Great Crested Grebe nesting in Stover Country Park Devon this month..late May, 2017…Podiceps cristatus.

The male brought the female twigs, sticks and then grasses from the lake bed.The female tried to incorporate them and tidy the nest which floated on the lake. She wasn’t a very good nestbuilder, but then Grebes are known for their untidy nests. Nevertheless she still took some time to place them exactly where she thought they would be needed, turning this way and that until it felt right. Both the parents take their turn building the nest and sitting on the eggs.
Two or three eggs will be eventually laid. The chicks will be fluffy, striped black and white. The parents carry the chicks on their backs within hours of hatching to protect them from predators.
This photo from 2015.
It was fascinating to watch the Grebes building their nest. The male went some way away to get just what he wanted whether twigs, a log or wet grass and they swapped places during the time I watched.

These fascinating, beautiful birds were nearly exterminated because of the fashion for their ornate feathers. Thankfully in these enlightened times their numbers are growing. They are said to be common but for most of us a sight of a pair of these lovely birds is still an unusual and exciting one, especially when they have their young on their backs.
Grebes eat fish, crustaceans, frogs, and insects.

Grey Squirrel extermination…

So now grey squirrels are to be exterminated…. No longer to be the first connection with nature that the vast majority of children have, but to be considered vermin, to be shot or bludgeoned to death. A fine way for a child to be introduced to wildlife, almost as bad as the sickening practice of ‘bloodying’ them during a fox hunt.
What next? Mandarin Ducks, Black Swans, Green Parakeets, Peacocks, Rabbits, Hares, Fallow Deers, Pheasants, Harlequin Ladybirds, Goldfish, even wild Horses, all species introduced from abroad and who compete with ‘British’ animals for space and food. Not to mention domestic cats, again introduced from elsewhere, which decimate populations of small song birds in spring. 

Immigrants’…living locally and wildly in Torquay..seen on local ponds, fields and garden.

Are these to be exterminated too….where will it end. I certainly see a need for control especially where cats are concerned, but total extermination of a delightful species….or are we only to going to keep those aesthetically pleasing or useful to the hunting brigade for target practice.

Oyster Catchers…Haematopus of Torquay DevonĀ 

I’ve walked on the local beaches of Torquay for more than ten years and not once during that time did I see an Oyster Catcher until last year.I was sitting on a ledge overlooking the beach when I saw a flock of black and white birds descend onto the rocks. Curiosity got the better of me and I rushed down and looked over the stone wall and there they were, Oyster Catchers. Dozens of them. 

They were watched over by local seagulls.
I’ve seen them since on the rocks…the last time last week. A pair of Oyster Catchers flew in. One settled down on a rock which was being battered by high waves. The other bird pecked amongst the rocks and seaweed while keeping an eye on the resting bird.
Oyster Catchers are sea shore, waders. Their outstanding characteristic is their red, carrot shaped beak which they use to smash or prise open molluscs. They also eat limpets, crabs and fish.
These attractive birds are mostly monogamous and lay just one set of eggs in the summer.

Im trying to convince our council to  make the area that the Oyster Catchers favour along with other waders..Herons, Egrets, and birds that pick amongst the rocks Pied Wagtails, Rick Pipets…, a designated bird area…fingers crossed.

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.