Thursday, 14 April 2011

I Creep for a Woodpecker and a Tree Creeper Creeps for Me!

What lovely weather most of us in the UK have experienced in the last week or so. We had temperatures of well over 20C (68F) for several days and it was a pleasure to get out and enjoy all that Nature has to offer at this loveliest time of the year.

(Common Primrose)

'Now beauteous spring bursts forth to view,
And decks the earth with flow'rs,
And the songsters sing on dewy wing,
Rejoicing in the bow'rs.'
(Thomas Eagles)

As is so often the case in this country though the temperature has dipped again in the last day or so and is now less than half what it was!

Walking very near to home last weekend I kept hearing the laugh or yaffle of a Green Woodpecker. So often they are heard but not seen but on this occasion I had the last laugh :) as I saw it fly across in front of me and land in a tree in a hedgerow and was able to gradually creep closer to it with the camera.

Green Woodpecker

When I got home and processed the photos I was surprised to see that lower down in the tree, (as seen in the photo at the beginning of this post) there was also another woodpecker which I had been completely unaware of at the time.

'The green woodpecker flying up and down
With wings of mellow green and speckled crown.'
(John Clare)

During the same walk I was keeping an eye out in case I saw the Roe Deer which I had seen there (and posted about here) last year. This time I wasn't lucky enough to see them but I was thrilled instead to see this lovely little Muntjac Deer.

Muntjac Deer

The warm weather has brought all the Spring flowers out and I found this Green Alkarnet

Green Alkarnet

and these Coltsfoot with Violets in the background

Coltsfoot and Violets

These Marsh Marigolds, as their name suggests, were growing in their favoured habitat by water

Marsh Marigolds

and a flower which every year at this time, is just starting to spread its beautiful blue carpet over much of the woodland in the UK.


'The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit's care.'
(Emily Bronte)

During a visit to Draycote Water it was lovely to see lots of delightful and vividly coloured Yellow Wagtails. I have seen them there each year I have been, either flitting around on the rocks or, as this time, on the grassy bank feeding on the many flies which so often plague the walkers, joggers and cyclists.

Yellow Wagtail

You can see the following one was actually sizing up its quarry!

The warm weather has of course also seen the welcome return of butterflies and after seeing many Orange Tips frustratingly whizz past me with no chance of a photo I was eventually rewarded with a nice open winged pose.

Orange Tip Butterfly (male)

'Child of the sun! pursue thy rapturous flight,
Mingling with her thou lov'st in fields of light;
And where the flowers of paradise unfold,
Quaff fragrant nectar from their cups of gold.'
(Charles Burton)

This Speckled Wood was the first I had seen this year and posed well for me.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

I should also have been able to post some nice photos of a Peacock butterfly but unfortunately I found that all of the ones I had taken of it as well as some of a Mallard with her tiny ducklings had mistakenly been taken with the white balance setting on my camera set to tungsten light instead of sunlight which meant all the photos had a horrible turquoise hue...I am still kicking myself!!

An unexpected find during the Draycote visit was a distant view of this Stoat which was no doubt preying on the numerous Rabbits which can always be seen there. It seems incredible that a creature so relatively small can catch and kill another much larger one. It pounces on the Rabbit, killing it with a bite to the back of its neck. If it is able to obtain more food than it can eat the Stoat will often store extra food for later. It is capable of speeds of 20mph when hunting and can cover a distance of around 4 miles in a single hunt! The collective name for Stoats is a 'caravan'.


Another walk closer to home produced another unexpected sight. I think they are Red-legged Partridges but they could possibly be Chukar Partridges, again they were very distant.

Red-legged (or possibly Chukar) Partridges

'The partridge makes no nest but on the ground
Lays many eggs and I have often found
Sixteen or eighteen in a beaten seat
When tracing oer the fields or weeding wheat.'
(John Clare)

Finally, a couple of days ago, I was pleased to get some fairly decent photos of a Treecreeper at last. Usually I only manage one either disappearing round the back of a tree or completely out of focus.


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

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Now That April's Here!

Thank you to everyone who left supportive comments on my last post concerning the Larsen Trap encounter and thank you most particularly to all those who signed the petition against them. If you haven't signed it yet please do consider it, every signature helps, wherever you live in the world!

Well what a beautiful April day it has been here today, we had a temperature this afternoon of 21c (69.8F). While visiting a small local lake it was a joy to see all the Spring flowers and hear Chiffchaffs calling their name over and over. I also heard a rustling in the dead leaves and caught a glimpse of a snake but it was so quick I couldn't identify it, my goodness they move fast! Looking back at my records I noticed that on this day in 2008 we had heavy overnight snow. Hopefully that won't happen tonight!

'When April comes with softly shining eyes,
And daffodils bound in her wind-blown hair,
Oh, she will coax all clouds from out the skies,
And every day will bring some sweet surprise,--
The swallows will come swinging through the air
When April comes!'
(Virna Sheard)

Clockwise from top left:
Ground Ivy, Cowslips, Bluebells,
Violets, Lesser Celandines and Primroses.

'Spring flowers, spring flowers,
Fairest, sweetest gems of earth,
Won from Eden's happy bowers,
Angels smiled upon your birth.'
(Louisa Shaw)

I hadn't seen Bramblings in the garden since 2008 when according to my records they visited from March 7th until April 22nd. At that time I didn't have a camera capable of taking bird photographs and have been disappointed not to have seen them since. However, since just before last Christmas I have seen one in the garden again and for the last few days a small flock have been visiting regularly and at last I have managed to get some photos. They really are lovely little birds.


Brambling (male)

Brambling (female)

I still haven't managed to photograph any butterflies but have seen, Brimstones and Small Tortoiseshells on some of the milder days we have had recently. It has been nice to see bees again too

Tawny Mining Bee?

Edit: Thank you very much to Dean for identifying the above as a...

Buff-tailed Bumble Bee

On a visit to a very small Nature reserve close to home I found these Fritillaries. They were surrounded by wire to protect them, hopefully next year they will have multiplied. We opened the wire a little to enable me to take the photos but made sure we secured it again afterwards.


On another recent walk I saw these Mute Swans who looked rather romantic with their heart shaped pose!

Mute Swans

'They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old.'

(William Butler Yeats)

I had a face to face encounter with this Squirrel during a visit to Draycote Water

Grey Squirrel

The visit to Draycote was unfortunately made on a very dull day which eventually turned to rain and as I have mentioned in the past my camera doesn't perform at all well in low light but I tried my best and was pleased to see Grey Wagtails on the rocks

Grey Wagtail

And this Reed Bunting looking very smart in a hedgerow.

Reed Bunting

A bird which according to all the books is widespread across this country is the Linnet but I never see it on any of my walks close to home so was pleased but not surprised to see it at Draycote which does seem to attract many birds which I would never otherwise see!


'There are gayer birds, 'tis true,
On the mossy branches glittering
Gold or scarlet, green or blue,
Let them flit the woodlands through,
But their song to thine is twittering. '
(Ann Taylor)

Every now and again during our visit we heard a Green Woodpecker 'yaffling' in the distance. At the end of our visit, quite late in the evening and after a downpour which had sent most people home, I saw it in a place which is normally very busy. It was so good to be there at that time which emphasised what an absolute haven it is for wildlife when no one is around, I can completely see why some birders go there at daybreak before all the joggers, cyclists etc. appear.

Incidentally if anyone with any influence reads this it would be great if they could put a word in to persuade the powers that be to clean and fill the seed feeders at the side of the hide, they seem to have been abandoned for a long time now, almost as long as the visitors centre!! If I could get to the feeders I would fill them myself!

Green Wodpecker

Well, that's all for now... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.