On our return journey from the deep South we stopped for a day at Leighton Moss. The weather was great although it had poured down the day before so once again our timing was spot on. It was our first visit there and off we went only getting about 200m before the slightly taller and better visioned one of the couple started gesticulating saying whats those pretty little blue headed birds? After 30 seconds of directions from her I was still no wiser till I saw she was standing on her tippy toes so moved to a better angle and sure enough my suspicions were confirmed, 2 Bearded Tits. I had about 10 seconds viewing and off they went. Unfortunately no pics but what the hell. Leighton Moss is definitely worth a return visit and at present tops my list of RSPB reserves I have visited so far (sorry Saltholme). We walked the whole reserve and visited all hides with the exception of one and struck lucky again with great view of Osprey for nearly 2hrs.
Honestly there is an Osprey at the top of tree and it stayed there off and on for nearly 2hrs occasionally flexing its wings
If you want to see a good picture of the same bird I can recommend Brian Rafferty's great photograph of the same bird and also many others. I have been following his blog for some time now and had the privilege of meeting him at Leighton Moss. Also on view were Marsh Harriers. We saw 3 of them at the same time and a couple of food passes also.
There were also quite a few waders around also and I got sight of my first Spotted Redshank. Once again I promise you there is one there. We watched it for over an hour but it wasn't one of the most energetic bird I have come across although the Greenshanks, Redshanks and Greater Black Backed Gulls never stopped moving. It stayed on the island only moving occasionally.
Also on view all around the reserve were Roe and Red Deer, a couple of Little Egrets, at least 4 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Pochard and also a couple of Golden Plover.
Whilst away we also visited Butterfly World in Swindon. Im not sure if its a franchise as I have seen a few similar named ones but it definitely was worth the visit, the Butterflies are amazing. There was also a temperate as well as a tropical section and I spent nearly 2hrs in them, popping outside occasionally to cool down. Just a couple of pics from the couple of hundred that I took. The first one is an African Swallowtail
Next is the Rice Paper Butterfly (psst Black and White Rule)
Next day we spent a day in Longleat. Not a bad place except for hundreds of kids running round and that was on a Thursday and School was still on. The small Bat House was great, the Butterfly House was OK but nowhere near as good as Butterfly World. The Monkey House was closed (damn). It was difficult to decide whether I really liked the place or not, the grounds, gardens, house, lake and the safari park were great but the problem was the many shops at every attraction, the many places to eat at every corner and the bloody prices they charge (makes Motorway Services look cheap). Another niggle was that we arrived at 9.30am to get a full day in but nothing really opened till 11 and some at 12. Anyway I think it was just worth the entrance fee. Unfortunately I did take a few pics but will let you suffer a couple. We thought that it was bad up here with Grey Squirrels but we saw lots down there. This one was in the Wolf enclosure.
Lots of deer around, this one standing right next to the car
Of all the wildlife there I found this one of the most interesting, the Leafcutter Ant
Back from a weeks holidy and now need a rest so am back to work tomorrow. We visited many places including Slimbridge, Cotswolds, Longleat, Marshside, Leighton Moss and a couple of local trips, if you can call Yorkshire local. The following photographs are a selection from the first couple of days.
Bewick Swan at Slimbridge
Little Egret over Slimbridge. Also saw a roost of 13 on the Severn.
Grass Snakes scuttling under some corrugated iron. There was at least 7 under when it was lifted.
In a small area of about 10ft square there was about 30 of these clumps of Caterpillars which I believe will become Small Tortoise Shell. The only Butterflies around were loads of Gatekeepers though. If you go to Slimbridge you should definitely go on the Landrover Safari. We saw at least 20 species of birds close up, several hares, grass snakes and many types of damsel and dragonflies. Finally a photo from Slimbridge which I probably could have got anywhere but have always been intent on photographing Butterflies from the back with their wings open. This Gatekeeper was quite high up so got a different view of it completely which to my mind makes a much more interesting shot.
The next places we visited were all in the Cotswolds where there was a never ending number of lakes to visit. We only managed to get to a few and some of them were right next to each other divided only by a few feet of earth but with different wildlife. We did bump into quite a few other Birders who told us where to go but unfortunately we didnt have the time. Just a couple of pics though as a lot of time was spent looking at Dragonflies and Butterflies as the weather down there was glorious as opposed to the torrential rain up North. The first one is a Bog Standard Thrush pic but they were on every corner walking up and down pathways and boardwalks. After taking pics of about 20 I forced myself to stop taking any more.
I think the following is a Brown Hawker but if anyone knows better !
This butterfly flew around for ages before landing and only managed a quick blurry shot of it although I have tried to identify it I failed miserably, I wouldn't have bothered with it but can't remember ever having seen one like it.
Yet another gorgeous looking creature which I have failed to identify
Did get to see quite a few birds as well although they were dominated by the presence of Little Egrets which we saw at least 20 in one afternoon and our eyes were always drawn to them.
Finally, whilst having a cuppa and the camera in the car this beauty of a merlin powered machine passed overhead. Managed to get a distant pic after rushing to get the camera.
Crimdon Dene early Saturday morning and great birds. First on the agenda was the Little Terns, had only seen them previously from a distance but they were flying around very low all over the beach. At times there was at least 20 in the air.
On the beach were Ringed Plover and Dunlin.
A few Sandwich Tern also occassionally flew overhead mixing in with the Little Terns. Offshore there were plenty of Gulls and lots of Gannets diving. In the middle of the diving Gannets was a Red Throated Diver, my first. After about an hour we eventually found the bird we were looking for, a Dotterel. Watched it through the scope for a while but couldn't see it properly as it was asleep (I think) on one leg moved round at an angle to try and see it properly and got a couple of passable record shots.
There were also quite a lot of Meadow Pipits around, this one cooling itself down in the blazing heat
We then went down to Dormans Pool which has become a bit of a favourite of mine recently and lucked into 4 Little Egret, a Greenshank and yet another Black-Tailed Godwit. Unfortunately its really only a place to view although still cant resist to get the impossible shot of a Little Egret from about 350m. For those who dont know what a Little Egret looks like you still wont from this photo (psst - its the white blob)
Just in time also for a view of the seals coming up Greatham Creek for a sunbathe
Sunday morning up and away at Sparrowfart, stopping off at East Chevington where the water on the main lake seems to have evaporated ! leaving large patches of mud which was filling up with birds
We then moved on to our main destination, the Spindelstone area. Upon arrival there was a really quite spectacular Buzzard on show which we stood and watched for quite a while (later on we bumped into a couple of other birders who had saw 2 quite close and when we left we saw another 3). Unfortunately the wind became exceptionally strong at times finding it difficult to walk and eventually taking shelter in one of the hides. Even in there the wind was still penetrating although at the same time it was still intolerably hot/humid. We saw quite a few "things" including plenty of Greater Spotted Woodpecker both in the hides and on the edges of the woods, Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits, Pied Wagtails, Yellowhammers and loads of Chaffinches. On the waters were Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Moorhens and quite a few Damsel and Dragonflies. Also there was quite a variety of Butterflies although everything was being blown around at a fantastic rate of knots.
Also moving around was a Fox cub which appeared several times always looking inquisitive
Finally to finish off a very obliging Pied Wagtail who came to consume some proffered seed
Just a few items from the last 5 days, been busy at work (first session of enrolment) so haven't had time to do a lot. First shot is from the Tyne on Tuesday where there was quite a lot of Birds around. Tried for ages to get a pic of one of the young Lapwings but they just wouldn't come close enough.
Then a wander down to the Tyne Bridge to see how the Kittiwakes are getting on. The youngsters look as though some of them are ready to go as they get up and wander to the side of the nest. I think it is now nearly 4 weeks since the first eggs hatched so it shouldn't be long now.
Meanwhile at work there was lots of young Tits, Goldfinches and especially Dunnocks around. I think the first thing their parents showed them was the Feeders as I am now refilling them twice a week at least and lots of Fatballs also.
Wednesday early morning at Lamesley where the first thing I come across are a couple of Red-Legged Partridge only feet from me as I walk down the road. As usual impatience gets the better of me and a grab for the camera alerted them to my presence but still got a couple of decent shots.
Further along the road I saw 2 little bundles drop from a nest box and flutter onto a bush and just sit there. They looked a bit big to be just fledging but what do I know but cute is the only word to describe them.
There is always a lot of low flying Swifts around there also so one of my best shots to date of one
Also whilst there I thought I spotted a Greenshank at the far end of the Water Meadows but was not confident to claim it as a tick. I was also suprised to see several Snipe moving around in the open a first for Lamesley (for me anyway). In the evening the wife and I went for a meal at the Plough in Killingworth and of course as the Beehive Flash is directly on the route back I (wife was too full and was resting in the car)went to have a look only taking my bins. Immediately I saw some Godwits and a Green Sandpiper. Knew immediately it was a Green Sandpiper but was not sure about the Godwits. So shot back to the car for the book and the Camera. When I got back the Sandpiper flew directly over my head towards the coast but after consulting the book and a few distance pics I was convinced there were 10 Black Tailed Godwits.
Next morning was on the way to the Derwent when I heard that Dunston Staithes had been set alight the previous evening and there were 10 Fire Engines attending. Went down to my usual spot just opposite the staithes and there was a proliferation of Birds, 40 Curlew, 9 Grey Herons, loads of Lapwing, Redshanks etc etc all on the North side. Further down the river a Seal was resting near the sailing ship. The Staithes didn't look too bad till I got the bins on them and saw the Firemen pulling bits down. It does look quite dangerous in places so no doubt the Authorities will pull it down because of Health and Safety whereas I would only pull down the bit that joins it to the shore to stop the toerags getting on to it or put the toerags on it then pull it down.
Finally on Friday morning another wander round Lamesley. One of the first things spotted was the Greenshank and managed the worst pic of the week for the best bird.