Monday, October 24, 2011

While the cat's away ....... (2)

After a quick bacon and egg butty at the cycle centre I had to decide where to go next.  As I needed to visit Slimbridge it was a bit of a no-brainer, but I wasn't sure there would be too much to see.  There were the usual residents :
a curious jackdaw

and a young woodpigeon

but not too much else in the way of wildlife.  I wandered into the pond zone - from my childhood I've had a love of things aquatic, even to the extent of considering marine biology as a career.  Instead I went another way, spent many hours fishing but never did learn to scuba dive.  Still, like rockpooling, whenever I find dipping ponds, etc I find myself drawn to stare in.  There were the usual snails ....
a few sticklebacks ( a heavy crop - but I'm quite pleased with this one with the spines clearly visible) .......
and even the odd insect perhaps egg-laying?

So did you guess the clue I posted yesterday?  It's the egg shape just above the waterline.

As I walked up to this particular pool there was a distinct and frankly unmistakable 'plop'. Have you got it yet?
Go on - more 'eggs' and a tail!  Yes a water vole (and poo).

Sitting around for a while it became clear there were at least two juveniles and an adult.  I took some more shots, and had such fun I've been back a couple of times since.  The background isn't the easiest for the most picturesque shits, but they were quite unconcerned by my presence if I stayed still.  I couldn't believe they were wild, but an email exchange with a very helpful lady called Sue Porter confirmed they were wild visitors, although they had only known one was using the site.  At one time on the Slimbridge site as a whole they had just 5 breeding pairs, now numbers are estimated at 300, and they are spreading out into the local canal.
You do need to be patient - like the voles at Cromford canal feeding comes in short bursts, but I can assure you you will never get closer views.  At times I could have just scooped them out as they swam past, and the youngsters could be watched swimming underwater.  It was a a bit like watching young grebes when they first try and swim - all energy and bluster, but not too much grace.
A few of the following shots are slightly cropped to remove extraneous vegetation, but the first couple for example are full frame.  Love it.

More pictures on the website.  I hope they don't get too popular and then disturbed, but they seem quite habituated to people and the last time I was there about half a dozen other photographers appeared when I was snapping.  I'd been there about 3 hours by then though - sore knees!

From Mammals

Sunday, October 23, 2011

While the cat's away ....... (1)

I can't believe how long has passed since my last post.  A combination of the weather, a dog to walk and other commitments has meant time out with the DSLR has been quite limited.  I've got a lot of snaps taken with my little pocket digital camera on dog walks, and they will make the light of day in the end, but it was when Kay was heading north a couple of weekends ago, with the dog, that I grabbed the chance to get out and about again.
Starting on the Friday night I wandered up to Rich's field to see how his barn owls were getting on.  They've had 2 clutches this year with 5 looking likely to fledge from the second.  As usual there was nothing to see during the light, but as dusk really fell I heard the unmistakable hiss of a barnie, then a second.  Moments later I had one of those 'never forget it' moments as the two owls flitted around me, like moths to a candle and only 10 feet over my head.  I was standing in full view (nowhere near the nest box I should add), leaning on a fencepost, so they were obviously interested to see just what I was.  One landed on another fencepost, but the lack of a moon meant it was just a white shadow to my straining eyes.  Brilliant.
The next morning I was up well before the lark to go and remind myself how frustrating it is trying to watch rutting fallow deer on the Forest.  I did get a few glimpses of deer in the middle distance, but none in photo range.  At one point I saw the back of a deer a little nearer in the bracken and waited for the head to pop up.  Then another back, and another.  Still no heads - in fact not even a neck.  Slowly the penny dropped.  In my defence I haven't seen boar too often, and the bracken was quite high.  
The owl theme continued.  When I first arrived it was still too dark to try and head into the woods - no moon, remember?  Hearing a few tawny owls 'kewicking' I tried a 'twoo'.  Probably coincidence, but an owl flew overhead.  Just call me the owl whisperer!

So there we go, instalment one and not a picture in sight.  There are some, I promise in instalment 2 though.  I think this might be my first ever snapless post, so here's a clue to what's to come - I'll be impressed if you get it.