We are very pleased to see that at least one of the blue tit chicks in our garden has fledged.
We put up a nest box last year, more in hope than anything as our garden is so tiny we couldn’t really see a suitable spot which would afford birds plenty of cover. However, on the 19th April this year I took the following photo of a blue tit, clearly preparing a nest.
Over the last couple of weeks we have seen plenty of action with the blue tits coming and going.
… and voilà today I encountered this young fellow:
Encouraged, we’ve now added two more nest boxes and are looking at other ways of attracting wildlife to our garden – no matter how small.
As my wife Wendy was doing a sewing workshop in Somerset I went a little further in to the county and spent the day at one of my favourite bird reserves at RSPB Ham Wall on the Somerset levels.
My time was very much taken up watching just 4 species of bird: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and Great Crested Grebe although I did see a Grey Heron, a Little Egret, a male Gadwall, Garganey and Common Pochard.
There were a few damselflies and dragonflies but only small numbers and so that’s probably why I didn’t see any Hobbies. I did hear a cuckoo but it sounded quite distant.
Slideshow of today’s photos
Great Spotted Woodpecker with chick
Great White Egret
Great Crested Grebe with chicks (on her back)
Sldeshow of the gardens at Mottisfont
We broke our journey back home from the New Forest by stopping at Mottisfont, a romantic house and gallery set in beautiful riverside gardens in the Test Valley in Hampshire, which is run by the National Trust.
We didn’t have time to visit the 18th-century house with its 20th-century art collection and major exhibitions in the top-floor gallery (the National Trust continues the artistic traditions of Maud Russell who made Mottisfont her home in the 1930s, bringing artists there to relax and create works inspired by Mottisfont’s past). I’m sure we will return here another time for a fuller visit and to discover the local area, including the nearby market town of Stockbridge, Stockbridge Down and Marsh, and Curbridge Nature Reserve (more a note for myself).
In the time we had we did enjoy the gardens and, in particular, the stunning walled gardens. Mottisfont has a world-famous collection of old-fashioned roses and, although we were a little early for most of them, there were enough in bloom to show the beauty of the collection; and certainly worthy of inclusion in my nature blog.
Riverside walk along the River Test
Fish were easy to spot in the shallow river bed
The shepherd’s hut among some of the splendid trees (by all accounts there are more than 35 species of trees).
Some of the roses in the walled garden
Irises are a main feature at this time of the year.
It’s not all roses
Still room for birds (which I found difficult to photograph with a wide angle lens)
Mottisfont in the spring sunshine
RSPB Arne situated on Poole Harbour on the south coast of England is one of the few places where all six of the UK’s native reptiles can be found but today it seemed much too cold to look for reptiles (both for us and them). However, we enjoyed the walks on the heathland and in the ancient oak woodland and saw some interesting birds.
We were staying near to Corfe Castle on our way to a Golden Wedding anniversary in the New Forest and as we looked down on Corfe Castle from our accommodation we could see how gloomy a day it was to be.
The visit started promisingly when on our approach to Arne we saw a kestrel sitting in a tree.
At Arne we first did a loop of the heathland and saw a stonechat, a Dartford warbler, a chiffchaff and a great spotted woodpecker. We could see shelduck and other waders down on the estuary but it was too distant and too gloomy for photos. Nor did we see the osprey which had been spotted there the day before.
Part of the heathland walk
Dartford warbler slideshow
A very noisy chiffchaff
Great spotted woodpecker
Dunnock in the car park
Goldfinch in the car park
Whilst we were having a coffee at the café we again had close-up views of a great spotted woodpecker and of a pied wagtail.
As we did the second part of our walk we went down to the estuary where there were Canada and Brent geese, shelduck, plenty of gulls, little egrets. oystercatchers and cormorants.
There were lots of rather invasive rhododendrons in the oak woodland.
The only butterfly/moth we saw.
The previous evening we had gone down to the pretty seaside resort of Swanage and saw the beautiful white cliffs in the distance and close-up views of black-headed gulls.
The white cliffs of the south coast
With a group of “senior” members from the Old Colstonian Society (the association of the alumni of Colston’s School in Bristol, UK) we visited The Savill Garden, an amazing garden in Windsor Great Park near London which describes itself as Britain’s finest ornamental garden.
Windsor Great Park with Windsor Castle in the background
The start of the tour
The Savill Garden is an enclosed part of Windsor Great Park, created by Sir Eric Savill in the 1930s. It is managed by the Crown Estate. The garden includes woodland, ornamental areas and a pond. However, at this spring time the speciality was the exotic azaleas, rhododendrons and magnolias.
Eric Savill (1895–1980) was the grandson of Alfred Savill the founder of a large firm of estate agents and was involved in managing Windsor Great Park from 1930 to 1970, being Director of Gardens from 1962 to 1970. He opened the Savill Garden to the public in 1951 and left it as a heritage to the nation.
There were a few birds which you would expect to see in gardens and woodland (such as blackbird, robin, jackdaw, Canada goose, pheasant) and a few surprising ones (such as a red kite, a parakeet and a family of Egyptian Geese). We even heard a cuckoo.
Family of Egyptian geese
A very out-of-focus photo of red kite (which surprised me as it flew very close overhead)
Parakeet (now quite common in London)
The whole experience was enhanced by the superb modern visitors’ centre with restaurant, café and even retail opportunities.
The modern visitors’ centre
But today was not really about the birds, it was the flora which was truly magnificent in the beautiful sunshine.
Well I know it’s not the most obvious of bird blogs but I felt I had to publish the “nature” photos of this morning’s visit to The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives which was truly memorable. I hope my photos do it some justice.
A few of my favourites:
Another beautiful day in Cornwall with sunshine and blue skies all day; however, the wind was a little fresh and so not a T-shirt and shorts day, although a lot of people had not worked that out.
In the morning we walked along the coastal path by the Godrevy Lighthouse and had good views of birds at sea and inland. The best at sea were guillemots and inland we saw common whitethroats, rock pipits, stonechats, skylarks and swallows.
In the afternoon we crossed to the south coast to visit St Michael’s Mount but it wasn’t open so we spent time at RSPB Marazion Marshes where there were more stonechats, various warblers including Cetti’s, dunnocks, house sparrows, little egrets and grey herons.
It was a bright and breezy day in Cornwall. We spent most of the day on The Lizard Peninsula; firstly at Kynance Cove and then at Lizard Point (the most southerly point in England). There were lots of small birds around, the most common of which were stonechats.
The spring flowers were quite amazing and more like we had seen in Portugal at this time of year than any where else in the UK.
The 200 mile journey through Somerset, Devon and Cornwall to St Ives, where we are spending a short holiday, passes through some beautiful lush countryside and wasn’t particularly spoilt by the regular periods of torrential rain that we encountered en route.
Having seen the weather forecast we didn’t really expect to have much opportunity for nature photos but we are able to stop briefly at the Hayle Estuary where we saw whimbrel, curlew and little egrets; later in the afternoon we got out for a walk around St Ives when it brightened up a little. There we were particularly pleased to catch sight of a pair of gannets.
The flora here is certainly different from what I saw in our local park yesterday.
As the birds become more difficult to see the butterflies begin to appear in good numbers; in the park this morning there were plenty to see.
The only birds I managed to photograph were grey wagtails, a robin, a grey heron (skulking underneath the road bridge) and the first ducklings I have seen in Eastville Park this season (one pair of mallards with ten ducklings).
Ramsons besides the River Frome
The trees are beginning to look their best.
And pollinators too:
The Snuff Mill