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15th June 2019 – Flatford Mill

We spent a couple of hours touring around “Constable Country” on the Essex/Suffolk border visiting Dedham, East Bergholt and Stoke by Nayland on our way to Walberswick in Suffolk. The most interesting, from my point of view, was the visit to Flatford Mill near East Bergholt where John Constable painted the Hay Wain, one of his most famous landscapes.

DSC05896Willy Lott’s house – the setting of John Constable’s The Hay Wain (2019)

DSC05930A print of the The Hay Wain by  John Constable (1821)

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DSC05895Flatford Mill

DSC05884.jpgValley Farm

There were a couple of opportunities for nature photos here as there was a robin at the National trust café and a female broad-bodied chaser and some blue damselflies in a lovely little wildflower garden run by the RSPB.

DSC05928Robin

DSC05967Female broad-bodied chaser

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DSC05994Damselflies

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14th June 2019 – Maldon, Essex

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Our hosts at the B&B at which we are staying in Maldon, Essex suggested two really good activities for today: firstly, a walk along the tow paths of the Chelmer and Blackwater Canal to Heybridge Basin; secondly, a visit to the gardens at Beeleigh Abbey.

DSC05487Interesting graffiti under one of the bridges of the Chelmer and Blackwater Canal linking sea with the land

There were a few opportunities for nature photographs especially as we made a diversion on the route to Heybridge Basin and followed the sea wall of the Blackwater River where we saw common terns, oystercatchers and little egrets, as well as thousands of black-headed gulls. We even heard a cuckoo singing.

On the canal as well as coots and moorhens we saw more common terns and a kestrel. There were dragonflies two.

DSC05510The Chelmer and Blackwater Canal

DSC05495Holly blue butterfly along the canal

DSC05508Female four-spotted chaser on a metal railing alongside the canal

DSC05534Great views from the sea wall back to our B&B 32 The Hythe with St Mary’s Church behind

DSC05606Common tern

DSC05646Oystercatcher

DSC05655Little egret

DSC05680The sea wall leading in to Heybridge Basin

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DSC05691Kestrel

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DSC05771Fortunately the weather has improved for some lucky couple

Beeleigh Abbey was a monastery constructed in 1180 for the White Canons, otherwise known as the Norbertines or Premonstratensians. It was purchased by William Foyle, the owner of Foyles Bookshop, in 1943 and Christopher and Catherine Foyle, the current owners, open the gardens on certain days in the summer.

The rose garden was particularly beautiful especially as there were some small tortoiseshell butterflies. The garden also has a riverside walk where we again saw the ubiquitous little egrets.

DSC05774Beeleigh Abbey

DSC05789Small tortoiseshell butterfly

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DSC05870The riverside walk

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DSC05873A beer at The Queens Head Inn on the quayside back in Maldon was very welcome

 

 

 

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13th June 2019 – Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve, Essex

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We are spending a few days in Essex en route to a week’s holiday in Suffolk Today we visited two nature reserves run by Essex Wildlife Trust.

DSC04650Old barges on the Blackwater Estuary at Maldon where we are staying at the excellent B&B 32 The Hythe right on the harbour http://www.thehythemaldon.co.uk/

The first was the vast expanse of Abberton Reservoir. We didn’t spend very long here as it was very exposed and very windy but we did have very good views of birds we have not seen this year – swifts and common terns. There were plenty of other birds but they were quite distant and the light wasn’t great for photography.

DSC04770Common tern at Abberton Reservoir

DSC04938Tufted ducks at Abberton Reservoir

DSC04945Egyptian geese at Abberton Reservoir

DSC04948Greylag  geese at Abberton Reservoir

DSC04957Pochard at Abberton Reservoir

DSC04981Cormorant at Abberton Reservoir

DSC05000Great crested grebe at Abberton Reservoir

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The second reserve was Fingringhoe Wick which was more intimate and much more rewarding. As the light wasn’t good throughout the day the standout moment was not visual but aural – a nightingale singing in a bush right at the beginning of our walk.  It is the first time we have heard a nightingale in the UK.

There were lots of hides but the best was one which looked out on to the Colne Estuary, where we saw oystercatchers, black-headed gulls, shelduck, common tern and lots of little egrets.

DSC05077The excellent Margaret hide looking out on to the Colne Estuary

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DSC05184Oystercatcher at Fingringhoe Wick

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DSC05246Common tern at Fingringhoe Wick

DSC05293Black-headed gull and delicacy at Fingringhoe Wick

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DSC05351Little egret

On a small pool at the Kingfisher hide we saw a little grebe and a redshank.

DSC05422Redshank

DSC05443Little grebe

DSC05468Shelduck orchestrating a mute swan

We didn’t see swifts here but there were swallows and house martins.

It’s not been the best of weather but we had a great day out.

 

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9th June 2019 – Acton Court, South Gloucestershire

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As I sit here writing this blog (and watching the ICC Cricket World Cup from sunny London) we are having a torrential downpour. Really I shouldn’t be surprised as when editing my photos from our visit this morning to Acton Court, a Tudor manor house near Latteridge in south Gloucestershire, I could see that the weather was quite threatening and the photos rather moody.

In fact we were very lucky to complete our visit to the garden (which was open to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme) in the dry. We really enjoyed the vegetable garden, the wild meadows, the wild flower garden and the old English roses as well as the butterflies and insects.

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DSC04624Meadow brown butterfly

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As well as the lovely refreshments (coffee and home made cakes) there were stands from the Hawk and Owl Trust and Owl Occasions  although the few owls on display looked very nervous and, to me, sad.

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DSC04560Great grey owl

DSC04562Barn owl

Acton Court’s website (https://www.actoncourt.com/) says the following of the history of the manor house:

“In 1535, one of England’s most colourful kings, Henry VIII, came to stay at Acton Court with his second wife, Anne Boleyn, while on his summer Progress around the West Country. The owner of Acton Court, Nicholas Poyntz, wanted to impress his sovereign, so for Henry’s pleasure, he built a magnificent new East Wing on to the existing moated manor house. The new wing was a splendid testament to Nicholas Poyntz’s loyalty to his King. He went to immense trouble and expense to impress Henry, decorating the state apartments lavishly and fashionably. He was well rewarded as it is thought he was knighted during the royal visit.

Today, the East Wing which was built in just nine months comprises most of what remains at Acton Court. It offers a rare example of 16th century royal state apartments and some decorations which are said to be the finest of their kind in England.”

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Acton Court is open to the public for three National Garden Scheme Days in June, and three Heritage Open Days in September.

 

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7th June 2019 – Chew Valley Lake

What do you do when it’s too wet for golf? – Go bird watching.

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I spent a couple of hours in the rain at Chew Valley Lake in North Somerset without taking a photo and was about to give up and go home when suddenly a Great White Egret flew right in front of me. Encouraged a stayed for a while longer and got some pleasing photographs. The rain stopped and the sun came out for a while. The GWE moved to the back of the lake and I experimented with a bit of digiscoping. I need to put some more effort in to this as I must say I get a better view through my telescope than I do looking through the camera lens.

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DSCF3383Great white egret flying in

DSCF3435Bad hair day for the great white egret

DSCF3672Great white egret checking its hair

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DSCF3660Great white egret fishing for his lunch

DSCF3684Close up of GWE

DSCF3696GWE and mute swan

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DSCF3750Mute swans

DSCF3765Shelduck

DSCF3782Canada geese

DSCF3785Canada geese

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FP5A1595These last two photos were my best efforts at digiscoping

 

 

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5th June 2019 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

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It was a gloomy evening but I needed to tear myself away from watching the Cricket World Cup on the television and so I strolled across the road to Stoke Park Estate for an hour of nature watching. There was lots to see and enjoy as I hope you can see from my photos.

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Duchess Pond in Stoke Park Estate – only a couple of miles from Bristol city centre and less than 5 minutes on foot from home

DSC04057The grey heron flew in as I arrived

DSC04173A whitethroat made a lot of noise above the pond

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DSC04206Flowers of so many colours

DSC04254Insects too

DSC04297Canada geese

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DSC04453Moorhens young and old

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DSC04418Swallows

DSC04204Mallards

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DSC04280And the grey heron kept moving around the pond in search of his supper

I even got back in time to see the end of the cricket match.

 

 

 

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4th June 2019 – Eastville Park, Bristol

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On a walk round our local park there was lots to hear (mainly warblers) but not much to see as the foliage on the trees is now very dense. However, there were ducklings, goslings and the chicks (if that’s the right name) of coots on the lake and a dipper on the River Frome.

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3rd June 2019 – WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

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We had an enjoyable morning at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust centre at Slimbridge visiting the hides which look north out on to the Severn Estuary and taking the “summer walk” down to the edges of the estuary. However, other than shelduck and 3 curlew there wasn’t much to see on the estuary except for the lovely views.

IMG_5562The beautiful meadows and reed beds on the edges of the Severn Estuary

A26I1944A distant curlew

On the pools we had close up views of mainly shelduck, greylag geese, avocet, gadwall and black-headed gulls but there was a common crane, a pied wagtail with two juveniles, a couple of bathing linnets, an oystercatcher and, in the far distance, a little ringed plover.

A26I1837Adult pied wagtail

A26I1881.jpgJuvenile pied wagtail

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A26I1963Linnet

A26I1846Oystercatcher

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A26I1969Avocet

A26I1899Shelduck with  ducklings

A26I1989Shelduck

A26I1912Common crane

A26I1915Barnacle geese

A26I1833Greylag goose

A26I1865Mute swan

A26I1959_2Gadwall

 

 

 

 

 

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28th May 2019 -Stapleton, Bristol

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.

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Over the last couple of weeks we have seen plenty of action with the blue tits coming and going.

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… and voilà today I encountered this young fellow:

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Slideshow of blue tit fledgling.

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.

 

 

 

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25th May 2019 – RSPB Ham Wall

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

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A26I1409Great Spotted Woodpecker with chick

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A26I1491Great White Egret

A26I1510Great Crested Grebe with chicks (on her back)

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A26I1597Female pochard

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A26I1668Marsh harrier

A26I1683Little egret

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