Monday, 26 January 2015

Frog for lunch?

OUR garden is small and sits in a row of gardens behind our terrace house, surrounded by other terraces.

In our small garden is a small 5x5ft pond.

Our pond does, though, support a pretty strong frog population.

On Saturday, when we returned home and I looked out of our upstairs window, this is what I saw on our neighbour's half built shed:

The question now is - do we have any frogs left?

I was amazed that in such an urban area as Bath a bird like this would contemplate a visit - I love my frogs, but I almost love the thought of a heron in our garden even more!

New Zealand Dotterel - in New Zealand

The north island has its share of wonderful species to match the south island.  I was particularly excited to be able to see the charismatic and endemic Northern NZ Dotterel on one of its breeding beaches; Opoutere on the Coromandel peninsula.

The beach supported some fab natural vegetation, including these cats-tail grasses.

This was a strange thing - perhaps an egg case - certainly not a tooth.  Any ideas?

The variable oystercatchers a prolific in NZ and can be seen on many beaches foraging in piles of kelp.

On the way to the beach we followed the path along the shoreline, but were surprised to find that it took us really near to nesting pairs of oystercatchers.  Not surprisingly they took umbrage, but we had gone to far to go back - the birds actually attacked us and made contact - we felt really bad about that.

Parent and chicks

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Winter on Westhay Nature Reserve (SWT)

A beautiful day today with a bracing breeze, but clear sky - perfect birding weather.

I popped into Greylake and fought the crowds to see what I saw yesterday, but without the ice.  I then thought that I would pay a visit to Westhay Nature Reserve (SWT).  This is much less visited and less known than Greylake, it would seem, but has lots to offer.  In summer is a fantastic site for raised bog plants, migrant birds, insects, amphibians and the occasional otter.  In winter it is much quieter, but still has marsh harrier, duck, egrets, cormorants and herons, plus water rail and cettis warblers etc.

I particularly wanted to see the saw bills - i..e the goosanders, which only seem to like it on one lake here, and nowhere else that I've noticed on the Levels - but I could be wrong.  

There was a number of these spectacular birds - both the brown headed females and the green headed males.  There was some half-hearted courtship displaying going on too.


The water rail below is in a scenic landscape\pose - rather than being too far away, under too dark conditions for me to get a good image with my camera...   ;-)

For reasons that I can't expand upon it was an expensive visit, but a pleasure nevertheless.

Saturday at RSPB's Greylake reserve

A cold but bright day on the Somerset Levels, more specifically RSPB's Greylake reserve.  Sometimes when out birding you get to speak to some interesting and friendly people, and today was just such a day; we were a collective of expert birders and bloggers: CB, JC and JC - you know who you are!

There were lots of ducks but very few raptors which was a surprise.  Much of the water was frozen over and the birds were gathered into a tight flock, and seemed very skittish.

Before the walk to the hide to see the wildfowl, I put out some seed on the bird tables in the car park and the small birds flocked in - the car made a very good hide.

Female reedbunting

Almost at my feet a couple of water rails were screeching and lurking, but in their usual way were very tricky to photograph.  While I waited, watching out for the rail, a wood mouse (?)  crept out from a hosier stump, grabbed some grass stems and shot back into cover.

A chiff-chaff was hunting amongst the cut stems:

Back at the bird table...

Male reed bunting

I also went on the hunt of the otters - none today but a nice greater spotted woodpecker.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

New Year Exmoor

EXMOOR in winter can be quite challenging - we decided to have a short break in the lovely Simonsbath Inn, just after New Year and it was wonderful.

On the evening that we arrived we had enough time to venture out before it got dark, however the weather really closed in with driving rain and strong winds.  As the night descended it was both exhilarating and challenging.  We were well clothed and knew where we were, roughly, so made it back to the warmth of the Inn ready for a pick me up.
The next day we did the same walk in full and this time the weather was sparkling.  It took in rough pastures and moorland, with many walls, copses and landscape features.

Derelict layed hedges

Along the valley there is a iron age hill fort - the low sun really caught the contours well.

Ponies are a feature of this ancient landscape - they seem to have a real wildness to their character.

In the valley the river carves a winding path - a beautiful arched bridge provides one of the few local crossings.   We drove over this bridge on the third day of our stay, but the weather was too awful to get out of the car!

Having negotiated our way around the local hunt along a very narrow, single track lane, we were able to park up and walk to the famous Tarr Steps.  The previous few days rains had pushed the river levels up - a log had worked its way down river and banged into the bridge.  One or two of the huge stones had shifted.

An excellent interpretation board (of you like that sort of thing) explained the life cycle of the Atlantic Salmon.

Wonderful and amazing - will definitely go back and sip some more local ale.