Saturday, 22 December 2012

Previous weekends

THE last few weekends have been nice enough to visit to the Somerset Levels and Castle Combe, without the need to don all over water proofs!  A few piccies from these visits:

Evening sun beams
Someone with too much time on their hands - but a sense of humour at least...
Two marsh harriers
Spot the kingfisher!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Frozen Saturday

SATURDAY morning was spectacular and cold.  There was a pink sunrise and the moon loomed large on the horizon - time to get the camera out I thought.  I donned many layers and headed southwest out of town.

There is a steep road called Brassknocker Hill (don't ask me why) coming out of Bath and it is the only true switchback that I know of in the area.  It made a great subject for a composite photo:

I descended the hill, crossed the A36, through Limpley Stoke and onto the valley in which the beautiful village of Freshford lies - it was gripped by frost.

It took an hour before the sun reached the valley floor and that nearly outstretched my patience... but not quite I am glad to say.

I was quite pleased to see a pair of little grebes on the river, plus an indignant heron and some startled mallards.  Three pied wagtails were flitting around the icy meadow seeking insects and seeds I walked to the corner of the filed, through an artistically styled gate and along the edge Avoncliffe Wood.  A fallen tree give me a great view of a polypody fern.

Polypody Fern


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Oak leaf falling

BRIGHT sunshine and a gentle breeze on an autumn Sunday equals time to get the camera out.  The oak, beech and birch trees were stunning today.  I wanted to capture leaf fall, and although I did not have much time, managed a few shots.

With a little bit of whizzedry I have managed to get this interesting effect showing this single oak leaf as it fell to the ground - note that this is a composite image - not just one where I have stuck an oak leaf in 5 places on the image to make it look like its fallen... ;-) :

And here is the majestic tree from which it came...

Some other leaf fall...


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pond Life 2012

I have always wanted a pond - well ever since I had a garden anyway - and this spring I decided that digging one was a great way of avoiding having to paint the hall!  We live on limestone and our patch is on a slight slope; in fact its amazing how a little incline can cause a whole heap of extra effort.  There was a couple of broad brick steps spanning the garden when we inherited it, and this is where I chose to sink the 6 ft by 6ft hole.  Digging down a few feet meant removing lots of old concrete, broken bricks, topsoil and limestone rubble.  I would think that about a tonne was removed.  Some of it has be distributed about the garden, but most is still sitting behind the shed.

I did have some issues, such as avoiding our rowan tree roots - this involved a very delicate surgical removal of soil between the roots, digging under them then relaying them at a greater depth.

I used sand to smooth our the rocky bottom of hole and a black liner to make it water tight - this is surprisingly expensive so I did not go for the rubber version.  A two-deep, brick surround, topped off with terracotta tiles, was built where it was required to create height around the edge.  I managed to get the bricks from our garden and a friend.  The tiles were from a salvage yard.   I dug it with a two foot depth and sloping slides.  In additon I lined the edges with peddles to provide texture and some hiding places.  There will not be any fish introduced to the pond as they would eat the other inhabitants that I am trying to encourage.

Once ready, I bought (and was given) plants (lillies, pond weed, irises, mint, sedges etc.)  and pond water.  I also "borrowed" a sample of pond water from some other sources to help build up the mini-critter fauna, such as plankton, tadpoles and dragonfly larva.  The pond was filled with mains water, which took a few weeks to clear of the usual added chlorine.

How the garden looked when we bought the house 5 years ago

And I was totally amazed...almost straight away two smooth newts turned up, plus three frogs - goodness only knows where they came from.  Also the pond skaters were quick to find the new pond and stayed all summer.  Snails have been plentiful, brought in on the plants.  By dipping the pond I know that there were loads of baby newts and dragonfly larva in August.  The former have disappeared, but the dragonflies are still present and will remain in the pond over winter.

A few adult dragonflies certainly visited the pond during the summer.  The male newt died for some reason, but I think that the female must have been pregnant.

I can't wait to see how it matures and what else turns up next year...!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

All quiet on the Levels

FOR once the Somerset Levels were very quiet yesterday, although the bright sunshine made up for it.  The wintering duck numbers are starting to build, although as one of the their usual sites is currently dry and the other potential site is undergoing works, they were at the RSPB's Ham Wall instead.  The main spp. were Shoveller and Gadwall with a few teal.  The Great White Egret was joined by herons and cormorants.

I was pleased to see a few dragonflies but I fear that their days are very numbered now.  One amazing site was a mallard sending up a huge plume of water whilst bathing:

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Autumn mists

LAST Sunday the weather was bright with the mists hanging in the valleys, so I trooped off to catch some early morning images.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Picos de Europa

ONE of the advantages of having a blog is that you can share your holiday photos without having to hear people snoring with boredom, or making excuses about being out for the remainder of the week, or wiping your images from my memory card before I get a chance to share them (sorry - in-joke).  Anyway enough of that paranoia...

Our main summer holiday this year was to the truly wonderful Picos de Europa in northern Spain.

The national park is situated in the area known as the Costa Verde due to the high rainfall, which in turn gives rise to a relatively lush, green landscape.  Ask anyone who's been in this part of the Iberian Peninsula and they will rave about it.  We stayed in a great self catering house with a spectacular view.

The coast is reminiscent of Cornwall but the jagged limestone rocks are sharp to the touch and the temperature was somewhat higher.  As we went in September the summer birds had departed, but there were still a few interesting species around such as Egyptian vultures, black redstarts, alpine choughs and alpine accentors.  Plantwise the most outstanding species were the autumn crocuses and the autumn ladies tresses. I also saw a swallowtail butterfly but took my eyes off it fro a second and so was unable to pursue it and get a photo (school boy error).

Autumn crocus

Although the whole area is wonderfully rich, we visited late in the season and the summer has been particularly dry apparently.  In addition the grasslands where the flowers are, are grazed very hard by cows, sheep and goats and so there is little that can grow beyond  a flat roseate of leaves in many areas.  But maintaining a healthy animal farming economy is paramount to the sustainability of the habitat and its associated wildlife.  There is a big drive to reintroduce the  Lammergeierfor instance, and this feeds on carrion, such as dead stock. 

Local stockmen and stock
Local grazer - her bell joined 100s of others to accompany our visit
Former summer homes for the local herders

Autumn Ladies' tresses (orchid)

Walk at the top of the Fuente De cable car

Alpine choughs
Alpine accentor
View of Naranjo de Bulnes
Typical meadow amongst orchard trees