Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Autumn Fruits

Grapes growing on the wall of an old kitchen garden

Apples in Chris's garden

Plums in my daughter's garden

Dewberries in a local sand dune

Blackberries in a hedgerow

Chestnuts on the village green

Friday, 21 September 2012

Autumn is here

Lemons grown in a pot

Tortoiseshells on Buddleia 

Hawthorne Berries

Red Admiral

Young Pheasant

Rose Hips

Young Mute Swan

Friday, 14 September 2012

Dark and White Morph Reddish Egrets

These photographs of Reddish Egrets were taken at different locations during our trip to Texas in April 2012.  Finding both the dark and white morphs together on one river bank was particularly pleasing, the birds were so obliging, giving Chris a rare perfect photo-oportunity. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Green Plovers

The freshwater lagoons at Titchfield Haven in Hampshire are very different in the autumn.  Gone are the nesting Avocets and Terns and in their place, hundreds of wildfowl.  Skeins of Canada Geese fly around the lakes, preferring to land on the tidal waters of the river Meon.  A flock of 5 Barnacle Geese, the first of the autumn, chooses one of the three lagoons as a resting place.  A spectacular flock of House Martins and a few Sand Martins feed in a frenzy of activity low over the lagoons, some dipping into the water to drink.  This autumn spectacle more than compensates for the lack of waders, as does the constant activity of the myriad of small birds in the surrounding vegetation.  There’s a sense of bustle to the place and a feeling of great movements in and out.

The few shorebirds that are around feed on the banks of the river and a walk along the road by the beach provides wonderful close-up views of Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Turnstones, but best of all are the Lapwings showing their amazing iridescent green backs.  I much prefer the old name Green Plover for this outstanding wader and on days like this, when the sun hits their wings at exactly the right angle, I’m persuaded that there’s no more beautiful wader in the British Isles. Other delights by the river include Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher and pristine Little Egrets dancing in the shallows.  A distant Marsh Harrier quarters the reed beds adding extra spice, but as I watch its elegant manoeuvring the Green Plovers are still in my mind.

The walk along the old canal to the meadows at the northern end of the reserve is uneventful, save for a vibrant newly-hatched Comma butterfly.  I’d been told that amongst the grazing cows I would find Yellow Wagtails.  Uncommon in the west, they’re always a real bonus for me; a flock of about twenty duly obliges.

An excellent lunch in the garden of the rather good restaurant tastes even better when I notice Swallows on the move again.  Unlike yesterday on the Isle of White, they’re moving east.  Maybe the winds have changed, perhaps they’re heading for Dover to make the crossing to France, or are they taking the same route as those I saw yesterday?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Sea Watching

Living by the sea gives an extra dimension to life, but especially at this time of the year when large numbers of seabirds head south, many from the Arctic.  The best places to see them around here are the western headlands of Pembrokeshire, but even this far away from the main Atlantic flyway it’s worthwhile getting up early and heading out.

I usually head for the end of a nearby bay which protrudes out into the Bristol Channel further than any other; it’s always a bit of a lottery and you never know what will turn up.  Waiting to hear on the grapevine that birds are on the move is the trick, but I risked an early rise this morning and headed out cold.  It’s wise to take a telescope, but even with binoculars it can often be good.  Nestling in the soft salty turf above the rocky shore provides the best good vantage point and I’m at once watching Manx Shearwaters in groups of twenty or more moving steadily up-channel.  Hundreds of Gannets dive in the calm waters off the point and with Sandwich Terns resting on the rocks below, I’m more than happy to have got out of bed early.  It isn’t long before I’m joined by a couple of serious birdwatchers bedecked with all manner of expensive paraphernalia.  They soon get to work on the part of sea beyond my reach, turning up Great Skuas and several Storm Petrels, the latter far too small for me to see with binoculars.  In the two hours I stayed, my tally of Manx shearwaters exceeded 2,000, but with plans to stay the whole day their final counts would probably end up many times this.  The Shearwaters will return down-channel in the evening and I wondered if the morning and evening counts would match, or if the birds would return by a different route on the English side of the channel.

Manx Shearwater


Sandwich Tern

Great Skua

Storm Petrel