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8th July 2021 – WWT Slimbridge

We spent the morning visiting a few of the hides on the north of the reserve, walking as far as the Estuary hide. We didn’t, in fact, see many birds from any of the hides other than the first one. Here we had a very fruitful time with good views of avocets and chicks, tufted ducks and ducklings, green sandpipers, black-tailed godwit and (one of my all time favourites) little ringed plovers.

Avocet landing
Avocet seeing-off a black-headed gull
Avocet chick
Black-headed gull landing
Little egret
Common crane
Comma butterfly
Avocet chick
Green sandpiper
Green sandpiper
Avocets
Tufted duck
Black-tailed godwit
Little ringed plover
View from the Estuary Tower hide of the estuary – with not many birds in sight

We then drove up to Rodborough Common but I put my camera away and we succumbed to lunch al fresco at The Bear Hotel. No complaints about that.

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3rd July 2021 – Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, Suffolk

Despite the disappointing weather we had a fabulous trip to this wild and remote shingle spit, the largest in Europe – Orford Ness is an internationally important coastal nature reserve, with a fascinating 20th century military history.

You take a short boat trip from Orford Quay and, as the National Trust website says ,”follow trails through a stunning landscape and a history that will both delight and intrigue. Discover an internationally important nature reserve littered with debris and unusual, often forbidding, buildings from a sometimes disturbing past.’

Unusual structures scattered across the salt marshes and shingle beaches of Orford Ness are remnants of the island’s unique history as a test site for communications and weapons systems.

The National Trust ferry Octavia approaching Orford Quay.

With Covid restrictions you are currently allocated approximately four hours for your visit and we spent most of our time exploring the wildlife. We did, however, visit some of the military buildings where there were exhibitions of the secret military past.

The National Trust’s website gives a very good account

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/orford-ness-national-nature-reserve

Currently there is also a physical and online art exhibition – Artangel’s Afterness (see the website https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/afterness/) and headsets are freely available but we preferred to listen to the sound of the birds, particularly skylark and oystercatcher.

Due to the bird breeding season we were only allowed to visit a small section of the marshes (red route on map below) but there was more than enough for us to see.

A telescope would have been useful to see the distant views of waders but many were close enough to see and photograph. There was one spectacular moment when, near the end of our visit as I was photographing a distant marsh harrier, a spoonbill flew directly overhead. I am embarrassed to say how many shots I took of this delightful bird.

Marsh harrier above one of the mysterious buildings (with another raptor on the roof)
Spoonbill
Skylark
Meadow pipit
Little egret
Redshank
Greenshank I presume – however its legs were very yellow so I even considered a Yellowlegs
Oystercatcher
Lapwing
Redshank
Starlings
Linnets
Marsh harrier
Shelduck
We had better views than this blurred photo of an avocet

Gallery of some of the buildings and landscapes on Orford Ness

As well as migrating birds the marshland and shingle beaches are also home to hares and rare plants and lichens.

Gallery of some of the photos I took:

Can’t wait to go back (even though I don’t expect to get such good views of a spoonbill again).

Gallery of just a few of the photos I took of the spoonbill!:

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2nd July 2021 – Suffolk

Photographs taken of dragonflies and damselflies (and a meadow brown butterfly) at a pool near Court Barn at Shelley Priory in Suffolk. I looked at this pool earlier in the week on a dull day and saw very little. The sun came out and voilà …

I look forward to identifying these on my return from holiday. It shouldn’t take long as many are repeats.

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1st July 2021 – Wolves Wood RSPB, Suffolk

No wolves but a close encounter with a badger in this ancient woodland. A few rays of sunshine brought out the butterflies with Speckled Woods, Ringlets, Red and (a first for me) White admirals.

Badger
Speckled wood butterfly
Ringlet butterfly
Red Admiral butterfly
White Admiral butterfly
White Admiral butterfly
Clouded Border moth
Any guesses?

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1st July 2021 – Wrabness Nature Reserve, Essex

The song of nightingales, a rare sighting of a turtle dove, sand martins, yellowhammers, whitethroats, chiffchaffs , kestrels and a red kite were some of the joys of this reserve on the Stour estuary in Essex.

Whitethroat
Yellowhammer
Sand Martin
Red kite
Greylag goose
Turtle dove
Kestrel
Whitethroat
Chiffchaff
Sand Martin
Little egret
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23rd June 2021 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

I had seen reports from a local odonatologist that he had seen a Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly on our local patch amongst the more abundant Blue-tailed Damselfly. This has now been confirmed and apparently this is now the only site in (the former county of) Avon for these damselflies. What is just as exciting is that this is the 23rd species of dragonfly noted in the park, meaning that we now have more than half the country’s species at the site.

I therefore thought that as there is a Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly in the park this would be a good time to go and try my hand at photographing dragonflies and damselflies and then try the even more difficult task of identifying them.

Around Duchess Pond there was indeed an abundance of dragonflies and damselflies and here are some of my photographic attempts. I’m less sure about my ID skills.

Emperor dragonfly
Emperor dragonfly ovipositing
Emperor dragonfly in flight
Four spotted chaser dragonfly
Blue-tailed damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly

I may have photographed others!

Other than moorhens, coots and Canada geese I didn’t see many birds except fora very cheery song thrush which posed very nicely for me.

Song thrush
Song thrush

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7th-11th June 2021 – Cornwall

A week’s holiday in St Ives didn’t lend itself a lot to bird photography (unless I wanted to spend my time photographing gulls making a nuisance of themselves in the town and even I would have felt too much of a Wally doing that). However, despite the mediocre weather and the restrictions caused by the G7 conference in nearby Carbis Bay, we did have a lovely time visiting some of the great gardens of Cornwall and walking some of the magnificent coastal paths. We even spotted a few birds too.

We found three gardens new to us – Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens (https://www.tremenheere.co.uk/), Trengwainton Garden NT (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/trengwainton-garden) and Trerice NT (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/trerice).

At Tremenheere we particularly loved the exotic and sub-tropical plants (reminded us of our trips to South Africa) and the wonderful views of St Michael’s Mount and Mounts Bay. All three gardens had decent cafés too.

After our visit to Tremenheere on the first day we also had a walk around Marazion Nature Reserve run by the RSPB where there were swallows, martins, whitethroats, grey herons and egrets.

On our second day we visited Trengwainton Garden near Penzance and then headed north to the coast to walk a section of the coastal path with views of Cape Cornwall and Botallack Head and its tin mines famous from the tv series Poldark.

Later in the week we spent a day in and around Hayle (on the estuary and at Godrevy Point) and saw quite a few birds. The National Trust has been working closely with their tenant farmers to find ways of improving wildlife across the high yielding broccoli fields and everywhere you now see the purple flowers of a crop called Phocelia which acts as a green manure, reduces the need for fertilizers and is a great nectar source for bees and butterflies

The aircraft carrier tucked behind Godrevy lighthouse served as a constant reminder of the G7 conference at Carbis Bay

Phocelia looks spectacular on a sunny day – not so today

We stopped at Trerice NT (near Newquay) early on our journey home for a well-earned coffee stop after the exertions of packing up and tidying our holiday let.

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26th May 2021 – Eastville Park and Snuff Mills

Just a few nature photos of my walk today in my local parks of Eastville Park and Snuff Mills along the River Frome in Bristol.

Baby coot wishing it had bigger wings in Eastville Park
Canada geese gosling in Eastville Park
Lesser black-backed gull in Eastville Park
Swans protecting their cygnets in Eastville Park
Pigeon in flight in Eastville Park
… and coming in to land
Grey wagtail in Snuff Mills
Orange tip butterfly in Snuff Mills
Large white butterfly in Snuff Mills
Busy bee in Snuff Mills
A different bee in Snuff Mills

And a few of my favourite flowers:

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24th May 2021 – Snuff Mills, Bristol

We had a walk along the River Frome at Snuff Mills in Bristol this afternoon in the hope of seeing juvenile dippers and/or juvenile kingfishers of which I had seen reports.

We didn’t hang around as the forecast wasn’t good. I did stop to take some photos of some of the flowers in the garden at the entrance to the park – the volunteers who maintain the garden have done a splendid job and on a better day I must return and try to do them more justice.

We didn’t see any of the juvenile birds on our way out but on the way back we did see 2 juvenile kingfishers thanks to a local birder who had spent some time tracking them down. We didn’t stay long as the rain, which had been threatening all afternoon, decided to spoil our fun.

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20th May 2021 – Anglesey

Our last day in Anglesey and its been heavy rain and winds; hence the run of blog posts. However we did get out for an hour in the morning and went for a short walk (and a coffee) at Penmon Point. Despite the foul weather I did get a few of photos including a curlew and some eider duck.

Curlew
Eider duck
Oystercatcher
A truer picture of the weather conditions