Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tortoises and Turtles

In recent years I have been lucky enough to visit the beautiful Greek island of Lesvos a number of times. Along with the stunning birdlife there is a wealth of other wildlife to enjoy including a good variety of reptile species. Spur-thighed Tortoises are native to the region and I have seen them quite regularly, normally ambling over busy roads quite oblivious to the dangers. I have helped one or two reach the safety of nearby vegetation and on one memorable occasion I rescued a tortoise that had fallen down a small well at Aghios Ioannis a few miles south of Kalloni.
I had been birdwatching in the area when I noticed the poor animal at the bottom of the sheer-sided pit. It had obviously fallen in and was unable to climb out again. It was impossible to say how long it had been trapped there, but there was a trickle of water seeping into the well, which along with some moss growing on the base of the pit  had probably sustained it for some time. I quickly called my son Adam to join me as he had never seen a wild tortoise and he proceeded to film me as I executed the rescue.

This Spur-thighed Tortoise was photographed in southern
Turkey in 2009.

When I visited Olu Deniz in Turkey in 2009 I was amazed to
see the  head of a distant turtle in the famous Blue Lagoon. I
didn't expect to get such close-up views of  fabulous
Loggerhead Turtles in the marina at nearby Fethiye.


Before I started work this morning I had a quick walk through Arrowe Park. There was a mini dawn chorus taking place with singing Song Thrushes, Dunnocks and Robins and the distant drumming of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. But the real highlight was the sighting of a Treecreeper slowly working its way up a small tree. This fab little bird has suffered in the recent cold winters and has become more difficult to find. It is a good few years since I have seen one in the park, let's hope it's the first of many sightings.

Treecreeper photographed at Loggerheads
 Country Park in 2007

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Burton and Blackpool

After an easy 12 mile run yesterday, I went down to Parkgate where the immature Spoonbill was showing quite well but a bit distant for decent photographs. So I headed to Burton Mere Wetlands where the White-fronted geese where hiding behind some distant vegetation and there was no sign of any Bewick's Swans. So I set my camera up near the feeding station and took some shots of woodland birds. Also saw my first Spotted Redshank for the year.
Drove to Blackpool today to take part in the Great North West half marathon. Wasn't too sure I'd be able to run after aggravating a muscle pull at circuit training last Monday. But I shouldn't have worried as I managed to complete the course in 1 hour 21 minutes. That's my second personal best in two weeks. Rewarded myself with a few beers while watching the football this evening.

The lichen on the branch nicely highlights the yellow of this
Blue Tit.

There was lots of activity among the
Chaffinches. This male is not quite in
breeding plumage yet, but they are already
starting to sing.

I don't normally photograph birds on
feeders but I couldn't resist a shot of this
Long-tailed Tit.

One of our commonest breeding birds, the Wren behaves more
like a small mammal than a bird.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Training Update 2

Planned to run 20 miles on Saturday (yesterday) morning, but the day dawned cold and rainy. On the first 10 mile loop which took in the seafront, I saw some nice flocks of Curlew in the fields and a flock of Turnstone on the sea defences. There were also numerous Oystercatchers flying around looking for a safe roost over the high tide. A torrential downpour swept in off the sea and soaked me to the skin, so I used my half-way drink stop at home to change into completely dry running gear. It wasn't easy re-starting my run after a 5 minute break, but I was glad of the warm clothes. Managed a total of 20.2 miles at an average pace of 7.09 minutes per mile. Ran the Wrexham half-marathon today with my running partner as a slow recovery run. A total of 54 miles for the week, London is exactly 9 weeks away now.

This Turnstone is moulting out of its summer-plumage. An
out of season shot, but one of my favourites. Taken September

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Iceland 2

As promised, a few more photos from my Iceland trip a few years ago.

 This is the geyser called Strokkur at Geysir. Obviously the word "geyser" derives from the Icelandic word "geysir" meaning gusher. The geyser Geysir itself is not as reliable as Strokkur which spouts 30 meters into the air every few minutes.

This Greylag Goose was on a lake in the centre of Reykjavik.
 It's a common feral breeder in the UK, the Icelandic
 population being migratory has better provenance.

These Northern Fulmars were seen from a whale-watching
boat out of Olafsvik in the west of Iceland.

The fishing port of Olafsvik was a great place to observe
Glaucous Gulls.

This beautiful European Golden Plover was photographed on
moorland near Snaefellsjokull, the active volcano made famous
in Jules Vernes' Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

 This female Goldeneye was on Lake Myvatn
in the north. This lake holds both Common and
Barrow's Goldeneye. The dark bill colour leads me
to believe that this is a Common. Beautiful, nevertheless.

I found this grey-phase Gyr Falcon perched by a road near Lake
Myvatn. It stayed put while I took some shots from my car, only
to be scared off by some guy with a video who jumped out of his

My visit to Iceland was timed to coincide with the best time
for cetacean watching, i.e, the summer. Consequently, birds
such as this Harlequin Duck were already moulting, but that
at least provides me with an excuse to return to this fantastic
country to see birds such as this in their stunning breeding

Sunday, February 12, 2012

PB and Martin Mere

After a week when my marathon training didn't go to plan due to an upset stomach, I managed to set a personal best today. I ran the "Mad Dog" Southport 10k in a time of 37minutes and 37 seconds which is almost a minute faster than my previous best so I must be doing something right in my training. My time was no doubt helped by a course that was flatter than the proverbial pancake and the absence of any wind.
I decided to visit Martin Mere in Lancashire after the race as it was not too far to drive, mainly to pick up some birdseed for my garden birds but also for lunch and a quick birdwatch. It was a very dull and overcast day, not the best conditions for photography but it's always worth a try.
Saw my first treecreeper of the year.

Male Ruff, nice reflection on a dull day.

Male Ruff giving a theat display to another male.

This male Pheasant brightened up the
grey day.

Photographed these these fungi on a dead oak tree using my
zoom lens as I didnt have my macro with me. I'm not skilled
at fungi identification so will update the caption once I have
identified the species!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Training Update

I've often heard it said, mainly when people reach a certain birthday, that "it's all downhill now" as if  that's a bad thing. From a runner's perspective downhill if a fabulous prospect, relax those tired muscles and let gravity do most of the work. My run today was a hilly affair with plenty of uphill as well as downhill. A very cold run, the rain, when it started, immediately froze on the pavements making it very slippy in places. I was surprised when I got home to find that some of the rain had even frozen on my jacket! So I was pleased to complete 18 miles at 7.06 min/mile pace. I even got a year tick in the form of a Grey Wagtail outside Arrowe Park Hospital; somewhat unexpected on an urban run.

Last night I took my son and his girlfriend climbing at Awesome Walls in Liverpool. It's a while since we've been there but we all had a great time and were thoroughly shattered afterwards.
Photos by Lauren.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Martin Mere

Yesterday my friend and I spent the best part of a very cold day at Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre in Lancashire. It's a fabulous place for getting close views of a variety of ducks, geese and swans. The tricky part from a photographer's point of view is isolating birds amongst the melee outside the hides. I concentrated on close-ups and profiles of the beautiful Whooper Swans.
Other highlights of the day included at least 4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Sparrowhawks, a very distant Barn Owl and fabulous but brief views of a Tawny Owl.

Drake Pintail photographed at Martin Mere last Winter
Whoopers in the snow last winter
Male Brambling from the Janet Kear hide last winter
 The Barn Owl we saw yesterday was about a kilometer away,
this was a much more obliging bird in Norfolk a few years ago.