Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

Kilbride Bay

August 30, 2016

The Cowal Peninsula, where we recently spent a holiday, is a rather complex mix of land, sea and also islands. The arrow on the map below points at Kames which is where we stayed.

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At the southern end of the bit we were on there’s a bay with a big sandy beach. It is about a mile’s walk from a car park which is just about big enough for three cars so it is never going to be crowded. The walk down to the beach gives you a chance to enjoy some delightful flora and fauna and that’s what we’ll look at here.

We’ll start with knapweed which happens to be one of my favourite flowers.

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There is ancient and fantastic woodland to pass through.

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The bracken is wonderful too but there is a well-made path and you do not need to push your way through it.

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Foxgloves, which I also love, grow along the edge of the path.

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As you get nearer the beach area it begins to look a bit like Scottish machair scenery. The sandy soil produces other

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There are harebells amongst the ragwort and other flowers.

image014Now harebells are another of my favourites.

There is life on the huge beach, but it was a long way from me so my much zoomed in photos aren’t special.

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That’s as taken – already on an 18 times optical zoom. So below we’ll do a bit of digital zooming as well.

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Aha! It’s a ringed plover. There were quite a lot of them scattered across the beach.

Right. That’s moved us on to the fauna so now we’ll return to the woodland.

image019This was a tiny bird, making use of a bit of man-made scenery. I’m not 100% sure but I think this is a young chiffchaff by colour but its size made me think young goldcrest. Any advice would be gratefully received.

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The Dunoon Seal

August 22, 2016

We went for a short cruise when in Scotland. It was about two and a half hours and we started at Dunoon.

Whilst queueing for the boat a seal appeared nearby but he (or she) proved tricksy to photograph. This seal maintained a distance and spent much more time under the water than on the surface. But in the nick of time it popped its head up reasonably close to us.

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Well, actually, it was just half a head.

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He or she zooms up quite well.

Oddly, during our week in this part of Scotland this was our only seal. We saw quite a lot of dolphins – but never got a photo. We saw (or at least I did) an otter but got no photo. This seal was my only water mammal photo. Enjoy!

Ardrossan

August 19, 2016

Ardrossan, on the west coast of Scotland is a place where you can catch a ferry to Arran. We have travelled that route in the past but on a recent visit we just found a place just north of Ardrossan which was handy for a picnic, with parking, tables and a view.

Of course we saw the ferries making the journey.

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Clearly a Calmac ferry and the island of Arran is not that far away.

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The ferry approaches Arran.

There is always bird life to see. The two common wading birds are the oystercatcher…

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…and the curlew.

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I’m not sure what he has in his beak.

There are wild flowers on the beach as well.

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And that photo shows us that it really was a dull day as far as weather was concerned. Hardly summer at all! But actually it was late July.

A wall lizard

August 15, 2016

These photos, taken in April 2008, was near Camon in the south of France. It was a warm spring day and the lizards were out.

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It needs a bit of a zoom.

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This is a wall lizard – the commonest lizard in France. It is probably a male. At home, in the south of England I do see lizards of the kind we call common. It was a delight to see these creatures in France.

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What charming animals they are.

Lawnpecker

August 8, 2016

Today I return to old friends with a couple of photos taken some three weeks ago.

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Yes, it is one of our local green woodpeckers but as I see them they tend to be lawnpeckers. In the picture above the bird is taking a quick look around to ensure safety but he or she is soon back to the task at hand. For the pecker the task is finding soil creatures. I hope they are to take back to a nest to feed the youngsters. But at the same time he is doing a fine job of aerating my lawn with that powerful probing beak.

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The head just pumps up and down – no wonder it is a tad blurred. In fact all the movements are rapid. The bird puts his head up and appears to be posing nicely but by the time you’ve pressed the shutter – already half pressed to get set as it were, the head is back down as it seeks its prey. It is actually a bit lucky to get the perfect head up shot but here I decided to show what the woodpecker does best.

New Year 2002

August 4, 2016

I have just come across this piece I wrote some 14 years ago. I thought I’d share it.

2002 – and another fantastic beginning for me, with this view of the world as I opened the curtains on the morning of January 1st.

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On January 13th, my picture was rather more with words.

Today seemed such a perfect January morning in an English village that I felt a need to write about it.

Well to start with, it isn’t quite perfect, for the sun is not shining. In fact, it’s a bit drab and grey but the early mist has lifted. Visibility is quite good, but it is better to look at the close scene, rather than our wonderful panoramas across to the chalk downs of Salisbury Plain. There is virtually no breeze. It is ideal listening weather. And the sounds of this English village 120 kilometres West of London, are lovely.

I could be tempted to say that there is no man made noise – but this would be utterly wrong for the dominating sound is that of our village church bells. We have 6 bells in our church and the team of campanologists are ringing the changes well this morning. It is loud, but from my distance of a few hundred metres, it is such a lovely sound.

It can’t drown out the wren, shrieking her way through the winter bramble bushes. Such a tiny bird, she is, yet equipped with a mighty voice – and a charming song she sings. From local trees come the incessant call of ‘teacher, teacher, teacher.’ This is the attractive great tit’s song. Not exciting, but an essential part of our rural sound pattern. They can be seen, flitting from tree to tree, and with them are their smaller cousins, the blue tits and the long tailed tits.

In the distance, I hear another noise of human technology as a train rumbles by about a kilometre to the North. To be quintessentially English this would need to be a whistle blowing steam train (and we get them on special charters from time to time). But this is a hooting diesel – perhaps dragging stone to make the trackbed of the new channel tunnel rail link being built in the South East of England. The sound reaches me as a gentle and restful drone.

But back to nature! Sparrows have clustered in a shrub. There seems to be no organisation to their chatter. It is as though they have met up after a night out, and are gossiping about what they saw. The flock of speckled starlings are too busy for too much chatter. They rush across the grassland, and when one bird finds a tasty morsel, the others dive in to try to get their share. From further afield the woodpigeons are cooing contentedly. Are rooks ever contented. The croak of the colony, a couple of hundred metres to the West sounds like a major squabble.

The robin, though avoids any rows. He sits high in a tree and sings loud and clear to tell us all that this is his patch and that we had better keep out. His relative, the blackbird, is doing the same in a more distant tree but the blackbirds are a bit close packed around here. Squabbling blackbirds chase one another from tree to tree – a sure sign that spring is on its way.

Another spring like sight is the jackdaws, sitting together and sharing food. How romantic. And a pair of winter squirrels have decided that this day is good enough for a chase through the trees. Ah yes! Spring is on the way. It won’t be long before Sue and I decide to take a walk down Windmill Lane to see the first snowdrop flowers of the year. We won’t see a mill. There isn’t one. We won’t see cars either, for Windmill Lane is a narrow footpath through the sandstone hill which leads down to the wet, heavy clay lands.

But winter hasn’t passed by yet, and the flock of fieldfare which fly over are a testament to this, for these birds are winter visitors to our island.

The church bells stop. It is one of those rare mornings when I can hear two other sets of church bells. A couple of kilometres away lies West Lavington church. On still days they can often be heard. But today I can now hear the bells of Urchfont, 7 kilometres East of here. It’s a faint sound, and a mellow one.

Whilst listening and looking, I have been feeding my own, domestic animals. My geese – handsome birds – are now freed from their overnight, fox-proof home and their gentle and polite squawking has joined the bird noises. I note with some dismay that my cockerel is getting far too dominant. One goose, and my ducks are clearly frightened of him. He chases the loudly quacking ducks around.

I am happy to lean on a fence post and observe the sheep. They are very quiet and content today, but it won’t be long until we have the first lambs of the year running in our field. And by the size of some of the ewes, there’ll be twins around.

But now another man made noise begins – a gentle clicking. It is the noise of my hoe, as I prepare ground for planting up our vegetable crops. We persist in growing vegetables despite the fact that we see to get less and less of them for our rarely seen, neighbourhood badgers are also fond of carrots and sweetcorn and the squirrels are happy to nibble peas, the woodpigeons just love cabbage and the rabbits eat anything green. But we’ll keep growing, for nothing can beat the taste of a freshly dug, roast parsnip or a slow baked potato.

 

Kew in summer

July 25, 2016

This is another image advising us of the wonderful sights at Kew Gardens. And please get there by Underground!

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This is a July calendar picture and it features water lilies. It was from an original painted by Wilfrid René Wood in 1926.

Now I’m quite fond of lilies – water or otherwise so here are some from my garden and elsewhere.image004Water lilies in 1998

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A garden lily from 1999 – all early digital photos in my garden.

And how about a lily at Kew – my most recent visit in 2014.

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A woodpecker in the roses

July 23, 2016

I love the woodpeckers – and indeed the other birds that visit our garden. But woodpeckers, both green and spotted are special if not uncommon. We are accustomed to the green peckers getting down to business on our lawn, picking ants out of it. We are accustomed to them on tree trunks, telegraph poles or fence posts – just hanging out. But I was surprised by this one which perched in a rose climbing over a pergola.

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The astute might recognise that this is not just rose. There is a grapevine as well.

What a marvellous scene and once again I can talk of my luck in being able to sit at our meal table watching this kind of thing.

I had a camera to hand because a few minutes earlier a red kite – not yet a common sight here = had flown over. By the time I had my camera it was gone and as yet I haven’t seen it again. But the camera was there for our woodpecker friend.

Sitting on the edge of the pond.

July 12, 2016

We are lucky. There’s a chance of seeing all five classes of vertebrate animals on our patch of land.

Fish we can only see by courtesy of introduced ones in our biggest pond.

Wild mammals are all too common in terms of pesky ones. We have rabbits and deer which eat our plants. Rats, mice and squirrels which gnaw through things, moles and badgers which dig holes. There are foxes about as well as voles and shrews. I’d expect there to be weasels and stoats but I haven’t seen them. Sadly, we haven’t seen a hedgehog for years.

Birds are too numerous to mention. At the moment my lawn has a good covering of wing flapping, squawking young rooks hoping to persuade a parent to feed them.

Reptiles we rarely see but I have seen lizards this year and I have seen grass snakes and slow worms.

But, sitting on the edge of a pond is an amphibian – a frog. This was back in 2001

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Sometimes we find newts in the pond as well and toads are pretty numerous.

On a few occasions we have had tadpoles in the pond and then there is a glorious day when the froglets set off in search of somewhere safe.image004

This gorgeous little beauty was working across our lawn in 2006.

And here’s a froglet next to a 2p coin for scale.

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Not a good photo, but you can see the little amphibian could easily fit on the coin. This one was in 2005.

Lovely animals and how lucky we are.

Deer delight

July 8, 2016

Actually, it isn’t all delight for just before these pictures were taken we had seen this beast browsing on our runner bean plants. But take the rough with the smooth – he’s a delightful sight.

My wife and I both took photos. She uses an elderly Olympus camera it has a three times optical zoom and a maximum resolution of 1.3 megapixels. But it takes sharp, clear photos. She occupied a downstairs room for taking photos and therefore the pictures were through double glazing. I used an 18 times zoom bridge camera – also not all that new these days but taking pictures up to 14 megapixels in resolution. I used an upstairs room for photographs and got a window open so I wasn’t taking through extra glass.

Between us we set the scene and get close up shots.

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That’s the view from our house so we are always lucky. By this time the deer was aware we were watching it. It stood and stared at us for quite some time.

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The alertness is clear. He’s a tad worried about where he is and who is looking. Eventually he moved off just a little.

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But then he stopped and appeared to pose for us out in the open on our lawn.

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Now how delightful is that.

He is definitely a male roe deer or roebuck. The female of the species does not grow antlers. Roe deer tend to avoid open spaces like this and broad daylight. I believe the technical term is that they are crepuscular – animals of the twilight and most active just before dawn and just after dusk. This one clearly hadn’t known this for, as can be seen, this was well before dusk.

Our garden is grand for wildlife but it’s a shame so much of it wants to eat our plants.

STOP PRESS

The following morning a male roe deer chased a female in our front garden and out across the field.