Archives for the month of: July, 2011

While we were on holiday in Norfolk, I went with my children to an amazing place called theĀ Amazona Zoo. It has all sorts of animals, birds and reptiles from the Brazilian rainforest. I knew it was something you would find interesting too, so I asked my daughter to take lots of pictures of the animals for my blog. She turned out to be a brilliant wildlife photographer!

The first picture above is a squirrel monkey. They live in the trees eating fruits and insects and have bright orange fur on their legs. They are quite small (like squirrels) and leap about in the branches.

Another very unusual animal is the Capybara, which is the world’s largest rodent. It looks a bit like a guinea pig, but it is as tall as a medium-sized dog! It lives in rivers and marshes and eats grasses, water plants and tree bark. Because it spends lots of time in water, it has webbed feet to swim.

We saw quite a few big cats, including the jaguar (which is big and solid like a tiger but spotted like a leopard) and the ocelot.

In Anna’s picture the ocelot looks like a pet cat, but its markings tell you it is a wild animal, and it is quite a bit bigger than your average house cat! This one was in a cage with a glass front so we could get very close. I think it was just as well we couldn’t pat it, though!

We saw lots of colourful birds, too. My favourite were the flamingos because my book Pink! has flamingos in it. These were Chilean flamingos and instead of being pink they had orange feathers in a stripy pattern. Don’t they look like they’re wearing pink knee-pads and flippers?

Here is a green-winged Macaw. There were lots of other colourful Macaws and Parrots in the Amazona Zoo, but this was a great close-up that Anna took.

We also saw some enormous birds called Greater Rhea. Here you can see a pair of them, and in their enclosure they had a nest with lots of huge eggs! I think the white one is the female and the darker grey one is the male. Unlike most other creatures, it is the male Rhea who looks after a big pile of eggs laid by several females. He takes care of the baby birds all by himself, too. I expect in a few more weeks this grey Rhea will be chasing around after about 20 baby birds!

This funny animal is called a tapir. It looks a bit like a pig but its nose is rather like an elephant’s trunk, all bendy and loose. When we took this picture the tapir was stretching up its nose towards us to smell us. That is how it senses things, because its eyesight isn’t that good. Tapirs live in forest areas and eat fruit, berries and leaves.

We were very surprised to find these giant hare-like animals just wandering freely around the children’s play area! They are called Mara or Patagonian Hares, and they are quite big with very spindly legs. They seemed very calm and just nibbled on grass. I guess they can’t be too dangerous!

Caimans, on the other hand, are definitely a danger! They are related to crocodiles but are smaller and darker in colour. They can live in fresh or salt water, and are found in large groups where there are plenty of shellfish and insects to eat. This one is called a Spectacled Caiman because of the rings around its eyes that look like a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles.

We had a fantastic time at the Amazona Zoo so if you’re travelling in Norfolk this summer it’s definitely worth a visit!

In the summer my family and I often visit Kelburn Country Park near Largs. This weekend the weather was so beautiful that we decided it would be a great place to go. And to our surprise, there were hundreds of people there already because of a music festival they have every year, called the Kelburn Garden Party!

Kelburn Castle is a colourful place, just perfect for a music festival. A few years ago when it was being restored, the owners invited four Brazilian graffiti artists as well as some Scottish artists to decorate it with something really colourful and fun. Here is what they came up with:

The castle is on the top of a hill, with lovely forest all around and a river running through it. There are lots of paths for walking, a magical secret forest to explore, horses and ponies to ride, a cool fort to climb in for younger kids and an adventure playground for older kids. At one end of the river is a waterfall, and in the summer the water is shallow enough to play in the river.

When we arrived, we saw a big stage covered with enormous flowers where a band was playing. Lots of people were sitting in the sunshine enjoying the music. There were amazing decorations everywhere, like giant butterflies hanging in the trees and colourful balls near the pond.

We had a fantastic day at Kelburn, and maybe next year we’ll try to get to the Garden Party on purpose!