Thursday, October 30, 2008

The last flowers ...

There are still a few wild flowers out locally, and a few plants looking good in the autumn sun, like the willowherb above and this grass species I've not yet identified.
Field scabious
Wild strawberry - I think (but wrong time for flowers!)
Smooth sow thistle
Dead nettle
White bryony

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Local Patching October

When I started wildlife watching again I gravitated to the nature reserves or woods where I knew there would be more species to see, but this year I've done a bit more within walking distance from home. Over this week I'll post some images from our little valley, starting with a couple of birds and a moth, then later some fungi and plants.
Winter's icy fingers have been reaching down this week, and the first signs have appeared in the garden with a female blackcap, marsh/willow tit and a grey wagtail showing for the first time since spring arrived. As far as I know they have all managed to evade the juvenile sparrowhawk that's been visiting on an irregular basis for a month or two now. It sits on the arch where we hang our feeders, or on the birdtable itself, and clearly does have successful forays at times given the little piles of feathers that appear occasionally. These shots were from a bedroom window, handheld but resting on the sill. At 1/15th or 1/20th second I think they are surprisingly sharp, a testament to the Canon 300mm f2.8 image stabilisation system, even with a x2 converter in place. And, of course my marksman-like tremor free grip!
Up the valley I had another double take moment - a stonechat that wasn't quite right. The bird itself was only the second I'd ever seen here, but what threw me was the black on the head which was limited in extent and shaped more like the whinchat mask, but without the white. On reflection I guess it was a juvenile male working up to full plumage. It never really came close enough for a snap (nor did the meadow pipits also on the hedge), but this one did oblige, albeit fleetingly and after the sun had gone.
Lastly this Angle Shades was sitting on the path, in full autumn colours.

As always better quality pics on the the web albums
- click HERE

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Black Necked Grebe - Take 2

The hope of sun lured me back to Frampton and the lovely little black necked grebe. It's larger great-crested cousins were enjoying the Indian summer, but the BNG did show. The light was still a bit tricky - the usual black and white bird problems - but the pictures at least looked less like line drawings.

Click here to see more of the BNG in better quality shots
in my 'latest pictures' web album.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Black neck, red eyes ...... lovely

In a parallel universe I might have ended up living in Frampton-on-Severn. We found a house we quite liked, at a price that was marginally less extortionate than most within commuting distance from Bristol (where I work). But I just didn't believe they really wanted to sell - the wife told us they'd already backed out of one sale at the last minute, and all the vibes were that she would do it again. Anyway, it wasn't quite right and we ended up much better off where we are.
I did spend quite a few hours fishing in the canal there (nice head of bream) on warm summer evenings before we finally moved house and Kay was able to join me down here. Since then the fishing time has been a bit tight, and the photos have taken over.
A black necked grebe had been reported from one of the old gravel pits there, and I decided to risk the predicted mist on Sunday morning to seek it out. In fact I left the house and drove there in full sun, thumbing my nose at the met office again. By the time I had got there though the mist was closing in.
The thing with arriving at a new site is that you don't know which way to go. Lakes are, figuratively at least, round, so ultimately you will end up where you started. Inevitably I guessed wrong and walked a long way to the right, instead of 50 yards to the left. Not that it really mattered as the mist was closing in even more, and the light was shocking.
However, nearly back where I started I found it out in the middle with the coots. Not exactly in frame filling range, but better than not finding it.
Camera down, sit down and wait. The sailing club had come to life, and the first yachts appeared through the gloom. Not so much racing as drifting across the flat calm. They did however disturb the coot flock, and suddenly a small shape detached and headed to shore. Right to shore. A dive, and the water surface erupted in a spray of fry. And that was the pattern for the next 4 or 5 minutes. Grab some shots when the bird surfaced, watch for movement and try and anticipate the next appearance. At one point the grebe shot 6 inches clear of the water so fast was it chasing something. At first I kicked myself for missing the shot, but on reflection no-one could have got it as there was no way of knowing where the bird was. Really, I'm sure. No, honestly, I am.
The light wasn't great, and the snaps are almost monochrome but for that gorgeous pair of red eyes. But a good morning - some exercise and another footy-arse to add to the collection.
As always you can find better quality versions of the pictures
in my 'latest pictures' web album here

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Limited time out this week, after a wet weekend. A few flowers still going and the first crop of more interesting fungi (but not the earthstars I had been hoping for).
Bush Vetch
Meadow buttercup
Stump puffball (apparently being eaten - eggshell puffball might be more descriptive post slug)
Mosaic (I think) puffball You can see the spores still to be shed.