Monday, April 28, 2008

Carpe diem

Again this weekend just had a few hours to spend out looking, although the visit of my dad plus dog meant I had an excuse to wander the local lanes and see what flowers were out.
On Saturday though, I was up early in the hope the promised sun would light up the adders again. Sadly the sun didn't appear until I was due back home. I did see the pair again having called in on my homeward journey, but no chance of decent photos. However if you remember the previous post of the blue eyed snake about to shed it's skin ? The skin was there!

The chiff-chaffs have morphed into willow warblers, but remain frustratingly out of reach.

If the sun wasn't going to play ball I thought I'd try for a siskin at Cannop Ponds feeding station. Best I managed was this rather crappy 'feeder' shot, but the grumpy reed bunting provided a bit of fun, and the mandarin ducks are now sufficiently habituated to come wandering up to see what has fallen from the feeders.

On the wildflower front I missed a lovely cuckoo pint with a heavy suffusion of purple - the flower wilted overnight - but got a couple of reasonable snaps.

The celandine are still flowering away, ........

as were the greater stitchwort

red campion

red, white and yellow dead-nettle (need to try again for the yellow - pictures didn't do it justice)

and last but by no means least the humble dandelion - one field was a mass of yellow, and looked great.

So not too bad, although the restricted light shows - but I do feel I need a proper day out! So much to see at this time of year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's a virtue, you know.

OK, here's the scenario. I really wanted to get some more pictures of them. They are such cracking birds. I called them regal in a flight of fancy in a previous posting but that's not quite right. Anyway, After 2 weekends when I couldn't get into the Forest, and having failed the 2 weekends before that, the internet weather forecast for a day when I was off wasn't exactly encouraging. No change there then. However at least the cloud symbols didn't have little dots falling from them, so off I went around dawn.

After 3 and a half hours in the hide I hadn't seen a single bird. Literally. Honestly. Nothing. Not even a flitting shadow. I'd heard them, and even heard my target, but nothing to see. I ended up photographing squirrels again, trying to get pictures other than those cute 'tail up and having a nibble' shots.

Then 2 chaffinches came down. And went. Back to the squirrels. And then I happened to look over the lens and what did I see looking straight back at me?

Amazing. For a big bird I had heard nothing. Taking off they sound like starlings, but I've noticed on a number of occasions now that they can be quite sneaky when they appear. Anyway he seemed quite unperturbed, and hopped around for several minutes before disappearing -never to be seen again. Shame the light wasn't better, but on looking at these I'll add a touch of brightness before adding to my photo gallery. You could try clicking on these pictures for a better view, but I'd recommend looking at the photo gallery (link to the right) - the pictures are much clearer.

What doesn't show so well in these pictures are the lovely blue feathers that angle out over the rump.

They're the result of primaries shaped like billhooks, and to me are the final crowning glories of this fabulous bird, the hawfinch. As I said earlier regal doesn't do them justice. In a further literary flight of fancy I'd go for imperial - go on, can't you just see him wearing a laurel wreath!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Winging it

Out for a wander yesterday I noticed this winged bark on several, but not all, stems of a young tree. Not sure if it's just the normal variant that I know can be found in some species, or whether there is another cause. Basically I'm hopeless with trees, but once the leaves are open maybe I'll be able to identify the tree and find out. Intriguing though.

In the meantime if you know please tell me!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Local patching II

With the in-laws down for a few days and some jobs to do just had a little time for pics this weekend. John is into castles, so we nipped down to Chepstow,

and to my pleasant surprise there were a few flowers of interest
cuckoo pint

(ever)green alkanet

herb robert

and my first bluebells of the year (sorry about the glare not got in the habit of taking the polarising filter this year).

Back at home at least one of the sparrow boxes is in use, lined with miscanthus seedheads and (whisper it) pieces of next doors hanging baskets.

A trip to Uskmouth on a hot afternoon between showers was a bit deserted, although some of the gadwall were having fun. Sod's law the GC grebes seemed to be up to something, but hidden away in the refuge section I had no more than glimpses.

A cheerful starling rounded off the day in an unmistakable silhouette.
Quite like that one.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Well I have finally managed to see an adder. Only taken the best part of 5 decades! And then 2 came along at once. (Thanks to Chris Grady and then Brian Davis for the venue and location.)

You may be able to see that the snake in the middle 2 pictures is in the process of shedding it's skin - the eye caps give the eyes a uniform blue appearance, rather than the lovely gold-bronze more normally seen. The oddly patterned light on some pictures is because both snakes were on the wrong side of a chicken-wire fence.

As a part of the multimedia extravaganza (?) now available on this blog please find below one of my You Tube videos of the adders. As usual with YT the quality is rather iffy, but what the hell. Better (clearer) photos will also appear in the web album. A few other videos can be accessed via the link in the right hand column.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The shape of things to come

After what seems like a very long gap I went back to Uskmouth last weekend - now refurbished as a new reserve, complete with visitor centre. There have been mixed comments on the local birding blogs, so here is my 5 penn'orth.

The visitor centre is ok. Nice coffee, but sadly no bacon butties. There are cracking views over the ponds they've created, and in time as the shrubs and trees grow and the ponds and scrape naturalise I think it will be nice spot to have a cuppa, and probably see a few things. There were already some canada geese and a little egret sniffing around, although I think the bird feeders in the middle of a flat expanse may be a little hopeful just yet. As you can see I sat out in the sunshine.

On the reserve itself they've closed off one section as a refuge. I understand the reasoning but it does limit opportunities a bit, as there are no hides, so every opportunity is needed. They've put up some screens, but these didn't seem to work very well. No doubt the slatting is to help them stay up in the strong winds, but due to the lack of shading behind the wildfowl all moved away every time I walked behind a screen! Maybe they will habituate to people in time.
I had some good views of bearded tits which seemed quite active in the reedbeds along the sea wall stretch. Only one male came close enough for a photo - just got the blurry body in shot and was about to focus when it flew! Still kicking myself, but worth another go I guess. There were quite a few chiff chaff around, just a little out of range .......

and this wren was pretty active, ............... but otherwise my main views were of things swimming away! Overall I think it will come, but they could really do with some proper hides or better screens at the pools.

**If anyone is interested I now have some better quality images on a web album - see link above slideshow to the right. It's a work in progress (as you will see if you go on today) and I know some shots are a bit iffy, but they will improve in time! I plan to do a 'latest shot' file and the site seems to have this RSS thingy so people can check for updates.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I was happily taking one of my usual blurry through the window shots of this wren in a pot of violas - at times it was completely hidden from view amongst the plants - when Kay commented that one of the collared doves didn't look too well.

A minute later and she was so right!

As always they aren't great shots through double glazing, but you can see the beauty of the bird in at least some of it's gory detail!

I know Kay knows her garden birds and I keep trying to convince myself that she did recognise a sickly looking dove. But I just have this nagging doubt about her ability to predict events, and have decided that if she ever tells me I'm not looking too well then I won't leave the house!