Thursday, 26 February 2009


Earlier in the week I got to do a bit of work in our garden tidying up as we're hosting our annual selling exhibition in a couple of weeks time (see my husbands website to view his work) . As I was doing a bit of pruning, I noticed that a few things had started emerging and decided to take some snaps with my macro. Here are some of those images.
I hope these Snowdrops hang on in flower till our show.Our Rhubarb serves two purposes, both useful and beautiful (in the great William Morris tradition). First it makes great Rhubarb crumbles (Chris likes these, but not me) and secondly as a great foliage plant close to our pond.A couple of details from some terracotta pots that have made it through the winter.
These miniature Iris are lovely. It's a shame they are so short lived in their flowering, I'm not sure they will stay nice and fresh for our show either.
One of my favourite shrubs is Viburnum carlcephelum. It has the most delicious scent in the spring and I stop to smell it every time I go down the garden path. These are the flower buds emerging.And the leaf buds too. Can't wait to have that scent wafting through the air! Spring is definitely on the way! (-:I thought I'd finish with a Poppy portrait. She was helping me with the pruning......kind of! (-:

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Day in Devon

This is going to be a sort of scenery posting of a days birding in the county of Devon, mainly because I didn't get anywhere near to birds to be able to photograph them! (-: Devon is in the Southwest of England.
We started our day on the Axe estuary. I love the sound of the wading birds (shorebirds) that you get on estuaries. On this day we were particularly looking for a couple of Iceland Gulls that have been spending some time in this area. We went up and down the estuary with no luck in seeing our target bird, we did see some cracking adult summer plumage Mediterranean Gulls. These beautiful white winged gulls have started to breed in greater and greater numbers in this country which is fabulous news. I dearly wish I could have got near to one for a photo, but had to settle to good scope views on this occasion.
This photo was taken near the mouth of the estuary, the sea is just beyond that row of houses.

Looking north further up the river Axe. Later in the day we came back here and managed to find one of the Iceland Gulls. After the River Axe, we decided to head inland a few miles to some heathland at Aylesbeare Common. This is an area owned and managed by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). We were hoping to see Dartford Warbler here as this is prime habitat for this elusive and skulking Warbler. Unfortunately as you can see, the weather was deteriorating, becoming cold and clammy with a sharp northwesterly wind, not ideal conditions for seeing passerines! We didn't get a sniff of a Dartford. We did have good views of a pair of Crossbills. These birds have been pretty scarce recently so I was chuffed see them.Even without much bird life about, heathland is always lovely to walk through. The colours of heather and gorse and pine are rich and intense, not that today was the best day to show this! (-:My two birding buddies on the way back to the car for our next stop.......Oh, I nearly forgot, some gorse out in flower, this plant seems to flower over most of the year. It has a beautiful scent of coconuts.And so on to the last stop of our day in Devon. Budleigh Salterton is a town just west along the coast from the River Axe. We came down to the beach to look for a juvenile American Herring Gull that had been reported here. The weather was still cloudy and chilly, but we settled down on the beach with our scopes to try and sort through all 'our' juvenile Herring Gulls to try and find the visitor from across the pond. The differences between juv Herring Gulls from each side of the Atlantic are subtle and as we sat there (over an hour) with our bums and extremities freezing, I also realised how variable these juveniles can be! Needless to say we didn't find one that stood out as different enough to make a positive id. Still, it made me look at juvenile gull plumage like I never had before! (-:Looking east along the beach. We were sat at the end near the cliff face.This is the area were were scanning.Looking west towards Budleigh Salterton town and the distinctive red sandstone cliffs.
Even though we didn't manage to find the rarest bird on this day out in Devon, the Iceland and Mediterranean Gulls and the Crossbills were quality birds which made the day.

Monday, 16 February 2009

A walk at Colesbourne in the Cotswolds.

It was a lovely crisp blue sky morning, so I decided to go for a short walk up the hill from Mum's house. It starts by walking down the lane to the bottom of the garden where the River Churn flows. There are small Trout in this river as well as some great birds.Last year Mum had one of her large Poplar trees some down which made a hell of a mess of the garden, the fence and the lane too. There is the tree stump with a covering of snow. Mum is still using wood from that tree for firewood.On the other side of the lane the river becomes a bit less sedate and more fast flowing. It is here that we often see a Dipper. I think they have bred occasionally under the bridge on the lane here. It is an amazing bird which swims and walks under water to find aquatic invertebrates and has a characteristic bobbing action. I was not very close to this bird and it was also quite dark down in the dip there hence the dodgy photos. He was singing his scratchy buzzing song while I tried to photograph him so I hope he was successful in attracting a mate!Onwards and upward towards Pen Hill which is the highest point here in the southern end of the Cotswold Hills. Its a lovely area to walk, being a mix of arable land and then quite barren up the top of Pen Hill. I have hopes one day to find a Merlin up there, though my chance at that would only be in the winter.I took this photo as I loved the colour of the hedgerow shadows on the snow. There were quite a few Yellowhammers up here in the hedgerows, not quite ready to sing yet, but certainly making their buzzy contact note.As I walked up the hill I looked back and could see Mums house nestled down there in the valley. If you click on this photo to enlarge, then Mums home is the one to the lower right hand side surrounded by trees.And again if you enlarge this picture, then her house is in the middle of the photo. Mum has lived here since 1987 when she and Dad moved from London. It has been and still is a fabulous place to live and enjoy the abundance of wildlife on her doorstep.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Mum's birds - part 4

I wish there was a way to photograph these birds without having to shoot through double glazing, but I know they wouldn't come so close if the glass wasn't there! It makes all these shots 'soft' which is a shame. It's still fun to do though! (-:
Our Goldfinch is a very smart looking bird which looks like it has dipped its head in red ink. They are generally found in flocks, specially in the winter time and have a lovely liquid twittering song.They particularly like sunflower hearts and also niger seed. This one is eyeing up the sunflower heart feeder in this shot.The Dunnock may be generally seen as a little brown job, but I love them. They have a subtle plumage and the sweetest of songs which I have begun to hear again already this year.This shot and the Marsh Tit (next but one) are not very good, but both the Coal Tit (below) and the Marsh Tit never stay long at all at the feeders. They tend to quickly snatch a titbit and then fly off to a nearby tree to eat. These are the best shots I could get on the day. I'll just have to try harder another time! As I was watching the feeders from Mum's sitting room, this Grey Heron flew over. We don't see them all that often here so this was a nice bonus. He probably settled down further along the River Churn which flows along the bottom of the garden.The Marsh Tit as mentioned above with a Long-tailed Tit behind. On my last day visiting Mum, I went for a short walk up the hill. I'll post some of those photos tomorrow.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Mum's birds - part 3

First of all, my Mum just wanted me to thank all of you who sent her good wishes. She was really touched and said it was very kind of you all, so thanks from me too. She is back home now and exercising her knee regularly and definitely enjoying the birds in her garden again!
Here is a male Pheasant on his way up to the patio to feed on mixed seed.The females tend to be a bit more timid and stay amongst the shrubs in the garden.The Red-legged Partridges don't suffer from shyness and this one showed me both sides of it's profile. I think one side is definitely better than the other! (-:
I might call this one Sid Vicious as it seems to have a punk hairstyle!This would have been a nice head shot of a Wood Pigeon, only the window reflection misted up this photo a bit. Shame.I like this shot of two very common birds. The Blackbird (female) and Robin. At first glance, it looks like the Blackbird should maybe be the nearer of the two somehow. More from Mum's tomorrow......

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Mum's patio birds - part 2

The Long-tailed Tit is one of the most endearing of British birds. Out of the breeding season they flit about in flocks of up to 20 or more. These flocks are usually made up of extended family members. To survive during cold snaps Long-tailed Tits will huddle together in a roost where they form a single feathered clump with numerous protruding tails. During the breeding season 'aunts' and 'uncles' will very often help with the rearing of young. They are probably my favourite out of the Tit family partly because of their looks, but also for their confiding nature when you come across a party of them when on a walk.This one has a slightly cross-eyed look I think! (-:Of course the Blue Tit is also a pretty cute bird too and has a beautiful clean and sweet song.This male Chaffinch was taking advantage of the snowy perch of one of Mum's planters as it feasted on the seed I'd put out. Again, as with the Robin yesterday, the snow underneath highlighted his colours nicely.I was really annoyed with myself with this photo. This is a cropped photo of a quite distant Fieldfare which had orginially been sitting on my Mum's patio. Unfortunately, I scared it off walking into the living room before I knew it was there so I didn't manage to get a nice close shot of this very smart looking winter visitor to our shores! One day........I'll be going up to visit my Mum again later this week, maybe I'll get to snap some more birds on her patio.