Crow versus Herring Gull..bully boy crow wins…

I was sitting in a small park near Sandbanks in Dorset when I saw a most unusual thing….

A large black crow flew over the hedge surrounding the park on to a raised area of grass. In his beak he had a large crust which he placed on the ground and started to peck. 
Shortly a herring gull flew on to the grass behind him. The gull leaned forward and tried to take a peck at the crows lunch. The crow moved between the crust and the gull, placing his back as a barrier. For a short while they went around in circles.

Then a most extraordinary thing happened..the crow picked up the crust and marched purposefully up to the gull and thrust the food into his face. The surprised gull stepped back a few paces, turned and flew off.

The crow quietly settled down to finish off his meal leaving me wondering what had just happened. Did the crow get fed up with the gulls behaviour.? Did he gesture, ‘Try it!’ to the gull? The gull seemed to get the message whatever it was, but I was caught out by the birds behaviours and only got the last few shots..a fascinating experience.

Torquay beauty spot contaminated by rubbish…

This is a local beauty spot in Torquay, Devon. Standing from the same spot I took these photos showing the rich green,  tree lined coastline and sparkling blue seas,Then I looked down and this is what I saw. 

Why? What do the people who contaminate and blight this beautiful area hope to achieve by throwing their rubbish in the bushes. 
There were rubbish bins behind me they could have used, but no they preferred to chuck rubbish into the wooded area.

The beauty spot is close to the bird sanctuary Thatchers Rock which could become contaminated by plastic and metal pollution…

A chaotic train journey in the SouthWest taken this week…cancellations, delays, frustration.

South-West trains..from Torquay to Southampton..Bristol. 16th April …19th April.
I booked a journey to see my son in Southampton and collect my daughter and baby granddaughter from Bristol…this is a summary of the chaotic journey.

16th April..Arrived on platform in Torquay to be told my train was cancelled..I was ten minutes early and was lucky the guard let me on the train that was just about to leave station, otherwise I would have been too late to get my connection from Newton Abbott to Westbury. 
When on the Westbury train I was told over the train tannoy that the train was running late by 6 minutes..which would have been too late to get the connection to Southampton. I had left myself eight minutes, plenty of time to walk to next platform…less than 2 minutes was pushing it …fortunately the train made up most of the time and I did make the connection to Southampton, but only just and spent that part of the trip on tenterhooks.

Few minutes before arriving in Westbury was told the coach I was in would not reach the platform and to go forward to coaches C and D. Try that with a suitcase, two bags, a new hip and shoulder replacement making me very unsteady on my feet as train rocked to and fro…

On my return journey from Southampton to Bristol on 19th April I was told this train was also cancelled. I was told by guards that I ‘had’ to go as far as Westbury and get off.

A confused crowd of us, who were wanting to go on to Bristol, stood in Westbury waiting for guidance which eventually came after some time, when we were told to go to the outside where a coach was waiting. I had a suitcase and I’m in pain and disabled with arthritis so couldn’t use the stairs. I needed to use the lift, along with some other people with heavy luggage and also some elderly and disabled people.

By the time we got outside the coach was full and we were told there was no room for us and to go back on the platform. 

I explained to the guard that my daughter and 4 month old baby were waiting in Bristol for me. That we were due to travel to Torquay, Devon together and that I had both tickets for our journey.

Luckily Rich, an excellent guard, took control and rang Bristol…spoke to Jo at the help desk there and got my daughter through the barriers and help to get on the train… pram, luggage, baby and all. Rich and Jo the only bright stars during my travels.

My daughter and I met up in Newton Abbot and travelled on to Torquay.

Both journeys were stressful and took longer then anticipated. If it were not for Rich at Westbury I don’t know what we, my daughter and I, would have done to get home. Apparently there were no through trains on that line to Bristol for several days.

As I waited at the various stations there were constant apologies for delays and cancellations to different destinations over the tannoy. 

Having, on a previous journey on way to Bristol, been knocked unconscious and suffered frequent migraines for a year, after a heavy suitcase fell from the overhead luggage rack on to my head, I am none to keen on the to/from Southampton via Bristol train journey. I barely received an apology for that and no compensation.

As can be seen in the photo taken Wednesday the luggage rack is minuscule..enough for one small suitcase and bag. People had to leave heavy suitcases in the disabled bay. And when that gets full the luggage is put overhead, resulting in my injuries.

The train journey from and to Southampton/Bristol/Torquay is a nightmare.

Goldcrest…England’s  tiniest bird (Regulus regulus). 

The Goldcrest is minute. It weighs as much as a twenty p piece. Usually seen amongst the pine needles of a local tree, I never knew these lovely little birds existed until last year.

I grew up being told the wren was our smallest bird…how wrong. In European folklore the Goldcrest is called the ‘king of birds’ because of his golden crest. A mighty name for something barely visible in a tree. 

This one I caught a glimpse of last Sunday….

Speckled Mousebird ( Colius striatus) in Spring mode.

The Speckled Mousebird is a mousy brown colour with a black upper and pinkish lower beak and round green eyes. It has a distinctive high crest on its head and a long tail making up half of its 35cm length. The mousebird is an African bird, it’s distribution stretching all the way from Ethiopia to South Africa.

These mousebirds live in the Tropical House of Paignton Zoo. At this time of year they are very active flying noisily around the house in flocks. Males chasing females. 

My eye was caught by movement in one of the trees. I watched as a male bird jumped up and down excitedly on a branch. He was perched beside a female. He occasionally fondly, it seemed, preened her, while she moved closer and fluffed up her feathers. The male then jumped up on her back.

The female mousebird lays three or four eggs. Both male and female mousebirds build a nest and both parent birds and helper birds feed the chicks. After incubation the chicks will forage for themselves within a month.

I find speckled mousebirds attractive birds…not at all mousy and plain, but with that crest… striking.

The Lost City of Z…Torquay Museum, Devon.

The film The Lost City of Z is about the adventures of Percy Fawcett, a Torquay native. Born in Higher Erith Road in 1867 he was drawn to South America. He imagined there was a city, the city of Z, in the Amazon Rainforest. The last expedition he took was to find the city and it was from this expedition he and his son and his friend never returned. It was never discovered what had happened to them.

When I went to the Amazon I took a camera, a bird book and mosquito repellant. Fawcett took a Mauser pistol, a machete, tobacco and a pipe. This case of what he might have taken on his adventures is in Torquay Museum.

Fawcett loved the forest and I can understand that. He loved adventure, even though the forest can be a dangerous place, it has a beauty and tranquility that seeps into your soul.

He spoke about the cold nights, fresh mornings and extreme heat during the day and I can absolutely agree with that. I laid a thick blanket under me when laying in my hammock, because the cold seemed to freeze my bones early in the morning. 

For a few brief hours in the morning as the sun rose the temperature was comfortable. It often rained briefly and this kept the air cool, but once the sun was at its highest point the rest of the day could be very hot and humid, and therefore draining and exhausting. 

Being a bird watcher I tended to not move much and was lucky to see a parade of extraordinary birds and animals while sitting in my rocking chair. Fawcett on the other hand explored deeply into the forest, a much more demanding experience.

Fawcetts diaries and log books are housed in the Torquay Museum collection and they were used by the makers of the film,The Lost City of Z.

I am looking forward to seeing the film, which is out in cinemas on 24th March.. It sounds like a great true life adventure. Still, a pity he didn’t find the city..the forest holds lots of secrets.

There must be something in the water in Torquay because another great explorer Richard Burton was born here too.

Ps…Machetes can now be found on the bottom shelf of the cooking utensil section in Amazon town supermarkets….how things change.

RedCrowned Cranes and their young..Paignton Zoo…2017.

This elegant bird is one of the rarest in the world. A pair and their young live happily in Paignton Zoo, Devon..In their home ranges of Asia they are known to fly great distances. As can be seen in these photos they have immensely powerful wings.

RedCrowned Cranes are mainly white with black wing edges. The male has black markings on his neck and head, the female grey. They have an olive green beak and grey black legs. The cranes have a bare patch of red skin on their heads

The red-crowned crane breeds in Mongolia, China and Russia…..and Paignton Zoo. There is also a resident population in Japan.

The cranes youngsters are golden balls of fluff giving no hint of the tall, elegant birds they will grow into. This chick was born in 2015. It was closely shadowed by both its parents until it grew large enough to look after itself. 

The Paignton Zoo cranes favour a quiet part of the stream that runs through the zoo, where they build a superficial nest of twigs. The female will lay two eggs, of which only one will survive. In the winter, in their homelands, they migrate to Korea and central China, hence the need for those magnificent strong wings.

Their diet is very varied. They eat water plants, rice, and snails, fish, small amphibians and reptiles. They can always be seen picking at the water plants on the banks of the stream or searching in the water for food.

This lovely bird is endangered with only 2,750 in the wild. Despite the many mythical tales that surround it and its mystical value in the areas it comes from, it is in danger of disappearing due to habitat loss.