Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A bit of a summer catchup...

So I got a shock yesterday when I realised a whole two months have passed since I last blogged, shocking behaviour! But then to tell the truth, it really has not felt in the least like two months have passed, the Summer Solstice has been and gone and the newt survey season was over in the blink of an eye . . . However, the time has not been wasted, plenty of sunshine and a few frolics in the sea, spot of camping, a botany course, bird ringing, a wedding (huge congrats to Mr & Mrs Curran!), dog walks, snippets of photography here and there and a even a couple of commissions thrown in the mix. I suppose that might explain where the time went!

Now where to begin. Well being an ecologist has many many pros at this time of year, generally surveying in good weather and stumbling across unexpected wildlife shenanigans, travelling a bit and getting lots of quality time spent in the car racking up those miles - good old Stella! Makes you think, this time last year I was still racking up the miles but all on two wheels with multiple outfit changes a day (think the most was 8 in one day) whilst bringing home far too much of the wrong sort of nature when the weather was good . . .

Many ex-bugs . . . :/
I still have my beloved Thump, she is just about to get re-insured for another year and I have every intention of making the most of her! An inspirational photo to get me back into the saddle asap . . .

My Suzuki SV650 at Bealach na Ba last year
Reptile surveys, breeding bird surveys, newt and bat surveys (bats and reptiles still ongoing), it's been a great couple of months. A couple of lizards kindly hung about long enough for me to get the camera out and ready, look at these beauties, common, or viviparous, lizards.

We also found a whole hoard of tiny toads, never tire of these critters!

And a frog!
Up bright an early for a breeding bird survey last month, I and a colleague came across a pair of young fox cubs playing with a bit of old meat. We saw them from a fair distance and as we were downwind tried to keep out of sight, while recording birds, until we could get closer. Bold as brass they were until a sudden movement sent them scampering into the hedgerow. Such a memorable moment! On that same survey I almost trod on a very large adult grass snake basking in a field margin, it took a few seconds to fully slither off it was so long, and my first proper sighting of a fully grown snake in the UK. Stunning! Obviously I didn't have my camera on me for either of these spots but then I think there's always the danger that you can spend too long taking the time to get the right shot and not drinking in the moment of the subject in question, so I didn't mind on this occasion!

And while we're on the subject of birds, my ringing sessions are not as frequent as to be expected with the workload at this time of year but getting in the odd bit of bling here and there . . .

A juvenile Rook, rugby tackled . . .albeit very gently . . .
A female Goosander found in a barn owl box
And this beautiful lady Tawny owl, my first :)
Whilst walking the dog last week I came across what I thought at first was an orchid, on closer inspection I realised it wasn't an orchid but I still hadn't a clue what it actually was. Turns out, after asking more knowledgeable folk, it was Thistle Broomrape, a parasitic plant on creeping thistles which doesn't photosynthesise and appears to be almost entirely endemic to Yorkshire. These particular specimens were on a reserve designated purely for it's flora, pretty lucky really. And actually rather rare, a nice find indeed.

 In other news, I can show you my latest commission now it has been received by its new owner. A pair of gorgeous dogs, a Border and a Bearded Collie. Owen the Border unfortunately passed over Rainbow Bridge while I was on with this drawing which is so sad but I hope this piece of work is a special momento and brings a few happy memories every time it's looked at. It's not the first time the subject of a portrait has met his/her time whilst I was in the middle of the drawing process and it can be quite upsetting but having them captured in pencil can hopefully give a lot of pleasure and help fill that void every four-legged companion leaves in our hearts. Rest well Owen pup. 

Owen and Ellie
And then there is of course Toby, our lovable liondog. He's had his first full dunk in a river, his first day at the seaside and a night in a tent whilst camping in the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales. All of these experiences are linked with water . . .something Toby enjoys immensely, despite his not knowing how to swim! You, along with many others, may be surprised to hear that but swimming doesn't come naturally to some dogs. Labradors and other retrieving breeds are like fish in the wet stuff but our Toby, with his masses of fluffiness gets a tad bogged down when he's fully wet..much to our amusement when he got his first dunking, after we realised he could get out of the water and we weren't going to have to rescue him! This pic was taken after his first couple of shakes out the water...a shadow of his former self . . .!

He clearly wasn't put off by his shrinkage as he proceeded to bounce around in a mad 15 minutes fetching sticks and careering about like a lunatic, didn't much help our helpless giggling :D

A couple more pics . . .

First taste of salt-water . . .YICK
Black Beauty theme toon anyone?
Sandy grins
 And when he's not getting clean in the water . . .he's just as happy as a pig in . . .

. . .black peaty puddles!
Much laughs with good friends, four legged or otherwise, happy days :)

Until next time, 

M x

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