Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow, Cricklade.

This is the time to go to North Meadow near Cricklade to see the Snakeshead Fritillaries. They have bloomed well this year after a mild wet Winter that was to their liking.

We like to walk to the North Meadow along the old abandoned canal from the Gateshead Visitor Center of the Cotwold Water Park. 

Note that one must stay on the public footpaths through the meadow and must not wander about trampling flowers for that extra shot...

These are rare and fragile beauties.

snakeshead fritillary 039d (53)snakeshead fritillary 039d (210)

snakeshead fritillary 039d (145)

Osprey at Rutland Water.

It is not necessary to travel to The Everglades or even Scotland for good close views of Osprey; the Rutland Water Reserve is very accessible even to our less-able fellows with good hides and ample parking etc.

If you want to photograph the birds on the nest then a 600mm lens is best but shorter lenses are fine when the birds decide to come closer for a spot of fishing. It is best to visit on a cold crisp sunny day when temperatures are low - heat-shimmer can be a problem otherwise. Patience will be rewarded eventually....

039b (1318)
039b (1058)

039b (896)

The woodland around the reserve also hosts good populations of the usual Spring migrants such as the tuneful Willow Warbler.
willow warbler 039b (1520)

This is also the best place that I know for seeing Egyptian Geese outside Norfolk.

egyptian geese 039b (1641)
Egyptian Geese with chicks.

Early Spring - back in Blighty....

"Its so nice to go travelling.... tra laa - good job I can`t record my singing!

Back in Blighty and enjoying the sights and sounds of our early Spring - birds, butterflies and flowers are responding to the warming (slightly) sun and suddenly there are not enough days to visit all the places we `must` go to to see this, that or t`other...

Our local patch Upton Warren has delivered some great sights, providing plenty of targets for the new 80D. Spring migration is well under way and the Avocets have returned to this inland oasis in good numbers with a few Little Ringed Plovers who will also nest later. The Dunlin and Sandpiper will move on.

039b (325)039b (733)039b (25)avocet 039 (1535)

Calke Abbey (owned by The National trust in Derbyshire) always has well-filled feeders by its two hides and extensive grounds to explore as well; well worth a day`s birding.
Siskin, Redpole, a Singing Wren, Tree Creepers, Brambling and Little Owl have been the highlights over the last few weeks with a Kestrel providing a chance to get my feet wet (!) in an attempt to get that bit nearer....

siskin 039c (271)male redpole 039c (668)little owl 039c (15)treecreeper 039 (2110)

wren 039 (1812)kestrel 039 (1988)

The orchard and other early spring flowers in the parkland provide food for the more common butterflies and are always worth seeking out. At this time of the year the first Brimstone or over-wintering Coma butterflies are always nice to see.

comma 039 (2257) brimstone 039c (525)

It is worth noting that The National Trust has many fine old houses and halls with extensive grounds that are increasingly being managed for wild-life.

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway: Terns, Shearwaters, Furseals, Gulls, Herons and more...

NZ 04 (151)
Cape Pigeon/Cape Petrel.
NZ 02b (496)
Dusky Dolphins.
I thought I would start this post with a few pictures for a change. The Kaikoura Walkway is an excellent platform from which to see and hear the more plentiful species (mostly seabirds) without having to swallow a box of sea-sickness pills....

Below is a photograph of the fascinating Huttons Shearwaters; they used to nest only in one area of mountains several miles inland and were vulnerable to bad weather, disturbance and vermin. The new (eye-wateringly expensive) predator-proof fence near the walkway is provided a second nesting site for them and they can now be seen from the mainland as well as by boat.

NZ 04 (61)
Huttons Shearwaters.

The walkway is a little steep in places but has an excellent surface and should pose no problems to most birders of all ages; just take your time and plenty of water as it can get very hot at the top! Disabled birders should note that a fur-seal basking on the boardwalk near the car park would be a major problem however.
NZ 02b (1061)
NZ 02b (899)
New Zealand Fur Seals.
Much of the walkway is near sea-level and offers great views of the seabirds that use this part of the coast to feed and roost; visit in the early evening when most people have left and expect close-up views of many birds who will walk towards you if you sit quietly.

NZ 03 (473) NZ 02b (961)NZ 02b (1094)NZ 02b (1112)

NZ 02b (813)NZ 03 (376)NZ 04 (2177) NZ 03 (445)

These Caspian Terns may not be rare but it was thrilling to watch them fish and squabble over the catch. Both species of Oystercatcher were easily viewed from the boardwalk near Point Kean Car Park as well on both evenings.

NZ 04 (2017)NZ 04 (2214)NZ 04 (2141)NZ 04 (1930)

More adventurous hikers can descend to the beach and limestone wave-cut platforms. Armers Beach and Limestone Bay are both worth exploring; just stay away from the fur-seals....

NZ 02b (728)

The Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin.

A good day-trip from Dunedin is the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, a 307ha nature reserve surrounded by a predator-proof fence (built in 2007). The forest is being restored to its former glory safe from the ravages of rats, rabbits, deer,stoats etc. If you want to get those great photographs then be prepared to spend the day here, walking the paths at least twice. You will not be disappointed and the entry fee supports one of the key wildlife preservation and restoration methodologies of New Zealand: it is the first reserve I have entered through a double gate protected by security code; such are the dangers outside.

Once again a visit to my flickr feed will reveal some of the photographs obtained here; the feeders for tui and bellbirds are a great idea. They contain sugar solution and one can watch the birds feeding close-up - note the long tongue of the bellbird used for reaching nectar deep inside flowers. Remember that the birds are the main pollinators here - introduced wasps are a major problem.

NZ 17 (440)

It is nice to study the lovely tui up-close rather than peering at one high in a tree.

NZ 17 (448)

We had good views of South Island Kaka in the forest and Brown Creeper that had so far proven impossible to image clearly.
NZ 17 (190)
NZ 17 (521)

We were particularly pleased to get good views of the Takahe that live here. And this raises a tricky question - wild or captive? Being flightless they cannot leave (like the kaka) but are free to wander around the whole reserve). I`ll count it as a tick...

NZ 17 (275)

Other birds seen clearly included robin, New Zealand Pigeon, Rifleman, Fernbird, Fantail and Silvereyes. It was a good day of birding and the two million dollar fence was generally invisible.

Curio Bay - Yellow Eyed Penguins and a Petrified Forest.

A day-trip from Dunedin that is well worth the time is to Curio Bay on the coastal road; there are in fact many stops along the way on this road (The Catlins) and we will plan to allow more time to explore it more thoroughly next time - although perhaps not from Dunedin due to the BORING hour-long drive to get to the start of the road through the usual endless industrial sheep-farms.

The bay is famous because of its extensive petrified forest which is worth seeing.

NZ 13 (115)

NZ 13 (9)

The reason why this place will remain in our memories for a very long time however is not the waves and forest, impressive though they were. No, it was what happened just as we were about to leave...

A lady came dashing towards the steps from the beach as we climbed them shouting to people still on the beach to 2please stay away, give him room" etc. Odd..

O MY GOD! I must admit I really did say that....

A Yellow-eyed Penguin (super-rare and rushing towards extinction) was ambling up the `beach` towards us. It proceeded to walk (stopping occasionally to preen) straight past us well-within reach of the lens. This was a privilege....

NZ 13 (438)

He finally ambled up to the surrounding vegetation (the disappearance of which is a major problem - farming again) to scape the sun and digest his fish breakfast.

NZ 13 (472)
Sleep well!

Kaikoura - Albatross Capotal on New Zealand.

With up to 10 species of albatross visiting Kaikoura you can be sure of a great time birding here! The Kaikoura Canyon is the point where warm and cold currents mix, causing an up-welling of nutrient-rich water which supports a vibrant food chain. The net result is a huge variety of sea-birds and mammals that are relatively easy to see (though not necessarily easy to identify) from a suitable boat.

The Albatross Encounter ( turned out to be one of the most memorable boat trips I have ever been on; there were seabirds everywhere! And when the Wandering Albatross came planing in at an astonishing speed towards the chum that had been put out (and I realised a wide-angle lens was needed) I wondered if I had died and gone to heaven....

NZ 04 (364)

It is best to look at my flickr feed to see the range of birds that I was able to photograph; really, the problem was holding on (literally and to my breakfast) and keeping the birds in the focus-points due to the `slight swell`.

The birds come so close (I hadn`t expected the noble albatross to be SO bold) is the chum dragged behind the boat to attract them. As I mentioned elsewhere, fishing-boats are also investigated in this way and are worth watching if one is passing on a ferry. This shot was taken just before a Royal Albatross decided to try and eat my camera.....

NZ 04 (246)

Next time we visit New Zealand (and we will) this is one place we will go back to; the Dolphin Encounter will have to be tried as well next time...

NZ 04 (1359)

This has been a brief description of an amazing morning but I think a glance of a few of the pictures I brought home will speak better than words.

O yes, and the expert on board constantly points out and names the birds as they arrive AND provides a list of what was seen on the trip - don`t forget to ask for one!