Birds of Australia

I now have a new camera…… it isn’t a DSLR, I decided that having to change the lens all the time and the extra weight was not the way I wanted to go, so I have a bridge camera, it is a Sony DSC HX300, with a 50x zoom, perfect for taking photos of our beautiful wildlife.

Here a few shots of our birds that I have taken over the last couple of weeks.

Australian Pelican

Australian Grebe

Pied Cormorant

Great Egret

White Faced Heron

Ukutula, Photos galore

Ukutula Lion Park, where I spent some time as a volunteer, working with the lion cubs, Unfortunately for me, but maybe not for you readers, my every day notes that I had written on my Galaxy Note about my experience at Ukutula, I have some how managed to delete :(.

So I will just post some photos from my experience, which I have to say was one of the highlights of my life so far, am intending going back to South Africa again, maybe not in 2014, but pretty soon after, have definitely left some of my heart over there!

A chalet at Ukutula

A chalet at Ukutula

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Cleaning out a watering hole for the Gremlins

Cleaning out a watering hole for the Gremlins

Ukutula

Ukutula

elephant at elephant sanctuary

elephant at elephant sanctuary

Elephant kiss slobber

Elephant kiss slobber

Elephant kiss

Elephant kiss

Baby giraffe

Baby giraffe

Cute Giraffe baby

Cute Giraffe baby

cub paw

cub paw

Lion cub at Ukutula

Lion cub at Ukutula

Here's looking at you :)

Here’s looking at you :)

Zebra at Pilanesberg

Zebra at Pilanesberg

Zebra

Zebra

Bottoms up

Bottoms up

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Pilanesberg

Pilanesberg

Pilanesberg

Pilanesberg

Pilanesberg

Pilanesberg

Harri, Ukutula

Harri, Ukutula

Harri, Ukutula lion walk

Harri, Ukutula lion walk

Lion Walk Ukutula

Lion Walk Ukutula

lion cub, ukutula

lion cub, ukutula

Pete(monkey) the caracal Ukutula

Pete(monkey) the caracal Ukutula

Cuddle with lion cub, can't beat it

Cuddle with lion cub, can’t beat it

Myself and my sister Ukutula

Myself and my sister Ukutula

My sister

My sister

Lion Walk, Ukutula

Lion Walk, Ukutula

Pete having a bath being watched over by a lion cub

Pete having a bath being watched over by a lion cub

Newborn cubs, Ukutula

Newborn cubs, Ukutula

Piggy the hyena

Piggy the hyena

Piggy the hyena

Piggy the hyena

Ukutula, Day 3, Ranger Day

Two days on the trot, Ranger Day. Volunteer Day 3

Shawny

Shawny

I woke up pretty early, about 5.30 am, the storm last night filtered out to nothing, luckily it wasn’t too warm, otherwise it would have been an uncomfortable night with no air conditioning or fans on as we had a powercut which lasted about 24 hours, apparently it is quite common if there is heavy rain or strong winds.

Today’s job was to clean out the enclosures, the younger lions (the ones two or under) they stayed in the enclosures whilst we cleaned them out, we just made sure we had someone watching our backs. The older ones were encouraged into the feeding area, too risky to be that close and personal to the adult lions!

As there is quite a few of us, it is fun, picking up lion pooh, now that is something you don’t do every day, cleaned out their man made water hole, and removed any carcasses, now you can imagine, Africa with hot sun and a two day old carcass, the smell wasn’t too pleasant and of course you made sure you kept your mouth closed when moving the carcass, so the zillion flies didn’t find their way inside!

As there are about 30 volunteers, we do get swapped around, we don’t stay with the same group, which is nice, this way we get to mingle with everyone, considering the difference in ages and nationalities, we all seem to get on quite well, Gill works out the rosters on a Sunday and it goes up on the board in the dining room on a Sunday evening.

Alex the Lion Cub

Alex the Lion Cub

How many cubs can you fit into a clean water hole, waiting for it to fill

How many cubs can you fit into a clean water hole, waiting for it to fill

Lions do Climb!

Lions do Climb!

Cub's Paw

Cub’s Paw

Not sure why, but I took a lot of shots of cub’s paws!

Quite coincidently, the agency that we used to book our trip to Ukutula, were doing a promotional shoot today, who knows we may end up in their gallery, they took some shots of us in one of the enclosures……… after we had cleaned it! http://www.ukutulaagency.com

Ukutula, My Story, Day 2, Ranger Day

Ranger Day’s, these are days where we go out and about on the back of a ute, with the rangers to do what ever is needed to be done on that day.

We certainly travelled in style………. the back of the ute has a couple of dirty, old foam mattresses, (covered in who knows what!) where we have the privilege of sitting, whilst being driven, often on unsealed roads. I did feel for anyone with back troubles, because it really wasn’t a comfortable way to travel. I felt like one of the women from the land army during the war! But in saying that, it was fun, something we wouldn’t do at home!

Travelling in style........

Travelling in style……..

Our first errand of the day was to collect a dead nyala and baby, she had been found by one of the rangers earlier that morning, she died during the night whilst giving birth, the baby had also died.

So we collected the bodies and returned to the animals enclosures where the baby nyala was fed to one of the hyenas and the mother was fed to three lions. Sad, but that is mother natures way and the lions and other animals need to eat.

Lions feeding on a dead nyala

Lions feeding on a dead nyala

At Ukutula, there are various different age groups of lions, the cubs, the devils, the gremlins, walking lions and prides, they gradually move up through the stages as they get older.

The devils are the next stage cubs, from around 3 months to about 6 months, these are kept in another enclosure and as a volunteer you can still interact with them, but advised to enter in pairs, a couple of the volunteer chalets were also in this enclosure.  Guests/tour groups can visit these, but only as part of an organised tour, with guides or volunteers with them, young children aren’t allowed in.

The older of these cubs are by now, quite big, about the size of a boxer dog, they are pretty heavy and have large paws, with very sharp claws and  their mouths are home to some very large and sharp teeth!

Today, they were being rehomed temporarily, whilst their present enclosure was being upgraded and being made even more secure!    The smaller of the devils were easier to move, they were just picked up and carried to their new temporary home, with the 6 month olds, not so easy!

So how do you move 6 month old lion cubs?  You put them into a large cat box of course!

In you go Shawny...

In you go Shawny…

And as is the same with domestic cats, lion cubs go into the cat box willingly…….well if anyone has a cat, they know that last comment wasn’t true!

Domestic cats aren’t easy to put into cat boxes and it is the same for lion cubs. So Jnr and Ben, were armed with dead baby chickens, playing with Shawny as you would a cat and eventually Shawny couldn’t resist the lure of the dead chick and placed two front paws in to the box and then gradually crept in and slam the door was shut, boy, did he let his feelings known about that, he was growling and banging against the door (which I have to say wasn’t very strong against his weight) trying to sharpen his claws on some unsuspecting volunteer, if they were close by!

Four of us carried the heavy cat box to the ute and then he was transported to his new home, as he was a bigger cub, he was moving into the home of the gremlins, cubs about 6 months to a year or so.

The cat box was opened and all the other gremlin cubs crowded around, eager to meet him, but Shawny decided that the cat box was now his new best friend and he didn’t want to leave it!

Shawny was eventually tipped out and he was accepted into the group quite happily.

The next one was harder to get in and even harder was the third one, so by the time it was Holly’s turn, it was decided to dart her, so as not to cause her distress, she was laid out in the back of the ute with some of the volunteers and transported to her new home which as she was six months old was to be with the gremlins, she wasn’t placed with the other cubs until she had come around properly.

After lunch we headed out with a box trailer full of veggies, this was dumped in a huge pile, then we spread it around, the ostriches searching for any bits of carrot they could find.

After the trailer was unloaded we moved just a few metres away and watched….. slowly out from the bushes came giraffe, more ostriches, and various different deer and guinea fowl, ready to pick through the fresh veggies we had left for them. Zebras usually come and eat as well, but today they were being elusive.

Unloading the veggies

Unloading the veggies

Spreading the veggies

Spreading the veggies

Thanks for the food

Thanks for the food

Slowly they come

Slowly they come

Yum

Yum

On arrival back at the centre, we learned of two new additions, a 4 week old caracal and a few day old serval, so naturally we went to visit them, the caracal belonged to the chef Franco, the serval was being looked after by Gill at night as it was still too tiny.

The caracal ended up with two names, Franco named her Monkey and the volunteers named her Pete, but I think the jury was out on that one, because Franco wasn’t really happy with either name, Pete was cute and such a handful, quite tiny compared to the cubs, but she had so much personality.

Caracal cubs are quite kitten like in their behaviour and she was very delicate compared to the hefty cubs.

Pete the caracal

Pete the caracal

After dinner, our first South African storm started, but unfortunately it was all noise, none of the much needed rain, we did however end up with a powercut which lasted 24 hours, the generator was switched on, only for a short while, during the night it was switched off, too noisy, it didn’t matter, we were tired anyway.

Day 3, Ranger Day will be tomorrow.

Ukutula, My Story, Day 1, Cub Day

Day 1 Cub Day Ukutula Lion Park

Our first official day as a volunteer, we were to be part of the cub team.

Cub, not officially named, but he was nicknamed "Samson"

Cub, not officially named, but he was nicknamed “Samson”

The cub team get to be first in the queue at meal times as they have to feed the hungry cubs and be ready for the first arrival of the guests or tour groups.

The cubs are solely looked after by the volunteers, the volunteers are shown what to do by the volunteers that had been there longer than us (after the initial brief from Gill)  there are feeding instructions in the kitchen, in case you should forget what to do or who has what, there were plenty of volunteers around to help, on cub day there was usually between 6 and 10 of us.

Each cub, had a chart which had to be filled in, on the top was a description of the cub, sex and colour of painted toe nail!  This isn’t as daft as it seems, lets face it when you have 8 or more cubs, they can look very similar, a couple had distinguishing marks, so easy to tell apart, but by painting one toenail a different colour you can be sure you have the right cub, very important at feeding time.

The chart was filled throughout the day with information on when the cub had a wee/pooh, whether stimulated/independently and how much milk/meat the consumed, this way if there was something was wrong with the cub it could be spotted quickly.

So every day the cubs needed feeding ( 3 times a day), stimulation (encouraging the younger cubs to wee and pooh, this is usually done by the mother, but as the mother wasn’t available it was the task of the volunteers, all it meant was hold the cub facing away from you, put some tissue on your hands and gently massage around the genital area, to encourage the little cub to wee or poo)  If you were really lucky it would totally miss your tissue and end up all over your hands and clothes, in fact everywhere the tissue wasn’t, because like a human baby, sometimes, they just seem to explode!  The cubs would also be bathed.

Milk must be made up into bottles, bottles of course must be sterilised after each use and left over milk must not be reused.

Meat was weighed and put into bowls (each cub had their own bowl with their name on it) and predator powder placed on the meat.  Predator powder is basically a mineral powder for the cubs, to ensure they are getting everything that they need.

I am preparing the milk

I am preparing the milk

Meat and Milk all ready to go!

Meat and Milk all ready to go!

Keri preparing the meat

Keri preparing the meat

We had ten cubs to look after, eight were meat eaters and two were still on milk. The four biggest cubs were Jumanji, Maria, Lilou and Jean, the next four were Alex, Sasha, Zeus and Irene, the two cubs that were still on milk, were unnamed but were nicknamed Ice and Samson.

Feeding was always a challenge, the four bigger ones needed more meat than the younger ones, this is why it was essential that the right cub had the right bowl, so we would grab four cubs, grab their bowl, each go to a corner of the enclosure where we fed them and let them eat all at the same time, this was repeated with the other four, then it was time for the babies still on milk. Cubs aren’t fed like human babies on their backs they are fed on all fours, with the bottle in front of them, in the wild they like to paw their mother, to stimulate more milk, so you can imagine how hard it is when the cubs are first taken away from their mothers, the volunteers have more scratches, bite marks and bruises than you can imagine and of course the cubs that have just been fed think it is a great idea if they can have some milk as well, so the eight other cubs are constantly having to be removed from climbing up the volunteers legs who are feeding “Ice” and “Samson” or jumping onto them from the table whilst the two young cubs are being fed. Hence the reason there are so many volunteers.

Feeding a cub

Feeding a cub

a cub feeding, this one had gotten used to how humans feed him!

a cub feeding, this one had gotten used to how humans feed him!

After feeding, the cubs would have a play, then usually the first guests/tour group would arrive, everyone (including us) would have to have their hands sanitised before touching the cubs, this was done by using a spray disinfectant.

The guests would ask questions and of course hold a cub (providing they were sitting down) and have their pictures taken with the cubs, sometimes the cubs would be happy to play along and sometimes they were just as determined that they weren’t going to have their photos taken!

This routine was done again at lunch time (with guests visiting in the afternoon) and then they were fed in the evening before we had our last meal of the day and left to sleep until morning!

The cubs of course are still babies, so after feeding they would often want a nap, but sometimes they had to be woken for photos, this was often the best time to have photos taken as they were still sleepy and less aggressive, so they would be snuggly, great for pictures, but of course, there was the chance they could also wake up grumpy!

"Ice"

“Ice”

What a cutie

What a cutie

Nanna Nap

Nanna Nap

Cub sleeps, so do we :)

Cub sleeps, so do we :)

Day 2 tomorrow is Ranger Day

Ukutula – South Africa. My Story

Out and About in Ukutula

Ukutula – known as the place of quiet….. except for the surreal sound of the lions roaring, not in the distance, but close by, just a few hundred metres away from where I slept during my time as a volunteer here at Ukutula in October.

It was magical, surreal, exciting, unbelievable, it was the last noise I would hear as I drifted off into a happy slumber each night and usually the first sound I awoke to, often before daybreak.

Ukutula is located in Brits, South Africa, and is a lion education, research and breeding centre, the owners are very much involved in conservation, it is owned and expertly managed by Willi and Gillian Jacobs.

We organised our trip (I and my sister volunteered here, we live in different countries and thought it would be a great opportunity to meet up, have some fun and at the same time, help out on a project that involved something we both enjoy – animals) through http://www.ukutulaagency.com, can certainly recommend them.

We arrived on Tuesday 8th October, a beautiful sunny day, we were welcomed and shown to our accommodation. It was a lovely thatched chalet, consisting of a double and single bed, dining table, kitchenette and bathroom, just recently decorated and was easily 4*.

We had a pretty view of one of the pools from our window, oh dear, I thought, no-one back home is going to believe we actually were volunteering our time whilst we were living on this resort style facility!

After dinner that evening (yes, not only did we have lovely accommodation, we also had three meals a day, which we didn’t have to prepare ourselves), all of the new volunteers had a meeting with Gill (the owner), there were about 10 or so of us newbies, all English speaking, from the UK, Australia and America, when we later met the other volunteers they were Scandinavian or German and mostly as you would expect, young females, aged between 18 and 22, with the odd male and mature female thrown in.

Gill was very welcoming and thanked everyone for coming and volunteering our time, she was very appreciative of us all and said at any time if we did not want to work one day, then we didn’t have too, we were at all times volunteers and valued.

Not wanting to work…… but I wanted to cuddle the cubs and feed them, that was the whole point of coming here, why would you come as a volunteer and then not actually work? Apparently it had only ever happened once!

Gill explained how the centre worked, how it started and she told us some highly entertaining stories, then she showed us around and said our days would either be cub days or ranger days.

Cub days would involve looking after the cubs, feeding them (including preparing their milk or meat) stimulating the younger ones and bathing them and generally pampering to their every need!

The volunteers were in sole charge of the cubs  (they were aged from 4-10 weeks). If we had any queries at all, then Gill could be easily contacted, nothing was ever too much trouble, she was a very hands on person and knew all the cubs and volunteers by name.  We were each presented with a t shirt to be worn on cub days as we would be working with the public and of course we were the voice of Ukutula.

The Centre also had visits from tour groups, educational school visits and guests who were perhaps staying at the centre for a day or two.  Part of the tour would include a visit to the cubs and everyone  could have their photos taken with them and provided they were sitting down, they could hold the babies, we as volunteers would help with this, taking photos, letting them hold the cubs and of course answer any questions they would have.

Ranger Days, on these days we would go out and about with the rangers and help with what ever was needed, it could mean cleaning out the enclosures of the bigger lions, collecting food, cutting up the food etc. The days would be very varied.

Keri and I could not believe that we were actually here, ten months of waiting since it had been booked and years of dreaming beforehand!

I went to sleep that night, exhausted from the flight, but so happy to be here in South Africa, the lions roaring lulled me to a surprisingly deep sleep.  Looking forward to the adventure of tomorrow.

P1040558-001

My sister and I with Gill and Willi

P1040642-001 P1040636-001

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Our accommodation, ours was the one on the left hand side

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Some Guest Accomodation

Some Guest Accomodation

Cheetah

Cheetah

Giraffe

Giraffe

Day one, Cub Day will follow tomorrow!

A Garden Wedding

My eldest daughter got married last weekend, it was a garden wedding, a light morning shower followed by sunshine and 20 beautiful degrees, it was just perfect!

Natalie didn’t want a formal type wedding, she wanted something simple, relaxing and fun. Something that their children (my two gorgeous grandchildren) would remember. This was certainly achieved!

After the ceremony, there was entertainment provided in the form of an excellent face painter (there were ten children, but the adults had just as much fun having their faces painted!). The bride ended up being married to Skeletor!

A cartoonist also drew all the guests caricatures, a photo was taken of the guests holding their caricatures, which will be posted into the guests signing book, next to their well wishes and as a thank you for coming to the wedding, they could take their caricatures home!

Well let’s see, in a garden there is often a wishing well

Wishing Well, perfect for a garden wedding

Wishing Well, perfect for a garden wedding

Tick!

Oh and of course there is always a watering can

Watering Can Cake

Watering Can Cake

Tick!

Trees, often the topiary type…….

Ribbon Topiary and welcome sign

Ribbon Topiary and welcome sign

Ribbon Topiary top view

Ribbon Topiary top view

Oh and there is more topiary :)

Ferrero Rocher Topiary

Ferrero Rocher Topiary

Tick!

Flowers of course!

Flowers in a bowl, table decoration

Flowers in a bowl, table decoration

Flowers under the arch

Flowers under the arch

Flower Urn

Flower Urn