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28th May 2018 – RSPB Ham Wall

I was surprised there were so few people on the Somerset Levels on a hot sunny Bank Holiday Monday. There’s always plenty to see and, although we only had a few hours there in the afternoon, we were not disappointed.

There were good views of  chaser dragonflies in the pond near the car park and even a grass snake swimming away from us.

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MT1D5795Four-spotted chaser and a grass snake in the pond near the car park

At the first platform there was a great white egret skulking through the reeds.

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From the Tor View hide we saw a distant bittern fly past; they could be heard booming all around.

MT1D5849Bittern

There were pochard and tufted ducks but the most interesting were the the great crested grebe with their black and white striped chicks and a grey heron which flew quite close.

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En route to the Avalon hide we saw a Reed Bunting and on the way back (what I thought was) a sedge warbler.

MT1D6006Male reed bunting

MT1D6114Female reed bunting

We also heard a cuckoo and saw it fly by.

At the Avalon hide there was a pair of mute swans with their cygnets and a pair of great crested grebe preparing for family life.

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We had a glimpse of a marsh harrier.

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MT1D6131There were common blue damselflies everywhere.

We saw great white egrets everywhere but not very close up.

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RSPB Ham Wall is a wonderful site (and much improved with its new car park, visitors’ centre and toilets) and just across the road there is Shapwick Heath with some very good hides. Round the corner is Westhay Moor and not so far away the bijou (but still one of my favourites) RSPB Greylake. But all of that was for another day.

Click below for a gallery of this afternoon’s photos:

 

 

 

 

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22nd May 2018 – Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire

The National Trust’s website page of Rodborough Common butterfly walk says that “the steep grassland slopes of Rodborough Common offer superb butterflying, walking and views over the Severn Estuary … look out for more than 30 varieties of butterfly, including rare species like the Duke of Burgundy and Adonis blue, that come here each summer to feed and breed on an amazing variety of wildflowers.”

Well we managed to see “an amazing variety of wildflowers”  but only saw one species of butterfly (large white) and rather a lot of sky larks. Perhaps the warm, breezy conditions did not suit the butterflies.

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The views here and at Minchinhampton Common (where I played golf the following day and saw many Adonis blue butterflies) are truly amazing.

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DSCF1350Early purple orchid

DSCF1331Polygala

DSCF1341Green alkanet

DSCF1322Common Vetch

DSCF1320Germander speedwell

DSCF1313Cowslip

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DSCF1338Red clover

DSCF1347Meadow buttercups and cow parsley

DSCF1319Cow parsley

DSCF1321Common hawthorn still at its best

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The Scots Pines were very abundant on the slopes adjacent to the Common

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Common rock-rose

DSCF1479Skylarks everywhere

 

Click below for gallery of photos from this morning’s stroll on Rodborough Common:

 

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21st May 2018 – Stoke Park and Eastville Park Bristol

Another lovely walk in Stoke Park and then down in to Eastville Park, this time through the eyes of a different camera and lens (Fuji X Pro 2 and 55 -200 mm lens).

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I had good views of a grey heron in flight at Duchess Pond in Stoke Park and common swifts swooping across the lake. Plenty of ducklings and chicks en route. Eastville Park was so quiet and peaceful; I can’t start to imagine what the wildlife will make of this weekend’s pop festival.

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DSCF0852Grey heron

DSCF0903Common swift

DSCF0910Female mallard and ducklings

DSCF0935Yellow flag iris

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DSCF0989I think this could be water mint …

DSCF0993… and this water horsetail

DSCF0939Not so sure about spiders

I enjoyed seeing more insects and especially damsel flies although I was not lucky (not very good) with butterflies. The trees with lots of blossom and seeds are looking particularly magnificent and water lilies are appearing on the ponds.

DSCF1259Beautiful demoiselle in Eastville Park

DSCF1251Large Red Damselfly on the River Frome

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DSCF1222Yellow water lilies

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DSCF1200Canada geese on Eastville Park

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DSCF1169Corvids everywhere

DSCF1138The muscovy duck in Eastville Park may be pretty ugly but it has got a beautiful plumage

DSCF1135Common comfrey in Eastville Park

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DSCF1125This stunning tree on the edge of Purdown must be some sort of willow

 

Click below for gallery of photos from this morning:

 

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14th May 2018 – Stoke Park and Eastville Park Bristol

The countryside in Britain is exceptionally beautiful at the moment and so too are the parks close to home in urban Bristol.On an exceptionally sunny day I went out for a walk from home in the hope of doing some bird photography but soon realised that I had the wrong camera/lens as it was the trees and the landscapes which I needed to be photographing. I tried to make do.

MT1D5593The path in to Stoke Park from Stapleton

MT1D5603Moorhen with chicks on the small pond next to Duchess Pond

MT1D5623The small pond and then Duchess Pond with views of the restorative work being done in the background

MT1D5631A grey heron on the flooded part of Stoke Park (hard to imagine today that we have had so much rain)

MT1D5636This grey heron was clearly more nervous than the ones in Eastville Park and flew off in the direction of Filton imagining itself to be Concorde

MT1D5625All the blossom was looking amazing

MT1D5658Buttercups are now at their best

MT1D5673Dandelions have had their day

MT1D5648… or have they?

MT1D5655Red Clover standing out amongst the greens and yellows

MT1D5654The Dower House which dominates this part of the city looking better for being shrouded with trees

MT1D5664A view from the top of Stoke Park with the houses (including ours) hidden by the trees

MT1D5667A glorious place for a stroll so close to the city

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MT1D5697… or to fly your kite

MT1D5729… or to see the verdant suburb below

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MT1D5681Wide open spaces just to stroll right next to a housing estate

MT1D5662Lots of butterflies (here a small copper) everywhere

MT1D5733My lens certainly couldn’t do justice to the trees of Eastville Park justice.

MT1D5740And really I was too close for these Canada geese with chicks

MT1D5736… or at least that’s what these two protective parents felt.

MT1D5756A duckling living perilously on its own

MT1D5770A more tolerant grey heron here in Eastville Park

 

MT1D5776Volunteers have done wonders controlling these along the River Frome

MT1D5778Still lots of ramsons to be seen

MT1D5779You don’t want to get confused with these type of plants – probably cow parsley but could be poison hemlock

MT1D5782The best of them all: the candles of the horse chestnut

MT1D5786Beech tree

MT1D5784Herb Robert (but I think this is Red Campion?) was the most observed species in the recent first global City Nature Challenge (see link below)

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that Bristol and Bath were best in Europe for first global City Nature Challenge

http://www.bnhc.org.uk/bristol-bath-best-europe-first-global-city-nature-challenge/

Click below for gallery of photos from my walk today:

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10th May 2018 – Menorca

Another lovely 12 k walk through the Mediterranean scrubland from our hotel to the tiny port at Cala Alcafar and back.

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We saw very few birds (just a couple of gulls, a few swallows and 2 swifts) until we were within 20 metres of our hotel when, magically, a flock of bee eaters appeared on the wire in the next field. As I was photographing them a linnet also appeared on the wire. As soon as I turned round we saw a Thekla’s lark on another wire and it took to the air and flew very much like a sky lark.

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DSC07118About the sum of the birds we had seen until the very last moment.

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DSC07126Our path through the Mediterranean scrubland

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DSC07198Not many birds on our walk but plenty of wildlife

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DSC07444I had been hoping all week to see bee eaters

DSC07341Linnet

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DSC07464Thekla’s lark

Encouraged by seeing the bee eaters I also took a couple of photos of the swallows nesting in the hotel reception.

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Wonderful!

Click below for gallery of photos from today (including lots of lichen as I hadn’t seen many birds!)

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9th May 2018 – Menorca

S’Albufera des Grau in the north-east of the island was declared a National Nature Park in 1995 and covers around 5,100 hectares. There is a good visitors centre and a circuit of paths with many viewing points and hides. However, a telescope would be desirable as you are some way back from the lake and the dismal weather did not help photography. The main bird life at this time of the year are coots but we did see little grebe, great crested grebe, little egrets, one redshank and a purple heron (first for me). There were also yellow-legged gulls with their chicks and some Audouin gulls. We kept our eyes peeled for osprey but had no luck; however, I did spot a hobby flying over the lake.

DSC06646Hobby

DSC06506Little grebe

DSC06507Great crested grebe

DSC06534Yellow legged gull

DSC06542Yellow legged gull and chicks

DSC06581Little egret

DSC06591Purple heron

DSC06605Purple heron

DSC06612Purple heron

DSC06622Great crested grebe

DSC06738Great crested grebe

DSC06759Great tit (and not a bird feeder in sight)

DSC06842The port of Es Grau with sea front restaurants

DSC06844Audouin gull

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Back at the hotel the sun shone briefly and I took a few photos of swallows, butterflies and a green lizard.

DSC06886Typical Menorcan gate made of old olive wood

DSC06899Barn swallows

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8th May 2018 – Menorca

Oh to be a botanist! We have moved to the southeast coast of the island of Menorca and, although we saw many of the plants we had seen on our last few walks, we saw a greater diversity of plants today as we walked through farmland and then through the garrigue-like land down to the coast. On the long distance coastal path of Cami Cavalls it was noticeable that the plants were often different on the sea-side of the path even though the path was only a couple of metres wide. And what a spectacle too!

A few of my favourites:

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As for bird life we heard lots of warblers but only had very fleeting views. At the coast we saw a solitary redshank, a couple of Audouin’s gulls, a couple of cormorants, a pair of linnets (clearly nest building) and then right at the end of our walk a Thekla’s lark and a couple of barn swallows outside the hotel’s reception.

DSC06194Redshank with crab

DSC06198Audouin’s gull

DSC06208Female linnet

DSC06215Male linnet

DSC06427Thekla’s lark

DSC06497Swallows

Plenty of butterflies about but I only managed to photograph this one:

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Click below for gallery of today’s photos:

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7th May 2018 – Menorca

After a coffee in the pretty port of Fornells on the north coast of the island we made our way towards the Cavalleria peninsula.

DSC05749The port of Fornells

The wild flowers in the hedgerows along the narrow roads were stunning but, although we were often close enough to touch them, it was not sensible to stop to take photos. There were, however, plenty of opportunities to take photos of the flora and the fauna as we walked the long distance path (Cami Cavalls) along the fabulous section of the coastline from the sandy bay of Cavalleria to within sight of the golden beaches of Binimel-lá.

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DSC05763A sample of the hedgerows

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Some of the amazing views of the beaches and coastline on our walk:

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The best of the bird life:

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DSC06118Audouin’s gull

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DSC05837Richard’s pipit

DSC05878Cormorant

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DSC05975Peregrine

DSC06030Red kite

DSC06048Linnet

Some of the flora:

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Not sure if this constitutes a nature photo – locals taking mud baths at the beginning of our walk.

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6th May 2018 – Menorca

Menorca has the only resident population of Egyptian vultures in Europe (around 100 pairs) and so it would have been disappointing not to see them. We walked along the gorge from Santa Galdana on the south coast with wild flowers adorning the route to a backdrop of dramatic limestone cliffs and birdsong all around. We had sightings of booted eagle and black kites on our way and were well rewarded with good views of Egyptian vultures at the end of the gorge.

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DSC05359Egyptian vultures

DSC05049Booted eagle

DSC05628Black kite

On the return journey we also saw a kestrel, more views of booted eagles and kites and even a pair of little egrets. The most stunning aspect of this walk was the birdsong; we had no difficulty in recognising Cetti’s warbler but were grateful to some birders who pointed out nightingales and Siberian chiffchaff. The nightingales were everywhere and filled the valley with their birdsong. Not that we saw them; most of the small birds were quite elusive except for house sparrows nesting in the cliffs and spotted flycatchers.

DSC05453Spotted flycatcher

DSC05409Kestrel

DSC05554Little egret

There has been a lot of rain in Menorca recently and the meadows are quite lush and the wildflowers amazing. We regularly saw three types of butterfly (wall, brimstone and a blue one), dragonflies, and an amazing grasshopper the size of a locust.

DSC05394Lush meadows

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DSC05026Amazing wildflowers

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The end of the walk brought us right in to the resort of Cala Galdena on the long distance walk of Cami Cavalls part of which we had walked the previous day.

DSC05701The Cami Cavalls (long distance footpath) follows the coast of Menorca.

DSC05707Cala Galdana

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Views of Cala Macarella on the Cami Cavalls long distance route on Saturday 5th May

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