Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Two birds

Birding and plants are my biggest interests, although everything else wildlife is good.   I also quite like history, geology, landscape photography and archaeology too, but one doesn't want to spread oneself too thinly does one!.

Here are two birdy pictures from last weekend - a great-crested grebe and a mute swan.  My camera is absolutely at its limit taking birds cos I can't afford a lens the size of my right arm, and frankly I am not sure I want to be seen out with one either!

I particularly like their reflections.

I use a Canon EOS 500D with a 18-200mm Canon lens which is great, but of course just as I bought that model the EOS 550 popped its head up on the market.  For you guys over the pond this is the Rebel series from Canon.  Its the old conundrum - buy now or wait for ever for the next model....

Incidentally even though those big camera lens are totally vulgar, I am starting to get lens envy...and don't start me on binocular and 'scope envy!!!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Serious snake action

I just can't help myself.

These serpents are fascinating and so I thought that I would share some more piccies to provide additional delight from my weekend visit to the Somerset Levels.  Of course, as you probably know, not all our scaly friends are real snakes.  Slow worms (which are the small, sleek individuals lying centrally in the group photo) are in fact legless lizards.  The ones in the photo are probably males.  One of two appeared to have lost the ends of their body - probably when successfully escaping from a predator - neat trick!

I did not want to disturb them for too long so my identification is from the piccies only.

The other snakes below are adders with one grass snake also in the bottom picture.  Interestingly adders eat slow worms - maybe these were too fast or too big for the adders.

If you are wondering why the pictures are a bit out of focus, its cos I had to hold up a big piece of corrugated iron in one hand with my Canon DSLR in the other (with a large lens), whilst getting the pictures, before my erstwhile subjects either bit me or made a hasty escape (OK- the biting bit was very unlikely).

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Spendid Somerset

What a day....

Today was a visit to the wonderful wetlands of the Somerset Levels in the UK - this is my key birding area as its local to me and its rather special.

Glastonbury Tor looking over the Somerset Levels

It is a large area of low land supporting peat, some of which has been dug out making lots of lakes fringed by reedbeds, so loved by birds. Waders, ducks, raptors, herons and warblers are plentiful. Summer sees the arrival of lots of dragonflies and damselflies, but also mozzies (yuck).

If you know where to go there are otters too, that can be seen during the day. In additon there are many interesting plants in a wonderful landscape of small fields, bounded by ditches ("rhynes") plus thick hedgerows with old willows and oaks...I LOVE IT!

My Visit to the "Levels"

Saturday proved to be a lovely Spring day: not only sunshine, but reptiles, amphibians, mammals, butterflies and birds.

The "Levels" provide lots of sites worth visiting, but amongst the best at the moment that are easily accessible are Catcott Lows, Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath.

Birds seen and heard: Booming bittern, great white egret, little egrets, singing chiff-chaffs in flowering pussy willow, singing Cetti's warbler, possible marsh harrier, black-tailed godwits in summer plumage, redshank, sand-martins, tawny owl calling, winter ducks (teal, wigeon & shoveller) and dancing grebes:


The great crested grebes were very active with their courting dance - they face one another bobbing heads for a while then both dive for weed. They then surface, swim together, then rise majestically out of the water, treading water for some distance - just spectular. What romantics.

The introduced Marsh frogs (I think) were calling and clinging together in a less than romantic embrace:

Marsh Frog

Massively exciting were the corrugated iron sheets lying around - and its impossible not to peak. There were grass snakes, slow worms and adders, virtually intertwined, sucking up the warmth - just mind blowing!


...but best of all, whilst sitting in the sun resting lazily on a lakeside, there was a commotion amongst the fish and a few yards away AN OTTER!!!! Very Happy (see image at the top of the blog)

It swam straight towards me and quite close before it noticed me. I only have a 10x magnification SDLR camera so the picture is quite poor, but who cares!

As I said...what a day!.