Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Lower Woods spectacular

NEITHER of us remember Lower Woods, in south Gloucestershire ever looking more spectacular.  It is really difficult to describe the all embracing assault on our senses, especially the scent!

The sun poked through the clouds just enough to enable me to capture the occasional shot of the bluebells, lesser celandines, wood anemones, early purple orchids, wood sorrel, to name but a few.

False oxlip (primrose x cowslip)

Orange-tip butterfly on cuckoo flower


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Somerset songsters

A wonderfully sunny day on the Somerset Levels and every bush, tree and reed-bed was full of bird song.   Many of the summer migrants have now arrived and so there were warblers absolutely everywhere.

On this reserve, Cetti warblers are common and when I took some photos of a small brown bird chasing another I assumed that that was what it was.  It is only when I looked back at my photographs that I realised that the males in question might be grasshopper warblers/sedge warblers...what do yo think?

They usually skulk in the depths of the undergrowth (except when singing), but this individual was chasing a rival and was more intent on seeing him off than worrying about me being there...a rare opportunity indeed.

The male chiff-chaffs and the willow warblers (below) often find a prominent perch from which to advertise for females and proclaim their territorial rights.

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

The blackcaps can often be another member of the skulker's club, but whilst the branches are bare they find it hard to conceal themselves, so now is the best time to spot them.


Numerous butterflies are now at large. Peacocks and whites are the most common, and are also joined by the spectacularly bright brimstones (see previous blogs).  Here a speckled-wood alights momentarily in a sunny patch of bracken.

I really like whitethroats but they mainly evaded me today - here is a distant one.

No day on the marshes would be complete without a marsh harrier fly-by and today was no exception.  Another highlight, the bitterns, were also booming and an occasional flock of sand martins chirruped by, along with the odd swallow.

Even our common residents looked resplendent in the bright sunshine, such as this chaffinch, long-tailed tit, dunnock and blue tit.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Season of mists and...

I thought that it was Autumn that provided the mists hanging in the valleys, but this week on the way to work there were some extraordinary formations.  I would have liked to take the day off on Thursday to capture the scene as it developed, but the mortgage won't pay itself, so I just snapped a couple of shots on my commute in...nice!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Spring on the Levels

THE warmth of today's spring weather brought out the adders; at least four were basking on a heap of cut grass; some were intertwined making it hard to count them with confidence.

The young silver birch leaves, the white bark and the red of the bog myrtle created quite a wonderful spectacle.


There are so many great-crested grebes on the Levels - both individuals and pairs were everywhere you looked.  The males send out a call that is like a bark to attract the females and probably warn off other males.  Other calls heard today included booming bitterns, screeching water-rails,  chittering little grebes, singing warblers and even croaking marsh frogs.

And finally a fine male robin was singing his heart out...


THIS evening was warm and sunny enough to get into the garden and take a few photos, as well as cut down the marauding bamboo.  This pair of gold finches were quite tame.  The male had been singing with gusto from our cherry tree, posturing and turning left then right throughout - they then both came to feed on the sunflower hearts.

They have an insatiable appetite for these, but they do waste a lot of the seed as well.  The blue tits seem more nervous - they zoom onto the feeder, grab a seed, then take it to a branch and dissect it to get at the parts of interest.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Hawkesbury Upton

THIS weekend we set out for a short walk in the wonderful area of Hawkesbury Upton in the southern part of the Cotswolds.  The long deep valleys in this area are bounded by woodlands on their steep slopes, and these have undergone significant active management in recent years.  The cutting of the understory and some of the standards has allowed sunlight to reach the ground flora and encouraged a proliferation of wild flowers.

Amongst the yellow primroses a small patch of red individuals have probably arisen from pollen transferred from local gardens and then the plant setting seed.

One of the less common plants that were thriving in healthy clumps is stinking hellebore.

There are some amazing properties along the way and a number were bordered by a stream with luscious yellow king-cup.

A typical hedge bank along the way: