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Autumn Gone?

What is your favourite part of Autumn? For most people, it's the change of colours in the leaves before they fall. Red being the most popular and vibrant.. It's a shame I can't see it though uh? lol Red is one of those colours I know is there, so long as it isn't amongst other colours and isn't too dark (Needs to have light shining on it or emitting its own light). So how did I know which of my photos had red in it? Two reasons, 1. While looking at the photographs digitally, I can tweak the colours individually and physically see the changes. Usually I need to boost the reds up to extreme levels for me to see them, and then I can dial them back to a level that is acceptable to everyone else. I probably still get it wrong but nobody has complained so far lol.. would you tell me if I did? Probably not lol. 

For me, Autumn is more about the winter visitors and the summer departing birds. Much like the Brambling that seemed to have come back this year in decent numbers, unlike last year where we got very few reports in Gwent. Every year is different, dependant on weather conditions and available food. This is what makes autumn / winter special in my eyes, as you really have no idea what may turn up in what has to be the most energetic season of all. Everything is on the move, even your Garden birds tend to move down to warmer climates. I hate to burst any bubbles, but your resident Robin probably isn't the same Robin you've been seeing all summer. We get thousands of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins moving down from Scandinavia in the winter time and most never truly settle till they've found a stable food source in manageable temperatures. If it's too cold here, they'll even skip the Uk into France.. Joys of being a bird! I can't even begin to imagine the things they must encounter on their travels..


Didn't commit to anything particular today. Just wanted to explore my local patch for whatever I found. I just so happened to find some really promising signs of species that I'm yet to even see although photograph. I won't give away the species just yet but it's all very exciting finding something new locally. Just when you think you've seen it all, my patch has delivered yet again. 

Llandegfedd was so busy today! All levels of the car park were full including the north car park. The water level is almost back to full level now which has brought our special Great Crested Grebes back into their breeding grounds. They haven't really had much chance to breed on Llandegfedd yet this year because of this factor. There simply hasn't been any sights for them to build a nest as the tree line has been set back far from the water line. I'm predicting that will change in the next week or so and we'll start to see typical behaviour from them. 

Blizzard on Mynydd Maen

If only it were a Ring Ouzel you say? Well, I was happy to get anything in this weather! Lens and Camera was soaked, including myself. Luckily had a snow proof coat on today as it really did hammer down up on the top of Mynydd Maen Pontypool. Not much happening up there yet, think it's a little too cold still but on the lower parts of the common, the usual was present, including Green Woodpecker, Starlings, Redwing, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Dunnock and a single Kesrel. 

Was nice to meet some of the locals that took an interest in my recording gear. As if the large lens on the camera wasn't enough to capture peoples attention, the recording parabolic dish certainly did it. 

Local Spring Arrivals

Signs of spring are growing every day and today was no exception with Yellowhammer in full song back on territory and Curlew returning to some of their upland breeding grounds. Today marks the first day of the year for Upland Curlews (for me) and I've not heard of any other recordings in Gwent of such activity yet so think this may be the first record. I visited several favourite spots locally today and all of which were upland / moorland. Each day I grow to love our uplands more and more as I realise just how important the habitat is for the majority of our wildlife. I went out with an open mind today prepared to take whatever was presented to me and I was pleasantly surprised to find Yellowhammer back on territory singing their hearts out. Spring has already started for some birds. My local Long-tailed Tits are already starting to build their nest from spiders webs, lichens and feathers. 

I've spoken about the Yellowhammer Dialects project before so I won't go into too much detail but if you're interested in sound recording and have any records, even phone recordings, of a Yellowhammer, please contribute to this incredible project -

I'm the only one that has submitted recordings in South Wales so records here a looking thin despite our abundance of Yellowhammers. It is important to record birdsong for this very reason so please have a look at their website as Pavel is doing a great Job. 

It was my brother that spotted this Curlew flying in from Llandegfedd direction and immediately after he saw it the bird gave off that iconic call giving its identity away. It later on landed in a cultivated field and later flew further north. 

Foggy Sunday

If you live in Pontypool, you certainly would have noticed the fog today! However, if you went up the mountain, it was a clear sunny day with blue skies! You never would have believed that unless you saw it for yourself but coming down from the mountain was like entering a cloud blanketing over Pontypool. 

Direct sun isn't the best for 'perch' photography though as it casts shadows and makes the birds look a little contrasty but either way, here are a few of my favourites from today. 

Was great to see that a few Butterflies and Dragonflies were making the most of this Autumn Sun! 

Car Advantage

I didn't realise just how effective having a car actually is for wildlife photography. Not just to get you to locations but you practically carry around a moving 'hide'. For whatever reason, birds don't seem to be too bothered by cars and so long as you stay inside, they don't fly away. The minute you step out the door.. they are gone! haha. Well, as you can see by all my Brambling photographs, I've been making the most of this technique and it already has brought me some really nice photographs. 

Patch Re-visit

As planned, a re-visit for a better photograph of a Black Darter lead to finding a beautiful female. Still lots of other Dragonflies flying there including a Southern Hawker which I haven't actually had there all year as it's been mainly Common Hawker and Migrants so far. Still lots of Froglets on the rocks, which to be fair make really great subjects to photograph and to top it off, another pair of Redkites! This time carrying what looked to be a mouse or even a rat. At first I thought it may have been tagged but looking closely it is actually a mouse. Another great couple of hours spent in this fantastic place. 

If you didn't notice in my 'events' calendar, today marks a special day for the Moon called 'Blood Moon' and even though the peak isn't till 1am in the morning, (to which I'm certainly not staying up for as I have work in the morning) - You can already see the colour emerging while rising late in the evening. 

Killer Seagulls!! or, cleaners?

I haven't managed to get out of the house yet this week but arriving home today after work I noticed a few birds including 2 Lesser black-backed Gulls taking interest in what looked to be road kill, just a couple doors up from my house. Looking closer at the kill and it appeared to be a Brown Rat. While all this was going on, our local street cat was chasing everything that moved.. (a sight that I've had to get used to on my street as it is always chasing something..) All this made me think as very recently in the papers and the news, Gulls have had some really bad press. I don't think for one minute however that Gulls deserve this bad press and I'll tell you why. Gulls remain very good cleaners on our streets! They eat left over food that we drop, the filter through rubbish so that nothing is wasted and they also clean up dead or injured animals off our streets. In this case, the Rat was clearly killed by either the Cat, or by a car. I have also watched something simular at Llandegfedd Reservoir when an injured Blackbird with a broken neck tried flying out over the water. It infotunetly landed in the water and would have died a slow, painful death, if it wasn't for a huge Greater Black-backed Gull that caught the bird, killed it and swallowed it whole. Though this might sound crule to some people, it is a vital part of the system which keeps everything in balance. The weak will die off so that the strong healthy birds survive and pass on there genes. Natural Selection in action. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull eating Rat

Dragonfly Week

Safe to say, today was probably the best day I've had for Dragonflies this year so far. I found my first Keeled Skimmer on my home patch, and what a beautiful Dragonfly they are! This particular individual was very kind and allowed me to get very close from all angles.. Golden-ringed still present in this area along with the typical, Emperor, Broad-bodied, Black-tailed and Common Hawker. I look forward to seeing what this site produces into August. Also in this location, lots and lots of Grayling Butterflies. 

Pontypool Uplands & Llandeg Re-visit

So much activity today, I don't know where to start! As a naturalist, it is very hard to document everything this time of year. It all happens so fast and all at the same time. A single Hobby was spotted and as a result, I missed a great opportunity with the Great White Egret.. Just the way it goes sometimes haha. Dragonfly activity today was fantastic! I got a new species (at least for me) at Llandegfedd in the form of an Emerald Damselfly. Not the best photograph of the Emerald though as it is slightly out of focus but good enough ID shot. Single Banded Demoiselle and plenty of Broad-bodied Chasers. Marbled Whites were abundant and the Great White Egret wasn't playing game at all... It is really shy. Altogether, a fabulous day. If you read yesterdays blog, I didn't manage to find that lure so I just hope that it doesn't end up being picked up again.