insectsandflight.com
all pictures © robin williams

February 2022: wildlife, from the Somerset Levels.

February 27th 2022. A wild and windy day spent testing a lens at Catcott Lows, where the duck were flying.

 

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

February 26th 2022. A good day out spent at Catcott Lows photographing a juvenile Marsh harrier.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Great white egret, Egretta alba

February 25th 2022. A quick visit to Ham Wall when the sun came out proved to be chilly, with not a great deal to see. A couple of Coot were pre-empting the spring with a good scrap, which provided some entertainment. A harrier was seen so far off as to defy recognition and a fine Shoveler drake came close enough to really appreciate his colours.

Coot, Fulica atra

Coot, Fulica atra

Shoveler, Anas clypeata

February 24th 2022. A remarkable time. President Putin of Russia, after continually denying he had any such intention, invaded the Ukraine with what are said to be over 190,000 troops, from several different points. The News showed explosions in several cities including the capital. The western leaders condemned it and arranged various world meetings, as well as putting a few minor sanctions in place. Putin remains defiant and dangerous. The problem is that no-one was offering to oppose with force, declaring they would not put NATO troops into the country. The only solution appears to be sanctions, much tougher ones, but apparently ignored by Putin. Russia is laughing at the rest of the world. Is there a solution, or are we facing long-term European war? The original solution should have been found years ago, when Russian captured the first part of the Ukraine. A much tougher approach then should have stamped out their ambitions.

The other news is that all Coronavirus restrictions have been stopped in England, at last. There are no requirements to isolate after catching the disease, no need for face masks, no restrictions on numbers. Against this, any testing people may require will be at their private cost. It is notable that many people are keeping up the tradition of using face masks in shops and on public transport; many people are also still restricting their private travel and leaving the house for leisure visits. We cannot believe that the past two years have come to an end at last. And have they? There are still many people catching the disease but few in hospital or dying from it. The plan is to treat it in the same manner as we would other diseases such as 'flu.

February 23rd 2022. I reached Catcott Lows to find it shut off while the Trust cleared up the many trees downed in our night of winds. 90 mph was reported in numbers of places, causing a great deal of storm damage. I drove back by way of the road to Westhay, stopping on Westhay Level east of the peat works. I pulled off the road as far as I could and watched the derelict peat diggings just beyond the bridge. Both Great white and Little egrets were present, the latter in numbers flying in and out constantly. Clearly hormones were starting to rage. They could not sit still, leaping out at each other as soon they settled. The day was heavily overcast and miserable but it did not put the birds off. 

Great white egret, Egretta alba

Little egret, Egretta garzetta

Little egret, Egretta garzetta

Little egret, Egretta garzetta

Little egret, Egretta garzetta

Little egrets, Egretta garzetta

Little egrets, Egretta garzetta

My last picture was completely unexpected, on the next-door patch of grass. Herring gulls are not the gulls we see on the moors. The usual inhabitants are Black-headed gulls, Chroicocephalus ridibundus. The picture shows the sharp, heavy predator bill. This on is eating something small but clearly they are capable of dismembering much larger prey.

Herring gull, Larus argentatus

Coming back, I took the route across Tadham Moor for a change. One or two of the fields had small numbers of Cattle egrets, completing the trio for the day - aren't we fortunate to have these delightful and elegant creatures now commonplace, so beautiful.

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

 Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

 

February 14th 2022. In between continuing bursts of foul weather, today looked worth a trip to Catcott Lows after a rather long gap. It was a pleasant visit, though there was nothing unusual. The light became outstanding for much of the time, lighting up the duck as if by a searchlight. Perhaps the most surprising was the Carrion crow strutting around on one of the islands in the midst of the usual Wigeon. 

Carrion crow, Corvus corone corone

Wigeon, Anas penelope

As so often this winter, the stars of the place were Pintails, not so many this time, but conspicuous by the so-elegant drakes. Females are often lost among the brown plumage of Wigeon and other duck. Neither sex seem to lose their poise and elegance, always looking as if they are off to some really smart dinner, not a feather out of place. 

Pintail, Anas acuta m

Pintail, Anas acuta m

The other moment came when a large flock of Lapwings flew in and landed near the back. As so often, they were a restless lot, taking off and circling every few minutes before landing once more. Why would I comment on my delight? It is because they have greatly reduced in numbers in recent years. When we came to the area, and for many years after, really enormous Lapwing flocks were the norm. People used to come to the moors to marvels at them, not necessarily bird watchers in the normal sense, but members of the general public. Nowadays they are really scarce. So far this winter we have seen virtually none out on our moors, so these were a welcome sight.

Lapwings, Vanellus vanellus

February 7th 2022. We woke to find two Roe in the garden behind the house. I ended by sitting in the kitchen watching them exploring the area immediately in front. ending by coming within a few feet of the window. Eventually, we had to put the light on inside but this had no effect at all. They did not even stop eating although we and they were in plain sight of each other. The best that can be done is to let the pictures speak for themselves. All were taken with a 300mm Nikon lens - pure magic.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

 

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

 February 2nd 2022. Romey has never had much luck visiting Greylake in the past. Something has always gone awry. The most annoying was a visit when all should have been perfect - the right time of winter, sunshine and little wind - but it turned out to be absolutely empty of wildfowl. I am glad to say that today's visit was a complete success. Sunshine prevailed for much of the visit in late morning, unusually it was comparatively warm, even though there was a south-westerly wind blowing into the hides. These latter are famous for the bone-chilling nature of the wind blowing in through open window panes.

Greylake 

We had a fascinating time, seeing quite large hordes of duck, birds of prey and even a very considerable rarity. First, I show a number of pictures which I describe as Marsh harriers. Some undoubtedly are, but there are some strange-looking predators that I hesitate to name as such.

Common buzzard, Buteo buteo

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Above all else, Greylake is famous for its duck. Once winter really sets in, they start appearing in increasing numbers - Common teal, Wigeon and Shoveler predominating. There are two main hides, the most important at ground levels, fully closed in normal circumstances, though at present open shutter-windows are recommended for virus control. If you are a photographer, as so many are, the best resolution of the image is maintained when looking without glass in between. The hide looks over a huge flat area, with a large pond to the side. In front, there is a long spit of grass, normally packed with duck and often with many Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) hidden in their midst. The second hide is only dozens of feet away along a board-walk but is raised above the area, open to the fresh air. You have a completely different perspective from this platform, while much goes on in the semi-flooded area in front, the great hordes of duck tend to be to the right, the grass spit of the previous hide. There is a wonderful feeling of space looking down on the area. When we visited this other hide, there was a large disturbance which set many of the birds into the air. When they settled, we were invited to look through a high-powered telescope, 'Would you like to see the Baikal teal (Anas formosa)?' How thoughtful, would we! And there it was, tiny, colourful and, in theory, from Siberia, a male in full colour - extraordinarily colourful. He has a yellow, green and black head with  an outline of black lines; the flank with long hanging plumes, quite beautiful and incredibly rare.

Our day was completed by a series of close shots of Wigeon, taken as they flew across in front. such a marvellous opportunity.

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

 Wigeon, Anas penelope m