Saturday, 25 March 2017

March 25th Colchester Zoo

Mum and a Lion at Colchester Zoo
Today, I went to Colchester Zoo with Mum as a pre-Mother's Day outing. It was a lovely day and the zoo was packed with families making the most of it. If you have never been, Colchester Zoo is a large zoo in Essex full of the classic zoo animals such as lions, tigers, elephants and many other things you can think of or didn't know existed. It is a great place to play around with my camera. Here are some of the best that I took today...

Komodo Dragon
Sea Lion
Black-footed Penguin
Squirrel Monkey
Rainbow Lorikeet
Ruppell's Griffon Vulture
Crowned Crane
White Rhino with calf
African Elephant
Chilean Flamingo
Short-clawed Otter
Red Panda
King Vulture
Andean Condor
Harris Hawk
Barn Owl

Two-spotted Assassin Bug
While I was here, I thought it would be a great time to discover what the zoo has to offer in it's collection of invertebrates from around the world. Though there weren't an awful lot to see in this category compared to the selection of mammals, birds and even reptiles, it did have a few tarantulas and the odd scorpion, which preferred to hide away from prying eyes, and there was even a colony of leaf-cutter ants, but they were too tiny for my camera to detect. So I have to settle with things that were more obliging and didn't move so much like these two-spotted assassin bugs from West Africa. Assassin bugs may seem really small, but they are deadly predators. They sit and wait for their prey to crawl by, before pouncing at them and stabbing them with their mouthparts that injects powerful enzymes into them, making it easier for the bug to suck them dry. Yuck!

Emperor Scorpion
Sahara Thorny Stick Insect
Macleay's Spectre Stick Insect

Owl Butterflies
There is also a small butterfly house at the zoo. I have to be honest though, I was a little bit disappointed as they had only one species here to look at. Still, owl butterflies are not one species to turn your nose up at. They come from Mexico and down into the Amazon rainforest and are easy to recognise with those owl-like eye spots on the hind wing. They lay their eggs on the leaves of banana and coffee plants and I could see some here in this butterfly house. When they hatch, they become hairy, hungry caterpillars, which I saw on a nearby leaf to the one with the eggs on.

Owl Butterfly eggs
Owl Butterfly caterpillars

Giant African Land Snail
Of course, I wouldn't go to a zoo to discover more about invertebrates without holding a few. There were three to test my nerve, though sadly, not a spider among them. My mum took these photos for me, so if you want more proof that I held them than a hand shot, then I apologize. You just have to take my word for it. First up was the world's largest land snail, the giant African land snail. It is twice the size of any snail you will find here in the UK. This individual was rather shy as it retreated into it's shell, but you could still see part of it at the shell's entrance. It was surprisingly light and not that slimy as expected. It felt more earthy from the soil stuck to it with a hint of something cold and damp. Nothing unpleasant at all. Easy peasy!

Giant Spiny Stick Insect

Next up, a giant spiny stick insect. This guy needed two hands to hold it. It was definitely a step up from the snail. Stick insects don't move very fast, so there was little fear of it running off my hands any time soon. I felt the odd slight prickle of a leg moving against my palms and it was actually rather pleasant experience. Not bad at all!

Madagascan Hissy Cockroach
Finally, the most unpredictable of the three, a Madagascan hissing cockroach! I don't know what to think about this one. This an insect that has the potential to run off at short notice. I'm not a fan of cockroaches not since waking up one morning while I was in Texas in 2010 and found one staring at me on the loo from the sink before dashing onto the towel next to me. I couldn't help but let out a manly scream during that encounter. Thankfully, this hissing cockroach was well behaved and only moved about a little bit on my hand. Piece of cake! Bring on the tarantulas I say!

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