Monday, 23 January 2012

Wisley Waterlily

A card painted this evening for Wendy. She's in my thoughts and prayers
as I have heard today that she's just lost her sister.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Gatton Lake?

During last weeks' walk at Gatton, we were struck by the lake-like appearance of the frost in the shelter of this field. Though I may have over-emphasised it a bit here, it really was quite striking. The effect was caused by frost, shadow and sun. The frost in the shade was reflecting the intense blue sky and even a white 'shoreline' was created where the frost was emerging from the shadows before melting in the strong Winter sun.

Being in the foot of the North Downs, the sloping meadow beyond the stile is on very chalky soil and is a great spot for wildflowers, especially Orchids - a future post perhaps?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

First Moth for 2012

The first moth to visit my trap this year was this Hebrew Character (last night). It is so named because of the markings on its forewing which resemble the Hebrew letter 'Nun' (which I think I read somewhere means miracle). This is a pretty common moth and I usually get around 100 in a year. But this one was still a bit of a surprise as it's easily the earliest I've ever seen. The books describe its flight period as spanning March and April and my previous earliest record was 23rd Feb 2009.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

An Entertaining Walk

Here are some more shots from last Saturday. Most are self explanatory like this one! These (obviously illiterate) lorry drivers had clearly pitched up for the night in what they probably thought was a nice quiet place but found in the morning that they were completely stuck! They couldn't go forward as the route around the viewpoint was far too tight and they couldn't reverse back onto the road because of the traffic jam of cars coming up the narrow, one-way lane. We left them to it and got on with our stroll - and loved every minute.
The frosted shadow on the field behind was reflecting the
intense blue sky and looked just like a real lake.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Seen an earlier Bluebell?

 Karen (who took most of the pictures on this post) and I enjoyed a nice walk up Reigate Hill this morning and on the way, as we were commenting on the emerging bluebells, Karen excalimed, "there's one in flower"! Further along she found this Campion flower too.

The morning certainly had a Spring-like feel; we heard a Great-spotted Woodpecker drumming and many birds were in full song including the Treecreeper on the side of this tree trunk. But it was also a walk of contrasts...

Contrasts of
light and dark,


things of nature

and things of man!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Anas Platyrhynchos

Don't worry, Anas Platyrhynchos is not an obscure medical term for hemorrhoids; it's actually the Latin name for our commonest duck, the Mallard. I've already bumped into some great birds so far this year, such as Owls, Harriers, Partridges etc. but perhaps my bird of the month so far is the Mallard.

Down at  the Patch on the 2nd January, the sunlight was at times, stunningly clear and bright and it showed off the superb iridescence on the drake Mallards' head, speculum and breast.

This iridescence is created by light waves glancing off microscopic granules in the feather barbs and creating wonderful electric blues, greens a purples, so the better the light, the better the colours!

While painting this, I was quite pleased with the colours I had chosen, but with watercolour, I often forget to 'notch up' the colours because they tend to recede as it dries, as here.

Locally, most Mallards are pretty tame but up at Sheppey, when I carefully opened a hide flap, it was the Mallards that instantly and nervously took to flight. These birds however, will have been among the hundres of thousands that visit the UK for the Winter months only and breed in the far North of Europe and Iceland.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Real Treat

I could count on the fingers of one hand the number opportunities I normally get in a year to go birding on my own for a whole day - and still have plenty of fingers left. So today was quite a treat for me. And the location? The Isle of Sheppey.

I headed first for Elmley, left (you can see the bridge onto Sheppey in the distance). Today was also a recce to check access around Sheppey and at Elmley and you can drive someone in a wheelchair, down the lengthy track to the first hide. But the walk has its compensations, giving me views of Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard hunting over the fields and sending up flocks of Lapwings and a few Golden Plover.

I had the whole hide to myself and had great views of Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, a pair of Stonechats and of course, plenty of wildfowl.

In the afternoon, I checked out Shellness at the far end of Sheppey and found an excellent parking area that would allow (as it's quiet in Winter) for me to park our van side-on to the beach.  When we can do this, Thomas turns his wheelchair sideways in the van with the side door open so that he can sea-watch in comfort! Also, the shoreline here was great for Waders and Gulls.

As it started to get dark (all too early this time of year!) I headed back toward the middle of Sheppey, on the way I nearly ran over a small covey of Red-legged Partridges scurrying across the road. I made my way to the Raptor Watchpoint along Harty Ferry Road and joined another hopeful birder. The guy there, told me how he had seen up to eight Short-eared Owls there just before Christmas (there's been quite an influx from the continent this year) but although we scanned hard we saw neither Short-eared Owl or Hen Harrier. But I was very content watching a Merlin dash down the Fleet and see at least five Marsh Harriers gliding in to roost in the fading light.