Bioparc Birds (part 2)

For the second part of my blog about Bioparc birds I will detail the birds that are free to move around in various parts of the bioparc, generally the larger birds. With the exception of the ducks however these birds have all had their wings clipped so in truth are confined to the individual enclosures. Without having their wings clipped there would be no large birds in the Bioparc but it is sad to see birds that cannot fly and I wish there was another way to keep them.

Near the entrance are a large flock of Flamingos. These are fairly common in many parts of Southern Spain so often go unnoticed despite the noise they make. The mud mounds that can be seen in the photos are their nests where they will hopefully lay one egg. There are none to be seen at present

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Almost opposite the flamingos is the savannah area housing the rhinos and giraffes, in with this group are two female and one male Ostriches. This distinctive bird, with a long neck and legs, can run at up to about 70 km/h, the fastest land speed of any bird. I have noticed that the female Ostriches are developing bald patches which the others will peck at frequently. I’m not sure if this is normal behaviour or whether there is a problem developing.

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In the same enclosure today were the Grey Crowned Cranes, these often moved around the different parts of the savannah whereas the Black Crowned Cranes are always in the same spot. I love these birds, the crown is such an oppulent display and can look magnificent or just downright funny when it gets wet.

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The difference between the two species is, not surprisingly, that one is predominately black and the other is predominately grey. Both the crowned cranes are about 1 m (3.3 ft) tall, weigh 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs)and have a wingspan of 2 m (6.5 ft). There is a Grey Crowned Crane that sometimes appears in the bird show at midday. This one was bred in captivity and has not had its wings clipped.

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A large group of Pelicans are housed with the sitatunga and smaller primates. These generally sit in the sunshine or swim around diving for food. There are fish in the lake here but whether the Pelicans eat these or get enough from the keepers, I’m not sure. These are Great White Pelicans and are very big birds. The wingspan can range from 226 to 360 cm (7.41 to 11.81 ft), with the latter measurement the largest recorded among extant flying animals outside of the great Albatros. The total length of the great white pelican can range from 140 to 180 cm (55 to 71 in), with the enormous bill comprising 28.9 to 47.1 cm (11.4 to 18.5 in) of that length. Adult males, weigh from 9 to 15 kg (20 to 33 lb), Females are considerably less bulky and heavy, weighing from 5.4 to 9 kg (12 to 20 lb).

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In all the lakes around the parc, there are ducks of various types. Some have been introduced, some have appeared naturally and reproduce readily, no ducklings are around yet but I’ve certainly seen them in previous years. I do not know the names of these ducks but here is a small selection.

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Finally in the main savannah there are a large flock of Sacred Ibis. A wading bird of the ibis family, Threskiornithidae, the sacred ibis breeds in sub Saharan Africa, southeastern Iraq, and formerly in Egypt, where it was venerated and often mummified as a symbol of the god Thoth. The African sacred ibis occurs in marshy wetlands and mud flats, both inland and on the coast. It will also visit cultivation and rubbish dumps. It has been successfully introduced into the wild in Southern Europe where it is now considered a potential problem.

There are also two Saddle-billed Storks.  This is a huge bird that regularly attains a height of 150 cm (59 in), a length of 142 cm (56 in) and a 2.4–2.7 m (7.9–8.9 ft) wingspan. The male is larger and heavier than the female, with a range of 5.1–7.5 kg (11–17 lb).

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That just about covers all the birds at the Bioparc, apart from the wild ones which come and go as they please. No news on the baby giraffes which are still being kept separate from the others and no more babies have been born yet to my knowledge. Who knows what the next visit may bring.

 

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Bioparc Birds (part I)

With an abundance of large wild animals on show at the Bioparc it is easy to forget all the bird life that are on display, aside from the ones in the midday exhibition. One of the best areas to see birds is in the aviary. In this large enclosed space the smaller birds are free to fly around as they please and have become accustomed to the visitors allowing you to get very close to them. Feeding time is at 1.30pm each day, so after a short visit in the morning I returned to watch them feeding.

One of my favourites is the Cape Thicknee (Burhinus capensis) also known as Spotted Thicknee. A curious bird due largely to its long legs and large yellow eyes. This one came up incredibly close to where I was sitting and happily allowed me to take numerous shots as it foraged for food.

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The most striking bird in the aviary by far is the Royal Starling (Lamprotornis regius), also known as the Golden Breasted Starling. The bright yellow belly and long tail are eye-catching, especially in flight. These tend to be more shy than the Thicknees but at feeding time I was still able to get relatively close and managed to get some good photos. From certain angles they have very evil-looking eyes, but are very attractive nonetheless. Unfortunately they were too quick for me to be able to capture one of them in flight.

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Also in the aviary are Superb Starlings (Lamprotornis superbus). Not quite as striking as the Royal Starling but still a very pretty bird. These are less timid than their regal relatives and several came to within a foot of me whilst I was sitting, greedily picking up bugs to feed its young. Unfortunately this is too close for my camera to focus even with a macro ring attached but the photos certainly show them off.

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Not to be outdone by the Zebras and Giraffes, who have recently had babies. The Abdins Stork (Ciconia abdimii), also known as white-bellied stork, have produced two nests with 3-4 chicks in each. Among the smallest storks, this species is welcomed and protected by local African belief as a harbinger of rain and good luck. Despite their comparative small size, they are the largest in the aviary and are pretty impressive when they soar just over your head.

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Other birds that are in the Aviary include the Hammerkop, Turaco, Speckled Pigeon and the Hadada Ibis. I managed to get a photo of the unusually shaped Hammerkop but the others were being very elusive today. The Turaco is particularly striking with bright green plumage and red under wings however he was nowhere to be seen.

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The midday exhibition as always is a must, I never tire of watching large birds in flight, particularly the birds of prey. The amphitheatre was packed with almost three quarters of the audience being school parties. For the first time ever, in my experience, this led to an interruption in the show to ask the audience to keep the noise down, as the children screamed and shrilled at the display. The show followed the usual format starting with low pass flights from a Tawny Eagle followed by two Eagle Owls who once again evaded my camera. The next to appear is a Southern Ground Hornbill who pecks open an “Ostrich Egg” to gain access to the contents.

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The most spectacular for me is the African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) who swoops in to take a piece of fish from the small stream. Even knowing what is about to happen it is still difficult to catch the birds at the moment of the catch. These birds are found throughout sub Saharan Africa and must make an impressive sight in the wild. They grow to around 3.5kg with a wingspan of up to 2.5m, the female being larger than the male. The African fish eagle feeds mainly on fish, which it will swoop down upon from a perch in a tree, snatching the prey from the water with its large clawed talons. The eagle will then fly back to its perch to eat its catch. Should the African fish eagle catch a fish over 1.8 kg (4 pounds) it will be too heavy to allow the eagle to get lift, so it will instead drag the fish across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore. If it catches a fish that is too heavy to even allow the eagle to sustain flight, it will drop into the water and paddle to the nearest shore with its wings.

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A display of various Vultures followed with them squabbling over food as it is thrown into the arena. At one point the Jackal comes in to join the fight. Finally the skies are opened up to the enormous Marabou who soar magnificently around the arena. In truth these are quite ugly birds but when flying they are impressive with one of the largest wingspans of any bird. At nearly 4m, (13ft) wide this is massive.

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I have had to reduce the quality and size of photos that I upload as I am beginning to run out of space on this site. I will need to delete some soon to make room for new ones but hopefully this will not spoil the experience for readers. There are too many birds to talk about in one post, so I will continue with this theme in my next posting.

Three Baby Zebras

Three Zebras have been born within the last two weeks at the Bioparc so I took the first opportunity to visit with my camera and get some photos of the new arrivals. Unlike the last visit, the Bioparc was not busy giving me good access for some great shots.

The first thing that struck me was how big the babies were. When I visited yesterday one of them was 10 days old, the other two, only 3 days old but already they could walk and run and stand steadily on their feet.

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At birth they are usually around 3ft tall and can walk within 15 minutes of being born, being able to run only 15 minutes later. As can be seen the stripes are initially brown, gradually changing to black over the next four months. The first baby called Luci was born on Saturday 26th April out in the open savannah area in full view of the public. An amazing sight for those lucky enough to be visiting at the time. There are some photos taken immediately after the birth on the Bioparc website http://www.bioparcvalencia.es/2014/04/nacimiento-en-directo-de-una-cebra-en-bioparc-valencia/

The other two were apparently born on 5th May but as yet i have no further information. the older one can be spotted by the blacker colouring of its stripes.

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I spent some considerable time watching them run, walk, feed and rest whilst all the time keeping an eye on the rhinoceros who were in the same enclosure but who curiously kept their distance.

After this I, of course, visited the cafeteria which this time was completely empty, the sparrows were obviously starving due to lack of custom as they immediately flew to my table for some crumbs of food, it was quite easy to get them to take food from my hand on this occasion. The fish also swam in for the chance of a few crumbs, although I draw the line at feeding fish on croissants.

By this time the parc was beginning to fill nicely and there was a healthy crowd to see the lunchtime show in the amphitheatre. I sat on the other side as the sun was not shining into my eyes, and this gave me the chance to get some different photos this week.

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I was still adjusting my camera as the show opened and I felt the wind from the wings of the eagle as it swooped extremely close to my head. I finally managed to get the Grey Crowned Crane in flight as well as a close up of the Jackal who, I am sure, would make a fabulous pet.

Before leaving I stole another look at the Zebras who, by this time, were sleeping off a strenuous day.

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Another great day at the Bioparc and another great example of the success of the place. There was no sign of the Giraffe who was born on 18th April. This calf was apparently rejected by its mother and the keepers are battling to hand rear her. Fingers crossed that we will see a positive outcome and I can report on her good progress on my next visit.

 

Holiday at the Parc

A disappointing start to the day ended with some interesting opportunities and great photos in a packed Bioparc. The easter holidays have meant that it has been difficult for me to write this blog and it is now a week after I visited the parc. It was the school holidays and I knew it was going to be busy, but I was not prepared for the volume of people visiting. My annual pass allowed me to bypass the huge queues waiting to enter the Bioparc, however once inside there was no magic pass that would allow me to get to the good vantage points to see the animals clearly. Even more disappointing was that after queueing at the cafeteria there was no table at which to sit and enjoy my coffee!

After quickly walking around I eventually found a place with an uninterupted  view of the Bongos and was rewarded for my patience. The baby Bongo has started to grow horns which gives it a slightly demonic look as he spent time nuzzling up to dad.

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After spending some considerable time with the Bongos it was time to move on to the Bird show. A virtually full arena saw the full range of exhibits which gave me some good opportunities to get some photos of the birds in flight. The fish eagle flew around for some time before coming in at a different angle to pick up the fish giving a clear view of its technique. With clear blue skies and hot sunshine it was a good spectacle for all.

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After the bird show the parc started to thin out as many of the visitors headed for lunch in the restaurant. Although I have never eaten in the restaurant, it is inexpensive and looks good. This gave me some breathing space and I was able to walk round a little more leisurely.  This timing coincided nicely with the Hyena deciding to take a bath. I have seen them in the water before and its great to watch them playing and having fun.

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Further round I came across a new exhibit. In the enclosure that used to house the lonely Rhino (written about a few weeks ago) were some Gazelles which I think are Grants Gazelles. The Rhino has been moved to Seville Zoo where he is apparently settling in well with his new family. I presume the gazelles will being moved to the Savannah once they have acclimatised to their new surroundings, leaving space for something else in this enclosure

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I hope to get back to the Bioparc sometime this week as two new babies have been born since my last visit. A Giraffe and a Zebra.

Close Encounters with a Rhinoceros

Being only a few yards away from a fully grown Rhino gave me a good opportunity to take some great shots. I was grateful for the deep lake that was all that separated us but it was enough. I presume that Rhinos can’t swim!

This was my first visit for several weeks, the sun was shining, the skies blue and I was really looking forward to it. As usual I was not disappointed. After the obligatory coffee and croissant I walked around the park passing numerous school parties before arriving at the best viewing point for the Rhinos and Zebras. I was rewarded for my patience as one of the Rhino turned to face me and then walked towards me stopping directly in front for a drink at the waters edge.

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Soon it was joined by the other Rhino who nuzzled in for what I assume passes for a Rhino hug. These really are huge animals and I certainly would not like to be that close to them in the wild.  Southern White Rhino grow to a whopping 4000kg, once thought to be extinct, their numbers have grown to around 15,000 thanks to nearly a century of protection.  Sadly there are still too many cases of them being hunted and killed for pleasure or for their horns which are revered for their medicinal qualities in the far east. We still need to be vigilant in our support for their preservation.

After several minutes they wandered off to be replaced by Zebras.

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After this I wandered around the parc, enjoying the sunshine and the animals, many of whom were relaxing in the shade, or hiding altogether. This prompted me to take a close look at the Pelicans who, conversely, were sunning themselves at the edge of the pool. These are, I think, Great White Pelicans which are very large birds growing to between 5-6ft long including the beak, with a colossal wing span of 7-11 ft! As I watched them I was saddened by the fact that I would never see these particular pelicans fly as their wings had been clipped. An obvious necessity, but nevertheless sad. At one point two of them set off from the bank and performed a perfect synchronised swimming routine, swimming side by side, diving and returning to the surface with perfect timing. They kept this up for some time before I was interrupted by a group of young school children who pushed, jostled and shouted continually….Time to move on!

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The amphitheatre was as full as I had ever seen it as I waited for the Bird and Mammal exhibition. I estimated around 400 school children were there as well as the many other visitors. Children and wildlife photography don’t mix very well but it was nice to see their enthusiasm and excitement as the show started. A full display was given today with the Fish Eagle and the Jackal performing, something I haven’t seen for a while, as well as the usual displays.

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My final comment for the day is about the small lake beside the cafeteria. The fish in it have grown to an enormous size, the biggest now measuring about 3ft long.  It is quite spectacular to see these whilst sitting drinking your coffee. Some visitors occasionally drop crumbs into the water, which starts a frenzy of activity as the fish fight for the food. I’m sure this cannot be good for them but maybe it has contributed to their incredible growth.

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Bioparc in the rain

A trip away and Valencia Fallas have meant that I am very late writing my blog after my visit to the Bioparc last Thursday. Heavy rain, not seen for ages here,meant that the parc was quite empty and I was able to observe the animals for some time without disturbance. My walk around the perimeter found the Hyenas chasing each other furiously around their enclosure and provided a good photo opportunity. This presumably was the prelude to the mating ritual as, although there was plenty of contact and baring of teeth, there was no attack or damage to either Hyena.

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After some time here I moved on to find the baby Aardvark nuzzling up to its mother. Their enclosure is kept in almost complete darkness so my attempts at a photograph were not great, the high ISO causing a lot of noise, but I thought it worth including as this is not often seen.

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Further round the Meerkats were also showing off their babies, who were running round and copying the behaviour of the adults. The giraffe bending down to get a look gave an amusing backdrop to the pictures. Even at this young age, I’m not sure when they were born but they can only be a few months old, they are learning to stand up and look out for any danger.

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There were three Eastern Bongo in the enclosure today. The mother and baby plus a new, much darker coloured animal who was very timid and kept to the edge of the rocks at all times. I couldn’t find out what the additional animal was or if it was a new addition.

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The highlight for me today was the feeding of the birds in the aviary at 13.30. Because of the weather I was the only person in the aviary when this took place giving the opportunity to get really close to the birds. The Royal starlings are magnificent with their bright yellow breasts and long tail. My attempts to photograph one in flight were mildly successful despite the poor light,l but when perched nearby I was able to get incredibly close with pleasing results. From face on their eyes look exceedingly menacing! The Cape Thicknees often allow me to get close up and didn’t disappoint today. I was particularly pleased with the close up head shot.

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As reported last time Fallas is in full swing but the animals seem completely oblivious to the noise.

apologies for the delay in writing this blog and also for the very brief commentary. I thought it best to get something down quickly and will elaborate more next time.

Happy 6th Birthday

Amazingly the Bioparc is six years old on 28th February, it only seems a couple of years since I bought my first annual pass and I’m still finding new things to enjoy with every visit. There are many activities planned for the weekend to celebrate this including cheap entrance fees if booked via their website. There are also activities for children and an African dance workshop.

I arrived a little later than normal this week and barely had time for a coffee before the mid day show started. What started as a bird show has now evolved into an animal and bird show. Todays show started with a Palm nut Vulture flying into the arena, this was followed by the arrival of two Porcupines running through looking for food. We also had Red River Hogs, Vultures, Marabou and a display by the Jackal who has been trained like an obedient dog.

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His trainer hasn’t been around for a while so this part of the show has been missing for some time. They work very well together following sit, stay, come, roll over commands etc.

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I was pleased with the quality of many of my photos today so this blog will be quite a photo gallery. After the show I found myself near the elephant enclosure, they had just been fed and were very frisky giving plenty of opportunity for action shots, afterwards they went into the lake for a swim too.

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I have often seen the elephants in the water, but not for some time. The elephants really seem to enjoy the water and look like they are trying to make as big a splash as possible once they are in. Here’s a few examples of my favourite shots, there were just too many to include all of them.

Once the elephants had dried off and sprayed themselves with mud I moved on to see how the Lions were getting on. The whole family was sitting out enjoying the fresh air. The male on top of a large rock making for an excellent shot.

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The two young lions have certainly grown up quickly and are not much smaller than the females. I’m not sure of the plans for their future, I believe one of them is a male so he will almost certainly be moved on. Being as it was now the afternoon they had settled down for a rest, as had most of the animals so it was time to head off home. Fallas is looming and I’m not sure how the animals will react to the constant cacophony of noise from the fireworks. I may try to time a visit during the mascleta (a wall of sound from mid day fireworks) to see their reaction.