Inside Looking Out

Each place has it’s own regular rhythm and view. Shortly after leaving our spot just beyond Weedon Bec, we greeted the same lady passing us with her ferret. This time I got a better view of the ferret as I was outside in stead of inside looking out. We were going only a short distance to be right beside Heyford Fields marina, where Gary’s team were going to do some work for us. We aren’t allowed to be aboard on the slipway overnight. So the idea was to be near enough to nip in and speak to the staff first thing before going for our train the next day.

We took advantage of the proximity to the very friendly and tasty farm shop in Nether Heyford for lunch. In the afternoon we heard a lot of tapping on the outside of the boat. We had noticed a group of four non standard coloured ducks., so they were a recognisable gang when they reappeared. They seemed to be nibbling weed off our hull, which was what all the tapping was about. They got edgy when I looked out the window and moved off, but soon came back.

Pale brown ducks viewed from inside looking out. One with weed trailing from its beak.

When I went out they didn’t rush over, to feed as ducks familiar with boats often do. These ones were surely very familiar with boats, certainly unafraid. I went out to see them better. They were dabbling at the side and later they came to the stern, but went away when I came out again. They were definitely enjoying a feast from the boat rather than looking for scraps from us.

The next morning we were ready quickly with not much packing to do and Shane did a nifty reverse into the marina and, with very little wind, a more delicate arrival at their tie up point by the slipway. The engineer Christian came to have a look and discuss all the little jobs Shane had in mind. He was interested in the electric propulsion, though he observed that the battery bank compartment did cut into the space available to get in and about the engine for the timely service that was now required.

Then we were off to the bus to Northampton and our three train journey. We had time in Northampton to stock up on lunch, eat a snack and then return to the station. I don’t know how I missed this knight/guard on the lookout near the site of the castle last time.

Knight in Northampton keeping a lookout

The trains worked well and we arrived in time for tea in Edinburgh. Nye had a sore tooth that was being treated the next day so wasn’t eating the same meal but joined us at the table with soup while we had the chewier meal. Shane assisted with making an audio file and I lent him my Bluetooth earphones so he was set with a distraction from the drill. The dentist visit passed off smoothly and War of the Worlds had a soothing effect, not the creator’s original intent!

He was wanting us to come to the zoo to show us the baby penguins. Shane had a cycle ride arranged, but I was free so we set off after my lunch. With his cheek still numb, Nye bought food to eat later when his mouth was ready. While I waited for him to come from the shop, I saw the bus stop was preparing us for a good day out.

Friendly bus stop, setting a good tone for the journey even if uninformative

We met with his friend Arden and his three year old niece at the zoo. First stop was the pelicans. I have seen them in the wild before and there used to be a lone pelican in with the penguins when we frequented the zoo, about 20years ago, but these were very different to the ones I have seen before, and bigger too. They were well enclosed.

Close by were the meerkats who are either hiding or on the lookout. They aren’t behind glass and I don’t know if the new layout (they didn’t used to live right there) allows access to a view of them in their tunnels through glass. There were also wooden statues of them, very much larger than life, which Hayley liked too.

Another pink bird was next and they were closer than usual so I couldn’t resist a photograph. Nye and I agreed we had photos already form a previous visit but they were much nearer so we got a prime view of their pink plumage.

Across the way were some beautiful flowers and bushes and one was an amazing subtly pale pink rhododendron that seemed well placed by the pelicans and flamingoes.

Palest pink rhododendron

We had a short rest while Nye had his sandwich and Hayley had a sit down and we discussed aphids, ants and ladybirds. Then it was off to the main attraction: the penguin chicks. We managed to see some penguins being fed. They were sometimes picky about their fish and we saw a recently fed one give something to their chick too. The penguins in their harsh natural environment either have to just keep the egg on their feet or build stone nests. Here there were fewer stones but some prefab concrete ring nests so they were kept in place. We had a good view of pale grey fluffy young chicks, older dark grey and white chicks, still fluffy and some eggs occasionally on show.

The phrase ‘nesting penguins’ reminds me of a childhood ornament or trinket of wooden penguins that had little baby penguins inside. They were reminiscent of Russian dolls but I don’t recall them having a series of different sized hollow penguins inside each other, like the nested dolls, but they definitely had solid wooden tiny ones when you looked inside. They weren’t fluffy at all, being wooden, nor had they immature plumage colour.

Later on from another area, we could see some penguins away from nests. They were coming right to the edge and reminded me of the ducks that had visited our boat, tapping their beaks, but this time I was outside and the birds were on the inside looking out, though it was an outdoors enclosure. Perhaps it thought there was another penguin there , reflected in the perspex, ‘who was looking in and who is looking out?, it might be wondering.

These penguins were near a small play park. Hayley wanted some time in the park and befriended a few children there. Nye and I went to surrounding places: to the rhinos outside, and then, by contrast, to the tiny creatures in tanks inside. This was a one off visit for me and the others come most weeks so they can pick and choose how many to see. When reviewing my pictures I thought the first one was just some leaves until I remembered what had been there.

As Nye has been often he was a knowledgeable guide. Some things were hard to see and the geckos are not always on show, I was told. The frogs can be hard to find despite their bright colour but we were lucky one came to the front. We saw a sea anemone being fed from a gloved hand coming through the top of the tank. Clown fish were not prey and flit happily through the anemone’s tentacles. There were also pancake tortoises, giant snails, Chilean tarantulas and large exotic insects in other tanks. When I saw large insects in with the frogs I didn’t know if they were cohabitants or food. The zoo employee behind the gloved hand appeared and he hadn’t even seen everything there was to see in the tanks.

We took in Arden’s favourite, the pygmy hippo. Later near another park that Hayley liked, we had a quick view of the sloths, as their enclosure had an earlier closing time. They were surprisingly active. The Discovery Ranger (zoo staff who give talks about the animals) in the sloth house knew Nye well and they were on first name terms with each other and the sloths. They shared a photo of one having a scan. They are hoping for baby sloths and trying to breed but success is uncertain and the gestation period is almost a whole year. The sloth really does take its time.

Time was up for us in the sloth space, and we had to leave as they locked up but we had learned lots from the ranger and usefully, for future visits, that the sloths are most active at closing time. We also got some news that the southern cassowary had laid eggs. They were hoping that they were fertilised eggs. I went to see them, (I didn’t see the eggs, may be inside), while Hayley enjoyed the bear park. Then Nye noticed that the actual bears nearby were unusually out and about. Sun bears seem to like the sun.

The sun bear out in the sun

We made our way slowly back down to the exit, past the banteng, that Hayley wanted to see. They were new to me , mainly inside but one outside and a quick view of the tusky Visayan Warty Pig, also often hard to see, that was enjoying being out in the open in the sun.

Visayan Warty Pig in the sun

Back at home I had another exciting nature news. We have been watching, through the kitchen window, blue tits flying back and forth to the bird box, and unsure if a partner is feeding a bird on a nest or if it’s nesting material in the beak, but now when I opened the back door, I can hear constant high pitched cheeping from the box. I don’t want to disturb so will have to stay mainly inside looking out.