Saturday, 7 May 2016

Bunking off work...

A rare day off and I took advantage of the nice weather by going to the Somerset Levels (no surprises there then!).  I was really hoping to see otters but no luck this time.

The summer warblers were on full song although I'm yet to hear a grasshopper warbler.  There were a number of hobbies chasing the newly emerged dragonflies.  The bitterns were generally spending the day stuck to one spot with the exception of one individual who flew so close it felt like it was coming into the hide; no one was prepared with their camera so we all just have to remember the moment.


An incredible noise from the reeds suggested a waterrail, but I noticed this nest with two red headed chicks and realised that it was just a moorhen mother trying to distract me...

This jay was up to no good!  I saw two cuckoos from the same spot and later had a reasonable view of a calling male in the distance.  One of the first pair made that strange bubbling call.

There were a few common butterflies around - this I suspect is a small white.

The levels would not be complete without regular sightings of marsh harriers, such as this one below which gave us quite good views.

Another target species for this trip was a white-throat - I've still not managed to get the shot that I want however but I'll keep trying...

Just taken off...

The grebes and herons were very active, with a couple of heron nests easily viewed from one of the hides.  The heron chick was huge and extremely persistent.

Reed bunting male
As mentioned the bitterns were elusive, although booming regularly; this is the only shot I managed to get - well at least it proves that they are there.

Isn't spring great!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Ancient woodland wonders

WE paid a visit to our favorite wood today, Lower Woods in South Gloucestershire, and following a huge downpour we walked for a few hours to see the wonderful wild flowers.

This large woodland supports a host of ancient woodland plant species, as well as nightingales and dormice:

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False oxslip
Wood spurge
Wild strawberry and violet
Early purple orchid

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Durlston Country Park, Swanage and RSPB Arne

I'M not sure what plant twitching is called, but yesterday we took a longish drive to hunt out early spider orchids on the coast near Swanage at Durlston Country Park managed by Dorset CC.  

This wonderful reserve is made up of sea cliffs, rough grassland and meadows, and with views over to the Isle of Wight, on a sunny day there can be no place better.  We were slightly challenged by a cold, penetrating wind which reduced the bird song, but did not affect the orchids of course.

Looking out to sea, a peregrine had a great view of the raft of bathing guillemots.

The warblers mainly hid in the scrub but the occasional white-throat scratched out its song on a tall bramble. A pair of stonechats showed in the sunshine, cracking stones from a gorse bush.

We accidentally flushed the occasional deer from the scrub, which dashed off seemingly towards the cliff edge..

The early spider orchids did not disappoint and were so much more spectacular then I remembered. Walking through the reserve and beyond onto the NT land we soon came across the occasional spike and then large clusters of early spider orchid.

For the botanical geeks amongst you a number of other plants starting to show, including small patches of bastard toadflax (Thesium humifusum

We walked a loop further in land through the wonderful meadows, filled with nodding yellow cowslips.

Two other orchids (green-winged and early purple) were flowering on the reserve.

Early purple orchid

We loved the County Park and with some time left we headed onto RSPB's Arne reserve for a quick whiz round. There was not much showing and frankly I was a bit disappointed, which is unfair to this fabulous site, but when we reached the car park again there was a surprise or two.

The bird feeders were awash with small birds and woodpeckers drummed the trees around us.  Then my wife spotted that there was a fox under the feeder (I totally missed this!) and it gave us some great views - it seemed pretty unaffected by our presence.


Can't wait to go back.