Viewing entries tagged
Symonds Yat Rock

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.

Symonds Yat

Back tracking a little here as this trip happened last Friday as my Brother and I had the rare occasion of having the same day off. I didn't have anything on the photography list really this time, just enjoying the sites, sounds and ecology that the Wye Valley / Forest of Dean has. We saw lots of great things, Silver Washed Fritillaries, Common Lizards (and that was just in the car park). The Peregrines didn't show very well for Yat Rock but they were very vocal. We saw many signs of Wild Boar and Deer on our adventure down an un-used track. 

What do you think this is below? At first I thought, eggs! It has to be right? Perhaps Butterfly eggs? Well, that's what I thought until I did a little bit of googling and turns out they are Fern Spores. I came across a thread where a guy was explaining what they were to someone else with a similar photograph as mine below, the guy replied with this 'you clearly don't know anything about Ferns do you?' haha. Well I don't! they are indeed Fern Spores, this is how the seeds for the plant are spread, The shells burst and the spores catch the wind and can travel very large distances. It all makes sense now why they seemed so perfectly placed underneath the leaves. 

Peregrines?.. Not quite

Peregrine Falcons have been nesting at Symonds Yat Rock for many years now and as a result of a fantastic view point, their activities have been studied there for a long time too. We know everything from where the likely nest places are and also where they store their food. The hole in which they store their food is called a larder and it's usually the right hole in the cliff which you can see in the picture... What you may have already seen though is something very strange inside... It is in-fact.. a Canada Goose! I was shocked when someone pointed this out to me, I honestly thought it was just a kill or something but cropping in closer you can see the Canada Goose sat on her eggs! What will happen to the chicks when they hatch you say? Well, they will have to jump! and fall all the way down where hopefully they will have a few obstacles to break their fall. This is actually common for certain species of Geese, especially Barnacle Geese, but this is the first time I've ever seen a Canadian Goose nest this high. Any day now, they'll hatch and will have to endure the drop. Good luck Goose, you're braver than I am. Why nest so high? well, believe it or not, this is actually much safer than nesting on the ground where the eggs will be vulnerable to predators like Foxes, Rats, Badgers and much more on the forest floor or river banks. 

The bird that the Canada Geese may have to deal with at some point is the Peregrine Falcon who is probably pretty annoyed that their larder is occupied by a grumpy goose. This was 1 of the 2 female birds I saw flying around the cliffs but the male also showed for a little while, landing on the cliff for a rest and flying back out to hunt. Their activities should pick up soon when their own chicks hatch. 

Below is a telephoto landscape of one of the iconic views from Yat Rock. I've tried to make it look like a Tilt Shift effect to add a little depth of field. Below that is a picture of a Song Thrush which was happily picking for worms around peoples feet at Goytre Warf to feed his/her young. 

Yat Rock, Magor Marsh & Llandegfedd

Last couple of days have been on and off regarding the weather but lucky for me, today was beautiful and so happened to also be my birthday so I spent it with my partner in crime at the scenic Yat Rock observing the Peregrines and Goshawks: An unbeatable location for observing raptors in flight. We stopped off at Magor Marsh in Newport before going for some food and by then, the sun had gone but a single ringed Grasshopper warbler showed briefly before heading off south. I only wished at that point that I had my new recording gear because it was singing so close to me!

Symonds Yat Rock / Peregrine Falcons

It's never a dull day at Symonds Yat! We had several views of a distant Goshawk hunting through the woodland and even chasing a Sparrowhawk at one point. The Gos didn't fly within camera range but no worries! Because our Peregrines put on a fairly decent show today! Both Female and Male were present all day and we even had a Juvi Male which the Female spotted way before we did and seen it off just after I managed to get a photo. The Juvi Male is in the bottom right corner and the local female is up top. They are possibly nesting in a different spot this year compared to previous years on a part of the cliff that you wouldn't really expect but it really does show how good that cliff actually is for them that they can change the location every year a pick various different spots. The Ravens stole the photography show however and it was nice to get to see the Deer, even if it was from 300ft up.