Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The effects of snow

The current harsh weather must make life for our birds extremely difficult.  The countryside looks barren, if not beautiful.  Of course one effect of the snow is to bring otherwise shy birds straight to the doorstep.  Our urban garden has seen the first bramblings this year, mixed in with other finches (goldfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch).  The continental blackbirds also appear in numbers.  Quite often you can spot one bird who has found a bush bearing berries 'setting up camp' and fending off all others - a tough job.

I have not yet seen any waxwings, but I have had many redwings.  These excitable birds are magic and a joy to watch; they come right to the side of the house where there is a bush currently laden with orange berries.  The limits of my camera are reached again, but here are some of my efforts.

The second photo down shows the one bird that kept dropping the berries...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Winter outing

OUCH its cold!  But the great thing about winter is the birding.

On the Somerset Levels the now famous starling roost is a spectacular event.  Up to 5million birds visit from across Europe, when the flock is at its peak in January.  Last Sunday there were enormous numbers.  This not only attracted the shivering birders, and more casual visitors, but a peregrine.  Funny thing about peregrines - apparently starlings are sh*t scarred of them - not so funny when the flock is directly over head!  Anyway - made good watching.  Unfortunately the mist obscured much of the spectacle, but it was still worth braving the freezing temperatures.

Other highlights were an ice-skating water-rail and a marsh harrier fly by.

Lots of starlings

Heron coasting over starlings in reeds

I did meet nice jolly chaps out there - all the way from Cambridge to look at fog - long way to come really!

One birder particularly struck me as displaying optimism over sense...


At least Noah's hide looked scenic...

Noah's hide

And there was good sunset...

Most incredible of all was Glastonbury Tor sticking out of the mist - quite breath taking.

Frozen lake

The cold weather also attracts the more cautious visitors.  I was very excited to have this chap visit - the photo is through a window and the bird is quite far away....!
Brambling in the garden

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Fungi, pigs, deer and sunshine

The New Forest was a feast today - rich in fungi, colourful with early Autumn tints, holly berries and pigolious - plus sunshine.

We hoped to hear the deer calling for the rut, take pictures of fungi, enjoy the trees and try to avoid hitting any cattle or horses that roam freely across the heathland.  Success on all counts bar the deer.

We did enjoy seeing pigs taking up their pannage rights however - what little characters they are!.  Their noses have a number of rings in to stop them trashing the ground, so they mainly stick to eating acorns and the like, that can they can forage for without digging up the soil.  Commoners of the forest are allowed to run their pigs in this way, but this is a right only afforded to them and is an ancient tradition.

As soon as you stepped of any path in the woods you could see fungi - they were everywhere and quite amazing.  Here are some of the ones that I found:

Penny-bun bolete

Cauliflower fungus

Parasol mushroom
Parasol mushroom
Lichens also festoon some trees

In between the areas of conifers and broadleaved woodland there are areas of gorse, holly, heather, bracken and grassland.  The gorse is particularly important of birds such as the rare Dartford warbler.

Flowering gorse
Amazing numbers of berries on the holly
Scots pine
On the way back we found that a rain shower had drifted through Bath...I could not resist including this picture...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Autumns around the corner

The sunshine today meant that there were loads of lovely insects out to photograph.  My camera could not get close to the marsh harrier or great white egret, but I could capture the darters and fungi:








Friday, 3 September 2010

Late summer short breaks

Late summer has given us a chance to visit family in Devon and Cambridge and for me to get a bit of wildlife watching in.  In Devon the house martins were still nesting and buzzing the eves of the house where we stayed.  Also swallows were lining the cables with youngsters pestering their parents for food.

House Martin

Barn swallows
When in the east of England we travelled along to Cley and Wells.  The highlight was a spoonbill and lots of warm sunshine.  Other interesting birds included waders shown below, plus spotted red shanks, ringed plovers and marsh harriers.

The north Norfolk coast is amazing - great wide expanses of mud flats, shingle and sand - wild and exciting.  On the shingle banks the most obvious plant this late in the year is the yellow horned poppy;

Yellow horned poppy
A sneaky extra day off allowed a visit to the Somerset Levels - this turned up an Osprey, 4+ hobbies, 2 great white egrets, clear and close views of Cetti's warbler and kingfishers, plus a number of waders such as black-tailed godwits...oh and a bittern fly past!

Godwits & lapwings