Monday, 15 September 2014

Sandwell Valley - Swan Pool

I was just sorting the memory cards out for the camera, making sure that all are empty for our upcoming trip to South Africa when I found that I had a bunch of photos from a walk around Swan Pool at Sandwell Valley a couple of weeks ago.

It was a lovely day and although nothing out of the ordinary was seen, the normal Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Mallard, some Tufted Duck etc, I did get some nice Great Crested Grebe shots:

So I will probably not post for a bit now, we'll be much to busy enjoying ourselves.....


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Urban Birding - Edinburgh Style - Water of Leith & Stockbridge

This will be a photoless wildlife blog as I didn't have my camera with me last weekend. We took a trip up to Edinburgh to visit our fantastic daughter who was having a wee birthday as they say up there, so the focus was certainly on eat, drink and be merry!

But we did go for a couple of walks, the first being from Stockbridge to Leith along the Water of Leith. The weather wasn't kind but we did see our fits Grey Wagtail for a while feeding on a weir. Along with Gulls, Mute Swan, Mallard of course and the normal urban birds.

Then one morning whilst making a cuppa and just looking out of Jen's kitchen window, I counted 14 species in just 15 minutes: Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Dunnock, Magpie, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Not a bad haul at all.

Finally on our last day before catching the train home we went for a lazy lunch, finished off with a short walk along the Water of Leith but staying in Stockbridge. This is when we struck gold or in the case blue, then brown and white. Firstly we saw another Grey Wagtail, followed quickly by a magnificent Kingfisher that stayed in view for a good few minutes, brilliant, but then just a 100 yards further on we came across a pair of Dippers in the middle of Edinburgh! Awesome, this was quickly followed by a third and two more Grey Wagtails. What a brilliant present for us as a finale to our wonderful weekend.

So a big thanks to Jen & Jono for putting up with us for four nights!

Pembrokeshire and a Night on Skomer

Another catch up post...
Over the Bank Holiday Weekend we headed down to Pembrokeshire and stayed a few nights before heading onto Skomer to spend the night, so I will start with our days out first. Day 1 we decided to do the circular walk at Stackpole along the coastal path to Bosherston and then inland around the lakes back to the car.
There were plenty of Pipits about:
with both Rock and Meadow, Wheatear and Stonechat on the meadows at the cliff tops. Fulmar were seen patrolling the cliffs as they do, along with Lesser & Great Black Backed Gull and Herring Gull of course. But very few photo opportunities until this Heron posed on the lakes down near Bosherston:
We met Jo & Jimmy at Bosherton before heading back, with just this Buzzard giving one last chance to use the camera:

Next day we went for another coastal walk, this time from Marloe Marshes to Martin Haven and back stopping at the hide at the Marshes on the way back to avoid the rain!
Of note were Wheatears,
 These Swallows surely ready to fledge,
 A Dunnock posed
 and this Kestrel put on a little show

So next day up early and off to Skomer taking all our food and bedding with us. As we boarded the boat the heavens opened and by the time we had crossed, unloaded our stuff, loaded the departing groups stuff, climbed the 85 steps, then trekked to the accommodation we were soaked, despite our waterproofs! After settling in we decide to brave the rain and head out to the hide in the centre of the island, not much to see as the rain was relentless and the wind had got up so it was just sweeping in in sheets, not great for viewing birds or photography, but here are a couple from the hide:

We gave up and headed back to the digs and decided to have a relax until the weather cleared, which it eventually did and lo and behold the sun came out, so off we set for a walk......
The rabbits were now out soaking up the sun whilst it lasted:

Now you may (or may not!) be thinking why go to Skomer and spend a night in late August when all the breeding seabirds have long gone, well was it for the Oystercatchers?
or the Rock Pipits?
or the Whitethroats?
or the Stonechats?
or even the superb Choughs?

or even Porpoises?
No it was what we got up to at night!! Let me explain.......
Skomer holds the largest population of Manx Shearwaters in the world, approximately 600,000, but being poorly designed for a life on land the adults spend all day out at sea and only come back in the dark, to feed their young, when they are safe from the predatory Gulls. The chicks are safe in their burrows so again no sign during the day. So after dinner and in the dark (and rain again!) we set off to meet up with the wardens and researchers. We had a couple of great talks by two PhD students, who are researching the Shearwaters after which we went out, (thankfully the rain had stopped) with our torches covered in red tape so as not to alarm the birds. As regards photography it was pitch black, but we were allowed one flash photograph between us per bird that we found, so here are a couple of mine:

I have to add whilst walking around we have never seen so many toads in one place on our lives, they didn't mind having a photo taken!
Next morning it was up early for the boat back, this is a shot from the boat as we left with the next group making their way up from the jetty:
Finally this part of Pembrokeshire isn't just about the wildlife, the scenery is spectacular too: