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1st August 2022 – Duchess Pond, Stoke Park, Bristol

The sun brought out the damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies at Duchess Pond in Stoke Park this morning. A few birds too. Too hot to hang around though.

Painted Lady

Common Blue

Holly Blue

Speckled Wood

Gatekeeper

Brimstone on the way home

Common Darter

Emperor dragonfly

Red eyed damselfly

Chiffchaff (I think)

Grey heron

Moorhen

Slideshow of my photos from this morning

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30th July 2022 – Stapleton, Bristol

Yesterday it was all butterflies and today, thankfully, there were some birds to see. Brief walks in our local parks (Snuff Mills and Stoke Park) have produced lots of interesting things to see (and photograph).

Holly blue

Speckled wood

Green-veined white

Comma

Beautiful demoiselle

Slideshow of my photographs on the walk through Snuff Mills

Emperor dragonfly

Grey heron

Moorhen

Slideshow of my photographs on the walk through Stoke Park

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27th July 2022 – Yeo Valley Organic Garden, Chew Valley

It’s definitely the season for butterflies rather than birds. Where better to see a variety of butterflies and damselflies than at the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens by Lag and Holt Farm just off the A368 between Blagdon and Ubley in the Chew Valley south of Bristol?

It’s six and a half acres of ornamental and edible plants in a seasonal patchwork that Sarah Mead and her team have been constantly evolving since they started the gardens more than 18 years ago. You can see how elements of the gold medal winning organic garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2021 have been incorporated into the garden. There’s also a decent café where you can get a coffee and cake or a light lunch (or indeed both as we did!)

Painted lady

Gatekeeper

Comma

Peacock

Brimstone

Green-veined White

Speckled Wood

Slideshow of today’s photos

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18th July 2022 – Snuff Mills, Bristol

With very high temperatures forecast for today (36 degrees C) we took advantage of the shade this morning to walk along the River Frome in a park on the outskirts of Bristol which is known as Snuff Mills. The walk takes you past an old water mill – the park’s name originates from one of the millers whose nickname was ‘Snuffy Jack’ because his smock was always covered in snuff.

The gardens at Snuff Mills with the old water mill in the background

We were hoping to see kingfishers but all we saw were grey wagtails and robins.

Grey wagtail

Robin

However, instead of the electric blue of the kingfisher we did see some Beautiful Demoiselles which are also a striking blue in colour.

Beautiful Demoiselle

Beautiful Demoiselle

Beautiful Demoiselle

There were other butterflies too; mainly Large Whites and Green-veined Whites and one which I had not photographed before, a White-letter Hairstreak. I managed to photograph it into the sun but as soon as I tried from the other side it disappeared in a flash.

White-letter Hairstreak butterfly

Green-veined White

Large White

I did see a copper coloured butterfly but couldn’t focus on it quickly enough to get a shot. I was hoping it was the Silver-washed fritillary that we saw a few days ago at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire.

The National Arboretum at Westonbirt is a beautiful place to visit. It attracts hoards of people in the autumn but when we visited last week there were very few people indeed. It would probably be true to say there were more butterflies than people.

Slideshow of visit to Westonbirt

Slideshow of today’s photos

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29th June 2022 – The Owl Garden, Picton Castle

I missed the beginning of both sessions at The Owl Garden at Picton Castle and was too busy photographing the birds to catch what was what. I do know the African Fish Eagle because we had booked a trip to see these magnificent birds in the wild as we were travelling along the Garden Route in South Africa just before the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately the trip along the River Kromme at St Francis Bay was cancelled due to bad weather. How ironic that we should manage to see one in Wales in a week where we have had plenty of bad weather.

There were two sessions to see these rescue birds: the first was exclusively owls in the Owl Garden; the second was raptors flying in front of the castle.

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29th June 2022 – Pembrokeshire, Wales

The Pembrokeshire countryside with the Preseli mountains in the background

I like to think of myself as a “glass half full” rather than a “glass half empty” man, but this week the weather in Pembrokeshire has tested my resolve. So, no trips out to the islands off the coast to see the wonderful sea birds that breed here. However, so far we have had two sunny (if not particularly warm) days and we have been able to make the most of it.

On the first of them we visited Dyffyn Fernant, a gem of a garden, between Newport and Fishguard. I don’t have a lot of bird photos to show from here as I missed a grey heron in flight and the red kite which I saw was too distant to photograph. However, there were a pair of barn swallows flitting around the garden and there were lots of ringlet butterflies. Nonetheless, a very inspiring garden created in difficult terrain.

Dyffryn Fernant

An interesting way to display different grasses

The Rickyard

I accidentally flushed a grey heron from around this pond and failed to photograph it

Two barn swallows having a chat above the garden

Barn swallow

Ringlet

Our second “nature” trip was to Picton Castle near Haverfordwest. Here the gardens were much more formal, but we especially loved the walled garden with many plants which benefit from the temperate climate here (it has not seemed particularly temperate this week though).

The walled garden at Picton Castle

Common bird-of-paradise flower

Ajacent to the walled garden was a vegetable garden which, along with some feeders, attracted lots of garden birds.

Great spotted woodpecker

Nuthatch

Siskin

Chaffinch

Blue tit

Goldfinch

Juvenile robin

The castle buildings attracted huge numbers of house martins.

The castle provided wonderful sites for house Martin nests

House martin

House martin

Picton Castle is also home to The Welsh Owl Garden and, as much as I don’t like seeing birds in cages, there were two sessions with a great opportunity to see, first of all, rescue owls up close and in flight and, later in the day, some of the larger rescue raptors in flight.

African fish eagle

Barn owl

I will publish a separate blog with photos from these two sessions.

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21st June 2022 – Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire

We made the most of another lovely day and had a walk around the village of Frampton-on-Severn and, in particular, to the lake behind Frampton Court.

The main attraction was the big flocks of Barnacle, Greylag and Canada geese. There were lots of meadow brown butterflies as well as damselflies and dragonflies; but it was too hot to stand around trying to photograph them.

Barnacle geese in front of Frampton Court

Barnacle goose

Greylag geese

Barnacle geese

Canada geese

Pied wagtail

Meadow brown butterfly

Common blue damselfly

This is why blackbirds go quiet about now as they begin to moult (and hide whilst they are unable to fly)

Our walk ended at the Bell Inn on the village green, which is reputed to be the longest in England, and a fine lunch.

The village green at Frampton

SLIDESHOW OF TODAY’S PHOTOS

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20th June 2022 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

A pleasant hour or two around Duchess Pond in Stoke Park Estate in Bristol. There aren’t many birds to see at present but the dragonflies and damselflies certainly entertain.

There’s a grey heron underneath here somewhere

Emperor dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly laying eggs

Common blue damselflies

Four spotted chaser

Canada geese and goslings

Common blue damselfly

Scarce chaser

Black-tailed skimmer

Water smartweed

Water lily

The grey heron reveals itself

Slideshow of today’s photos

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15th June 2022 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

It’s been 5 months, 3 weeks and 3 days since I have been able to visit my local patch and so today was a red letter day for me. I didn’t go very far (only to Duchess Pond) and it was more of a struggle than I thought it would be (probably hot weather and heavy camera) but, even though the photographic results weren’t spectacular, it marked a special moment for me.

Lots of ducklings and goslings but the main ornithological interest was four swifts and 2 swallows which came down to the lake for a drink on a couple of occasions.

Swift

Swift

Swallow emerging from the water

There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies but, probably for lack of practice, I had limited success in photographing them and even more difficulty in identifying them (I must find that dragonfly and damselfly guide). I am sure some Odonata enthusiast might help me out. (In fact Larry has already come up trumps.)

Emperor dragonfly

Black tailed skimmer

Common blue damselfly

Scarce chaser dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly

Four spotted chaser dragonfly

Common blue damselfly

Large skipper butterfly

Despite the noise of the motorway this is still a great place to see nature. I hope to be able to explore a little more over the next few weeks.

Even the grey heron found it hot.

Slideshow of today’s photos

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10th June 2022 – Coquet Island, Northumberland

The RSPB says that “Coquet Island, situated off the Northumberland coast, is a vibrant seabird sanctuary, which is home to the UK’s only roseate tern breeding colony. It is also an important site for nesting puffins and common, Sandwich and Arctic terns.”

On our last full day in Northumberland we had a walk along the beach in the morning at Warkworth from where we could see Coquet Island in one direction and Alnmouth, where we have been staying this week, in the other direction. In the afternoon we took the hour long boat trip from Amble harbour around Coquet Island and enjoyed seeing puffins, guillemots, razorbills and various terns, including the rare roseate tern.

Alnmouth from Warkworth beach

The view from Amble harbour with Warkworth Castle in the background

You are not allowed to land on the island but we enjoyed this short trip which gave me my last photographic opportunity of the holiday.

Puffin

Sandwich tern

You can just make out a roseate tern on the box in the centre of the image and one flying to its left.

Razorbill

Guillemot

Eider duck

Female eider duck

Puffin in the water

Coquet Island

Slideshow of today’s photos: