My blog is mostly about wildlife, particularly birds, walking, days out, all growing things and anything else that comes to mind.
To view pictures in larger format, just click on any picture for the picture gallery....

Monday, 28 January 2008

A Furry Visitor and shipwrecked planks!

Sunday was a quiet day but did manage to get a picture (through the double-glazed door) of one of my garden visitors. Not feathered but furry - a field mouse!

Today I went down to Sussex to visit my Mother.

A ship, the Ice Prince, had recently capsized out at sea with a cargo of wooden planks. This cargo had been washed ashore and landed in West Sussex and along the coast as far as Hastings in East Sussex.

At Ferring, where the debris comes to a halt in the west of the county, there were only a few planks scattered over the shingle at the top of the beach. The contractors are concentrating their clear-up operation on the area immediately surrounding Worthing pier; this being the most populated part of the beach and very close to the town centre. I imagine the council elders are thankful that, if it was going to happen, that it happened now rather than in the main summer tourist season! Who knows how many weeks/months it's going to take to clear such a vast area.

Other observations today. A flock of about 60 turnstones at the receding edge of the sea - flying up and creating patterns against the sky only to land in the same spot they had just left. Wonderful!

A few pics.
Near the Pier - these "heaps" are repeated all along the coastline!

At Ferring, furthermost point of debris

Whilst removing the debris is theft, no-one had forbidden imagination for building wigwams!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

A Day's Walking

I set off this morning with my Daughter, Grandson and their dog (The Trio from now on) at about 11.15 walk into Kingston. Why not by car/bus? We wanted the exercise and it's a great journey on foot.

We started by crossing Hampton Court Bridge; walked along the towpath skirting Hampton Court Palace and the Tijou gates. A little further along the River there's an entrance to Home Park; this being one of the Royal Parks. Home Park is bordered by the River Thames on one side and the gardens of Hampton Court Palace on the other.

It was beautifully sunny although the wind was a tad chilly. We passed the end of the "Long Water" with views back up to the Palace. The feathered visitors here included about 20 swans, young and mature; a few Tufted Ducks and about 60 Coots!

Towards the end of our journey and near the cattle-grid exit near to Kingston Bridge is an Ice House which has been there since 1626. Whilst we were here we could hear a Woodpecker drumming - first I've heard this year. It was so close but even with the bins I couldn't see it!

Over Kingston bridge for a small amount of shopping and something for lunch. Having purchased hot sausage rolls and buns we then headed for the river where we sat on the edge of the walkway dangling our feet over the river.

Comfortably replenished we then made our way home, arriving back about 3.15 p.m. I believe we must have walked about 7 miles. But oh, it does make you feel good after all that exercise.

Looking downstream towards Ham, Kew and Richmond upon Thames

Looking upstream towards Hampton Court

Charter Quay - a new development behind which is the historic Market Place

The Ice House and Plaque

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

This weekend is the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and found me during the hour from 7.40 - 8.40 watching and counting birds in the garden. And this, out of a total of 77 birds in the hour, is what I saw:

Common species Total 63
2 x Blue Tits
2 x Great Tits
28 x Goldfinches
2 x Blackbirds
1 x Robin
4 x Starlings
1 x Woodpigeon
6 x Feral Pigeons
14 x Greenfinches
2 x Chaffinches
1 x Magpie

Scarcer Species Total 14
1 x Blackcap (female)
1 x Brambling (male)
1 x Jay
3 x Siskins (2 males; 1 female)
8 x Ring-necked Parakeets

Friday, 25 January 2008

Brambling and Blackcap

I'm very happy that the lone male Brambling and one of the two female Blackcaps are still visiting my garden. I now have four Siskins - two males and two females but they had left before the sun was up.

Managed to get a couple of pics this morning although both birds were in a shady area of the garden; unfortunately I took these through a double-glazed door that, to my shame, is in need of a clean. Needless to say, as soon as I opened the doors, albeit very quietly and gently, both subjects flew off!

Female Blackcap

Male Brambling in winter plumage

Brambling and Blackcap

Thursday, 24 January 2008

What a difference the sun makes!

I met my Grandson from School and we took the dog for a walk along our local stretch of the Thames. The sun was low and shiny and a the sky a beautiful blue. I'd almost forgotten what a day like this was!

The usual Coots, Swans and Canada Geese were present as were the Ring-necked Parakeets. Two Great Crested Grebes were dipping and diving. One was extremely aggressive to the other. I don't know if it was two males being territorial or a pair and Mrs. "had a headache"!

I've posted pictures from this area before but couldn't resist some more with the sun lighting up the beautiful gates on Hampton Court Palace's river side.

These gates, or more accurately panels, were designed and made by Jean Tijou in 1694. The are several feet high and wide and amazingly some of them were stolen a few year's ago. How they managed to remove and transport them is incredible. The "gates" are at the river end of the Privy Garden and the Thames towpath runs along on the outside of the palace grounds. Regrettably as a security measure they now have railings around them. Whilst they have been replaced, the gold is a bit too "bright and shiny" and somehow detracts from their intricate design.

The Tijou panels encased in iron railings!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A Ringing & Filming Day!

Tuesday morning started at 6.00 a.m. for me. Came down to beautiful brilliant moonlight streaking through the rooms. Wonderful. The day was to turn out beautifully sunny as well. That's a real change over recent days!

The day started to unfurl at 7.30 a.m. when a Bird Ringer (David) arrived to start catching and ringing birds in my garden, with the emphasis on Ring-necked Parakeets (RNPs). Why? I hear you ask.

BBC2 are making a new nature programme series (The Top 40 British Wildlife Spectacles) - anticipated to be screened in late March/April, which is to include a section on RNPs. Getting as many as I do, my garden was the location for filming as part of the programme is to include the caputuring and ringing of them. David is a fully licensed ringer and and also rings for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

By 8.00 a.m. my non-feathered visitors were David and his daughter Charlotte who is also a ringer, Joe the camerman (who has a wicked sense of humour and prefers being behind the camera than in front of it), Jenny Craddock the producer (who directed us all very well with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes) and Sanjida O'Connell presenter (who was looking as lovely as ever and so easy to be with). I'm sure watchers of Nature's Calendar will be very familiar with Sanjida.

A 10ft high very fine mesh net was stretched down part of the length of the garden. Apart from the supporting poles and guy ropes it was difficult to see it once in place.

Two of the first captures were Blue Tits - they are even more cute when seen close to. A Feral Pigeon flew into the net - and bounced off! Apparently this is what they do. One of the Ring-necked Parakeets managed to fly straight through the net - leaving a hole in its wake!

During the course of filming the list of birds captured, measured, weighed and ringed was:
Ring-necked Parakeets = 4 (all females)
Robins = 2
Blue Tits = 4
Starling = 1
Greenfinch = 1
Goldfinches = 11
All of these were mature birds.

My grandson, who had been staying overnight with me, was absolutely fascinated by all the goings on. He would much rather have stayed to continue watching but sadly leaving for School prevented this. David very kindly brought a goldfinch and robin for him to see. It was fascinating to see birds so close to and my Grandson was delighted. I'm quietly pleased that he takes so much interest in wildlife.

I feel very priviledged to have witnessed the filming and to have observed the ringing of birds in my back garden.

It was a very entertaining, educative and fun filled morning in very good company. So my thanks to all involved.

With so much going on it wasn't possible for me to take many pictures but here are a few.

The "team", from left to right:
Joe, Jenny, Charlotte, David, Sanjida

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Box Hill and roosting Parakeets

..... and yet another cloudy, grey day - when is it going to end? Tomorrow looks just as bad as today!

My daughter suggested we all went for a walk on Box Hill today which is what we did.

Box Hill is a massive chalk hill which was formed when the chalk eroded 35 million years ago. The chalk itself is said to be 75 million year's old.

Now prepositions are words that have great significance when related to the word "walk". A walk on box hill, was what I was expecting. A gentle amble across the top of the hill admiring the views shrouded in cloud.

However, there is a significant difference when the preposition up is used. No gentle amble in this context. So we started at the bottom and climbed, puffed and panted for 193 metres (634 feet) to the very top! Once there a visit to the Visitor Centre allowed breath and sanity to be regained before the descent. My knees will never be the same again.

I can honestly say I had some great cardiovascular exercise today. Again, not very good for taking pictures but managed some as you'll see below.

As you will see from the link, Box Hill attracts a great deal of wildlife and, in particular, many butterflies. So roll on the summer when the butterflies will be about and hopefully posing for pictures! You never know, we might get some sun!


Whilst enjoying a well earned cuppa having returned to base camp, I received a call from Corinna who alerted me to the fact of a Parakeet roost about 5 miles from where I live. Apparently 3,125 (!) had roosted there last night.

After arriving home and grabbing bins I headed for the destination where I was joined by another birder who had had the same information.

We both reckoned that there were in excess of 4,000 birds. Could this be the roost that has left Esher Rugby Club?

Back to the topic of Box Hill again.

Leaving the car park on the A24 we crossed the road and started our ascent; this was the easiest bit!

About a quarter of the way up, I decided a break for a picture was very necessary:

For a little while, the ground becomes more horizontal than vertical.

Nearly at the top. Beyond this the terrain becomes woody and, temporarily the view is lost

This gravestone can be found in the wooded area near the top

On the way down

Saturday, 19 January 2008

A Walk by the Thames

Although there wasn't really any rain today, it was dull and cloudy and somewhat drizzly.

I joined my daughter, grandson and their Border Collie for their local walk along the River Thames towpath opposite Hampton Court Palace

Given the large quantities of rain recently it was not surprising that the river had risen over the banks on "our" side; thus giving a "beach" effect with the grassy banks leading down gently into the fast-flowing water. Having said that, you could clearly see the "tide marks" where the river had been about two feet further up the slope on the previous day.

Several swans about accompanied by Canada Geese, Coots and Mallards. No Heron's to be seen today and the Kingfisher that can be seen under the road bridge, was not in evidence.

Needless to say I had my camera with me although the available light was not conducive for taking good pictures!

The start of our walk.

Looking towards Hampton Court Palace

In the woods!

A curious youngster....

..... having a "bad hair" day.

Life In Cold Blood

It looks as though we are to enjoy the final in David Attenborough's Life on Earth series.

I, for one, will look forward to seeing Life in Cold Blood. I hope this doesn't mean that it will be his last new programme as I enjoy his quiet presentation style and abounding enthusiasm for wildlife across the whole spectrum.

On the other hand.. everyone is entitled to retire although there is no suggestion of this in the article.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Photographic Competition

Every year I receive an e-mail inviting me to take part in the Natuaral History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, which is open to professionals and amateurs alike.

And every year I think - well, I might give it a go!
And every year I think - I don't stand a chance.
And every year I think - I could easily spend £10,000 which is the main prize.

The pictures are utterly amazing - just look at the winners, runners-up etc for 2007.

But, the closing date is not until 31 March 2008 so I'm still thinking.....

And to all you budding photographers out there, just get snapping!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

A Bit of a Gap

Missed a couple of days updating my blog. Home is chaos as the kitchen is being "refurbished". This means that since Tuesday I've lacked: cooking facilities, running water, no waste pipe and no sink. I'm currently "camping" in the dining room with, amongst other items, a green plastic garden table which has become the working area, kitchen style. Thank goodness for a microwave; however, it will be good to use the new oven (which was the single reason for all this work). After 22 years the old one gave up. These youngsters have no staying power!

It's amazing how much you take for granted. You always know where the kettle is, the sink is, where the crockery and cutlery are. I suppose this is like a luxury form of camping; but at least the bathroom's fully functional!

Hopefully, by close of play tomorrow (Friday) stage 1 of the developments will be completed and, for a couple of weeks, I'll be able to move back into the kitchen. Looking forward to being able to use a dishwasher for the first time! It's all A-rated in terms of being environmentally friendly - so pleased about that!

I'm also looking after my grandson this week - which is great. A ten-year-old with a great personality and wicked sense of humour. One day I might even tell you his nickname for me. One day.... when I'm feeling very brave..... This also involves the "school run"; and whilst I know he would rather go to School on his own, unfortunately the distance is too far and no public transport!

I seem to have spent more time indoors because of the foregoing and the weather, than is natural. I long for open spaces; sun and taking pictures! I know I'm getting withdrawal symptons.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Sun in Worthing

This weekend found me down in West Sussex visiting my mother. Prior to my departure on Saturday I was, as usual, watching for my garden visitors. The large flock of Goldfinches deserted me on Saturday morning and only twelve arrived. That was disappointing. What was very exciting was that I had my very first visit from a Brambling. I think it was a male but by the time I had registered what it was, it had gone. Fingers crossed that it will reappear although I'm not going to be watching the birds first thing on Monday.

Saturday was a beautiful day with the sun shining. We had a quick lunch then I took Mum out for a drive along the Worthing coast line ending up in Ferring. By this time the sun was sinking and in so doing was lighting the underside of the clouds, and shining low across the sea. There were some interesting shapes and colours caused by this so here was another photo opportunity. As you must know by now dear reader, (heavens above I've waxed lyrical and long enough previously), I'm trying to master manual settings! It really is advantageous to tell the camera what you want, rather than it telling you, especially when you're shooting straight into the sun!

The tide was almost in (or just going out, didn't know the tide times)and the waves were breaking gently on the shore. Not too cold and not too much wind; my thanks to a very patient Mum who'd managed a short stroll along the sea front and found suitable perches whilst I, her erstwhile daughter, stood on the beach snapping away.

This is my favourite shot of the day!

Gently lapping waves.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Goldfinches invading the garden and Parakeets Roosting!

Whilst I'm starting to create my blog entry for today, it is WILD, WET AND WINDY!

However, the morning started with some sunshine and an invasion of Goldfinches. I was quite amazed at the number of them. Two separate flocks arrived and I believe that there were about 40 of them - it was the most incredible sight and sound and I managed to get the camcorder set up to capture this.

Equally, I filmed the Ring-necked Parakeets going to roost at Esher Rugby Club back in December last year. Whilst sounding a long time ago it was in fact only last month! Having spent sometime creating a video of both these events and drastically cutting down the movie time, I've now succeeded in publishing my first two videos directly onto my blog. So here goes....

Goldfinches arriving in the garden this morning.

Parakeets going to roost in December 2007

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

A Rare Sparrow

Those of you in the birding community may already know about the White-Crowned Sparrow which has arrived in Ley (in North Norfolk). It seems there are various theories as to why it should be so far away from it's own territory.

The owners of the garden where it has made its home have, in my view, a pragmatic approach to sharing the news. Not wanting hundreds of birders and twitchers invading their garden, they moved the bird feeders to an area where the birders could enjoy their watching without disturbing the owners.

My one main criticism of the article is its reference to what birders may wear.

I just wish to place it on record that I do not own, let alone wear,

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

A Staying in Day

I don't know about your weather but today is rained for most of the day with just a little sunshine. Consequently no trips out with or without camera.

However, in the afternoon I had two very good friends for a cuppa who's visit I enjoyed very much. I don't know where the time went!

I did do something which is very rare for me - Housework! I'm still attempting to recover from the shock!

Monday, 7 January 2008

The Hunt for the Ring-necked Parakeet Roost

How can you loose something in the region of 3,000+ Parakeets? Quite easily it seems. I've being trying very hard to ascertain where they've gone but to no avail.

Esher Rugby Club has "played host" to approximately this number but they've disappeared. There's rumours afoot that the Rugby Club have taken steps to "discourage" the Parakeets from roosting on their site.

Based on my observations and with a certain amount of detective work and the help of Corinna , it looks as though we have tracked them down.

Watch this space!

No pictures taken today so here's some Parakeet activity!

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