Sunday, 27 February 2011

Unexpected Daytime Visitor.

For many years the local urban foxes have used our garden as their nightly route in search for a free meal around the local streets. Their high pitched 'yap .. yap' calls, howling and barking is often heard in the wee small hours. Very occassionally we get a fleeting daytime glimpse when  one slinks down the garden path and disappears through the hedge or over the boundary fence but today was a different scenario.

Just before midday today I spotted a young Reynard creeping very slowly through the garden stopping every now and then to sniff around various plants while also showing some interst in the movement and calls of the Blue Tits feeding overhead. I rushed upstairs for the camera and when I returned downstairs I was surprised to see this animal still moving closer to the house. This series of shots were taken through the window which wasn't ideal but I didn't want to scare it!

He or she eventually crossed our small patch of lawn and settled down just beneath the patio whilst trying to appear inconspicuous beneath the surrounding foliage.

Obviously aware that someone was watching!  This soulful looking creature eventually decided to sneak out of the garden but this wasn't to be the only encounter ..... watch this space.   FAB.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Farlington Marshes.

On Thursday, after a 60 mile drive southwards and with more blue sky than I have seen for ages, I started out on a leisurely anti-clockwise walk around the perimeter of Farlington Marshes. High tide was some 4 hours away so many of my initial sightings - Curlew, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Shelduck, Teal, Pintail, Wigeon plus Red-breasted Mergansers were somewhat distant views through the bins and scope.
Farlington Marshes is 125 hectares (308 acres) of grazing marsh on the northern shore of Langstone Harbour reclaimed in the late 1700s. Most of the site lies below mean high water level protected by a sea wall embankment on three sides parts of which have been recently restored. The M27 provides the ‘noisy’ northern boundary. Parts of the site were used by the military during both World Wars, with munitions disposal resulting in several of the smaller pits and pools. With good views over Langstone Harbour, including various shingle islands, the marsh and inter-tidal mudflats attract many species of waders and shore birds. It is also an internationally important site for wintering Brent Geese and Black-tailed Godwit plus a breeding site for Redshank, Lapwing and Skylark in the summer.

Fortunately one species offered slightly closer views. Both the grazing marsh on one side and the water filled mud gulleys on the other were full of Dark-bellied Brent Geese (Branta bernicla).

All quietly feeding and then suddenly they start to chatter to one another and all take flight as a Peregrine Falcon makes a pass over the grazing marsh. This scenario was repeated throughout the day on several occasions by both the Peregrine and a Common Buzzard. 

After each disturbance the geese resettled, often at a different location and I eventually managed some slightly better views but not quite as close as those captured a year ago.

On the southern most part of my circuit I turned my back to the mudflats and stopped for a refreshment break overlooking The Deeps with many of the same species I had already logged plus Black-headed and Common Gulls, Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, Little Egret, Common Snipe, Lapwing, Mute Swan plus the lovely sound of Skylarks singing overhead.

The final stage of my stroll followed the stream where a Kestrel put in a brief appearance plus slightly closer views of Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Moorhen plus over flying Shelduck.

As I headed back to the car the Brent were still wandering on the diminishing mudflats as the tide raced in.

A very pleasant coastal stroll with around 40 species logged.  Click here for previous posts on Farlington Marshes.  FAB.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Patch Walk - 22 Feb.

A late morning two hour stroll around my local patch (Epsom and Ashtead Common) under a very grey sky so very little opportunity to take any decent wildlife photos. You will notice from the following montage that the City of London Corporation are currently undertaking a major maintenance of this important woodland in order to protect and restore the many hundreds of veteran Oaks. This involves crown reduction plus opening up the spaces surrounding these very ancient trees to reduce competition for nutrients and light. Although it looks pretty drastic at the moment, I am in no doubt, that all wildlife will benefit into the future.    

Sightings on the Stew Pond were Cormorant (1), Coot (6), Moorhen (2), Mallard (4) and Grey Heron (1). Around the woodland tracks I saw Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Blue Tits (25+), Great Tits (10), Long-tailed Tits (20+), Nuthatch (2), Great Spotted Woodpecker (2), Ring-necked Parakeets (3), Redwing (8), plus at least 6 Treecreepers all busily flitting from tree to tree so little chance of a really good close encounter with the lens. Once again I also located a flock of around 55 Lesser Redpolls but the light was so poor it was difficult to assess if anything different was mixed in with them. Scanning over the adjoining farmland produced Magpie, Woodpigeon, Collared Doves, Carrion Crows, Jackdaws, Starling, Herring Gull (flying over) plus a pleasant surprise to also find 12 Lapwings busily feeding.  

More rain forecast for tomorrow so may have catch up on some indoor chores!  FAB

Monday, 21 February 2011

February Flowers.

The weather over the past few days has been typically grey so little opportunity to capture any wildlife pics so I spent a few hours in the garden doing some much needed tidying up, pruning etc.

The Hellebores (Orientalis hybrids) which continue to self seed either side of the path are slowly opening up and showing off their varied petal forms. I'm still waiting for the really dark forms to open up to see if any new patterns emerge.

Elsewhere there are a few early Narcissus starting to bloom, Cyclamen hederifolium, various small clumps of  Snowdrops; this one is Galathus woronowii  and the Lion Mask (hand-pressed by you know who ... courtesy of Whichford Pottery) is now uncovered and patiently waiting for the sun to shine.

Just for a bit of fun I took this close up of something that needed serious pruning as most of its entaglement was hanging into my neighbours garden although it will mean a reduction in flowers this spring it will benefit in the long run. I'm sure all the gardeners out there will easily identify this climber from the cross-section of this very old stem.   FAB. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Long-tailed Tit

While taking a short break during some tidying up the garden l heard the unmistakable chatty clicking sounds of Long-tailed Tits right above my head in the Lilac. The camera was nearby but the subject was far too close for the 70-300 lens so I waited and eventually one individual decided to investigate the newly filled fatball feeder. This species rarely sits still for long so only a very quick snap before it flew across to the trellis and then into next doors garden, quickly followed by its comrades.
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

A brief but pleasurable encounter.  FAB. 

Friday, 18 February 2011

Stag Party.

During my stroll this week I came across a small herd of Red Deer stags who are no longer watching over any hinds so they congregate together for some male bonding.

Unfortunately the breeze was not in my favour so I had to be extra vigilant in my attempt to get within reasonable range while my every move was closely monitored.  

Every now and then one or two would arise from their bracken beds and mooch around while sniffing or tasting the air.

 Even a bit of grooming to keep the well worn coat ship shape .... BUT ...

Always constantly alert.

Have a glorious wildlife watching weekend, wherever you are.  FAB.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Foot Fighting.

I am sure that any of us who have watched Coots (Fulica atra) will have seen a few squabbles on the water from time to time. It usually all happens so quickly that it is difficult to see exactlly what is happening but this week I managed a few shots (sorry but not top quality because the gear wasn't set up for speed!) that shed some light on the use of those extraordinary lobed feet.

 I initially spotted one individual, head down,  'in attack mode' heading speadily across the water ......

 ..... and in a flash it was face on, belly to belly with another of its species, both creating a fine old splash.

This shot shows one foot firmly pressed against the others breast but who actually has the upper hand?

As these two spun around I was able to grab this image and there is no doubt in my mind that those feet with their very sharp toe points are a force to be reckoned with.

For a close up of those extraordinary feet just click here.   FAB.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Todays Stroll in the Park.

A return visit to Richmond Park today. No new sightings but a chance to capture some images for future posts .... so here is an 'ad hoc' selection for now.
Robin (Erithicus rubecula)
 Great Tit (Parus major)
 Various signs new growth - Rhododendrons in bud and a few in flower plus the fragrant Viburnum 'Dawn'

 Double Egyptian (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
 Feral Pigeon (Columba livia [domest.])

Mr and Mrs Mallard in sync.
The Lookout (Red Deer Stag).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Showing Off.

This sequence of  a male Tufted Duck was taken during my recent stroll around Pen Pond in Richmond Park. Most of the time this male Tuftie just drifted around hoping to pick a tit-bit from the surface ... BUT then ....

.... without any warning he raced across the water. Why, I'm not really sure but after coming to a stop he then decided it was time to show off his ballet skills. 

It always amazes me how with a few flaps this and many other duck species are able to stand upright as if walking on the water. 
An elegant display of fitness in full breeding plumage so I guess this guy is just showing off to any of the females that might be watching.   FAB.

Please click these links for more WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY and

Monday, 14 February 2011

Riverside Stroll.

My leisurely stroll today started from the 'Iron Bridge' near Bowyers Lock on the Wey Navigation where a pair of Grey Wagtails (year list now 100) were very active over on the other bank so distant (record) shot only. A male Mallard drifted away from the bank as he sensed my presence. A scan over the water meadows produced lots of Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls (100+), Magpie, Carrion Crow, a charm of Goldfinches (20), Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and a Sparrowhawk. As I moved on the clouds blotted out the sun and the temperature dropped considerably.

Further along the towpath I met a young Mute Swan who as usual wanted its portrait taken ... well I couldn't deny it a moment of fame now could I? All around me species such as Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits were calling from various directions while my ears locked onto an ever increasing volume of twittering and trilling .... I eventually estimated 80+ (Eurasian) Siskin feeding high in the canopy of Alders. A male Kestrel landed, partially hidden from view, about 20 yards away and the Siskins took flight but returned fairly promptly to continue their feast. Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay were also logged. Moving onwards and scanning over the flooded pasture produced Gadwall (5), Teal (3), Pied Wagtail plus more Mallard and BH Gulls.

At the lake were more Canada Geese, Coot, Tufted Duck (12), Great Crested Grebe (2) and Cormorant(3) plus a fly-by Green Woodpecker. On my return journey along the tow path I added a single Little Grebe plus a Common Buzzard way up high to the north. The sun re-emerged on several ocaccasions and lit up a patch of Snowdrops.   FAB.

Around Pen Ponds.

After leaving the Isabella Plantation I headed across the open parkland towards Pen Ponds with a brief pause attempting to get a shot of a Green Woodpecker feeding .... but of course he saw me coming! 

Not long after I had reached the waters edge, checking out a likely quarry for the lens, a nearby voice said "Do you mind if I throw this in for my dog?". I turned to see a man holding a very large piece of wood and his dog waiting by his side. My response (perhaps a little brusque) was "I don't think it is appropriate" and he promptly questioned "Why?" Red rag to a bull comes to mind as I pointed to and suggested the likely distruption to the wildlife using the water but after a brief pause he just retorted that his dog had a swim here every day and it was obvious that whatever concerns I had he was going to carry on regardless!

I wasn't in the mood for an extended discussion (I just wanted some peace and quiet with the wildlife) so I moved a little further away. Fortunately when I heard the slash, way behind me, the ducks in front of me didn't react .... perhaps they are used to this daily occurrence.

 Most of the Canada Geese seemed fairly relaxed and one came close to check me over.

 This male Tufted Duck made a tentative move towards the bank.

 The male Mallards were either preening or just standing around admiring the view. 

 Moving on over to the smaller pond I sat on the bank looking down on the water, with the sun casting plenty of shadows, as the various species passed by including this Moorhen calling to its comrades.

 The usual inquisitve Coot.

A Black-headed Gull decides to lighten its load ... thank goodness I was above and not below!

Finally the disappearing Tuftie and then it's time for me to find my way home ... but I'll be back with a few more images from this visit in the coming week.   FAB.


Related Posts with Thumbnails