Sunday, 26 January 2014

Confined to barracks...

LOOKS like we're confined to barracks to day cos of weather, so I seek solace in the garden birds.  However it does give me a chance to reflect on the collections of wildlife ephemera that I have amassed.  My small collection consists of fossils that I've found and the odd skull, shell and fir cone, but I do have a great collection of natural history related books which I love.  One interesting fossil is a limestone ammonite about 4" across that I found lying on the spoil heap of a badger set, that had obviously been excavated by the animal itself - a pretty wonderful find I thought!

What I don't have in my collection are stuffed animals or pinned insects - I can hardly bare to see fish in a tank, so I'm not about to go out kill something and show it off in our house.  However I must admit that I do rather envy the amazing collections that our forefathers amassed, even though they were impacting, and I expect, often damaging sensitive populations.  Certainly the Victorians almost wiped out many rare plants, particularly ferns and alpines.

The reason why these sprung to mind was that when we went to see this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition there were some stuffed birds and animals from Bristol Zoo displayed, the best of which were a number of rather stunning butterfly and moth mounted collections.  I captured these with my phone so images are poor unfortunately.  I hope no-one does this anymore, but as these are SO old I think that I could just about cope with having these in our I a bad person?

Gary - I hope that you saw your otter...!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Three out of three - otterly brilliant

THE LAST THREE times that I have been to the Somerset Levels I have managed to see an otter (probably the same individual) in broad daylight.  It does take a lot of patience, but the thrill makes up for the cold fingers and sore behind from sitting in a hide for hours.

Yesterday we went to the levels, which are heavily flooded at the moment, and hoped to find interesting birds as well as an otter.  We were lucky - the individual in question seems to frequent a particular lake and appeared after a long wait.

He (?) fished for about 20 minutes some way off, however with a scope and good bins we had great views.  It porpoised several times and seemed to catch quite a lot; at one point is hunted amongst some reeds and caught a large eel.  It took this to the bank and out of sight so this is the point at which we left.  Here are my record images, as proof:

It was a really grey, overcast day, but the flooding made for a dramatic landscape and with the thousands of lapwings wheeling round the sky, plus numerous winter thrushes, clouds of starlings, hunting marsh harrier and numerous other birds it turned out to be a great day.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

OVER the Christmas period we made our annual pilgrimage to see the inspirational Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition.  This is a few quid in Bristol, where we went, but around £10 in London - another advantage of the West Country!

As usual the photos were excellent, although not so many were as inspiring as expected, and there does seem to be certain wildlife cliches which appear each year.

Anyway, we both enjoyed it and Bristol looked great from the Shed.  Here is a composite photo that I took from my phone, which I quite like.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Exmoor landscape

IF I were to have a new year's resolution then it would be to be more descriptive, or wordy, on my blogs.  I was pleased to be included in the top 5 list of wildlife blogs on the Saga site (what that says about me I'm not sure as I'm no where near 50).  However its author mentioned that my blogs are a bit light on text - ho hum.  This is part laziness and part the assumption that most people can't be bothered to read much anyway.

Saga said (Oct 2013):

Wildlife enthusiast and ecologist , blogger Peter also runs the When to Watch Wildlife website, but this is his own, personal wildlife blog. It’s light on text but packed with gorgeous imagery that will make you want to jump on the first train to wherever he’s been recently. 

So here goes...:

OUR journey to north Devon included a short visit to Exmoor - it was largely a car tour as we were already tired from a long walk and the weather was very dicey.  The lanes were puddled with rain water and at one point I did a very long reverse up a narrow lane to let through a 4x4 and trailer - my clutch certainly complained!

I took a few pictures to capture the wonderful landscape as best as I could.  The first three are looking north towards Lynton and the sea.  Click on the first image to enlargen it and start a slideshow:


Calling at platform 2...

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

East Lyn River valley down to the sea, Devon

FOR a late Christmas treat we stayed in a wonderful B&B in Devon called the Rockford Inn, south of Lynmouth.  The inn sits next to a fabulously wild river coming off Exmoor, which at the time was in spate and thundered past our bedroom window day and night.  A couple of dippers struggled to make themselves heard over the noise, but for the first time I actually heard a dipper song, as well as their call, as they bobbed around and seemed to fly to a potential nest site on the bank.

We walked to the coast, well wrapped up in our water proofs, and this gave me the opportunity to capture a few river images.  The river valley is very deep and the walls quite sheer and clothed in woodland - we were virtually alone all day - maybe as it was a Friday.

The heron was no surprise as it stood poised between the junction of two rivers, the East Lyn and Hoar Oak Water, at Watersmeet, but the very tame shag was not what I expected to see.  The shag was a ringed bird too.

Numerous waterfalls and side streams poured into the main river:

The clean, moist air encouraged a wonderful range of lichens - these folliose types had fallen to the ground.


The riverbed is extremely rocky and full of large boulders, and would be a challenge to all but the most confident kayaker.  Small whirl pools were formed by the current.

The river supports a strong population of salmon, although at the moment fishing is restricted.  The NT put up this sign to help us mortals understand their cycle...

During summer the cafe is open at Watersmeet and the robins obviously have grown used to people.  There were three each on a post in very close proximity - with little antagonism between them.

If you get a chance do visit this valley but find a quiet day as I suspect that it is very popular, and rightly so!