Sunday, 30 May 2010

French Assortment

I spent last week in France at a holiday cottage near to Perassay, a small village in the Indre region. Me and the wife were the first people to stay at our friends (Mo and Steve) newly restored and converted dwelling.

They've done an excellent job in converting the building (part of a very old barn) from a sheep shelter! See here - Stargazer Cottage

The cottage is in prime birding terrortory too. For example, Golden Orioles can be heard from the garden. Seeing them is another matter though as anyone who's tried to spot this elusive bird will testify. I just wish I'd got there earlier in spring before the green canopy covered the trees!

Besides the birds there is plenty of other wildlife in the area. Red Squirrels, Wild Boars, Pine Martins are some of the species that I failed to see. Here are some pictures of the stuff that I did manage to photograph...

Swallowtail Butterfly - Mo had kept a pupa in a glass jar all winter long and as luck would have it the butterfly emerged whilst I was there to photograph it.

We spent a day at La Brenne. Known as “The Land of a Thousand Lakes” it is a nature park which covers a large area and is home to many wetland birds as well as other interesting plants and animals.
Grey Heron 

You would have thought that large, juicy Frogs living in France would keep a low profile but not a bit of it. This lot could be heard from the car park. In fact they were so loud that at first I thought they were some type of exotic duck.

 Great White Eagret

Purple Heron 

Fresh Water Tortoise

I thought only turtles had tails but the info board on the wall of the hide said that these were Tortoises?

I spent a while driving around the deserted country lanes near to our cottage and did the bird watching from the car. I heard and caught fleeting glimpses of many birds but the only ones to pose long enough for me to stop the car, lean out of the window and get some shots were these Red Backed Shrikes - male first then the female.

I thought it a bit strange to find this Roe Deer(?) feeding during the daylight hours.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Common Sandpiper

A definite first for me at Bretton Lakes, I was surprised to see a Common Sandpiper in the front of the hide this afternoon. Luckilly for me it was in no great hurry as the shock of seeing something new put me into a bit of a panic. I forgot that the focus limiter on my lens was set to 10m-infinity. The bird was closer than that so I had to change it and take aim again. Sod's law would normally dictate that the bird would choose this moment to fly away but not on this occasion! I also forgot to add a bit of exposure compensation but I was able to correct this in post processing. This is one advantage that shooting in RAW gives you.

That was the end of the excitement for today!

Meanwhile a few of the usual suspects were happy to pose around for me.

Great Tit


I think this scruffy looking ball of fluff is a recently fledged Nuthatch?

"I'm not fat, I'm big-boned!"

A fellow blogger recently asked if I could upload a picture of Bretton's only wildlife hide so here it is. It's a small, rickety construction. Big enough for only about 4 people but it's nice and snug! 

The horizontal bits of rotting wood on the left are improvised feeders, complete with a Great Tit who was eager to get at the seed I'd just put there. Underneath the bushes on the right of the entrance is where we put food down for the local Bank Voles, Woodmice and Shrews.

The viewing window is quite narrow but the thick log provides a nice, steady platform for the camera. Yet again I'd forgotten to bring my beanbag though! The island can be seen in the foreground but the Heronry is out of shot at the top of the trees. The wooded area on the far side is on a narrow spit of land that is bordered on one side by the River Dearne with the lake on the other. This area is people free so the wildlife tends to favour that side of the lake.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Bretton Update

There were lots of Bluebells around to brighten up the woodland this morning. Pity I failed to anticipate this and bring a short lens with me to capture it!

Peacock butterfly.


There wasn't much else to be seen in Bridge Royd Wood so I headed for the hide. Just before I arrived I heard some birdsong from within a bush so I decided to hang around for a bit. After a couple of minutes this Blackcap popped-up to see what was going on.

Thankfully I didn't just blunder into the hide and stick my lens through the viewing window or I would have spooked this young Grey Heron who was perched on a log just in front of the island.

One of my favourite pastimes last spring was watching the Bank Voles, Woodmice and Shrews that became partial to the birdseed and nuts at the rear of the hide. It's nice to see that they have returned. Unfortunately I didn't have a flash with me so all today's shots were blurred barring this one which is almost sharp.

Bank Vole

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Up on t' Moors

It was high time that I had a day out so I took a day off work and went to Carr Vale nature reserve, just off the M1 (jcn 29a) in Bolsover. The weather looked promising so I set off with high expectations.

The first thing I noticed when I got there was that there were in fact two nature reserves adjacent to each other. One of these was the Peter Fidler Nature Reserve. Now anyone who has watched the old Carry On films will be all too familiar with the character of Mr Fiddler. So it was with images and sounds of Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey in my mind that I set off to explore..!

To cut a long story short, I didn't stay around for very long. Both reserves were very promising but there were far too many of the dreaded dog walkers around. One of whom thought it was a good idea to chuck a big stick into the lake for his mutt to fetch. The fact that this caused the Swans, Great Crested Grebes and other wildfowl to scatter in panic didn't seem to concern the dog owner at all.

So with double entendres and Sid James' laugh still fresh in my mind I retraced my steps over Mr. Fidler and left. I wouldn't let my experience put anyone off a visit to either of these reserves. Just make sure you get there early in the morning if you want some peace and quiet.

So it was off back up the M1, exit at junction 37, along the A628 and up to the Peak District to try my luck. I pulled off the road after a few miles and headed in an upwards direction and soon found myself here -

Another 10 minutes walking and it was sufficiently quiet and secluded to sit down and wait for something to happen. Must admit I wasn't too optimistic as barring the call of the odd Grouse I hadn't heard any birdsong on the way up.

I needn't have worried though. As usual, all I had to do was sit quiet and still and it wasn't too long before a very friendly Wheatear appeared. Not only did it stick around for a while but it kept coming back too. All very nice but the bird never came quite close enough to fill the frame of the camera as much as I would have liked. I was fairly pleased with these shots though.

There were plenty of Grouse around but they kept their distance.

I spent a nice, peaceful and relaxing couple of hours in this spot before returning home. Not another person or dog to be seen!

On the way back to the car I came across a few Meadow Pipits.

I thought these two were different types of Pipit but after checking with the people on the Wild About Britain website I was told that they were both Meadow Pipits. Apparently the patterns and colours can vary quite a bit.