Saturday, 17 September 2011

Looking back in time.

This collage of the ruins of Cowdray Castle and surrounding buildings at Midhurst was taken some ten months ago when my father was far more steady on his feet. I have often thought about my family history and now that Dad is far less mobile I thought it was time that I delved into his memories and with the benefit of ancestral search facilities maybe I could fill in some gaps but didn't realise just how addictive this research would become!  

The story begins at the Round House within the grounds of Cowdray Castle where my father was born and my paternal Grandfather, who died at the age of 39 from his war wounds when Dad was very young, was employed as a guide to visitors to the famous Cowdray ruins.

Earlier this year we paid a visit to The Royal Oak  in Critchmere, Haslemere, which I rode past every day on my way to school for six years. My father lived here for a while before joining up (WW2) but far more interesting is its past history. Evidence pinned on the wall inside confirms that my Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother were landlord and landlady respectively during the years 1916 to 1953. However before them research indicates that the Licencee was my Great-great Grandfather who in the 1880's made what has been called the 'long trek' with his family from Sawston in Cambridgeshire a distance of 100 miles.

So the research continues and I just hope I don't ruffle too many feathers in the process. I will be back with some more wildlife images very soon but for a while my interests are elsewhere.    FAB.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Circuit of Farlington Marshes.

Last Friday I drove to the south coast and took a leisurely stroll around Farlington Marshes. As is typical of this coastal location most of the species were far too distant for the lens but it was great to be out on a breezy but fairly cloudless day. Due to construction work alongside the access road I had a longer than expected walk in order to get onto the reserve.
On my arrival it was still low tide but my first sightings from scanning the main pool produced long awaited views Curlew Sandpiper (2) and a single Little Stint. (All new sightings for 2011). Other inhabitants of the pool included Common Redshank, Lapwing, Grey Plover with many porting their black waistcoats, a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff (4), Dunlin, plus Mallard, Gadwall, Moorhen, Coot and Shelduck.

 Black-tailed Godwit.

By scoping the open mudflats I added Little Egret, Grey Heron, Curlew plus the usual gatherings of Black-headed, Herring and Common Gulls. Leaving the seawall behind I headed down alongside the stream where I watched the aerial acrobatics of large numbers of Sand Martins and Swallows busily feeding up prior to their southward migration. The bushes produced views of Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Wren, Blackbird and Reed Bunting. Scanning eastwards I located a Common Buzzard perched on a fencepost before heading back onto the southern edge of the seawall path.

A Clouded Yellow butterfly briefly perched on the grassy path before disappearing and only allowing me a single shot of its distinctive closed wings. At The Deeps I added Canada Geese and a very lonely Brent Goose plus small flocks of Oystercatchers calling as they flew way out into the harbour to gather on  the distant shingle islands. There were a few Great Crested Grebes on the sea but I failed to locate an Osprey that had been seen during recent days. I did however manage to find a dozen or so Yellow Wagtails flitting around the hooves of the cattle on the inner 

Northern Lapwing.

After a complete clockwise circuit I ended back at the main pool which was full of the mixed flocks of waders logged earlier in the morning but now included a single Whimbrel, a few Knot plus 20 Greenshank. This peaceful sight was soon disturbed by a male Peregrine Falcon who managed to grab a Dunlin and flew into a nearby field to consume its prey. When the waders eventually resettled I also spotted a male Sparrowhawk sitting very patiently on the rear edge of the pool but its attempt to catch a meal was unsuccessful.
Northern Wheatear before it disappeared into the grass!

This shot of one of the many ringed Black-tailed Godwits to be found at this site was taken in 2009. For more information and images from my previous visits to Farlington Marshes please click this link.   FAB. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Around the Pond.

At the end of August there were at least 36 Canada Geese on the Great Pond at Epsom Common all busily preening out their unwanted feathers but today the water was virtually empty apart from a female Mallard with two growing youngsters and a single Moorhen. As usual one of the resident Grey Herons hid amongst the vegetation well away from the camera.
A lonesome Black-headed Gull rested on one of its favourite perches (a wooden statue of a dragonfly) until an interloper arrived and they chased each other around arguing about territory rights!
Just had time to catch a single shot as one of the gulls passed in front of me with the sun shining through its fanned tail feathers clearly showing its terminal band.

Other species seen or heard included Green and Great Spotted Woodpekers, Nutchatch, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Wren, Blackbird, Robin, Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeons, plus two Stock Doves and a single Swallow passed through.
There were plenty of Speckled Wood butterflies on the wing plus a Small Heath and a Gatekeeper.
I also located a Bush Cricket with its extra long antennae (possibly a female) trying to soak up some of the limited sunshine.
A common sight when the sun shines is one of the 'Ninja' Turtles' (Red Eared Terrapin) basking around the fringes of the pond. These are not a natural species in the UK but have become very widespread following the release of imported pets. The final addition to todays limited bird list was a brief view of a Kingfisher as it wizzed across the Stew Pond and disappeared... a nice addition to this years patchlist as I haven't seen one here for at least 18 months.  FAB.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Keeled Skimmer.

As you have probably noticed I have been off the grid for a few weeks .... partly due to the lack of wildlife photo opportunities last month while I assisted my parents with hospital visits, shopping, gardening  etc. so I decided to take an enforced rest from blogging.

To kick things off again I located some shots of a Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) that I took during a wander around Thursley Common at the beginning of last month. The mature males are very distinctive with their tapered blue abdomen.

The females (see above) were less obliging during my visit, tending to hide away, whereas the males boldly perched out in the open

The above image clearly shows the long yellow pterostigma which on a similar species, the Black-tailed Skimmer is much smaller and dark brown/black.

Hope you all have a glorious wildlife watching weekend ... wherever you are.   FAB.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Banded Beauty.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens). [ F11: 1/500: ISO 200: @ 300mm]

Wherever you are ... have a glorious wildlife watching weekend.   FAB.

Camera Critters

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Black Darter.

A couple of days ago I visited Thursley Common again but this time the conditions were far more promising .... muggy and slightly overcast with hardly a breeze so I headed out onto the acid heathland in the hope of finding something to photograph. Initially things were fairly quiet with just a brief sighting of a female Keeled Skimmer plus Brown Hawker and an Emperor busily patrolling their territories. As the sun broke through around midday the activity intensified with Skimmers and Darters zipping about erratically in every direction.

I eventually located a pair of Black Darters (Sympetrum danae) flying in tandem who decided to perch very low down above the board walk allowing a reasonably close encounter.

There was a certain amount of wing fluttering by the male as this pair struggled to maintain their composure.

Mature males are non-territorial and frequently settle on marginal vegetation to bask in the sun which provides a good opportunity to view its very distinctive colour markings including the three yellow spots enclosed within a median black patch on the side of the thorax. The black markings have a thermo-regulatory function so it adjusts its body heat by both perching at different heights and to reduce the surface area exposed in very warm conditions it will point its abdomen vertically towards the sun ... known as the obelisk position ... on this occasion it wasn't quite warm enough for that particular pose.

This is a northern species with a circumboreal distribution and fairly widespread throughout much of the UK although far more abundant in the north as it requires shallow, acid, nutrient-poor pools on heathland, moorland and bogs.   FAB.

Hedgerow Hairstreak.

This old wooden foot bridge on the edge of Bookham Common traverses a tiny stream that is often devoid of any water in the summer months. It has I'm sure been crossed by many, many  feet that failed to stop and wonder what wildlife may be present. In the winter it is a very barren spot with very little vegetation and sticky mud that adds pounds to the weight of your boots but now there is an abundant mixture of weeds, brambles, nettles, grasses and various wild flowers growing freely on the heavy clay soil. In the past I have regularly found a pair of Bullfinch here plus twittering Goldfinch and Greenfinch are regular inhabitants. In mid spring it is alive with the sounds of Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Garden Warbler but on a very recent visit it was much quieter so I stood for a while to see what else might be using this wild habitat.

It wasn't long before my eyes rested on the distinctive shape and colour of a Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae). For me this is a fairly elusive species that spends most of its life high in the woodland canopy feeding on aphid honeydew. The males rarely descend from their lofty perches so I'm guessing this is a female (difficult to tell the difference just by the under wing pattern) feeding in between egg-laying. Their favoured larval food plant is normally the Blackthorn.

This individual provided me with the opportunity at long last to get some decent images as she moved to a thistle head to sup the nectar.

The removal of more than half of Britain's hedgerows over the past 60 or so years has caused a dramatic and widespread loss of colonies. Single brooded this species is usually on the wing from late July until the end of September.

Hopefully the scrubby thickets and hedgerows at this particular location will ensure the continuance of this delightful species.  All shot using my Canon PowerShot S95.  FAB.

I am linking this post to NF WINGED #6 where you will find more interesting images.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Getting Closer.

Traditionally for me at this time of year bird photography is slim pickings and my efforts switch to Butterflies and various Odonata which was the reason for a visit to a well known Surrey lowland heath today. So while I sat waiting for any of the very active dragons to perch within range of the 70-300 my attention was distracted by a distant white blob on the water that began to get closer. 

Mute Swans are normally quite inquisitive and this individual was no exception as it silently drifted straight towards me .... so an opportunity to capture something much bigger for a change.

It eventually stood directly in front of me, eyed me up and down and I got the distinct impression that despite the lack of any audible conversation between us I was being told that I was the intruder.

After a few more moments it uttered a single 'hiss' then turned around and floated away leaving me to return to my vigil of waiting for my intended quarry. Just another wildlife interuption.  FAB.

For more images from around the globe please visit WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Arundel WWT.

Following on from my previous post I was delighted to find that the wheelchair, after being broken down, actually fitted into the boot of my car with just an inch or so to spare! So the next question to Mum and Dad was ... "Where do you want to go?" Typically the answer was ... "We don't mind ... it's totally up to you!"
So an hour later we arrived at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Arundel. After a very pleasant lunch at The Waters Edge Cafe we started on our very leisurely stroll around this fabulous reserve looking at species from all around the world.

It wasn't long before Dad was questioning me as to names of all the 'collection' species ... I'm not sure I got them all correct but that didn't seem to matter as both my parents were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Dad has always had a love for wild flowers and the reserve was awash with colour so we had fun trying to identify everthing we could find. It wasn't long before Dad had very close encounters with the Nene (Hawaiian Goose) who obviously wasn't too impressed that he had no free handout!
Other reasonably close encounters were with Mute Swan, Magpie Goose and three young Trumpeter Swans born a little earlier this year. 

Adult Trumpeter Swan.

A visit to the Sand Martin Hide produced distant views of a Common Sandpiper and a family group of four Kingfishers ... the latter was definitely a big plus sighting through the bins for my parents. Regretfully only one of the many Mallard and Black-headed Gulls were close enough for any photos. 

Our final stop was the Iceland Lake where we watched Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters before making our way back to the cafe for a very welcome cup of tea and some delicious cakes. All in all a wonderful day watching birds from around the globe without having to fly anywhere.  FAB.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Some Summer Sights.


Silver-washed Fritillary
My father has been housebound since his release from hospital as it is now very difficult for him to walk so tomorrow we are taking Mum and Dad out for a drive somewhere and hoping for some decent weather. If we can get his new wheelchair into the boot of my car then I'll definitely get some exercise providing I can find somewhere reasonably level.

Wherever you are ... have a great wildlife watching weekend.   FAB.

Fallows in Velvet.

After spending an hour or two wandering the tracks in Richmond Park and not finding much of interest to photograph my luck eventually changed just a hundred yards from the car park with a small group of around ten Fallow Deer bucks quietly feeding within feet of a very busy footpath. So I decided to sit down, rest my back against a fence and snap away at low level with the 70-300 lens.... so here are some of the results.

 There was quite a mixture of ages ... check the different sizes of the antler growths.

 There was also one very dark individual amongst the group.

At one stage a couple came so close ... they could have chewed my feet! At times like this I wish I had a second camera with the shorter lens attached rather that wonder about switching lenses mid session .. which I didn't as I'm sure I would have missed some of these shots.

In about a months time they will start to shed the velvet and expose the hardened antlers in time for the autumn rut when most of the bucks will disperse and begin their territorial battles.

At the moment these guys are happy and contented in each others company .... but it won't last. Hopefully I'll get a chance to return to monitor the next stage.    FAB.

I am linking this post to Camera Critters and Behind The Camera.


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