Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Wintery wanderings

Its been a very busy couple of months, with no NaturalistBlonde HQ to return to when it all just gets too much. As such the posts have been a bit thin on the ground (read non-existant). To catch you up, here's a round up of the last couple of months since I bid farewell to Nettlecombe and started winding my way back North...

December was spent in the midlands, and the only time I made it out of the house for a bit of birding was my birthday. Matt and I headed to the Cromford canal in the hope of the ever elusive hawfinches.

Despite a nice clear start and very few people around, the birds eluded me again. Fortunately there were and abundance of thrushes, little grebes and other bits and pieces for me to practice on, all too busy foraging in the intermittent rain to pay any attention to me and my camera.


In January I moved back to the island and threw myself into re-reading my thesis in preparation for my viva.

I did manage to get a little birding in on my occasional walks to stretch my legs and keep my sanity. This winter seems to have brought good numbers of ducks, but a very poor showing of waders. The bad weather had driven many species to be quite bold whilst foraging, and goldcrest have been very busy all around the island.

On the 19th I had the viva. The copious amounts of snow were making most of the roads impassable, so I decided to leave the island two days in advance and stay with friends outside Glasgow, alternately walking/sledging in the snow and panicking over my upcoming examination. When the 19th dawned we found the car frozen solid, and the first hour was spent trying to get the inch of ice off the windscreen.

When I finally got to Glasgow I hovered for an hour trying to concentrate on any part of the past three years, before finally being ushered into the meeting room. It was a bizarre experience of abject terror combined with total enjoyment. Like a roller-coaster with a prize at the end. Emerging shell shocked after 3 hours, I stumbled through prosecco and cake with the department followed by a nice catch-up with Andy, before retreating back to the island for more alcohol and my own bed (catching a glimpse of the barn owl as I drove past the station).

Two days after my viva I was off to Wales for my Hill and Moorland Leader training at FSC Rhy-y-Creuau. I met up with half of the trainees for 2 days walking in the Snowdonia NP (and realised how massively unfit I am after a year sat on my behind!). The remaining snow provided the most evidence of wildlife while we were out - with raven, stoat and fox prints evident - but generally a poor showing wildlife wise.

View toward Siabod

In the last of the manic work related travels for the month I traveled out to what I've been referring to as the "second home in the hills". Two weeks were spent in high ropes training. and teaching a nice snowy rivers day with the first intrepid group of the year. The highlights of the week were GS woodpecker, green woodpecker, tawny owl, red squirrels, and plenty of evidence of pine marten (poop and paw prints mainly).

Second Home

Brerechan field site - winter edition

Squirrel feeder does exactly what it says on the tin


Signs of spring were everywhere, with birds singing and squabbling over territory, all of which put me in mind of a range of trips and targets for the summer. In addition to this year's corncrake and capercaille quests, I'm planning for trips to photograph golden eagle, osprey, crested tit, and crossbill - taggers on welcome!

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