Droning on


Finally the EFRS had a full compliment. James wasn't ill, I wasn't wandering around tank museums etc etc. We had to do the classic, a cycle out to Hamwall. James was as usual fashionably late but we were off with gusto down out of Glastonbury, through the enchanted wood, a brief stop at the Aqueduct crossing bridge and on to the entrance of Hamwall. A beautiful day would have been nice but the clouds were about on mass. So what, we thought, it was EFRS day and we paced on. Stopping at VP2 we found that we were alone, I mean alone as there was precious little wildlife about for company. Eventually there did appear the usual stuff that we tend to drone on about. You know the ones, three Marsh Harriers, five Great White Egrets and a single Cattle Egret. The usual mundane stuff. We discussed other reserves and I commented that the good stuff tends to hang around as per the three mentioned just now. Seriously we're not knocking the wealth of diverse nature. Anyway lets just climb out of this hole and show the pictures.

Oh I forgot to mention we moved on to the Avalon Hide to see if anything was about. There was.

First off James' pictures

Parent bringing in the lunch

You can tell it was a poor day when you snap Black Headed Gulls

We moved on again to the Tor Hide where it was still a bit quiet. Its the time of year isn't it. Everything has done it's business and was relaxing with a fag while the juniors play. I suggested we move on, packed up my kit and walked off down to the bikes. James stayed for a while and then I saw that classic look. He squatted down slightly and lifted his lens. He looked around at me with that 'Theres something really good flying round. I ran back in. It was a female Marsh Harrier coming up close and personal. She wasn't bothered a bit by us. James had her in his sights but didn't quite get her.

James shot as she flew passed

Then she came round again

Nice one James

So my pics next

That Cattle Egret at VP2

A Buzzard on a stick

Coot family at the Avalon Hide

Feed me

Now I don't want to drone on again but this happened at the Avalon Hide. A drone flew over and wandered around for a few minutes. Its a DJI Aspire 1 to be precise. We reported it to the RSPB staff who knew it was about. Now I've had a quick Google and things don't add up. If it was an RSPB drone doing a survey the staff would probably know about it and they wouldn't be doing it at the weekend.  If it was a police drone it would be marked such. There was a missing persons search on in the area. Also it didn't hang around long and only did a cursory sweep. This is an expensive bit of kit. It few off over towards the houses. I couldn't see anyone controlling it.

DJI Inspire 1 drone

Bringing in the lunch again

Feed me!



James dropped his hood out the window of the hide! No wildlife was hurt in the incident!

I managed to get the Marsh Harrier at the Tor Hide

I hope we haven't droned on too much about the great wildlife at our reserves. We really are spoilt don't you think? 



Well after hassling Andrew for much of this evening trying to find out the password to get on the blog (it hasn't changed but my memory is comparable to a blind goldfish).  Then I badgered him some more because I couldn't remember the email address either :-)

Any how, I'm here now and can give a summary of my wanderings at Center Parcs at Longleat.  This has become something of an annual event that takes place during the Glasto weekend (all that mud and wee isnt for me).

This time around family numbers have been swelled with the sister in law having twins (three under 3, now).  Rather her than me.  Plus brother in law and parents in law plus wife plus me.  Yes it was a bit like an episode of The Waltons.

In between swimming, eating and drinking I did manage to get out and about in the forest.

Here are some of the critters I managed to get.

This cheeky young lady was sat on the roof of our lodge

The best pic of a Jay I have managed (not that its something too shout about...)

 I wandered deep into the forest and promptly got lost.  I actually walked by our lodge twice! But they all look the bloody same.  Of course wandering around in the dark with a big lens could lead to arrest... Please note that I do know these people...

Peanuts were a favourite along with coleslaw  

The pond next to the lodge was limited to Mallards and Moorhens

He flew in for just a moment

Thousands of 'em

A Chiff-Chaff I believe

 Looked nice in the sun

2 visitors on the last night :-)

Sadly I didnt get a Muntjac but seeing the badgers so close was great.  I love badgering...


Mull day 4 or the cruel sea


(Spot the deliberate mistake?)

It was the last day! Where did it all go! So we had to make the most of it. Lee had an excellent idea. The previous day we had popped up to Tobermory and booked a four hour Whale watching expedition 15miles out into the North Atlantic. What could possibly go wrong. We headed north all excited and wrapped up to the gills against the cruel seas ahead of us.

Off to a good start with a Seal just out side of Salen

The boat was pretty reassuring to be honest. A largish affair with room on top for all the dozen off us who had booked. We set off out the harbour up the Sound of Mull and once passed the shelter of the land out into the choppy depths.

No this wasn't our travel of choice but it would have been cool

Was this a foreteller of fortune?

Indeed the white horses were up and as we sailed into the wind it was pretty exhilarating and fun. I was at the front with our spotter Andy. I held onto the railings and rode the waves like an old sea dog. Bending my knees and predicting the rise and fall. Lee on the other hand took a more avid approach. He had his bins firmly stuck to his eyes looking for anything that flew or swam or dived etc. He was getting his moneys worth thats for sure. When I saw he was doing this I thought to myself your a braver man than I as I would be in serious trouble in no time. He was fine though........ for now.

One final bird I really had on my list was a Gannet. Fabulously beautiful birds with majestic low flight skimming the waters, fantastic colours and elegant shape. Then when they go into action they are darts diving into the water. Amazing birds and definitely my favourite sea bird. I wanted one or two. I didn't have long to wait.

There we go. Thank you

It can be a lonely place can the sea

Unusual to see Arctic Terns or any Terns for that matter resting on the sea


A nice young Great Black backed Gull

We were having a very good day of it. Plenty of birds around. Andy was guiding the skipper out to the various flocks as this was a good sign of Whales as they hang around for scraps. No luck so far though. We had plenty of birds to keep us occupied.

One of the bad boys of the skies made an appearance in the form of Arctic and Great Skuas. These really are unpleasant birds to us. They harry other birds until they give up their food either by dropping or regurgitating. I've never been a fan of birds that steal. Go get your own food you lazy buggers.

Arctic Skua attacking a Kittiwake

This is rather a balletic picture I thought

Manx Shearwaters

A nice flock of Common Gulls with a Skua for company

A disgruntled looking Kittiwake. Possibly because it just got bullied by a Skua. Kittiwakes are another favourite of mine.

Another Shearwater

Then one of the really big bullies passed by having a look around.

Great Skua passing through

I really do like this shot with the water refections

Great Skua coming round again

What a great adventure out. But what of the Whales I hear you ask. Well we did indeed see two Minke Whales. They rose and fell in the blink of anele but lasted for ever in the mind. A dark black jet black shadow which moved ghostly out of the sea. Too quick for photos I'm afraid.

Further as we sailed back a cry went out. Dolphins! We looked around as excited children do not knowing where to focus. Theres one, two, five, ten. There must have been over twenty all together. A pod had come along side and was enjoying the diversion of a wake and pressure wave to play with. I of course swung my 100-400 lens round and aimed. They were too close! I reeled it in to 100mm but no they were still too close. I grabbed my 6D with the 50mm and managed to get some arty stuff you can see HERE.

This was the very first shot I took and is probably the best!

There is definitely a knack to photographing Dolphins. With no practice I was shooting as I saw them which is usually as they went back under. I think you have to get to know them and predict as they are about to leave the water. 

Those marks on it's side are from other Dolphins teeth. I though it might have been from Giant Squid suckers but no.

Lee had the right idea. He got his Phone out and video'd them! Who need all the gear!!
Excitement over they left and left us to boot boot back to dry land. That was a brilliant day out. Excellent idea Lee. Well it was a brilliant weekend. We left early on Monday to grey clouds and rain. It absolutely pelted it down on the drive back. We timed it right.

I must thank Lee for suggesting and inviting this bit of the EFRS to a brilliant place. So much stuff to see at every turn of a corner. Speaking of stuff we saw. For the record here is Lee's list. Not sure I saw  all of them. I probably did but had no idea. But is the EFRS for you.

Oh and just before you go. I forgot to tell you how Lee got on with his sea legs. The bins got to him in the end and he ended up below, head in hands looking decidedly green and being very quiet for the journey back. My cheese and onion pastie I took for the trip probably didn't help either. Same time next year Lee?