Gems found in a Suburban Garden

 

Gems found in a Suburban Garden.

 

   I live in a bungalow with only a small back garden, in the suburbs of Poole in Dorset. Its very location is a severe limiter of the range of wildlife species that, even with the help of wishful thinking, I could reasonably expect to have pay me a visit. Yes, of course, I have the proscribed bird table and seed and nut feeders but their regular visitors, although plentiful in numbers, do not fill many notepad pages when it comes to listing different species. However, there can be the odd exception.

   My office window overlooks the postage stamp sized lawn and said window and its accompanying patio door are double and triple glazed. Mr Nikon and Mr Canon would no doubt turn in their graves if they thought anyone would attempt to take photographs through such a barrier, especially in view of the many millions they must have spent developing the refined glass used in their lenses. I am, however, guilty of such an offence – and on more than one occasion. The number of days on which I can sit here with doors and windows open are few and far between and so it is that when anything out of the ordinary pays a call I cannot open up without frightening it off.

   I have attached a few shots of some of the visitors concerned and, though they may not be legion in number, it just goes to show that in the pursuit of wildlife images “you never know what’s round the corner or just about to show up!!”

   The Stock Dove is, to my mind, our most beautiful native dove. Supposedly fairly common, especially in the South-West, I must confess that in all my years of Wildlife Photography I have only ever seen, at least to notice, one other of these beautiful birds. To have a pair visiting the garden, and that right throughout the summer, was a real pleasure. The Magpie, of course, is no rarity and we have a dozen or so frequenting our Close. What interests me with them is to see just how many peanuts they can stuff in their beaks at one time before running off, squirrel-like, to bury them for later. The Starlings were part of a flock of about 100 that spent a day or so looking for leather-jacket larvae on the grass of the central green in the Close. Small raiding parties occasionally broke off to rampage through the local gardens and these were part of a small group of about 20 that graced me with a visit. The Green Woodpecker visits occasionally looking for ants in the cracks of the garden path. These it either eats or rubs all over itself so that their formic acid discharge can clean him of parasites and, finally, some four footed visitors. It’s easy to shudder and think of poison when you see one of these in your garden but, whether you like it or not, I’ll bet there’s at least one living not far from you if you’re in suburbia. Their antics in figuring out how to access any potential food source never cease to amaze me and their ingenuity knows no bounds. This family who (only for the sake of my neighbours) I hope was just passing through, kept my shutter finger active for a number of hours one afternoon.

  

 

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Pair of Stock Doves

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Stock Dove

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Magpie

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Where does a Magpie keep his nuts?

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Adult Starling Mutation feeding normal coloured young

Green Woodpecker “Anting”

So that’s where all the bird seed went.

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Gather Ye Violets while you may!

 

            Bulbous Violets

 07/02/16   Busy week of talks and, in between, weather fit only for masochistic photographers. I have noticed, however, whilst driving around, that Snowdrops have come into their own in the last few days. They have been with us for some time in dribs and drabs but have recently made a full showing. This morning’s weather being almost clement, despite a forecast of rain by three, I thought I’d make the most of it and sallied forth a’snowdropping. I visited a favourite site where the flowers, known in antiquarian literature as “Bulbous Violets”, are in a sloping woodland setting together with some ferns and mossy branches, only to find that, in the conditions prevailing, even a mountain goat would have been pushed to remain upright. Did the best possible but a major problem was that, even under the trees, rain damage had been substantial. It doesn’t take many damaged flower heads in a clump to completely write it off as a suitable subject. Careful searching came up with one or two suitable settings, however, so made the most of the day. I shall be checking out one or two other sites in the next few days to see if anywhere escaped the brunt of the weather.

 

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Seizing the moment

 

Grab your chances when you can.

 

11.11.15   The weather over the last few days has left something to be desired on the suitable light front.  Having decided to use the potential down time to recce areas not visited for sometime we ended up driving around near Shaftesbury. The wind was blowing a hooley and the sky was a mix of sunlit patches, solid white cloud and fog banks, all of which came and went in constant succession and at a varying speed of passage.

   In one of the rare sunlit moments we saw a couple of kites flying( the Red ones with feathers on, not strings!) and pulled over on the chance of a shot or two. As we did so I saw one clinging tenaciously to a treetop and in full view of the vehicle. I didn’t fancy my chances of getting out and setting up the tripod without spooking it although it had, admittedly, sat there and allowed the vehicle to stop without departing at a rate of knots, which they usually do. Waving a 600mm lens out of the window is not my idea of a fun day out but needs must when the devil drives and so I took a number of shots anyway.

   True to expectations, when I tried to ease out of the van in my version of what I call unobtrusively, it launched forth and disappeared behind the trees.

   By the time I had the tripod set up it was long gone but another hove into view and provided a blue sky in-flight shot as it headed into the wind. A further uneventful hour followed except that during the course of it the sky changed completely to a solid white backdrop as a Buzzard hove into view and provided the first of the day’s exposure nightmares with the sky having the effect of strong back lighting. Over exposing by one and a third stops seemed to solve the problem and provided the accompanying shot.

   Possibly spooked by the Buzzard, though they don’t normally seem to mind, a Hare headed straight for us, either seeing us as a potential refuge or, as I prefer to convince myself, not seeing us at all due to our Rambo like camo and just making a beeline for the hedge we were, ourselves, crouching in. A pair of Partridges followed not far behind him and as we left, with a thick fog drifting in, a damp Kestrel had adopted a lookout station further down the hedgerow.

   Not too bad a result for a most off-putting of days and made the effort of braving the elements worthwhile. Like doing the lottery, ” you have to be in it to win it”, and it’s for certain sure we wouldn’t have done much except stare into the eyes of a computer if we hadn’t made the effort to go out!

 

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‘Twas not a wasted day!

 

  There they were – gone!

 

  25.10.15 Not too bad a day weather-wise. Decided to visit Weymouth to see if the Bearded Tits were on show. They weren’t! Not a tweet, not a whisper, nor even an errant feather tumbling slowly to the ground. Waterfowl were on show though including a vagrant/ lost/ escaped or whatever Hooded Merganser in the Car Park Pond amongst its more normal contemporaries.

 

Walking through Radipole pathways searching for the day’s lost cause we came on a viewpoint offering good views of a variety of Gulls and Waterfowl. Gulls are so commonplace they are often disregarded as suitable subjects for the serious photographer but they assume a new importance when there is a dearth of other species with which to occupy oneself.

 

Herring and Black Headed of various ages were all bathing and adopting some unusual poses. Gadwall were seemingly oblivious of the human audience, Cormorants were showing off their finer points and Male Mute Swans were showing off their varying testosterone levels with much pugnacious posturing. A very distant Kestrel seemed to be hovering expectantly but with little more success than we had in our target of the day. An even more distant Marsh Harrier seemed to be gracing the vicinity of the distant houses and steadfastly refused to come any closer to what would have been a truly appreciative audience.

 

You can’t win ’em all but we did the best we could.

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