Monday, 20 April 2015

First bluebells in the woods

Spring really is here now - the first Bluebells appeared in the woods this week!

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One particular spot in Sweep Wood has a great mix of colours right now!
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There's some Violets out there too:
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And the Wood Anemones are at their peak, looking stunning:
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The days of these flowers are numbered though, as the trees are starting to wake up too. Sweet Chestnut leaves are starting to appear:
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Birch are quite well advanced:
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And the whole wood is beginning to take on a real green tinge! Here's the area we coppiced in winter 2013/14:
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And the ride between Sweep Wood and Grist Wood:
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This week has presented the last few chances to get photos of birds before the leaves hide them from view. This one's a Chiffchaff, which I've not seen that often before:
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There's also lots of Pheasants around, with the males competing for the territory near our bird feeder, as the small birds knock seed off it and the Pheasants hoover it up. This one's trying to sneak up on the food without the other bird seeing it:
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The butterflies are out in force now. Here's a Green-veined White:
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A Peacock which has overwintered as an adult, and is looking a bit battered:
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And another one, which appeared smaller and in better shape:
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Comma butterflies are out too:
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And finally an Orange Underwing moth - sorry for the poor photo, it wouldn't let me get very close...
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While photographing the butterflies I thought I'd have a go at taking photos of hoverflies as well, which is tricky as they are too small for autofocus, and don't actually stay still for very long. Still, I managed to get these two:
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Moving on to other things, I realised the wild boar had been trampling across the dam we have by the spring, causing a muddy stretch on the path. So I made a few repairs, to the left of the vertical stick:
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and three days later there was a lot more water in the 'pond':
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I've also been digging to try and drain a bit of the ride between Sweep Wood and Grist Wood - see the channel in the top-right of this photo:
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That's all for now. Looks like rain is on the way at the end of this week, which I'm sure will help the plants in the wood, if not the butterflies. Next time I should have lots of Bluebells to show you!

Mike

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Monday, 6 April 2015

Spring - birds and flowers in the woods

Early spring is usually the best time to photograph birds in the woods - the light is better than winter, the leaves aren't yet obscuring the view, and the birds are hungry as they head into the nesting season. We were over at some friends' woodland today, and I was pleased to get this photo of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker in flight, as it came past us to raid a bird feeder filled with nuts!

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Here's the feeder itself, with a couple of Blue Tits taking a meal:
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Back over at our woods, I heard a woodpecker knocking loudly a few days ago, and tracked the sound over to our neighbour's wood, where I just about managed to get a photo of it, at the extreme end of the zoom range of my camera lens:
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There's lots of birds near the feeder in our own wood too, such as this male Chaffinch, which perched in the oaks and then came down to feed on the ground, preferring to eat seed fallen there rather than go to the feeder itself:
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There was a female Chaffinch around as well, though I wasn't sure what kind of bird she was at first:
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Robins are still around of course, though not interested in the seeds in our feeder. Maybe we should get some nuts too...
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Great Tits are in abundance as usual, and I got a nice sequence of this one. First it was perching near the feeder to check I wasn't a threat:
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Then it flew over, and I got a photo as it was coming in to land:
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A quick nibble...
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... and then off again, seed in beak:
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There's Coal Tits there too:
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Meanwhile, any seed I spill while topping up the feeder is quickly hoovered up by the Pheasants:
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Meanwhile, in another part of the woods, the wild boar have been creating some more 'bomb craters' with their digging...
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Moving on to spring flowers, the Primroses are putting on a good show:
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And the Wood Anemones are back as well:
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The trees are waking up, with Hornbeam leaves just forming:
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Sweet Chestnut is a bit slower, but the buds are beginning to green up and swell:
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Sycamore, in the few places it grows, is well ahead though, with most buds showing some leaves emerging:
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and others starting to cast some shade!
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Looking forward to Bluebells before too much longer...

Mike

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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Birds of Prey at Warwick Castle

A couple of weeks ago we were at Warwick Castle with my family, and saw a brilliant display by some birds of prey:

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The show started with this Verreaux's Eagle Owl (if I have the name right...) zooming in from the woods to land on the handler's arm:

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After the owl had done its stuff, a Bald Eagle came out ot play, and put on a great show by flying between the handler near the audience and another one up on the battlements of the castle:
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Finally, we had a Steller's Sea Eagle, which is the heaviest eagle in the world:
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Check out the size of the bird's feet! Its toes are almost as thick as the handlers' fingers!
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There's also lots of peacocks roaming around - I guess they are too big for the eagles to tackle, though earlier in the day we did see one of the display birds having a go at catching a duck!
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Finally, one non-bird-related photo - we also saw this huge trebucet fire a flaming ball across the field!
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Oh, and there was a castle to explore too, of course!
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Mike

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