Badger Watch Dorset

We arrived at Old Henley Farm at 6.30 pm. About 30 miles from home and halfway between Dorchester 10 miles to the south and Sherborne to the north. We parked and unpacked our gear ready for a short trek over farm land. Our destination was a hide that we had booked for the evening. It overlooked a secluded area of grassland next to a wood and we were promised sightings of a badger family. We were not disappointed.

A young Badger

A single young badger was the first to appear. He shuffled around the grassland in front of the hide, but got spooked when someone dropped something inside the hide. We thought that maybe it, but later four badgers gingerly reappeared, attracted by the food. The natural light was all but gone and we were reliant on the floodlights that the badgers were quite used to.

The family of four badgers reappear
Despite low light and slow shutter speeds we were rewarded with reasonably sharp images

Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge Bay

Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is a 40 minute drive away. Wildlife photography is my first love, but I have been inspired to try some landscape photography, particularly long exposure seascapes. Kimmeridge Bay is just along the coast from the more famous Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.

This is my first serious attempt. I used a 10 stop ND filter on a 20 mm lens, a tripod and remote shutter release. I held the shutter open for 104 seconds. It wasn’t windy so the vegetation in the foreground hardly moved. The sea state was calm, but what movement there was has been smoothed and a line of rock just breaking the surface in the bay is clearly visible.

River Allen

The River Allen is just 13 miles long. It is a tributary that flows in to the River Stour in Wimborne Minster. I first got to know the river and the valley in which it flows in the 1970s when I lived in a small village, Witchampton, just north of Wimborne. The last few weeks I have enjoyed reacquainting myself with parts of the river and surrounding countryside. These are some of the images.

River Allen
Damselfly
Ripening wheat in early summer
Great spotted woodpecker
The hamlet of New Town
River Allen flowing through New Town
Small tortoiseshell butterfly
Poppies and daisies
Small white butterfly (female)
Clump of trees behind a field of barley
Bridge over River Allen near Moor Crichel
Wimborne Minster where the Allen joins the Stour

Warning: Cuteness overload

Canada goslings with Swallows overhead
Greylag goose and goslings

The annual renewal continues. Recent visits to Longham Lakes have been delightful. The air over the lake has been thick with insects and returning swallows, house martins and sand martins. These birds perform amazing aerial acrobatics as they change direction at high speed to feed on the insects.

On the lake itself and on its banks family groups of Canada and Greylag geese and goslings feed on the vegetation. Cute.

Swallows
Sand Martins are swift

Local woodland in Spring

El viejo verde del bosque

I don’t know why I captioned this photo in Spanish, other than I have been learning Spanish over the last eighteen months or so. I found ‘the old green man of the woods’ whilst walking the dog recently. From this angle the bumps on the tree and the moss give the impression of a man deep in thought. I’ve visited him a couple of times subsequently and will now divert my walk to check on him.

Primroses

Primroses are my favourite spring wildflower. I love the pastel yellow and they are one of the first splashes of colour in local woodland. As a child I visited my grandparents’ home near Hereford and these flowers grew in the woodland behind their cottage.

Bluebells near Badbury Rings

Bluebells are another favourite for this time of year. Local woodlands are transformed for two or three weeks in April as a carpet of blue appears under the canopy of the trees.

Tall pines

I love this photo and have had it printed on A3 and it now hangs in my kitchen. It’s like an open air cathedral with the pine trees taking the role of pillars.

Finally, as Monty Python would say, “Now for something completely different” – a photo of home during lockdown…

Table for two

A table for two. If you could share a glass of wine or cup of coffee at this table with anyone from any time in history who would it be and what would you ask them?

Lockdown easing

Little egret takes flight

The easing of the lockdown in the UK gave an opportunity to revisit nature reserves for the first time in a few months. The last time I visited Stanpit Marsh was to see the Glossy Ibis last November. It had been raining heavily and was very wet underfoot. The Ibis is still on the reserve. I saw it in the distance silhouetted against the sky and dropping down into an inaccessible part of the Marsh.

It felt good to be reacquainting myself with this site. A real breath of fresh air. I’ve also upgraded my crop sensor DSLR camera to a full frame camera. I could not justify the expense of a mirrorless camera, but I chose a second hand Nikon D750 because of its low light capability. I know its not cutting edge, but the technology is proven, the cost of these DSLR cameras has fallen and the image quality for stills is exceptional. This visit gave me my first real chance to give the camera a workout.

Jackdaw

This Jackdaw seemed almost tame. It landed very close and was unconcerned with my presence.

South Lake

Longham Lakes – South Lake

Yesterday I practiced a new technique for me. The picture of the lake is a panorama created from three separate photos “stitched” together. It’s not flawless, but it got my creative juices flowing and I am excited at the prospect of maybe adding some long exposure shots together – watch this space.

Male chaffinch

I normally see one or two small birds in the woodland alongside the lake. This time I saw a male chaffinch. Its quite a common bird, but I do love the colours in its plumage: the white bar on the wing, the pink breast, the brown back with a green rump and the grey crown and collar.

Swan taking off from the surface of the lake

The swans were quite prominent. There were more than a dozen in one of the adjacent fields and a few on the lake coming and going. This one took off from the surface of the lake and passed incredibly close (see below). There was none of the honking you get from geese, but there was the whooshing sound of the powerful downbeat of its wings.

Swan passing in front of the camera
Canada geese – honking on their way

Canada geese are the most numerous species of goose on the lake. There are also Greylag geese and Egyptian geese. In a few weeks time we will see plenty of yellow goslings on the banks of the lake being supervised and protected by their parents as they feed on the grass and vegetation.

Bird on a wire (Starling)

This starling is “dressed” in its breeding plumage. Perhaps best known for their group aerial displays this one was enjoying some “me-time”. We spotted him as we headed back to the car, parked just off Ham Lane, where we also saw an unusual Jackdaw.

Jackdaw with unusual white feathers

My son saw the white feathers in the jackdaws plumage. “Maybe it’s an old one.” he said, as he looked at the colour of my hair. Cheek!

Canford Bottom

Male and female gadwall in flight over the river stour

Just half a mile from home is the wonderfully named Canford Bottom. It has a roundabout with 70 sets of traffic lights. On the other side of the roundabout, accessed via an underpass on Old Ham Lane, the River Stour runs through fields and meadows. I popped down there this afternoon after the school run with the dog and my camera.

Male and female gadwall on the river stour

It was overcast, but not gloomy and there were some interesting bird species around, such as this pair of Gadwall. I did see a couple of kingfishers, but was unable to get a decent shot – sorry.

Little egret searching for food in the fast flowing water

The river is quite mature at this stage. Overall its just over 60 miles long and we are just about 10 miles from its mouth at Christchurch harbour. Today the levels were quite full and the river was fast flowing. This little egret was fishing and ignored me as I got a few pictures from the opposite bank.

Juvenile cormorant on an overhanging branch

A mile further along Ham Lane is Longham Lakes. This has a large population of cormorants. This one appeared to need some time out from the colony and was perched here unconcerned by passers by.

Male reed bunting on barbed wire fence

There were smaller species around. It was easier to hear them than see them, but this male reed bunting landed on the barbed wire fence running alongside the river. It didn’t stay long, but gave me a choice of left side or right side profile.

Otter in river stour last week

Today I didn’t get to see any otters. I saw one earlier in the week, but again the light was poor. Otters have been reintroduced to the river about ten miles up stream and they do attract attention when they appear.