Having had a somewhat disappointing visit to London Zoo recently, since the cold sunny days were continuing, we thought we’d try our local Whipsnade Zoo today. If all else fails, Whipsnade is at least a very pleasant environment for a walk.
Although the day was bright and sunny chez nous, there was still quite a bit of freezing mist hanging over much of Whipsnade in its very exposed position atop the downs near Dunstable. All the plants were coated in some quite impressive frost crystals. In fact, everything that wasn’t moving was coated in quite impressive frost crystals up to 1cm long. The sun broke through occasionally but, of course, disappeared as soon as cold fingers made ready with any cameras. We usually go to amazing lengths to exclude fences from our shots but, in this instance, they became interesting subjects in their own right.
I had foolishly preformed romantic ideas of photographing the European Bison snorting lungfuls of misty breath against the low winter sun. It’s never a good idea to form ideas that cannot be stage managed. No backlit lungfuls of breath were on offer but the Bison were nonetheless partially cooperative. I did manage to get a decent bars-free shot of the front end of one beast in its frosty paddock. Their more usual behaviour is to turn their backs to me and hang around near the ugly, necessarily heavy-duty fencing.
Most of the animals were very sensibly not venturing outside so it didn’t take too long for us to saunter round the 3½-mile circuit. All but one of the Meerkats were staying in the warm but, very dutifully, one less-than-delighted-looking individual was hunkered down mounting guard in the freezing cold on top of their frosty lookout mound. Our circuit produced a closer than usual encounter with a Reeve’s Muntjac which was clearly more intent on munching grass between patches of frost than worrying about my proximity. A Peacock also got up close and personal with Carol; I suspect it was probably looking for some food.
In winter the external car park at Whipsnade remains closed and cars are allowed in free of charge. On our way out, this winter concession gave us an opportunity to drive around the “passage through Asia” (pedestrians not permitted) where there are many deer of several species. My Asian deer recognition isn’t up to much, I’m afraid, so I can’t say for certain who Carol managed to get a close portrait of but here she is anyway. (Might it be a female Père David’s Deer, I wonder?)
Must go back and identify this chapess.