Saturday, 20 June 2009

In a world of changes.

I have renamed the Blog, you've probably noticed already. I wanted it to reflect that my world is now that, beyond the Forest of Dean. Its still brianswildlifephotos etc though.

The very inclement weather that I've experienced over the last three days has meant very little photography has been done but lots of driving. From Skomer I went to St Davids. St Davids is a city because it fulfils the need of having a cathedral. Its a very beautiful and impressive cathedral too.

I stayed on a campsite just outside of St Davids called Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent park. It was an exposed site overlooking the sea. It was excellently managed and had fantastic facilities including Laundry room, shower and toilet blocks, and full waste disposal facilities. Thirty one pounds for two nights, with electric hook up was good value. Only downside, TV reception was awful but hey they can't control that can they?

I then moved north and east to Cardigan, calling in at the Teifi Marsh nature reserve and Welsh Wildlife Centre. The centre was excellent, good restaurant and information area. But unfortunately the reserve itself has seen better days. I do not want to upset anyone who might read this, I know that they are mostly dependent on volunteers but there were areas of the reserve that were very lacking.

A number of the hides were in very poor condition, I don 't doubt that Vandalism plays a part in this as the reserve is very close to the built up area. However there can be little excuse for no door catches and damaged viewing portals. The tree top hide was unfit for purpose really, no seating, no door catch, no shelf for resting kit on (triopod mounts, bean bags). The lady at info said that no-one goes there very much. I can see why. It's a hike and for nothing. I seem to recall that the place was featured on TV many years ago when it opened and great stock was put on the fact that it had a wonderful tree top hide. Those days are long gone.

However in fairness some great work is being done to repair and improve the walkway to both the Heron hide and the Otter hide and hopefully both of those will be given a face lift when its completed. I didn't get my camera out of its bag but I did see.....Yes you got it another fox. I also saw Heron, Cormorant, Reed warbler, Reed Bunting, and a Buzzard. I can imagine that despite all the problems at the right time of year there would be lots to see. I didn't get to see the otters and Kingfishers that had been seen recently either.

A quick visit to Borth and Aberyswyth and then a night in a layby found me on the road to Elan valley. I have located in a campsite near Llandrindod. Its the Caravan Park old Station Site. Its a basic site with no Toilet or showering facility. It does have electric hook ups and has the most fantastic walk alongside the River Wye, I have already seen Kingfisher and Dipper today. I am told that an otter is regularly seen so I will be up in a few hours to go and have a look early doors, weather permitting. Seven pounds a night here. A quick drive around the Elan in the rain this morning revealed a few Wheatear, Meadow pipits and only one Kite seen.

Come back soon to find out if I am successful in seeing Otter.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Post script

I said I'd tell you a wildlife rescue story. well here it is.

Whilst standing at the jetty waiting for the return boat my attention was drawn to an occurrence in the sea. Someone said it was a seal being mobbed by Gulls. This was not the case, what had happened was that a buzzard had been flying by and was mobbed by the gulls, the attack had been so ferocious that it had forced the buzzard to ditch into the sea.

Of course once in the sea the buzzards wings had become too wet for it to gain momentum to take off. The Gulls were dive bombing it, and causing a heck of a racket. One of the volunteers for the trust was told of what was happening and a message was put out to the outcoming boat. The captain of the boat diverted and we saw him catch the bird in a large landing net.

He then continued to the jetty where he was greeted with a round of cheers and applause. The bird was duly handed over to the volunteer and the boat loaded and sailed.

A great story and I dont doubt that the buzzard was extremely grateful, warms your heart that the life of a buzzard was deemed important enough for action to be taken.

More from Wales

I wanted to comment on the logistics of getting on to Skomer and the cost involved. The twenty one pounds it cost me was, on reflection, well worth it. I did initially think it was a bit steep. However its good that it is expensive, otherwise as is typical in this country it would, no doubt, be spoilt by the minority of half wits that seem intent on destroying everything that they have access to. I had a bit of an issue with the queing and the boarding system for the boat but again it works so why change it. Did anything I endured that day put me off going again? No. Would I go again? Hell, yes. The cost would have been less had I been a member of the National trust or the Wildlife trust, so I have already rectified that and set about joining.

Short eared owls, Ravens, Gulls, Guillemots, Shearwaters, Razorbills, Puffins, Pipits, Warblers, Hirundines, and Raptors, just to name a few of the species and types of birds that are present, make it well worth a visit.

The headland was just as much fun, after a cup of coffee and a rest the three of us walked around the headland with our gear. Chough and a fox I'd been tipped off about were the targets.
The Fox came pretty easily, it was laying around at the entrance to the den.
A pretty precarious den it was too. It was on a steep slope. It was a distance away but these aren't bad shots.

No foxes for ages then two in two weeks. Must be my lucky month. The Chough were a different kettle of fish. Chris spent an age walking up and down trying desperately to get a good shot. He did us a favour in a way and drove them towards us. Mike and I were "resting" and one came and landed within 75 yards. Again not great shots but a good record of this great bird.

Whilst we were fox watching we became aware of the chattering of little birds behind us. A family of linnets and a pair of Stonechats were flitting around in the gorse. The linnet was feeding it's young that had fledged whilst the stonechats were back and too with caterpillars and the like for its nestlings.
The Linnet was looking good.

Unfortunately though the female Stonechat was looking a little bedraggled.

I love the colours in these pictures, It was a beautiful evening and there was a lot of benefit from the light.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Welsh Wales

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire coast. I had never been before and was looking forward to a trip there this month. An added bonus was that I was joined by Chris Grady and Mike Smith. We descended on the place on tues 16th. I had no idea what to expect, I will express an opinion about the organisation of the place in my next post but today I will concentrate on how wonderful the place is and in addition the headland adjacent to it.

I guess Skomer is most famous for the puffins, The shot everyone tries to get is the puffin with a beak full of sand eels, I tried but I failed so this shot is just a puffin posing.

Its truly amazing to have puffins coming in to land just feet away from you and almost running between your legs to get to their nests. The shot above was taken with the 300mm lens.

Back at the landing jetty I got the first shots of the Razorbill another bird , like the puffin, that i'd not seen before.

Slightly taller than the puffin with its characteristic bill, unmistakeable really.

The Island has a good population of Rabbits, and I saw two black ones amongst them, unfortunately both times when we were moving from one spot to another so no pic other than this normal brown job.

On the boat back to the mainland we were tracked by this Gull. he flew alongside the boat about 6ft above our heads, this shot is taken with the 70-200mm lens whilst moving.

We also saw Gannet in the distance, not close enough to photograph.

More to follow in the next post. Including an amazing wildife rescue story that I witnessed myself.