Sunday, 30 May 2010

Visting Again!

My beautiful Buzzard is once again coming for food now that the bird scarers are quiet.  This is a photo taken this evening.  Not a good one I know, but it is nice to have a record of his/her presence, and as I don't have a long lens this is likely to be the nearest I will get - the image is cropped. 


As soon as I saw the Buzzard, waiting on top of this hide that I have in the corner of my field, I put out some rabbit heads.  It frequently waits here if it can't spot me.  It also nearly always eats the food here.  I made this old building into a hide about two years ago, but sadly I have only managed to get a couple of shots of a bird from it due to the local magpies, crows, rooks and jackdaws taking tries and turns to stand on top and scream "'She's in here!  She's in here!  Stay away!  Stay away!"   I am wholeheartedly against shooting any bird, but even I have had murderous thoughts about them!

Life has gotten in the way over the past few days so I have had no time to read or write blogs.  Hope to catch up with you all soon.  Many thanks for your visits and comments.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Elusive Birds

I have been trying to photograph some of the local warblers, sadly without much success.  The birds round here seem, on the whole, to be rather camera shy.   This one Willow Warbler did very kindly pose for me, though it didn't believe in staying still for too long!  Now if I could just get those dastardly little Sedge Warblers, that seem far greater in number this year, to come out from amidst the branches and leaves! :-) 



I read in the local paper today that we have had the driest spring for 54 years.  I am already rooting out my waterproof gear ready for the backlash come summer, as somehow I don't think we will have the drought that they are forecasting!  Hope you are all warmer than we are here in cold and windy Wales.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

All Fluffed Up!


It isn't only me that is all huddled up with this cold weather.  Looking at the forecast for the rest of the week it will stay just as cold, with the same biting wind.  Has summer been and gone for another year?

Chaotic day ahead of me again today, so little chance to catch up with blogs.  Many thanks for your visits and comments.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

An Oasis

I usually find, tucked away, near the centre of each town, is a small oasis where peace and tranquility can be found, and one can commune with nature.  I spent a pleasant hour in such a place yesterday morning on a visit to Pwllheli. 

When entering Pwllheli from Caernarfon direction, take the left hand turn down at the side of the railway station.  Follow the road along for a short distance and you will come to parking bays at the side of the harbour, park here.  On the opposite side of the road to the harbour you will see a low wall; at each end of this low wall are a set of steps that lead down to a path along the edge of the a reedy area where the river flows into the harbour.  It is here that time can stand still, and you can enjoy the company of wild birds while the hustle and bustle of town goes on in the distance. 

Some photos from yesterday of the birds that are accustomed to human activity and therefore much easier to approach.

Blackbirds seem keen to have a good look at me this week: this little lady hopped into a bush at the side of me and watched me for some moments. 


This Jackdaw seemed very interested in the strange lady on the grass with the long lens pointing at him.


This delightful little Pied Wagtail was one of a pair that flitted continuously back and too along a stretch of piping that crosses near the bridge.


A selection of gorgeous Gulls.





And a wonderful Heron that was perched on the same pipeline as the Wagtail while looking for his next meal.


There were other water birds including Shelduck, but unfortunately I didn't have a long enough lens to get a photo of them. 

I had a very busy day yesterday, besides this lapse, and so I am still trying to catch up with blogs.  Many thanks for your visits and comments on mine.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Avian Encounters

I sat on the damp newly mown grass with my back to the hen hutch.  My collie sat on the wall at the edge of the poultry area, calmly and quietly surveying his territory.  My two lurchers lay to my right, dozing in the late evening sun.  A chill wind played around us as I watched the three-quarter moon rising above Mynydd Rhiw.  I was hoping for some photos of the Sparrows, and perhaps the Collared Doves that visit the hens food supply in large numbers.  The Doves tend to be very wary though, so I knew that a shot was probably unlikely, especially as the feeding area was not much more than 8 feet in front of me. 

A small shallow ditch which carries away the overflow from the duck pond, a ditch that is damp come winter and summer, lay between me and the food supply.  It was in this ditch that I spotted her, at the same time as she spotted me. 


She hesitated and stood alertly, assessing the situation, working out whether I was a danger, or insignificant. Thankfully she decided on the latter, and carried on her business of gathering a good supply of worms from the damp soil.   I couldn't believe my luck as she hopped closer and closer, totally engrossed in capturing worms.  She moved from in front of me and came over to my left.  I was sure she would startle and fly away, but even as I gently edged the camera and lens around towards her, she barely bothered.  By now she had gathered more wriggling soil covered worms.



She was a good Mummy, and decided that none of her brood were having mucky meals!  She turned, backtracked, and then went to the shallow area at the side of the pond.  Here she washed the worms thoroughly, and then flew away.  I thought that would be the last that I would see of her, but within minutes she was back.  This time she flew in from my left and watched me carefully as she hopped along the ditch, checking for more worms. 


She worked her way along the full length of the ditch, but no luck, not a one to be found.  She turned, stood  alertly on the top edge of the ditch, stared in my direction for long moments, and then was gone.  


Another precious few minutes in the company of Mother Nature: who needs a TV when you can have this?

P.S. I got rid of my TV over thirteen years ago and it was the best thing I ever did!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Missed It!


I was layed up for all of Saturday, and most of Sunday, with a migraine, so I missed out on all the beautiful weather and the photographic opportunities, but I did manage a few shots yesterday evening when my migraine had nearly cleared: a European Goldfinch above and a Greenfinch below.  Both taken in early evening sunshine.


I shall sneak in one of my own ducks enjoying the evening sunshine while floating on the pond:


Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  I will catch up with everyone's blogs when my eyes are a little less delicate.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Just Glorious!

What started out yesterday as thick mist, quickly turned to thin mist, and then burnt off completely, leaving us with a beautiful sunny day.  We did have very light hazy cloud for part of the day, but that just made it less hot and didn't detract at all from a relaxing and enjoyable slumber in the garden.   Bees buzzed, and the occasional butterfly flitted past.  Swallows babbled from the telegraph wire, and then swept low over me, and on into my garage where they have decided to make use of a nest that they have ignored for over ten years. Ants, both black and orange, accompanied me on the blanket, along with numerous spiders and the odd fly.  It was wonderful to feel the sun on my back.

If you are going out for a walk this weekend, keep a look out for the larvae of the Bloody-nosed Beetle.  They can be seen munching away on plants at this time of year.  Such delightful looking creatures that make me think of soft liquorice sweeties.



They get their name from the adults habit of exuding a red fluid from the nose when picked up.  I am told that it tastes disgusting, but I am not about to try it to find out for myself!

Have a good weekend everyone!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Noises Of Nature

Yellow Rattle, the beautiful wildflower,  is now in bloom.  This delightful little plant is a semi-parasitic grassland annual.  It looks beautiful along the verges, but wouldn't be a flower that would be welcomed on farm land due to its ability to drastically reduce a grass crop, being said to reduce a hay yield by up to 50 percent.  It is to be welcomed though where wildflower diversity is sought, as it opens up the sward and leaves gaps for new seeds when it dies back at the end of the season.

The individual flowers always make me think of a screaming parrot, and when the plant is looked at from a distance, it does have the look of individual birds stuffed into sacks with just their heads peaking out, perhaps  giving them something to scream about!



It derives its name from the noise made by the seed heads when ripened: the green 'bladder' behind the flower becomes paper like, and the seeds rattle around inside.  This tends to happen around the middle of July onwards.  When this plant used to be common on farm land it also had the name of Hay Rattle, as it gave warning to a farmer that the hay was ready to cut. Sadly, gone are the days of wild flower hay, and now we see mainly monocultures of ryegrass.  Though these monocultures might give better yields, they are disastrous for wildlife, and also are not good for the health of stock, as the mixed herbs were beneficial to the health of the animals that grazed them.   We hear so much now about TB in cattle, and have in the not too distant past had the terrible tragedy of Foot and Mouth, a tragedy of the governments making.  For over a hundred years now farmers have been campaigning for better understanding of disease in farm animals, and some of those farmers showed just what could be achieved solely with good diet and herbs.  If you are interested in getting a better understanding of these subjects, then it is well worth reading the books by F Newman Turner, Albert Howard and Robert Elliot.  The following website has Elliot's and Howard's books available as a free download: http://www.soilandhealth.org  Turner's books have now gone back into print, so are no longer available there, but his work carried on from Elliot's and he dedicated his time to curing cattle that would otherwise have only been fit for slaughter, including TB cattle.

A view from my bedroom window this morning.


The mist gets thicker!!  But all is not lost because I just heard a Cuckoo: wonderful!!!  I had given up hope of them arriving here this year.

And glancing through the window again, the sun is trying to show his face.


The sun has got his hat on! Hip, hip, hip hooray!  The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out to play!  I had better go and find the sun tan lotion! :-) 

Cuckoo!  Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Damp, Dank And Dark!

Well, that was yesterdays weather anyway: a day of low misty cloud that blocked out the view of the surrounding fields; the sort of weather that makes you feel you should be in bed rather than up and outside working.  It stayed that way all day, and by six o'clock the goats were queuing up to come in from the field. This is a view from my bedroom window, looking towards the east.  As you can see there isn't much to see other than mist.


This sort of weather always makes me want to watch Hound Of The Baskervilles with Basil Rathbone: one of my favourite films.  It is the sort of weather for traipsing across Exmoor on mysterious and dangerous escapades. 

Today the mist is so thick that I can barely see the hedgerow.  The heatwave is supposed to arrive tomorrow, but seeing is believing: I have been let down by the Met Office far too often in the past to trust them! :-)

The day before yesterday, while we had a little sunshine, I photographed the eggs of the Dock Beetle: Gastrophysa Viridula.  They are easily spotted on the undersides of Dock leaves.  No wonder the female was so bloated with eggs this size.


   The adults were still busying themselves mating. 


This is a beetle that they are using as a natural control of Dock on farm land: farmers are being encouraged to breed their own supplies and then release them where needed. If you are new to my blog there are more images and info on this beetle here: http://myworldinphotosandwords.blogspot.com/2010/05/good-year-for-insects.html

P.S. Many thanks for everyones visits and comments; they are much appreciated, as I get great pleasure out of photographing the world around me, and it is nice to know that others enjoy the photos. :-)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ramsons


When I moved to this property there were no Ramsons growing on the land, so I set about locating some and planting it up.  Everyone thought that I was mad: they all said that I would be overrun with the stuff, as it supposedly spreads quickly wherever it is planted.   I wanted it not just for its beauty, but also for its medicinal purposes, so it was a risk that I was willing to take.  I planted up four patches of it, and then I waited hopefully for it to spread sufficiently for me to harvest regular supplies.  Ten years later the clumps have only doubled in size, and as they were tiny clumps I still don't have enough to harvest.  My land is obviously not to its liking, despite the fact that I catered to its needs with the planting situation.  At least though I do have some to photograph, though sadly their blooms never last long. 

P.S. We are now back to winter: thick low cloud, strong winds and chucking it down. I knew it was too good to last! What would the British do without the weather to complain about?!  LOL

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Another Beautiful Day!

I am beginning to worry: we have had mainly dry weather for over a month now, and for the past three days the weather has been just glorious.  In previous years when this has happened, it has then rained continuously all summer.  Please Gods, do not let that happen again this year!  I just couldn't stand another cold, wet, miserable summer; a summer where the woodburning stove is burning as much as in the winter, either that or we sit and shiver.

Oh well, while the sun is shining I am making the most of it, as are the insects.  

I have seen quite a few Ladybirds this past few days.


This delightful hoverfly: Leucozona Lucorum seems to have had a good year, with plenty of them about on the Cow Parsley.  It isn't one that I have spotted before, and being so distinctive, and quite large, I am sure that I would have done if they had been as plentiful on previous years.


This warm weather has made all the difference to the Bluebells attractiveness to bees: they are being worked continuously by the Bumblebees and the Honey Bees.  I wonder whether this is one of my bees?


On a depressing note, my Buzzard has been scared off by a bird-scarer that has been put in the field of barley next door: every so often it lets off a bang that sounds like a bomb going off.  Understandably the Buzzard has decided that this is no place to be.  I had actually been thinking that Mr Buzzard was in fact a Mrs, due to the fact that it now comes at irregular times and not every day, eating quickly and then disappearing rather than sitting around for a while.   I wondered whether it might be sitting on eggs.   A few years back a Buzzard reared young in a tree not far from me, and once the youngsters could fly they came daily to my bottom field.  I manage the land organically and it teems with voles, shrews and insects: an ideal nursery.  I had hoped that once again this year the youngsters would be brought here, but that won't happen if they are continually scared off.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A Good Year For Insects


This year seems to be going well for insects, which makes a pleasant change, as the last three have, in general, been terrible, with very few insects to be seen.  The only exception were butterflies last year that had a fantastic breeding season: I had never seen so many in this area and was spoilt for choice when it came to photographing them.  

The photo above is of Gastrophysa Viridula a leaf-beetle.  I came across a group of them that were mating on a patch of Dock. The female becomes grossly enlarged with eggs.  Below is a top view of one: handsome creatures. 


Sunday, 16 May 2010

Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day!

I awoke this morning as the first rays of the sun glinted across a lush rain-washed landscape.  It was one of those mornings when you truly appreciate living in Britain.  The first real warmth from the sun had arrived yesterday and I managed to go for the morning walk minus any coat, despite a brisk breeze.  Whitethroats littered the hedgerows and all seemed well with the world.


Our peaceful sauntering walk was interrupted by a flock of sheep who had decided to take a wrong turning, leaving the farmer behind some distance away.  They were extremely interested in the odd woman lying on her side in a ditch.


The farmer eventually arrived to try and move them, but they had ideas of their own and decided to stay put.  After watching the farmer struggle for sometime I decided to give a helping hand.  I called the dogs to follow and help, but the dogs said "No chance!"  I think their upbringing, with a group of sheep and goats who were all blessed with major attitude problems, has left them only too aware of the damage a sheep can inflict.  The sheep seem to sense their reticence and take the opportunity to 'have a go'.  As one friend put it "You are the only person I know that could walk through a flock of sheep with a pack of dogs, and have the sheep attacking the dogs instead of the other way round!"  The sheep did eventually decide to move on and the dogs and I continued our walk.  

It is very difficult when you are on your own as you can't look at both sides of the lane at the same time, so invariably you miss something, and frequently it can be the 'best' something.   Yesterday I suddenly had the urge to double back on myself and check the other side of the lane that I had just passsed.  I was so glad that I did, as there, in amongst the nettles, were the caterpillars of the Small Tortoiseshell, the first that I have seen this season.


While lying on my side in the ditch a strange man went past and laughed at me: there are some odd people in this world! :-) 

And then it was time to dash home and expose some of my blubbery white flesh to the warm sun.  While lying in a sheltered spot by the hedge, the Buzzard flew into the hawthorn twenty feet behind me.  He screeched and screeched at me.  I am not sure whether he was expressing disapproval at the vision of my body, or hunger pangs, but if it was the latter, the sight of me obviously diminished his appetite, as he flew away and didn't come back for several hours! If you are new to my blog and haven't been introduced to my Buzzard you can meet him here: http://myworldinphotosandwords.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-strange-behaviour.html

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Almost Cuddly


Until I started macro photography I had a real phobia about flies.  There was just something about them that I found totally repulsive, not something that I could define with specifics, but just a total revulsion.  A horror at having them near me, or even in the same room.  No other insect has had this effect on me.  I lie, I did go through a brief spell in my teens of disliking earwigs, but it was only brief! Seeing a fly in close up though, changed my emotions from one of horror to one of fascination.  They come in such a variety of colours and shapes, and some, such as this dung fly, could almost be described as cuddly.  He reminds me of some of my teddy bears of childhood with that soft downy looking coat.  And that tuft on his head gives him a noble air: I can image a cape thrown over his shoulder and him bowing low in front of Queen Elizabeth I.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Looking But Not Seeing

Sometimes I find that I am so engrossed in trying to spy out the creatures, I just don't spot them when they are right under my nose: a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees.  This happened a couple of days ago: I had been on a long meandery walk when I suddenly spotted the time and realised that the rest of the walk needed to be a brisk one.  I stopped scanning the banking and started to walk off, and that was when I spotted it, standing out like a boil on a bare backside: a Brimstone Moth.  How I had missed it when searching I don't know.  He was hidden slightly behind a blade of grass, but very obligingly stayed put as I moved the blade away, and also moved the blade of grass that he was clinging to in order to get some better shots.  I wish all moths were this obliging! 



It was certainly a fat little chap, and would make a tasty meal for a bird.  I ensured that I tucked it back into the base of the hedge and camouflaged it with another blade of grass when I left.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Wonders Of A Macro Lens


The macro lens has opened up a whole new world to me, a world that is full of mystery and beauty.  I took the above photo after spotting what I thought were eggs.  There was a whole bunch of them on a leaf.  I assumed at a casual glance that they were some sort of insect egg.  I moved closer with my lens to get a photo for identification purposes, but as I did so the 'eggs' legged it in all directions! Two slightly bolder creatures stayed on top of the leaf as the rest disappeared underneath it.  These little creatures were not much bigger than a pin head, and having never seen one before, I scoured my insect books to identify them, but without success.  I have asked around and so far no one can tell me what they are.  Does anyone reading this know?  No prizes for answering, just my gratitude! :-)

UPDATE - It is indeed a young shield bug:  http://www.britishbugs.org.uk/heteroptera/idcards/life_stages.html  Many thanks Dean. :-)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Top Of The World


As you reach the summit you have views down the expanse of the Peninsula: a landscape of patchwork fields bordered by narrow hedges and drystone walls, and also the towering exposed rocky peak of Garn Fadryn. It is cold up here; a place where the wind is always lazy: too idle to blow round you so it blows straight through.  You quickly become chilled to the bone, even on a warm sunny day.

The summit has an eerie presence and a sense of antiquity, not just from the stone hut circles that litter the ground, but also from the skeletal remains of trees from a long ago fire.  You feel as though you are walking in the company of the dead.

As you reach the highest point, and stand at the look out hut, you have views across to Cardigan Bay, Yr Eifl. and on a clear day Snowdonia.



Yr Eifl (The Rivals)


If you enjoy a peaceful walk then this is the place to go.  In all the years of walking there I have only bumped into people on a couple of occasions, and that was in the summer months.   Also if you are a dog walker this is an ideal place as you can have well behaved dogs off the lead without fear of bumping into sheep: a rare occurrence in this part of Wales. 

Be sure to take a walking stick with you as the ground is quite treacherous in places.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Delayed!

Today's post on the summit of Garn Boduan is delayed due to me taking a very long four hour walk on this delightful sunny spring day.  I do instead bring you a view of Garn Boduan taken from  the north side of Garn Fadryn.


The path taken to the summit is on the right hand side of of the image, up through the conifers.  On the left behind the Garn is the hill at Pistyll, and the three peaks rising behind, one to the left and two to the right, are Yr Eifl, known in English as The Rivals. 

Well, sadly, after a long and leisurely morning, followed by a long and leisurely lunch, I have work to do.  Hope your day has been as delightful as mine.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Ascent

Garn Boduan rises up steeply from near the eastern end of the Llyn Peninsula.   It is the site of an Iron Age Hill Fort where the remains of over 160 circular stone huts have been found, remains that are clearly visible even today.  The hill is one of those places where you either roast going up, or freeze at the top.  I have tried both options, and usually find being over dressed is preferable than under, especially if you wish to admire the views.  My latest visit there made me glad that I had taken a warm fleece with me: it was a beautiful sunny spring day - lovely and warm when out of the breeze, but bitter in exposed areas.

The path from the road rises steeply in a southerly direction between conifers, small saplings and my most hated plant: Rhododendron - I would exterminate this plant from the UK, having seen the devastation that it has caused in our native woodlands.  I don't even find it attractive, and consider its gaudy flowers to be totally out of place in our subtle and beautiful countryside. Sorry, rant over for today!!

Onwards and upwards: the path snakes round towards the north through tall conifers and more mature native trees.  As the path starts to turn to the south again you will see a much narrower path cutting up through tall conifers, it is this path that I always take to the summit.  You only walk a short distance before the conifer cover thins out to be replaced by a patchwork of bracken, heather, stunted gorse and the occasional sapling. 


 Up ahead the rocks rise, sheer and bleak, providing an outcrop from which the Ravens view their territory.  There is always a pair here.  They flap slowly from rock to rock, watching your progress with a wary eye.   The path continues to zig-zag to the summit through patches of buzzing bilberry.  I stand and listen, and watch the Bumblebees busy at work.


And then I spot a small patch of Fairy Bells better known as Wood Sorrel.  I have never tried eating this plant but I have read that it has an acid taste and makes a pleasant addition to salads.  It also makes a 'Sirrup for a Feaver':

"Take Sirrup of Violets two ounces; Sirrup of Woodsorrell two ounces; Sirrup of Lemmon two ounces, mixed altogether, and drink it."

It is so sad that we have lost so much knowledge of the herbs of wood and field due to the influence of the drug industry, an influence that is in the interests primarily of profit and not health. 


 Just after the Fairy Bells I reach the first wall of the hill fort.  


I stand and think of our distant ancestors climbing this hill to reach safety from oncoming attackers, attackers who would be so vulnerable when traversing this steep rocky land. 

And then I reach the first of the stone huts: what a bleak and inhospitable place to live.


Just beyond this hut is a small patch of water.  Whatever time of year I have visited there is always a puddle.  I assume that underneath is a spring of some sorts, perhaps the one where the Iron Age people got their water from.   

And then we head towards the summit: visit again tomorrow for the last installment!
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About Me

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I live in North Wales and spend my time caring for animals, walking in the countryside, photographing nature and reading. I hope to share, in photographs and words, some of the beauty that I see. If you enjoy the photographs on this blog then you might like to take a look at my Flickr photostream. View my complete profile for links to both of my blogs.