Finally Found Frogs!

When is the last time you saw a pond full of Frogs? not just a little bit of Frogspawn in the corner? Well for me, it’s been a long time. Torfaen just doesn’t seem to have as many as we used to. Not sure why. It could be predation, climate, or we’re just going thru a couple bad years in general for amphibians.
Maybe it’s because they’re getting earlier each year and I’m just missing the activity?
The latter certainly would make sense as you could have swore it was spring today in Blaenserchan. 20+ Frogs with a substantial amount of Frogspawn already. I’ve been after a good close up shot of a Frog in the water for a while and it was a bonus to get them with the spawn in-shot. The first pic is now one of my all-time personal favourites, partly because it took a lot of patience to get it. My back is certainly feeling it after being on the floor for so long. The issue with this particular pond is, it’s located in the upper altitude of Blaenserchan, so they just weren’t used to people. All it would take is for me to scratch my nose and they would all disappear in the depths for 20 minutes at a time. Either way it was worth it.

I assume the fungi above is Candle-snuff Fungi that’s gone over but i’m not entirely sure. They didn’t seem rounded enough to be Dead Moll’s Finger’.

It was only the other day that I set out to the Forest of Dean to witness the iconic Goshawk display that happens this time of year. Even with the breath taking view of Symonds Yat that overlooks the forest, you’d be lucky to come across a Goshawk perched up. So you can imagine my excitement to stumbled across one today on my way home from Blaenserchan. A bit distant even at 600mm and I didn’t have my scope with me to enjoy it but I was happy to spot it. I was looking for Great Grey Shrike at this point and the white belly of this Goshawk just stood out to me from a mile.


Signs of Spring

Waking up to the sound of birds singing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming away this morning was enough to set me up nicely for the day.
This warm bright weather has really kicked spring off with Birds of Prey displaying, Frogs laying eggs and lots of birds nest building. I get so excited for spring this time of year that I forget that our winter migrants have to endure the long journey home before they can even start to think about breeding. A reminder came in the form of a Redwing in song during this mornings dawn chorus.

Two days ago I drove to Symonds Yat view point as the sun was shining and the warm conditions were perfect to view an early spring spectacle. The Goshawk display is truly awesome to watch and theres no better place to watch it than Symonds Yat Rock. It didn’t take long to spot them in the air along with several Buzzards. A lot of people struggle to spot these Birds at Yat Rock and if you’re one of them, my advice is to look more closely at the larger birds of prey and zone in on their flight pattern. Buzzards will be flying slow, often soaring with their typical V shape wing position. Goshawks also soar, but when they do so, their wings remain flat. Their wings are so broad that they appear short in length compared to the size of the body. The most obvious features though are the wing beats that beat at a much faster rate to a Buzzard and as a result, they cut thru the air like a Jet fighter. Buzzards take a long time to gain a decent altitude where Goshawks just seem to glide thru altitude like it’s nothing. In the pic below shows a Male that was chasing what appears to be a Juvenile Female. Hard to say what was going on in the short time I observed them but it was really great to view them thru the scope. A Single female Peregrine was sat up in a tree above the nesting cliff too. It won’t be long till they get into the full swing of spring either.

Goshawk Displaying Gavin Vella

With spring flowers emerging everywhere, It won’t be long before we start to see insects popping up with them. Red Admirals, Brimstones and Peacocks have already been spotted so far but by far my favourite is when we get the Orange-tips. Now I’m sporting a Macro lens, i’ll likely be photographing a lot more bugs this year so apologies to the Birders who only read my blog for bird news.

Orange-tip Butterfly

I’ve got some other surprises coming up soon, some big stepping stones for me, but it’s early days and don’t want to speak too soon. So you’ll have to wait and see.

Snow Days

I’m lucky to have access to Ian Howells Woodland Bird Hide. It’s a nice setup of bird feeders that’s not far from home. I offer to help him fill the feeders, which has proven to be quite a responsibility for him during winter as they need filling at-least 3 times a day.! It’s always worth having a good bird feeder setup to return to on snow days as everything just looks better in the snow. Because of the white bright snow, light is reflected to the underparts of the birds giving you better exposure possibilities in the camera. I was particularly happy with the Great Spotted Woodpecker images as I’ve been after a clean show of the male for a while. Watching him flumping around in the snow was quite amusing.

Before you get too excited, this is an old image at Newport Road Cardiff in January 2017. The reason I’m posting this image as it may just happen for us again this year with the closest sightings so far being Crickhowell and Chepstow. There certainly seems to be the odd small flock in Wales and fingers crossed I’ll get the opportunity again as they are stunning Birds and very photogenic.

Back to the Basics

I don’t mean to use this blog as some kind of depressing therapeutic journal..but I’m not going to pretend that everything’s great for me right now. Times are tough at the moment and I hope that in writing this down it will not just give me a little relief but it might even be relatable to others, and therefor mutually encouraging.

In October last year I wrote my first blog about my own Mental Health issues. It was a massive leap for me to admit that I’m suffering and to ask my Doctor for help. The first lot of tablets didn’t agree with me so counselling seemed to be my only option. I’m now into my second session, and i’m realising now just how deep this issue goes. I’ll talk in more detail about this once my counselling has finished. Hopefully by then I’ll be in a better place to talk about it.

Social Anxiety has always been a massive barrier, Preventing me from reaching simple daily objectives, and recently preventing me from turning up to a public enquiry to save my local Canyon. It was extremely important to me to help save the Canyon and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that it’s being fought by equally passionate people, I’d feel pretty devastated about missing it. The Canyon is a place that I regularly turn to if I need a place to be alone, surrounded by pure serenity and beautiful scenery / wildlife. I hope that the enquiry is going well and wish everyone the best of luck. I have my fingers crossed that the right decision is made.

I haven’t ventured that far just yet but the woodland opposite my house has some great fungi opportunities with Winter Polypore, Jelly Ear, Scarlet Elf-Cups and with the warm temperatures, a 7-spot Ladybird emerged too. That is due to change for a short period with a slight sprinkling of snow today and plummeting temps. Ice can present some nice macro opportunities though so I’ll keep an eye out for that. I just need to get out of the house more.

On the Job front though, I’m still out of work and struggling to find something that isn’t going to make my health worse. I know many people stuck in Jobs that are quite frankly.. shortening their lives. Everyone has had to do a Job that they aren’t comfortable with or don’t like, but my health problems are no longer going to be pushed aside. Concentrating on my health though is coming at a financial cost so I can only hope that things pick up quickly or that I can find a way of selling my photographs.

Being self employed has never been more appealing to me than now. The value of being able to choose your own working hours, working around health and to not have the social pressure and stress that comes from Bosses & Colleagues.. this seems to be the logical step forward but it’s also the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. My self confidence has been knocked quite a bit, with a damaged wrist from working at Llandegfedd, which took away any chance of me falling back on my music career and also any chance of continuing my career in physical conservation work. Just when I seemed to find something that suited me well, in a production company, the social anxiety came back to haunt me. So I’m here now, stripping everything back to the basics, taking pictures that I enjoy and staying well away from people looking to use me to bump themselves up the ladder. It’s time to get myself there instead. There’s no room for selfish, unappreciative people in my life. Oosh that was a rant and a half. Please don’t feel too depressed after reading all that.. Here’s some pictures to make this look like a positive blog.

The Ground Moves

I’m not sure if these Fungi are just late / winter fungi or whether they’ve looked this way since the autumn, but they look in pristine condition. Photographing these late species reminds me of how little I actually know about Fungi..If anybody can recommend or even donate a good fungi ID book I’d be much appreciative as I do really enjoy them and I’m always looking to expand my nature knowledge.

It’s been mild but it only took 3 minutes for my gloveless hands to feel the numbing bite of this mornings -2c at Terpentwys Nature Reserve. I did note 6+ Crossbill calling and singing on the edge of the woodland right by the Car Park but I turned my attention to the ground, only really getting the camera out to photograph the emerging Lords & Ladies plants and the frozen rain from last night. I love the way Lords & Ladies unfolds from this spiral funnel and the photo below shows one of the leaves just about to break out of the funnel into those classic arrowhead shaped leaves. I also love the variety of leaf patterns, some showing dark spots and others completely spotless. Spring isn’t far away, but with upcoming snow forecast, I don’t think winter is quite giving up yet.

Fossils, Fish & Fisherman

As you can tell, Ogmore-by-sea is swiftly becoming a trend this winter for me. That coastline is something special and just 30 minutes down the motorway in good traffic. I hoped to catch up with the Purple Sandpipers again but I only located one. Turns out there were quite a number of Fisherman setup along the coastline so I wonder if they had flown further up the coast to avoid so much human activity. Upon reaching the setup of Fisherman, I scanned the rocks to see if there were any birds amongst them, which didn’t go down well apparently as staring back at me once I put the bins down was a stern middle finger from a young Fisherman.. How polite..

The morning picked up however after stumbling across a mystery fossil. I’m not up on my fossils to be honest so I had to get help with this one and it turned out to be a 350 Million year old Rugose Coral! Big thanks to Chris Partridge for finding this link . I had no idea they were there, so it was a discovery for myself.

‘Fossilised colony of the rugose coral Solenodendron horsfieldi on a beach near Ogmore-by-Sea in Wales. This coral is in carbonate rocks of the Gully Oolite Formation, which is of early Carboniferous (Mississippian) age, about 350 million years old.’

Rugose Coral Fossil

I also found quite a few Mermaids Purses which seem standard on every beach tour these days but I believe these to be Lesser-spotted Dogfish Egg Sacks. Other than that, fairly quiet with two Med Gulls and the usual Turnstones.

Re-edits and new Fungi

Seems standard to be ill over Christmas but I finally got out of the house today and had a short walk at Llandegfedd. Pintail and Jacksnipe were notable birds, though no pictures to show for them as they were too fast for me! I’d love to know what the first Mushroom is? If someone could let me know. There is a small patch growing on the clay mud banks possibly growing on the roots of the surrounding willows if that helps with the ID? Candlesnuff Fungus seems numerous this winter and hang on, is that Daffodils already?! They’re almost in flower! I wonder if our native Daffodil is coming out this early too.. I very much doubt it but it certainly made me feel better seeing them today, knowing that spring is just a couple months away! Won’t be long now before the Reptiles start emerging and spring migration begins. For some, it’s already began! that is a great feeling. Guaranteed to get another cold snap before spring though.. it’s always the same.
I’ve included some older pics of Rock Pipit, Fulmar and Tree Creeper just to add some birds into the mix.

Tawny Owl Health

I’m sharing this one with you in the hope that it might reach somebody who knows a bit more about Owls than I do. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a bird with what appears to be a saw throat. Maybe this bird is getting old, or possible even have some sort of damage or illness. I’ve enabled the download feature on the audio file, feel free to send it to anybody you may think could shine some light on it. This Tawny Owl has been sounding like this for about two weeks now. I’ve seen it flying but too dark to get a decent look of the bird.

This is a different bird but I can’t post a blog without some sort of picture can i? :P

Seasons Greetings at Ogmore

I really hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas and continues to celebrate into the new year. Whilst we all celebrate Christmas in our own way, for some it’s not a celebration at all and my heart goes out to all that are struggling in this completely failed system. Brexit couldn’t have come at a worse time!


I managed to get out with the camera yesterday, opting to go to Ogmore again after having such a great time there on the 13th. I went straight for the Purple Sandpiper, finding them in the same place as before but this time only 6 Birds present. The tide was much higher this time which I thought would be a good thing, but turned out to be a bit of a barrier as it made the rocks into more of an island, just slightly out of reach. Prior to this, I did get some shots I was happy with. For me the Rock Pipits stole the show, as they spent most of the day devouring Sea Slaters. Every-time the Rock Pipit would catch one, it would fly off with it as if they were scared I would steal it from them. Seeing the amount of insects reminded me why our coastline is so important for birds throughout the colder winter months.

I met a young local birder called Tom Wright who also took an interest in the Purple Sandpiper. It’s always a pleasure to meet others that share the same passion for wildlife / photography but even better to see these qualities in the younger generation. Here’s Tom Wrights twitter page and Flickr page.

Fox hunting

Boxing day came and this Christmas, the opposition for Fox hunting was really strong and got quite a bit of media coverage. I don’t condone any sort of violence, but it was good to see people taking a stand for what they believe is wrong. I too find it extremely barbaric to hunt Foxes with a pack of Dogs and it’s surprising just how much evidence there is online thanks to saboteurs uncovering the truth-that Fox hunting in this manner is still very much so at large, despite being illegal. To continue the tradition, Fox hunters have pledged that they will follow false Fox urine trails to prevent any Fox deaths, but the issue with this is that these trails are often set throughout the countryside where real Foxes live and it’s very easy for a pack of Dogs to catch onto a real Fox trail. Research needs to be done to find out how often this happens, and how many Foxes are still continued to be killed in this manner. Labour have caught onto this and have pledged they will enforce stricter Laws. Read more HERE. Theresa May however wants to bring Fox Hunting back because she believes a Fox being ripped apart by a pack of Dogs is more humane than being shot in the head?.. When I hear thoughts like this coming from the leader of our country, it really makes me worry. It shows that she’s in the pocket of the privileged.

Christmas Shopping

I don’t know about you, but I find this time of year extremely hard. Just too many people for me. Even this Jackdaw was finding the Christmas shopping a little hard this year as Mcd’s have splashed out for the extra thick bin bags but went for the clear option so you could see what you’re missing out on. A whole new element to animal cruelty… lol.

Jackdaw Christmas Shopping

I planned on shopping today, but instead opted for a short walk along the Usk river in Newport. I hoped to see the annually returning Mediterranean Gull that winters at Newport Mcd’s but they must have been feeding elsewhere. I did however have 15 Redshank, 2 Rock Pipit, 3 Goosander and a single Oystercatcher along the Usk River.

Rock Pipit