Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Shropshire Day 4

Today was the day I had been dreading. For my brother we were heading to RAF Cosforth, not really my cup of tea. I had saved a nice biology essay for this day, but it only lasted the whole morning, so i decided to have a look round the grounds, and round the back of the hangers. There are some woods back there and obviously airfeilds have a high attracton to pied wagtails.
But I saw nothing in the woods round the back. For fear of tresspassing I tried to keep a low-ish profile, but after peering around corners and stuff I suddenly realised that there were cameras everywhere-real smooth there. Luckily they've not come after me yet, so I guess they realise that I'm not a foreign spy or anything...
Back to the wildlife, or lack of it. The only thing I saw all day was a small copper buttefly. But there is something else to this because it is another rather late butterfly. I don't know much about the wintering habits of small coppers, but I imagine they hibernate because they are small. It wasn't looking in any fit state to migrate, if thats what it had in mind.

-Small copper

Other than that there was nothing on the wildlife front. Though there were plenty of planes, if thats what interests you...

That was the final sequence in this shropshire holiday, which has been better than I expected, so its all been goo in the end.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Shropshire Day 3-Part 2

After the obvious success of the first walk we decided to try again furthur downstream, to see if we could see any more wildlife. Luckily there was plenty more to be had at our next stop, a small riverside village that I forgot the name of. No sooner had we pulledup in the car park than a buzzard flew overhead. There was nothing exceptional about this, as it was warm day then the birds would naturally be soaring on the thermals.
Having lunch in the car, we could see the river and all the fishermen fishing. The guy right in front of us had a freind who basically told everyone nearby that the fisherman had caught a barble. This was a fish that I had never seen, so I had a look and it was a pretty spectacular fish, about 1-1.5 feet long. It was a really nice fish.
As soon as I left the car after lunch I found a flock of long-tailed tits gradually moving across the car park frombush to bush. I positioned myself where they would cross the car park to the next row of bushes, and was rewarded with stunning views of this rather handsome birds. I also managed a few shots, but I was dissapointed with them given how close I was to the birds, never mind, its the memories that count.

-Long Tailed tit

We decided to walk downstream because that was the only way that the path seemed to go! That was on the other side of the river to the car park, and it was a pretty spectacular view from the bridge over. Once over any trace of the village vanished and we were left in beautiful countryside along the river. Having already seen a dragonfly today i decided to check every fishing spot to see if there were any resting on the trees or reeds.

However the first thing we saw was a bird that has sadly been missing from the holiday given its abundance last time, that being the kingfisher. We diddnt get much of a view though, as so often happens, you see it first as it races away up or down the river after you flush it, and that was the case here. However we were fortunate enough to see exactly where it landed, though by the time we got there, it had already left.

As I was checking every spot my family had already moved futhur ahead, as the main location we wanted to reach was the spectacular railway bridge that goes over the river, and there was a train due anytime soon.

As I played catchup I continued to see quite little, however I did spot a willow or marsh tit in the willow, though I don't know how to tell them appart on site, and I have no photos for reference, so I was dissapointed, although it was nice to see.

I caughtup with my family at the downstream side of the bridge. As soon as I arrived my brother said that he had found a blue dragonfly and that it was landed, by his foot, though it conviniently flew off as I arrived. There are only two dragonflies out at this time of year, and common darters are not blue, so that left the blue migrant hawker. There were at least 3 of these dragonflies holding territories across a 10m stretch of the river. They were deffinatly migrants, as they were smaller than any other hawkers that i had seen. I tried my best to catch them in flight, but they were very swift and difficult to catch on photo. However my brother had said that the one he saw had been landed, and they were landing-just not conviniently. But as soon as my oppertunity came, one landing on the shore, I took my chance to get this valuable record shot.

-Migrant Hawker
On the other hand, the common darters were much more obliging. There were about 6 and they were all peacefully resting on the riverbank, on dock leaves in front of us. There were even two in tandem, which i though was a bit odd given the time of year.

-Common Darter Male
I continued to watch the migrant hawkers as the gracefully stalked the riverside. The faught frequently with their compatriots and common darters too, they flew quite close to me in flight, but sadly thats a pain for the camera because their so close so movement is applified. But the view was stunning regardless.

Then I hit the jackpot, for a dragonfly watcher. I spotted one landed not too far away that i could reach. However to reach it I would have to cross a sticky bud plant and nettles and brambles. The question was, is it worth it? The answere, Yes and so I stealthily crossed the obstacle plants to reach my quarry. Sadly the specemin was badly damaged as you will see from the photos below, with one wing torn and the other missing its end. However its unfortunatness gave me a great oppertunity to get the photos I had been wanting.

-Migrant Hawker
It is painful to see such a stunning creature in such a state. But as I left i spooked it it flew off, so it obviously could fly, but chose not to. My family had left a while ago, after the train had gone over, so I knew my time here was limited. It was an interesting site, with about 10 dragonflies all in a small area but nowhere else on the whole river stretch that I had seen, maybe to do with the presence of the bridge of summit. Either way it was great to see all those interesting dragonflies, including a real tick in migrant hawker, and so late in the year.

On the way back to the car I spotted a trio of muscovy ducks under the bridge, so decided to take a couple of shots, just because...

-Muscovy Ducks

After all that we went to a town in the afternoon. But either way this has been by far the best day of the holiday, what with kingfishers, dragonflies and a host of other birds. including migrant hawker, a species that i really wanted to see.

Shropshire Day 3-Part 1

Day 3, and another cloudless sky. That doesnt mean that it was warm though. Since it was such a nice day, we decided to go for a riverside walk at a special national trust car park nowhere near any kind of settlement.
After travelling all the way over the river on the train yesterday we recognised the great big water treatment plant that stretched across the river like an ugly monster. Since the weather was so good I was secretly hoping that I might find a migrant hawker.
We saw very little until we made it upstream of the water treatment plant, and then there was plenty of wildlife, First was a blue tit, hunting on the plant itself, and then a raven flew overhead from upstream over us and into the woods to our right. As you walk upstream we were on the right side of the river headed that way, and there were woods to our direction where there were sounds of phesants and other birds.

slightly furthur on and we found our first wildfowl. Granted, it was only canada geese, with a graylag in tow, but there were a couple of interesting variations and abbarents in the flock, which attracted my attention, although they are more likely domestic birds.

-Canada geese
we decided that when we reached the stile at the end of the current feild then we would turn back, due to a frustrating lack of river wildlife. Most of the interesting birds seemed to be passing us by, like this cormorant flying over head.

Walking back proved to be far more fruitful than walking up. Even though we were walking the same stretch of river. The first thing we saw was a flock of long-tailed tits in the willow, quite close, offering great views

-Long tailed tit
Dont ask why the bottom half of the above photo is as it is, I diddnt take it like that and it certainly isnt like that in real life. As I was wrapping up with the long-tailed tits my brother called me to say that he had found a dragonfly. I hurried over to find a red male common darter resting on a dock leaf. It diddnt seem to care that we were watching it, it just perched there, so I got down and tried to get some photos.

-Common Darter
It was whilst I was watching the Dragonfly that a kingfisher flew upstream towards us and looped round to land in a willow, not 20m away, and on the same side of the river as me. Allowing me a great oppertunity to take photos of kingfisher, which is a really nice bird. However the bird only stuck around for a few seconds before continuing upstream.

I turned my attention back to the dragonfly, but it seemed to have woken up a bit more and started moving downstream it small steps. luckily I could easily keep up with it, allowing me to get some photos of this october dragonfly.

-Common Darter
I eventually left the darter in peace to try and catch up with my family, who had probably back at the car by now. On the way i spotted a few buzzards flying low in the sky. They were out because of the thermals so it was easy for them to rise up out of the forest. Either way it was a good thing because it allowed me to get great views of this stunning predators.

-Common Buzzard
For a few minuets the air was filled with birds, woodpigeons, crows and buzzards, but it all quietened down pretty quick, so i carried on walking back towards the car. I walked along the river edge hoping to maybe flush other kinds of dragonflies. I managed to find a couple of other darters, allcommon, although only one satyed still, that being an old specemin given the darkness of its exo-skeleton!

-Old Common Darter

So that finished the early morning walk, though there was still plenty of the day to go, and it got even better than that. This was just the beginning...

Monday, 24 October 2011

Shropshire Day 2

Another sunny day greeted us as we woke up for the first time in shropshire. Today was train day-that being the day we would go for a train ride on the severn valley railway. Last time we were inundated with harlequin ladybirds, so I was hopeing that there would be again, now that I fully knew how to take photos of bugs and things. The train journey goes from bridgenorth, where we were staying, to kidderminster.
The journey to kidderminster passed without anything really exciting happening. Although there is an interesting bit where the train goes past a safari park-so we saw elephants, buffalo, blackbuck and rhinos.
At the train station however there were some far more interestin owls to look at and admire. The people there had brought owls to station for some reason, to highlight publicity I imagine, but it allowed me a close view of these stunning birds. It might actually have been something to do with the halloween week, as though owls signify evil spirits and stuff!!
They had about Nine owls-2 barn owls, 2 eagle owls, a boobook owl, a tawny owl, plus a little owl and a burrowing owl, Though I think the burrowing owl was actually a little owl desert form-its legs were no where near long enough for burrowing. there was also a white-faced scops owl.

-Barn Owl

-Little Owl

-Stunning white faced scops owl

-Was quite pleased with these two, Little owl face
After that we decided to get the train to "country park holt" station where would have lunch. As it happens we had lunch on the train so we got off at the station and had a coffee. This station is request only and goes into a country park, which we have used before. That also means that there are not many people here.

On the country park sign I found my first and only harlequin ladybird of the day, and managed a few shots of some standard, though they're not great.

-Harlequin ladybird

Another feature of this country park is kingfishers, which it had at least 3 last time we were here. My family were going to walk along the river straight to the next station, about 1mile away. I, on the other hand, was going to go up to the visitor center and the hides at the top of the park.

However the only excitiment was really to be found on the bridge. As I watched a hornet fly past, but I couldnt see where it went, much to my dissapointment. Then I watched a kingfisher fly past, upstream where I couldn't follow it. Then a dragonfly of some kind flew under the bridge, but I lost that as well, so I saw lots of interesting things, just not for very long.

Up at the visitor center I had a look at the info board and saw a picture of a club-tailed dragonfly. It reminded me that this river would be teeming with this rare dragonfly in the spring, only in autumn there was only room for dragonflies that chose not to land.

From the hides I saw a sum total of nothing, the only thing of interest being the mallards on the pond outside.

Walking back I had an awful experience. I casually looked over the back of a bench, as you do generally, and flushed a darter dragonfly that had rested there, which then flew away. I was quite annoyed then and re-discovery missions failed to find him. I imagine that it was a common darter based on the time of year.

At the bottom of the park, near the river, I spotted a common buzzard flying quite low. It was going to fly right over me, but its circling pattern was rudely interrupted by a mobbing crow which caused it to divert away from me, never-the-less I got good views of it.

Walking along the river was also a dissapointment. There were no birds-but maybe because of some morons on the other side of the river letting their dog run a riot all over the riverside-people like that do my head in!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Shropshire Day 1

After a hard morning of travelling, we arrived in Shropshire for a few days. Since it was only lunchtime we decided that after lunch we would head off. Given its success last time we decided to head to the local arboretum, though I don't know what it was called. Last time it was brimming with Fungi, so was hopeful that there would still be loads. Also last time there was a dragonfly on the main pond, which given the time of year was almost certainly a migrant hawker, so I was eager to try and see if anything had stuck around.
However a 10min scout round and I realised that it was nothing like last time because it had been too dry. There was no fungi anywhere, but there were a few more birds than last time, which is always a good thing. At the final pond I spotted a jay and grey wagtail hunting along the water line.


-Grey Wagtail
After walking around the main part of the arboretum I headed up a small alleyway that I had not been up before. Up there I flushed a few blackbirds and also found my first fungi-a fly agaric. Unfortunately it had a rather unfortunate notch taken out of it, right on the only angle that you could get a photo, given it was surrounded by brambles. I had a look for other fruit but with no joy.

-"Notched" fly agaric
After walking around I found my dad, who said that we should go for a walk down by the "nature" bit, though if I recall last time I didn't see anything down there. After walking down the first section of woods I spotted a buzzard circling high, probably looking for dead sheep.

In the main woods we had a bit more joy. After a few minuets search we found a calling greater spotted woodpecker. It was difficult to see because it was perched at the top of a tall spruce, but I managed a couple of record shots.

-Greater spotted woodpecker

Just a bit further on and we spotted a dragonfly hunting in the woods, away from any suitable water. It was a hawker, but light was really low and the dragonfly really fast so any photos were out of the question and so i don't know what it was, though it was probably a migrant hawker.

We didn't see anything else during the walk, so we went back to the caravan.