Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Stunning Kingfisher Photo....

Sadly dear blogger I am unable to take responsibility, or credit or anything for this fabulous photo of a kingfisher.

Ian Llewellyn is an emerging Wildlife cameraman photographer based here in Bristol. This morning amongst the deluge of work e-mails was this absolutely stunning photo Ian has recently taken. I asked him if I could share it with the bloggers out there, he was more than happy.

It's hoped that he will soon have a book published about this remarkable bird, I was asked to add a piece on my first Kingfisher encounter. Once it is I'm sure Ian will allow me to publicise its publication on the blog.

In the meantime, just sit back and admire this photo. I've left it fairly large, so it's worth a click to enlarge the photo to see the detail.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The spider is identified...possibly

Well I stand corrected. The Spider in the posting from Saturday, is actually a species of Steatoda. My informant thinks it could be a Steatoda bipunctata but without seeing it properly, it's hard to be sure.

Doing a bit of hunting through reference sites may point it towards Steatoda nobilis, the False Widow Spider

If anyone can fully ID this spider I'll be grateful, but credit where credit's due to a much better naturalist than I'll ever be. Thanks Brett for putting me right, again!!

I'd also like to point you to Joe's blog, a 14 year old with a lot of passion for wildlife. Have a look at what happening there and maybe leave an encouraging comment.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

I had today planned for weeks. A day at Malvern to visit the RHS Autumn Gardening Show. The RHS run a Spring show there too and I try if I can to do both as it's a wonderful event. But...having had a bit of a late night after my Chinese take-away dinner date was somewhat delayed on the M5 coming back from Stratford-upon-Avon where she'd bought a car, this morning I woke and well you know some days you have something planned but just don't want to do it. Today was that day, and from that change it turned out to be a very nice day indeed. As ever, please click on images to enlarge.

Down at Sand Bay first thing just for half an hour of fresh air really as the tide was miles out so any birding would be pointless. But while there the sun tried its level best to rise over the reeds.

And why have I photographed some not too exciting Hawthorn Berries next to where I parked my car? Well back on May 1st this year I wrote about Beltain on the Blog and photographed the "May Blossom". And so 5 months later those self same fresh wonderful flowers on the same branch have transformed themselves into ripe berries.

And then while photographing this Tree Mallow, purely because the leaf pattern intrigued me, I noticed a Common Froghopper on the leaf. The nymphs of this little chap are your Cuckoo Spit producers.

It was while admiring the flowering of a Sea Club-rush, I noticed a Little Egret take off from the Marsh. Sadly this photo is absolutely awful, even after being photo shopped, but at least it gives a record. Birds down at Sand Bay were just the usual suspects, however a nice flock of 50-60 Goldfinch jangling past was a very welcome distraction. The only other notable bird was a lone Swallow over the farm. This straggler is the first I've seen for weeks.

After Sand Bay a bit of a doing things morning developed. After dropping a friend off at a Country Club Gym, I upped the sophistication with a visit to the Tip, sorry Civic Amenity Site, with a mattress; shopping in Tesco Nailsea followed (not to be recommended on a Saturday morning) before I returned to the Country Club. Friend had finished her work-out and we had a very acceptable luncheon before I popped home to find this chap above in the sink. This is (I'm 99.9% certain) one of the lace web spiders, Amaurobious Ferox. The reason I'm not 100% certain is that although the "Skull and Crossbone" markings are diagnostic, the whole Amaurobious genus can show very variable markings. And the Long-Tailed Tits? Well just there because at about 5, a small flock appeared in the birch, twittered and flitted across the tree then left. I can never tire of watching these birds.

To round off what was a very nice day, as the sun set, I could feel the cold air dropping. Which can mean only one thing here, mist. So a quick sprint in the car around the lanes here produced a good number of scenic shots. As I've said before and will no doubt say again, this time of the year is wonderful.

Tree-hugging sun, or Sun resting on tree?

Gathering mist

Woodspring Priory across the North Somerset Levels as the mist gathers

Well that's a brief synopsis of how an unplanned day can delight, and entertain. Tomorrow may not be quite as wildlife stuffed as I'm off to have lunch in Swindon with 18 people I don't know. No idea what's happening but I'm sure I will enjoy it whatever happens.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

A media link to miscellany

A miscellany, of unrelated items this posting:

I found myself this evening sitting in the conservatory, writing various things on the laptop, when Radio 4's Book at Bedtime came along, Out of a Clear Sky, by Sally Hinchcliffe. And I have to say a very interesting resume on the world of the Twitcher.

Sadly I don't have any photos of this behaviour but each day as I walk into work past Bristol's Catholic Cathedral the number of Grey Squirrels feeding on conkers is amazing. I watched one, bold as brass, sitting on a wall, chewing through the outer spikey casing to get at the conker inside. Once there, off it bounded with the conker to presumably cashe this in the Cathedral gardens. I know many see Grey's as vermin, but I just feel that in the City they bring a welcome flash of wildlife.

And what about this "ahhahh cute" story? My cousin, once removed (Twice Shy) in Canada sent me some wonderful photos today, taken by a work colleague recently. Apparently this young Moose was stranded in a river, no parent around. After rescuing it, it fell into the river again, and so it was taken to a forest lodge, looked after overnight then sent to a Wildlife Refuge. Little to know it would be visible to the World Wide blogging community that evening......

Finally this week I met up with a representative from the Avon Wildlife Trust, to discuss the possibility of my joining them as a Trustee. We had lunch yesterday and discussed the role and other experience I could bring to the feast. I'm now waiting to see if I'm suitable for the needs of the AWT. However even if I'm not what they need at the moment it's wonderful even to be asked to be part of the team there.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Y ho-Silver

What with one thing and another, staying with friends, having parents visit, going to London for work, time is running away with BR and the blog is being neglected. So a short posting to say I'm still here, in mind if not body.

I've mentioned before I love this time of year, it's all about change and colour and for the last 2 weeks, sunshine! Sadly I noticed on Sunday I'd not heard a house martin all day, so they must have finally left my area. A few Swallows around still and though I've not seen one yet an influx of Honey Buzzards into the UK at the moment as they migrate across Europe.

Speaking of migration, below a Silver Y moth, I photographed on a photo frame on Sunday night. The name comes from the inverted Y on the wings. These are interesting, in that they are big migrants. In the spring, what could be the grandparents of this chap, pop over to the UK, breed, die, breed, die and by this time of the year, UK emerging Silver Y's are preparing to fly back to Europe, as they are unable to over-winter here. Which is interesting as firstly why bother coming here in the first place and secondly, how on earth do they get back without any guidance. Nature is very clever, ingenious and never ceases to amaze.

What is also interesting is that down here at least there are scores of Silver Y about at the moment, presumably newly emerged. I mentioned this to Brett at lunch yesterday. As the presenter of World on the Move on Radio 4, funnily enough he said, we're doing an article about this very species tomorrow. So listen in, or listen again.

This is a very bad photo showing the wing beating, while in my hand. When these moths feed, they will vibrate their wings rapidly and this one did it just for me, before being sent packing outside for the evening.

Finally just an arty shot of dew on a spiders web. I must get out soon with the camera and capture the autumn before it's too late. Mind you I'll be at the Malvern Autumn Gardening Show this weekend, so may get some scene setting photos there.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Kent in the Sun

What a fabulous weekend. As I write this blog, at 9pm on Sunday I've only been home an hour or so from a weekend in the Garden of England. And it was sunny!!!!! Hoorah. At last summer has arrived, or at least I've had a warm and wonderful weekend in Kent. So pour yourself a whisky, sit in a comfy chair and read on...... and as before, click to enlarge any images.

Saturday morning saw me at home and it was glorious. No wind nor rain, and out over the back garden House Martins were twittering aloft having their breakfast, or if you look at the above photo, as a plane took off from Bristol Airport it seemed to be in competition with the little fellas. Maybe they're both flying south!!

But 4 hours later following the joys of the M25 and a Costa Rip-off coffee at Clacket Lane Services, I found myself at Chartham Hatch, a village just outside of Canterbury. Home since 1971 to my Uncle, Dr Ken, birthday boy and a very young 80. My parents were also staying at chez relations so it was good to have a family catch up, it being 5 years since we all met up in Norfolk. Later in the evening the rest of the Border Reiver Mafia feasted on gourmet grub in a gastro pub somewhere in the middle of Kentish countryside. Don't ask me where it was, I was driving

But before that a little bit of a walk on Saturday afternoon. Following a nice cup of tea and a sit in the garden watching the numerous goldfinches on the feeder, my mother and I went for a walk through the orchards which surround Chartham Hatch.

Running past in front of my Uncles house is the North Downs Way, a long distance footpath along the North Downs between Surrey and Kent. And I have to say, although the South East is very busy, there are some stunning views still to be had. Walking through the orchards was just wonderful, and so popular is walking in this area roadsigns have been put up to warn motorists in the village.

Far reaching views over the Downs, Oast Houses and the apple harvest in the warm sunshine, it was just what it says on the tin, the Garden of England. Even if most people one met only spoke Polish. And look at those apples, plumpness to the point of busting. Mile after mile of apples as far as the eye can see, ready for the picking to make cider or whatever. So many orchards are planted around here the landscape is more like a wine growing region and the apples more like vines on favourable southern slopes. Who needs the Mediterranean !!

All in all a welcome stroll after the drive across, and I was refreshed. And lets not forget this is early autumn, so blackberries are now ripening and as autumn is often the colour of orange, a highland cow, one of the many who live in the field next door to my weekend digs. I wonder if they drink the cider?

Passing over the glorious Birthday meal, I can still taste my chicken, my domestic quarters for the night had a bookshelf, or more importantly, a book I used to have as a boy and have since lost. Fritter's book of British Birds brought birdwatching out of the past and into the populist culture of the 1960's.

It was fabulous to read it again (I must buy a replacement copy for myself - anyone got one to sell?), not least as being a transition book from the worthy amateur birder to the modern age, use was made of some of the colloquial words for birds. Below I've listed some of those I particularly liked from this 1962 edition. I think we should go back to these names, they're just fabulous.

Common Whitethroat = Nettle Creeper

Great Tit = Ox-Eye Tit

Swift = Devil-Bird, Devil Screamer, Deviling

Pied or White Wagtail = Water Wagtail, Dishwasher

Song Thrush = Throstle, Mavis

Fieldfare = Felt, Felfer

Common Snipe = Bleater, Heather Bleater

Common Sandpiper = Summer Snipe, Willy Wicket

Dunlin = Ox-Bird, Ploversage, Sea-Snipe

Dipper = Water Blackbird, Water Crow, Water Pyet

Woodpigeon = Ring-Dove, Cushat, Cushie Doo

Green Woodpecker = Yaffle, Rain-Bird

Meadow Pipit = Titlark

Goldfinch = Draw-water, King Harry

Blue Tit = Tom Tit, Pick-cheese

Goldcrest = Golden-Crested Wren, Kinglet

Black-Headed Gull = Peewit Gull

Smew = White Nun (Male)

Curlew = Whaup (N England)

Avocet = Awl-Bird, Yelper, Clinker

Oystercatcher = Sea-Pie

Whimbrel = May-Bird, Titterel, Seven Whistler

Storm Petrel = Mother Carey's Chicken

Lapwing = Green Plover, Peewit, Black Plover, Pyewipe

Starling = Stare

After a good read, a sound sleep, woken momentarily by a screech of a Tawny Owl, and breakfast brunchette, en-route home we all decamped to Batemans, home of Rudyard Kipling in East Sussex. What a glorious place, not least for the wildlife. Lesser Spotter and Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Long Tail Tit were but a few of the birds I spied while being a National Trust visitor, but also.........

........ Butterflies,

clockwise from top left, Small Copper, Red Admiral, Brimstone and Comma.

And common Azure dragonflies, who darted about a bit too swiftly and this wonderfully "red" Sympetrum striolatum. Not to mention the "wild" cyclamen.

It's just amazing how much wildlife can be seen on an autumnal weekend celebrating an 80th Birthday. Driving through the Weald of Kent and Sussex, I've made a mental note to return and have a proper holiday back there very soon - it's wonderful.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

10.09.08.....Hanna knocks at the window

What a strange title for me to place on the "Blog-Web"

Well it is the 10th day of the 9th Month of the 8th year. Must have some significant meaning!

And as I write this at 11pm on Wednesday, the remains of Tropical Storm "Hanna" has arrived, only showing it's abilities since dusk fell, it's now knocking at my house and giving the windows a good rattling in the night.

I've long found it fascinating that watching a hurricane across the Caribbean on the TV only means that 5 to 6 day later it'll make landfall in the UK as a low pressure system. I've just been in the garden and one could feel the moist heat in the air, even though there's no rain, as the leading edge of this pressure system approached.

Either that or it is a side effect of the Hadron Collider switch on.... it is black out there, and is that a hole passing over??? I don't know about you all, but I'm more intrigued at what happened the moments BEFORE the Big Bang. We know the Big Bang happened, but why did it happen and what caused it to begin......now that's something to research.

Which got me thinking. If this Accellerator does finish off the Human Race, what will survive. My money is on spiders, such as this female Garden spider, Araneus diadematus in the garden this morning. Spiders are the great colonisers of virgin land, able to balloon huge distances by hurling themselves off vegetation and using their silk as an air brake or parachute. Go out on an Autumn day and look across rough grassland. I can guarantee there'll be millions of threads, all made by these remarkable animals.

Sadly the Cern Collider will not produce a Hudsonian Whimbrel at Sand Bay tomorrow. Which was the rarity a colleague of mine saw on the Scilly Isles this week. Mind you he's on a years career break out there, so he should provide a fine tally, by the time he returns.

But then again, just before coming upstairs to write this posting, a Lesser Yellow Underwing, Noctua comes decided to come into the kitchen, flit about the lamp and then land on the wall. So a photo on the blog for all to see before catching it and sending it back outside to battle with Hanna's warm air.

And just in case you're wondering, as the photo above will testify, Border Reiver did not go bird watching at the weekend, deciding to spruce up his lounge as the rain came down. Luckily I decided to stop putting the "Toffee Cream" on the window wall at this point, as next to the "Calvados" or Mocca Brown, it made it look like a 1950's Railway Waiting Room.

Friday, 5 September 2008

My Room with a View

For reasons not worth going into, I've been awake since 4.30 this morning and had breakfast at Bristol Airport at 6am. So as I write this short blog entry on Friday evening I'm falling a sleep. It's only 7.30pm and so dark and wet out there, it must be December.

As many blogees have already written this week, the weather is miserable, miserable, miserable. I haven't been birding properly for weeks now as the impetus just isn't there to get wet. But I think this weekend I'll force myself out onto the Somerset Levels. Watch this space, certainly some of the autumn migrants are amassing. Lots of juvenile warblers about. Significantly I've not seen a house martin for a few days, which would be a very early departure if they've gone.

So just to cheer us all up, I thought you may like to see sunshine. This is the view from my new office at BBC Bristol. It's great as I have a crows nest view of the comings and goings of BBC staff out of the "back gate" I took it on Wednesday soon after returning from a leaving lunch. Clifton in Bristol is Meeja land and Planet Pizza is almost a BBC canteen. For £3.95 a quarter pizza and salad is a bargain for lunch (not so the £3.49 sausage roll at Bristol Airport - a true airline culinary feast prepared with the finesse I'd expect!!!!!).

But with the bill at Planet Pizza one always gets ...... jelly beans. (Doesn't everyone photo jelly beans?)