Friday, 30 March 2012

Resourceful swans

Today I spotted my first Mute Swans nest of the spring! 30th March

But oh look what the pair of birds have made their nest of!
One lady suggested the Swans had been resourceful while another said it was indictment of our society!

leave a comment - what do you think?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

In Search of Barnacle & Pink Footed Geese in Southern Scotland

Our First Encounter

I had a five day treat in Dunfries and Galloway towards the end of October. My main purpose was to make a visit to Caerlaverock WWT centre but the Solway Firth offered much more than that, particularly due to the warm hospitality of my friends Scott and Linda. The visit was obviously arranged to aide my AS level course in Art and Craft where my interest in birds is a central theme in my work

Our search for barnacle and pink footed geese began on Sunday evening towards sundown at Castle Corner Caerlaverock a point that gives expansive views across the Solway Firth to the lake district and the highest peak of Skidaw. Moving round to the coast we could clearly see a land mass which we were informed by a wildfowl er that it was the Isle of Man to the hill of Sciffel (seen above) and in the bay in the foreground the River Nith joins the Solway as it flows south from Dumfries. WWT staff had told us this would be a good place to see these birds as the sunset, both fly out to the Solway, so we arrived full of anticipation and the air was a lot colder than that which I had been experiencing recently.

During our wait we met to contrasting characters who both had interests in the birds for different reasons! The first said he had been to the WWT centre and went on to inform us "you know you are following in the steps of Jesus" as he made reference to Matthew 4 where he instructed his followers to look how his Father cares for the birds of the air. Shortly after his departure we were joined by a man who refer ed to himself as a wildfowl er (being an urbanity I was not so familiar with such characters!) but he said "the pink foots should come from the right down the river Nith, but they may not tonight, as it was a full moon, in fact the hunters Moon in October and they may stay on the fields all night".

Sometime later we spotted s line of birds coming down as can be seen in the middle of the picture above. Could it be the pink foots? Well we had expected the geese to be much closer but maybe in fact it was the pink foots flying through!!

The wildfowler seemed little amuzed by us, I guess as far he was concerned the protection order put on the Barnicale Geese was nothing more than a spoiler on his sport!

But he continued as he got onto the subject of seeing the Barnacle Geese when he said "as long as you stay late enough you will see the Barnacles, you may need to say until it is really dark, but you will hear them long before they arrive" he commented and went on to say "they sound like a pack of terriers" another analogy from his hunting his experiences!!

We certainly had to wait a while .... but hey we had to agree with the Wildfowl er ... we were so glad to hear the sound of the approaching birds ... they certainly were loud in the the now quite dark evening .... and as they passed by someway up passing from above the woods to the Solway it was so quick ... it was over in a shot as the birds passed over in a long string across the night sky towards the waters of the Solway. But it had been one of those rich encounters that only nature offers, without man made affects or animation, and we were both glad to get back into the car and head home for a warm meal!

On our route home we saw a more familar sight, that of a Grey Heron and can you also spot the wader in the foreground on the bamks of the River Nith as we head towards Dumfries.

A visit to WWT Caerlaverock and its conservation work with Barnacle Geese

The WWT have done much work at the centre to protect these birds. The birds migrate between Svalbard, which is closer to the North Pole than the Solway is to Brighton and the Solway each year. Due to unprotected shooting the birds numbers were down to 300 in 1948 but had have increased to 27000in 2006 due the ban on hunting and the Caerlaverlock centre established in 1973.

Barnacle Geese also migrate between the Isle of Islay and Greenland and Northern Holland and Siberia.

My chief desire was to see the Barnacle Geese on visiting the Caerlaverock WWT centre, but its setting the layout of the hides and the clear visibility made our afternoon quite action packed.

Here I will concentrate on bringing some sights of the Barnacles.

We were in time to see the afternoon feed at the Peter Scott hide and as this ended, the Barnacles took to the skies:

the Barnacles from the Peter Scott Hide

Striding down to the second hide to the east we were then able to get some great shots of the birds as they grazed and flew from pasture to pasture in small numbers.

We returned towards the entrance and a gentleman approached us and told us of a very small hidden hide where he informed us we would get very close up views of the geese (see above right). We also able to see the following sequence:

Suddenly all the birds were very alert all rigid and facing in open direction (towards Skidaw). Not sure if this was due to a predator being spotted or if this was signal that was initiated by the flock!

The flock take off on mass, with Skidaw and the Lake District forming the black drop.

Here is my impression of the Barnacle geese flying into join the flock at this site minutes earlier.

So as far as seeing the Pink Footed Geese the closest we came to see them was within the flock of Barnacle Geese.

This was despite making a detour from Lochmaben along the lanes to Annan having been told by some birdwatchers they were to be seen in the fields on this route.

Coming up meet some of the other birds spotted during this visit to Dumfries and Galloway.

Life in Roath Park

This week has seen the first sightings of Pochard and tufted duck which winter on the lake

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Photographic Competition Entries and my first Exhibits in public art Exhibition

Cardiff County Council have a photographic competition annually to reflect aspects of the parks in the county under three categories: that of Flora, Fauna and landscape.

I have entered two pieces for this year.

This photo taken on the banks of Lisvane Reservoir, in July I have submitted for the Fauna section.

This photo taken a day after the first chicks had arrived while the parent birds continued to incubate the remaining three eggs was taken on Roath lake on the 30th July.

I had also intended to submit some entries for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust but unfortunately I missed the closing date.

Currently I have my first paintings on exhibition at the Gate as part of the Made in Roath arts festival.

Coming soon .... a look at one of Natures natural aerodromes ... so stay tuned!!

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Last days of Summer into Autumn

The months of September and October has been a period of transition as Summer gives way to Autumn on Roath Lake!!

One of the most special things I have really been fascinated at observing has been the late arrival of a Grebe chick, who it has been a joy to observe as the nest was on the branches of the fallen tree close to the path and so could easily be seen.

The above photo shows the chick finding its swimming legs towards the end of the month, as it follows the adult Grebe about.

Another wonderful spectacle has been the opportunity to see the Heron out fishing on the open lake with the advent of October. This has come about as a result of the parks department lowering the water level on the lake to do annual maintenance, as a result the water round the islands was virtually drained. Normally the heron hunt from the cover of the trees on the island, but were forced out onto the open water to fish! I had always thought there were about four heron but on several occasions I have counted twelve herons!

It is also lovely to see the return of the cormorant in larger numbers as they begin to return to their winter roost in the park. They seem such a clumsy bird when it comes to seeing them try to land in a tree and there is nothing more wonderful than watching them gracefully circling above the water as the sun begins to set. Look out for them fishing in the lake too!

This pastel painting was created as the sun was lowering I was particularly interested in observing the feuding between the two family groups of grebe that both roost within the confines of the fallen tree!

The left hand picture shows the older grebe family finding shelter within the confines of the fallen tree. While the picture on the left shows the parents of the young chick defending their territory.

In the above painting I added one of the heron as it flew into the tree to hunt, then a second arrived as can be seen in the picture on the right. In the background of the picture can be seen the young family of grebes too!

Can you spot the Cormorant fishing a long side the heron?

In the right hand photo Little Grebe who have recently returned to the lake having left to nest on quieter waters a long side one of the young Great Crested Grebes.

While the lake has been low it has a wonderful opportunity to see the heron on the open water but I am very saddened to report the Councils decision to remove the fallen tree that has appeared often on the site. I may report on this issue further in future postings, but in the photo on the right you can see the work to remove it going on to remove?
How do you view this decison by the Council?

Here is one of my latest pieces of work which has been formed in felt to show the heron.

Finally a successful catch .... towards sundown!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Made in ........... (Part I & II)

......... I. Weston and II. Roath

....... I. Weston

What have Cranes, Donkeys, Gulls and Made in Weston in common?
.... find out as I made a visit to a Somerset Town on a coach trip in August ....

On arriving at the Promenade as the coach dropped us off... there were three distinctive features that one noticed .. the gleaming new pier that had been built and was expected to open any day to replace the old one that burnt down in 2008.

Secondly was all the donkeys on the beach awaiting the attention of young holiday goers eager for a ride on the beach.

Thirdly was the distinctive island out in the bay which I soon learned was Steep Holm, an island that can also be seen from the South Wales coast especially from the Penarth cliffs.

We had a number of hours to discover the place, so we soon set off along the seafront with the idea of getting to Breen Down a headland to the west of the town and dominating the bay.

Here from the aquarium ... a donkey eyes view shows the new pier off to the left and the Weston Super Mare eye which every major town and city seem to have now. Yes and the Donkey .. yes this donkey had a sign asking children to refrain from climbing on it ... unlike the ones on the beach .... and hey look at all those colours ... this is quite an artistic donkey!!

We did not get as far as Breen Down instead making exploration of a nature reserve at Uphill. The dominating feature were the cliffs which were in fact the back drop of an old limestone quarry with a limekiln at the foot of the cliffs to extract the lime. The top was dominated by a church, which on further exploration was derrelick save for the impressive tower.

Returning along the promenade I
was impressed with the Carters Steam Fair Ground rides to be seen.
A specialised fair with restored vintage steam fairground rides.

Onn the left can be seen one of the pair of yachts that form the 1921
Steam Yachts and is the only remaining travelling in the world.

As I made exploration of the east end, I was also impressed with this designed causeway across the beach so that as the tide retreats it leaves this safe beach and area of water while the other side of the causeway is the thick mud of the inland estuary.

I spoke to one stall holder, Nina she had a fine variety of work for sale from colourful designs and local landscapes on cards and paintings, and jewellery. Her stall was very colourful and she was obviously enjoying the opportunity that Made in Weston was offering her. It is always interesting to see how other artists are developing their creative ideas and work!

My final find was this market put on by Made in Weston, with stalls of local artists displaying and selling their wares to the visitor. I would have liked to have spent more time looking and talking to the local artists! .... but our coach was departing shortly!

European Crane re-introduction on the Somerset Levels

The European Crane was once a native species to be seen on our shores but has been extinct for 400 years due to our hunting of them and also the demise of their natural wetland habitat. Over the last three years their has been a joint project by the WWT Slimbridge, the RSPB and the Pentsthorpe Trust. For the last three years the WWT has had what they have billed as a "Crane School" at their Slimbridge centre where eggs have been hatched and then the Crane have been reared by staff dressed to resemble Crane and taught all the behaviours needed by a crane from fur aging for food to taking walks to give their limbs exercise!!

This year a number of eggs brought over from Germany have been reared in a similar manner in readiness for their release into the open on the Somerset Levels. This release which is going to be an onward project for the next three summers is being done in the hope of re-establishing the species in our countryside.

You can read more about the project and its progress at:

European Crane captured at WWT Slimbridge on a recent visit.

II. ..... Made in Roath

Last year I very much enjoyed this new community event, based in Roath, the area of Cardiff where I reside. It was a very homely event with many people opening up their homes to allow local artists to display their work and a number of workshops including a Watercolour challenge on the sunday which I took part in.

This year Made in Roath is on the weekend of the 15-17th October and I hope to be more involved this year, including exhibiting some of my work on Wetland birds at Roath Park ... quite appropriate I think!! ... Come along to see which pieces I display!

And ..... Finally

I have recently enrolled to study AS level Art here in Cardiff and my theme can be seen quite clearly in this picture taken on the promenade at Weston Super Mare ... can you guess the Theme ... stay tuned in to hear more!


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Help Choose a photograph entry for WWT Photo Competition

The Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust Annual Photo Competition.

I am looking to make one entry for the Quirky section see

I am looking to enter a photo that I took in the third week of May when there was much activity down in Cardiff Bay with the birth of signets. Therefore most of my photos are of the signets and Penn, but I have included several others taken during the same period at other places round Cardiff.

Please can you vote for the one you think should be entered to the competition either by leaving a message on the blog or alternatively at my email
You may give a different caption for photos too.

I will take votes up to a week after this post has been published.

picture 1 " This is how you preen kids" Picture 2 "Mothers delight over kids!"

Picture 3 "keeping the downy soft" Picture 4 " Night antics at the Tail end"

Picture 5 "Bedtime Kids!" Picture 6 "life Under the Wing"

Picture 8 "Great Crested Grebe copulation
at dusk at Atlantic Wharf"

picture 7 "laughing Cormorant Atlantic Wharf"