Monday, 18 January 2010

Somerset scenes - mish mash

This post is made up of various photos taken around my home county of Somerset over the past few weeks. There's nothing spectacular about the first photo, just showing the snow fall looking out over our front garden a few days ago.
An overview of my local Rodden Reserve before the snow. If you look carefully you can see my elongated shadow at the bottom of the picture....makes me look tall (almost)! (-:Taken low down to the ground, showing the iced over lake at Rodden.
I love the long shadow effect across the iced over water here.One of my favourite viewpoints around the reserve for taking a photo.Seed heads of the beautiful Purple Loosetrife that flowers in profusion all around the lake later in the year....something to look forward to!A gorgeous reflection of the burnt orange colour of this Willow tree. The dead branch is a favourite perch for the local Grey Heron, but not on this day unfortunately.And finally, some shots taken at Chew Valley Lake when birding with my friend Jane over the New Year weekend. This is a large lake and a lot of it was iced over causing some problems for the wintering birds.A Pied Wagtail running around on the ice in it's usual busy way.Some of the water was not frozen over and this stunning male Goldeneye was obligingly close in.Any guesses who this rather pretty backside belongs to?A strikingly plumaged Common Shelduck of course.So, that's all for now folks! I NEED to get out with the camera again soon, though the forecast isn't too hopeful for the rest of the week!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Somerset scenes - part one

Just before Christmas, my friend Jane and I took a local walk 20 minutes just south of Frome around King Alfred's Tower. This is a beautiful area just on the Somerset/Wiltshire border near to one of my bird survey areas at Stourhead. On this frigid day we didn't see many birds, but it was a beautiful morning to be out and about. Here are some of the scenes from that day.
The sunlight through the bare larch branches happened to fall on a patch of still green leaves making them jewel like.We were hoping for Brambling and Crossbills on this walk, but didn't have luck on this day. We did come across a pair of Treecreepers and Coal Tits.I didn't particularly like where this path seemed to be taking us (into the deep dark part of the woods. Happily for us, the path bent around to the right at the end there and we carried on in sunlight.The dusting of snow before Christmas was more picturesque that bothersome and made this walk quite magical.This road with the snows of just a few days ago would've been quite impassable for my car, but with care, presented no problems on this day.At the end of our walk, we approached King Alfred's Tower, a well known folly which straddles the Somerset/Wiltshire border. Click on the link to go to a website to find out more about this building.There will be more wintry Somerset scenery in my next post....

Monday, 11 January 2010

Poppy post!

I thought my posts have been a bit Poppyless recently, so here is a plethora of Poppydom photos from when we first bought her home as a rascally kitten to the present day. As you can see, from the start, she's always been one for climbing!She still has this shoelace, but it is now shredded into three separate threads.When she wants to be, she can be absolutely adorable! (little minx).And also completely cute too! (one of my favourite shots of her to date).Of course, she has great taste in furniture.(-: Although Chris would much rather she didn't love it quite so much!She still has alot of fun with her scratching post. I haven't got a photo of it yet but she loves to sit (even now she's bigger) on top of the post and scratch the post from there! I definitely need to get my camera ready to capture that one of these days.A Bog Oak clock that Chris made proved to be a popular perching post! (YIKES, that mirror needs a good clean!!!)This was her first adventure to the outside world. Chris's shoulder was a good vantage point to explore from.Her first Christmas (2008) having fun with her ball.She likes to watch the birds and thought this was an ideal spot to watch from.Definitely my second favourite photo so far. Soooooooo sweet!This is our Popster just the other day in the snow (by the way her real name is Poppy, but she gets called so many other things)! -:She's loved this recent snow and charges around the garden like a maniac. Here's Chris going back to work in his workshop at the end of the garden with Poppy scooting off the path towards the pond.And then looking up at me taking a photo of her from our office room upstairs. Finally, here is a video clip I took of Poppy investigating the icy pond just before Christmas when we had freezing temperatures, but no snow.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

West Bexington bird survey

Last year, my birding friend Jane and I got chatting and decided we'd do a couple of bird surveys together. One of the survey tetrads that we decided to go for was on the south coast in the county of Dorset. We thought it would be fun and interesting to experience a bird survey along the coast. The map below shows our square, centered around the sleepy village of West Bexington. The idea is to cover as much different habitat as possible within the allotted area. So we devised a route that would take in the beachfront, a reedbed, footpaths, minor roads and the village.
We started our route at the beach car park in the village. We soon picked up Robin, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Song Thrush, Winter Wren and Stonechat in this area.This is the view westward from the car park along the beach.The beach consists of small pebbles which is very tiring to walk along so........
......we decided to walk just off the beach along the side of the reedbed which was much easier going. We still wanted to record any birds on the beach and at sea, so occasionally we'd walk up the sloping beach to take note of any birds we'd have missed otherwise.
The reedbed proved quite productive even in winter with both Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler being heard. In spring this will hopefully be alive with many more birds!The reedbed had some open fresh water where we had a nice selection of ducks and gulls.In the distance in the photo below you can see the caravan park which we would be aiming for later in the survey.There were quite a few birds feeding in this weedy area...... Dunnocks, Goldfinches, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits. I'd have loved to find a Snow Bunting amongst them, but alas, not on this occasion. (-:One of our searches out to sea. On this day, we were quite disappointed to find that there was nothing to record out at sea. We did have a nice selection of gulls roosting on the beach though.........Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser black-backed and Great black-backed.
At the end of the fresh water lake our route took us inland along coastal footpaths. This is where the map wasn't very helpful. We had been hoping to take the marked footpath just before that inland lake (see first map), but that was totally under water and impassable. So we carried on hoping to take the red dotted footpath that was showing just outside of our survey square. We would stop counting birds until we'd walked back into our square. We were therefore surprised to find this coastal path sign directly after the end of the fresh water lake. As this was still in our square, but not showing on the map, we decided to take it and see where it would lead us. I'm glad I wasn't on my own as the footpath wasn't always obvious. Landowners on the whole though are fairly casual about trespass so long as you respect the countryside you're walking through and shut any gates etc.These fields and the scrubby hedgerows surrounding them were surprisingly quiet birdwise. I did manage to snap a shot of an obliging Robin. I'm sure that come springtime, there will be alot more activity.This is a view looking back down the hill towards the sea. If you look closely, you can see the slightly darker area of grass in the middle of this field which indicates a used footpath, so I guess we were where we should be....more or less! (-:Having walked through the caravan park not shown on the map, but just below Swyre, we ended up on the yellow minor road walking back towards West Bexington (see first map).As hoped for, we added quite a few more species in the village, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Collared Doves. Here the Herring Gulls found the house roofs to be handy perches.Obviously a good place for a natter and other more essential functions! (-:
After just over two hours walking, it was very nice to sit in this convenient cafe for a welcome cup of coffee. I'm really looking forward to the three other times we have to do this survey. Spring migration particularly could be very exciting here.