Sometimes a sequence of photos suggests a narrative. I’m not sure I have ever been so close to a jackdaw before, but this one completely ignored me as it practised what appear to be its marching steps…
Easter Monday sunshine after 3 drizzly overcast days. Suddenly the garden is full of birds, bees and butterflies. We have had indoor butterflies right through the winter – all tortoiseshells. They have to be guided gently to an open window. If we haven’t been around for a while, it’s a sadder result. Where on earth have they been coming from? The house may be old, but it is by and large weatherproof and butterflyproof, so they must be emerging in the house…
In the garden we saw plenty of peacocks and tortoiseshells, and several large whites and brimstones. I had a short time to try out a new camera – an alien thing with changeable lenses, a bossy screen, strange settings, too many choices, a mind of its own and an ignorant owner. I deleted almost all the photos, but these just about survived the cut. But they are poor, and nowhere near what can be achieved with my previous camera (which I have kept). But just as I was about to blame my tools and indeed condemn them utterly for incompetence, I realised that the problem is not in fact with the camera at all. Damn. I’ve got to trawl through the 756 page manual again… It’s all my fault!
I recently photographed a group of dolphins and posted about them on my main blog (see Sidebar for link). They were not in UK waters, but since Bottlenose Dolphins are also common around the UK coast I thought I’d post a few of the images here as well, with apologies for the few followers who bravely tolerate both blogs…
I have been neglecting this blog recently because a lot has been going on… However while clearing out some old photograph files, I was stopped in my tracks when I found this tiny Australasian owl. I saw it in an owl sanctuary last summer, but had forgotten all about it – I had been concentrating on another species, the Burrowing Owl. I feel it deserves a wider audience!
The photo below shows Pugin’s home The Grange, now a Landmark Trust property where we were staying for a family occasion. To the right is St Augustine’s, the church designed by Pugin and completed after his death by his son Edward. It has a nice walled garden, but overlooks the now-defunct ferry terminal, which slightly mars the charm…
Hound Tor is a windswept rocky outcrop on Dartmoor at 414m / 1358ft ASL. It watches over the Grimspound, an intriguing bronze-age circular enclosure with the remains of 24 houses, some inhabited until medieval times. It will have a post in its own right in due course. We investigated both with our granddaughter Berry last August during a short holiday together (grandparental treat!) on Dartmoor.
After exploring the Grimspound, there is no doubt about the next achievement to tackle: a steep stony path leads invitingly from the walls to the top of the Tor. As you climb, the Grimspound gets smaller below you.
Berry was not the only wild creature on the moor…
AN EXCITING DISCOVERY THAT WAS DISAPPOINTING
As we climbed, we noticed that the rocks all around were embedded with fossils. Or so we believed. We took lots of photos of these amazing calcified creatures that by some strange process were to be found at nearly 1500ft. Only later, when we did a bit of research online, did we find out the disappointing truth: not fossils, but megacrysts. The technical explanation is as follows:
The main exposure at the Tor is of megacryst granite (also known as “Giant Granite” or “Big-Feldspar Granite”). It is probably from near the roof area of the batholith. The feldpars are of perthitic orthoclase that is porphyroblastic (later replacive crystals) in origin and not phenocrysts (large crystals that have developed in the magma). In some places the southwest England granite megacrysts have been seen to develop into aplite (fine-grained quartz-feldpar veins of late origin), which is possible for porphyroblasts (developing by replacement after the veins) but not for phenocrysts (early and which should be cut through by the veins).
A DISAPPOINTING DISCOVERY THAT WAS EXCITING
Tupperware at nearly 1500ft? The plastic rubbish left behind by some idle picnicker? But no… Berry spent some time exploring the crannies of the rockiest outcrops, and in the process made her next ‘Letterbox’ discovery… [The previous year’s find is HERE]
Berry was not the first person to discover the box, which had been left by a girl from Surrey, with a message encouraging people to write in the notebook inside. This was already well-filled with the names, addresses, messages and drawings of previous explorers. There was also a strange mix of ‘souvenir’ items people had left – a car park ticket from Alton Towers, a ‘poppy day’ poppy, a couple of smoothed-out sweet wrappers, a button, and other such debris that walkers might find in their pockets… So Berry added a 1p coin, and added her contribution to the notebook. It may not have been an official Dartmoor Letterbox, but it was a lovely idea to have hidden it for others to enjoy.
Credit: photos 4, 5, first megacryst, and all agile activity by Berry
Strange as it may seem, New York City is a great place for birding. The city may not sleep, and maybe neither do the birds, but nonetheless there are several excellent locations to see a wide variety of species. NYC lies right on the East Atlantic Flyway, the eastern migratory route of the USA. Along it, birds hurtle forth and back twice a year, from tiny warblers to large shorebirds, as they seek winter warmth nearer the equator before returning in summer.
The optimum hotspot is CENTRAL PARK, in particular The Ramble (central) and the secluded Pond / Ravine walk by a pretty stream (north). This is definitely the first place to head for if you have half a day to spare. There’s a very good Central Park website (link above). You’ll also find a CP birding map online, and several websites devoted to birding CP from which you can get or make your own checklist (caution: some sites are a bit… intense). Among books, I have Birds of Central Park by Carl Vornberger and The Ramble: A Wilderness West of 5th by Robert A. McCabe. These are small coffee table books to enjoy rather than field guides, and can be found on Amazon (.com), ABE and occasionally eBay.
It’s worth mentioning PROSPECT PARK BROOKLYN as another good place for birds. It is very large and has plenty of water, which is excellent for water fowl and geese. I’ve seen chipmunks there too (well, I was excited, anyway). There’s the added bonus that the BROOKLYN MUSEUM is right there – perfect for a morning followed by an afternoon in the park.
Here are a few birds photographed in and around the City when temperatures remained below freezing despite a bright sun. There’ll be some more soon.