Staines Moor


I needed to visit Staines market to buy a few items for use in the production of wine from my garden grapes. An ideal opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (inapproptiate metaphor) and visit Staines Moor. The first bird I saw was something of a surprise, as I had only previously seen them in the uplands of Scotland and Cumbria; a Wheatear.

The Crow is quite an attractive bird, in its own way.

A Sparrow-Hawk circled over me for a while. Just look at that big yellow eye!

Who can resist stopping to hear a Robin singing?

The next one can only be regarded as a record shot as it's not a very clear picture. It was only when I examined it at home that I realised the flock of small birds in the bushes were Redpolls.

The Cormorant is common enough, but they look so superior flying past that I can never resist a picture!

Cider Making

10th OCTOBER 2010

I was invited by Linda & Alan to join them in crushing and pressing apples for cider. There was also some mention of sampling last year's product, so off the Medstead I went!

The first stage of the process after collecting the apples was to chop them into manageable pieces for the crusher. This was a manual process involving large kitchen knives and a significant risk to the fingers.

The result was a crusher full of apples but not (we hope) fingers.

Next came some hard work for Alan, turning the crusher handle to crush the apples into a pulp. It was backbreaking work - and I was only watching!

The apple pulp was then transferred to the press, where every last drop of juice was squeezed out. The whole process was then repeated until we were worn out or there were no apples left.

Then came the best bit! Samples were imbibed of last year's wine and cider, and the apple juice we had just produced.

It had not escaped my notice that Linda & Alan's home in Medstead was close to the Mid-Hants Railway, which is operated with steam locomotives. So on my way to Medstead, in return for ten minutes spent by the lineside I was rewarded with the sight of a train in each direction, each hauled by a big black engine.

For the technically-minded, the first engine (two pictures) is a LMS 5MT 4-6-0, which was colloquially known to railwaymen as a "Black Five". The other engine is a British Railways 9F 2-10-0 heavy freight locomotive. 

Hobby & Painshill

20th & 21st SEPTEMBER 2010

I mentioned earlier that I had regularly seen a family of Hobbies over our garden. Well, my luck got even better when the juvenile landed on the pine tree in full view of my camera, which was indoors but ready for use. It was dusk so the exposures were quite long, but the camera's shake reduction worked and gave me a couple of usable images.

I hadn't been to Painshill for a while, and was delighted to find that the three Great Crested Grebe chicks were still there, two with one parent and one with the other. My visit was rewarded with this beautiful sequence of a fish being fed to a chick. 

 And there were two Buzzards there, soaring above the lake.


15th to 19th SEPTEMBER 2010

We had booked a cottage in Southwold for four nights, and on our way north we visited Orford Ness. It's a bleak but interesting location, accessible only by ferry from Orford village. The lighthouse is unmanned but still in use. However it is now only a few metres from the sea and getting closer every year, so one day it will disappear. There is no intention to replace it, and it seems that the light output from Southwold lighthouse is being increased to compensate.

There are a few manages reedbeds and scrapes on Orford Ness, and this one was home to the usual selection of waders.

The pier car park at Southwold is next to water-meadows and pools, which supported a variety of bird species. This Meadow Pipit was heading for the grass by the model boat pool, before 9am when there was no-one around.

There were also plenty of Barnacle Geese, heading south along the coast.

Captions to be added

Hobbies and Other Raptors

1st to 14th SEPTEMBER 2010

Before we start on the raptors, here is a rather startled-looking Jay standing beside our pond. He is there at least once a day for a bath, usually followed by other members of his family. After the bath, the favourite place is the apple-tree, for a shake and thorough preen.

After a hospital appointment, Penny & I drove south to Thursley Common, where I took a walk while Penny enjoyed the sun. I saw a bird of prey soaring over the common, later identified as a Hobby (Falco subbuteo). When first seen it was eating something in flight, possibly a dragonfly, from its claw.

Soon afterwards, I disturbed a Kestrel sitting in a tree.

I went down to Painshill to see how the Grebes were gettng on. The family had split, with each parent looking after two chicks in a different area of the lake. I was fascinated to watch this adult catch a fish and bring it to the chicks. He shook the fish a few times, then released it close to one of the chicks, immediately ducking his head under the water to watch what was going on. The youngster missed the fish, so the adult recaught it (presumably it was a bit stunned by the shaking) and repeated the procedure until the youngster was successful.

I've been doing a lot of work in the garden, and from time to time a flock of Green Parakeets passes overhead, making their continuously repetitive screeching as they go. One day I noticed a slightly different screeching, and looked up to see three birds of prey flying with the Parakeets, one making a lot of noise. The noisy one stopped for a while in the pine tree. During the week I saw them most days, and on several occasions managed to get a picture, from which I was able to identify the birds as Hobbies. It appears likely that it is an adult pair and a juvenile.

On Saturday we visited the remains of Woking Palace, where there was an open day and falconry demonstration. This Kestrel was part of the demonstration, and is sitting on the roof of a tent.

The Kestrel flew around as it pleased, and landed on the shoulder of a spectator, much to her surprise.

A Peregrine Falcon also demonstrated its skills.

Next day, the Hobbies flew over our garden again.

The Goldfinches have been making good use of the niger feeder and seed-bearing plants in our garden. And why, you ask, is a juvenile Goldfinch included in a page of raptors? Only because our lawn was one morning liberally sprinkled with down and feathers, including several in black and yellow. I don't think it was the result of a preening session!