GREAT GREY OWL


I met this remarkable-looking bird at an owl sanctuary near Bodmin. I saw a sign to the place on my way back from Cornwall to Dorset, and diverted to investigate. I found a large, well-kept enterprise with plenty of birds, visitors and school parties. There was a very informative open-air display of several species that were explained in turn, and which visitors were in most cases permitted to stroke. A very worthwhile diversion that I’d recommend to anyone trekking along the A30 with a bit of time to spare. The place is called THE SCREECH OWL SANCTUARY.

Great Grey Owl 1Great Grey Owl 4

Many owl species can rotate their necks through 270º or more. This one managed a 180º rotation effortlessly, with its feet in identical positions.Great Grey Owl 5Great Grey Owl 2 Great Grey Owl 6

COMMON SEALS IN THE STOUR ESTUARY, RAMSGATE, KENT


The estuary of the River Stour (“Store”), Kent lies between Ramsgate and Pegwell Bay a short distance to the south. Common seals can reliably be found near the mouth of the river, sunning themselves on the banks. These seals come in a variety of colours. In September some of this season’s pups could be seen growing up among the adults. To be frank, although I took plenty of photos of these lovely creatures looking appealing and / or in amusing poses, the end results were disappointing.  Partly, a rocking boat made sharpness difficult to achieve but mainly the adult seals just looked like bloated sausages lying in an unattractive landscape of mud and coarse grass. Here are a few pictures that were spared deletion…

Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 1 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 2 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 4 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 5 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 6 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 7 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 9 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 10 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 11 Common Seals, River Stour, Kent 12

PIED WAGTAILS, OCTOBER, DORSET


We are lucky enough to have pied wagtails – usually just one pair – in the garden every year. They raised a family and for much of the summer there were 4 patrolling the roof ridge. Recently, prolific evening fly hatches have provided them with great sport as they hawk for the insects from the roof, fluttering briefly into action and returning to their perch. On some evenings they have been joined by up to 2 dozen other wagtails, and for half an hour at dusk they have looped and swooped round and round, eating on the wing. I wondered if there was a collective noun for wagtails to go with the charms, murmurations, murders and parliaments that other birds are awarded. The only one I found was in a jocular list by a determinedly downbeat birder, who applied the term ‘a permanent narcissism of wagtails’. 

Pied Wagtail Dorset 10Pied Wagtail Dorset 3 Pied Wagtail Dorset 4 Pied Wagtail Dorset 8Pied Wagtail Dorset 6   Pied Wagtail Dorset 9 Pied Wagtail Dorset 7

SANDWICH SHARING: IMAGES FROM A CINQUE PORT


Sandwich is a cinque port, along with Hastings, New Romney, Hythe and Dover – we had some warm family disagreements discussions about these until someone managed to get a phone signal and look them up. The town has a large number of medieval buildings, and we enjoyed a quick look round recently when we were staying nearby.

THE FISHER GATE (1384) on the quaysideSandwich - The Fisher Gate 1384

THE BARBICAN (and toll house)Sandwich - the Barbican

THE TOLL TABLE, 1905

Although viable vehicles using an internal combustion engine had only been in existence for about 6 years (and were few and far between), steam vehicles were not uncommon. It’s surprising to learn the variety of transport methods still catered for in post-Victorian England. I’d like to have possessed a ‘wain’. And a ‘chaise’, for that matter.

Sandwich - Toll table

RIVER STOUR at the quayside, with the swing bridge road that now leads to the BarbicanSandwich - River Stour

IS THIS FOR REAL? (looking at the modern screws, I concluded not)Sandwich - 'nothing happened'

ST PETER’S CHURCH (C13 / 14), now in the care of the Churches Conservation TrustSandwich - St Peter's Church c13 : 14

MEMORIAL IN ST PETER’S CHURCH with ambiguous tributeSandwich - St Peter's - Memorial

SANDWICH WEAVERS (1500)  a home and workshop used by Dutch workers in the c16Sandwich Weavers, 1500Sandwich Weavers 1500  Sandwich Weavers 1500

THE SWING BRIDGE OVER THE STOUR

The quayside was used for army embarkations for wars with FranceSandwich - Swing Bridge over River Stour

Too good to miss (from a Kent Events website)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

‘SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE…': PASTORAL DORSET


Alpaca Dorset

For six years we had our neighbour’s 3 alpacas in our paddock. Advantages: they mowed the grass and were decorative. Drawbacks: they caused a lot of damage by digging and from their peculiarly toxic waste; and were annoyingly passive / aggressive. So we moved them off, spent last winter filling in all the holes with a ton of topsoil and re-seeding, followed by a programme of regular harrowing, mowing and rolling to make the field ready for our son’s wedding on midsummer’s day (where we had our own reception a few years decades ago).

Wed Pad

Now what? The answer is: sheep. Peaceful, munching grazers with no obvious drawbacks. A young farmer in the village has put 7 pregnant Poll Dorset sheep in the paddock. Result: pastoral scenes, evenly cropped grass, and a damage-free field – with pre-Christmas lambs in prospect. Dorset Poll Sheep 7Dorset Poll Sheep 1Dorset Poll Sheep 8Dorset Poll Sheep 6Dorset Poll Sheep 3

The Dorset breed of sheep comes in both poll and horn varieties. Here are specimens of each kind photographed at a recent show in Dorset. The breed is hardy (as befits Hardy country), and unusually they can lamb 3 times over the course of 2 years, making them a productive option for a young farmer building up his flock. 

Dorset Poll Sheep, Stock Oak Fair Dorset Horn Sheep - Stock Oak Fair

GULL STUDIES, WEST BAY BEACH, DORSET


A collection of seagulls of various ages strutting their stuff on the beach at West Bay, Dorset

Gulls West Bay Beach 1 Gulls West Bay Beach 2 Gulls West Bay Beach 4 Gulls West Bay Beach 5 Gulls West Bay Beach 6 Gulls West Bay Beach 7 Gulls West Bay Beach 8 Gulls West Bay Beach 9 Gulls West Bay Beach 10

GATEKEEPER BUTTERFLY, DORSET


The Gatekeeper is (yet) another butterfly species that I have photographed this year for the first time in our garden in Dorset. There are several possible reasons for this: I haven’t bothered to notice them before; I have noticed them, but confused them with the similar meadow browns I do recognise; I have become more observant and butterfly-aware since we restored the garden and planted a lot of bee / butterfly / moth attractant plants; the species is in fact new to the garden, perhaps for the previous reason. Anyway, whichever is right, they suddenly arrived in the garden / I finally recognised this ‘new’ species in early August. Here are some.

THE FIRST GATEKEEPER I NOTICED THIS YEAR Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset (1st of the year)

SUBSEQUENT SIGHTINGS Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 1 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 2 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 3 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 4 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 5 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 6 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 8 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 9 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 10b Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 11b Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 12 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 12a

SWALLOWS (ADULT & FLEDGLING) IN DORSET


A few photos taken in July and August of swallows in Dorset. Our recently installed upgraded electricity cables are ridiculously large, but at least they provide a solid perch for the birds. The adult swallows shown are followed by a young trainee swallow nabbing a passing insect; and some cute fledglings including one (penultimate) who decides to call for its food the easy way – and the compliant parent… Swallow, Dorset 6 Swallow, Dorset 9 Swallow, Dorset 13Swallow, Dorset 2Swallow, Dorset 1Swallow, Dorset 10 Swallow, Dorset 11 Swallow, Dorset 12    Swallow, Dorset 16 Swallow, Dorset 15Swallow, Dorset 17

A SELECTION OF SUMMER BEES IN DORSET


This is a small selection of bees visiting a Dorset garden during the last month or so. The favoured flowers have been Hyssop, Lavender, Alium and Cosmos. And if anyone knows the name of the pale bee in photo #4, I’d be pleased to know – it’s a real beauty.

Summer Bees Dorset 1Summer Bees Dorset 2Summer Bees Dorset 3Summer Bees Dorset 4Summer Bees Dorset 5Summer Bees Dorset 6Summer Bees Dorset 8Summer Bees Dorset 9Summer Bees Dorset 10Summer Bees Dorset 11