Saturday, 27 November 2010

Frosty Friday on the Downs

Yesterday dawned cold and frosty (-3 overnight) with a sunny hazy blue sky. I decided to visit Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire.
The Downs, as they are locally known, are a chalk escarpment overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury and forming part of the Chiltern Hills standing at 243m (797ft) above sea level they are the highest point in Bedfordshire. Ivinghoe Beacon to the South West stands at 233m (757ft) and is one of the highest points in Buckinghamshire.

Ivinghoe Beacon is the high point to the right of the tree and the village on the far right is Edlesborough

Heading downhill on the footpath from the visitor centre, (I`ll do a post on that at a later date), I coudn`t help but notice how beautiful the grass and wild plants looked covered in ice crystals and sparkling in the sun.

 I then came across a cluster of  Seven-spot Ladybirds on a frozen bramble leaf that had been turned over by the breeze.

Scanning the trees and bushes through the binoculars I located a flock of about 20 Redwing feeding on Hawthorn berries, so as not to disturb them I took a long and arcing route to stay under cover and slowly get closer to them with a view to taking some photographs, After about 15 minutes of slowly creeping closer I was 'found' by a Golden Retriever closely followed by it`s lady owner calling "hear Toby, good boy Toby" hence birds gone and no photograph !!
I could, in the distance see a Kestrel hovering on the updraft from the slopes and decided to position myself in a spot where I hoped it might eventually come to. After about 20 minutes of me standing in the cold and frosty shadow of a large Hawthorn bush the Kestrel, a female, came within camera distance.

Kestrel (female)
It`s amazing to stand and watch these birds hunting for prey, if you can get a reference mark, you will see that when they hover they are stock still in the air just with a slight flutter of the feathers. Also using the updrafts were Common Gulls, Herring Gulls and Carrion Crows.

Common Gull

 As I was slowly getting colder and colder with all the standing about I decided to head for home and a nice warm cup of tea.

And finally a different type of aviator making use of the updrafts.

Have a good (rest of) the weekend.

Sightings List
Great Tit
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Carrion Crow
Wood Pigeon
  (Total 13)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

RSPB. The Lodge, Sandy.

Last Friday, in the company of Keith ( and I paid a visit to the RSPB Headquarters reserve at The Lodge, Sandy. Bedfordshire. We arrived just as the sun was rising through the early fog and mist.

 Our main objective was to find the 100 strong flock of Redpoll reported from earlier in the week. Our first stop was the Meadow Hide which supplied nothing more than a lone Pheasant some Chaffinch and Blue Tits. Next it was a short stroll to the Formal Gardens which are located behind the main RSPB office buildings, we noted a few Jackdaw on the roof of the main house, keeping up a constant chatter of "jack" "jack"! We also saw Blackbirds, Redwing,Blue Tits (lots) and fleeting glimpses of Goldcrest as they flitted amongst the branches.
We then moved onto the "old" Heath where the bird life was noticable by it`s absence. There were however lots of dew laden spiders webs strung between the dying bracken shining in the sunlight.

  We then moved across to the "new" Heath, encountering a small flock of Long-Tailed Tits as they busily flitted from branch to branch, the new heath again showed a remarkable shortage of bird life, our only sighting being a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and a Sparrowhawk flying over. We then moved back to the main office car park area where we found Blackbird and Redwing feeding on the berries from the Yew trees.

 Again there were lots of Blue Tits in evidence, (they must have had a good year). Also showing briefly was a Goldcrest (but still all to briefly for this photographer !),
We never did find the flock of Redpoll (I later found out that they were in the one area that we didn`t visit ! sods law I guess). Still I had a very enjoyable time on what turned out to be a fine and sunny blue sky day, despite the forecast being for a day of mist and fog.

Sightings List
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Long-Tailed Tit
Carrion Crow
Mistle Thrush
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Buzzard (on way home)
        (Total 22)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Caldecotte Lake (Milton Keynes)

 Yesterday I went for my second visit to this beautiful lake in Milton Keynes. I left home for the 15 mile drive in thick fog, after scraping the frost off the windscreen of the car, relying on the weather forcast which said that it would be sunny after the fog had cleared.For once the weather forcasters had got it right, for right on cue, as i arrived the sun started to break through revealing bright blue water and birds as far as the eye could
see. Unfortunatly I only had time to walk around the North lake. Here are a few photos.

Cormorant (phalacrocorax carbo)
 You have to be quick it`s surprising how fast these things fly !

Great Crested Grebe (juvenile ?) (podiceps cristatus)
There were lots of these around busy diving for fish.

Greylag Goose (anser anser)
 I was slowly moving closer and closer to try and get a close up shot when they were chased by a very excitable dog !

Mute Swan (cygnus olor)
Always a graceful bird.

Wigeon (male) (anas penelope)
 Just a little wing exercise.

Wigeon (pair) (anas penelope)
 Mr. and Mrs.

Mallard (female) (anas platyrynchos)

And finaly two photos of something I found, that someone or something had removed from the lake and thankfully deposited on the bankside (close to the pumping station).

 The dreaded North American Signal Crayfish (pacifastacus leniusculus)  which is devestating our native White-clawed Crayfish.

Have a great rest of the week.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Second Post

Would you believe it, half way through posting my first ever Blog my computer decides to have a headache ! ! So after getting a man (boy) in to fix it we`re now up and running once again. I guess that "the second post " will just be a continuation  of "the first post".

Brimstone (female)                                    

Common Blue (coupled pair)
Common Blue (male)  Damselfly

Banded Demoiselle (male)  Damselfly

Ruddy Darter (male)  Dragonfly      
Fly Agaric

Purple Jellydisc

Tawny Grisette
Green Bottle (blow-fly)

Hoverfly (episyrphus balteatas) (male)

Ichneumon (pimpla hypochondriaca)

I seem to be getting the hang of this now, so maybe more detailed posts next time.
   The Herald. 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The First Post !

Hi and welcome to my very first post. Just so that I can get a handle on just how to go about it I`ll start by posting a few random pictures taken during the last year.
Add caption

Add caption
Add caption