Viewing entries tagged
Yellowhammer

Perspective

The last two months I've experienced so much change, what with the start of my new Job in Cardiff with Aden Productions, and also losing my beautiful Grandmother last week. It's times like these that remind us just how fragile life really is. It doesn't take much to throw you off-balance, even at times where things appear to be falling into place. I'm very lucky I have a strong, loving and supporting family that are always there to listen. My Nan Violet was certainly one of those, and despite having an endless list of health problems, she'd still listen to you moan about what really were, insignificant things in the grand scheme of life. Cherish your loved ones, they are irreplaceable. 

Below, just a small selection of images I've taken recently. I've not had much time outdoors, but the time I have had with the camera has been pretty productive. It's not quite spring yet for some of our migrants but they are turning up one by one. I do love Yellowhammers in spring and despite them being back on territory, they aren't singing just yet. We need a bit of warmer weather, which I believe is just around the corner. Keep your eyes open! 

Blaenserchan - Black Redstart

Today I visited most of my local wild spaces and spent a fair few hours in the Blaenserchan Valley in search of Common Lizards. I did find some, 7 in-fact, but they were proving extremely difficult to find on this hot day. Usually you find them basking in the sun in the morning and evenings but it was so warm, they were disbursed all over the mountain in amongst the bracken.. Don't know if you've ever seen a Common Lizard in a mountain full of bracken but it literally is like finding a needle in a hay-stack. I came prepared for it however, even brought my chair along as I know, once you find one, you have to gain their trust by sitting and waiting until they realise you aren't going to hurt them. I got so close I could have reach out and touched a few. Blaenserchan was so good today, it brought me a 'lifer' in the form of a female Black Redstart! - Thanks to birding friend Tim Griffiths for that one as I surely would have missed it with my head stuck in the bracken looking for Lizards. I also found a Yellowhammer in the valley which I personally haven't seen there before. Insect life was great too with Bloody-nose Beetles, Green Tiger Beetles, a Stonefly, Brimstone Butterfly and many more. 

Singing in a cloud

Not the best day for Photography with fairly thick fog covering most of Pontypool. Was hoping that going further up the mountain I may get above the fog but it was ten times worse. Didn't seem to put the birds off though and luckily for me, I brought my recording gear. 

My recording gear is perfect for days like today where visibility is poor and sound becomes a much more reliable way of picking out birds in the fog. Lucky for me I can ID them by sound alone and I picked out some notable birds today as a result of this. I heard Crossbill, Redwing, Fieldfare and a single Curlew flying in the thick fog.. which I would have missed if it wasn't for my parabolic dish. 

On the way up the mountain I checked on my local gorse patches to see if the Yellowhammers were back in song and despite being back on their breeding grounds, I only picked out a few calls, no full songs just yet. Not that recording them was even possible today with over 20 off-road vehicles ripping up the coal spoils and creating a racket. Still not sure what I think about the off-road activity there, though for the time being, it doesn't seem to effect the Yellowhammers. 

Male Yellowhammer 

The British 

Something that was quite sad and certainly does effect the Yellowhammers was the burnt Gorse patches. This particular patch did home a Yellowhammer nest last season and its now completely ruined. 

Burnt Gorse

Yellowhammers and Ring Ouzel treat!

Early start today with birding friend Craig Constance on a mission to find Ring Ouzel locally and upon arriving at destination, we found one! Amongst 6 Blackbirds.. which didn't make keeping it very easy as once out of site, every blackbird became a target. I didn't get great shots but this was my first ever sighting and I'm very happy to have finally seen one. Big thanks to Craig for the invite, and for getting me out of bed ;) well worth it!. A quick stop at Goldcliff with a no-show from the Glossy Ibis but a lovely male Marsh Harrier but ended up heading back to get some more Ring Ouzel action- to find it had moved on. The day ended with good friend Paul Joy watching Redkites, Yellowhammers, Stonechats and many more and today I also had my first Redstart of the year so things are really happening now and I'm getting really excited for a productive spring. 

Upland Survey

Only a short photography session today having spent most of the day surveying a site that may be victim to yet another development. This one however, we'll feel all around the valleys. I'll blog about this on a feature date once I've accumulated enough concrete information. For now, enjoy the Meadow Pipit and Yellowhammer that I bumped into on my travels. 

Upland Specials

I seem to be surrounded by development lately.. with South Sebastopol well on its way and further destruction in our upland habitats from 4x4 vehicles, I'm starting to see a lack of appreciation for our local habitat in general. With the comforts of modern society and everything we've come to cocoon ourselves in our day to day lives, who needs a variety of habitats? When people do want their wild fix, they prefer to watch nature from a distance, rather than getting their hands dirty and appreciating the ground they step on. Habitat is so underrated and it's down to lack of knowledge and understanding. We should all know the basics about the world we live in, it should be drilled into us from birth how important habitat is to our wildlife and ourselves: How industry has effected our landscape but also how nature is fighting back and using some of our darkest hours to their advantage. We paid a heavy price in the valleys to industry but it's not like we've turned a new cheek! We still neglect our land, our environment and every delicate treasure we have on our doorstep. Below are two species that are quite delicate in their daily needs, both are a lover of Gorse Bushes and due to cultivation and pressure in the farming industry, many of our upland farmers are cutting this down to maximise growth of grassland for their live stock. (This is what ecologists mean by habitat loss). I approached one of the 4x4 drivers about them driving on the moorland and their response was 'it's just grass'... This goes to show how un-educated people really are because it's far from just grass! It's a very complex ecosystem made up of thousands of specialist plant species and you need only look closer to work that out. I didn't get mad at that person though because it isn't their fault, it starts with the Government and with parental teachings, it starts with the foundations of living in Wales and something needs to change for people to start appreciating the land we live on. A spark is needed and I hope I live long enough to see it happen, otherwise, it's going to be a very sad story for generations to come and whats worse is, they won't even know what they're missing. 

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 - http://www.yellowhammers.net/

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. 

Yellowhammer & Sound Recording

I miss spring! I shouldn't wish it upon us so soon into winter because it comes around so fast and before you know it, you have to wait an entire year again but, really, I cannot wait till spring 2016. I have so much planned! My sound recording is going to pick up massively in spring with new recording gear and with it, hopefully some interesting projects as a result. Recording bird song presents very different challenges to photography. Yes, getting close does help, just like photography but there are other factors that get in the way, like background noise! With photography, you need a clear background visually and with sound recording you need a clear background audibly. To rule out traffic, wind, rain, people, farm animals, planes, helicopters and other forms of human related noises is very very difficult in this day and age. It's safe to say that sound recording is becoming harder and harder every day which is why it's becoming less popular. Despite all those challenges, when you get it right, you get rewarded in such a way that is unforgeable. Just like photography, when you get it right, its an experience you'll never forget. 

Blaenavon

Sometimes, an opportunity can just present itself to you with no help, just complete luck. This is certainly one of those moments where 2 males happened to be fighting and while caught up in testosterone, they neglected to realise that I was right next to them. This scene below is that point where one of the males realised that he was right next to a human... That look on his face was brilliant lol. 

If you follow this link - http://www.yellowhammers.net - you can learn more about the yellowhammer song

Blaenavon Ft Cuckoo, Yellowhammer, Tree Pipit and Minotaur Beetle

Despite it being cloudy for the majority of the trip, the wildlife showed really well! I didn't think I'd be taking full frame shots today but that is exactly what you need when the sun isn't out. It is Cuckoo mad up the Blorenge right now and boy, do the Pipits know about it! They actively attack any cuckoo without sight as they defend their nests which will likely already have eggs in, maybe even chicks in some. The Yellowhammer wasn't on the photography list today but you just have to lap up what is presented to you and this guy was singing like a trooper and feeding pretty close to the car so we didn't even have to move! Upon walking the valley, Tom Whinstone (photography friend) and I almost stepped on this large beetle which turned out to be a Minotaur Beetle. This beetle is our very own equivalent of a Dung Beetle and it does exactly the same as a dung beetle by rolling up balls of dung and dragging/pushing it down a hole which will end up being the home for their young and the next generation of Minotaur Beetles. They are absolutely fascinating beetles and well worth me making a fuss about them.