Thursday, 28 April 2016

Iffley Meadows

A few weekends ago we went on a Sunday afternoon ramble en famille to Iffley Meadows to pay homage to the Snakes-head Fritillaries that were then in full flower. In all these years that I've been in Oxford, I've only been to Iffley Meadows a few times and never in April when the Fritillaries are in bloom so it was about time that this was put straight.

It was far boggier than some members of the family were expecting so there was a certain amount of complaining from some quarters but everyone agreed that the flowers themselves were very striking. Unfortunately, conditions were rather overcast and I've had to tweak the photos a little to add some colour to them. Afterwards, as a reward for traipsing through the marsh we had tea at the local hotel by the river.

Some bonus Cornsalad

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Wytham Wood in Early Spring

We went on a family walk on Sunday afternoon last week to Wytham Wood. It was wonderfully understated with the Bluebells just starting to come up and leaves just starting to appear on the trees and with everything still promising much but yet to deliver. As we wandered I snapped various flowers and birds though there wasn't much of the latter to be seen or even heard and a single Nuthatch was the only bird I actually saw close up. I was quite keen to see or at least hear a Marsh Tit as this is a great area for them but I had no luck today. Still it was a very pleasant afternoon stroll en famille with a light smattering of nature to boot.

The Bluebells are just starting to come through now
Dog's Mercury

Early Dog Violet

The one bird

Wood Anemone - all these years I've been ms-pronouncing it "Anenome" until I finally looked it up!

Friday, 8 April 2016

Ring Ouzels at Aston Rowant

Each year in April migrating Ring Ouzels use the contoured hillside of Aston Rowant and Linkey Down reserves as stopping off points on their migration northwards. Nestling in the Chilterns, these great examples of chalk hill habitat are somewhat spoilt by the M40 which cuts right through the centre of the reserve, dividing it in two. Nevertheless, it's always an interesting place to visit and with some time on my hands and wanting to unwind after a rather stressful few days at work I decided to go and pay a visit. Five Ring Ouzels had been reported that morning already so I knew that I was in with a good chance as I set off early afternoon. Earlier in the year I had actually tried to see the over-wintering bird over the border in Berkshire at Bury Down but hadn't seen it so whilst a "revenge" visit was too strong a word for it, it would nevertheless be nice to catch up with this species having missed it previously.

The weather was rather showery and as I walked down the steep slope on the north west side of the valley I realised that it was actually bloody freezing with a strong wind blowing up the valley. What's more I'd forgotten my gloves so I had to improvise with a pair of spare walking socks on my hands as mittens. I hid in a small copse of stunted trees by the path to act as a wind break and after scanning the slopes for a couple of minutes I soon spotted the distinctive crescent shaped breast patches of three males. They were on the far side of the valley and so quite a way from me. Whilst I could enter the valley if I really wanted to I didn't want to disturb the birds and I was content enough watching from afar. I tried to take some photos and video but the distance and the wind weren't making things easy. After a while I realised that actually there were four males present and as the wind abated and sun came out and warmed things up I savoured the enjoyment of watching such splendid birds and getting a glimpse into their mountainous world as they rested on their epic journey northwards.

I had to work quite hard to get these photos to come out like this, including
tweaking the colour to remove some of the miserable greyness of it all
How it should be done! Just one of the amazing photos taken recently by Roger Wyatt (c)