Friday, 11 September 2015

Spectacular Somerset

TODAY I took a day off and headed for the Levels, hoping to see an Osprey perhaps.  I visited Natural England's Shapwick Heath and two of the hides there.  A long but sociable wait in first hide provided generally distant views of hobbies, marsh harriers and the occasional great white egret.  A fly-by kingfisher and a squealing water rail were seemingly the only other highlights, but when the rail was shooed out of the reeds by a moorhen and gave us a great view.

Back to the car past the "scrape" provided sightings of b-t godwits, greenshank, lapwings and more egrets.

I then drove round to the other end of the reserve and found a couple of slow-worms in the usual place.  Then onto Canada Farm hide and I settled down for a long wait alone.  It was a blustery day which I thought may stifle my chances, but eventually one of the pair of kingfishers seen dashing around settled in front of the window.  Even in the somewhat overcast conditions the colours still shone out beautifully.

After a while I started to think about heading off, but then caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw a grass snake swimming towards me from an island opposite; this is only the second time that I've seen such a thing.

It felt like a good day and that my luck was in, so I stayed put and the kingfisher returned.  I was then, finally ready to go, but waited just a little longer and there in front of the hide an otter appeared for a few seconds then dived and disappeared.

Speckled Wood

There was no further sightings so felt that maybe I had done quite well and it was time to head home!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Wonderful Scotland (Day 7)

Now into July, we decided to make the trip up to the far north and had a wonderful day.  We drove to Durness, which is pretty much as far as you can go, via an amazing route along a huge glacial valley - the weather hung over our heads providing breath taking views. 


Durness is a tiny place bordering the coast, with a wonderful huge beach backed by sand dunes.

I was particularly keen to see or hear a corncrake, knowing that there were some in the area, so asked in the TIO and was told to take a look in the field behind the SPAR shop!  Armed with this valuable local knowledge, I tracked down a small uncut paddock behind the shop and between a football pitch.  Sure enough, after a few minutes waiting, I heard the crex crex call over that sound of a mower near by.  However hard I tried I could not spot it, but it was fabulous to have my first corncrake experience.

We then drove to the end of the road to the beach and set off on a long walk around the peninsula past the beehive MoD property; the beach was pretty much empty.

We walked over the dunes and, where not grazed, enjoyed the diverse wild flowers including rich machair.  We reached a puffin nesting colony and sat on the cliff top watching these and other sea birds, sitting amongst frog orchids.

Where the dunes had open cliff faces we found a few sand martin colonies - it was great to see these birds in a natural settings, rather than a quarry or artificial bank on a nature reserve.

Walking back to the car we came across this wonderful daisy-lined path on the way down to the beach.


We had parked outside this lovely old barn inhabited by nesting swallows.  Peering in there were years of nests that had accumulated on the beams.  Whilst trying to take images of the swallows, a stoat appeared running across the road dragging a rabbit carcass back to a nest somewhere at the base of the dry stone wall.


He went backwards and forwards and at one time starred right back!


The swallows were not too impressed:


Driving back up the road we spotted three stoat kits prancing around on the road, but I was not quick enough to take a photo.

We drove back on a twisty scenic route and found that lots of deer roaming around, very relaxed, even in garden of an empty house.

A great day enhanced by a visit to a superb restaurant next to a loch, where a Scottish singer gave use a short rendition. Wow!