Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Summer Afternoon

Summer afternoon- summer afternoon; to me those have been the most beautiful words in the English language

~Henry James~

Today in the car at about 1pm was 34C. It was hot, hot, hot. We nipped into Asda for shopping and as usual a quick browse at the clothes and came out with a red/white stripe long dress. Just nice for summer but I’ll wear it with either a red or white shrug. I hated bare arms. After filling our basket with bread, bananas, mushrooms, Chinese snacks, butter and coleslaw, we headed home. As usual when the sun is out, drivers tend to get crazy on the road. It’s just ridiculous.

Babe took of the top of the car to take advantage of the lovely day. We went to our favourite playground to get some fresh air and top up our tans :-). At the dipping pond, we stood in silence and observed the Great Crested Newt floating lazily. We’d a wonderful surprise when a newt tadpole appeared near to the surface. This was the first time we saw a tadpole in the pond.

Brandon Marsh D300s  26-06-2011 14-31-52 We walked past wild raspberry bushes dotted with ripened berries. The hot weather had resulted in the berries ripening earlier and I couldn’t help picking here and there. They were so delish and very sweet. Hmm…I must remember to leave some for the natives. As we continued walking, Babe showed me a wasp nest near the path. We could see the paper-thin nest and the wasps busy at work. We hurried off quickly when a few wasps started flying out. Better not be standing in their path.

Brandon Marsh D200  Fsb  23-06-2011 15-15-28 We checked out Baldwin Hide and saw the terns shielding their chicks underneath them. An Oyster Catcher flew briefly on the island beside the hide. We also spotted Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwings, Cormorants, Greylags and Canada Geese.  We continued towards East Marsh Hide and checked out the islands in front of us. Most of the natives were having a siesta in the humid, hot afternoon. I felt like joining them. I ‘m very uncomfortable in this heat. We were about to head home when this handsome Muntjac appeared from the bushes on the opposite bank. My oh my, my first sighting this year. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away. After we got our fix, it was time to head home.       Brandon Marsh D2h  26-06-2011 15-54-38

Yesterday, we spent the whole day at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. I think this might be our last trip this year as we planned to check out the other reserves in Martin Mere and Welney. We hoped to see if there were any chicks from the exotic birds. As we walked along the Swan Lake, we saw hundreds of Swallows flying low along eaves and roofs of the visitor centre. When we looked up, we saw this gorgeous pair of eyes looking down at us.

Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 14-01-12 We walked towards the hides because I wanted to check out the summer walkaway leading towards the River Severn estuary. Off course we just had to stop and check out the hides. We were so delighted to see a pristine Little Egret feeding along the mudbanks near the Robbie Garnett hide.

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 14-38-29 Then we continued towards our destination. We’d to hurry because we have to be back before 5pm. It was a long 15 minutes walk in the heat  to reach Middlepoint. Along the route, birdsongs accompanied us. When we arrived, this was the view that greeted us. As far as the eye can see, the River Severn estuary. We spotted Shelducks and Curlews feeding on the mudflats in the horizon. It was hard to imagine that the famous bore rushes inwards from here.Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 14-55-27 I wished we could have our lunch in this camper van which was used as a bird hide. It was quite funny to see a rusting camper van in the middle of nowhere. When we checked it out, it was very comfortable inside,. Unfortunately, we had to rush back before the entrance shut. We spotted a buzzard riding the waves as we got closer towards the main area.

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 14-57-17 We were amazed to see some very strange looking birds. They looked familiar but … As we got closer, we realised that they were experiencing the eclipse plumage.  After breeding, ducks moult  which was a process where the old, worn-out feathers were replaced with new ones. For about a month, they can't fly and were very vulnerable to predators.  This was also why they tend to stay close together.Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 14-16-35 To provide protection, particularly for the brightly-coloured males, the moult starts with their bright body feathers. These were then replaced by dowdy brown ones, making them look much like females. Once the flight feathers have re-grown, they moult again, and by October the full colours were back and the various species of ducks were easily recognisable once more. We’d a wonderful time trying to identify some really very tatty looking ducks. Who would believe that this was a Smew!!!

Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 15-29-64 We had a lovely surprise when we spotted the Greater Flamingos with their gangly chicks. Some were still sitting on their mud nests, keeping their eggs warm. It was heart-warming to see how protective the parents were with their chicks. The adults form a protective ring around them. We would have stayed longer but the pong was just unbearable. How on earth such a graceful, pink bird live here was beyond us.Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 15-46-47 We continued walking and saw other ducks, some with chicks and lots of juvenile Nenes. It was wonderful to see these rare Nenes doing very well. We thought we’d seen everything in the reserve when Babe came across something that he’d never seen before. I went to see what had spooked Him. OMG, what was this??? It was a Toulouse goose and from the name, originated from Toulouse in France. This was the breed most used for the production of foie gras. Something which I will never eat.

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 15-52-42 After about 4 hours, it was time to call end the day. On the way home, we’d a quick stop at a lay-by to check out the Slimbridge canal. We always wanted to check this place but there was no place to park. We dribbled over the narrow-boats and motorboats moored along the canals :-). We did think of living the simple life in a narrow-boat but where on earth am I going to store my shoes, Babe’s numerous cameras and our books…

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 17-01-01 When we arrived back to Coventry, we decided to buy fish and chips for dinner. We then drove to a casa that we were hoping to rent. Yes, we were back to casa-hunting again. We’d received a letter from our landlord and he wanted his casa back. Although we have 6 months left, we want to leave before we were pushed. It was in an ok area, only a bus-ride to the university and about an hour walk. It has a garden for me and a garage for Babe. We were supposed to see it earlier in the day but the appointment was cancelled because the tenant wasn’t informed.

During the week, I’d to take the bus home on the evening of the summer solstice.

“As the sun spirals its longest dance, Cleanse us. As nature shows bounty and fertility. Bless us. Let all things live with loving intent. And to fulfill their truest destiny."

~From a Wiccan blessing~

Summer solstice was sometimes referred to as Midsummer Day. It was the longest day of the year and the amount of daylight only goes down from here. It was also the meteorological start of summer. A time to enjoy holidays, beaches, festivals, bbqs and fingers-crossed more sun. So lets get our hair down, get some fresh air and top up the tan. Summer can disappear in a flash.

Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.

~Hal Borland~

I was browsing the BBC website reading the news about the gatherings on Monday night/Tuesday morning at Stonehenge. Did you see the photos? What saddened me was the disrespect shown towards these ancient sites. Religious or not, people should not climb these stones or drop litter. There were rare lichen on these stone and as well as shielding the stone from the ravages of weathering, it had been protecting some prehistoric carvings. No one have total proof of what they were used for but it must have been a place to meet and celebrate. The Solstice and the time of year means many things to many people and should be allowed to remain so.

On Friday, we popped into Brandon Marsh after work. It was raining and we quickly dashed towards Carlton Hide. As usual, the whitethroats were active in the rain, busy hunting for food. A pair of Green Sandpipers flew in and were busy also feeding on the mudbanks. Nothing appeared from the Barn Owl box. They can’t hunt in the rain because their plumage was not waterproof. A Kingfisher made a brief appearance. But the highlight was this juvenile Moorhen’s behaviour. We think it had a neurological problem because it tends to walk backwards from time to time. This will make it very vulnerable to predators.

Brandon Marsh D300s X14   24-06-2011 17-47-15We left when the rain had a brief stop. We dashed back to the car before the heavens opened again. Hmm…This felt familiar. Rain and summer…Fingers-crossed we are going to have more warm summer afternoons. But at least, I don’t have to water the garden :-).

Below are the gorgeous Shelduck chicks vowing the visitors at Slimbridge. There were hundreds of them.

Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 14-27-51

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