Birdwatching in the UK

It was a lovely surprise to find how plentiful the variety of birds were when we went birdwatching in the UK over the holidays. And such a tonic as the few months building up to the holidays were high stress and very busy, hence me being absent for so long.

Most of my time was taken up with knitting a shawl for my mother-in-law for her Christmas present. It’s my own fault really, I am not a fast knitter but because I waited until October to start I was dedicating up to 8 hours a day. I did not take after my Grandma, who could knit up a cricket jumper for my dad in a week, including cables! So I would be knitting like a mad woman at a somewhat snail’s pace.

It was the smallest yarn I’ve used to date. I had to wear my readers over my bifocals to see what I was doing. Thankfully I had it done in time and she loved it.

That meant, by the time we arrived in the UK, I was ready for a break and relaxation. Because the winters there are so mild, we spent a lot of time outside. Where we live currently, the winters are harsh and bitterly cold most of the time so we were wandering round without many layers while the locals were in their arctic fur. I felt hot most of the time! Makes for a welcome break in the winter.

Being able to spend so much time outside allowed for some really good birdwatching. I know in the UK the songbird population has taken quite a hit but compared to where we live, it was wonderful hearing all the different songs.

There were three main spots where I had the best luck. The first spot was at Harmon’s Cross. Swanage Railway had a winter event that they put on before they start the January maintenance. The times between the trains was enough that we found ourselves with an empty platform. There was a spot where bird feed was left out and the birds were flitting about. I stood very still and I was rewarded.

This blackbird was doing its best to eat all the birdseed.
A Chaffinch
The Blue Tit proved to be elusive. I have loads of blurry pics of this bird.

My mother-in-law took us twice to the RSPB Arne in Dorset. It’s an incredible conservation area that covers many different types of environments. You have woodland, grassland, heather, water, etc. Such a variety of birds to find.

At the car park, they had several feeders and it was like rush hour with the songbirds rapidly flitting in and out. Again I took loads of pics in the hope I could get some good ones. I’m amazed, given the speed of some, that they managed to actually get bird seed.

I particularly like the Goldfinch, the colours are gorgeous.
A Nuthatch
A Coal Tit in the front with a Goldfinch looking to land.
A House Sparrow (which looks like a mini hawk) and a female Chaffinch.
This Robin was eye level and only a few feet away giving us quite the concert.
A Pheasant minding his own business as we walked by.

The areas for watching birds in the water were breathtaking. It was so calming just sitting in a hide and watching them go about their day.

A Shelduck looking for a spot to land.
The white bird is an Avocet which is making a comeback in the UK. It is surrounded by Eurasian Wigeons and there is actually a Common Teal Duck in the mix.
An Oyster Catcher making a graceful landing.
The Curlews are funny looking things.

We did see spoon bills but they were too far away for me to capture clearly with my 300mm lens. We discovered that many birds were just beyond my lens. I would love to hear from those that do bird photography, the pros and cons of a teleconverter vs a 150mm-600mm lens. Trying to decide which direction to go in.

The end of the holiday was spent in London with my son as he had to get back to school. I was taking him to Churchill’s War Rooms and we cut through St James Park. I was taken aback at all the different birds there. I only used my phone for these pictures as I wanted to make sure my son had time at the War Rooms. If I’d taken out my proper camera, we would have been there a long time.

My mother-in-law had joked I needed to get pictures of pelicans. Imagine my surprise at seeing pelicans in the middle of London.

A Tufted Duck
Tame Greylag Geese and Ring Necked Parakeets

We also saw a Black Swan, Blue Heron, some Coots, Barnacle Geese and Moor hens.

I can’t wait to explore more RSPB areas and coastal walks. We will probably have to do a boat trip along the cliffs in Dorset as that’s what you have to do to see Puffins. That would be fascinating.

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Over the Rainbows at Niagara Falls

We’ve had a great week away.  It started off by doing a couple of university tours for our daughter.  The tradition of saying “we’re the best ever!” is still alive and well though the young gentleman at Cornell was funny and probably answered the most honest I’ve heard on any tour.  While our daughter went back home with her mother, my husband and I headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario for a long weekend.  A break was definitely needed!

The weather was just gorgeous though it was quite cold on the Sunday, particularly with the wind.  It was lovely to get out in fresh air and do a lot of walking.  We also went to Bird Kingdom which was fascinating.  The birds fly around free in the aviaries with trees, waterfalls, etc to keep them happy.  I liked it because if any human bugs them they can get away.  We went to a greenhouse floral show but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called.

I wanted to share with you some of the photos I took on our trip.

Niagara Falls 1 2018

Given the gorgeous weather the rainbows were out in force.  Just incredible.

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Here are some videos of the falls.  The power of the falls is so mesmerising.

This video is behind the falls in one of the two portals.

Bird Kingdom didn’t just have birds, there were reptiles and tortoises.  I have to say this guy could hustle faster than I thought they could.  Headed right for us.

Niagara Falls 11 2018

I just love birds and all the colours they come in.  It’s remarkable how varied and bright they can be.

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I was surprised how many there were pure white.  Against the backdrop they were beautiful.

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The greenhouse didn’t have as many flowers as I had hoped because they were redoing a significant portion of the greenhouses.

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We had a wonderful time recharging our batteries and spending time together.  I loved how friendly everyone was across the border.  It made for a great experience.