Wow, what lovely weather we've had for April. It's been fabulous for getting out and about. It's been a busy period with lots of miles walked and lots of photos taken.
All of the birds seem to be in, I heard my first cuckoo yesterday (21st Apr). The only thing I haven't heard or seen yet are Sedge Warblers. Whitethroat and Reed Warblers are in on the Gravel pits near Hereford but no Sedge. I don't doubt they are there though.
I spent two fabulous days in Devon with Chris G and Mike S. Thanks Chris and Lynne for your hospitality. We went after Dartford Warblers, not really knowing how we were going to do.
We were on to them pretty quickly, although distant and characteristically skittish. I had never seen a Dartford before so it was a thrill to see them. This is a considerable crop.
When the Dartford weren't around, the Dunnock kept us entertained with their singing.
There were also plenty of Stonechats milling around too.
we also saw a single Yellowhammer and a very pale Kestrel, so pale in colour that we weren't sure what we were looking at for a while. It was distant.
The following day saw us back at the reserve, and after a quick trip away for a McDonalds breakfast as the mist was too thick, we were soon back amongst the Warblers. we also noted that there were quite a few more Yellowhammers around.
All in all a brilliant 2 days of birding, finished off with a quick detour to see Dippers near Honiton.
Back at home I set myself a target of Orange-tip butterflies. I only had a couple of shots of this quick moving beauty, so it was going to be a challenge.
The female I caught on some Red Dead Nettle flowers,
The male on some Cuckoo (aka Lady's Smock) flowers.
My next targets were slightly larger and I wasn't even sure I was going to photograph either of them, I just wanted to confirm that they were in so that I could save myself a journey into Powys to Gilfach Farm NR. I was pleasantly surprised to find both, and to manage a shot or two of the one. Yes Redstart and Pied Flycatchers were my targets. The Pied Flycatcher was singing his little heart out, but the female that was near him seemed to be unimpressed and whereas he clearly favoured one nest box, she much preferred another, I can see heartache if one of them doesn't compromise.
I have spent almost a weeks worth of evenings watching badgers on a Herefordshire Nature Trust reserve. I was going to do a project on them and try to photograph them but I have been asked to hold off by the trust as they have a family viewing evening planned in June and have their own plan in place. Shame as I had already managed to attract the badgers very close and was just about to start implementing lighting. However the nights I sat there for 3 hrs a time were very rewarding, with some really nice viewing.
I have another target species in mind. Yellow Wagtail. I know a site a couple of miles away from me where there are usually a pair. I have already had clear viewings of one bird, although only managed one frame. I need to dedicate a few more hours to this project.
One of the critters I love at this time of year is the Bee Fly, at another HNT site there are two types, Bombylius Major and Bombylius discolor. I have provided HNT with images of both and they are going to use them in their Spring newsletter hopefully, so for the first time I may get a picture in print. You can see the images on my Smugmug site Just like buses you don't see anything for ages and then 2 come at once and hot on the heels of the request from HNT to use my images came a request from Hereford Fungi group to use an image of a Fishy Milkcap, Lactarius volemus, in their newsletter. How will I cope with the fame??
With 29 images on Getty images now and as yet no sales (not that I'm expecting any), my feet are well and truly planted. I am told by some that my images are of a great quality now but I still don't think that they are anywhere as good as a great deal of others. I get my pleasure from getting the images and sticking a few on my Smugmug site. there is a link on this website.
Now to finish, the highlight of this last week or so was getting a call from my son who was observing Wild Boar in the forest. He said could I get down there and if I could he would stay with them and keep me appraised of their position. Too right I could get there, and at something slightly over the speed limit for a portion of the trip. I was soon with him and feeling blessed to witness one of the best groups of Boar I've seen, three sows and fourteen piglets. Clearly a group that was thrown together as the Piglets were of two different sizes and all three of the sows appeared to be lactating. we spent an amazing 45 minutes or so watching and in my case photographing them, and once again I was never in danger from the sows. They knew I was there and yet they allowed my to get so close that on occasion the piglets were too close to get fully in the frame. The piglets themselves were amazing, inquisitive and delightful to watch. I was so enamoured that I often found myself forgetting to press the camera shutter. In the wake of some bad press relating to a dog being seriously injured, I wish more people could have watched the group as I photographed them. They really are no threat if approached carefully, quietly, and slowly. Here are just three of the hundred or so images I took.
The Sow pictured was the biggest and oldest of the three, and she was big. It was a brilliant experience and one that neither I nor my son will ever forget, in deed my son was so impressed he rushed home to fetch his girlfriend and returned a short while later to find them not far from where we'd left them, so she could see them up close too.
There are and will be more shots on my Smugmug site.