Wednesday 31 March 2021

Visiting Old Haunts

I was filled with pleasurable anticipation as I turned down Carr Lane at Bonby, near Brigg in Lincolnshire and headed towards the River Ancholme to one of my favourite Lincolnshire bird photography locations: Bonby Carrs.  There is nothing remarkable about this spot other than its remoteness, set in the Ancholme Valley between the northern ends of the chalk of the Lincolnshire Wolds and the magnesian limestone of the Lincoln Edge.  Its remoteness is the appealing aspect for me.  It's not often in this busy world where you can sit eating your pack-up and the only sound is that of the birds.  It is far enough from any road that there is no traffic noise whatsoever.  The lane is unremarkable, with agricultural land on one side and occasionally flooded grazing meadows on the other.  It is these grazing meadows, all the way down to the Ancholme, that make it attractive for birds, many of which, in spring, sit on the fence posts singing and displaying.  As well as residents it is a good spot for migrants such as wheatear, yellow wagtail and warblers.  It is also a good location for raptors with buzzards, kestrel and barn owl resident and short-eared owl often present during the winter, while marsh harriers often drift through.  It is the only recent location that I have come across English grey partridges (I actually found a pair today but they didn't co-operate for the camera) and I even found a long-eared owl down here a few years ago.  The River Ancholme at the end of the lane adds another dimension.  The technique for bird photography down here is to use the car as a hide and birds are then reasonably confiding.

Species observed:

  • Buzzard
  • Pheasant
  • Skylark
  • Dunnock
  • Reed Bunting
  • Linnet
  • Sedge Warbler
  • Mute Swan
  • Yellowhammer
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Kestrel
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Pink Footed Geese (small skein)
  • Whooper Swan (23)
  • Heron
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Lapwing
  • Mallard
  • Chaffinch
  • Grey Partridge (pair)
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Meadow Pipit
Reed Bunting, male
Reed Bunting, male
On my way home I decided to drive round by Cleethorpes Country Park to see whether the great crested grebes were around.  Grebes are quite reliable for breeding here and I have previously photographed them displaying and I was not to be disappointed today.  As soon as I arrived I found a single bird and then saw a pair displaying.  A fellow nature photographer said there there was one pair and two single birds and he hoped that they were going to nest in reeds on the edge of the island so safe from disturbance by dogs and fishermen.

Monday 29 March 2021

My First Peacock Photograph of the Year .

 It was warm and sunny as we pulled up in the car park by Littlecoates church  We had called in to pick Jet up and were soon walking alongside the River Freshney through Town Holt local nature reserve.  We soon spotted the water vole again but unfortunately didn't manage and pictures.  We actually saw it again on the way back and sat watching it for a while but I couldn't get a clear shot of it and eventually it disappeared into the undergrowth.  Disappointingly we didn't connect with any chiffchaffs or cetti's warblers today, in fact it was very quiet on the bird front, perhaps because it was quite late in the day for birdwatching.  There were plenty of butterflies, though, and I counted 10 small tortoiseshells and 6 peacocks and saw my first brimstone of the year.  Again we walked as far as the springs at Laceby and caught a fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher as it sped down the beck.

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Saturday 27 March 2021

Quiet on The Patch Today.

 It was a quiet day on the patch today.  I'm not sure if this was down to the fresh, chilly wind or being out late; perhaps a bit of both.  I made my way across the Horsefield and then around to the Dead Wood and on to Weelsby Woods returning via the woodland burial ground; a round trip of 5 miles.  I was pleased with the singing robin shot and it was also good to catch a dunnock off the ground and in song.  I was surprised by the buzzard that soared past right above my head as I though at first that it was a crow so unfortunately didn't have the camera settings right.  Ah well, c'est la vie.  In the cemetery the long-tailed tits were busy in the plantation near the nest.  I saw both birds so perhaps the female is still laying.

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Thursday 25 March 2021

Wandering Along the Freshney from Littlecoates Church.

 It was warm and pleasant as I parked up in the lay-by by Littlecoats church on the outskirts of Grimsby.  Today's walk took me along the River Freshney through the local nature reserve of Town Holt and on out of the built up area where it becomes Laceby Beck.  I continued along the beck as far as the ponds and springs by Laceby village and then returned the same way.  Laceby Beck (and the Freshney) is a superb chalk stream rising beyond Laceby on the edge of the Wolds.  Kingfishers breed along here and it holds a population of water voles.  Otters have also been seen in the Freshney and have been filmed raiding garden ponds! Town Holt is a flooded area rich in reed beds which boasts several cetti's warblers holding territory.  Beyond the edge of Wybers Wood and Laceby Acres estates there is a fishing pond and then another flooded woodland which the beck flows around.  This woodland is an excellent spot for buzzard.

Today's walk rewarded me with 6 singing chiffchaffs, 5 small tortoiseshells and 1 singing cetti's.  None of the chiffchaffs gave me an opportunity for a photograph but I did manage a flight shot of a very pale buzzard over the flooded wood and a distant shot of a stock dove in Town Holt on the return walk.  A water vole showed itself again, perhaps the same one, but again I didn't manage any photos.  

Willow catkins are in full flower now and it was good to see butterbur in flower as well as lesser celendine.  One of my favourite nuggets of information about butterbur involves the leaves.  The flowers appear before the leaves which grow very large and in days gone by used to be used to wrap butter to keep it cool.

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Blue tit
A rare lone elm
Mallard close-up
Mallard close-up
Small Tortoiseshell
Stock Dove

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Dead Wood, Weelsby, Horsefield Walk

 A longer walk again today.  Very pleasant but very quiet.  I did photograph the house sparrows again though.  Again they were very reluctant to emerge from cover.

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Monday 22 March 2021

Roe Deer and Nesting Long-Tailed Tits in the Woodland Cemetery

 A bright, mild and sunny day today so it was a pleasure to wander around the cemetery and woodland burial ground.  I came across several groups of ladybirds warming themselves up in the sun.  Willow catkins are blooming well now and attracting insect life and the blackthorn blossom is increasing on a daily basis.  I was delighted to see the long-tailed tits collecting nesting material again and pleased to make some successful images.  Another highlight of this walk was to find the roe deer in the woodland again and surprise them (and myself) as I made my second lap.  Immediately after seeing the deer for the first time I turned to look through the fence to see a fox watching me intently.  It wasn't phased at all but just stood and looked until I reached for my camera and it then wandered off..

Sunday 21 March 2021

Walking the Cadeby Round and Scallows Foraging

 Driving into the Wolds we couldn't help but notice the large numbers of cars parking in the walking hot spots.  We had opted for the Cadeby Round again for that very reason.  We were fairly sure that it would be quiet and, in fact, we were the only people parked here.  It was a shame to not, however, that a short way up the track a very aggressive security gate was being installed.  As this must be an incredibly expensive move, we could only conclude that the land owner had been having problems with people driving down the track.  We had hoped that at Wyham it would be warm and sheltered for our flask and cake but annoyingly a nagging northerly wind had other ideas.  We thought that spring may have moved on apace since we last walked this route but it is easy to forget that it is high up on the Wolds and it is still quite wintry.

It was time to move on to drop some chairs off to be renovated at friends and spend some time in my feeding station wood.  One sign of spring here was the wild garlic coming through so we collected a bag for making wild garlic soup and pesto.  Both turned out to be excellent although there is a tendency for 'badger breath' afterwards; good for social distancing.

I enjoyed photographing some delicate moss which was colonizing a dead tree and found a clump of oyster mushrooms.It was good to hear the rooks at their nests and to listen to the buzzards calling as they floated above the wood.

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Violets in the Cemetery

 Violets are popping up all over now, but I was pleased to see both white and purple ones in the cemetery today, but I have found them all over recently including the Dead Wood, Weelsby Woods and our garden.  I was asked the question by our next door neighbour whether white violets are a separate species or just a different form.  Not having an immediate answer I checked in my field guide and, as far as I can tell, white ones are a form of sweet violet, our only fragrant violet, and, like the purple form, have slightly hairy stems and blunt sepals.  The purple ones that I have been finding, I think, are the common dog violet with hairless stems, pointed sepals and no scent.

I find the white ones particularly difficult to photograph as they are small and therefore require the use of the macro lens.  The lower outside petals have a tendency to curve forward and as at very close range the lens has a narrow depth of field it is difficult to get the flower sharp throughout and also eave a plain out of focus background.  I have tried both focus stacking and using a very small aperture, neither of which I have been totally happy with.

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Common Dog Violet
White Sweet Violet, focus stacked.

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Dog Walking Along the Fresheney

 Jet duly picked up, we parked the car by Littlecoates Church and headed off down the Freshney with hopes of kingfisher and chiffchaff.  I was to be disappointed with the lack of kingfisher but a chiffchaff turned up trumps, although it was not in the mood for singing.  I am sure as well that, out beyond, the fishing pond I heard a snatch of cetti's warbler singing.  I do know that there are several singing males along here.  There was plenty of bird life; water is always a draw for wildlife.  Several little egrets were seen and a buzzard, perched majestically high in a tree and later soaring over the golf course.  Perhaps the highlight of the day, though was the excellent views we had of a water vole just before getting back to the car.  This is a walk I must do again.

House Sparrow
Little Egret
Water Vole
Water Vole