3 January 2011

2011–A New Year

And so begins a new year – 2011 began for us with a tiring – but ultimately entertaining – New Years Day visit to Coombe Abbey Country Park, in Coventry – just a couple of miles from our present home. We have visited Coombe every January 1st for the past 3 years, and it has become something of a tradition for us. You would be surprised, or perhaps if you live in Coventry you wouldn’t :-) to see just how many people visit the park.

Lots of young families getting out and getting exercise after the  holiday excesses. Lots of kids on their new bikes and scooters, toddlers on new push along tractors and such, playing with new footballs and various other toys. Adults playing with their new toys, cameras to be seen everywhere – shooting their kids, their partners and family members – shooting the ducks, gulls and swans  and the gorgeous hotel and the parklands themselves – but almost always trying desperately not to point their new toys at other people……. It is so sad to see how nervous all the photographers are in public spaces.

We adopt a general rule. If we see someone carrying and using a camera in a public space then we feel free to photograph them. That said, we never photograph people’s kids, for example, without permission. The UK has gone more than a little crazy about such things………

Anyway on to the wildlife – arrived in the carpark to be met by more Grey Squirrels than we’ve ever seen in one spot before. It was heaving with these intelligent little creatures. The reason? People have been placing lots of food around the carpark for the birds and such. It is a delight to see the birds so close in – Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits all over the place, Nuthatches dropping in and out of the scene – Wrens, Blackbirds and Song Thrush all making the most of their free meals. Shame it was so dark – lack of light means lack of opportunity to capture the action – but we got by :-)

A walk down to the bridge over the main lake, the usual culprits are all around – a large number of Mute Swans, adults and juveniles. At this time

of year the adults are highly aggressive towards their young – nips are common…….. The resident East Indies Black duck is prominent as usual – with its friend the pure white duck – these two are never more than a few feet from one another. The East Indies gets lots of attention – usually from people questioning how rare it might be :-) and does anyone know what it is…… No-one asks us, and we don’t spoil their fun and give the game away LOL

Suddenly a shout went up “you gave it a whole donut?” – a mother shouts at her kids – we turned to see a group of swans squabbling over the treat in question. Have a look at this postings gallery, there are a few amusing Homer-esque shots  of the swans desperate attempts to keep the donut to themselves.

A walk up to the hide which is situated to overlook the Coombe Park Heronry – we were looking for birds on the natural feeders – posts with holes drilled into them, with fat based feed placed into the said holes. Disappointing to see there was no food available to the birds and consequently very few birds to be seen. Fortunately the cold spell took a break over the New Year or the smaller species which rely on these hand-outs would doubtless have been in trouble.

Walk back to the car and home – another New Years day – a bunch more photos :-)


Second of January and we made our first trip of the year to our favourite spot – Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve.  Seems like almost everyone we know has turned out to the Marsh at the same time – spent more time talking to people than actually looking for the wildlife – but that’s all a part of the “game” I guess :-) Many of the photographers at Brandon Marsh exhibit their material on Flickr – search for Brandon Marsh and you should find at least some of them……

At this time of year Seri carries a little pack of dried mealworms with her – food for Robins. The Robins at Brandon are renowned for their cheek and indeed for their cuteness.

You can often see a visitor holding out handfuls of feed and the Robins swooping down for a snack. The Robins have very distinct personalities too, some of them do a smash and grab – dash in, grab a mealworm and tear off again all in less than a second.

Some of them will hover for a second or so, making a more discerning choice of mealworm, these guys are obviously a little braver than the former group. Some are very nervous of the camera – we always photograph them as they feed from Seri’s hand – it is their payment to us – so to speak :-) this group will perhaps wait until we throw the food onto the ground and walk off. We always leave a treat even if they won’t perform…….

A final type is the over-confident robber – sorry – Robin – these fellows will head for your hand before it is out of your pocket and are ready and waiting for you as you walk into the reserve. Many a visitor has been followed by a little posse of red breasted muggers LOL in recent weeks one or two of the blighters have been jumping onto the pot of mealworms before Seri even opens it such is their intent :-)

It is a delight to behold………

All of the ponds are still frozen solid – very tough on the Herons and Kingfishers – who have vacated the premises for the time being. A lot of people have been seeing the Bitterns in various parts of the reserve – we’ll wait until we happen upon them, we don’t stalk wildlife – we rely on serendipity (a happy accident).

So we walked around the reserve – a very quiet affair – walk around a corner and we find lots of people looking upwards – usually a good sign – there was a large mixed flock of perhaps 50-60 birds. Lots of Tits, mixed in with Redpoll and Siskin and the odd Goldfinch just too dark to photograph them well.

Walk on a little further, flash gun attached to the camera it is now so dark, and we found a couple of Yellow Brain Fungi – a very pretty bright yellow fungi also know as “Witches Butter

And so we walk back to the car – drive to the entrance and then get out again LOL we spotted a small group of horses -  too good an opportunity to miss…….. Several dozen photos later and we went home tired but happy – but very tired LOL

From here on it is back to the grindstone – Seri has been on vacation for the past month – tomorrow back to work……

Oops forgot to mention t0 – we also had a bunch of visitors to our feeders  - see the gallery linked from the  image in this post :-)

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