Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Goonhilly soundscape

Thursday, 13 August 2015

I can see you

Our young froglets are starting to grow.
I found this one nestled in some flints that surround the pond last evening and was grateful that it posed for some photographs.
As ever, it has been fascinating to watch the tadpoles - both frog and toad - develop and finally emerge as young frogs.

Lawn mowing has also been postponed for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


We found this puffball on the verge of the lane running into the village. It was gone the next morning, perhaps harvested for the pan by a passing funghi lover.
A few days later and another has appeared in the same spot. Left to its own devices it will eventually ripen and change into something similar to the specimen below, expelling spores to be cast far and wide on the wind.

"Old Giant puffball Calvatia gigantea" by Michael Gäbler. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Comb-footed Spider

Comb-footed Spider (Enoplognatha ovata lineata) moving a hoverfly to it's larder

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

River Monster

No more than the size of your thumbnail, I found this young crayfish in the bank-side silts of the river Rib at the weekend. It is a young Signal Crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus, a north american native species introduced to Europe via Sweden and Finland in the 1960s. This was to 'replace' the diminishing numbers of native crayfish that were suffering from crayfish plague. What was not known was that the Signal was also a carrier of the plague and over the last 50 years the Signal has decimated native crayfish populations to the point of extinction in large geographical areas.
Following a typical Astacidae life-cycle, the signal crayfish female typically lays 200-400 eggs after mating in the autumn. They are carried by the female under the tail until spring-time at which point the eggs hatch into juveniles. The young moult three times before leaving their mother and can live for up to 20 years.
Efforts are being made to manage adult populations through licensed extraction for the restaurant trade, but the young are falling through the net as it were and present a long term challenge to the chalk-streams of Hertfordshire and elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
UK Signal Crayfish distribution. Source: National Biodiversity Network

Monday, 29 June 2015

Here be dragons

.... in the form of this beautiful female common darter Sympetrum striolatum that rested awhile with us today. I'm reasonably confident of the identification, due to the shape and extent of the black pattern at the base of the frons (the dorsal part of the face, i.e. 'the nose').
Damselflies have also visited in the past few days, likely drawn in by the small pond we put into the garden last autumn. A Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula came in it's cadmium markings, surprisingly inconspicuous when it was still, disappearing into the the red stems of the native geraniums that surround one side of the pond.

The other was a male Common Blue, Enallagma cyathigerum. A bit of research tells me that the female of this species is known to dive to a depth of a metre to lay its eggs, often incapable of breaking the water's surface tension on it's return to the surface and drowning if not rescued by a passing male.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Blink and you miss it....

The Women's Cycling Tour of Britain has been rolling through the leafy lanes Hertfordshire over the few days and almost made it to our front door. On Saturday morning the procession came the closest as it wound a path from Cold Christmas to Much Hadham and we popped along to watch.
The day-glo relay began passing us a good 10 minutes before the cyclists arrived. Police outriders stopped and started, stopped and started, stopped and started, 20 or so strong, each a minute or two before the next. Then came the cars with the mechanics and race managers, the officials and more security, then finally the cyclists, clad in technicolour lycra, all tightly bunched as the miles ticked by.
Within a flash they were gone, streaming east to Much Hadham and out on a great loop that took them out to the borders with Cambridgeshire. The circus had passed and those that had come to watch, returned to a peaceful June morning.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Adder in the woods

I opened my eyes.

A morning sleep after a full breakfast and the previous night's adventures at Bempton had been just the ticket, the quiet wood I had found seemingly the perfect spot.
I sat up, climbed out of the bedroll and looked around, reaching out to retrieve first one, then the other of my shoes. Heaving myself up, each middle aged movement accompanied by it's own growning sound effect, I took a step, and as my foot touched the ground ......


Primeval muscle memory pulled me away and I jumped back, eyes frantically searching the ground for the source of the noise. Rationality fought to regain control after this rude awakening.
Perpetrator spotted I grabbed up my phone and stepped away as the stunning grey and black adder uncurled from a striking position and slid quickly through rusty brown bracken stalks.


I struggle to recall the last time I had a view this good of an adder in the wild. 20 years ago maybe on Dartmoor, or perhaps in captivity at the Reptile Centre in the New Forest. However long it had been it was too long. This encounter had been a fantastic thrill and I'm chuffed to bits I caught it on video for posterity. As I gingerly carried bedding back to the car I noticed a number of large mats positioned in a clearing close to the wood entrance, indicating that perhaps I shouldn't have been quite so surprised to wake in the company of a snake!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Clifftop dawn

I pulled open the bivy bag cover
and light flooded my consciousness.

Sunlight, sound and birds battered the senses.
No more the gentle calls of midnight,
that crept through the dark to whisper in straining ears.
This was full on, in your face, high volume cacophony.
Gulls, gannets, puffins, and guillemots filled the sky,
swirling out from the ledges and down to the sea below,
calling out into the spring morning that they were alive
and ready for the new day.

Lost to the horizon I was brought back to reality by the foghorn at Bridlington Lighthouse which heralded the arrival of a bank of sea fog. It drifted in from the south, turning the cliffs to steaming waterfalls before finally enveloping the view in a clammy white blanket, bringing an end to the recording of nesting site productivity being carried out by a couple of ornithological researchers who had joined me on the cliffs.
Packing up my kit I wandered back to the still deserted car park.
Breakfast was calling, as was the urge to go north - College Valley and The Cheviots awaited.
First though food and a sleep - thoughts turned to find a spot to doze the morning away.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A night on the cliffs at Bempton

Equipment set and bedded down in my bivy by midnight, I hit the record button and settled in. Cocooned in my sleeping bag, I clamped headphones tight to my ears and slipped away into the sounds of the night.
I had travelled up from Hertfordshire during the afternoon, arriving in the low warm sunshine of an early May evening. My final destination was to be College Valley, near Wooler in Northumberland for a weekend of sound recording, so I had taken the chance to the break the journey at Bempton Cliffs near Bridlington to record the sounds of a seabird colony overnight.
The moon was still to rise and my eyes taking time to fully adjust to the darkness as I waited for a late visiting couple to return to their car and slip away before walking down to the cliffs, carefully following the paths to find my way.
I had decided that one of the viewing decks built as part of major new investment in facilities at Bempton by the RSPB would be my destination for the night. Once arrived I set down my rucsac and began to set up my microphones and bed roll, eyes now picking out the ribbons of stars above me. Cables laid and photographs taken, I unzipped my bed and slipped in, pulling the outer cover over my head to close out the elements.

The wind and the gentle call of kittiwake filled my head, senses reduced and expanded, ears leading me on a journey. I disappeared into the night, born on the winds swirling across the cliffs below, the viewing deck slipping anchor and sliding out into the North Sea on waves flecked by the first light of the rising moon.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Ancient Lamprey

Lampreys are ancient.
450 million years ago ancient, fossils of them having been discovered from the late Silurian and Devonian periods. On Saturday, whilst paddling in the river with the local archaeology group I quite unexpectedly came across some in the shallows.

They belong to a small group of stone suckers called Agnatha (meaning jawless) that are the most primitive of all living vertebrates. Eel-like in appearance, the seven gill pores behind each eye are useful identifiers, along with the distinct, sucker like mouth with strong, horny, rasping teeth.

 Further information on these fascinating creatures and their life-cycle can be found in this excellent PDF from English Nature.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Les Deux Moulins

Moulin de la Galette

Moulin Rouge

Monday, 26 January 2015

BGBW 2015

Blue Tit - 15
Great Tit - 3
Wood Pigeon - 50
Robin - 2
Chaffinch - 2
Blackbird - 2
Carrion Crow - 1
Dunnock - 1
Collared Dove - 1
Magpie - 1

1453 hours, Sunday 25th January 2015

Monday, 24 November 2014