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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UK - Oct 2015 (Part 1)

Hello,

Its been a while so I decided to prise myself away from the television and work and write a few lines. The Lazy Birder was sent to England for a weeks training and while there decided to spend a week touring the countryside a bit. The training was held in Swindon in Wiltshire (everybody asked "what on earth are you going to Swindon for?"). It was a smallish town when I was last there in 2005 but has grown a lot and the traffic has increased dramatically (I think I must have done a few roundabouts more than once when getting stuck in the wrong lane for my exit).

Swindon Town from the Jury's Inn


I remembered that the birding at Coate Water wasn't bad from the last time I was there, but that was in the summer and being Autumn this time around all was a bit quiet. Save for the ducks and geese lining up for a free hand-out.


Coate Water mixed flock
After the training, we headed off to Oxford for a bit of a historical tour of this University town and then travelled down to see the roman baths at Bath! The light wasn't very good as it was overcast most of the time we were travelling so had to up the ISO to as much as 3200 on my Canon 50D but the results weren't too bad. Check this one of the Mallard..

Male Mallard - Thames River Oxford
The Wood Pigeons are huge compared to ours here in SA. They were probably the most common bird we saw there. Ever noticed how the white stripes on the wings in flight resemble similar stripes painted on some Spitfires in WWII ?

Wood Pigeon - Oxford

Magpies are very common as well but extremely wary and really difficult to photograph. I managed to get a fair shot in Oxford on the outside walls of Christchurch. He didn't sit for long though before he flew off to sit in the leafy interior of a young Oak tree.

Magpie - Oxford

We had decided to visit Cardiff as well but it was quarter finals day and the Irish were playing Argentina in Cardiff, needless to say the roads were packed and we decided to turn away and head for the coast. On the way we went through Avesbury and in the village of Littleworth I saw a Red Kite fly over but wasn't fast enough to photograph it before it disappeared over the roofs of the village houses. While there I got my first pictures of White/Pied Wagtails which were also wary and difficult to photograph (are the farmers shooting birds?)


White Wagtails - Littleworth Oxfordshire

Further down the road we came across Dunster Castle (built around 1086), hidden away in the trees on a small hillock overlooking the village of Dunster and in the grounds I noticed a European Jay foraging in the long grass, he too didn't stick around for a photo session.



Dunster Castle - Somerset


European Jay - Dunster Castle


I noticed there was a National Park in North Devon so we had to take a look. The North Cliff Hotel in Lynton was our first overnight stop, which had beautiful views over the Bristol Channel with Swansea's lights twinkling in the distance.

North Cliff Hotel - Lynton


Exmoor National Park is nothing like the parks we have in SA by the way, with farmlands stretching out over the horizon in both directions from the road. The views are amazing however with so many green rolling hills, not like the brown grasslands of the Highveld of SA that we had just come from.

Exmoor National Park

Arriving in Lynton, Herring Gulls dotted the pier and I managed to creep up close enough for a full frame shot although the light wasn't great.

Herring Gull - Lynton (Exmoor National Park) North Devon

After getting settled at the hotel, my wife and I headed off to find a pub that had the TV on the quarter final between South Africa and Wales. We found The Queens pub where we ordered a pint and an 'arf a lager and settled in to watch with some locals (and a few Welshmen I noticed by the accent) luckily my Bok shirt was under the warm one (just in case). When South Africa won in the dying minutes with a lucky try, I had to keep the reaction subdued so as not to upset anyone. I couldn't resist flashing the Bok shirt when no-one was watching however.


Watching rugby in The Queens pub in Lynton
After the game I got to chatting to some of them who congratulated me (as if I had any effect on the outcome of the game) and they left. Later on we passed one of the staunch Welsh supporters who muttered in his broad Welsh accent "oh no, not twice in one day, its like rubbing salt in the wound"

Part 2 to come shortly!

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