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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Bluebells, Butterfly on a Bluebell-end, and a Newt...

While the bluebells are in full bloom, after much delay, I thought I would post a few bluebell photos. Some are from a recent trip to Ashridge with Ian the Whipsnade warden. The wood here is renowned for their bluebells. And quite right too!

Ashridge Woods

And what is a visit to woodland without an attempt at some blurry shots... 

Capturing the mood of the place and all that photographer's spiel... Who really cares!? It is either a good photo, or a load of crap. Whether it took a minutes work, or hours or days...

Semi-blurry, semi-moody, semi.

And the following is what happens when Rachael gets involved with the editing! Despite looking completely unnatural, I actually quite like it...


After! The artist within.

 A small white butterfly, clumsily lounged around in the back garden one early morning. Shame the end of the bluebell it is perched belongs to the non-native species.

Small white on a Bluebell-end

Close-up: Small white

Sky and Haz joined me for a stroll around the bluebell woods in Chrishall...

Sky charging through the bluebells

Bells of blue

After helping out on great-crested newt surveys in Marston, and surveying new ponds in the area for the GCN project, and having no luck with any amphibians what-so-ever, it was a bit of a surprise to find this little critter at the top of our pond-less garden.

Juvenile smooth newt

I love newts! Cracking little animals, with a wonderfully interesting life-cycle. Hatching from eggs with gills to absorb oxygen, metamorphosing into air-breathing miniature versions of their adult form, and then growing into handsome adulthood. This guy looked like a juvenile smooth newt. Wonderful.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Dunnock, Thetford, and a taster of recent photo projects...

5:30am. My window lay wide open. The warm air barely cooled my room over the still night. The first full dawn chorus of the year commenced. An orchestra of bird song powerfully drifts through the air; rising and falling, twisting and turning its way into spring. Thrush, robin, tits and even the garden dunnock pooled in together. A blackbird, perched on top of the telegraph pole, in prime position, fills his lungs with air. Upon exhaling, the air crosses over their double voice box. Using muscles to control each of the two passages of exhaled air, the bird can produce two, differentiating sounds simultaneously. Perfect for creating the ultimate song to attract a mate and reaffirm their territory. Beautiful start to a beautiful few days of weather ahead.

Where the dunnock deposit the crap collected from the nest

On my days off, I sat, watched and listened to the dunnock constantly foraging and feeding its young in the bush at the top of the garden. Clearly joining into the dawn chorus worked for him! In half an hour, the chicks were visited seven times. Dunnock are renowned for their complicated relationships, but luckily it appeared that this nest had both parents dedicated to raising their young. Frequently males will mate with lots of females, and females with lots of males. Sometimes leaving the chicks to be reared by more than one father, more than one 'mother' or lots of both males and females.

The dunnock's favourite perch

A magpie made a racket, screaming with excitement as it plunged down into the bushes at the back of the garden, wings spread wide, its iridescent tail feathers flashing green. I was certain the dunnock chicks would be ready to fledge anytime soon, and it turned out they had. But before long, there appeared to be just the one left upon investigation...


A trip to Thetford with Rachael, in the faint hope of catching the otter that had almost become tame, was unsurprisingly unsuccessful on the otter front. But we did manage to see willow tit, which are basically marsh tits but with slightly different calls. A greylag goose with goslings, which does not seem that unusual, until you see that the other parent is a canadian goose. Apparently, they can hybridise...

Crazy Geese

A muntjac pauses before making a dash across the path and into the woodland opposite.


A pheasant popped his gloriously blue and red head up above the tall grass. Taking a break from feeding, he clucked and leaped into the air, then scratched and beat his wings against the ground. Establishing his territory.


Canadian goslings swam across the Nunnery Lakes reserve, this time escorted by a pair of canadian geese...


A wren sang from the hedges, while sedge, reed and marsh warblers inconspicuously made their way through the depths of the foliage. 


And after a meal and a climb up to the top of the medieval castle, or the mound of, the sun set sending streaks of pink, purple and orange across a dark blue skyline.

From the top of the mound

A great example of how important it is to simply just get out and enjoy nature. We did not see the otter, which is a shame, but we did see and hear new and exciting animals that we would not have, had we stayed home and watched Britain's Got Talent. Call it an excuse to get away to somewhere a little different. And never lose sight of what really matters.

Thetford Sunset

Spending time in one of my favourite places; wading through the gentle flow of the River Ivel. Shafts of light flicker across the gravelly river bed as I plunge my camera into the water. Experimenting with some underwater river shots, I wade up stream through the small woodland. The top of the banks lined with the last remaining daffodils.

Above/below in the River Ivel

Sky joining me in the River!

And this blog shall end with a photo of a fetus, of what I believe to be a fox. Poor little blighter...

One of four fetuses found on Dunstable Downs

Also, if you do one thing over the coming week, make sure it involves walking/running/cycling/crawling through a woodland carpeted with bluebells.... Stunning, particularly first thing in the morning!

Hope you enjoyed... Expect some more bluebell photos in the next blog very soon...