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ShareMondays2018 – Where’s Jenny?

Where's Jenny?

ShareMondays2018 – Where’s Jenny?

Spot the wren! Not too hard to find with the Fujinon 100-400mm with a 1.4x tele-converter, but it is quite a challenge finding and following these birds in the grasses and reeds of Papercourt Meadows, alongside the Wey Navigation, with the naked eye. It’s a haven for wrens and I would estimate that there was an individual wren every few metres along the short stretch between Papercourt and Newark Lock. My tips for finding them are to find a good habitat spot, go early morning or evening, listen for the chatter or song, keep very still and look for movement (perhaps with binoculars or spotting scope) in the area where you can hear them singing. In this case I tracked the wren’s position by watching the grasses moving and kept the camera focussed on those areas, waiting for little Jenny to pop up into view. Be patient, let the wildlife come to you! Information on habitat can be found on the RSPB and BTO websites.

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Green And Gold

Green And Gold

Green And Gold

Last Monday I visited my recently bereaved aunt, to take her some commemorative agapanthus for her collection. We sat in her garden, gazing on her gorgeous collections of cyclamen, talking about the therapeutic qualities of being outdoors, surrounded by nature and wildlife. It was a very healing conversation, over a cup of tea, in the warm sunshine. On my way home I stopped briefly at one of my favourite spots along the Wey Navigation, Papercourt Lock. A small patch of woodland lies next to the navigation and by the many tributaries of the River Wey. It’s always full of birds but they can be hard to spot! I actually went looking for Autumn butterflies, red admirals and speckled wood, feeding on nectar from ivy flowers but instead I found this beautiful little goldcrest (our smallest bird species along with the firecrest) hunting insects on the ivy for itself. Stunning to see it caught in shafts of golden evening sunlight! I can’t think of a better way to illustrate just how magical and healing nature is.

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Blue Monday : Banquet For Blue Tits

Banquet For Blue Tits

Blue Monday : Banquet For Blue Tits

The bountiful berries of the Cornus kousa, a flowering dogwood, make a fine banquet for the diminutive blue tits in the Autumn. It’s a feast for the eyes to watch them! There are a number of kousa trees around the grounds at RHS Wisley Gardens, but the best fruiting and most visited ones are just at the bottom of the rose garden. While other birds have to forage below the trees for fallen fruit, the blue tit appears to be the only visitor light enough to feed directly from the fruit ripening on the tree. Occasionally even these lightweights accidentally pick a berry that can’t quite support them and they tumble down through the leaves. I’m yet to catch that amusing sight on camera! My lead image really captures how adept they are at feeding from the berries, so I’m entering it into today’s ShareMondays2018 and Fotospeed challenges. I’ll keep on trying to photograph one their epic fails!

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ShareMondays2018 – Shelter

Shelter

ShareMondays2018 – Shelter

I took my parents along to see the wonderful little grebe family on the Glasshouse Lake at RHS Wisley Gardens last week. They put on the most tender display of parenthood for us! Such a treat and a joy to share it with my mum and dad.

Shelter

For every dad
Who’s carried
Us upon their backs,
Provided shelter
Away from harm,
Fed us,
Clothed us,
Kept us warm.
We leave the nest
Yet still rest
Upon your strong arm.
Wrapped in your love
For all our lives,
Laugh with us,
Cry with us,
We know you would
Die for us.
But do you know
That this time dad,
It’s us,
Your kids,
Who’ve got your back.

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ShareMondays2018 – Little Grebe Family

Little Grebe Family

ShareMondays2018 – Little Grebe Family

For ShareMondays and WexMondays this week I just couldn’t resist the delightful little grebes, on the Glasshouse Lake, at RHS Wisley Gardens! Both parents take turns on the nest incubating the eggs and warming the chicks, or out on the waters collecting food and extra nesting material to keep their precious brood safe and secure. There were three tiny chicks and several eggs still to hatch when I visited on Saturday. The adults are very busy and will be for some time to come! The chicks crawl up under the wings of the adults to nestle in against their backs for warmth. In this family portrait the male grebe is feeding a nymph (possibly dragonfly) to the striped chick. It was really heart-warming to watch the care these two parents afford their new babies, a truly tender moment.

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ShareMonday2018 – A Wander In Wonderland

Juvenile Redstart

ShareMonday2018 – A Wander In Wonderland

I finally built up the courage to visit Tice’s Meadow Nature Reserve on Saturday. Surrey BTO membership secretary, Penny, had told me that there was disabled access so I nervously set off to meet up with the team managing the reserve at their woodland birdhide. After a bit of time figuring out the RADAR key padlocks to allow access for my wheelchair I was quickly surrounded by wildlife. Speckled wood, meadow brown and green-veined white butterflies danced all around me! I was so captivated that I nearly missed this little fledgling pop up into the cut branches it had been foraging around. I thought my eyes where deceiving me, the speckled head of a young robin and the tail feathers of a…of a….no….can’t be…..(takes photos then checks BTO online and does a little wheelchair dance)….that’s the tail feathers of a redstart! Whoop! Just so thrilled that this wonderful little bird stuck around long enough for me to get a few shots. The female adult was already calling to it from nearby shrubs. She’s quite drab, a glance had made me think female or juvenile blackbird, but smaller. They didn’t visit the woodland birdhide but we were delighted to see lots of juveniles there too, including greenfinch, sparrow, chaffinch, nuthatch, robin, goldfinch and bullfinch! It was lovely to meet the team managing the reserve. Warm, welcoming and passionate about sharing the joy of nature and wildlife with everyone. They already have local schools visiting and events for young people with learning disabilities. Several RADAR key access points have been installed and plans are afoot to have the main pathways made properly wheelchair accessible. At the moment the ground is hard and that allows the wheelchair to get around without too much difficulty but there are deep ruts to be avoided. I really hope that the team manage to get all the funding needed to develop the pathways and progress with other projects they have planned, including providing more learning activities for the children who regularly visit. I had a very successful Big Butterfly Count around the meadow areas by Horton’s Mount! So many blues on the wing. I think I might have finally fallen down that rabbit hole into Wonderland!

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Watching Whitethroats

Hard to spot a whitethroat in the heat-browned leaves

Watching Whitethroats

Finding a family of whitethroats (one of our many summer visitors from the warbler family) living next to the bird hide at Heather Farm has been a real treat! They’re actually behind the hide which makes it harder to hide from them. They, however, are very adept at staying hidden even when I can clearly hear them. Often the first clue is the tutting noise from one of the adults as they call the fledgelings out. Eventually one will make an appearance as I keep as still and silent as possible!

Whitethroat adult calling out the fledgelings

The next clue is the rustling and shaking in the brambles. The juveniles are in there somewhere! They eat a mix of insects and berries so are really enjoying feasting on the early blackberries. I watch the trail of movement through the brambles until one of the youngsters finally pops into view!

Fledgeling whitethroat eyeing up the berries

They don’t see me as a threat as I stay in the shadows of the hide, still and silent. Soon three fledgelings are bustling about on the brambles, before moving up into the branches of the three silver birches in this little grove. They really seem to enjoy the seeds of the birch trees! Two of these trees have been greatly affected by this summer’s heatwave. The seeds have matured early and the leaves have browned as the tree sheds them to conserve it’s dwindling water supply. The birds are easy to spot in the green leaves but utterly camouflaged against the browns, as you can see in my lead image!

Fledgeling whitethroat in the silver birch

Eventually the adults led their brood into the reeds near the boardwalks at the entrance to the wetlands centre. The reeds swayed and shook for a while to show their progress but they were soon well hidden from my sight or that of potential predators. I loved watching the little family and hope to see more of them before the end of the season. The previous morning I had attended a bird-ringing event at the centre, led by Surrey BTO, Horsell Common Preservation Society and The Thames Basin Heath Partnership. We had ringed lots of blackcaps, tits, reed warblers and wrens but the whitethroats had evaded us! It’s wonderful to see the success of this recently created nature reserve growing year on year. Today I’m sharing my camouflaged whitethroat as part of WexMondays.

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#ShareMondays2018 – Jacuzzi Anyone?

Grebe thrashing the lake water

#ShareMondays2018 – Jacuzzi Anyone?

Another image captured at Thorpe Lake where I go open water swimming every Tuesday. The grebes are beautiful and fun to watch too. I often see them stamping the water like this, churning it up, before they wash and preen. The sight and this image really made me smile so it’s the perfect one to post for ShareMondays!