Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Visit to Chester zoo

I'd been looking on the Internet for a zoo that was a member of WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums). Members of WAZA are obliged to comply with its Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare. Chester zoo is a WAZA member and is involved in a number of conservation projects. Chester is also an important scientific research facility and the biggest research training ground for zoo-based studies in the UK. Animals benefit from advances made in areas such as environmental enrichment, welfare and conservation.
The animal I most wanted to see was the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis), a hole-nesting bird of the forests of Asia. Chester had one, according to their website, and so on Easter Monday we set off for the zoo.
There were several animals that I was especially interested in, including giraffes, black rhinos, Bactrian camels and, of course, the great hornbill. As it turned out, there were a couple of these and several other species of hornbill too... hornbill heaven :)
The giraffes were particularly interesting, especially when they ran; the movements of their hind legs made them appear to run in slow-motion! Bizarre.
On the other hand, some animals were more elusive in their 'environments' and for several species, including tiger, jaguar, zebra, Andean condor, etc, it reminded me of Jurassic Park where the visitors questioned if there really were any animals at all as the tour vehicles kept passing seemingly empty paddocks. I've no doubts, however, that if I'd stayed long enough I'd have seen them all.
Oh, don't get too close to the fence around the Asiatic lion. It charged at one boy and then decided to reinforce its territorial marker by spraying through the chainlinks! All in all it was a good day. Edinburgh zoo may be the next one on the list.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

View from Blencathra

Good Friday seemed like a fine day for a spot of fellwalking, so we set off on the 35 minute drive to the foot of Blencathra in the Lake District. Blencathra is about 3.5 miles long with rounded slopes on its east and west sides: Scales Fell and Blease Fell, respectively. The mountain has a rounded body, but on the south face four combes cut deep into the mountainside. Gills flow through each combe, separated by three jagged spurs: Doddick Fell, Hall's Fell and Gategill Fell. We followed the footpath up Scales Fell, taking a detour to look down upon Scales Tarn which lies deep in a corrie to the north of Scales Fell.
There were still patches of early spring snow and we stopped here and there for a bit of snowballing. Although the legs were feeling the burn, we pushed on to Hallsfell Top which marks the summit of Blencathra at 2847 ft, the 18th highest peak in the Lake District.

Blencathra also has two other peaks in the 'Lakeland top 100': Gategill Fell Top, 2791 ft (27th) and Atkinson Pike, 2772 ft (28th). The view from the summit made the effort worthwhile as we were able to look down on landmarks such as Threlkeld quarry, Keswick golf course, Thirlmere and Derwent Water. In places the remaining snow was nearly knee-deep (which made for great fun!).

The Easter weekend would see a new set of Open University students arriving to attend an Ecology residential school at the Field Studies Council's Blencathra centre on the flank of Blease Fell... it would seem like they were to have a week of fine weather as they would learn about the practicalities of fieldwork. As the sun started to cast long shadows we set off for home, in the knowledge that we had bagged another of the Lakeland peaks. Next up... Skiddaw, the 7th highest peak at 3054 ft?

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Welcome to the 3rd meridian

I've finally decided to create a blog. So here it is. Of course, it's pretty empty at the moment, but I hope to take time to post to it when I can. I guess the next thing to think about will be the profile.

Happy blogging!