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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spring flowers and sad sights

The dreadful flooding over much of the Somerset Levels and Moors in the early part of the year meant that trips to many of our favourite local reserves, such as Greylake, were curtailed, either because they were under water or the access routes to them were closed. We can only be thankful that in most of Combe we escaped the worst and the first spring wild flowers were a welcome sight.
In SSW the snowdrops and daffodils made an early appearance, then the cowslips followed by the yellow rattle which has really established itself in the un-mown areas now.

Yellow rattle
This has been a really good orchid year, perhaps the wet winter had a part to play and the local  pyramidal orchids were lovely.
Pyramidal Orchid

I was saddened though  to see that someone had been stealing these delicate plants and the land owner, quite rightly put up signs noting their concern.

Another sad sight during June was this young fox which had, unluckily for it, chosen the narrowest part of the cross bars to try and jump over a gate and got itself stuck. It must have been a frightening death, struggling to get a foothold to push through but finally strangling itself. A fluke accident if ever there was. (Though I am sure some people will not be sorry to see one fewer fox in the locality, it was not a nice way to go).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Travels overseas since January

Those who know me will be aware that already this year we have been on quite few overseas trips and so this blog has been somewhat in abeyance. This post will try and do a catch up and then further posts will follow shortly, relating once more to Combe St. Nicholas.

Costa Rica Our first trip this year was in February / March to Costa Rica, a very small country about the size of Wales, which is located between Nicaragua and Panama on the narrow strip of land between North and South America known as Central America.

We first visited Costa Rica in 2007 when we did a tour of the southern part of the country down as far as the Panama border. We enjoyed it so much, with its fantastic bird life, colourful scenery and friendly people that we vowed to return and when the opportunity to tour the northern part of the country arose we decided to go.
Bare throated tiger heron

In a two week trip, which saw us staying on both the Pacific coast and the Atlantic coast, as well as beside the Arenal volcano in between, we saw over 400 species of birds, many mammals including sloths and capuchin, howler and spider and monkeys, butterflies, reptiles and beautiful flowers. It was a really lovely holiday, though the high temperatures and humidity might not be to everyone's liking!
Here are just a few of the many hundreds of 
pictures we took whilst there.... 

Sleepy Porcupine
Even sleepier owl looking like he had had a hard night!

Resplendent quetzal

Three toed sloth

Arenal Volcano
Arizona Our second trip this year was to Arizona, another wildlife watching holiday which started off in Phoenix, headed south to the amazing Chiricahua National Park with its organ pipe rock formation, 
 Chiricahua National Park

 then north via Tombstone ( site of the Ok Corale and locals still looking the part!)
Welcome to Tombstone

 and the Saguara National Park ( with amazing cacti) 

to the red cliffs of Sedona,

finally  ending up at the Grand Canyon. 

The scenery was spectacular throughout and anyone who thinks Arizona is mostly desert would, like us, be very surprised at the variety of landscapes and the amount of forest there were as well as wonderful wildlife, like this road runner, straight out of the cartoons of our childhood!

We were also surprised by the changing temperatures, from thirty degrees centigrade, to below freezing and snow thrown in all in the space of a day!

The Algarve, Portugal
Our most recent trip was to the Algarve in May and is a place we have been to many times over the last fifteen or so years as we have had a small time-share studio apartment on the coast there. This was the end of an era though as we have now given up our apartment but we have many happy memories of the trips we have taken at different times of the year.
Some of our favourite birds seen there are the colourful bee eaters and hoopoes and they did not disappoint this year.

So hopefully this post will have given a flavour of the exciting trips we have had so far this year and there are more to come, so watch this space!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chard Reservoir, worth a visit!

I enjoy a walk around the Chard Reservoir, which is attractive at any time of year and in the winter it often attracts different birds on the water and the woodland ones are easier to spot due to the lack of leaves on the trees.

View towards hide from far end
Last week the water levels were, not surprisingly, high, but so no doubt were the nearby streams and as a result an unusual sighting of a Dipper. The bird flew in and perched on one of the platforms which usually attract cormorants.

Cormorants on the platform with gulls
It then spent some time peering into the water as if deciding whether it was worth plunging in for food.In the end it gave up and flew off the other end of the reservoir, disappearing out of view.

Shall I, shan't I?
I have never seen a Dipper on this site, though frequently see Kingfishers. The trouble is the waters are both deep and murky, making catching their food quite a challenge.

Gulls and ducks were quite numerous, with Black- headed and Herring gulls and Mallard and Teal but despite a sunny start, the squall blew up and soon the surface of the water looked more like the sea than a calm lake, so we headed home.

For more information about the reservoir, including recent sightings see here:

Birds beginning to sing?

The weather over the last few weeks has been very wet, indeed the stormiest December on record (since 1969), together with windiest for 20 years. No surprise then that few birds have been frequenting the bird tables, only making an appearance on the few calmer days.
Robins were singing in early January, especially one bright, but cold morning such as this one in Combe Wood Lane. 
They do this both to claim a territory and to attract a mate for the forthcoming breeding season.Other birds that have made an appearance recently, both singing from high perches and feeding on the ground, have been song thrushes. Again I have seen one in Combe Wood Lane and whilst walking around Chard Reservoir last week saw 3 at once!

Another observation whilst walking around the lanes recently is the sight of hazel catkins, many of which seem much larger and/or more numerous than usual.

Snow drops are also making an early appearance, no doubt due to the mild weather, and the patch near the CME entrance is particularly good.
The birds venturing onto the bird feeders are increasing and I have noticed that greenfinches are quite numerous for the first time in a number of seasons. Once they find a suitable feed station they tend to defend it against all comers and one morning last week I timed one individual who stayed on one perch feeding for over 20 minutes!

Next weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch so don't forget to make sure your feeders are cleaned and topped up so you get the best birds to your garden!