The Place for Wheatears,Pipits & Chough

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April 25th – Great Orme 

A bright sunny morning prompted me to leave early for the Great Orme today, giving myself time to walk at least part of the way up to the summit and arrive on time to do my shift in the Wildlife Trust shop. Bearing in mind that wherever I walked up from I would have to walk back down to later on, regardless of what the weather may be doing by then, I decided to park in the layby just beyond St. Tudno’s Church. It was much fresher up here, still sunny and clear but a strong breeze made it feel cool.

view from half-way up looking down onto St Tudno’s church

13:05 From here at the bottom of the steep slope, there are obvious short-cropped grass trails that lead off in various directions including up to the cable car station and the Summit Complex, where I was heading. Walking at a good speed it may take 10 minutes to get up to the top if you’re reasonably fit, or a bit longer if you stop to admire the views behind you or need to stop for breath on the steepest part nearer the top. Of course you all expect by now that I would take longer, as I would inevitably find things of interest that I would need to stop and photograph.

Either side of the tracks the hillside is lumpy and bumpy, with hillocks and hollows clothed with long tussocky grass and bushes of dwarf gorse; perfect terrain for the Meadow pipit that I was hoping to see. Birds foraging here are often well concealed, suddenly appearing and disappearing like this Magpie, one of a pair out hunting.

Sometimes they leave flying off until you’re almost on top of them, as this Jackdaw did.

Fond as I am of the Corvids, the unexpected sight of this elegant male Northern Wheatear was a lot more exciting.

Northern Wheatear-Oenanthe oenanthe- Welsh: Tinwen y Garn

and the excitement was doubled when a more softly plumaged female popped up onto the top of a hillock.

Absorbed with the female wheatear a distance away, a Meadow pipit popping up onto a hummock close by me took me by surprise, but a sighting at last and some photographs! It was hunting and I was pleased to get a pic of it with an insect in its beak.

Meadow pipits, in common with the majority of basically brown birds don’t get much of a write-up in the bird books. They’re mostly described as something like ” a small, brown, streaky bird, the most common songbird in upland areas, where it’s high piping call is a familiar sound’. Perhaps because of their lack of glamour we take them too much for granted, as according to the RSPB, ‘Meadow pipit numbers in the UK have been declining since the mid-1970s, resulting in this species being included on the amber list of conservation concern.’

Meadow Pipit- Anthus pratensis- Welsh-Corhedydd y Waun

Meadow pipit with insect

It’s strange that we  give such high praise to the similar-looking Skylark and the not-dissimilar Song Thrush and are so dismissive of the pipits. Is the bias based on the fact that the latter sing delightfully and pipits not so much? For sure our hills and uplands would be lonely without them, so perhaps we could appreciate them more and enjoy them at every opportunity.

There are little wildflower treats hidden down in the grass like this pretty violet.

13:25 As usual I’d been led astray by the birds and had to put a spurt on and get to the top in time to start my ‘shift’. As I said earlier it was breezy on this side of the Orme, but crossing the top and starting down the other side I was suddenly fighting to make progress against a continuous very strong head wind! Checking the wind gauge inside the visitor centre it indicated it was blowing in from a North-north westerly direction, so it felt cold too despite the sunshine. I anticipated selling more hats and gloves!

4:50 Finished for the day I retraced my steps along the trail back down towards where I left my car. On my own time now I was free to take my time and paused to admire the view over towards the Little Orme and beyond. The post tells you that this is the way to The Town (Llandudno).

A closer view of the Little Orme shows its intact, non-quarried side which was deliberately preserved to present a much prettier view to visitors and residents of Llandudno.

A little further on there is an interpretation panel that reminds you that this is the ‘Historic Trail’ and informs that 800 years ago you would have been looking down onto one of perhaps three villages established on the Orme, whose inhabitants would have grown crops and raised animals to eat or trade. I was hoping the wheatears may still be around and I was in luck – I soon spotted a female.

The sun was lower now, creating shadows and highlights and the wind, stronger now, rippled across the long silvered grass, creating a magical almost alien landscape. In amongst it I realised there were more Wheatears, another three birds.

All Wheatears spend winter in tropical Africa, heading northwards via Spain in the spring. Those that breed in the British Isles sometimes arrive on our coast as early as late February, but mainly during March, with males arriving ahead of females. They move inland to  breed.

GREENLAND WHEATEAR

It is possible that the birds I saw here today belong to another race, known as the Greenland wheatear, which arrives a little later in April. Many wheatears make a refuelling stopover in North Africa, but as the Greenland wheatears fly furthest, they need to put on more fat before leaving and spend longer at stopovers. They have a long journey ahead to their breeding sites on the other side of the Atlantic. From Britain they fly northwest across the sea, via Iceland, until they reach the Arctic tundra of Greenland and northern Canada. By June they will have started to breed there.

Wheatear & Meadow pipit

Whichever they were I was appreciating some lovely views of the two males and two females foraging together in the long grass, using the little hillocks as look-out platforms to survey the ground around them for likely prey.

Female wheatear

Then a distraction; a black bird flew in that I may have dismissed as a Jackdaw had it not called out. This was a Chough. It had landed somewhere behind a particularly hillocky part of the hillside, which is also pitted with well-disguised sunken craters. You have to watch your footing if you risk going off the proper trails.

Landscape pitted with sunken craters

I walked carefully until I spotted the bird, almost up to its beak in the long grass.

It had its back to me, eventually turning enough to show its diagnostic curved bill and legs, these are bright red in an adult bird, but this was a juvenile so it hasn’t quite got that far yet and its are more of a dull orange colour.

Chough, Red-billed chough – Pyrrhocorax

It didn’t stay for long before taking off, but it’s always a treat to see them at all, especially this closely.

Making my way back to the main track I noticed this rock, a little island rising out of a sea of grass and heather, it was almost totally encrusted with white lichen and embellished with mosses.

There was a lovely patch of violets growing in a grass-lined crater too.

I spotted two Wheatears perched on the top of a gorse bush; a male and a female. The birds spend most of their time on the ground, travelling in hops or runs on the ground, so it’s quite unusual to see them perched up higher.

I couldn’t have asked for a prettier picture than a handsome male Wheatear perched amongst golden-flowered gorse.

I liked the two images below too; perfect records of the birds’ exact location!

Two males together on the short turf of the trail

And one last image of a nicely posed one on his own.

17:16 Walking on down I spotted three bunnies on high alert, in poses that could have come straight out of Watership Down.

Rabbit-Oryctolagus cuniculus

 

 

But then I saw the new Peter Rabbit film during the Easter holiday too and thought this one, which I think may be the ‘big bunny’ of a previous post, may have seen it too – he’s got Peter’s pose to a ‘T’.

 

 

And wouldn’t you know? After all my efforts to find a Meadow pipit, there was one posing on a rock almost in front of my parked car!

It flew down to the ground and looked back over its shoulder at me as if to say

“what kept you? I’ve been here for hours waiting for you!”

It allowed me a couple of photographs, then took off, leaving a lone Jackdaw to patrol the layby edge for his supper.

On the way down I had to stop just past the church as these little Goldfinches fluttered down onto the bare ground of a bank where they must have spotted food potential.

The views were stunning as always; good today as the mountains were more clearly visible than usual and the clouds above added to their drama.

17:45 The view of the Conwy Estuary was stunning too, the sun was hitting the castle perfectly so it stood out from the trees, you can clearly see the road bridge that takes you across the river to the town and there were boats on the water….. the perfect scene for a painting.

The view of the sea meeting West Shore wasn’t bad either.

 

 

On a Perfect Spring Day

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April 19th – Bryn Euryn

Today was the middle day of the three consecutively warm sunny days that tantalised us with the notion that Spring had truly arrived, and judging by the activity here today it had a lot of our wildlife fooled too. The sky was clear and that almost-unbelievable shade of deep blue, the birds were singing and best of all, it was warm!

WOODLAND PATH

A few metres along the Woodland Path of my patch is an untidy-looking stretch, divided by the narrow path, where missing trees have opened up the canopy, letting in the light and warmth of the sun. Somewhat mysteriously, it holds great allure for diverse species of insects, some of which at certain times can be found here in surprising numbers. At the right time on the right day, ten minutes spent in this  ‘hotspot’ can be as productive as two hours spent ranging over the rest of the site.

11:44 Today I was here at the right time to see a surprising amount of insects. Most prolific were hoverflies in all shapes and sizes from big and bulky to teeny-tiny and dainty.

Syrphus sp.

There were few flowers here for nectaring upon, so that wasn’t the attraction for the majority of the hoverflies; I caught just one on the tiny flowers of Dog’s mercury. There were dozens of this small black and yellow striped species here, all very fresh and shiny and mostly basking on the sun-warmed leaves of brambles and nettles.

One side of the ‘hotspot’ is open to sunlight, clear of trees but sheltered by those standing behind it and by large shrubs of laurel and holly on either side. A large tangle of bramble fills the gap in the vegetation and is the only barrier between you and the Expressway below at the bottom of an almost-vertical slope. (Only joking, there’d be plenty of trees to stop you if you fell!) On the other side is a large patch of nettles, the aforementioned Dog’s mercury, more bramble and a pretty patch of periwinkle, all growing through a ground-covering of ivy.

A lone Tree bumblebee flew in, visited a couple of the periwinkle flowers then stopped to bask on a last-year’s half-eaten bramble leaf. I think it was a male (no pollen baskets) and was looking a bit the worse for wear. He seemed to have a burden of mites and I wondered if exposing them to warm sun might dislodge them. I’ve seen birds do that.

A smaller bee caught my eye as it came to rest on an ivy leaf. I didn’t realise what it was until I saw my photograph, then was excited to see it was a Hairy-footed Flower Bee, this one a male and my first record of this species here.

Hairy-footed Flower Bee – Anthophora plumipes (male)

Hairy-footed Flower Bee (m)-Anthophora plumipes

A species common and widespread in much of England and Wales, especially in towns, cities and villages. Often nests in the soft mortar and exposed cob of old walls, but occasionally will nest in the ground, preferring bare compacted clay soils. Flies from late February to mid-June, and is particularly partial to Lungwort (Pulmonaria) flowers.

Males and females look very different from one another: the female resembles a small, black bumblebee with orange-red hairs on the hind leg and a rapid-darting flight; she’ll  often approach a flower with her long tongue extended. Males are mostly brown with a dark tail (fresh specimens are gingery). Cream markings on face distinguish it from all bumblebees.They are often among the first bees of the year to emerge and often hover in front of flowers and when pursuing females.

Another little bee came to rest on a nettle leaf, this one I recognised as an Ashy mining bee and another male.

Ashy mining bee – Andrena cineraria (male)

Ashy mining bee (m)-Andrena cineraria 

A distinctive and obvious spring-flying solitary bee. Females are black, and have two broad ashy-grey hairbands across the thorax. Males emerge well before the females. They look similar, but their thorax is entirely covered with less dense grey hairs, and there’s a pronounced tuft of white hairs on the lower face. Species has a single flight period each year from early April until early June. Nests are constructed in the ground; entrances are surrounded by a volcano-like mound of excavated spoil; often in dense aggregations in  lawns, flower beds, mown banks and in field margins.

And where there are mining bees there are those who would prey upon them….. Bee-flies: quirkily-cute in appearance but not good to know if you’re a hard-working mining bee; they’ll spy out your nest-hole and craftily kick their eggs inside with those long legs, then later their hatched larvae will feast on yours.

Wasps were out on the prowl too; I didn’t get a clear enough image to tell if this was a German or Common Wasp – the latter have a distinctive anchor mark on their face; this image is a bit fuzzy.

12:07 I could have lingered longer, but birds were singing, I’d been serenaded by a Song thrush and a Robin as I stood watching insects, Blue tits twittered on all sides and I was keen to see what else was happening.

Bluebells are beginning to flower and offer nectar to those that can reach it, there’s also Greater Stitchwort and lots of Dog Violets. A male Orange-tip butterfly raced past me over the bluebells and through the trees, clearly on the trail of a female and not stopping for an instant.

Greater Stitchwort – Stellaria holostea

There are masses of glorious glossy golden yellow lesser celandines shining in the sunlight too.

I stopped to admire the celandines lining a section of the path and not at all concerned by my presence, a Blue tit perched above me and began to sing.

Beneath him dozens of shiny new flies arrived to bask on soft sun-warmed new bramble leaves.

There’s one special spot I know where Wood Anemones light up the woodland floor like fallen stars, turning their faces to the sun

and another where those of the shamrock-leaved Wood sorrel shyly hide theirs.

Over the boundary fence, the formidable thorny boundary hedge of gorse and blackthorn is softened now with their fragrant gold and white blossoms.

I heard a bird singing, a short loud burst of notes that I thought at first was a Wren, but it wasn’t quite right. I’d forgotten that another tiny bird, the Goldcrest also has a disproportionately loud song, remembering when he broke cover and flitted about in shrubbery in front of me. He wasn’t going to oblige me with a photograph, much too busy! So I stood gazing upwards for a while – you can’t get too much beautiful blue sky…

… or pretty blossom, can you?

WOODLAND TRAIL

12:58 There’s another hotspot around the junction of my Woodland Path with the reserve’s Woodland Trail, this one for birds. Here there is a territory of both Blackcap and Chiffchaff so there is the possibility of hearing if not seeing both species here. Today I was lucky; I heard the Blackcap’s song as I approached and walking slowly and as quietly as I was able I spotted him. He continued to sing but moved restlessly through the branches as I got nearer then flew off across the other side of the track.

While he sang from behind foliage over there I watched a pretty female Tawny mining bee feast on Blackthorn blossom.

Then the Blackcap came back to where he’d started, so I think perhaps his red-headed mate may be on their nest somewhere close by.

This gorgeous gorse is below his singing tree. It would make a safe place to nest and the flowers would attract insects for dinner.

I had heard a Chiffchaff singing nearby too but was pleasantly surprised when he appeared, continuing his song while flitting about amongst the twiggy branches searching for insects.

13:21 Further along the trail I spotted a flutter of orange – a lovely fresh Comma butterfly  basking on dry leaves at the edge of the path. As I watched it moved, (look away now if you’re squeamish) onto a thankfully dryish dog poo deposit. I had to take the picture as it nicely presented its underside showing off the distinctive white mark for which it is named.

The disturbed ground of the pathsides supports some of the ‘weedier’ wildflowers like dandelions which provide important nectar when there’s not much else in flower.

You’d be very unlucky not to hear and see a Robin singing along here, there seems to be one at regularly spaced intervals. They sit and watch out over the track then dart out to pounce on any potential prey they may spot. This one had been singing but stopped to watch me.

I waited to see if he’d start singing again and was distracted by a bird whistling loudly. I scanned around searching for whatever was making the sound, one I didn’t recognise at all but that sounded to be being made by quite a large bird. After a few minutes the whistler appeared and to my amusement turned out to be …. a Great Tit! Of course it was, one of the basics of birdsong recognition is ‘when you don’t recognise it or haven’t heard it before, chances are it’ll be a Great Tit’; they have an incredible repertoire of sounds to call upon. I was thankful to him for keeping me in that spot though, as this gorgeous Greater Spotted Woodpecker flew onto a tree trunk literally right in front of me.

The Woodpecker stayed there, keeping a watchful eye on me. This bird is a female and is holding something small in her beak, so I imagine she has a nest nearby and was unwilling to reveal it. I moved away quickly, thanking her for the photo opportunity as I did.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are about the same size as Starlings. Their plumage denotes their age and sex. Juvenile birds have red foreheads that are replaced by black as they moult in the autumn. Adult males then have a red nape while females have no red on their head at all.

 

The Lesser Celandines have been late flowering this Spring but are glorious now and more prolific than I’ve seen them before. It’s not just the flowers that are prolific, so too were hoverflies and Bee-flies seemed to be everywhere.

Approaching the entrance to the meadow another Robin, which looks as though it is singing, but was actually ‘ticking me off’, let me know it didn’t appreciate my disturbing it.

THE UPPER MEADOW (ADDER’S FIELD)

The grass of the meadow was cut back hard last autumn and so far there’s not much happening there yet, but the grass is beginning to grow and the cowslips are starting to come out. They’ll be later on the more exposed ‘downland’ side of the hill.

Another Bee-fly settled on an exposed rock in the pathway, fluttering its wings rapidly and making flicking movements with its legs as they do when depositing their eggs, but there was no sign of a mining bee nest anywhere near, so not sure what it was doing.

Summer Rainfall Prediction:

If oak is out before the ash, there’ll be a splash ; if ash is out before the oak there’ll be a soak…

Keep the brollies handy, looks like ash is furthest on so far….!

Wriggling across the still-damp ground on the way to the Summit Trail was an earthworm. Double jeopardy came to mind – exposure to warm sunshine and hungry birds; foolish worm.

Last year I noticed spots along the trail here where Mining Bees were making nests. having seen a few about today I kept an eye out for more signs of their activity and spotted these little ‘volcanoes’, evidence of their presence. I waited a while but no bees showed, so I don’t know which species had made them, but I think maybe Tawny Mining Bees.

THE SUMMIT

It was cooler and breezier up here. I walked carefully, hoping there may be Small Tortoiseshell butterflies basking on the bare earth of the path, but not today, although I did see two busily chasing one another at speed as they disappeared over the edge of the cliff.

The mountains and the distant Conwy valley were veiled by a misty haze.

The blackthorn is smothered with blossom and looking beautiful. It will be interesting to see how much of it gets pollinated and develops as fruit this autumn. Sloe gin comes to mind.

Blackthorn – Prunus spinosa

The path back down to the Woodland Trail felt almost bridal with falling petals showering down onto the ground like confetti. A pretty way to end this account of a lovely walk.

Little Orme

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April 5th

I’m home for a few days and feel the need to catch up on what’s happening here before setting off again at the weekend. I decided to head for the Little Orme, the best place I know locally to see a great variety of wildlife in a short space of time. Spring is generally late arriving this year and usually comes even later here than to other more sheltered sites, so I hoped I wouldn’t have missed too much.

The blend of habits on this limestone headland make it special, if not unique as it provides for the needs of diverse species of birds from House sparrows to Chough and Fulmars and it supports some lovely lime-loving wildflowers. The human influence on the site is most evident in its dramatic reshaping by quarrying, there is also a farm with some enclosed fields and sheep that are allowed to range freely. Houses butt closely up against its Penrhyn Bay boundary and it is rare to come here and not see people out walking. Today I noticed that someone has hung a bird-feeder up in a small tree just inside the site. There was a Great tit and several House sparrows taking the seed on offer, but not surprisingly they were seen off by Jackdaws.

It’s the Easter holidays, so as I’d expected there were a good few people here, families enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, the usual dog-walkers and a few dog-less ones too. 

There were people clambering on the rock beside Angel Bay. Below them a trio of Herring gulls set up a raucous racket. I couldn’t be sure what had set them off, but maybe they were objecting to people invading their space.

On a rock jutting out into Angel Bay another pair sat calmly, heads turned towards the group of grey seals down below them, some of which were also making a bit of noise.

They were a lovely little group of adults with their young ones. Some were trying their best to relax while others were restlessly in and out of the water. At least two more were swimming around out in the bay.

Grey seals

Grey seals slumbering

A single Guillemot was also cruising around on the water but didn’t stay visible for long, soon diving and swimming away underwater hunting fish.

Guillemot

When I first entered the site I was surprised not to see or hear Fulmars on the high cliff that usually has several pairs nesting, or preparing to nest on its ledges by this time. There were one or two flying around the cliffs nearer to the sea though, so I set off up the steep path to the old quarry field to see if there were signs of nesting there.

Fulmars are distinctive in flight holding wings stiff and straight out

I’m sure this upward slope gets steeper each time I climb it! I have to remind myself it wasn’t built for walking up. Back in the days when quarrying was in full swing there were rails from its bottom end up to what was a quarry face; trucks were loaded with stone then lowered down and returned empty using heavy-duty winding gear – the remains of which still stands as a monument to past industry at the top of the track. Care is needed when using this track, it’s slippery when wet and dry, especially going down.

Steep slope of old quarry truck-run

Remains of old quarry truck winding gear

I was pleased to have a few excuses to stop for breath to photograph celandines and primroses nestled down amongst the dead stems of grass and fronds of bracken. There were daisies on the grassy slopes nearer the top, one with a fly sunbathing in its centre.

One of the limestone specialist plants, the Carline thistle still holds it shape perfectly, seedheads still intact, although it is completely dry and colourless.

Phew! Finally at the top. I walked around the cliff edge, not too close as I could see that the winter weather has further eroded away the softer layers of soil and loose stone that covers the bedrock.

Signs of recent erosion

Two Fulmars sat quietly in a sheltered recess in the cliff-face. I’m fairly sure they were a pair as they were sitting close together and occasionally touching one another, I’m loathe to say affectionately, but it did look that way!

Fulmars

Fulmars are noisy birds though and it wasn’t long before something set them off. I imagine their spot is a good one and probably coveted by others, so will take a fair amount of defending.

They have a visitor who clings onto the rock nearby and stays for a while despite being squawked at. Perhaps the noise was by way of a greeting.

I was surprised it managed to cling on with those flat webbed feet. It was a lovely view for me though, they are such pretty gulls to look at. Shame about the raucous voice and the habit of snorting out salt water and other debris down their tubular noses!

Another bird made several close aerial passes but didn’t stop. I left them to it; seems like they’ve got enough to contend with.

I take the ‘short-cut’ scramble up the rocks to reach the higher level of the cliffs: not the recommended route, especially for grandmothers encumbered with cameras in hand that should know better! I got there unscathed though and enjoyed a good view back down onto the quarry from the top.

View down into the former quarry

I was heading for the outcrops of the headland used as nest sites by the Cormorant and Guillemot colonies, although I suspected I may be a bit early. I like the view over to the Great Orme from here; it looks like an island.

TREASURE IN THE GRASS

Although grazed by sheep and rabbits and exposed to the worst of the elements here, wildflowers can be found tucked down in the turf particularly around exposed rock. I spotted this little patch of white flowers, which on closer inspection turned out to be two different species. I couldn’t name either, but very kindly Suzanne posted a comment and suggested the  tiny one with red-tinged fleshy leaves may be Rue-leaved saxifrage and the bigger more droopy one with fine stems as Common Whitlow grass. I will go back and get some better photographs of the little treasures.

180405-LO (76a)

Common Whitlow grass-Erophila verna

I disturbed a flock of Jackdays that had been foraging in the clifftop grass. In my picture the buildings on the top of the hill in the background are on the Great Orme Summit.

Looking over the edge of the cliff for signs of my target birds I saw what I thought were Cormorants until I saw the raised crest of one and realised they were Shags.They were far below me, so the quality of the image is not great, but you can see what they are from it.

There were no signs of either Cormorants or Guillemots on this side of the cliff so I carried on walking towards its other more easily visible side. I hadn’t gone far when I spotted a bird flitting about between rocks near the edge; a handsome male Northern Wheatear. It was slightly below me behind a bit of a ridge, so partly hidden from its view I managed to watch it for some time with out disturbing it.

CORMORANT COLONY

As I’d thought it was a bit early for the Cormorants to have begun nesting, but there were a a few birds hanging around on the cliff.

Two birds higher up on a ledge definitely have their breeding plumage – the white patches on their thighs is clearly visible. They also have white heads which is more unusual amongst the Cormorants we usually see here. They were adopting some strange poses too, but may just have been making the most of a warm spot.

Cormorant or Great Cormorant- Phalocrocorax carbo

I went back down the hill following the paths to complete the circuit of this side of the headland. I realised I hadn’t met a single sheep out on the cliffs when I saw the first ones with lambs still in the field.

The gorse is coming into full golden bloom now and as always I couldn’t resist stopping several times to inhale its gorgeous uplifting scent.

 I heard a Robin singing and did spied him framed by prickly branches.

Picking my way carefully down the rocky slope past the sheep field I heard a Greenfinch singing from within the tangle of shrubby vegetation. Tauntingly close by, I stood and searched for a while but couldn’t pinpoint him. It was good to hear him though; as I said in the most recent post about the Great Orme, Greenfinches are not that common nowadays.

The hawthorn tree that marks the junction of paths going up, down or on towards the Rhiwleddyn Reserve, is still without leaves but green with lichen. It’s a lovely tree, having a perfect full rounded shape and spreading evenly in all directions; unusual here where the hawthorns are mostly forced into some weird and wonderful shapes by exposure to the strong winds.

The slope going down safely negotiated, I walked towards the way out, stopping only to debate whether to walk through the man-made ‘gorge’ that leads through to another way in/out at its far end. It can be a good place to spot Stonechats, which I hadn’t seen today, but there were quite a few big puddles of water and it looked muddy, so I gave it a miss.

Looking down into the ‘gorge’ from the path above, I stopped to listen to a Blackbird singing from a small ash tree growing down there. They have such a wonderful laid-back, tuneful and fluent song that is so easy on the ear.

Several Jackdaws were more intent on foraging for their supper.

A rotund little Dunnock singing his pretty little song from amongst the tangle of bramble stems at the side of the steps finished off my walk perfectly.

Dunnock

Weather: Sunny but cool

Birds: Herring gull; Fulmar; Guillemot; Cormorant; Shag; Carrion crow; Magpie; Wood pigeon; Jackdaw; Blackbird; Robin; Greenfinch (singing); House sparrow; Dunnock; Great tit; Wren; Northern Wheatear

Insects: Very few; too cold for butterflies

Wildflowers: Alexanders; Gorse; Primrose; Common Daisy; Lesser celandine; Carline thistle (dried); Common Whitlow grass

Wild in Eastville Park

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April 1st 2018

Two days ago I had boarded a train at Colwyn Bay in sunshine to arrive in Bristol four hours later in pouring rain. In these Isles we expect April Showers, but to time with my visit here to the South-West rain had been predicted for no less than 11 days straight! For the past two days the weather had done its best to fulfil that prediction, then lo and behold, this morning it gave us a reprieve and blessed the morning of the first day of this new month with welcome sunshine. Quick to take advantage of the opportunity to escape the confines of the house, my son and daughter-in-law bundled their respective visiting mothers and two daughters into the car and drove us all to Eastville Park for some fresh air and exercise before the rain swept back in.

River Frome looking downstream

We approached the Park along Broom Hill, parking at the side of the road just before the turning signposted to Snuff Mills.  Leaving the car we crossed the road bridge over the River Frome, then after a short way turned right onto the path alongside the river, which is a  section of the Frome Valley Walk. (The entire walk is 18 miles long and follows the river from the River Avon in the centre of Bristol to the Cotswold
Hills in South Gloucestershire.)

WICKHAM GLEN

This initial part of our walk follows the river through Wickham Glen; there is woodland on the far bank and on the path side it passes by Wickham Allotments. Following the recent heavy rain the river was full, and its fast flowing waters muddy brown. The path was wet and stickily muddy in places, but the sun was shining, there was fresh new greenery and birds were singing; the perfect Spring morning. Against the far bank a Mallard Drake dabbled next to a piece of disintegrating black plastic that looked like the remains of planting pots, possibly blown there from the nearby allotments.

An Alder tree stretched branches bearing cones and catkins out over the river.

Alder – Alnus glutinosa

To continue along the Frome Valley Walkway from here you would follow the signpost in the direction of Frenchay and Snuff Mills. We were heading for Eastville Park though, so turned right to cross the historic Wickham Bridge, a lovely medieval stone bridge which is Bristol’s oldest bridge and reputedly used by Oliver Cromwell, It is now Grade 11 listed.

Wickham Bridge, looking downstream

River Frome flowing downstream from Wickham Bridge

The river falls dramatically, more than 50 feet, between Frenchay Bridge and Eastville Park which made it perfect for operating water mills. There were once six mills along this stretch of the Frome Valley, most of them working as corn mills. Now all that remains as evidence of their presence are the weirs.

River Frome looking upstream from Wickham Bridge

eastville park

Eastville Park is a large Public Park that extends over some 70 acres of land, and is located just to the east of the M32. The land was originally agricultural land of the Heath House Estate owned by Sir John Greville Smyth of Ashton Court and was purchased from him by the Council for £30,000 in 1889 in order to provide a ‘People’s Park’ – a green space for those living in St Philips and the eastern suburbs of the city, where social and environmental conditions were poor.

Creating the Park was a huge undertaking begun in 1889 and taking around five years till 1894, to complete. Existing hedges were taken out, boundary walls repaired, paths laid out and a hundred seats installed. Wisely, existing mature trees were retained and walkways were lined with further plantings of limes, horse chestnuts and fast-growing London planes. Interestingly, the grass areas were managed by a mixture of sheep grazing and mowing, a common practise at that time that is still used today in some Nature Reserves.

A narrow footbridge crosses over water

then leads past the impressive Colston Weir. There have been recent reports of an Otter being sighted here.

Colston Weir

Not a pleasant thought in such a beautiful place, but this drain cover reminds that the Frome Valley Sewer follows closely alongside the river before finally ending at the Bristol Sewage treatment works at Avonmouth.

A pleasanter sight was a clump of White Deadnettle, although it had clearly taking a bit of a battering as its petals were torn and its leaves mud-spattered. Before the flowers appear the plant looks a little like the Common Nettle, but a closer look shows there are no stinging hairs hence the ‘dead nettle’ in the name. The lack of sting is also thought to have brought the plant’s other common name of White Archangel.

White Deadnettle, White Archangel – Lamium album

We heard a Wren and watched it as it flitted around in vegetation very close to the water. Another Alder tree gave me the opportunity to get a closer look. The tree’s flowers are on catkins which appear between February and April. Alder is monoecious, that is both male and female flowers are found on the same tree. Male catkins are yellow and pendulous, measuring 2–6cm. Female catkins are green and oval-shaped, and grouped in numbers of three to eight on each stalk. Once pollinated by wind, the female catkins gradually become woody and appear as tiny, cone-like fruits in winter. They open up to release seeds, which are dispersed by both wind and water. The small brown cones stay on the tree all year round.

THE LAKE

The lake was added as a feature a few years after the Park was opened. It was dug out in 1908 and 1909 from an existing water meadow with labour provided by ‘unemployed applicants’, under the Distress Committee’s Labour Bureau. It was constructed to a Serpentine plan, a design made popular by the famous landscape gardener, Capability Brown. The intrigue of its shape is such that wherever you stand on its edge, you can’t see the lake completely; there is always some part snaking out of view. Nowadays it is considered to be one of the best public park lakes in the country. 

The lake is not just attractive for people to look at, it’s presence also draws in a good variety of species of birds. First to attract attention was a flock of noisy Corvids that flew into the trees to left of the lake.

At first I wondered if they might be Rooks as there were a good number of them, but a closer look made them Carrion Crows, maybe juvenile, non-breeding birds.

There’s a densely planted small island in the centre of the widest part of the lake, and as we passed a little brown bird darting in and out from a tree branch reaching over the water caught my attention. Clearly a warbler, it was either a Chiffchaff or a Willow Warbler, most likely the former, but either way my first sighting so far this year.

If I hadn’t zoomed in on the warbler I may have missed a rare treat, despite his jewel-bright colours– a Kingfisher! It was quite a distance away and was sitting perfectly still on the branch of a willow tree, intently studying the water below. 

What a beautiful bird!

After a moment or two it changed position, moving towards the end of the branch to scan the water immediately below, his long dagger-like beak pointing down, preparing to dive.

It dived so fast I missed it! I caught the splash as it entered the water, then a split second later it was back up on a branch with a sizeable fish clamped in its beak. It sat for a few seconds more, jiggling the fish a little to secure its grip, but it clearly wasn’t going to eat it there and then: Kingfishers always consume fish head-first. Perhaps it intended to enjoy its meal somewhere less public, or maybe it had a mate that needed feeding; the birds’ first clutch of 6-7 eggs is usually laid late in March or early in April.
Either way it took off carrying its prize in the direction of the river.

KINGFISHER – Alcedo atthis

UK conservation status: Amber – because of their unfavourable conservation status in Europe. They are vulnerable to hard winters and habitat degradation through pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses.

Widespread throughout central and southern England, but less common further north, Kingfishers are small but spectacular and unmistakable birds mostly found close to slow moving or still water such as lakes, canals and rivers in lowland areas. They fly fast and low over water, hunting fish from riverside perches.

In total contrast, in plain black and white and far more common, my next spot was a Coot.

Coot – Fulica atra

Then a preening Canada Goose spied through tree branches with bursting buds.

Further down the lakeside someone had scattered some grain on the paving, attracting the attention of some hungry birds. Two more Canada Geese raced in

Canada goose-Branta canadensis

A Crow rushed past a female Mallard and a Swan

to join a group of his peers that were already tucking in.

What would a Park be without a flock of Pigeons? A male Mallard paddled in to see what they had.

He turned and joined his mate and they clearly decided there was nothing in it for them so set off to dabble elsewhere, passing a juvenile Mute Swan on its way in.

Mute Swans are, perhaps surprisingly, also Amber listed as birds of conservation concern. According to the RSPB “The population in the UK has increased recently, perhaps due to better protection of this species. The problem of lead poisoning on lowland rivers has also largely been solved by a ban on the sale of lead fishing weights.”

Mute swan – Cygnus olor

A late-coming Moorhen paddles in rapidly creating an impressive wake for such a small bird. Cousins of the Coots, Moorhens are smaller and are a little more colourful with a bright red and yellow beak and long, green legs.

Moorhen – Gallinula chloropus

The list of birds recorded within the Park is impressive:

A beautiful Weeping willow tree cascades down gracefully to touch the surface of the water. Often planted inappropriately, it was nice to see one in the ‘right’ place. I think this one may be a Golden weeping willow, which is so named for its bright yellow twigs.

Weeping willow – Salix alba

We walked around the curve of the bottom of the lake and up along the other side. At the top once more there were more Chiffchaffs darting out after insects, with one obligingly confirming its identity with its distinctive song; a wonderful sound that for me announces that Spring is here.

Chiffchaff – Phylloscopus collybita

Chiffchaff – Phylloscopus collybita

A signpost with a touch of humour that I’d missed on the way to the Park informs that Fishponds is quite nice! No doubt enhanced by the proximity of this lovely green space. 

Celandines were one of the few wildflowers I saw blooming.

A view of Colston Weir from its other end.

Leaves of Arum and Wild garlic are well-grown.

Crossing back over the footbridge I noticed copper pipes running along its side, attractively encrusted with lichen and turquoise blue verdigris.

Back in the Glen, Wild garlic extends beneath the trees. Already releasing its pungent aroma, it won’t be long before it’s in flower.

Cow parsley and more Arum leaves form a prettily contrasting patch of leaves.

Crossing the bridge to get back to the car we stopped to look upstream over its side. There’s an interesting piece of winding gear here that probably operates a sluice. I’m always attracted by such pieces of machinery, probably because I had an engineer for a Father who loved to explain how things worked!

I also have a Son with an eye for the quirky – he spotted this random scene of a football and a rugby ball trapped against the stonework of the bridge and forced to play together in the foamy water.

It seems more fitting to finish this post as I started it though, with a view of the Frome, looking upriver this time.

Footnote: The River Frome is sometimes also called Bristol’s Lost River – certainly much of its final length from the M32 and through the city centre is Hidden. The link below is an account of a walk following the Frome Valley Walk:

Spring is Coming to the Great Orme – part 2

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March 28th 2018

16:50 The shop is closed and the day’s last tram has departed, taking most of the late-afternoon visitors to the Summit back down to the town. Outside the wind is still blowing fiercely and although sunny, it felt even colder than it was when I got here. In the wildflower garden I stopped to watch a Pied wagtail scuttling around on the short turf between the flower borders and the path. These skittish little birds are fascinating to watch. Almost perpetually in motion they walk jerkily, craning their necks forward as they scan the ground in front for prey, wagging their long tails constantly. In pursuit of prey they can move at speed, half-running half-flying.

Pied wagtail-Moticilla alba

Pied Wagtails have adopted a wide range of habitats and landscapes as hunting grounds, from urban streets, wastes and car parks to seashores, wilder stream sides and reed beds. Most often seen singly, in the late afternoon the birds gather together, sometimes in their hundreds and fly off as a flock to roost communally. They often choose roosting sites on roofs such as factories, sewage works, hospitals and supermarkets. 

There is often a Pied wagtail up here around the car park area. This tarmacked area is bounded by stone walls with a strip of rough grass left in front of them and I’ve watched them make a circuit here, making a thorough search of the area. I guess that the combination of the nooks and crannies of the wall and the vegetation make it a good hunting ground.

Pied wagtail checking out the car park

16:52 The tide is out and the cloud has lifted above the Snowdonia mountains although a great bank of it still hovers heavily above the peaks.

Puffin Island and Anglesey behind it are visible but obscured by mist. The light and shade on the sea and the cloud make a beautiful sight but it’s too cold and windy to stand and admire it for long.

16:56 Driving up or down here I always have my car window open, partly to enjoy the super-fresh air but also to listen out for bird sounds. That paid off this afternoon as I drove past a hawthorn tree and heard the unmistakable song of a Greenfinch. I was delighted to hear it, particularly as my sightings of these finches have been very sparse in recent years. In fact, the last time I saw one was last year and not too far from here, singing then from the highest point of St Tudno’s Church roof.

Greenfinch-Carduelis chloris – singing

I stopped just past him and took photographs from the car so as not to frighten him away. Then I thought I’d stop further along at the pull-in I stopped at earlier and walk back to attempt to record his performance. Not to be, a Crow had usurped him and now squatted there, feathers blown akimbo by the wind.

The Hawthorn tree the Greenfinch was singing from was the perfect choice for him. Almost completely covered with lichens, it had caught my eye a couple of weeks ago when I’d stopped to check whether it had leaves!

Of course it didn’t, but that’s how green it appeared to be. A closer look revealed the lichen, an almost-perfect match for the green-yellow of a Greenfinch.

In the few minutes I’d been gone my car had been staked and claimed as a look-out by the Herring gull I’d photographed here earlier. OK by me as he hadn’t left any guano behind!

17:05 Further down, opposite the church, another favourite gull perching post was occupied.

I’d past the point where I thought I may have spotted a Meadow pipit or Stonechat, but there was still hope for Chough. Back down on Marine Drive now I slowed to check every black bird I saw, but all were Jackdaws or Carrion crows until suddenly I caught sight of two birds flying towards the sea; definitely Chough. I stopped and got out of the car and was instantly distracted by another bird that flew into view then hovered, braced into the wind high above the turf-covered clifftop. A male Kestrel.

The Kestrel, once known as the Windhover has perfected the art of hovering to the highest degree. They fly into the wind at the same speed as it is blowing them back, thus remaining stationary in relation to the ground, which saves them a great deal of energy.

I had stopped by a feature of the Great Orme I hadn’t noticed until now, probably because I’m usually looking in front of me or out over the clifftops as I’m driving. A sign informs that here is Ffynnon Gaseg, or Mare’s Well in English.

There are many natural springs feeding wells located around the headland, and there is no factual information about this one or why it was so named, but it’s thought likely that it was created when Marine Drive was constructed as a drinking place for the horses that pulled the carriages of Victorian sightseers for whom the road was originally built. The blackness  of the rock where the water emerges is staining from the peaty ground it runs through.

As I turned back towards my car I spotted the black birds again so crossed the road to try to get a better view just in time to see them fly down and along over the sea. Definitely Chough and though not the sighting I’d hoped for, a sighting none-the-less.

I made a stop to photograph the former Lighthouse as it was nicely lit by the sun. It’s surprising how the light affects the ‘mood’ of a building; this one can look rather intimidating on a gloomy day.

17:25 The clouds had lifted or perhaps drifted a little further over the mountains now revealing the snow that covered the highest peaks. Hardly surprising it felt so cold.

I’m looking forward to watching the seasons develop here Wednesday by Wednesday.

Spring is Coming to the Great Orme

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Wednesday March 28th

An early Easter and school holidays and the Great Orme Summit is fully open for business, including our NWWT shop, so all volunteers called back to action. I’m sticking with my Wednesday shift and was really looking forward to seeing what was happening in the wild world of the headland. I left deliberately early so I could take my time driving up along the scenic Marine Drive route and make a few stops along the way. The afternoon was bright and sunny but chilled, as it frequently is by a cold wind that ruffled the surface of the sea. Despite that there are plenty of signs that Spring won’t be put off any longer.

Just a short way in to my drive I spotted five goats strung out along a narrow ledge high up on the cliff. Too high to see properly from the car I stopped and got out: they looked even higher up from where I stood. Their agility and balance is breathtaking; I couldn’t imagine how they were going to get down, or back up from there but I’m sure they did.

 

The leader looks  like a Nanny that has given birth fairly recently and the one behind is small, so maybe this was a lesson in advanced foraging.

Watching the goats I heard the unmistakable calls of Fulmars and followed the sounds to where there were several sitting on the ledges where they will nest. The massive bulk of the cliff emphasised how small and fragile the birds are. If they didn’t draw attention to themselves with their loud cries you’d be hard pressed to spot them.

Spot the Fulmars!

One or two were flying back and forth from the ledges. They are distinctive in flight, holding their wings outstretched stiffly.

Fulmars weren’t the only noisy birds in the vicinity – from the other side of the sea wall I heard the calls of Oystercatchers. The tide was beginning to go out and had exposed a strip of the rocky shore far below but it wasn’t until a bird flew in to join those already there that I spotted them. They’re surprisingly well camouflaged despite those bright bills and legs.

1243 – Driving on another gull caught my eye; a Herring gull. It’s good to see them in a more natural setting away from roofs and chimney pots.

This view shows clearly the line of the road ahead that continues around the point of the headland and back down to West Shore and Llandudno town. The road to the summit forks off to pass the buildings you can see in the middle of the photograph and St Tudno’s Church which is in the top left corner.

Passing the church I carried on, stopping at the pull-in parking area down below the cable car station, hoping to catch sight of a Stonechat or maybe a displaying Meadow Pipit amongst the gorse bushes. Two rabbits were out in the sunshine, one was grazing busily and the other, a much bigger one lay down to soak up the sun. I’m sure this wasn’t a true wild rabbit. It was big and white underneath, so may have been an escaped pet or at least was in some way related to one.

A man with two free-running dogs approached startling them and Big Bunny sat up quickly before they both shot for cover.

Big Bunny

A pair of smart Magpies flew in and perched jauntily on a bramble bush behind where the rabbits had been. There are often one or two to be seen around the area of the church.

Two for joy

One of them left the bush to pick up stems of dried grass, so likely they have a nest nearby.

There were no smaller birds that I could see so I crossed the road to the cliff side where there is more Gorse to give them cover. I could hear birds singing but couldn’t see any, they were probably sensibly staying out of the wind. I did catch sight of a singing Dunnock, but he too stayed on the leeward side of an Elder tree, well concealed behind its dense twigs. Nice to see signs of new leaves on the tree.

The grass here is thick and dense and forms hummocks that catch the light. Walking on it feels very strange, it’s soft and spongy and bouncy underfoot. I like the way the sunlight catches it.

Sheep must find it comfortable to lie on. I came upon these ladies-in-waiting lying in a sheltered spot. They all had large blue patches painted on their backs and looked as though their lambs’ arrival may be imminent. They may have been marked this way as their lambs will arrive around the same time and the farmer can easily pick them out and be prepared.

One of my favourite Spring sights is of golden gorse against a background of blue sea. Today was perfect for such a sight with the sea perfectly reflecting the colour of the sky.

Huge banks of towering fluffy clouds brought drama to the scene.

The Gorse as always smelled wonderful. I liked the way the rounded hilltop and the cloud echoed the shape of this blossom covered bush.

Returning to my car a Herring gull had taken up position on the sign board – this is a regular perching place where they wait in hope of scraps of food being left for them.

No signs of the Stonechats or Meadow Pipits I was hoping to see. It was good to see the Trams back in action at the Half-way Station. No 7 is waiting to pick up passengers that will de-board No 6 that will bring them from the Summit Station to here, then will take them down to the bottom.

Almost at the top I couldn’t resist another stop to watch Jackdaws that were strutting around near the edge of the road, busily collecting dry grass.

This one seemed intent on making as few trips as possible back and forth to the nest, cramming in an impressive amount before flying off.

Parking at the top a Herring gull came in to land in front of me and began posturing and squawking at the top of its voice.

It was calling to its mate who duly landed close by its side, squawking in response.

Don’t they make a handsome couple?

The view across the bay and the Conwy Estuary was stunning as always with more dramatic clouds casting shade to make patterns on the surface of the sea.

A quick look down from the other side of the car park over the farmland dotted with sheep…..

I zoomed in to see if there were any lambs yet. None to see, but I did spy the Magpies again.

It was really cold and windy up here. Anticipated trade in our best-selling woolly hats and gloves!

 

Snow Scenic By Train

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Thursday, March 1st 2018

The first day of meteorological spring, but with temperatures falling as low as -11C (12F) in parts of the UK, winter was not giving up easily. Now we had another storm rolling in from the Atlantic, Storm Emma, which joined forces with the ‘Beast from the East’ from Siberia to bring about further widespread snowfall and temperatures that dropped as low as -16C (3F) last night. Fortunately for us here on this North-East stretch of the coast of Wales we were not as badly hit as much of the rest of Britain, but those of us that live up here had a family ‘do’ planned in London tomorrow that we didn’t want to miss. The plan had been to drive down there today, but reports of just how bad the weather and road conditions were in the Midlands caused a rethink and we decided to take the train instead.

Friday, March 2nd 2018

I travel this route every few weeks to visit family, so not an ‘everyday trail’ it’s a fairly frequent increasingly familiar one, but seen through the seasons, I never tire of the amazing scenery along the way. Beginning on the north-east coast of Wales across and travelling down through the West Midlands to the south-east of England, the railway slices through no less than 10 counties, so I anticipated this journey would be a great opportunity to see the pattern of snow cross-country between here and there. It was bitterly cold with a strong wind blowing in off the sea this morning, but we’d had no further overnight snow here, so everything crossed we set off to nearby Colwyn Bay railway station to catch the 09.47 Virgin Holyhead to London direct train. It was on perfect time.

0948-Porth Eirias

The train we would be boarding had started at Holyhead in the north of Anglesey, crossed the Menai Strait into Gwynedd (formerly Caernarvonshire) then into Conwy County where we got on at Colwyn Bay station.  For the next forty minutes or so the railway line sticks closely to the coastline and unfolds not only glorious scenery but also presents a picture of the wider geography and gives glimpses of several significant landmarks. Minutes after leaving the station we were passing our newest landmark building, Porth Eirias on Colwyn Bay. The tide was high, the sea rushing in wildly  and despite the proximity of all that salt, snow coated the Promenade and grass verges.

View to the Little Orme from the Viaduct

A bit further on waves were crashing over the sea wall, flooding the Promenade and the road alongside. This stretch of road will probably be closed off if it hasn’t been already – the sea spray often holds stones & pebbles delivered at force that could easily break a windscreen or cause injury to a person!

Stormy Irish Sea splashing over the wall

Ten minutes later we’re approaching Rhyl, crossing over the river/afon Clwyd in full flood. This tidal river flows mainly through Denbighshire and forms the border between Denbighshire and Conwy County here at its mouth.

River/afon Clwyd flows into the Irish Sea at Rhyl

Next to the mouth of the river is Marine Lake, a 12 hectare man-made recreational lake. This is the only salt water lake in North Wales.

Snow surrounds Marine Lake, Rhyl

We stop at Rhyl station, then six minutes later we are passing the dunes at Talacre, an important ecological area for a number of reason, not least of which is for its protected population of Natterjack Toads. They also serve as protection for a colony of not-so-rare holiday homes. There is still only a light covering of snow.

Taking photographs through the window of a moving train is a hit-and-miss affair. No time for focusing, just point, shoot and hope for the best! I rather like the effect of this view through a tree  which wouldn’t be a view at all when it has leaves. You may have noticed I leave marks & highlights on or caused by reflections from the glass of the carriage windows: this is deliberate as a reminder that I was on a train!

We stop again at Prestatyn then cross into Flintshire and pass the alien-looking Point of Ayr Gas Terminal.

Still following the coastline the next stop is the county town of Flint.

Here is the wild, flat coastline of the Dee Estuary, where receding tides expose vast mud flats that attract huge numbers of wading birds. Not exactly a place you’d expect to see a beached ship! Undoubtedly the most curious local landmark this is the Duke of Lancaster, at Llanerch-y-Mor on the River Dee, near Mostyn Docks. It has been re-purposed several times since it ‘landed’ here in 1979, but has been abandoned long since.  

The dry powdery snow didn’t settle as a uniform blanket like wetter snow does. It settled into hollows and against furrows and ridges and was caught in drifts along hedges and banks accentuating every contour of the landscape. Usually full of birds, there wasn’t a single one to be seen today, hardly surprising!

Sheep, looking a rather grubby white against the brilliance of the snow were doing their best to graze on the snow-covered salt-marshes. The raised bank between the sea and the sheep field gives some protection and is also the line of the Wales Coast Path.

Sheep on snow-covered salt-marshes

At Connah’s Key there are two power stations – I think this is the Deeside Power Station as the other one only has four chimneys. Don’t take that as gospel though, my sense of what’s north and south is not always reliable, especially when travelling at speed.

Another iconic landmark is the Flintshire Bridge, it is the largest asymmetric cable-stayed bridge in the whole of Britain and when seen properly is elegant and impressive, not at all like my hasty photograph. The bridge spans the Dee Estuary, linking Flint and Connah’s Quay to the shore north of the River Dee at the southern end of the Wirral Peninsula. It carries part of the A548 road and is known locally as ‘the bridge to nowhere’. 

At 10.30 we were at Chester. This is a lovely old station with some fascinating features, but today for some reason I was drawn to photograph the old iconic red phone box. A lot of people got on here, so we probably weren’t the only ones not wanting to risk the drive. Some would be leaving the train at Crewe, a major hub station, to get connections to Manchester and other parts of the country.

1030-Chester Station

As you will have worked out, we were now in England and already in county number 4, Cheshire of course as we’d just left Chester and travelling towards Crewe. Not so much snow here, just a light scattering but enough to highlight the textures and patterns of the fields.

10:41 – Cheshire

From here on there are some great views of sections of our nationwide network of canals, in parts paralleled along their route by the railway line. It gets a bit confusing up here as there are several waterways that join into one another, but I think this is probably part of the Shropshire Union Canal that runs between Chester and Crewe. Still not a lot of snow evident, but the surface of the water is clearly frozen.

Frozen canal

10:54 – We arrived at Crewe station where a lot of people did indeed ‘de-board’.

10:59 – Cheshire

From Crewe the train doesn’t stop again until we get to Milton Keynes, so I’m not altogether sure which way we went, but possibly towards Stafford, which is straight down going directly south. From there the line goes off at what looks like a 45° angle in a straight line directly to London. There are other permutations, but all end up in the same place and we pass through county number 5 – Staffordshire.

11:04 – More frozen water

I have noticed this yellow brick building almost every time I travel this way and I’d love to know what it is! I thought it might be a crematorium as it has that really tall chimney, but this is the best photograph I’ve managed and it clearly isn’t. It has that odd bunker-looking building on this side of it and the plain white van has some kind of aerial on top of it, so I’m more intrigued than ever now. If anyone knows or has a clue, please let me know!

11:05 – Mystery building

Now in the West Midlands it became clear we’d made a sensible decision in deciding not to drive. There was a significant amount more snow and cloudy skies warned more was imminent.

The next county, number 6, is Warwickshire, where we pass through Rugby station.

11:12 – Reed-fringed pond frozen around the edges

Then we cut across the south-west corner of Northamptonshire,county number 7, the county in which I was born and grew up. More canal views here – now the Grand Union Canal and I believe we pass close by Stoke Bruerne, home of the Canal Museum. Barges weren’t moving, probably frozen in place!

11:15 – Barges frozen in place

11:54 – It’s snowing

Another canal view.

11:55- Barge on canal in the snow

From Northamptonshire we cross into Buckinghamshire, county number 8 and one of the five Home Counties that surround Greater London.

Approaching Milton Keynes you see can a church tower on the horizon. I’ve no idea where it is, but it’s big and I wonder if it could be the cathedral-like St Paul’s Church at Bedford.

12:00 – Big church on the horizon

12:03 – We arrive at Milton Keynes, the final stop before London Euston station. An announcement informs us we are 12 minutes behind schedule.

It was snowing heavily now and there wasn’t much to see as the weather closed in and obliterated much of the landscape, so no more photographs today. Parts of the remaining 40 minute journey are usually scenic – from Buckinghamshire we cross briefly into another of the home counties, Hertfordshire, county number 9, and pick up the Grand Union Canal again, passing through the towns of  Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead. Then we are soon into Greater London, county number 10, passing by the iconic Wembley Stadium shortly before arriving safely and not too far off schedule into London Euston station. 

From here I was on my own to make my way across town to Surrey in the south-west. We’d already been warned that train services in that direction had been affected by snow and stormy weather, and indeed arriving via the Underground at Vauxhall to pick up the overground train to Surbiton, I saw several trains were delayed or cancelled. Buying my ticket I was told the station would close at 8pm tonight! It was freezing cold here and snowing, but lucky for me, I got more or less straight onto a train that had been delayed by 20 minutes and reached my destination in good time. Later on in the day many people were stranded in the City or had to find other ways home.

Thanks be to the Travel Gods!

Following a river to a Fairy Glen

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The myriad of little rivers and streams that run from our mountains and hills come alive following prolonged rainfall or when filled with melted snow. Many of them are inaccessible and flow through privately owned land, so we are privileged here to be able to enjoy close access to the sights and sounds of one such waterway: the river that flows through the village of Old Colwyn and ends at Colwyn Bay, both of which take its name – the river or in Welsh afon, Colwyn.

This walk follows a length of the river Colwyn upstream from where it reaches the sea  at Colwyn Bay at the end of the Promenade, takes the scenic route through the oldest part of the village of Old Colwyn then continues to the far end of the wooded dingle of Fairy Glen and back again. It’s not a long walk and mostly fairly easy going. It follows a section of the North Wales Path and is also part of the Old Colwyn Heritage Trail so combines a bit of local history with nature and wildlife, which ticks all of the boxes for the perfect winter walk for me. 

Splash Point of the river Colwyn into Colwyn Bay. Snow-capped Clwyddian Mountains on the far horizon.

The last few metres of the river’s length are contained and manipulated by stone and concrete to direct its waters under roads, bridges and the viaduct, then finally a culvert beneath the Promenade channels it to its end at a Splash Point from where it cascades into the sea.

The viaduct was built in 1847 as part of the Chester-Holyhead railway line engineered by Robert Louis Stephenson. The bridge behind it carries the A55 North Wales Expressway

Beneath the viaduct, know locally as ‘The Arches’, the surface of the water is textured as it rushes over its stony bed and its sound amplified by the stone walls that contain it, still audible above the noise of traffic and the occasional train passing overhead.

Once beneath the bridges and on the path past Myn y Coed woodland calm is restored and the sounds of the river and birds singing fill the air.

I stopped on the footbridge to listen and to check for Grey Wagtails that sometimes hunt along this stretch of the river; none here today but I know they have other favoured spots.

upstream from the footbridge at Myn y Coed

The path upstream curves around the corner to run parallel to Beach Road, passing in front of the building that was once the Coachhouse to the Myn y Don Mansion. The river races down the slope here, carrying with it bits of shrubbery from somewhere along its path.

Lovely to see a few Spring wildflowers here.

Near the beginning of Tan y Bryn Gardens is a weir with blocks of stone either side that look as though they may once perhaps have had sluice gates?

There’s an interesting variety of native and more exotic trees here with an under-storey of shrubs and plants that is perfect for birds. Today Blackbirds seemed to be everywhere, singing from variously elevated spots or rummaging around in leaf litter. There were at least three males in close proximity to one another, resulting in much chasing. The one in my photograph had been singing until I arrived and put him off his stroke.

Carrying on through the gardens there were robins singing from several spots too and I finally caught one in action.

Almost at the end of the Garden path I was thinking I still hadn’t seen a Grey wagtail and that sometimes I’ve had better luck seeing them hunting on the nearby rooftops… then a bird skimmed past just over my head making that familiar rattling call. A wagtail that, lo and behold, carried on over the water to the very rooftops I was standing looking at. Although some distance away, it was a lovely colourful one with bright yellow breast and rump, that stood out nicely against the blue-grey slates and patches of lichen.

I had reached the tunnels beneath the buildings that allow people and the river to pass through them.

The tunnel is short, lit artificially and its walls are decorated with colourful professional-looking graffiti. It’s not my favourite part of the walk though, especially when as today it was littered with rubbish and doggy deposits. Such a shame as the path to here was spotless.

I usually walk through here at speed, admiring the wall art out of the side of my eye as I pass it, but today I stopped to photograph my favourite part of it. It depicts the buildings above where they front onto Abergele Road, harking back to the days when the tram was running. Next to that image is one of the viaduct before it was obscured by the Expressway bridge.

At the other end of the tunnel a sign indicates the way back to the beach and the North Wales Path logos are beneath it.

The path stays by the river through this attractive little area, named Llawr Pentre which is the oldest part of the village, then leaves it for a short while as you take the steps you find on your left. At the top follow the signs that point right to Fairy Glen and the North Wales Path.

FAIRY GLEN

The Local Nature Reserve of Fairy Glen in Old Colwyn is one of several places locally known as ‘dingles’. Dingle is a charming and evocative noun used to describe a small, narrow or enclosed, usually wooded valley or a deep hollow or dell. Fairy Glen was once more manicured and a much favoured place for holidaying Victorians to take in the fresh air on a leisurely riverside stroll. Today the pathway is on the route of the North Wales Path, but is mostly used locally as a shortcut to the village centre or by folks walking their dogs. It may not appear as groomed as it once did, but this fragment of a once-extensive ancient woodland is cared for and appreciated and it provides a habitat for a good variety of wildlife, particularly woodland birds. There are some lovely big old trees and shrubs here, but the greatest draw and asset for wildlife is surely the fresh clean accessible water. 

At the base of a tree I found golden-yellow Lesser celandines, some of them already ‘going over’.

Most of the length of the path is fenced allowing flora and fauna to remain undisturbed. The fence rails are a great place to spot birds too; many use it as a perch and some as a place to forage for insects amongst the ivy.

There were a number of Blue tits foraging in the trees around and overhead me and I heard Great tits singing. The songs of Robins rang out at regular intervals, each one pausing occasionally to listen to others nearby then responding. I always thought that this might have been why the ’round Robin’ style of singing we learnt at school was so-named, but apparently not – it relates to much more boring things like circularised documents. I prefer my own version! There were Blackbirds all over the place here too. This one took to the fence while I passed but soon resumed his hunt for worms in the leaf litter below.

Wild garlic is growing fast and the warm sunshine was already drawing out its distinctive aroma.

The damp shady conditions here are perfect for ferns.

I had a lovely close encounter with a small flock of charming Long-tailed tits.

Rainwater channels into the river at this weir adding to its volume creating a considerable foamy ‘race’ down its length.

This stand of tall old pine trees is a good spot to look out for Coal tits; I’ve seen them here on several occasions, but not today.

At the base of tree a collection of new Spring greenery of varying shades and leaf forms; ferny Cow parsley, elegant Arum and the round leaves of some pervading Winter heliotrope which seems to be popping up all over the place lately. There are also a few leaves of Nettle and the ubiquitous Ivy.

The path through the Glen ends at Pen y Bryn Road. As at the beginning of the path at Myn y Don there is a plaque commemorating a local man named Cliff Proust who did a tremendous amount of work improving the public local green spaces on behalf of this community. The world needs more Cliff Prousts – he did a great job.

THE WAY BACK

There’s much to be said for a circular walk, but I find it can be just as interesting to go back the way I came. I often see things I missed on the way through being distracted by something I spot; the perspective is different, the light is different and of course the time is different. I tend to ‘save’ things that aren’t likely to move for a closer look on the way back too, such as these trees. I liked the contrast of shapes and shades of the evergreens seen through the more delicate catkin laden Hazel in the foreground and all set off beautifully by that beautiful deep blue winter sky.

I met the Blackbird again, still hunting worms successfully, he’d just swallowed one as I took his picture.

I had a closer look at this felled tree which I think from the bark may be a Sweet chestnut. It’s wood has been left to integrate into the fabric of the woodland floor to provide habitat for invertebrates etc. I hope it gets left alone and is not purloined by someone with a wood-burner to feed.

This was a huge tree, a section of its trunk would easily make a small dining table.

A flowering Dandelion and more shoots of Wild garlic.

This enormous Oak tree near the entrance/exit to the Glen fascinates me. It has stabilised itself in an almost-perpendicular position with a complex network of roots that are as thick and sturdy as branches, right on the edge of a steep bank. Beneath it are hollows you can see straight through. Perhaps this is where the fairies live.  

A last look at another stand of elegant, pale-barked trees whose top branches turned silver in the sunlight.

And then the river on its way out of the Glen.

Leaving the Glen and walking back past the cottages I stopped to watch Jackdaws  gathered on the chimney pots. I’m not sure what they were doing, possibly checking for any insects or spiders that may have been hiding in them, or maybe prospecting for nest sites; whatever they were doing they were disappearing right into them.

 

Back in the Gardens I stopped to admire  the flowers; clumps of snowdrops, daffodils and a stunning display of richly coloured hellebores all enjoying the sunshine. No insects yet  though.


I couldn’t resist taking this shot of a perfectly matched couple walking hand in hand ahead of me. I hope they don’t mind.

The view towards the end of the gardens with the Coachman’s cottage in the bottom left corner.

All overlooked by the tower of the Folly up on the hill.

I am ever in awe at the size of some of the pine trees that grow here

so I was sad to see that the foliage of one of them looks has turned brown as though it may be dead.

A Robin checked out a dramatic dried seed head

while a Wood pigeon investigated a mossy rooftop.

Then to finish, a promise of imminent Spring: a Wild Cherry tree with new green leaves and blossom buds about to burst.

 

Shades, Sounds and Scents of the Woods

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February 18th-Bryn Euryn-Woodland Path

A bit fed up with dull drab winter days, a sunny start to the day inspired me to go out and seek signs of the coming Spring and hopefully some colour. A Robin sang from a tree branch at the beginning of the Woodland Path, then minutes later the delightful and uplifting sight of a bank of Snowdrops in full flower made the perfect start.

Our Snowdrop display may not be on the scale of that of those boasted by our local National Trust gardens, but it is no less beautiful and uplifting; and I didn’t have to drive anywhere to see it. 

Lesser Periwinkle- Vinca minor

Nearby, peeping out shyly from beneath a bramble, the bright blue face of a Periwinkle.

A Barberry shrub arches gracefully over the pathway, its golden-orange flowers not yet quite open. I thought it was a bit early for it to be flowering? Barberry- Berberis vulgaris is a native plant, but it is scarce in the wild although widely naturalised.  This one, or an ancestor of it may have been planted when this woodland was part of the grounds of the house that used to stand where our apartment building is now. Either way it’s pretty and a splash more colour to add to my collection.   

Another shrub I found flowering, Mahonia, has also likely arrived here from a garden. Its bright yellow flowers also look good and smell lovely.

Of course green is still the predominant colour, but there are splashes of bright fresh shades breaking up the dark evergreens. Mosses are at their best at this time of year, brightening the shady woodland floor, smothering rocks and the bases of tree trunks with patches of vivid green. I have yet to learn to identify the different species, so for now I think of this one as ‘looking like a forest of miniature pine trees’!

Although I walk this path often I can still see things I’ve not spotted before, like this pretty clump of Navelwort. Its pretty round leaves, dimpled in the centre and with  frilled edges look a bit like green flowers.

Navelwort-Umbillicus rupestris

There are a number of Spurge laurel plants in this part of the woods and they too are flowering now. The flowers are a subtle lime green-yellow colour but they are pretty and in common with those of other members of the daphne family they are deliciously scented, with an aroma that really is like warm honey.

It’s wonderful to hear the woods full of bird sounds again. Throughout most of this walk I was surrounded by the sounds of birds, mostly the cheerful chirps and chatter of tits keeping contact with one another. Blue tits were everywhere, up high in trees and lower down in the shrubs, investigating every nook, cranny and leaf for potential food. They are bright colourful little birds, but still blend surprisingly well into the woodland background.


Great tits are also about, but their favoured place is around the Scots Pines where there are often several. They are more easily heard than seen and have a huge repertoire of calls and phrases at their disposal. Years ago I learnt from a bird-watching master that if you hear a bird sound you don’t recognise the chances are it will be a Great Tit!

I stood and watched them there for a few minutes until my neck ached from craning upwards.Thankfully I was distracted by a Treecreeper up in a big sycamore tree nearby.

It was exceptionally well-camouflaged against the shaded, heavily textured bark and hard to see when not mobile and flashing its white undersides. It was fascinating to watch as it contorted itself, using its tail to steady itself to probe its beak into its deep fissures. From this spot I also heard the screeching of Jays and caught a glimpse of one before it sped off through the trees.

I passed by the remains of the Scots Pine that was sadly felled in a storm two years ago. Much of it has been sawn and removed; what’s left is being gradually absorbed back into the fabric of the woodland. I liked its rich colour and texture.

Looking across the boundary fence here the colours of the landscape in general are still predominantly brown and green, but taking time to look properly you appreciate the are a myriad of shades of those colours. And I’m sure the grass is getting greener by the day!

I usually concentrate on the more scenic aspects of this view, but zooming in and down onto an edge of the far landscape reveals an interesting slice of a community. An interesting juxtaposition caught my eye – Modern Industry and a Final Resting Place separated by a field full of sheep turned out to eat turnips!

On the field-woodland boundary is more colour. Gorse is blooming bringing forth its warm golden glow. I think this line of gorse was probably planted here as a boundary hedge. This was a common and effective practice in Wales to prevent animals wandering and remnants of such hedges can still be found in the countryside, particularly in Anglesey.

I heard a Robin singing and noticed bird movement amongst the Gorse. Zooming in I found the rusty-red of two Robins there, one being the source of the song. I wonder if they were mates prospecting for a nest site or rivals claiming territory?

Two birds in a bush

Honeysuckle twining up the wire boundary fence has well-grown fresh leaves already; quite surprising in this exposed spot.

Honeysuckle leaves are well-grown

Amongst leaf litter, ivy and feathery moss, Wood Sorrel has shown some of its bright green shamrock-like leaves throughout the winter. It will be flowering soon.

Leaves of Wood Sorrel

The top end of this path is becoming increasingly lined with Alexanders’ plants. Most are well-grown now, particularly those sheltered against tree trunks. They will flower soon; last year their flowers were much appreciated by some of the earlier hoverflies.

Alexanders-Smyrnium olusatrum

Woodland – Summit Trail

Emerging from the beneath the canopy of the woods onto the  open Woodland Trail the first colour I noticed was the blue of the sky!

Heading towards the track that leads up to the Summit Trail I heard a Woodpecker tapping. I’ve had several good sightings of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the past few weeks, the latest one just this morning as it came down almost as far as our bird feeders. I scanned the trees for a sight of it but no luck. A Raven flew overhead, ‘cronking’ as it travelled to alert all to its presence.

Surprisingly there were a few bright red berries left on the big Holly bush; there are so many Blackbirds about I thought every last one would be gone by now. Perhaps they can’t reach those left at the end of branches. Many holly leaves have been ‘mined’ by insects so display bright pale splashes where there is now no chlorophyll.

As I said earlier, Blackbirds were numerous and have turned their attentions to the Ivy berries, many of which are finally ripe. Everywhere there were berries there were birds from low down to the tops of trees. They rustle noisily around seeking the bunches of berries using a variety of techniques to reach the fruits. Their familiar scolding and alarm calls ring out from almost every tree as they chase away competitors.

 

Hazel catkins have been present since the autumn, gradually lengthening and maturing. Now their soft golden tassels are long and fluffy, resembling the ‘lamb’s tails’, which gave rise to the old country name for catkins.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Catkins are the male flowers of the plant, producing pollen to fertilise the tiny red female flowers that sit tightly on the twigs.

I heard the Woodpecker again, this time drumming loudly on a tree trunk. It was too far away to try to locate it, but was good to hear. The males don’t have a song with which to claim ownership of their chosen patch of woodland, so they use the tool they have, their powerful bill to drum on dead trees. They can be clever in their choice of drumming spot, often choosing a site where the sound is amplified by surrounding features. A Thrush was singing nearby too, so I stopped to listen. Then two birds making sounds I didn’t recognise at all crashed into the top of a tree in front of me on the other side of the track. With the sun behind them they were drained of colour, but there was no mistaking their outlines – two Woodpeckers! I have no idea if they were a pair or two rivals chasing, but they left without a sound, one behind the other.

After the activity of the woods the almost-summit was surprisingly calm. This must be the first time for months that there has been not even a breath of wind and it was actually enjoyable to be up there! The sea of Colwyn Bay seemingly flat calm and mirroring the sky, now sunless, was a most unusual shade of blue-grey.

Swinging around to my right the snow-capped higher peaks of the Carneddau mountains rising above the river Conwy show remind that there is some Winter still to go.

Continuing up to the Summit you pass thickets of blackthorn; they take on a completely different appearance in the winter as their leafless black twigs and branches are richly encrusted with gold and silver-grey lichens.

Crossing to the North-facing side of the hill the view is down the coast along Penrhyn Bay to the Little Orme; the sea is still calm but more blue. The field (on the opposite side of the road to the golf course) has a lot if standing water and I could see there were gulls and Oystercatchers feeding there. This is the ‘Curlew field’ that I’ve mentioned many times. I couldn’t make out if there were any Curlew there, but I did hear one and the tide appears to be in, so there most likely were.

Below is a panoramic view starting from past the Little Orme on the right of the image and travelling along to the hills at the end of the Carneddau. Anglesey lies on the horizon behind the stretch of water which is the Menai Strait. It would have looked better if the sun had still been out, but it’s still pretty spectacular.

click for bigger image

Going down, the Gorse on the hillside is in full golden flower. It was only planted in recent years but has quickly thickened and grown taller.

I walked home across the field where a Long-tailed tit flew in front of me: it was so close I could almost have touched it. They are so pretty. It was one of a party but the others took a more cautious route around the field via the trees rather than the direct crossing.

I completed the circuit of the Bryn walking back along the Woodland Trail. It was much quieter now but I did get one last look of two Great Spotted Woodpeckers together, so fingers crossed they are a pair. I’ll be keeping an eye out.

A Window on the Woods-Winter 1

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My kitchen window looks directly onto a short section of the edge of the woodland on one side of Bryn Euryn, my local ‘patch’, that has been the subject of many of my blog posts. Perhaps it’s a bit scruffy-looking, but the good variety of species of trees and shrubby undergrowth offer a habitat that seems to suit a good mix of bird species and gives me the privilege of some close-up everyday bird watching. I have my own personal woodland ‘hide’ with the benefits of central heating and tea-making facilities within arm’s length. I’ve seen a wonderful array of birds on a fairly regular basis this winter thanks in part to their endless quest for food, with the added bonuses of clearer, longer sightings and have had the chance to gain fascinating insights into their habits and behaviour first-hand.

Mixed species feeding flocks

Mixed-species flocks, or ‘feeding parties’ of small birds roam the woods and we seem to be one of the regular re-fuelling spots for at least some of them. Flock sizes and the numbers and the different species of birds travelling within them varies, but their core elements are invariably Blue tits. Usually at the forefront they are first to the feeders, with no hanging back.

Blue Tit – Parus caeruleus

Blue tits are by far the most numerous visitors to the bird feeders. Most mornings they are the first birds I see and also the last in the late afternoon when it’s almost dark. Their numbers vary at different times of the day according to which of the roaming tribes they are allied to.

At first glance one Blue tit appears much like another, but with regular watching and focussing in closely to take a lot of photographs, I know that although there is a ‘blue print’ for the perfect bird, (Blue tit print?), there are a lot of individuals about that deviate from the norm. A surprising number are affected by melanism or leucism (more dark or white feathers than the norm) in varying degrees which has helped me recognise individuals. A couple have leg rings, one of which looks ‘normal’, while the other has a band of darker feathers above its beak. A selection of some of those I see regularly enough to recognise on sight now are shown below:

It seems that several of the distinct ones arrive together, so I imagine that may mean they are related. When I finally get around to collating my photographs I’m hoping it will show which families or flocks they belong to or travel with.

Great Tit-Parus major

There are a good number of Great tits too; occasionally appearing alone they are more often in twos or in small family groups. Sometimes there are as many as 6-8 at any one time in a party with other tits. There’s quite a bit of variation in their appearances too, mostly regarding the extent of the dark stripe down their breasts and continuing underparts. One or two are so heavily marked with black it makes them instantly recognisable, another has something odd about one of its eyes.

Great Tit – Parus major

Coal Tit-Parus ater

There are a small number of Coal tits; I’d say I might be seeing four at the most. Their visits are less predictable; sometimes one will appear on its own, most often one arrives together with a party of other tits and occasionally they have been here all together.

The smallest of our British breeding tits, Coal tits behave quite differently to other tits. Initially they’re not quite as bold in approaching feeders and then once food is taken they take it a distance away to eat it.

A couple of times I’ve been amused by one individual who rather than come forth and take his own food innocently approached blue tits with food, sat close by them, then dashed in and snatched their meal from their claws! The photographs below are of the tiny thief.

Coal tit with Blue tit

Coal tit approaching blue tit with intent to rob

Coal tit snatching food from Blue tit

Long-tailed Tit-Aegithalos caudatus

Then there are the delightful fairy-like Long-tailed tits, they arrive in a small family group most often following behind the rest of the mixed party they have allied to. Oddly though there is one that travels alone but in the company of a party of Blue & Great tits and a Coal Tit. It’s very unusual to see a Long-tailed tit alone, so I can’t begin to guess why this one is, unless it is the only surviving member of a family?

The Long-tailed tits mostly stay slightly higher up than their travelling companions, foraging amongst the tree branches while the others visit the feeders, but occasionally they give me a treat and come closer.

Goldcrest-Regulus regulus

Goldcrest-Regulus regulus

I see Goldcrests around and about fairly often, more particularly from my front window where they favour the big conifer trees. On a few occasions though  I’ve spotted them travelling along with mixed flocks too. They don’t often make their way down as far as their companions that are here for the food on offer, preferring to forage for themselves in the evergreen shrubs such as holly and laurel. I’ve had  some lovely views of them, but taking good photographs of these flitting flickering little birds is tricky, so I’ve resorted to one I took in the right place but back in November 2017.

Treecreeper-Certhia familiaris

Treecreepers are the final regular members of our travelling mixed flocks but from my kitchen window vantage point I have seen one only once. It wasn’t a particularly good close sighting, but I did manage to get a photo of it arriving at the same time as one of the flocks, although it stopped at one of the trees further up the slope.