Friday 31 July 2015

Light from a clouded sky

When I was walking along the cliffs at Bempton, I looked North along the coast towards Filey and saw this wonderful light coming from a clouded sky.

This image really does need to be looked at in a larger format - so, if you have the time, click on the image to get a better view.

There was a bit of a sae haze out and about and I think this gives the image a bit of a 'painterly' quality.

You can see more skies from around the world at Sky Watch Friday.  SM

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday 157 - Tree Sparrow

I have to say that Tree Sparrows are not the first bird that comes to mind when I think of sea cliffs - but they were the first bird I saw when I arrived at Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire. Pretty much every small brown bird around the visitors centre was a Tree Sparrow - and after about 10 minutes I had probably seen more individuals of this species than in the rest of my life put together!

The fact that Tree Sparrows are common on the grasslands at the top of the cliffs is a good indication that the 'tree' in their name is not really accurate - some sources suggest that it is just an alternative to 'house' - meaning that Tree Sparrows are more likely to be found in away from human habitats than their close relative the 'House Sparrow'.

The tree sparrow is technically know as Passer montanus, which makes no reference to trees either!  It can be split from the more common UK sparrow by the clear comma shaped 'ear patch' and the redder (rather than greyish) crown.  I have to say I like them.

I am also rather pleased with the images of the two birds on the concrete post - given that the 'hinge' of the beak is yellow I take it that these birds are just fledged.

Last week we had the lowest number of link ups in the history of WBW (well, at least since I have been running it!) - so, I hope people have not stopped linking because I was 'off duty' for a while - but if you know anybody who often links up, it would be great if you could remind them about our little birding community!

And after that notice from our sponsors (i.e. me!) it's over to you.  Click the blue button and off you go.  Cheers SM

Monday 27 July 2015

Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire

I left Norfolk early in the morning and spent much longer than I expected heading north to Bridlington in Yorkshire.  A combination of road works, traffic jams, minor car accidents (that, thankfully did not involve me) and a music system that would not connect to my phone made for a long journey.

But eventually the journey did end and I was glad to pull into the carpark of the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs, where I was greeted by my brother and life saving sandwich and coffee!

Bempton Cliffs, as its name suggest are a set of sea cliffs that look out onto the North Sea - I had never been here before, but given the chance I will be going back.  These are just a few 'landscape shots' - the birds will come later.

You can find out more about this reserve here - and rest assured, that there will be picture of birds to follow, lots of pictures!

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday 156 - Great Crested Grebe

While I was out and about around some lakes near Swanton Morley I was able to watch a pair of Great Crested Grebes feeding and carrying their young.  They remained a little too distant and mobile for the best of shots, but these images show the young riding on the back of an adult and also a food pass.  I have never got any shots of any quality of either of these behaviours before.

I really like these birds for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the decline of the Great Crested Grebe was one of the prime reasons why the RSPB was formed, and I have had so many good days out on RSPB reserves it's good to remember how it all started, and today it is one of the largest conservation organisation in the world (if not the largest).

Secondly I can see these birds in Australia as well as back in the UK so they are like a reminder on the past and an opportunity for the present.

So, now it's over to you - click the blue button and join in.  And with luck I will be able to visit your blogs much more rapidly that I have been able to manage in the last few WBWs!

Monday 20 July 2015

Swanton Morley, Norfolk

I spent the second part of my recent trip the UK near Swanton Morley, a small village in Norfolk.  I stayed at a wonderful B and B called Carricks at Castle Farm, and if you are in that part of the world I would suggest you have a look at it.

The main house of the farm was that classic English combination of dozens of different houses which had been built over the centuries - although my knowledge of architecture does not allow me to identify any specific designs!

Around the farm were a collection of old barns - which, if all goes to plan, will be brought back to life in the future.

There were also so rather nice examples of the kind of improvised repairs to gates and fences that agriculture thrives on.

And of course no farm would be complete without a few animals - in this case geese and White Park Cattle.  The cows are a rare breed, and particularly good value in my opinion!

Down in the village of Swanton Morley itself, there was one of the best road signs I have ever seen - a speed limit sign with a special section for tanks!  According to a passing resident the tanks have not been through the village in a while - and given the width of the local roads that may be no bad thing!

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.


When I was back in the UK I spent a but of time in Norfolk, which has some prime fishing locations in it.  The wildlife around these water was great, although not many fish were being caught.

I was amused to watch these damselflies, which I think are Blue Tailed Damselflies, using the floats for a resting post.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday2  SM

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday 155 - Robin

I detect a bit of a theme in my last two posts - that of a growing appreciation for the things that you once took for granted, but can no longer have.  If yesterdays post was about landscape, then this one is about a common bird.

Robins are (well I hope they still are) close to ubiquitous in rural English gardens - so much so that the become the iconic clique of post, greeting and Christmas cards.  And when a thing become so common, I think that they tend to be over looked.

Migration half way around the world fixes that issue - and when I recently returned to the UK I had made up my mind to try to photograph as many of the common birds as possible - garden birds, bird table birds, birds often unloved by birders because of their abundance and suburban nature.  In other words, the birds I grew up with.

Within a day of arrival I had located a Robins nest in an old heating duct space.  The young birds fledged a few hours after these pictures - and remained hidden behind potted plants, garden hose reels and shovels.  So, I only managed shots of the adult.

The Robin - Erithacus rubecula - is about 12cm long and both adults sport the red breast for which it is well known.  I recall reading that only in the UK is the Robin really a garden bird, at ease with humans, and that over much of its range it is rather more shy.

I deliberately composed the shots to include the top of the garden hose reel, as a bit of a statement about this birds 'domesticity' - I'm not sure if it worked!


So, now it's over to you - click the blue button and join in.  And with luck I will be able to visit your blogs much more rapidly that I have been able to manage in the last month!

Monday 13 July 2015

Close to home

One of the interesting things about going back to where you were born is seeing the things that you once took for granted with new (or at least older) eyes.

These are some shots taken around the village of Nunney in Somerset - this village is about 20 minutes by car from where I was born, but I never recall visiting it as a kid.  Equally, I doubt that many people just happen upon it either - I feels like a place you have to make a decision to visit.

What struck me was just how small and complex the place was - full of twists and turns, small bridges, old churches and fine pubs.  It even has a castle.

And all of this was so normal that as a kid I never went there!  And now I find myself taking pictures, and wondering why I never found out you could fish in the moat.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Ivy Leafed Toadflax

After a rather long absence from home, I am finally back in Melbourne - and while it is great to travel, it is also great to return.  Thanks to all of you who commented while I was away and hope you understand why I may not have responded as quickly as usual.  Normal service will now be resumed!

I'll start with a simple post that shows a plant that used to grow in the walls outside of my home in Somerset - this is the Ivy Leaved Toadflax, a plant with such a wonderfully silly name I am almost obligated to like it!

I have recently (i.e. about 10 minutes ago) found out that it is not native to the UK, which surprised me, and that it has a rather splendid way to make sure its seeds find their way into cracks in which they can germinate.  Once the flowers of this plant are mature and have set seeds, they start to grow away from light and into any areas of darkness around them.  And this often means that the seeds are shed in dark and damp places where they grow.  Sounds like a wonderful adaptation.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday2 and I Heart Macro.  SM

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday 154 - White-faced Heron

This is the third of three Wild Bird Wednesday's that I need to organise before I head off for work related travel.   So, although the familiar blue button will appear at the bottom of the page - the posts themselves will be rather briefer than normal.  A full service WBW will be along next week!

White-faced Herons are just about the most common heron in my part of the world - if there is a statue like figure in the reeds, waiting for fish, chances are it's Egretta novaehollandie, the white-faced heron.

This rather fine specimen was basking in the sunshine at Walkerville, Victoria last year.  And although he did turn his back on me, he was rather cooperative.

And now its your turn to join in - click on the blue button to link your blog to WBW - and while my visit may not be swift, I'll get to you in the end, although I hate to think how long some of you may have been waiting!