27 November, 2017

Another Post??

I am unfortunately suffering some technical problems, so Backward Birding may go on surprise hiatus at any time for an unknown period.

Due to this, and as I have access right now, here is a brief bit about Sunday.

Sunday saw a surprise Clan Meet upcountry. There were a few birds about, despite the crowds, but none felt like posing, and no Hawfinches were seen, heard, or even suspected.

It didn't rain on us and we all had a good time, despite some attacks by walking trees..

There was some scenery to look at and here are some pictures thereof for you;

The Bridge

Proper engineering, that.

These are actually ramparts..

Mmmh, limestone...

Plenty of these mixed in with the broadleaves
Gotta love a Hemlock

Very pretty

Fungi were infrequent

But interesting when found

Looking a bit like stand alone Oysters [contradiction in terms, there], and blending in with the mixed fallen leaves very well - doubtless why they were still there and undamaged - I'm pretty sure these are Clouded Funnel [also inedible, which would help].

Be Seeing You..

Moor Self-indulgent Reminiscing

Oh dear, it doesn't get better, does it?

With things to do and places to go, I was nonetheless determined to get at least some exercise and, inspired [or reminded..] by previous returns to long-past stomping grounds, I took myself up to some more. Most notably, a place where, back in the 80's [yes, them.], I had more fun than you could credit one heap of rocks that didn't even have their own hilltop or be officially called a tor, for. ::Deep breath::


Ah, back in the day.. Way before the sour-hearted vigilante[s] took it upon themselves, or even the thieving bar stewards got busy.. Back in the day, there were more than 20 letterboxes here. A small child could spend happy hours wandering very safe [for what they are] rocks looking for them while happy parents relaxed.

Fast-forward and I couldn't find one. I wasn't expecting to.

I did find some winter thrushes close by, and a couple even posed;


"Ok, here's a better pose, now will you please go away?"

From Bonehill, I naturally headed up along the ridge to Honeybags Tor, passing the odd rock along the way;


Balancing Monks strike again

I found a sheltered nook and plonked myself down to enjoy the view

Wait, what's that white stuff??

But the weather had noticed me, and the next shower wandered over to say "Ha ha!". This pattern would set in, eventually escalating into a full-on blizzard* later on.

Before then, I still saw the odd goodie in the sunshine;

Not fast enough

Poor Bowerman,
if he'd only zigged not zagged...

I moved on to a second site, which had quite a few more people wandering about, so excuse the scaling figures;

[That'd be Hound Tor, then]

The Village

Looking at That One

After lunch on a nice little bit of Greattor I know [out of the weather, ha ha to you too], another loop around was partly to avoid the crowds, but mostly to get up sun of the large roadside flock of Chaffinch plus Bramblings, which I'd passed on the way in. As I approached the line of roadside Beeches, I flushed no less than 4 Snipe from a wet bit - they each went a different way and I got no photos once again! Argh!

The Brambling - at least 4, probably more - proved just as irritating; not only were they mobile, among 40+ Chaffinch, plus 5 Bullfinch, and a few Blue and Great Tits, but also they were regularly flushed by passing cars, people, and blimmin Woodpigeons...

Then the snow arrived.

I retired to the little lane behind the car park, where I found 2 males buried up to their little blackish bonces in Beech leaves. I carefully stalked and set up a tricky shot [you have no idea how well Bramblings blend in to fallen Beech leaves, especially mixed wet and dry ones...] and then.. The car.

Here are the few shots I did get.

That's not a Brambling..

Not even a finch

"Why don't you just give up, eh?"

When I lined this up, a male was right in the middle...

The fruits of persistence

It was time to go off and do all those things that needed doing. And thaw my hands...

Be Seeing You..

[[*Admittedly, one that didn't settle, but still, sideways snow is sideways snow!]]

25 November, 2017

A Walk Down Memory Path

[[I am getting there with my backlog, but still not quite up to real-time. In an effort to help matters, I've decided to stop sticking in 'as they happen' posts and go in chronological order. So today's fun up on t' Moor, with Bramblings^ and everything, will have to wait a bit. Sorry.]]
[[^Yes, I have photographic proof I know what a Brambling looks like, oh ye of little faith.  :P ]]

Right then;

Long long ago, when I were but a lad, my family often used to go up to Haldon. This was far before the days of the forest centre thing, when you didn't have to pay through the nose for the privilege of being there, you could amble the forest tracks looking up at Crossbills without fear of being run down by cycle or segway, and the viewpoint actually had a - panoramic! - view*

We used to wander down to what is now the Butterfly Trail and were rather pleased when a new pond [ok, technically it was a really thorough refurb] was put in, even though it was partly fenced-off. Hawfinches were allegedly sometimes to be found there in winter, but we never saw any.

A fair few years have passed since then, and the trees have grown [and/or been felled]. So, there were many feelings when I went back recently, chasing the Hawfinch irruption and it is perhaps unsurprising that I ended up going back for an amble with the Folks.

Love those pylons

This was an afternoon walk, nothing serious, though rations may well have been taken along, because why not :)

Pretty colours

Very pretty

More signs than sights of wildlife - a certain LBD found many interesting sniffs - and even dull-sensed humans knew deer were around;

[Plus LBD pawprint centre bottom]

The Hawfinches were feeling elusive in the windy conditions - heard once only - but a nice group of 10 Crossbills gave us a decent flyover. When we stopped for coffee and japflacks, a band of LTTs showed up, but were typically hard to hit;

How many Long-tails can you see?

The weather threatened but never delivered rain - though it did darken far too early for our liking. Fortunately, it is quite hard to get really lost there,

I know which way I'm looking


It was nice to be back, especially with all the Autumnal colour, and it won't be the last time.

Be Seeing You..

[[*There were even {whisper it} Honey Buzzards!!]]

22 November, 2017


Once upon a time, long long ago, a Backward Birder went a' twitchin' up to Wales. He was trying to achieve the seemingly-impossible feat of seeing both flavours of Rock Thrushes in Britain in ten months...

He succeeded, as past posts show, but when the bird pulled a fast one, he didn't just hang about with the crowd, but wandered off on his tod to have a shufti at this interesting-looking place.

Pwll-du Quarries are carved into the next hill over from the Blorenge, being to the SW of Abergavenny and close to the famous Blaenavon [home of assorted WHS's and so on]. Said hill* has a tv station on top, and the line of quarries around the east and north sides.

Geographically, it is shaped like a near-breaking wave; sloping [fairly] gently to the SW and very steeply to the NE. Geologically, it is a lovely section of Carboniferous succession - a shallowing-up sequence of marine limestones, millstone grits, and coal measures**. Biologically, it is home to more species of fungi - mostly grassland species, especially waxcaps - than you would ever credit.

While the crowd mostly followed rumours, I had hours of fun ambling about taking vast numbers of pictures of bright fungi and grey rocks, before wandering back just as the bird had been refound***. Now, you get to see some of them. A tiny fraction, honest.

Firstly, as time has passed, here are a couple of scenery shots;

Looking back across the third quarry

Looking out across the first quarry

Summit cairn
It could be Dartmoor

The Fourth Quarry
Ok, enough quarries! 

The view from the access track
[with a couple of twitchy types for colour]
So, there's a mossy grassy moor-type bit on top, with a few small outcrops, and a steep grassy slope with quarries cut into it, looming over Aber.

We'll go with the pretty things first, so those of you less admiring of grey rocks can skip the rest if you want [aren't I kind?]. I am shamelessly and irresponsibly mixing environments here, but I'm hardly an expert; my ID's are largely 'closest I can get from the picture'...

I think this is actually a Meadow Waxcap

Possibly H. reidii
But might be the same as above?? 

Meadow Coral
[one I am sure of!]

Not certain with this one,
it could be a Dark-scaled Knight growing from buried wood
[by the track edge, and the track is supported by wooden edging]

Old Pink Waxcap
[though it does resemble an inocybe]

Scarlet Waxcap 
or possibly H. helobia

Mousepee Pinkgill
[What a name!]

I think this is
Slimy Waxcap
[despite not looking that slimy to me]

Goblet Waxcap
[size, yellow cap fringe]

Parrot Waxcap
Probably - stem different from ones below

The following fungi are all the same species [probably] in increasing age [definitely - if they're the same species];




Blackening Waxcap. Does what it says on the tin.

Crimson Waxcap
[Found picked and posed like this,
white stem base 'diagnostic']

I think this might be a pinkgill,
E. chalybaeum?

Scarlet Waxcap?
[At the time, I was confident these were different
 to the Crimsons above, eg. having no white in the stems]

I think this is
Vermilion Waxcap

Aren't they all gorgeous? That young Blackening in particular shone in the sunlight like it was an electric light; amazing thing.

Much less easy on the mundane normal eye were the wonderful exposures of classic Carboniferous geology.

I could go on at length about successions, CUFU sequences, and general stratigraphic cooing, but as this post is far too long already, here's a few shots of dull grey rocks to bore you non-geologists to sleep;

Spot the boundary, anyone?

Another quarry, same strata

Close up

Yet another quarry, same strata

Ok, enough with that, cool though it is..

Grey rocks in layers

But not featureless!

Shall I be merciful?

Ahh, I suppose so.

Here's something pretty for those who don't appreciate the lithological;

Berry picturesque

[Oh dear]

Well, that'll do I think.

Be Seeing You..

[[*May technically be a mountain, but it acts like a hill.]]
[[**Roughly corresponding to warm shallow sea, big river, forested swamp, respectively ]]
[[***Sometimes, the Goddess of Birding likes me]]