Sunday, 30 March 2014

Springtime Snake!

I had a trip to a spot on the outskirts of York today in the hope of photographing an adder.The weather at first didn't look too promising with low cloud and mist obscuring the sun and keeping the temperature cool.
On arriving the woods were alive with common birdsong and chief-chaff, wren, robin, blue and great tits were all in full voice.
As I went further into the woods a green woodpecker called loudly on a couple of occasions and nearby a willow tit came close to investigate what I was doing.
Pressing on the next bird on view was a pair of very smart yellowhammers, the male proclaiming his territory for all to hear.
On arriving at the favored spot, it was clear that the temperature was still on the chilly side and there was no sign of the sun, however I began to look carefully in all the likely spots but to no avail.
Overhead a jay flew past and there was quite a few reed buntings and linnet and a single gold crest feeding amongst the gorse-but still no adders.
Eventually the sun broke through and there was almost an instant feel of warmth as the temperature at last began to rise.
After about 2 and a half hours I was ready to give up and decided to head for the car almost immediately I saw a small snake coiled up on the other side of a ditch.
carefully I got a little closer and after initially disappearing (soon to pop back out) it posed quite nicely almost oblivious to my presence.
I was joined for a short while by another photographer with his young family and both his children go very close views of this stunning creature.
Eventually I decide to leave it in peace to catch more rays.On the way back I managed some nice shots of another iconic spring creature a brimstone butterfly-the mild (but not hot) weather kept the butterfly somewhat dormant allowing me to get quite close.
This was the first time I have seen an adder at this spot and after quite a while waiting my patience eventually paid off.

Monday, 24 March 2014

A Trip to Teesdale

I was struggling to find a subject locally in this in-between period as winter ends and spring hasn't quite begun.Since I've never seen a black grouse before and as it is something I have wanted to do for a while I thought I would head for what is apparently the best place to see black grouse in England-Upper Teasdale in Durham.
I set off at 5.45 and arrived at around 8.00 I found the landmark I was aiming for and sure enough within a couple of hundred metres I saw my first black grouse.
Whilst anyone in the farmhouse at the bottom of the valley would have had awesome views, the first encounter was quite distant so I thought I would have a drive round to see if there were any more obliging.
I headed upwards on a minor road and it soon became apparent that this particular part of the country was still in the grip of winter.
It also became apparent that there were far fewer birds 'on the tops' than there was in the valley, however one bird was quite prevalent, the iconic species of remote moorland-red grouse.

A combination of sunshine, snow showers and shooting into the sun made for quite dramatic photos.
I went on on the upland road for a bit further but didn't see much so headed back down to a lower level.
One thing that was apparent was the sheer number of birds around, lapwing, redshank and snipe were all displaying, redwings a single song thrush and a pair of mistle thrushes were feeding in the sheep fields and common species such as robins wrens and chaffinches were abundant at every garden and clump of trees.

I headed back to the original area holding the black grouse and 2 males had come a little closer so managed some slightly better shots.

I doubled back to the high road but after a fruitless search I bumped into 2 birders who I recognized from Spurn and they had seen golden plover at a nearby reservoir so I headed out there-whilst the scenery was spectacular I only managed a single and this soon flew out of view, so I headed back to the original site for a l;sat look before heading home.
The 2 birders had just left a site by the side of a wood with a stone wall running its length to provides good cover.
there were 5 grouse at the bottom of the hill but they were slowly heading towards me in a diagonal direction feeding amongst the tufts of course grass.
Eventually they ended up about 20m away but mostly shrouded by grass tufts, and then without warning took flight and ended up quite distant a couple of fields away.

At this point it was time to head back-I called in for the red kites at Warter but only had distant views.
All in all a most enjoyable day what struck me most was the amount of birds in the area at Teesdale I will most definitely be back to this very special place.
I arrived home very tired but very happy after a most wonderful wildlife experience.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Yorkshire Wolds & Tophill Low

I thought I would try somewhere different this weekend so I headed out to the Yorkshire Wolds with the aim of photographing some brown hares.I thought I would head out to Thixendale first then just drift round the minor roads using the car as a hide.
The first thing that struck me was how narrow the roads were and how much repair work needs to be done! I was ok with this though because the poor quality of the roads meant less traffic-and so it proved I must only have seen half a dozen cars all day.
The second thing that struck me was the amount of pheasants and red legged partridges that were around-in stark contrast to the complete lack of any grey partridges.
At first the hares were a little difficult to find, eventually though I did manage to see a few and a couple were close encounters.
No real sign of any 'boxing' however there were a couple of minor skirmishes.
I also managed most of the obligatory Wold bird species including red kite, buzzard, yellowhammer, marsh tit, lapwing and green woodpecker.
I had a drive down to Allerthorpe Woods in the hope of an adder but the cool breeze and fleeting sunshine did not make for ideal conditions.I retraced my steps on the way home but most of the wildlife had gone to ground in the afternoon.
On Sunday I headed for Tophill Low in the hope of an otter, so was up early and I did get distracted by more hares on the way but they remained distant although the early morning light made for good photographic opportunities.
Unfortunately the otters did not make a show (I began to regret not going for adders) but did have some compensation in the form of a very vocal and confiding chiff-chaff.In the warm early morning sunshine and amongst the willow buds the male chuff-chaff was proclaiming his newly claimed territory, this was early Spring epitomized for for a few fleeting minutes all was good in the world.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Starling Murmuration

Just browsing through some photos from earlier this winter-this murmuration at Brough was quite dramatic until the floods came....