Monday, 29 December 2008

End of year birding day.

I had a great days birding today to try and drag my year list up to a semi reasonable level. I was out and meeting two birding friends just as it was turning light (around 8am). Our first stop was Carymoor reserve, an area that has been improved for environmental education from a landfill site near the town of Bruton in Somerset. The area has some wetland lakes with reeds and some marshy areas. We saw Mallard and Teal on the unfrozen areas of the wetland as well as Moorhens and a Water Rail. A lone Bearded Tit was calling in the reeds but was impossible to find due to the windy conditions. Up on the marshy area we managed to see several Common Snipe and a Jack Snipe which is much less common.
My friends live in Bruton and so our next stop was in the town of Bruton where up to five Hawfinches are spending the winter. These normally shy and elusive birds eventually gave some reasonable sightings, the one photographed here below feeding on seeds on a garage roof.
After a much needed coffee (it was a freezing easterly wind out there today), I left my friends and made my way home via Stourhead lakes (where I recently did a BTO bird survey). A Lesser Scaup has been reported from the main lake recently so I dropped in there to check it out. I eventually found it hanging out with the Tufted Ducks. My next stop was home for a much needed spot of lunch, as I was looking out the window I noticed this male Blackcap in our Strawberry Tree. We've had both male and female Blackcaps in our garden this winter. It's only in more recent years that this warbler species has decided to overwinter in numbers in the UK. In Spring they have the most melodic song. My last stop of the day was down on the Somerset Levels at the National Nature Reserve of Westhay. I had promised an old work friend of mine and her Mum that we would go one day this winter to see the Starling roost. They roost here on the Levels in spectacular numbers although finding the right place to watch them can be tricky. The display given by the Starlings today (see photos below) is not the most amazing I've seen, but it was pretty good which made a lovely end to the day.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Poppy has her first Christmas!

Poppy our new kitten (7 months old now) has just had her first Christmas.
Our good friends Bob and Betsy from Iowa very kindly sent her over some toys to play with. Here she is enjoying her ball.And here, she's taking it in turns to play with her ball and her little white mouse with pink ears. She also has a catnip bag somewhere too which she went absolutely mad over. I'm not sure where she's left that, but I'm sure I'll find it deposited somewhere around the house! Thanks Bob and Betsy for making her first Christmas such fun!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Sky Watch Friday

Todays SWF photos was taken last Saturday. It captures what I love about nature at this time of year. A deep blue sky and warm winter sunshine. The reflection is quite nice too! (-:
Many thanks to the whole team who put SWF together. For more wonderful skies from around the world click on the icon on the right hand side of this post.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Five greatest joys in nature - a meme from Mary.

A couple of days ago Mary tagged me for a meme on my five greatest joys in nature. Thanks Mary for thinking of me to carry on this meme. I have found it both very easy and quite difficult to do. Easy to think what gives me joy but difficult to keep my photos down to a reasonable level! I don't think I've succeeded very well in keeping the photos down, but anyway, here we go.....
Birds - I guess I'm first and foremost a birder at heart. Birds and birding have been an enormous part of my life for the last 10 years. I'd always been vaguely interested in nature, but it wasn't until I joined the Bristol Ornithological Club back in 1998 that things really took off for me. Since then I've been to various parts of the world and round most of Britain purely to go birding. Here are some of the birds that I've had the pleasure to watch and photograph.
A Winter Wren at my local nature reserve. This White-billed Diver turned up in Cornwall back in the winter of 2007. A beautiful bird. We had an influx of these Bohemian Waxwings in this country back in the winter of 04/05. A real treat. This Desert Wheatear was blown off course and landed in the east of England. Luckily I was already over in that part of the country birding with friends. This gorgeous male Reed Bunting was completely oblivious to my presence I'm glad to say. I had a great day on the island of Skomer off the coast of Wales a few summers ago. These Puffins are a speciality bird there.I've been lucky enough to take some great trips abroad. One was to Australia with some friends a few years back. This Laughing Kookaburra was very obliging. A stunning bird! Sydney botanical gardens was a great place to photograph birds and this Sulphur-crested Cockatoo posed nicely. Another great trip was to California. We took a boat trip out to Santa Cruz Island, particularly to see this Island Scrub Jay. Butterflies and Bugs - Butterflies and bugs come at a great time in the year as summer isn't the best time for birding! (-: I've particularly enjoyed photographing these creatures since I got my digital SLR camera.

Beasts - Most of the animals that I've been able to watch and photograph have been those abroad. This Sea Otter in California was very close in and seemed happy for us to be clicking away while it snacked on crabs. This Hare was in a field up near my Mums home in the Cotswold Hills. They had disappeared up there for a number of years, but seem to be making a come back just recently. This cute seal pup was too hard to resist on a trip to Norfolk last year. Back abroad again and Australia provided a feast of beasties. This monitor lizard was about 5-6 feet long. Fierce looking claws! This Spiney Echinda was shy at first, but eventually showed itself before scuttling back into the dry brush of SW Tasmania.I was amazed at my first sighting of these large Fruit Bats, specially in flight! Seasons - Spring - These Beechwoods are alive with the song of Wood Warblers, Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts at this time of year. Magical!There's nothing like a Bluebell wood in England in May. One of my favourite spring sights.Summer is probably my least favourite season. There is still plenty to enjoy though.I love Autumn! The colours....I had some magical foggy days this autumn at my local nature reserve in Frome. The muffled sounds and the dew on the millions of spiders webs was unforgettable.It's always a special time of year when natures harvest is fully ripened.I love winters when its a cold crisp blue sky day and the low winter sun brings a special glow to the countryside. In England that doesn't happen that often so you have to enjoy them when you can! (-:
Friendship - The last of my five greatest joys in nature is having the friendship of like minded people to share these experiences with. I was very lucky when I joined the Bristol club in that I made some fantastic friends whose enthusiasm matches my own. Without these friends I would not have had most of the special moments shown above that I've enjoyed over the last 10 years.
This is Jane, Lyn and Maggie who have joined me in trips to Australia and America.This is Jane, Maggie and me on a pelagic trip out from the Scilly Isles. We were out for 6 hours following fishing boats to see Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and other seabirds. The poor boy lying down in the background of this photo was sea sick after just 20 minutes. Probably not one of his best birding moments!This is Ruth, Paul and Marcus on a birding trip to California. We were waiting for the Island Scrub Jay to turn up.On the same California trip, this is Pete (with bins up), Ruth and Paul on a whale watching trip for Grey Whales.This is Bob and Betsy from Iowa. I've made some great friends in America through birding. Here we are up in Minnesota near Silver Bay on Lake Superior. A fantastic area.Since I've been doing this blog, I've made some great blogging friends too. Particularly Evie, Mary and Christine in America and Roy in Britain and Alan and Duncan in Australia. Nature blogging really does bring like minded people from all over the world together and I'm very VERY thankful for that! I hope to make many more friends through this blog. Sorry that this has turned into such a marathon! I'm done now! (-:

Friday, 12 December 2008

From one day to another...

All bar the last two, these photos were taken just one day after the other at Rodden Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Frome. I'm dedicating this post to Evie (I know teasel is a favourite of hers) my friend in America who is battling with ice storms and allsorts at the moment in the very chilly state of New York. May your days soon be warmer Evie! (-:
Both days here were cold and crisp, but on Saturday there was no frost, Sunday morning was full of frost which made for quite a different scene, so I decided to take some duplicate photos.... Notice the different colour background on this teasel shot.
This first photo (above) could almost have been taken in summer, but was just the day before.
Lush looking Rosehips above and then frozen the next day.OK, I cheated a bit on this one, the first photo was taken at the end of September when this horse chestnut was just on the turn.Then taken last Sunday in its denuded state. Still beautiful!