Saturday, 26 April 2014

A mixed week

We went over to Sussex last week, for a meal at our favourite pub - the Ash Tree Inn at Brownbread Street. The view from the carpark shows the Sussex weald at it's best this time of year

Then it was off to Crowhurst to give the family graves a tidy-up, and into the Forewood to enjoy the Bluebells once again, flowering somewhat early this year

When we returned our illustrious neighbour knocked the door bearing a print from one of these 3 photos taken while we were away. They noticed this large bird of prey, and, not knowing what it was, managed these photos for me. The bloody thing is sat on MY CHIMNEY!!!

It's that escaped falconer's Saker cross  which has been around on and off for a few years now - flipping cheek!!
Today another steam excursion, Tangmere doing well through Martin Mill

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A bit of a lift

Today got off to a good start with a lovely overnight rain which freshened the garden beautifully, and also rained this moth into the trap
It's a new one for this garden for me, a Chocolate-tip, about a half-inch long

Smashing little creature, isn't it?
Better still, Mrs Swallow turned up during the morning and the male was absolutely beside himself to see her, singing and dashing about, wonderful sight

Monday, 21 April 2014

Back to Earth with a bump

After all that good news and fun, I was rather shattered today by the result of the first annual count for this year of  the Heron's nests at Lympne. In spite of double-checking and peering carefully through the emerging foliage, thus:-

I only managed to count 6, yes six, occupied nests this morning, with another two either under construction, or worse, abandoned. I shall count again in  2 or 3 weeks to find out. This count is an all-time low compared with the counts I have been able to access since the late 1950's. The previous low was a count of 8 nests in 1960, 1961, and 2009.
On a more uplifting note, the Orchids in particular put on a spectacular show even though they are "only" Common Spotted Orchids, and the display of wildflowers generally in this fairly specific habitat was superb 

although I took care not to disturb the Ramsons so as not to cause too much of a stink!

this specimen stood about 15" ( sorry 37cm) high and looked gorgeous in that ray of sunshine

and finally, a poor photo, though better than yesterday's, of our new, blue, resident to cheer me up a bit - no sign of the missus yet

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A very very special day

Today (Easter Sunday) got off to a superb start early on while I was walking the dog in advance of the Christening and super family gathering. First off were the 3 or 4 singing Whitethroats heard while walking down toward Kingsdown. Then, in a belt of new woodland planted some 15 years ago, there was a lovely lovely Nightingale singing away superbly, it brought a tear to my eyes I'm not ashamed to admit
After a hurried breakfast it was round to see Neve and help get ready for her brother Gil's christening - we were all very impressed with the cake beautifully made by Barbara

and with baby Gil in his christening suit

Diane conducted the christening, indeed the whole service, in her usual relaxed, friendly and inclusive style, it was a pleasure to be there, but I regret not being able to move the ewer!

Later, back home here again, look who showed up for the first time this year, more tears from me, and a very moving sight, and boy, judging by the song, he was ever so pleased to be here at last - a bit later than average this year no doubt due to the adverse winds over the last 2 weeks or so

hopefully now we can look forward to more scenes like this through the summer

On the subject of special days there was a trip to the Bluebell Railway for me and Mathew last Monday and the first opportunity to travel over the newly restored line over Imberhorne Viaduct from East Grinstead, brilliant!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Makes a change from moths and birds

Tipped off by Phil Smith, Matthew and I went up to Martin Mill once again to see a smokey-joe go by. This time we were rewarded by the stirring sight of Rebuilt West-Country class pacific Braunton thrashing up the grade on a "Golden Arrow" excursion, with some of the coaches bearing "Royal Scot" nameboards!
A previous less auspicious steam-by starring unrebuilt engine "Tangmere" is here
Not to worry - enjoy, and trust Matthew to have the last word!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The end of Spain

This long drawn out blog ends tonight after a few busy evenings. Plus some free time, now I've been to Bockhill Farm late this afternoon and found the bird Nancy saw earlier and didn't recognise. Her description suggested Ring Ouzel, and so it was, a female. Sorry no pics, but here's one of a singing male taken through my telescope high in the Pyrenees in May 2004

Now back to 2014
After all the excitement over that Spanish Festoon, this thing appeared when out in the Steppes. At first I thought it's a moth but Phil reckons it's a Skipper of some sort, anyone got any ideas please - Josele couldn't put a name to it

Thanks to Phil Smith and his book, I can tell you this is a Mallow Skipper

On Friday I was able to take advantage of a day's guided birding with Josele, starting in the hills North of Loporzano - first stop and the lady guest ( who must put something miraculous in her tea) immediately found this Wallcreeper - see what I mean about the stuff in her tea?

There it is, look

long thin beak, too

the while we were being watched, as in "the One above sees all", maybe I looked a bit peaky?

This is a very high irrigation dam, ever so spectacular but the weather turned against us here

but not before I found this Alpine Saxifrage, not in flower. I understand they take years to produce a single spike then die - aaaa-aaah

More Vultures licking their lips

Cloud mist and no thermals = no raptors so Josele took us down to the steppes

but not before we found this group of several tens of Black Kites riding the wind up into, and presumably, over the mountains

 Typical of the dry open Steppes is this Thekla lark

The place we were taken was composed of sandrock outcrops, the strata of varying hardness hence this spectacular erosion resembling a grumpy fat old man

nearby was this blue Rock Thrush

and as the day fined up and warmed, another large group of hitherto unseen Black Kite lifted off this outcrop and soared away at height

This place had been used as a source of stone by the Romans apparently, as evidenced by these cart tracks worn into the rock

The sand varied a lot in colour, a bit like Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight

another weird wind sculpture

and a more recognisable Hoopoe

The lady in the group asked to see a White Stork so we were taken to a small colony

undercarriage down, doors to manual, prepare to land!

Because of the improvement in the weather Josele took us back into the hills where the air was clear as a bell, fabulous, enabling us to watch Vultures as they came in to roost

and a final picture of Feral Goats, otherwise Vulture food if they slip

Superb trip, well worth the effort of getting there, including the flight cock-up!