Tuesday, 29 June 2010

New Forest Birding Weekend - Day 1 part 1

This last weekend I went on a Bristol Ornithological Club trip to the New Forest in the county of Hampshire. The New Forest is about 1.5 hours south east of where I live and is mostly a mix of heathland and ancient Woodland. There were 12 of us on the weekend and here are some of the group striding out to start our first days birding.
As mentioned in previous posts, there are hundreds if not thousands of semi wild ponies wandering free throughout the Forest area. These are owned animals and are rounded up each year to be branded.
At this time of year there were plenty of foals about and it was hard to resist taking loads of photos!
There were plenty of these boggy peaty areas which proved wonderful for Dragonflies and Damsels.
I don't often see Cotton Grass, but whenever I do, I always find it photogenic!
One of the charismatic Dragonflies around these boggy areas was the Four-spotted Chaser. This one looks to be an immature and was my first sighting of this species. I love the touch of gold in the wings.
I could easily have spent hours here if I'd been on my own and I would have needed to in order to get really decent photos as these creatures are just sooooo restless!
Another new tick for me was this Keeled Skimmer (I obviously need to get out in the summer more!) (-:
Another inhabitant of the bogs was this lovely green frog. I'm not good on frog ID and so would appreciate any suggestions as to which one this is?
The Forest ponies also get attracted to the open water and these three dropped by for a drink while we were there. They seem to take no notice of humans, but I'm not sure what they'd do if they were approached. We just let them be and enjoyed them from a reasonable distance.
Yet another new species for me (I was having a good insect day) was the Silver-studded Blue Butterfly. This species is a rarity in Britain and is very localised to particular habitats. Here in Hampshire, it favours the short Heathland and feeds on various species of Heather, Gorse and Bird's-foot Trefoil.
The male is distinguished from other Blues by it's clear white fringing and wide black border on the upperwings.
The underwing is distinctive too with a broad band of orange next to the black eyespots. It doesn't show up well on this photo, but there are also blue 'studs' on the hindwing which give the butterfly it's name.
The next post will be in the shade of the New Forest woods.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Bits and bobs!

Sometimes I take some photos but they don't seem to hang together for a proper blog post, so here are some I took earlier in the year, mostly May and June I think. On a days birding around the Somerset Levels, I was very lucky to come across this Adder slithering across the path in front of me at Ashcott Corner.
We have only three snakes in Britain and the Adder is the only venomous one. This one was about 30 inches long from memory and I was thrilled to see it.
A great success story for the Somerset Levels is the explosion of breeding Bitterns on the various reserves there (I think there are possibly 14 booming males this year). Just a couple of years ago, I would consider myself very lucky to get to see one Bittern. Last year and this, it is not uncommon to have several flight views during a mornings walk! It really is a treat!
Another area I like to go walking is just south of where I live on the borders of Somerset and Wiltshire. It's a totally different habitat from the flat but characterful Levels. It's right on the western edge of Salisbury Plain with rolling chalk hills and a great sense of space. Corn Buntings breed here, but are right on the western edge of their breeding range and don't quite make it into Somerset. These dumpy looking birds have a lovely tinkling song, somewhat like a bunch of keys rattling.
Another wonderful character of this habitat is the Brown Hare. They're quite skittish for the most part and this was the closest I got to this one poking it's ears up in the middle of a grassy field.
I was chuffed to find this field of Linseed (Flax). I'm definitely not a fan of oil seed rape, but I guess it makes a startling contrast with the lovely soft blue of the Linseed here.

The Hawthorne flower has been good this year which means we should get a good crop of red haws in the autumn (great for our winter thrushes, but I don't want to think about that right now!) (-:
The last area in this post is a bird club trip to Exmoor which is about 2 hours west of me, nearly into the county of Devon. Like the ponies in the New Forest that I posted about earlier in the year, Exmoor ponies are free to roam throughout the Exmoor National Park.
They are hardly tame or confiding and so this shot of a young one was taken at a distance and is cropped quite a lot!
Whereas this lamb was quite happy to pose just a few feet from me, looking very content in the shade. Mind you I didn't hang around as the mother was keeping a good eye on me!

Monday, 14 June 2010

The wrong type of Poppy?

This pot was going to have some Poppies in it for the summer, but......
.....our Poppy has taken it over for her own use!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Delusions of grandeur!

The other morning whilst drinking our early morning tea together, Chris thought he caught a glimpse of a squirrel in the trees across the road (he didn't have his glasses on)! A squirrel would be a rare sighting where I live (only one in the 20 odd years we've been here). Anyway, I got my bins (never toooooo far away from my birding hands) and what I saw wasn't a squirrel but this male House Sparrow with a wacking great big piece of string. He flew across the road to our front garden with this string trailing behind him, so I grabbed my camera (never toooooo far away from my bins) (-: and took a load of snaps of him trying to get to grips with his home diy project! He was obviously nesting in the eaves of our house as he tried several times to get the string up there without success.

I think maybe he should stick to small twigs! (-:

Friday, 4 June 2010

Last post on Lesvos.

Apologies for this last post taking so long to get on here, I left my laptop at work earlier this week and all my photos were on it! Well, we had about 1/2 a day before we had to leave the hotel for the airport so we went to some local spots for a last few hours of birding on this amazing island. At Metouchi Lake I got the opportunity to digiscope this Squacco Heron. I wish we had them in Britain, they're such stunning looking birds!
These next couple of shots were taken by my friend Jane of a White-winged Black Tern over Metouchi Lake (thanks Jane). I never did get a decent shot, something to aim for next time! (-:
Harder to see, but if you click to enlarge you'll see the White-winged Black Tern flying towards the camera and also an House Martin just skimming the water below it.
I put this photo in specially for Mary as I've seen so many images like this on her blog! (-: I was thinking of you Mary as I took this photo.
Our next stop was the beautiful Potamia Valley. We went back here to try and find one more life bird for me, the Olive Tree Warbler. Thanks to some other friendly birders (are there any other kind?) (-: who gave us directions to a one singing further down the valley, I managed to see my 19th life bird of the trip on this last day!
Now you might be wondering what three of us found so fascinating to photograph in the river below this bridge in the Potamia Valley. Well........
......firstly a frog.
And then another frog.......
.......but finally, this rather gruesome sight of a terrapin on the back of a dead sheep! Not the nicest of basking spots I have to say!!!
Something just a bit more pleasant to see was this bunch of Lupins. I don't know whether Lupins are a native plant or not on Lesvos, but these were flowering in the middle of this valley and the sun shining through them was gorgeous.

After the Potamia Valley, we drove slowly along the East River again. The light on this day seemed to show the river at its best I think. The river was drying out, and the colours of reflected sky, algae and soil was a lovely combination.

As we drove along the East River, I'm glad I grabbed a shot of this Grandma cadging a lift on the back of this bike. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone riding side saddle on a bike before!!! (-:
And finally, we couldn't leave Lesvos without a final few hours at the Kalloni Salt Pans. As usual, the birds didn't disappoint here.

Thank you all very much for coming along on this birding trip to Lesvos with me. It's been so much fun to look back through my photos for these posts and it brought back great memories. I'm sorry it took longer to tell the story than I'd hoped!
Oooooops! I nearly forgot to include this video of those sheep being herded past our hotel on our last morning, so here's the url to click on to view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iUz4w0zAtc