Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Bird talk #3

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

I mentioned in Bird talk #1 how striking the birdsong is in  NZ,  and  I’m not the first to think so.

When the Endeavour first sailed into Marlborough Sound in, 1770.  The botanist  Joseph Banks  wrote.

NZ Banks birdsong_

What a thing it must have been to hear, after time at sea.

But the predators that both the Maori and the Europeans brought with them began to have a devastating impact on the birds (that is still ongoing to this day… ) 

But there were some amazingly perceptive conservation pioneers.

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the death of conservationist Richard Henry who pioneered moving endangered native birds to island sanctuaries, to save them from extinction, more than 120 years ago.

I’m bewitched by this image by Ricardo Scott  showing Henry.

Richard Henry

rescuing Kakapo, a flightless, nocturnal parrot.

I’m bewitched by the birds too, there is something so endearing about them, they look so helpless I guess,  it reminds me of childlike clinging of Australian Koalas, that we’ve seen so much footage of in the last few months, as the lucky ones were plucked from the bush fires.  Who wouldn’t want to rescue them

I never saw one of course, they are now very rare as well as nocturnal, but I get a daily fix, in my social media feed each morning.

And I’ve also discovered another way to relive the sounds of NZ birdsong.  And it’s become my go to track to sooth a disturbed nights sleep .


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Downy nest down

Spud the dog and I found a nest today, a crushed cornucopia, a squashed tricorn hat, with an extravagant plume of horse hair. Mosses, lichens, feathers and webs, felted into a snug bivi bag of a home.

nest

The fact we found iton the ground suggest its not a story with a happy ending.

nest 2

We found it under the apple tree, near the conifer. I think its the nest of long tailed tits, one of my favourite birds. I’m guessing a magpie had something to do with its demise

nest down


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There it was, gone.

There it was gone. Is that an expression local to North Derbyshire? Something that appears briefly and then disappears…

The blue skies and warm sun have gone and we are now expecting storm Freya to arrive on Sunday. Whilst it was very enjoyable, in a world of shifting weather patterns, it was also a little disconcerting for  a few days in February to be so mild, this time last year we had the Beast from the East

But  before the cloud came we had more visitors to the pussy willow,  a comma butterfly

Comma_

Who had a very neat vanishing trick up its sleeve. Now you see me, now you don’t.

Comma underside_

The Comma is a fascinating butterfly. The scalloped edges and cryptic colouring of the wings conceal hibernating adults amongst dead leaves, while the larvae, flecked with brown and white markings, bear close resemblance to bird droppings.

The species has a flexible life cycle, which allows it to capitalize on favourable weather conditions. However, the most remarkable feature of the Comma has been its severe decline in the twentieth century and subsequent comeback. It is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards.

I might be a bit slow on the uptake, but it wasn’t until recently I realised that some butterflies over winter, I assumed that they emerged from their chrysalis in the spring.

Wrong, this is how the comma butterfly spends its year6.comma

We’ve been busy bees, having a serious clear out of our barn,

Pussy willow bee

well its actually turned into a kind of archaeological dig, so much stuff! It was during this process, we found lots of hibernating butterfly tucked away behind old cupboards and pieces of timber, sadly I also found a lot of dismembered wings! I suppose a spider needs to eat.


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Loop Head

Loop Head West Clare, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.  So many beautiful orchids

sm file orchid_

Purple Orchid Ireland 2

Whats not to love?

Heart Ireland_

We were not so keen on the dizzying height of the cliffs, but photographed from a safe distance, you had to admire the geology, its things like this, the folds in this rock, a bedding plane pushed to almost 90 degrees,  that make me feel very small, just a spec in the universe, just passing by, at the whim of forces of untold strength.

rock folds

There was lots of wildlife too

Moth Ireland_

Loop Head, is at the mouth of the  river Shannon.

It’s a popular place to catch sight of dolphins,  the water was heaving with seabirds, and there was a pungent smell of fish,  and those people willing to sit at the edge of the cliff were getting very excited,  we crept a little closer, all the black flecks in this photo are birds either on the water or diving, there was obviousley a large shoal of fish passing through.

loop head.jpg

and the distinctive black shape are of course dolphins. Not very dramatic dolphin photographs, unlike these beauties , I’m leased to say we had  a better chance to see the magical world of dolphins, they’ll get a post all of their own…


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Sometimes a little magic flies by

We’ve been away, we’ve been to Rutland Water for a couple of nights in the campervan.  we had a lovely time, I hired an electric bike, such fun! I went wheeeeeee!

I’ve not ridden a bike for many many moons.

After that we went on to the nature reserve, and watched nature in all its Spring busyness.feed me_

From a hide we watched the osprey, they were a little too far way for my camera, but we were much closer to them than we had been before, in addition there was a large TV screen showing live footage taken by cameras looking directly into the nest.

Now that sound like an excellent day, doesn’t it? We settled down for the evening, with a glass of wine and some tasty Long Clawson stilton cheese.

And  then the magic arrived

Barn Owl Rutland 4

A barn owl flew in across the meadow, next to the camping field, quartering, searching for prey,  it swooped past us time after time

Barn Owl Rutland 3

It’s the first time I’ve seen a barn owl in the wild, I’ve had other owl encounters.

Barn Owl Rutland 2

It went on and on, taking prey off to its nest

Barn Owl Rutland

and returning, to our delight.

Barn Owl Rutland 5

The next morning, Mr Uphilldowndale went out on his bike at about 7:15 am, for a proper bike ride, one with pace and miles and without me going wheeeeeee all the time.

After he had gone I contemplated making a second cup of tea, I sat up in bed and peeped around the curtain and there it was again.

Right in my face, this time carrying its breakfast.  I’m such a lucky girl.  Barn Owl Rutland 7

All the photos were taken through the tinted privacy glass of the van, the last image with added condensation…