Friday, 24 October 2014

Richmond Park !

I have lived in the South East of the country all my life in the county of Kent, and spent a good few years working in London, but I have never visited Richmond Park in West London.

So on a gloriously warm Sunday morning in October, my wife and I decided to rectify this. 

For my wife this was a country walk in hopefully some nice surroundings.

For me, I was after that iconic photograph of a Red Deer Stag, preferably with a good set of antlers.

The photographs I love are those early morning shots, preferably with some early morning mist, a Red Deer Stag  roaring out a challenge during the rutting season would be great, but probably not going to happen today, especially as we did not arrive until mid morning, no mist, just a beautiful sunny day.

I didn't realise how nice the park was, or how big it was, finding the Red deer was not going to be as easy as I thought, nor was finding a parking space.

The first two car parks were manic, with cars trying to cram in to every little space, we moved on following the road through the park trying hard not to collide with the cyclists that seemed very possessive of their road space, we eventually came across  Broomhill car park with loads of available car parking space, and unusually no parking charges.

We were close to the 'Isabella Plantation' we set off with our picnic to explore the park heading towards Hamcroft Plantation and the search for the Red Deer began.

Our first encounter was with a couple of Red deer Stags resting up in the grasslands. both keeping a respectable distance between themselves.

These were quite impressive, and approachable up to about ten metres or so, apparently the number of points do not necessarily indicate the age of the Stag, I must admit I did think that each point represented a new season but it also depends on the available food supply.

This Stag had seven points on each antler, fourteen in all which makes it a 'Imperial Stag'

Twelve points make it a Royal Stag, Fourteen a Imperial Stag, Sixteen and over is referred as a  Monarch.

As we moved on around the plantations we came across another fine specimen, fired off a few photographs, beautiful animal but no atmosphere.

And to make matters worse, after taking a few photographs as I started to back away, lowering my camera  it was in that moment that the stag decided to let out a blood curdling roar,..... missed by the camera.

Strangely enough we did not see many hinds, in fact we only saw two the whole day , maybe they were in another part of the park.

We did come across a small herd of Fallow Deer , which looked very autumnal in the surrounding woodland.

Nice looking Jay allowed me to get relatively close before flying off.

As we were making our way back to the car park we came across a large heard of Red Deer all of which were males of various ages.

Jackdaws getting in on the act again.

A very nice park to visit, it can take up to 4 hours to walk around the trail within the confines of the park, plenty to see, lots of photo opportunities.

Hard to believe  that you are still in London at times, until a jumbo jet flies overhead.

Jackdaws in the Rain!

Back in May this year we had a short break away in the county of Wiltshire, we stayed in the grounds of an old country house called Littlecote House, steeped in Olde English history, complete with a resident 'Ghost', lovely gardens, and some nice country walks.

The weather had been very changeable, with a few persistent rain showers.

As I sat in our room watching the rain fall at the end of the day,a family group of Jackdaws were using a telegraph pole as a viewpoint, some of the guests were putting out food for the birds, and the Jackdaws were keen to take their share.

 I have never really taken much notice of these mischievous looking birds.


I thought I would entertain myself with the camera and use the opportunity to try and get some practice in.

As I watched, I realised that apart from the fact that they are one of the smaller members of the corvid family, I actually know very little about them.

So what have I learnt.

 The common name derives from the word "Jack", meaning "small", and "daw", the native English name for the bird.

They are actually a smart looking bird, and quite comical as they strut around on the ground.

The sexes are very similar in appearance, their white eye gives them a distinctive look, 

The juveniles have a brownish tint to their plumage and no grey cap.

Jackdaws are omnivorous, opportunistic and highly adaptable in their choice of food. Foraging usually takes place in family groups or flocks.

The Western Jackdaw as its known is often taken for granted, but an interesting bird to watch.
As for the garden back in Kent, these are only seen as a 'fly over' usually late afternoon, as they return to their roost sites.

Heres one of its larger cousins the Carrion crow, not so popular,
bad reputation for taking nestlings and eggs of breeding birds.

And to finish off, this very attentive male blackbird caught my eye.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Thistle-tweaker !

This brightly coloured little finch was around in Anglo-Saxon days back in the Eighth Century , it was known then as the 'Thisteltuige or Thistle-tweaker, quite apt when you watch these delicate little finches extracting seeds from Teasel heads.

Back in the latter part of the nineteenth century the Goldfinch was very popular as a cage bird, so much so, that numbers of wild goldfinches were seriously affected. The then Society for the protection of birds, now known as the Royal Society Protection Birds made it there concern to do something about it. 

The Protection of Wild Birds Act 1880 gave the Goldfinches some protection, but it has been reported that this was widely ignored at that time.

Goldfinches outside the cage !

Thankfully Goldfinch numbers have fully recovered , and in my garden are much the most commonest finch, finding 'Niger' and sunflower heart feeders irresistible. 

Another interesting fact associated with these birds is its collective noun, A number of Goldfinches are known as a
 'Charm of Goldfinches'

The word charm is defined as a blended sound of many voices,
 as of birds, schoolchildren etc.

You will often hear a charm of goldfinches flying overhead as they make a light tinkering sound, this same twittering goes on as they feed together.

As nice as it is to see Goldfinches feeding in the garden, you can not beat the sight of Goldfinches feeding in the wild, especially if you are lucky enough to see them extracting seeds from Teasel heads.

These were seen feeding on a clump of Teasel next to cattle grid as I came down the track from Kingshill farm back to the main road, unfortunately only managed a few shots before they were disturbed by another car passing.

Nice end to the day.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Spitend Egret !

It was one of those days where I felt the need to escape to the countryside, I headed off to Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey with a view  to walk down to the Spitend hide and enjoy the remoteness of the Swale and the surrounding marshes, and hopefully no other people to disturb my solitude.

It was a lovely sunny autumnal day, to be honest there didn't seem to be an abundance of birds on view, but that didn't matter today, it was the long walk down to the Spitend hide that I was looking forward to.

I  was surprised at the number of different varieties of Butterfly on show as I walked down the track, Small White, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue, and good numbers of Clouded Yellows, 

This Small Copper had seen better days.

I noticed another small Butterfly about the same size as the small Copper but much more numerous, the upper side was a pale beige yellow in flight, but when settled, always with its wings closed, it looked like a miniature Meadow Brown.

It was in fact a Small Heath Butterfly, a new one for me, the field guides describe it as common and widespread, I obviously need to keep my eyes open and take more notice.

I reached the hide after an enjoyable walk to the farthest reaches of the reserve, I tentatively opened the door and to my relief I had it to myself, not only that, the timing was perfect, the tide had changed, a flood tide was pushing the birds on the mud ever closer to the hide.

 I settled down to enjoy my picnic lunch, lovingly prepared  by my wife, and lose myself in the sights and sounds of the Swale.

Theres a pool just behind the hide, which is always worth checking, this Greenshank dropped in making its presence known by its distinctive call, but was soon on its way again..

Meadow pipits were  coming  to the pool for a drink and occasionally feeding on the vegetation.

The highlight of the day however was an energetic Little Egret
that displayed its fishing techniques on the incoming tide, chasing fish, probably small flounders quite successfully. 

The Little Egret gave me the opportunity to try and get some action shots, the perfect model as it chased around the shallows.
just wish that I had more skill with the camera to get those perfectly focused photographs that frustratingly elude me at the moment.
But a very entertaining session though.

A privilege to watch this bird which made the long walk worthwhile.