Impromptu visit to Kew

One of my favourite places in London is Kew Gardens, so when my sister and her husband invited me for an impromptu trip recently I couldn’t say no. Kew is known for having plants, trees and flowers from around the world, there’s so much to see and it’s a great place to get lost in for the day.

First stop was the Hive which is a large structure made of metal and has lights that blink according to bee activity in a real beehive at Kew.

You can’t go to Kew and not visit the Palm House, which holds tropical plants from around the world. It’s usually really hot in here and as usual I had to wait for my camera to de-fog before I could take some photos. One plant we were pleased to find was the Sensitive plant. When you touch the open leaves they react immediately and close together.

From there we went to the Waterlily House hoping to find the giant lily pads that I remember from my childhood but have missed on my previous visits. Unfortunately they’d been moved, so I’ll have to try again another time. I did, however see some pretty waterlily flowers though.

Next we went to the Woodland area, and with it being late summer and the weather unsettled we got caught in a heavy downpour, thankfully though we were able to shelter under a giant Elm tree until the rain stopped. The Woodland area had a great number of trees of all types, my favourite though were the Redwood trees. These giants have a reddish, rough grain trunk and can grow to a phenomenal size.

Walking further along came across a huge wooden table, which seems like it would be perfect for all my family when they come to dinner! And hidden nearby was a log trail that you could walk across, made up of different types of trees, so educational as well as fun. There was also a badger set and tunnels you could go into.

By the time we reached the log trail we’d made it to the far end of the grounds and it was getting late so we started heading back towards the gates. I had a relaxing, fun day out and it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to see the beautiful plants, trees and flowers that can be found around the world so close to where I live.

So long 2016, onwards to 2017

Today is the last day of 2016 and it has been a tumultuous year both in the world and, I feel, for me personally. I hope 2017 is calmer, more peaceful and more fulfilling, for all of us. Here’s a selection of some of my favourite photos of this past year, of places I’ve been lucky to visit and things I’ve enjoyed. Happy New Year to all of you.

London Zoo

London Zoo is the oldest scientific zoo in the world, and it’s one that I never got round to visiting, until now. On the day that I went it was cold but bright, meaning that I would get some good photos and that it wouldn’t be too busy; I think I was right on both counts.

On arriving I first headed towards the small mammals area. They looked curious and peeped out from their hiding places to see who had come to visit. After a quick look I headed towards the lions that are newly housed there and were one of the reasons that I wanted to visit. As they were one of the main attractions the area was decorated and staged as if it could be an authentic Indian village, with colourful paintings and props. The lions themselves were huge and very impressive and with only a pane of glass between them and us, I was able to have a look up close and see the might of such creatures.

Next I went on to see the petting animals where they had some tiny, super cute kids that you could feed and play with and that the young children seemed to enjoy. The llamas and camels were nearby too that I could see. A short distance away, the tigers were housed. The adult tiger was very active and difficult to photograph but my patience paid off when I managed to get a clear photo. I was also rewarded with seeing the beautiful baby cubs, playing and running around.

As it was coming up to Christmas there were reindeer out on walks with zookeepers, meaning that I was able to get close. Onwards I went to see one of my favourite animals, the giraffes, making me happy upon reaching their enclosure. I always find giraffes surreal looking with their long necks and gangly legs. I loved that they were so close it seemed that if they really stretched, they could easily lick my camera.

The path then led me onto the Reptile house which had some quite scary looking but beautiful reptiles from around the world.

There were some magnificent birds at the zoo too, some that could fly and some that couldn’t, each with their own colourful and unique features. Some were in cages but the larger ones were left in an open space, making me wonder why they hadn’t flown away.

I had a quick walk around the Bug house but as I’m not a fan I didn’t hang around too long. What I did find surprising was that there were live ants on display that didn’t have any glass around them. They were Leaf-cutter ants and looking carefully closer I could see each of the ants marching back and forth across a rope carrying tiny pieces of a leaf to take back to its home. I didn’t take too many photos of this area as bugs aren’t too appealing to me but it was amazing to see some of the numbers enclosed such as the hundreds of locusts and various stick insects. I sharply made a turn into the aquarium next, to warm up and see the pretty fish. Amongst all the diverse fish in tanks I was pleased to come across some miniature blue starfish too.

Lastly I came across the Butterfly house, where I was debating whether to go in or not, seeing as I don’t particularly like flying things (apart from birds). I did decide to enter thinking I could make a sharp exit if it wasn’t for me, and I was really glad I did. Once my camera stopped fogging up in the warmer temperature of the area, I could see some beautiful, exotic butterflies flitting around, including the Glasswing Butterfly which I’ve already posted about. There was an array of brightly coloured butterflies, most of which were too fast to capture, but after ducking and flinching about a hundred times I think I managed to get some nice photos. There were also moths in the house but they were largely inactive being night time creatures. The Atlas moths were amazing, I wasn’t sure they were real at first due to their stillness and size; each wing being the size of my hand, but as always, nature astounds.

There were so many other animals around too, such as the gorillas and monkeys, penguins, Komodo Dragons and tortoises, to mention a few. Some weren’t easy to photograph or even see but the vast variety of the animals in London Zoo is amazing. I know zoos can be seen as bad places that imprison animals; I did feel particularly sad for the big cats and caged birds, but as the world we live in is increasingly destroying habitats, I feel a place like London Zoo can help preserve and protect some endangered animals. I spent most of the day looking around and there was still areas I missed as the place is huge. I really enjoyed seeing all the different animals and their colourful and varying feathers, scales, fur and skin, and I feel like I learnt lots too.

Glasswing Butterfly

I recently went to London Zoo (more photos coming soon), and one of the creatures I saw that absolutely fascinated me was the Glasswing butterfly. I’d seen this butterfly online a couple of years ago and was awed by how pretty and delicate it looked. I also remember believing that I would never see one for myself as they are native to South and Central America. I was so pleased to have been wrong about that.

Glasswing butterfly

Walking through the butterfly house and seeing these lovely butterflies fluttering around made me feel incredibly lucky. Of all the various butterflies in the house these were one of the most calm meaning that I was able take some close up photos.

Glasswing butterfly

Glasswing butterfly

These Glasswing butterflies look almost mythical, with their opaque, stain glass like wings. Having shown my photos to family members I was repeatedly asked whether they were real, and I was happy to say that they were, having seen them with my own eyes

Colour and Vision at NHM

A great thing about living in London is having access to some of the top museums in the world. One of the best and most popular is the Natural History Museum. This year they had an interesting exhibition on called Colour and Vision and seeing as it had been a few years since my last visit I thought it was a good opportunity to go back.
The building is beautiful with lots of exquisite detail. The tall arched doorways and the intricately designed pillars make for a grand view.

Natural History Museum

Inside there’s lots to see, such as the dinosaurs and sea animals but I headed straight for the Colour and Vision exhibition before it got busy. The exhibition was about how animals view and display colour in nature. The entrance was aptly marked by a brightly lit colour spectrum and cues to help keep an open mind.

As I walked through the exhibition there were lots of interesting animals and displays, some that made me slightly squeamish at times, like the animal eyeballs in jars. Others were stunning such as the exotic birds with colourful feathers and butterflies with vibrant, standout wings.

The exhibition was insightful and interesting with some truly beautiful displays and facts that make you wonder about the amazing animals that share our world. (sadly my camera couldn’t capture this very well due to the dim lighting). It was a good visit overall, and I would definitely recommend a trip.

Hungry birds

Cherry tree and thrushes

I was happily relaxing one afternoon when suddenly I heard a loud chirping and trilling, so I jumped up to investigate. I followed the noise to the kitchen and looking out into the garden I saw dozens of birds flying in and out of the neighbour’s big cherry tree. The birds (If you look closely you can see a dozen or so which I think are thrushes), were swooping down pecking off big, red, ripe cherries. I raced upstairs to have a better look and capture the moment. It was amazing to see so many birds in one place and I was surprised by just how much noise they could create in their excitement. I hope they enjoyed their delicious lunch!

Roaring good cake

My recent trip to the farm was fun and interesting and once my family and I had seen all the animals we headed over to my sister’s house to get some rest and some delicious food. Once we were all fed and relaxed it was time to cut the birthday cake my sister had made for her daughter. Weeks of preparation had gone into making the cake and the end result was brilliant. It was colourful, fun and neatly fitted into the theme of the day; animals.

Animal birthday cake

My sister made all the animal cake figures from scratch as well as the cake and the matching cupcakes. I love all the details of the animals and how the rest of the table was tied in with animal toys scattered around the table and animal characters on the cups, plates and napkins.

Once the candle was lit and blown out by the birthday girl we all tucked in, and enjoyed a cake that tasted as good as it looked.

I wish the birthday girl good health, happiness and love for all the years ahead of her.

Farm day out

My sister organised a day out for us all this weekend to a farm local to her, to coincide with her daughter’s birthday. This farm was quite big and had all the typical farm animals you would expect but also had several unusual ones too.

It was great to get up close to some of these animals; the sheep, goats and llamas were lively and eager for attention and the animal feed they could see in our hands. I’ve never seen a turkey before and I found the amazing plumage fascinating.

We were able to pet some of the more interesting animals in the farm, namely a snake, which was soft and warm, a Bearded Dragon which was spiky and my favourite, a Chinchilla, known as one of the softest animals in the world and I can see why with fur that’s as soft as a cloud.

The other animals I was excited to see were the flamingos, ones that were on my bucket list. As the day warmed up they cooled off in the pond becoming more active. The enclosure they were in also had other birds such as peacocks and Scarlett Ibises, which I thought was an interesting mix as they would normally never meet in the wild.

As well as animals to see there were play areas for the kids to enjoy, including a ball pit and mini golf. We also enjoyed a tractor ride around the farm and ice cream in the sun.The farm really reminded me of my visits to Pakistan as a child and playing with the animals my grandfather kept. It was a really fun day out that everyone enjoyed, and we left exhausted but happy.

Red robin

Robin

During my trip to Kew a few years ago I was lucky enough to capture what I thought was a nice photo of a robin. On my trip back a couple of weeks ago I was really happy at managing to capture this image of the bird. I love seeing robins with their red breasts and it always makes my day when I spot one.