Monday, January 27, 2020

Forest of Dean - just a little late!

It's been months since I posted here, and I have come the conclusion that I either get back into the Blog now or just drop it altogether, so let's try again. Just forgive me for the untimely posting!

2019 was a funny year. Having retired I expected to get a lot more snapping done, but life intervened and if anything I was down on opportunities.  One principal target for the year was due to be the woodland migrants in the Forest of Dean - wood warbler, pied and spotted flycatcher and redstart.  In the end I was probably lucky to get any pics at all.  My preferred venue was very slow - none of the usual spotted flycatchers, and although I heard the odd redstart I didn't find a clear territory.

The old hawthorn didn't have any nests but another old favourite nest hole was occupied by a nuthatch family this year, just frustratingly high up.


It was satisfying a few weeks later to see a couple of the youngsters still in the vicinity, their heads more rounded than that of the adults, but otherwise the classic nuthatch poses were all there.



A couple of friends were passing through and I feared I would have nothing to show them, but in the end we stumbled across a pair of pied flycatchers establishing a territory,







and had a visit from a handsome male redstart snapped handheld through a hide window.

In the field I was pleased to see bluebells around when we were snapping the pied flycatchers, but whilst I like the flower stems with enough shape to show as bluebells I'm not sure if the blue blobs in the background detract rather than add value.

I did find one other male pied flycatcher trying to attract a female to a nest hole, but it was right at a busy public car park, and in the end I didn't get to revisit.

As for the wood warblers, again my 'traditional' sites seemed to be vacant, but more of that next time …...

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

A Hammer Made of Feathers

"Och, It's easy up here.  If you see a chiffchaff it's a willow warbler."  It's funny how things stick in your memory. I was in my teens, we were on a guided walk at Insh Marshes reserve in the Highlands and the RSPB warden was explaining to another visitor that he had never seen a chiffchaff in the Highlands, so there was no need to worry about telling them from willow warblers.  Even though we do hear them in South Wales, to this day the sound of a willow warbler triggers memories of our annual trip to Aviemore.

So that's why a trip up to see Kay's parents got me thinking about Scotland.  I've written before about the wildlife that has inhabited the old coalmine tip site, I always grab the chance to go up there with the camera' and this year the first song I heard was the falling ripple of a willow warbler.

But much as I was pleased to hear it, my real target took a little more finding.  Just as indelibly the song associated in my mind with this old coal tip in Yorkshire is that of the yellowhammer. That first afternoon all I heard were contact calls of birds flitting between the bushes. Getting up early on a misty morning the next day though the bread and cheese song reassured me the yellowhammers were still around and soon  I found some singing and feeding.  I would have loved a better sky though.









They weren't quite so  consistent in the song perches they used as I recalled so I spent a fair bit of time standing around pointing my lens at birdless branches, being barked at by various dogs (dogs don't like tripods do they?), assuring passers-by that the canary on my camera screen was a resident British bird and not a freshly arrived migrant from Africa and being repeatedly stared at by a whitethroat who obviously did have a programmed song perch route I was standing too near.





“Silence fell like a hammer made of feathers.”  Terry Pratchett

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

When is a lake not a lake?

In winter I live a 10 minute walk away from a lake.

In summer I live a 10 minute walk away from a field.

And twice a year as one shifts into the other I live a 10 minute walk away from a marsh.

The marsh time is my favourite, and the horses, which always have the choice of dry land, often favour the marsh as well.



I've taken some snaps of the wildlife of the lake/field/marsh over the years, perhaps most surprisingly the kingfishers which appeared for a week or two in two of those years, but it was only recently I thought about making more of a project out of it, now I have more time.  So here is instalment 1, spring marsh.

As you look out over the grass small (mostly) mounds stand out.  At first they are bare, a result of my appearance, but wait a minute and the occupants sneak back.





It's nice to see coots at peace for a change, but as always they can manufacture a squabble anywhere.

Interestingly when a horse walks up - much nearer than I ever am - the birds remain glued to their nests.


Other occupants of the marsh also ignore the horses.

The egrets are a bit skittish, but come in if you are still and quiet, breeding colours evident on some.





The grey herons are more nervous and tend to hold back,

and the little grebes are …… well they're like all little grebes, shy and inquisitive at the same time, popping up unpredictably and revelling in my inability to get a decent snap.

The swans built a massive mound, which like most of the nests is now vacant.

The odd coot egg seems to have been predated, probably (whisper it) by a corvid of some kind,

but I hope at least some youngsters have made it through and headed for the nearby reen which rarely dries up.  The lapwings are still chasing the crows, so I hope that's a positive sign for them

and the shelduck are paired up, but not apparently yet hidden down rabbit holes.

The rabbits watched them, but the fox was a few fields away, so they were ok for now.


A lone greylag stood on a coot mound yesterday for minutes, looking around then called a few times before wandering off, still alone.

To see larger versions just click on a picture.