Friday, 25 March 2011

Beautiful Birds but a Barbaric Bird Trap!!

So it is officially Spring! I suspect we could still have some less than Springlike weather but as March 21st has been and gone and we in the UK will put the clocks forward one hour this weekend everything seems to be steadily and happily moving forward.

'Spring to the earth has come; her fountains leap,
In fields of azure pearly clouds repose,
Meek flowers seem along the turf to creep,
And long the lingering twilight softly glows'
(Henry Theodore Tuckerman)

It has been lovely to find and photograph all these colourful Spring blooms during the last week.

Clockwise from top left: Violets, Primroses, Wood Anemone, Daffodils, Wych Elm.

Before I carry on with my planned post I need to tell you about something I discovered yesterday which I found extremely disturbing to say the least.

For the past week or so I have been watching and trying to photograph Yellowhammers. A few years ago I regularly saw and heard them in the hedgerows alongside a disused railway line close to home but for some time now there has been no sign of them there. However a few weeks ago I noticed a small flock about three miles further on from where I used to see them. I have been back several times but had great difficulty photographing them due to the fact they were mainly perched on the roof of an open fronted barn in a field some way from the footpath I was following. After some investigation I eventually found a way into the field but have still had trouble getting close enough to the barn to get decent photos due to there being nowhere to conceal myself.

Anyway, yesterday I tried again and decided for the first time to go around the back of the barn to see if I could get a better view of them from that angle.

As I turned the corner I was absolutely amazed to see what at first sight I thought was a chicken run but as my brain got into gear I realised I was in fact looking at a bird trap complete with two terrified and trapped Magpies!! To say I was shocked is an understatement!

I immediately beckoned to my husband who had stopped on the margin of the field so as not to disturb the Yellowhammers too much. We found how to open the trap and the two distraught and very disturbed birds eventually managed to fly out... and the trap... was somehow upturned ;)

EDIT: The photo which appeared here of the Magpies being released from their living hell has been removed as it seems some people may have viewed it with the intention of gaining information to make these hideous instruments of torture.

I have done some research and found it was a Larsen trap. The Act Against Corvid Traps Campaign says of it ...

'The Larsen trap is a cage bird trap made of wire and a wood framed cage where one live bird (decoy bird, or call bird) ie. crow or magpie, is placed to encourage another bird, not always of similar species, to come down to it. This visiting bird, not knowing its fate, falls through a false floor into a compartment, where it awaits its fate. Although banned in their country of origin because they are viewed as inhumane, Larsen traps are still legal in the UK. It uses a live wild “decoy bird” to attract and trap crows, magpies, jays, jackdaws and rooks. The decoy bird suffers a most terrible existence. Close to the ground it is terrorised by predators, these intelligent birds see its fellow birds brutally killed in front of it. A number end up being found dead through neglect.'

I am fully aware that Corvids are seen by some as a threat to some other birds but there can be no excuse whatsoever for such heartless cruelty to any creature. I am utterly appalled by this barbaric and hideous practice and urge you to please sign the petition against it at the top of my sidebar... I don't think I will ever forget the sight of those poor, terrified and panicking birds imprisoned in that dreadful trap...

Incidentally, if anyone else finds one and there is no evidence of food and water inside the trap a prosecution can be brought. Otherwise, in this country they are unfortunately still legal which is why I would urge you to sign the petition and even put the widget on your own blog. The more publicity the better!


Thank you for bearing with me :) now back to my original post and as I mentioned Yellowhammers, I think I should post a couple of photos I managed to get, neither of which are good by any means but I will keep trying to get nearer to them.


'In early Spring when winds blow chilly cold
The yellowhammer trailing grass will come
To fix a place and choose an early home
With yellow breast and head of solid gold.'
(John Clare)

The following one is on the barn roof

and this Pheasant emerged from inside the barn!

'The beautiful pheasants were fluttering with ease from place to place,
then raising themselves up into an erect position with a majesty that is peculiar to that bird.'
(John Black)

Another bird I saw on the same walk was this Bullfinch and again I couldn't get close enough for a good photo but as I don't see them very often I have included it anyway.


I love to hear the tinkling voices of the Long-tailed Tits as they hurriedly swoop into a nearby tree and just as quickly disappear again.

Long-tailed Tit

The Blue Tits were also busy hunting for insects and grubs.

Blue Tit

When these Bluebells flower I think they will look lovely growing among the moss covering the base of this tree trunk.


There were lots of Rabbits around.


And the lovely song of Robins accompanied us throughout our walk.


'Sweet, constant, faithful bird,
True to thy land and home !
Whilst other birds seek other climes
Thou never learn'st to roam. '
(Richard Richards)

Now there is more warmth in the sun it is good to see insects emerging again. In the last few days I have had fleeting views of Small Tortoiseshells, Brimstones and Red Admirals but no photos yet. I photographed these Ladybirds in local woodland trying to warm themselves on quite a chilly day last week.


I often see Dunnocks in the garden but like Wrens they are quite secretive birds, usually skulking around under shrubs and bushes. However, this one seen on our walk, posed long enough for a photo.


Thank you very much for reaching the end of this slightly 'different' post. Please do think about signing the petition, wherever you are in the world your signature is valuable.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Cheerful Colour and a Continental Cormorant

Several local walks recently showed definite signs that Winter is starting to lose his cruel and icy grip and that Spring's gentle hand is reaching out to make her tentative mark upon the landscape.

'WITH rushing winds and gloomy skies
The dark and stubborn Winter dies.
Far-off, unseen, Spring faintly cries,
Bidding her earliest child arise:
(Bayard Taylor)

The Snowdrops won't be here much longer.


'Snow-drop, earliest flower of Spring !
Array'd in spotless white;
O hither come, and with thee bring
What must all eyes delight.
(Catherine George Ward Mason)

There were lots of Blue Tits enjoying the sunshine and examining every twig and branch for insects. The more yellow the male's breast is the more he is attractive to the female as the yellowness indicates high levels of carotene pigmentation due to the amount of yellowy-green caterpillars he has eaten. This tells the female he will be good at feeding chicks!

In the West Country the Blue Tit is sometimes known as 'Little Billy Biter' as it is a staunch defender of its nest and will peck at an intruding finger!

Blue Tit

This Great Tit had its feathers fluffed up to keep itself warm on what was a sunny but cold day.

Great Tit

I was thrilled to see my first Violets of the year.


'The violet in her green-wood bower,

Where birchen boughs with hazels mingle,
May boast itself the fairest flower
In glen, or copse, or forest dingle.'
(Sir Walter Scott)

There is one particular place where I can usually be guaranteed to see our tiniest bird, the delightful little Goldcrest but photographing it is not guaranteed, they are such busy little birds, always moving from branch to branch and tree to tree in their quest for a meal of tasty insects. On this occasion I managed a couple of photos (the one at the top of this post and the following one) although neither are as well focused as I would have liked. This one shows how it earned its name.


It was also lovely to see the cheerful, golden flowers of the Gorse which looked beautiful in the sunshine against the blue sky. If you look carefully you will see at least three Ladybirds, another sure sign that the year is moving forward.


'And over-head in richer gold
The gorse's hardy flow'rs unfold.'
(Mary Russell Mitford)

I was fascinated by this Lichen.

Lichen (Bushy Fruticose)

Lichen is a primitive plant species, strands of algae linked with roots and branches of a fungus that together absorb minerals from the ground and conduct photosynthesis. They first appeared about 400 million years ago!

It can grow almost anywhere, from moist bark to recently cooled lava to frozen rocks. Its body, called a thallus, can be made of different types of fungi and blue-green algae, which will determine how much water it needs or to what it can attach.

Three major types of Lichen grow into different shapes on various surfaces. Crustose grows into unique flat plates that look like mushrooms. Foliose looks leafier, with small, green lobes, and grows in wetter climates beside moss. If you see lichen that resembles viney clumps hanging from branches, it is probably fruticose which is what I think the one above is although I am not sure of the exact identification.

As it is very sensitive to pollution, especially sulphur dioxide, environmentalists use it's presence as a gauge of the cleanliness of the air. Incidentally, Beatrix Potter was one of the first people to postulate that lichens are a symbiosis of fungi and bacteria!


It is always a pleasure to see Long-tailed Tits flitting from tree to tree. This one was doing an impression of a Treecreeper :)

Long-tailed Tit

'Like feathered dart, the long-tailed titmouse flies'
(Allan Ramsay)


On our latest visit to Draycote I spotted a Cormorant which looked slightly odd to me. I took several photos of it and did some research when I got home and found it was the Continental Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis This subspecies is uncommon in the UK and is usually found inland. While the white head is an indication that it is P. c. sinensis, the only reliable feature that can be used to separate them from the British subspecies, P. c. carbo, is the angle of the gular patch (the yellow patch at the base of the bill). I was pleased I had noticed it was different and found later that it had been mentioned on the Draycote website.

Continental Cormorant (above and below)

Finally, these Daffodil buds were a welcome sight. In the next few weeks, as these lovely flowers open properly, they will be brightening the gardens, parks and roadsides all across Britain, with their colourful and cheerful faces.


Have a lovely weekend and ... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Draycote but Distant!

There is an unfortunate theme running through this post which is that most of the subjects on my recent visit to Draycote Water were very distant. As I think I have mentioned before I do have a 500mm lens but I find it too heavy to hold without using a tripod and have always been reluctant to take a tripod out with me although I am beginning to realise that I may have to rethink that decision.

The weather here has been bitterly cold again with a cruel  and unremitting north easterly wind, however March is here and the year is steadily moving on.

'Then March, the prophetess, by storms inspired,
Gazes in rapture on the troubled sky,
And now in headlong fury madly fired,
She bids the hail-storm boil and hurry by.
Yet 'neath the blackest cloud, a Sunbeam flings
Its cheering promise of returning Springs.'
(John Clare)

I again failed to find the Smew and the Scaup :( but did see some of the Goosanders which have been there for a while now. However, they were a very long way out in the water. The following photo is of four of the group of eight which I saw.


The male has bold, striking plumage.

Goosander (Drake)

The female is equally striking I think and is commonly known as the 'Redhead'. 


Goosander (Hen)

A young Goosander requires 33kg of fish to reach adulthood! Goosanders are shot under licence on (mostly Scottish) rivers to protect angling interests. I wonder who needs the fish most... the hungry birds who depend on them to sustain their lives... or the anglers to satisfy their hobby!  

A bit of showing off here!

'Look who pretends that she's a sprite,
Who kicks and prances in self-delight.'
(Averill Curdy)

 Someone else showing off was this Mallard.

Mallard (Drake)

I wonder if he was the same one I saw getting very friendly with a female. Shortly after I took the following  photo they got even more ... errm ... friendly ;)

 If you thought the Goosanders were distant ... this Shoveler was even more so :) but I have included it as a record shot.


There are quite a large amount of Teal there at the moment and they, at least, were a little closer affording slightly better photographs.

Teal (Drake) 

I never cease to be amazed by camouflage. The female Teal below blends perfectly with the rocks and the green of the weed!

Teal (Hen)

The male's plumage is particularly striking I think.

 There were subtle signs of Spring despite the vicious cold wind blowing across the water and biting into every bone of our bodies.


 'There's an alder-tree, which sighs alway,
On the stillest night and calmest day ...

That alder-tree, with a happy sound,
Bowed its whisp'ring branches to the ground.' 
(Ada Trevanion)

Pussy Willow

We had seen some people feeding Mallards and noticed Canada Geese getting in on the act too, this group came scurrying up to us but were disappointed on this occasion.

Canada Geese

 Finally, in keeping with the unfortunate distant theme running through this post, I saw this Cormorant overseeing the gulls coming in to roost for the night.

Cormorant and gulls

Until the next time ... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.