Yesterday we enjoyed a visit to our local zoo, the Cotswold Wildlife Park totally unencumbered by our own offspring. Of course the place was heaving with other people’s children, but they would not be stopping us from going round at our own pace, marvelling at ALL the creatures to be found there, including the stuff that children (remarkably) get bored with â€“ stuff like turacos, tapirs, peccaries, snowy owls, giant rats and other animals that donâ€™t have Hollywood A list picturebook status.
The walled garden has some cracking exhibits. The Humboldt penguins simply make me happy to be alive. We admired the endlessly busy meerkats. And yesterday the otters were out and about â€“ all seven of them playing together putting on a wonderful show. (And theyâ€™ve given me and idea for a painting).
And a new exhibit â€“ a walk-through cage littered with lemurs! We found this black lemur lying by the path, and it didnâ€™t mind us getting very close. What a privilege!
The reptile house was full of screaming children, some of them wrong being encouraged by their ignorant parents to go “Euwwww!”at snakes, rather than marvelling at their extraordinary beauty and economy of physiology. Moth and I loved the lizards â€“ these handsome iguanas caught our eye.
But eventually other people’s small children shrieking in such a confined space hurt my ears and I had to leave. Wouldnâ€™t it be nice if 1) parents told their children to keep their voices down; not just for me but out of respect for the peace of the animals, and 2) if the wildlife park ran a child-free dayâ€¦
I have a very soft spot for rodents and small mammals. Some capybara lazed around under a tree looking aloofly back at us.
And we sat for some time watching the banded mongooses busily digging the place up doing their thing. We remembered a family of 12 or so wild mongooses that crossed the lawn at the same time every afternoon at Tanda Tula safari lodge where Moth and I spent our honeymoon. And the overwhelming urge that I constantly suppress to get back to Africa reared up and hit me again.
Fortunately there was something to take my mind off the Africa-urge. A display of falconry by Cotswold Falconry had just started and we hurried along to see the birds.
We were treated to a flight by a saker falcon which approached a rotating lure at speeds which made the crowd gasp!
A red-tailed hawk showed its manoeuvrability at low speeds by flying between people in the crowd. What an extraordinarily beautiful thing to witness.
Afterwards we went over to the perches to see the birds more closely including Lulu, a Chilean eagle:
The thought of learning how to handle and fly one of these birds is thrilling – I have made up my mind to do a one-day falconry course some time this autumn.