200 and we’re back home!

Yesterday we spent our last night of our South/west country trip away and it seemed we wouldn’t reach the 200 I had hoped for. We have had an excellent time having Janice and Chris join us for the last week has been good fun and compensated for the fact that we haven’t got together so much this year due to our gallivanting!

Suitcases packed, final cup of tea drunk, route home planned when the pager beeped and I tentatively suggested to Ian that we might make a detour! Not sure he was thrilled at first but it was to see a Hoopoe, possibly the very same bird we had rushed to Dawlish for last Sunday but it was gone. Of course he was as keen as I was to get the 200th bird and what a cracker it would be if we could get a Hoopoe. Off we went and when we found the place we jumped out the car, saw it for a minute or two then off he flew! Into the trees and out of sight, it quite possibly reappeared later but we didn’t have time to waste so we left, satisfied with seeing and getting a few pictures. IMG_2222 HoopoeHoopoes really are quite an individual style of bird, can’t easily mistake it for anything else, this is the third one I have seen the last one being several years ago. It is true to say we were both delighted not only with reaching our 200 but that we reached it with such a bird!

I promised Ian not to look at the pager till we got home!!! The journey went smoothly apart form a very slow drive on the M 25 but that wasn’t any surprise. We are home now and I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.

We had some moths waiting for us as Peter had mothed for us while we were away, these are some of the new ones.

This weekend we are catching up with family and hopefully next week we will be chasing around Norfolk again pursuing wings…and other things!

Our bird total (as I may have mentioned) stands at 200

Moths total 25 and they are set to take off as the weather warms up now.

 

The Mysterious disappearance of the two hundredth bird!

Today was to be the day we got our 200th bird but (at the time of writing) it didn’t turn out to be, who stole our birds?!!!

Well of course no-one really did but as we spent a portion of our day at Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway, I thought I would make a mystery of it! The house was bought as a holiday house and is a lovely home in a setting to die for! The drawing-room pictured below was lovely and the curved doors in the main dining room were my favourite feature. I have suggested to Ian that when we get home he should start steaming wood and give it a go but I sense a lack of enthusiasm for the project!

The gardens were looking good and I suspect she may have had a gardener or two to help when she lived there. The views over the river Dart are stunning and to be able to arrive at your property by ferry sounds like fun. It is now a National Trust property and a quite delightful one at that as it felt like a proper home unlike some of the large, stately homes!

We crossed Kingswear to Dartmouth by ferry, like the last ferry we went on it was a very short ride but saved many miles driving.

We drove on to Slapton Ley a nature reserve where surely we would pick up number 200, there were a few possibilities, but no such luck. We had an enjoyable walk, seeing Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and other birds already counted in our 199 but not the elusive 200th so it would seem we will be going home without reaching 200, maybe we will make a brief detour on the way back (I hope Ian doesn’t read that bit!).

Back for our last night at our holiday home which has been very comfortable, out for a meal soon and then I suppose I had better start packing again. We have had a brilliant time away but it will be good to be home again, to sleep in our own bed and curl up in our own lounge!

I leave the day with one bird that never fails to please, so especially for my little Alice, a Robin. What and when the 200th will be remains to be seen, let’s hope it a good one.

Sunshine to rainbow

Yesterday we went in search of Cirl buntings but to no avail, off to Berry head we went where previously we have been lucky. On route to Berry we stopped off at Compton Castle a small National Trust property, I thought the thatched barn would be rather nice converted!

Onward to Berry head where the weather lived up to the notice in the café!

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We saw Chiffchaffs and our first Spotted flycatcher of the year (bird 198) but sadly we couldn’t find any Cirl buntings although I am sure they were there somewhere.

We had a lovely walk there and the views were as beautiful as ever, we were treated to lots of Guillemots flying across the water and settling there.

Leaving Berry head and yesterday behind let’s move on to today and a beautiful bright sunny start. With fresh information we had decided to make an early start to explore new ground in our Cirl hunt! Up bright and early and the sun was making an excellent appearance too. it turns out that Labrador Bay, an R S P B site which is very near our holiday home is a good place to look. Off we went and on arrival were immediately struck by the beauty of the setting, quite stunning, now all we needed was for the birds to agree!

We saw Whitethroat, Dunnocks, Robins and then yes…Cirl buntings! First one in a shrub then he flew into a tree but later a small group of them were feeding on the floor among some fresh crops.

We had gone out first thing so when we, rather reluctantly, left Labrador Bay we went in search of some breakfast. I have to report mine was rather yummy; Granola, berries and yogurt, I will have that again!imageA brief trip back to the bungalow to gather bits and bobs and we were off again this time in Dartmoor direction. We headed for Hay tor and had a lovely walk there, we hoped to get our 200th bird as the Cirl bunting had brought us up to 199!

The weather was kind to us there and we all enjoyed walking up or around, as for me stomping around Dartmoor is always fun so I was in my element! We saw a lovely male Wheatear, Skylarks, (plenty of them were ‘Skylarking’!) Meadow pipits, Stonechats and we hoped Whinchats too but on checking photos we now reckon they were female Stonechats. So we are resting on 199!!! One thing I know for certain is that we really do live in a beautiful country, if we could only guarantee good weather we would be on to a winner!

A welcome coffee was waiting back at the car park then off to Dartmeet a place that holds lots of happy memories from times there as a child myself and visits there with our children. We walked along by the river, deciding not to jump over the stones this time! Lunch, which I will just say involved scones, by which time it was pouring but in true April style it didn’t last long. On our way home we stopped at Postbridge to see the Clapper bridge there.

From there our journey home took us across Dartmoor where we saw the lowest rainbow I can remember seeing, it was spectacular but of course the photo doesn’t truly show the effect. it has been a lovely day, beginning with bright sunshine and ending with a stunning rainbow!IMG_2090 bow

A short tribute to Richard

Today has been a day without thought of birds, moths or any other winged creature. It has been a day to remember a wonderful man; to celebration his life, Richard our friend and for many years neighbour. He was 70ish and we knew him for over thirty of those years.

June , July 2010. 141

 

Richard lived just a couple of doors along our road with his lovely wife, Dilys and two gorgeous children Tim and Georgie and our two families soon became great friends. We have so many memories and they will remain with us always. We all went to the same church St George’s in Hemel Hempstead, where today we celebrated his life along with lots of his family and friends. Sadly Dilys died some years ago now and Richard had been battling cancer for many years. His positive attitude and strong Christian faith shone through him right up to the end, that along with the amazing support Tim and Georgie have given him.image

After we moved to Norfolk Richard often visited us there with Dilys and later with Tim and we loved every moment of those visits. I have so many lovely photos of those times but they are on a hard drive at home not with me in Deon so I have just included a few that I did have here.

We have shared family celebrations together for so many years and things won’t be the same without him but thankfully Tim and Georgie and her lovely family will, I am certain remain part of our lives always. Pictures below show Richard with Georgie and Tim another Richard with our son Peter and the other one show Richard with Dilys at our daughter Ruth’s wedding.

So today we left our holiday home in Devon and went up to Hertfordshire where we celebrated Richard, not a perfect man but a flipping good one! He was kind, supportive,encouraging, fun and not afraid to seek help when he needed it. He was also a man that could tuck away a couple of extra portions of pudding and still remain slim but I will forgive him for that!

To all that organised today I thank and congratulate, (I know Richard planned a lot of it himself) to Jane who led the services, to folk at St George’s and most of all to Tim and Georgie.

My life is richer for having known Richard and I hope one day to meet him in heaven.

We are back in Devon now after some valiant driving by Ian, thank you (X) and tomorrow we will be back to pursuing wing and other things!

 

Favourite places revisited

Today we expected quite a lot of showers but we decided to leave our holiday bungalow behind in the safe keeping of the gull living on the roof and head for Yarner Wood.

We have been there several times before and it is a place I really like not least because it has always provided us with good views of Pied flycatchers, fingers crossed the rain wouldn’t spoil things. We popped first in the hide by the car park, which was unusually full. We saw the usual little birds including this Great tit and Nuthatch then we were off flycatcher hunting!

It took a while but then we were successful, first a fleeting glance but then slightly better views and even one entering a nest box. So lovely to see them, the brilliantly marked males and the much quieter female.

We had one brief shower but that was it apart from that it was dry and as the day went on it got brighter and brighter. We had hoped to see a Wood warbler but had no luck there but we were treated to a lovely Tree pipit sitting up proudly atop of a very high tree. Also more than a few Wood ants!

When we had finished our walk we drove into Bovey Tracey, another favourite place and had a relaxed lunch at the Devon Guild of Craftmen shop followed by a walk along the river side. Now when I think of Bovey Tracey the first thing that comes to my mind is Dippers! We have seen them there so often although last time we were there for over a week and didn’t catch sight of one. We walked along and back and were moments away from heading back to the car when A Dipper flew low over the water right down the river, brilliant that is three year ticks and brings our bird total to 197 dangerously close to 200 which I am aiming to get before heading back to Norfolk!!!

The day continued with a trip to the House of Marbles for a good look around and memories of a previous trip there when Sprocket had his paw print cast in glass! A detour for provisions and then we arrived home in sunshine after a really lovely day.

Tomorrow will be quite a different day as we are going up to Hertfordshire to join with friends and family to say goodbye to one of the nicest men I have known, Richard.

 

A happy reunion

We bid farewell to our lovely B & B and Roger are host and headed off towards Devon for the last stage of our trip. Once again the sun was shinning as we drove to Dawlish warren were we hoped to pick up a bird or two. We had a lovely walk there and saw a group of about 14 Whimbrel they were one bird we hoped might be there! We also saw our first Whitethroat of the year, sadly no photo of that but I am sure I will get one another day as they are an obliging bird that likes to sit at the top of a bush and sing it’s heart out.

There and of course there were the usual gulls and occasional goose, including Canada goose.

I can’t see one of them without remembering an incident I had in America some years ago, now this is 100% true. I was there with family and we went into a large, out of town home type store and I was finished before the others. I had noticed a body of water across the road so decided to go and see if there were any birds on it. Well I wish I hadn’t as unbeknown to me a pair of Canada geese must have had their nest close to the edge and I must have gone closer to it than they liked. The first I knew was when one flew out at me and began pecking me very firmly on my head…wait it gets worse! It’s mate decided to join in the fun and the two of them were on my head attacking me with their beaks. I was swinging my bag round at them to try to dislodge them but it took some while. I have often thought of the people driving past that must have laughed their heads off!!!

Hey ho back to Dawlish warren and although is still a bit early for many butterflies but we did a nice Green-veined white. The bird we saw most of was Linnets, flying all over, perching up and singing beautifully and not needing to be kept on a lead!

We moved on to Bishopsteington and our home for the week, we were not disappointed as it is spacious and has lovely views. It also had a couple of baby Dunnocks sitting on our fence!

For our week here we have been joined by Janice and Chris so anything could happen! But day one has gone splendidly. A message came saying there was a Hoopoe on the bowling green at Dawlish, not far away so off we went, the only problem was when we arrived they were playing bowls and unsurprisingly the bird had flown! We had a walk and saw a very busy vintage car rally, not what we had gone for but it was interesting to see and made a change.

Ian and I spent our honeymoon in Dawlish so it is always good to revisit even though the hotel we stayed in is long gone and replaced by apartments!

This is the bowling green when we were on our way back to the car, no game in progress now but of course the hoopoe had not returned. There were some Muscovy ducks on the water and although not everyone counts them as they have been living happily in the wild since before I was a little girls that is good enough form me.

Ian has but one sister and she lives, with her family in Cornwall and we had not seen any of them for years but that all changed today. They were all, with dog, crossing the Cornish/Devon border and meeting us for lunch at the Dartbridge Inn at Buckfastleigh. It was brilliant to see her along with her husband, two daughters, son-in-law and grandson Charlie who considering we hadn’t seen most of them for about ten years, had grown somewhat!

We enjoyed a lovely meal (thank you very much) and a good catch up and I really hope we don’t leave it so long until we meet again, in fact I am optimistic we might even have the chance to entertain some of them in Norfolk one day!

After taking a few photos we said good bye and made a brief visit to near by Buckfast Abbey a place I remember us visiting on our honeymoon nearly 46 years ago, hadn’t changed much! We also walked around their gardens where we saw an Orange tip butterfly and also what I am pretty sure are Common newts (please correct me if you know differently), what a lovely day.

Back to our holiday home and tea is calling me and then I think we will settle down to a good film and maybe try to plan tomorrows antics!

As forecast

Today I really hoped the weather forecast would be wrong but no they had it spot on, rain followed by more rain! We were tempted to lock the doors and stay in with the kettle and DVD player but we soon changed our minds. Some while ago whilst at Minsmere we met a young lady, who works at Radipole lake and said it was well worth a visit when we were nearby, so we thought we would find out for ourselves. We were greeted by a couple of ducks who are clearly used to visitors!IMG_1587

 It rained the whole time we were there so we didn’t see a great deal but we did see a Hooded merganser! It has been there for many years and there is a deal of controversy about how it got there one of the first people to report it said they saw it come in over the sea. Some say it can count others say no but for the purpose of our list this year we are claiming it!!!

We had expected our walk to be lakeside all the way but in fact for most of the time we couldn’t see the water, when we could it was alive with Swallows skimming the water. I was also surprised not to find hides but we did come upon this little shelter delightfully decorated and also our first bluebells of the year.

As well as being wet it was quite a breezy day so to be honest I hardly even kept an eye open for Bearded tits so I was very surprised when near the little visitors centre this fella was busy at the top of the reeds!

When we left we went to find some lunch and whilst waiting for our food I heard that a Great northern diver had been reported in Portland harbour, seen from the sailing club. After lunch we drove back to our accommodation, left the car there and thought we could walk there, big mistake! We walked through the rain up hill to find we could get through where we hoped so we changed our route and kept climbing. Again we hit a fence and we were forced to turn round and admit defeat, we could see what we assumed to be the sailing club at the opposite side of the bay.  We walked back to got the car and drive there instead. This is our holiday home from the coastal path and I also include a picture of a little snail we saw along the way!

We found the sailing club which was in full flow with some very little children having their first lessons, they were clearly having a good time. With permission we went through to look for a bird and they were very accommodating.IMG_1596

We searched the sea, a massive area but sadly we couldn’t find it.  Whether it was still there or not I don’t know but we certainly couldn’t see it, so sadly we had to admit defeat and head home. Well a day that began with us thinking we might stay home actually turned out to be quite full and although very wet it was fun! Tomorrow we leave our very comfortable place and if anyone want to stay near Weymouth harbour we can recommend staying here.

Birds 191

Devon here we come!

 

Meet Bill

Meet Bill, Portland Bill that is. It is a narrow strip of land reaching out into the sea and this lighthouse helps protect the shipping.

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Today we visited Portland Bill for the first time and I loved it, just my sort of place to stomp around! A few days ago they had lots of amazing birds through but today was a much quieter day with no rarities. Still we had a brilliant day and saw some good birds, some repeats some new for the year. A Raven flew right over our heads making its unique call as it went, what a bill they have! Also a couple of Linnets were flitting around the rocks.

 The area was all new to us, so much to explore but first we settled to some sea watching and we got a few year ticks. Firsts for the year were, Kittiwake, Gannet, Razorbill, Guillemot and a Manx shearwater all out to sea, so five year ticks we were happy with that! I loved the rugged coastline, I don’t think I would ever tire of it!

As we walked lots of Swallows were flying in off the sea, none stayed still long enough for me to get a picture though. Rock pipits were in plentiful and they were obviously starting to nest.

We were keen to walk to the observatory were they net birds and also moth trap, so walked along the coast and it was in fact when we were nearly there that the Raven flew over us. It had been a very poor night for moths, too cold and windy, they had nothing of interest at all. Also it had been a slow day for birds but that was not unexpected and at least it meant we hadn’t missed anything whilst we were there! We had a look around and are considering going back there in the autumn and possibly staying there for a few nights.IMG_1518

There are areas that are obviously dangerous to walk along and believe me we didn’t need telling twice!IMG_1436

Not surprisingly there were plenty of gulls there, Herring and Greater black-backed ones. As the day went on more seemed to be taking advantage of the rocks to rest on, as did the Cormorants.

Much to our delight we saw a grey seal out in the sea, we thought it was a tick as we were thinking it was a common seal we saw In January at Blakeney but will have to check that.  I can honestly say we had a brilliant day and I think you can see I am sporting a crazier hairstyle as our trip away goes!!!

IMG_1527 us

 

Birds now up to 190 I feel 200 is in our grasp before this trip is over…if our luck holds!

Great bustards!

I had to make sure that title didn’t automatically get changed to a similar word that I believe is in more frequent use!

Today has been a good day for more than one reason, the first we checked out of our less than glamorous B & B, phew we breathed a sigh of relief at that. Next we went to the pre arranged meeting place to be collected and taken to a place most likely to see Great bustards, it was the car park of a village hall which I think would be the envy of many! We had expected to be part of a group but we were the only ones going out there today which was rather nice. Now one thing I like in a bird is that I know when I have seen one, no uncertainty and the Great bustard fits that bill. Our guide had popped out early to see if he could see any and we were told our luck was in, not only were there five males there but just this morning eleven females had arrived!

Sadly I have become a very nervous passenger and I can tell you the ride out was a test for me! We drove through Ministry of defence land where they practice live firing, we were deep into that area but they knew we were there so that didn’t worry me. The worrying part was that he never had more than one hand on the wheel and several times none as we drove off road up hills, hey ho we arrived safe and sound.

I quickly saw the males, well they are big enough even at a distance, but the females were much harder to spot. it was amazing how well they can hide themselves given that they are Britain’s largest bird!

At one point it looked as though the males may be about to ‘check out the ladies’ but they stopped short and after a while they all settled down apparently for a doze. It was an experience and we were both pleased to have gone, we also realised we were lucky to see so many, so well. He told us that it happens that people travel a long way and they cant find any bustards but that is birds for you!

Nearer the birds was a little hut and there was a team in there from Springwatch filming so we will be looking out for that, I think their pictures may be a tad better quality than mine! We also had a bonus of a pair of Stone curlews nesting in the same area

.When we had returned to our car we headed off to our next destination, another B & B this time at Weymouth harbour. I was slightly apprehensive after our last experience but thankfully it could not be more different. We have a very large, delightfully furnished room and a terrace where we enjoyed lunch which our host provided for us!

The garden is lovely too and our view is straight out to sea, no complaints here, thank goodness! We went out for a walk locally and are venturing out again very soon to try to find somewhere to eat!

Tomorrow we intend to go to Portland Bill and hope to pick up some ticks to add to our 185