. I think the 3 young ones kept a safe distance from Victor, who seemed to be enjoying cooling himself in the lake on his own.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    It was quite difficult to see all of them at once because of the huge space they inhabited. We managed it by divide and conquer. Babe videoed one half of the enclosure while I rattled a thousand shots on the other half. 2 of the younger ones (how I wish they’d name tags) were launching themselves into the 8 metre deep lake, swimming, diving and playing. When they got bored, after a massive shake of the fur, they started rolling on the grass to dry. Also part of their experience was hiding ‘enrichment’ in their enclosures such as fish, scented grass and chillies, hidden in the rocks. We could see them licking the rocks with great gusto. An empty box was on the ground and it became another toy for them. They really entertained the crowds and that was why there were huge crowds here.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Project Polar was YWP and Polar Bears International’s flagship project working towards saving and improving the welfare of these iconic species. Polar bears were native to the Arctic, and they were divided into 19 subpopulations. 3 of which were in decline and were at risk of further decline due to climate change. The word `Arctic’ meant with bear and `Antarctic’ meant without bear. Polar bears were fantastically well adapted to their extremely harsh environment, for example their white coat scattered and reflected light providing excellent camouflage, and it was also very thick for good insulation and waterproof. Not only this but their skin under their white coat was black, excellent for absorbing and retaining heat.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    It was very hard to leave the bachelors with their antics but there were still other animals that needed our attention. As we walked down the path, we were distracted by very noisy calls and yelps. We followed the calls and saw another large group surrounding an enclosure. It was the Giant Otter reserve, home to Mora and Alexandra, 2 female Giant otters who arrived at the Park on the 30th September 2015 from Duisburg Zoo in Germany. The reserve was officially opened by gold medalist Rebecca Adlington on the 22nd March 2016.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Native to South America, these Giant otters were the longest member of the Mustelidae (weasel) family and can grow up to 5.6 feet (gulp!!!). Alex, the older sister, was identified by a white mark down her face and under the chin. She was more food oriented and was first over to the crowd or warden if there was food involved. Mora was more inquisitive and the first to check out anything new. There was only 2 of them but from the noises they made, sounded like there was at least a dozen. Barking and humming, snorting and begging while they tagged each other across the pool, over the hill and into their shelter.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    We found solitude in the dark, cool forest to say hello to the Red river hogs, which were busy rooting among the undergrowth. This corral was home to Bella and Buster, also known as bush pigs. It was quite swampy under the trees just like in the Guinean and Congolian forests of Africa where they originated. We were standing by the wooden fences when one of them came closer sniffing us as they snuffled their way around the deciduous woodland. Sharp tusks, tough hooves and long noses helped them root around in the soil for roots, seeds, nuts, insects, fruits etc.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    We continued on and joined the visitors in Lemur Woods, a walk-through enclosure housing groups of endangered and endearing Magdagascan Brown, Ring-tailed and Black-and-white ruffled lemurs. These lemurs faced such severe threats to their survival that none of them may be left in the wild within 25 years. It was heart-breaking to think that these captives ones in the zoos around the world will be the only place to see them. With their wide-eyed eerie stare and night time activities, Lemurs were spectre-like figures of Madagascar’s forest and soon they might be just that as ‘lemurs’ meant ghost in Latin. After spending the day  leaping along the tree tops, sunbathing on the ground or having a scrap between themselves, only this Black-and-white ruffled lemur came out to meet us.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Through the woodland trail, we kept our eyes for the Rukuni Painted dogs. The reserve was home to alpha male Nafari, sisters Nandi and Thabo and their 7 puppies which were born in November 2016. Thabo ignored the purpose built den and followed her natural instincts to dig a den in the woodland so that she could hide her pups safely underground. The wardens could only watch and wait for the puppies to emerge, The births were particularly significant as there was a sharp decline in numbers in the wild. Well done to YWP.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Also known as Cape Hunting dogs or African Wild dogs, they looked like their Latin name which meant ‘painted dog’. This referred to their irregular, mottled coats which featured patches of red, black, brown, white and yellow fur. It was fascinating to watch as each of them had a unique and mesmerising pattern on their gorgeous coats. They were just chilling out, having a siesta after a heavy lunch because there were carcasses scattered in the grounds and one of them was seen gnawing onto a piece of bone.Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    The reserve has been created to mirror their environment in the wild. Painted Dogs were found in Savanna grasslands and woodlands and loved playing in waterholes. The reserve had a variety of these habitats for them to explore and although they had a house to sleep in they were allowed to dig their own dens and have caves to shelter in. From the viewing platform, we saw their most defining feature which was a pair of huge, rounded ears that not only helped them to pick up vocal calls of pack members but also used for cooling down.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Last but not least were the Guinean Baboons which were in their usual quarrelsome mood. These old world monkeys from West Africa were extremely intelligent and curious and were either chasing after each other, foraging about in the nearly-bare compound, grooming and climbing the various structures. They were highly communicative too, communicating with one another by using a variety of vocalizations and physical interactions. We often saw them staring or raising their eyebrows at each other. Dominant males yawned to show their teeth, displaying their dominance. We watched them sitting on the ground and shuffling along as they fed on grasses and seeds on the ground.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Then it was time for us to take a break and had our lunch. We’d our hand stamped so that we could re-enter again. On the way out, the roof of the visitor centre’s was dotted with Swallows with their musical twitterings. As summer drew towards the end, they fluttered about restlessly and were frequently seen preening their wings. They were getting ready to migrate, waiting for the big day when they set off. As they gathered talkatively, they seemed no more afraid of the great distance they must fly and the hardships that they encountered on the way due south on their winter migration to South Africa. Since they fed entirely on flying insects, they don’t need fattening up as they snapped up their food along the way.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    Migration was a hazardous time and many die from starvation, exhaustion and in storms. They migrated during daylight , flying low  and covering about 320 km each day which meant that the return journey took about 6 weeks. Amazingly, young birds find their way, even though they’d never made the journey before. They were guided entirely by instinct. According to a sailing superstition, swallows were a good omen to those at sea. This arose from the fact that swallows were land-based birds, so their appearance meant that a sailor was close to the shore.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying south, Fly to her, and fall upon her glided eaves

    And tell her, tell her, what I tell to thee

    O tell her, Swallow, thou knowest each

    That bright and fierce and fickle is the South

    And dark and true and tender is the North

    ~Tennyson~

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    After refuelling, we went back and re-traced our routes. We checked out our favourites like the lions, rhinoceros, tigers and polar bears. It had been a long day, the visitors were leaving and most of the animals were winding down. The giraffes were getting ready to get into their accommodation. We couldn’t find the family of Bactrian camels and gave the Wallaby walkabout a miss. We’d an exhausting day too and also we’d a long drive home. A large group of Starlings flew in and perched on the wires that lined the road waving us goodbye. They were gathering to roost and maybe waiting to perform a murmuration. It would be lovely to watch but it was time to hit the road.

    Yorkshire Wildlife Park - August

    We ended the month and celebrated the bank holiday with a trip to Bradgate Park. That was the plan but when we arrived, the gate was closed because the park was already full. It was a lovely day and everyone wanted to be out in the sunshine. We turned back and stopped at Groby Pool to check what was about. The natives were out and a pair of Mute swan was courting. They formed the classic image of devotion, with their curved necks entwined in a perfect love heart. It was part of a courtship ritual, in which pairs faced each other and, with a ruffle of feathers and lifted wings bowed gracefully.

    Groby Pools - August

    We checked out the bushes and spotted a few dragonflies basking in the sun. It was lovely seeing these ace fliers and expert hunters posing still for photographs. They were usually seen flying sideways and backwards with their shimmering bodies flashing in the sun, performing amazing aerial manoeuvres. It was quite sad to see that at the shortest, their life-cycle from egg to death of adult was 6 months. So lets enjoy them when they were out and about.


    Groby Pools - August

    Dragonflies were as common as sunlight
    hovering in their own days
    backward forward and sideways
    as though they were memory
    now there are grown-ups hurrying
    who never saw one
    and do not know what they
    are not seeing
    the veins in a dragonfly’s wings
    were made of light

    Groby Pools - August
    the veins in the leaves knew them
    and the flowing rivers
    the dragonflies came out of the color of water
    knowing their own way
    when we appeared in their eyes
    we were strangers
    they took their light with them when they went
    there will be no one to remember us

    '~WS Merwin ‘After the Dragonflies~

    Groby Pools - August

    We’d a wonderful time celebrating our anniversary, especially a 20th one. I always believed that one’s anniversary must never be overlooked, no matter how long you’d been married because it reinforced the fact that the marriage was a priority. An anniversary celebration allowed you to rein back from the daily hustle bustle and remember the moment that changed your life forever. Here’s to looking forward to adding more and more perfect moments together for the rest of our lives.

    Shots from Home - July