Saturday, 30 April 2016

Durlston Country Park, Swanage and RSPB Arne

I'M not sure what plant twitching is called, but yesterday we took a longish drive to hunt out early spider orchids on the coast near Swanage at Durlston Country Park managed by Dorset CC.  

This wonderful reserve is made up of sea cliffs, rough grassland and meadows, and with views over to the Isle of Wight, on a sunny day there can be no place better.  We were slightly challenged by a cold, penetrating wind which reduced the bird song, but did not affect the orchids of course.

Looking out to sea, a peregrine had a great view of the raft of bathing guillemots.

The warblers mainly hid in the scrub but the occasional white-throat scratched out its song on a tall bramble. A pair of stonechats showed in the sunshine, cracking stones from a gorse bush.

We accidentally flushed the occasional deer from the scrub, which dashed off seemingly towards the cliff edge..

The early spider orchids did not disappoint and were so much more spectacular then I remembered. Walking through the reserve and beyond onto the NT land we soon came across the occasional spike and then large clusters of early spider orchid.

For the botanical geeks amongst you a number of other plants starting to show, including small patches of bastard toadflax (Thesium humifusum

We walked a loop further in land through the wonderful meadows, filled with nodding yellow cowslips.

Two other orchids (green-winged and early purple) were flowering on the reserve.

Early purple orchid

We loved the County Park and with some time left we headed onto RSPB's Arne reserve for a quick whiz round. There was not much showing and frankly I was a bit disappointed, which is unfair to this fabulous site, but when we reached the car park again there was a surprise or two.

The bird feeders were awash with small birds and woodpeckers drummed the trees around us.  Then my wife spotted that there was a fox under the feeder (I totally missed this!) and it gave us some great views - it seemed pretty unaffected by our presence.


Can't wait to go back.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Spring on the Levels

THERE was plenty of interest on the Somerset Levels last weekend, with a cattle egret poking around some cattle (!) and even getting the odd tail swish, great white and little egrets, hundreds of hirundines of all types, the grebes actively going about their spring courting and warblers singing and bitterns booming.  There were also good sightings of quartering marsh harriers and, although I did not see them, lots of snakes around.

Also I could have sworn that I heard the cranes fly over, but as I was in a dense woodland could not get any views...


Record shot of the cattle egret

Great white egret

Monday, 18 April 2016

Beautiful Bybrook, Wiltshire and maybe an otter passed by

A wonderful Sunday afternoon amble along the Bybrook river on the edge of the Cotswolds, and a hunt for signs of otters may just have paid off.  The small valley is bordered by ancient woodland and there is a fair smattering of riverside trees and small overgrown meanders - good for wildlife and nice habitat for otters...

With my iPhone in hand these are the images showing where a crayfish met its last moments and also some fishy remains turning up as a marker by way of a scat - could be mink - hope that it was an otter...:

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Levels yields up its treasures

A cold wind and occasional sunshine characterized Saturday on the Levels in Somerset.  A long vigil for otters did not pay off, but I was more lucky on the bird side.

At Westhay SWT Reserve the summer warblers were hard at it, proclaiming their territory, along with the booming bitterns, under the shadow of a number of marsh harriers hunting the reed-beds.  I saw my first swift, house martins and later swallows of the year, with sand martins chattering above too.

Water rails screeched, but kept elusive, and the occasional pink-pink of bearded tits was almost as frustrating - until I caught one flash of orange dive into the reeds.

Ham Wall RSPB Reserve had some special visitors too - glossy ibis, yellow wagtails (4 - all the colour of canaries), a little-ringed plover, black tailed godwits (many in their summer plumage) and a short eared owl.

These beauties were all rather far away, but being able to view them through a borrowed Swarovski scope allowed me to get great views.  The photos are therefore very much record shots...:

Glossy ibis in the distance

Short-eared owl - very calm and relaxed
Glastonbury Tour seen from Avalon Marshes

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Dipped out I dipped out on the stork, the glossy ibis, the garganey and the short-eared owl, but I did see a coot trying to swallow a huge snail - what could be more fun than that!

Amazingly he\she did manage it, then went on stamping on its nest.  The image makes me think that he\she was regretting the decision to try!

Actually I had great views of a number of stunning marsh harriers, heard some good old booming from the bitterns and saw more egrets (GW and Little) than I could shake a stick out - but they were not what I went to the Somerset Levels for!

Oh...and those hides are quite good to get out of the rain, but keep the shutters down in Noahs!