• Blog: 'Nature Notes' from 2005, partly culled from Yahoo e-group, ‘Bristol Wildlife’. What’s beautiful, interesting or funny in the natural world – stretching as far as humans, astronomy and geology. Collected into yearly groups, one year per blog entry.
• Pages: Art (mostly from 2010 on), different types on different pages, newest stuff first.
• And some science-y thoughts...
for a walk on the Downs Sea Wall this afternoon and watched a rook feeding on the sward: it attacked whatever it was
getting out with tremendous force like a little piledriver, getting the weight
of its neck and shoulder vertically above the head and beak as it struck down.
When it tussled with its 'prey' it brought its whole body into play. The 'chin'
bit of its bare face was plumped out like a little pelican's pouch - I was
going to ask, 'do the birds store food there to take back to the nest?', but
I've just seen in my bird book, 'Adults carry food to young in a throat pouch.'
I've never noticed this before.
a painfully pitiful sight this morning, driving to work. There were two dead
sparrows on the road, looking to my untrained eye about the size and plumage of
adult sparrows, but battered and saturated by the rainstorms - so they might
have been fledglings? They had blood on them as though from a cat attack.
Standing by them was an adult male sparrow, and totally contrary to normal bird
behaviour it didn't move as I drove up to it, just stood there. I had to stop
the car in order not to drive over it. I couldn't help but think, 'As though in
Treen Beach by Vivienne Shanley
just been walking and camping in Cornwall, mostly between Penzance and Lands
End (really magnificent, grand coastline from Treen westwards). Here are some
nature notes and questions.
camped two days in the back of my car at Treen, in the meadow carpark where
they let you stay overnight for a small charge. I do recommend this as a
wonderful way to birdwatch - you lie relaxed with windows all around, at the
quiet times of dawn and day and see some lovely sights.
the coastpath west of Minnack I watched a gannet hunt and dive - always a
magnificent sight. Nearby a bunch of birdwatchers were looking out for Cory's
shearwaters being blown shorewards by a storm.
Inland and on the path I saw many butterflies and dragonflies, including red
admiral, peacock, clouded yellow, meadow browns, blues (feeble ID I'm afraid,
as, as so often with birds, this is my first attempt to name them). I looked at
many of them through binoculars, to see them 'closer up' then I could with my
naked eye. A peacock is astonishing viewed like this. It's the lower wings that
are the convincing 'eyes', quite powerful and mesmerising, the upper ones more
like fancy ears? And the whole thing looks like the work of a graffiti artist,
particularly the freeform blue 'spray paint' zagging from the upper eyes.
most striking dragonflies I saw were large black and gold striped, the stripes
being diagonal on the
by Johnny Durnan
front body. Is this a golden-ringed?
watched a kestrel hovering above the coast path in a really strong headwind
from the sea, and maintaining perfect position. Its outline was very different
than normal as it took up a really extreme position, with wings strongly
cranked, all feathers outstretched and tail flared. I had to discuss this with
my resident aeronautist at home, as to the naked eye the only force to set
against the wind was the bird's weight, which was obviously insufficient. He
confirmed that in this strong diving position there would be lift engendered at
right angles to the slope of the body, sufficient to 'pull' the bird up and
forwards and keep it in position. Clever stuff...
the same site (above the lighthouse between Treen and Lamorna), I saw what
appeared to be a natural plantation of some strange plants I have not ever
(knowingly) seen before or since (I collected a sample to send to Darrel but it
fell apart). In fact they looked like a small Xmas tree plantation, but made up
of needly shrubs with a growth habit like an Xmas tree, very dark colour, and
fluffy pale flowers at the tips. Any ideas?
usual on a coast path I saw many of those lovable, slow, rotund black beetles
with big feet, which are often helpless on their backs, and equally often dead
- squashed by passing feet. My questions are - how and on what do they live?
Why have they evolved with this helplessness and how do they survive as a
visited the beautiful village of Sancreed (to see its holy well) and its
Church. The church was locked but I sat in the porch, where swallows had built
their nest and were only slightly shy of dashing in and out to feed their young
about three feet from one's nose. I saw a similar sight in a seaside church
near Hartland Point a couple of years ago, with martins, and felt equally
charmed and privileged.
spent some time watching groups of swallows congregating and 'talking' together
on phone lines. I had no idea they had such a varied and imaginative way of
communicating with each other - you almost felt you wanted to join in...
Turtle, by Brocken Inaglory
anyone have any thoughts on this?: Animals have a lifespan that goes from very
brief, hours or days, to between 50 to 100 years for the very long lived -
humans, elephants, turtles, parrots....
and shrubs also have lifespans that go from a brief season to perhaps 20 years
of so. But as shrubs become trees suddenly it's a different ball game, and by
huge factors. A typical tree could last from 100 to 200 years, and the long
living ones from 200 to 2000 years upwards. What in nature and evolution has developed so
that a tree could live such an enormous span when no other living thing comes
Des’s ‘Rubbish birds’
(A jokey fellow member started a thread on 'birds we don't like'...) I
tried to think of a non-charismatic bird but couldn't. But there are two I have
a problem with, tho' the reasons are pitifully anthropomorphic. One is the
magpie: it's not the egg 'n chick eating, but that this exotic-looking bird
which should be quite beautiful, is awkward both on its legs and in flight, in
a strangely sinister way. Shades of Carlos Castaneda and the hopping crows that
morph into female sorcerers...
other is starlings, with whom I live in close contact as there's loads of them
up here in Filton, sitting on all our roofs, in the gardens etc. Beautiful
though they are swirling in flocks, and attractive tho their plumage is, it's
something about the way they never acknowledge you're there, not by eye
movement or any other way. Also they quarrel a lot. And more shades of C.
Castaneda - I've always found that crooning sound they make reminiscent of the
ghosts who try and lure you off your path (in the books, that is), whom you can
only recognise because of their extra-sweet, silvery alluring voices...
kites & Lambourn Vale
(Later note: the allure of red kites has lessened as they have got more common...) Just
had the most stunning experience walking today in the Lambourn Vale in
Berkshire (north of Hungerford, east of Swindon), up on the chalk downs just
south of the Ridgeway. The weather was south westerly stormy with some teeming
rain. I was in an upland valley by a large free-range chicken farm (above South
Fawley I think) when I saw 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 and eventually 6 red kites quartering
the valley. I got the most superb close views of them - they are so BIG and
majestic, and the colouration of their wings was absolutely magnificent.
were constantly circling over arable fields, woodland, and the chicken
enclosures, and a couple of times I saw them swooping down into one chicken
enclosure close enough to touch the grass, but I couldn't see them fly off with
anything. At one point a pair of them circled and hovered above my head, and I
felt as though I was prey, or they hoped I'd feed them a tasty morsel! Finally
as the weather worsened and I was leaving this area, I saw one perched in
a woodland tree. Would the chicken farm be a big attraction for them? Would they
ever have a go at a live bird?
by Peter Facey
guiltily away from the enclosures when I startled them pinching the hens' food...
autumn colouration was fabulous, glowing flame colours all over the place, like
going through a tube of glowing gold when traversing the woodland paths. There was a beech
tree on the edge of a wood of such (that word again) magnificence I don't know
if I can describe it: Large and ample, more like an oak than a beech in shape,
its trunk, branches and twigs sharply black where the rain had touched them and
khaki elsewhere, it still had most of its leaves. In the southwesterly winds
these formed an undulating dancing veil across the tracery of branches, of
this elderly woman, quite a tartar. Yesterday she was opening Xmas cards, some
of which showed robins. She said, 'I WISH they wouldn't send me robins.' I
asked why, she said: 'I can't BEAR robins.' I didn't dare ask her why - some
Ring-necked parakeet by Christine Matthews
night I dreamt I was walking down a street with a companion, somewhere in this
vicinity, when I saw a couple of parakeets in a tree. 'Look!' I cried,
delighted, 'Parakeets!' When we stopped to look further, the trees went back in
a sort of arcade from the road and the branches of each tree were full of
scores of parakeets glowing green and gold in the winter light. 'Wow' I
thought, 'Parakeets come permanently to the West at last! I'm going to have to
write this up in Bristol Wildlife. Now, about how many of them are there?'...