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?


Throwing a sickie


It's been ages hasn't it since the EFRS had a day off on the levels. Hadn't noticed? Well it has ok. Unfortunately James sort of got things in reverse. As your all very aware the way you throw a sickie is when you want to get out of work or school etc so you can do something less boring instead. Well James did his Ferris Bueller the other way round and called in sick to an EFRS day off. I had messages about warm sick down the back of the neck and caring for the ill. Hmm well I hope he enjoyed it because he missed quit a treat.

I went to my favourite spot in all of Somerset, VP2 at Hamwall. I passed the little gaggle of birders waiting for the Little Bittern and all the people I met said the Red Footed falcon was about 3 miles down the river at the bridge. This is a nice spot I thought and this is where I'll stay thank you very much. I settled down and scanned.

A nice distant Cattle Egret. Only the second I've seen of the 17 or so that are here. They'll hang around don't worry.

This big fella was there all day enjoying the fishing

I had picked quite a good day for the Marsh harriers. There were at least five wandering around at one stage or another. Three females and two males. The females varied from light tan to a deep chocolate. All however were in full feathered finery.

Female coming in

There was a bit of caffufal at one stage as a Bittern and a pair of Marsh Harriers had a scrap. Consensus was the Marsh Harriers were after the Bittern chicks.

Getting that little bit closer!

Just the one Bittern flight of the day

Oooh he's coming a bit closer again

Bingo. There is a god!

The Marsh Harriers of VP2 have never come close. They habitually stay on the far side of the water. Closest I've ever seen them is over the water but this time this Male came very close almost to the near bank. Nice one. Male Marsh Harriers are my favourite of the harriers around here. Such colours

Along with a Jay and a few Greater Spotted Woodpeckers there were three passes of Cuckoos. I think the total was two.

Female Marsh Harriers didn't bother

He was still there when I left

James missed a pretty good day for a classic ride cough. Oh well theres plenty cough more days cough left. Get cough well cough soon cough cough. Oh dear I'm not sure cough if I should cough go to cough work tomorrow. ..............  ...... . . ....... ... . ............  . .  ... . cough!