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.


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