Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Moorhen.

The Moorhen (Gallinula Chloropus) is a member of the rail family and the most obvious ID features are the red frontal shield with its waxy yellow tip, just as if it has been dipped in poster paint; a broken white line separating the wings from the belly..... 
and not least (often the most common view FOR ME) the predominant white sides to the undertail.
It often looks as if it is making heavy weather when swimming with the exaggerated nodding of it head in time with the stroke of its feet just like a cyclist labouring uphill.
An amphibious bird that easily walks on waterborne vegetation as well as climbing expertly into the branches of trees. The Moohen, unlike the Coot, rarely dives but picks its food (pondweed, duckweed, leaves of waterside plants, insects, worms etc) from the water surface as it swims.    FAB.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Watery Wednesday.

Still waters and the lonely goose.   FAB.

Wey Navigation Views.

A few views from a recent walk alongside the Wey Navigation starting from Walsham Lock.
Many of the old barges that plied this waterway have been lovingly restored.

Mrs Mallard keeping an eye on all the passers by.   FAB.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Magical Mallard Moments.

During a recent stroll alongside the Wey Navigation I spied a male Mallard quietly preening...
and then a moment later the water erupted as he commenced the first of several  bathtime manouvres. 
Eventually the splashing died down....
and he shook off the excess....
and finally back to another calm preening session before he floated away suitably revitalised.  FAB.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Local Patch this Week.

To round off this week here are a few images of some wildlife I have encountered during my regular walks around Epsom and Ashstead Common.
The lonesome Canada Goose.
Wood Nuthatch (Sitta europaea). The trees were alive with their calls this week.
Grey Squirrel getting ready to disappear.
Treecreeper hunting for a tiny morsel.
Male Manadarin Ducks thinking about departing.
Showing me his best side!
Bluebells are just beginning to appear.
New and unexpected addition to patch list today was this very chirpy Linnet (Carduelis cannabina).
Posed briefly before moving to another distant tree.
Buterflies included Peacock, Brimstone and the Speckled Wood (above) that briefly stopped for a warm up in the sunshine.   FAB.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Pulbourough Brooks.

On Wednesday we took a drive southwards into Sussex and spent a couple of hours gently strolling around the  Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve. Plenty of human activity with small parties of school children enjoying the fresh air but the birds weren't initially interested in showing themselves although the songs of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Wren, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock and Whitethroat were ever present around the reserve.
View across the brooks towards Pulborough.
With the assistance of another visitor and only by using the scope I was able to locate a hazy view of a white shape about half a mile away; very long neck and legs preening while partly hidden in a ditch; that eventually lead me to ID a Great White Egret. Closer but still out of camera range was a Greenshank, the only wader apart from a few Lapwing. In addition to the usual Mute Swans, Canada Geeese, Grey Heron, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen and Shelduck we also spied a resting male Nothern Pintail.   
Peacock butterfly.
At two different locations we stopped and enjoyed the beautiful song of three Nightingales and snatched a brief glimpse of one individual as it moved from one hidden song post to another. A single Swallow passed through and three House Martins were a new sighting for this year. The predominant butterfly was Orange Tip but as usual they were constantly on the wing and never perched for a closer inspection.
Jackdaw who didn't want his face in print!
Singing male Chaffinch.
A pleasant trip out ended with views of Fallow Deer grazing on the damp meadow with the sounds of Skylark singing high overhead.  Wishing everyone a good wildlife weekend.   FAB.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Early Birding at Last!

I finally re-organised my sleep pattern in order to do some early birding on Bookham Common this morning and was greeted by the songs of Song Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap and Chiffchaff even before I had started walking.
Chiffchaff perched up high as usual.
Customising my ears to the various songs emenating all around me I finally picked up on the scatchy call of a Common Whitethroat (2010 first) followed shortly thereafter by the rattling 'tett-tett-tett-tett' call of a Lesser Whitethroat (2010 first) who appeared and then disappeared just as quickly. In the background an unmistakeable songster invaded my senses prompting me to investigate and confirm my first sighting for this year of a Nightingale. This individual moved to and from four different singing locations during the next 15 minutes and only allowed very brief glimpses. A little further on I  heard another strongly singing from a regularly inhabited territory. [Click on the species highlighted in RED for a link to their songs].
Song Thrush
Kestrel stopped by for a brief rest from hunting for its breakfast.
While attempting to get closer to a another Blackcap and then a Garden Warbler (2010 first) I noticed another of the local inhabitants standing absolutely motionless behind me and obviously watching my every movement. Managed a few quick shots before this Roe Deer decided to bound away into the undergrowth. Other sightings included Wren, Sparrowhawk, Jay, Jackdaw, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Canada Geese, Mallard, Moorhen, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a male Bullfinch plus the usual Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. Once again a Cuckoo was also heard calling some distance away.
With the ever present Song Thrushes seeking out higher perches I departed for home after a glorious few early hours plus four additions to this years list.  FAB.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Thursley on Thursday.

On Thursday I paid a mid morning visit to Thursley Common and spent a few hours strolling around one of finest lowland heaths in Surrey. In July 2006 around 60% of the habitat was destroyed by fire but slowly nature is returning. Within half an hour I had my first sighting of Tree Pipit for this year and then listening intently with a strong breeze blowing I picked up the song and then located a male Redstart (another first for 2010). Regretfully neither species was in range of the camera.
Heading up onto higher ground I watched a Skylark burst from the ground and gaining height at a rapid rate whilst singing its heart out before eventually disappearing out of view...absolutley glorious. From within one of the stands of pine trees, slowly regenerating themselves, I heard the deliberate tap..tap..tap of a woodie escavating a hole and decided to investigate the possibility of some photos.
Slowly and carefully I threaded my way trying desperately not to make a sound; difficult when the floor consists of dried bracken, dead wood and fallen branches; but eventually got close enough for some reasonable shots. 
Every now and again the Great Spotted Woodpecker ceased hammering the wood and cleaned the dust from his feathers. He eventually decided he'd had enough and moved higher into the pine for a rest.
When I left the hole was just big enough for him to put his head inside so still a lot of hammering to be done! 

At the gate I stopped for a rest and saw two more male Redstarts.  A Peacock butterfly rested nearby while I listened to the calls of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren and Chaffinch. The latter part of my walk was very quiet apart from watching three Common Buzzards soaring effortlessly high over the common.
A little further on I managed a distant shot of a perched Woodlark (first for the year) .
I hope everyone has a good weekend.  FAB.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Garden Mid April.

This was the Prunus blossom just over a week ago and now the winds have dispearsed most of the petals.
Narcissus continue to provide colour but it won't be long before I'll need to start dead-heading.
Tulipa humilis 'Persian Pearl' opens in the sunshine to show off its golden heart.
A Tulipa (clusiana specie) displays its firey colour. 
The first of the tall pink Tulips have started to open.
Fresh vibrant growth on a Spirea.
The Leucojums have put on a stunning display this spring as the clumps continue to expand; the Hellebores and their seedlings have started to encroach across the path; there is fresh growth on a Euphorbia and an 'unknown' Muscari (the label has deteriorated) shows of its colour in a pot.
The frog and rabbit are slowly being enveloped by new emerging growth beneath the birch.
Our Blue Tit keeps me company and a wary eye out for intruders in the garden.
So it will be another year before this blossom reappears but hopefully other surprises will take it's place as the season develops.  FAB.


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