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31st May 2020 – Chew Valley, North Somerset

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We needed a change of scene and drove south of Bristol to Chew Valley. It was wonderful to go along the lanes I had cycled when I was a boy growing up in this area and seeing the countryside in all its glory. However, I did feel a bit guilty spoiling the fun for cyclists and ramblers as we disturbed the peace of these quiet lanes.

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DSC01196Chew Valley lake

There are two ideal spots to view the birds on the lake. Unfortunately they are just where there are stretches of straight road where cars and motorbikes roar along at ridiculous (and no doubt illegal) speeds. It does seem rather incongruous that the two areas that draw a large number of people (and consequently ice cream vans) that vehicles can travel at such unsafe speeds. However, on this occasion, as bird hides and lakeside are forbidden to us, we did stop there to see the wildlife.

DSC00839You can just make out a  greenshank if you look hard enough

DSC00837The solitary oystercatcher

Herriot’s Bridge, to the east of the lake, was teeming with birds. A friendly bird watcher (I find they are either very obliging or grumpy and secretive) pointed out a distant greenshank. As I was stretching my telephoto lens to its maximum capability I also saw a solitary oystercatcher. Much easier to see were the grey herons and great white egrets even though they were quite far off.

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DSC01261Grey heron

However, eventually one great white egret flew much closer and gave me a glorious opportunity to photograph it in flight.

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One of the frustrations of the lock-down has not being able to see these wonderful (and once very rare) birds which now seem to be here permanently. Even more frustrating has been not being able to see great crested grebes and their young which we look forward to every year.  We were delighted when we were treated to a family of great crested grebes as they came out of the reeds and made off to the lake. We were rather anxious when one chick got separated and was agitated by a group of Canada geese but it safely circumnavigated them.

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DSC01053Great crested grebe

DSC00884Canada geese and goslings

DSC00893A very agressive swan splits the family

On Herons’ Green there wasn’t as much to see except for pied wagtails with their young catching damselflies.

DSC01100Juvenile pied wagtail devouring damselfly

DSC01131Pied wagtail feeding its young a damselfly

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The trip certainly lifted our spirits.

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30th May 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

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An early morning walk started with a close view of a roe deer next to the motorway before we reached Stoke Park.

On the small pond there was a squabble between coots and moorhens – the coots seemed to be the aggressors but in their defence they did have chicks to protect.

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We saw whitethroats and wrens in the swampy area.

DSC09563The silhouette of a wren

Around the lake the Canada geese goslings are getting bigger very quickly but there were so many fishermen who had been camping overnight that we did not loiter especially as some were off to the bushes to relieve themselves. Sadly there were many signs of toilet paper around and about: I cannot blame the fishermen for all of this nor for the vast amount of litter that we saw in the park this morning but they clearly are culpable of some of the detritus.

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DSC09526Just a few examples of the large amount of detritus left in the park

A buzzard overhead was soon joined by a corvid which mobbed it.

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We could hear green finches and goldfinches but I only managed to take lots of out-of-focus photos. I did manage one or two successful shots of long-tailed tits but I didn’t even get the two swifts that we saw in my viewfinder. Clearly too early in the morning for me.

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24th May 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

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It was probably the news of a common mynah at Duchess Pond that got us out of bed for an early morning walk around Stoke Park and the thought that we could avoid the crowds.

We soon saw the common mynah who seemed to have adopted one of the many local fishermen who clearly had slept around the pond overnight.

DSC09555Common Myna looking for the fisherman’s scraps

DSC09681Fisherman’s friend

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There were a few other birds too including swifts, greenfinches, goldfinches, whitethroats, blue tits and a thrush.

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Other than the fishermen there were only a couple of other birders and one self-obsessed runner who almost brushed past us (and giving us no time to get out of his way) even though there are acres of land to avoid people.. Instead of going home full of the joys of spring I must admit to going home very angry.

Footnote: Even though the swifts flew here from thousands of miles away I can’t help thinking the common mynah came here by plane or on a boat.

 

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21st May 2020 – self-isolating in Bristol

My day started well when I managed to photograph a Coal Tit on the bird feeder. It didn’t seem too worried about me standing quite close by.

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DSC09022Coal tit on the garden bird feeder

Later in the day we had another visitor – a robin who couldn’t make up his mind whether to come in to the garden or not.

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DSC09446Clearly the seeds fallen from the bird feeders were too much to resist

There are lots of bees coming in to the garden at the moment. I need to get to grips with identifying these.

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21st May 2020 – Oldbury-on-Severn

We drove out in the country to find an isolated spot for a walk. We chose an area close to Oldbury Power Station, a decommissioned power station close to Oldbury-on-Severn on the south bank of the Severn Estuary.

Around the power station there are three lagoons in various states of disuse. These lagoons were large settling tanks, used during the dredging process for the tidal reservoir on the River Severn. The fine Severn silt was settled from the water, before it was discharged back to the river.

To the north of the power station we followed the nature trail which circumvents the two lagoons which are now completely overgrown. It was marvellous to be out in the country and, although we didn’t see many birds, we could hear loads (but not cuckoos which have been reported recently) and it was an amazing feeling to be out roaming through the meadows and woods and along the nature trail.

DSC08553The nature trail around the lagoons to the north of the power station

DSC08511Wonderful views across the Severn Estuary (but disappointingly no waders)

DSC08377Azure Damselfly at the beginning of our walk

DSC08761The meadow at the beginning of the walk

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DSC08403Woods early on the walk

DSC08404Marsh orchid

DSC08424Common dogwood

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DSC08457We could see and hear goldfinches around this pond

DSC08515The overgrown lagoon

DSC08519Views south towards the two Severn Bridges

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DSC08543Beautiful meadows

DSC08712A very tired peacock butterfly

DSC08036A comma butterfly

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DSC08271The star of our walk – a very cheerful chiffchaff

We had a quick look at the pond to the south of the power station before heading home.

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DSC08809Moorhen

DSC08850Moorhen with chick

 

 

 

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20th May 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

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It was a beautifully sunny and warm morning and so we went over to Stoke Park early in the hope of beating the crowds. However, we clearly weren’t early enough, certainly not to beat the fisherman who were creating an almighty din by strimming the grass to a cinder and painting lines everywhere and thereby destroying the wildness of the area.

I did enjoy trying to photograph the swifts as they swooped across the water. We also saw what I think was a House Martin but we didn’t get much of a view and it could have been a swallow. I’ll wait for the real “birders” to let me know.

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DSC08694Swifts over Duchess Pond

DSC08942House Martin?

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DSC08889Canada geese and their goslings

DSC08902The damselflies were just coming out as we left

 

 

 

 

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16th May 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

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The weather was very mixed as we went for our daily walk to Stoke Park Estate. We didn’t stay long as there were lots of people about. I am very pleased to see so many people using the park but it was very difficult to keep at a safe distance and so we cut short the walk.

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There was plenty of bird life but I couldn’t really focus my attention on photography. I still managed a few photos of two very proud Canada geese with their five goslings and a couple of distant swifts.

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16th May 2020 – Self-isolating in Bristol

During the period of lock down due to the Covid-19 virus we have spent a lot of time in our tiny urban garden. We have tried to do all sorts to encourage wildlife in to the garden including paying attention to what we plant. We have also installed more nest boxes and feeders and even purchased a bird bath. Just as I was thinking that we really had gone over the top with this latter purchase I was delighted today to see the first bird make use of this new facility. And what a bird!

Just as I was getting ready to have a walk to Stoke Park, as part of our daily exercise, I saw from the bathroom window a jay fly into the garden and land on the bird bath. Luckily I had time to grab a camera a get some decent shots of it.

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Consequently I am feeling very chuffed with buying the bird bath. I am also pleased I painted the garden fence too as the jay perched on it before flying off. I only wished I had cleaned the bathroom windows though!

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14th May 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

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We are getting more confident of going out to take some exercise but once again a few joggers showed how inconsiderate they can be by not keeping a sensible distance (they seem too preoccupied with achieving their “times” recorded on their gadgets).

When we were out this morning I thought I had two regrets: one, that I had the wrong lens to capture the lovely scenery and the second, I completely forgot because the scenery was so magnificent and it was a joy to be out in the sunshine despite the cool breeze.

We didn’t see many birds although we did hear plenty. In fact, I ask myself,  was it worth lugging a big lens up that hill just to have a few photos of a robin?

The biodiversity on the top of the Purdown is amazing since they have been taking back the scrub – well done to all involved.

DSC07173We avoided Duchess Pond as there were fishermen all the way round enjoying what has been denied them in recent months.

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P.S. I did have my phone camera to take the wide-angle shots.