Herring gull investigating

A visit to the English seaside has always featured herring herring gulls, which are both an attraction and a bit of a nuisance when they steal food. Over recent decades some have moved inland, finding food quite plentiful there, as they are omnivores. But I think their preference is still to be by the sea. This one, at Mortehoe in Devon, was looking for food at the local teashop.

Despite this versatility, herring gulls are on the UK red list of endangered populations.

The astute observer will notice that the verticals and horizontals are not quite right – one of the hazards of impulsive candid shooting, which was on this occasion not easily corrected by editing.

Where you stand

I imagine that there is always a wonderful sunset in progress somewhere on earth; whether you see it is just a question of where you stand – a metaphor for the inner spiritual world that lies always within and is accessible with the right inner stance, or so we are told by countless mystics and sages.

The process of seeing the setting sun is, for me, in itself a spiritual experience, bringing me closer to that inner world. So the chance to stand on these Devon cliffs at the recent full moon, as the sun went down, was a privilege indeed. My trusty Panasonic ZX200 superzoom made a fair interpretation of the true glory of the colours, here presented in time sequence.

I was watching out for the green flash as the sun disappeared, but it was not to be on this occasion.

Meanwhile, behind me the unusually large April supermoon was coming up fast, a reminder that these two lights are inseparable and interdependent, as are mind and feelings, which they represent in astrology.

Combe Martin

The long narrow village of Combe Martin is typical of the North Devon coast – high rocky cliffs interspersed with narrow valleys. Walking on the clifftop path from the high points of Great and Little Hangman there are views of the spread-out village. The path meanders through a dense thicket, suddenly emerging onto a steep grassy slope, where the harbour nestles below.

A fine viewpoint

The name Combe Martin comes from the Norman feudal barons the Fizmartins, who came over after the Norman invasion of 1066. It surely originates from the Christian St Martin of Tours many years before that.

Grey sky

You know that feeling – you look through a set of photos and one just stands out. Surprisingly, this one is almost totally grey with few features, but the light on the sea gives it life.

Yes, this is a genuine colour photograph taken on a grey day in South Devon; convert it to greyscale and it just loses a bit of warmth. Even in such circumstances, the combination of sun, cloud and sea can be quite magical.

I can only apologise to our friends from across the pond, of course you would use the spelling ‘gray’. But I suspect you did it just to annoy the English!

European robin 2

The European robin must be our most friendly bird in the UK. This one, in Devon recently, was just sitting around inquisitively, fearlessly waiting to be photographed.

The colours look very fresh, so this is probably this season’s bird, but must be a few months old (see eg post on Robin juvenile.)

Of course, this bird was traditionally called ‘robin redbreast’. Why? Because the colour orange was only recognised as distinct from red from the 16th century, when the orange fruit had been introduced. That’s what Wikipedia says…

Common Blackbird

blackbird headBlackbirds are common in English gardens. They are not much photographed because they are basically just black, with yellow beak and eye ring.

juv blackbirdNow my bird in the photograph is not black, in fact it’s a rather attractive brown colour, if anything looking a bit like a thrush. And the beak is dark, not yellow. But yes, it is still a common blackbird – the adult female and juvenile are more brown than black. This is probably a juvenile, where the adult colours have not yet come out. You can see the eye ring and incipient beak colouring. And the blackbird is indeed a species of thrush.

Wikipedia tells the following interesting story about the name ‘blackbird’:

It may not immediately be clear why the name “blackbird”, first recorded in 1486, was applied to this species, but not to one of the various other common black English birds, such as the carrion crow, raven, rook, or jackdaw. However, in Old English, and in modern English up to about the 18th century, “bird” was used only for smaller or young birds, and larger ones such as crows were called “fowl”. At that time, the blackbird was therefore the only widespread and conspicuous “black bird” in the British Isles.

Photograph taken in Devon, May 2019.

Wheatear

We saw these little birds, wheatears, by the sea several times on a recent visit to North Devon, usually at a distance, as on the featured image. Some of the photographs turned out not too badly.

Strangely, the name is nothing to do with wheat or ears. According to Wikipedia, the name is a folk etymology of “white” and “arse”, referring to the prominent white rump found in most species.

There are said to be 28 subspecies. I’d guess that this one is a northern wheatear, that being the most widespread in Europe. They migrate to Africa in the winter.

 

 

Spring Butterflies

It’s but a memory now, but last week was very cold but sunny at the extensive Slapton Ley NNR in South Devon. These butterflies gave a first taste of the warmer weather that is now with us.

First a rather battered looking peacock, which had probably been tempted out by a sunny day after overwintering. Then a very fresh looking green veined white, and finally what is probably a small white, although there appear to be no black spots on the wings?

The photographs could be sharper but these butterflies were not very cooperative.

The relative proliferation of wildlife at these nature reserves shows just how important they are, and suggest that we need many more to ensure the preservation of these and other species.