A slight break from our wall-to-wall Olympic coverage. (Although to be honest, I am watching the Olympics in a pop-out window on my laptop as I write this. Typos? Blame men in swimsuits.)
Birdland is an easy day out and happens to be located in my favorite Cotswold village, Bourton-on-the-Water. I had somehow managed not to visit Birdland during any of our many trips to Bourton-on-the-Water, but it’s the perfect add-on to a visit to the village with children. Model village? Ice cream by the river? Penguins? Check, check, and check.
The superstars of Birdland are these guys — the only groups of King penguins to be seen in the UK. Their enclosure is near the entrance, and they appear to be used to people and not at all shy about cameras — or swimming up and splashing people in the face with a cheeky wiggle of the tail feathers.
A wilderness trail provides lots of animal-fact questions for the kids, as well as several ‘hides’ for viewing various local birds and wildlife. Everything was sleeping when we visited. This is the kingfisher hide.
A bird-encounter and education building shows off various collections. Something strikes me as funny about this vicar wandering around engaging in a now-illegal egg-collecting. Is it because all vicars make me think of the Vicar of Dibley? Maybe.
The Discovery Zone is a larger education center near the center of the park, with more detailed information panels, small animal enclosures, and a small play zone. On a warm summer day, it is also hotter than the hottest ring of hell, having been apparently built without any air conditioning, fans, or even windows. Learn while you burn, children!
The keepers give talks about the different animals throughout the day. Because nothing in England can just be normal, there are also massive metal sculptures of bird and bird-like forms scattered throughout the park.
Bits of fish are tossed in the pool above for the Humbolt penguins, then the keeper comes down here to pass whole fish to the King penguins. Why is he behind a fence? So the penguins won’t peck him until he bleeds. Not kidding. Circle of life ain’t pretty.
This sweet fellow is sitting on an imaginary egg. Apparently when males get broody they just pretend they have an egg and sit around waiting for it to hatch. This guy had been sitting there for 10 days, and he didn’t appear at all interested in leaving his imaginary egg-baby to go get some fish. It’s nice to see such dedication, and mental instability, in a creature other than humans.
Pay-and-display parking is available next to Birdland, at the usual exorbitant tourist-location prices. Entry to the park is good for the entire day, so you could go in first thing, leave to have lunch in the village, and come back for more birds in the afternoon. Although if you do want to buy lunch at the park, the Birdland Penguin Cafe is surprisingly decent and there are plenty of tables and green spaces for a bring-your-own picnic. There’s also a good-sized play area with rope climbing, slides, and other fun running-around things — thankfully in the shade — and more ice cream stands. Just remember your hat and sunblock.