Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A visit to Wildwood...

Jan 11th 2014 - Wildwood: Herne Bay Kent.

A Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
After an early frost, Saturday 11th turned into a blue-sky bonanza! Amazing weather for mid-January and I was excited to at last be visiting the animal park I had passed many times but never looked around.
Travelling through Biddenden towards Pluckley, I made a point of looking for the wild egrets that I had seen once before but not managed to photograph-sure enough, there were a pair a way off in a field full of sheep. 
With my lens at full stretch, I could just about capture enough detail. Even better, I was able to confirm that the large raptors I had heard and seen on a couple of occasions were as I had suspected, red kite. Edit:My thanks to Maria Justamond for the following information: Hate to say this (please do delete this section before 'approving it) but your 'red kite' photo is actually a buzzard. Wrong wing and tail shape, as well as wrong colouring for a kite. No doubt you've seen the kite, but that isn't a photo of it. Sorry.

Only wrong on just the three counts then Maria. I have to say that I did wonder about the tail shape and also head colour but just thought it must be a red kite and didn't even consider buzzard. Disappointing but so pleased you put me right...the only excuse I can muster is that...'I haven't had much experience with birds!'

I have left the link at the end of this update to a report in a local newspaper about these birds. The photo below isn't one that I could say I am proud of as far as quality and detail go, but I felt it worthy of inclusion.

Buzzard (see my edit)

Red Kite for comparison (not my photo)

Arriving at Wildwood just after opening time (10am) I was a little disappointed at how, messy the entrance was-I suppose I was expecting something more impressive, when actually, it involved driving through a kind of mini-trading estate. The road was pot-holed and uneven and the Wildwood car park matched.

At reception however, I found the staff friendly and helpful, having parted with my £9.50 entrance fee, I was given a slip of paper that detailed feeding times for the day, along with a map and a couple of other leaflets.Declining their offer to become a 'member' for...'Just £3.50 per month' (I took details and said I'd think about it) I was pointed in the direction of the animals.

Being winter, there were a good number of animals that I wouldn't see as they'd be hibernating or sleeping, hiding away from the cold etc. I calculated that I could expect to maybe find about half the actual total...

I thought I'd begin with this creature because Wildwood advertise themselves as being 'The home of British wildlife, past and present' and this as you probably already know is an elk. I didn't realise that elk ever roamed the British Isles-I knew that there is an extinct species called the Irish Elk but this is apparently the Eurasian Elk and so I guess they did once inhabit the U.K. 

What is an elk anyhow? Isn't it another name for a moose? Or is a moose a larger animal? 
I guess I should take the time to find out about these things.

There were other deer at the park:

I'm not sure what this big stag was trying to tell me but I'm fairly sure it wasn't good news? Maybe he'd had his fill of photographers for the week and just wanted to be left alone with his harem?

I know that by the time I was at the enclosure where the deer are held, the head count of unruly little brats...erm...sorry, I mean, well behaved, interested children was increasing dramatically and if he wasn't getting fed up with them, I was! 
I know these places have to catch children's attention early on to inspire them in later life but most seemed to me to be more interested in trying to frighten the animals, or engage in shouting matches.

Still, I managed to keep my cool, even when the bright young thing standing next to me was trying to see how much water he could transfer from the puddle between us to my legs by stamping as hard as he could!
These are red deer by the way.

Next up were the red foxes...

I had been looking forward to seeing and photographing the red squirrel but found that, as with so many of the smaller animals, they were confined in cages that had a very close mesh wire around them, that wasn't conducive to getting clear/clean photos. They are such superb little animals though and I was really taken with them and their striking ear tufts and rufous coats. I shall make it my challenge to find and photograph more at some stage through 2014 for sure.

There were also a number of friendly, wild grey's foraging in several areas outside of the red squirrel compound...

Another animal that I was hoping to photograph was the grey heron. My home town of Cranbrook takes its name from this bird. Well, okay 'crane' but it's thought more likely, or at least debatable that it is the heron, as the area has always been known for having good numbers of the birds.

I had a wonderful half an hour photographing the heron-I wish the head of the in-flight photo had been just a tad more in focus but then, I am always critical of my work.
These are impressive creatures with a wingspan of around 6ft. Probably the largest bird you are likely to see in your garden here in Kent.
As you can see in the photo on the right here, this heron is on its nest. It is not unusual apparently for heron's to lay eggs in early February.

The numbers of grey heron breeding in the U.K. has been steadily rising; although they do suffer in bad/cold winters, when ponds and lakes remain frozen, cutting off their food supply.

It's thought that people who try to protect their fish ponds from a marauding heron by placing a decoy, are in fact just encouraging them to visit.

There are crane at Wildwood but I didn't manage to see one on the day. This is a stork. Another bird once found wild in the British Isles but now sadly only in places like Wildwood.

And so I think I actually saw around 30 species on my visit. I didn't photograph lots of them just because the surroundings looked so unnatural but all the same, a great place to visit and I really enjoyed my time there.

Ideally for me, I would have liked to see larger cages for some of the animals and for instance, I disliked the way the wolves constantly patrolled their perimeter fence-just pacing back and forth. I know that Wildwood do a lot of good conservation-wise and all care deeply about their animals. I would like to visit again come summer, but for now, I'll leave you with a photo of a wild boar-I was shocked at just how large these beasts are.

Until the next time then...

Red Kite Story (Link)
The Wildwood Trust (Link)


  1. Another interesting blog JJ! Good to see Wildwood again. Went there years ago (15 or more!!) and thoroughly enjoyed the day. I went when it was warmer and had the pleasure of seeing the lizards they have there basking in the sun. There were no moose there then though! How exciting! Saw my first moose (or European elk - but I prefer the word moose! Lol!) at the Highland Wildlife park in 2012! Impressive creatures.
    As is the case with most creatures, I think the European ones are a little smaller than their Canadian/American cousins (as is the case with Ravens, Wolves, deer and others).

    Absolutely love the fox portraits!! Stunning! They're all lovely shots as ever!

    Hate to say this (please do delete this section before 'approving it) but your 'red kite' photo is actually a buzzard. Wrong wing and tail shape, as well as wrong colouring for a kite. No doubt you've seen the kite, but that isn't a photo of it. Sorry.
    The link to the news story shows kites.

    Best wishes


    1. Thanks for setting me right on this Maria, I have updated the post now. A real shame it wasn't a kite but have learned a valuable lesson about cross-checking identity sources. Much appreciated, thanks again.


  2. Oh blimey!! Didn't expect to see what I wrote in red!!! I was trying to be discreet! Lol!!
    Hope you get a shot of the kite soon! :-)


    1. Ha,ha..yeah, sorry about that. I just wanted to be honest and point out it was you that spotted my mistake Maria. I know you were trying to save face for me but I'm always pleased to be corrected. I'm sure I'll get a shot sometime of the kite as they have been seen locally. Thanks for your comments anyhow and, yes, I would love to catch those green lizards sun bathing too.


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