For some reason I never made it to Wingham Wildlife Park last summer, so I have been eager to return to see if it has changed much as it is now under different management. On the whole it is pretty much the same, but with some worthwhile additions (see Prairie Dogs later in this entry) and improvements to the facilities. Everything is well spaced out but not too far so that you end up walking miles before seeing anything.
The first wildlife you see, or hear (even above the noise of the Peacocks) is the Black-headed Caique. I hope I am right in thinking that this is the same bird that was here the last time we visited. If it isn’t then I can only conclude that the species as a whole enjoy random screeching. The bird isn’t tethered so I guess he/she likes living at Wingham.
One of the cool features at Howletts is the Lemur enclosure where you can walk in amongst them, making the whole experience a lot more real. I am glad to say that this is also present at Wingham, although they were all in a lazy mood in the afternoon heat during our visit – but the fact that you can walk right in and get up close and personal with them is great.
The ubiquitous Meerkat is always good value, and I can watch them for hours. They rank highly in the ‘cute animal league tables’ because they are so easy to watch. They actually move about unlike a lot of the animals you tend to find. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to see exotic species, but is also fun to actually see animals getting on with their daily business rather than pacing mindlessly or just sitting down. There is no fear of that with the Meerkat of course, they are insane all the time.
A recent(ish) addition to the animals at Wingham is the American Alligator. He is large. Very large. Perhaps too large for his enclosure, but maybe he is happy. Worth a gawp at anyway.
I am glad to say that the tropical house is still there with an exclusive section for the butterflies. It was too warm to hang around in there for long, but I love butterflies so it was good just to see some foreign species milling about. It must have been hot outside as my lens didn’t steam up, as is usual in such places.
No trip is complete without some snout.
The pygmy goats are good value – like many of the wildfowl there they wander freely around the park, which amuses and/or scares small children and they can startle photographers who are crouched down with their camera in hand trying to shoot other goats.
The best part of the visit was undoubtedly the Prairie Dog enclosure. This was not present on our last visit so it was a pleasant surprise to see it and the new winner in my ‘cute animal league’. The enclosure is huge and there must be over 30 of the little chaps. Again, this enclosure is built for the visitor to walk amongst the animals, although it was closed as there were so many baby Prairie Dogs. I can’t complain at that at all as they were so chilled they came right over to the low fence and photography was made easy.
Some people always seem to overdress when going to the zoo. One should always assume there will be either mud or poo or a combination of both, but to some it is another chance to be on a fashion parade. I reckon she likes pink. Shortly after this photo she wandered up on a mound inhabited by some of the older (possibly escaped) Prairie Dogs, which shocked her. Maybe they like pink too.
Wingham Wildlife Park is great. There are loads of facilities to eat and drink with a full menu on offer, at least during the summer months. There are plenty of species to see – and all are listed on their site. The price is good too. At the time of writing the entrance fee for adults is £8.50, which is considerably lower than somewhere like Howletts, which is just up the road. Whilst there may be more exotic speacies on offer there, on the whole you actually see more at Wingham and I certainly felt more engaged there as you are so close to the animals.
As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I have wanted to visit Eagle Heights for a long time and Father’s Day was a great reason to finally go as my dad is a big fan of birds of prey too. Don’t be fooled by the shabby sign below, it is a great place!
The main enclosure for the birds is inside, but the light in there is pretty good (for those who don’t want to use flash) and cameras are welcome. There is a even a sign saying it is permitted, which is a refreshing change these days. They have a really good selection of Falcons and Hawks and even the odd vulture. Most are not behind cages, so you can really get up close and personal with them. There are VIP days on offer too, which allow even gerater access.
Below is the Ruppels Griffon which I don’t recall ever seeing before, so Eagle Heights gets a thumbs up for that alone.
Another first for me (in the flesh) was the Bald Eagle. The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States of America. It is one of the country’s most recognizable symbols, and appears on most of its official seals, including the Seal of the President of the United States. Obviously a beautiful bird to be respected, it is a shame that the Americans nearly hunted it to extinction, but I suppose we ought not to be shocked by that. One of the most enjoyable things about Eagle Heights is the flying display, done twice daily with different birds each time. The arena is nicely laid out and the talks are very informative, for both children and adults.
The Lanner Falcon (below) is an impressive sight, flying less than an inch above heads during the display. It is strongly suggested that you don’t flinch as the bird has already calculated its favoured path well before it gets to anyone’s head.
The Marabou Stork in flight is most impressive and has the look of some great pterodactyl marauding around the Kent countryside. They are not pretty birds.
One of the most impressive birds on display is ‘Tiny’ the Andean Condor. With a 10ft wingspan he is an imposing site, though he refused to fly for the crowds. He is probably still a little cautious after going missing in May for a few days when he landed in a field of 6 ft high corn and was unable to take off again.
They currently have one Cheetah at Eagle Heights and one Camel, though there is a fund raising campaign to find the Cheetah a mate.
I suspect in these hard economic times places such as Eagle Heights are struggling, so please go and visit and keep these great attractions open. A lot of the birds here are rare, so it is vital that the money keeps flowing in to help with conservation initiatives.
Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp. Their oddly-shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue. That means they are cool.