Welcome to my second blog, which is a lighthearted look at my adventures whilst out watching and photographing wildlife and birds in North Somerset. I hope my stories make you smile whilst highlighting the wonderful and diverse wildlife present in the North Somerset area.

You can also see my garden project which includes gardening for wildlife here:- http://higgysgardenproject.blogspot.com/

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cadbury Hill Therapy - The Well-being Provided by Nature

Following my last post and intentions to start writing again, I am taking you back to September 2015 and just prior to my hip replacement operation.

I wrote the following report for my local wildlife group (YACWAG) following a magical late season walk where with eyes open the beauty of nature hit me again and acted as a great tonic in what was a difficult and challenging time for me.

I do hope that you enjoy reading this report and it inspires you to never give up enjoying nature all year round and despite whatever obstacles are put in your way...

Cadbury Hill Therapy - September 2015

It’s the 7th of September and my mood is a bit down, I’m waiting for an operation and I’m currently signed off work until the time comes. It’s early the house is empty and Willow our family dog is looking at me with those big brown eyes, she deserves a nice walk for being such a loyal friend and maybe a walk up onto Cadbury Hill in Congresbury would improve my mood and get the old joints working again!
We stroll up through the field below Cadbury Country Club and I’m amazed by the amount of Hawker Dragonflies on the wing. I identify a Migrant Hawker but it’s too fast for the camera and my tired bones! As for the other Hawkers they are just too fast for me to identify let alone photograph, but what a treat!
The sun has now broken through the cloud and it looks like it’s going to be a hot sunny day. We walk past the restored dew pond and Willow stops for a quick drink, here a Common darter Dragonfly flies past settling on a nearby bramble bush, I approach slowly for a better look and careful not to cast a shadow over this beautiful insect I take a couple of pictures for my records before leaving it to enjoy the considerable warmth of the sun.

I take the path up through the woods as it’s not quite as steep as the other paths. As we enter the woods the dense tree canopy casts shade to cool us both down and I’m relieved to be out of the sun that is climbing higher into the sky. Large White and Speckled Wood butterflies flutter by but neither stop for the camera. The birds are singing and I can hear a Bullfinch with its distinctive one note song that I liken to a creaky door. One of my favourite birds and no doubt enjoying the blackberries that are now on the brambles, I can’t see him but knowing he is there lifts my spirits and puts a smile on my face.
On top of the hill it’s hot, really hot! A small vole interrupts us and scurries across our path, Willow pounces but as usual the target is long gone working its way through the long grass. The call of a Buzzard close above us makes me wonder if the vole is brave or stupid for being out in broad daylight.
Willow is panting and the trickle of sweat down my forehead tells me it’s time to stop for a drink and a rest. The viewing area looking out across Congresbury Moor is approaching and offers the idea place to stop and just enjoy the day, especially as nature has once again lifted my mood.
I settle down next to one of the extensive patches of Field Scabious that this part of the hill now proudly boasts and watch the bees and other pollinating insects go about their daily business. What a perfect day and what a perfect place to spend it and right on my own doorstep, how lucky we are?

I recognise the numerous Carder Bees that are feeding on the Scabious and take some pictures of them whilst led on the grass beside them. It’s now that I feel really relaxed and completely in tune with nature, at their level, eye to eye with these incredible creatures.
Another bee joins the party and I easily recognise this as a Buff Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) I snap a picture and then notice a smaller insect, definitely a bee but smaller and slimmer in appearance. Having identified it in my own garden recently I know it as Halictus tumulorum with its metallic green colour and small size helping with identification.
 Movement on the brambles to my left focuses my attention away from the bees and a small blue butterfly lands on some Bramble flower, further examination shows it to be a Holly Blue, which seems to be a butterfly that has had a good year locally from my observations. Another small butterfly flies in and this time lands on the Scabious, a Brown Argus, and another! Photographs taken and I’m building a good count for a September morning. A bigger butterfly joins our party and this time a Meadow Brown in perfect condition lands taking a long drink form the pretty mauve flowers. A large white flutters by disturbing the Meadow Brown and settles down on the same flower giving me the perfect picture from my position, propped up on my elbows whilst led on the ground. A hoverfly attempts the same flower but settles on the next after the white shifts its position. This is a fly that is easily recognised due to its long protruding ‘horn-shaped’ nose, it’s a Rhingia campestris and a fantastic pollinator busily moving from one flower to the next. Another hoverfly joins us and this time it’s Sericomyia silentis identified by its large size and the fact that it is a wasp mimic making me look twice just in case! Further observation throws up other hoverflies; Helophilus is a species easily identified by its striped Thorax and this one is most likely to be H Pendulus as it’s our commonest form. Eristalis is another common family of hoverflies and I have a stab at E Tenax with my identification.


A wet nose in my ear jolts me back to the hot sun and this is obviously Willows hint to get on with the walk! I reluctantly move away from the two large patches of Scabious just as another Brown Argus heads in for a feed. As the Holly Blue continues its dance around the bramble flowers we walk on to the old quarry, now partly filled with bramble. It’s here that another butterfly grabs my attention a beautiful Small Copper but this one is tatty obviously coming towards the end of its life, I wonder if it’s done its job and mated to bring new life here next year. A flash of blue spins me round and I’m looking at a Common Blue butterfly again tatty and torn but supping on the nectar of these bramble flowers. These late butterflies make me aware of just how valuable a plant the bramble is not only for its flowers but the fruit it provides at this time of year for Blackbirds and the flock of 20+ Sparrows that are stripping them from my hedges at home before I have time to pick them for our own consumption! Another Common Darter passes and then movement by my feet uncovers a mint moth – Pyrausta aurata. This is a small but very pretty purple moth with orange markings.

Willows pulling on the lead persuades me that it’s time to move on and unfortunately time to head home. On the way across the hill we see both Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies but both moving through with purpose.
We descend down one of the steep paths and a female Speckled Wood settles to warm herself in the sun on a nearby leaf. She allows me to move in close for that intimate moment that only a true nature lover can understand. She is perfect bright and pristine obviously newly emerged and the ‘yellowy’ markings that help me sex her over the males white markings shine brightly in the morning sun. This is a special morning in a truly special place and therapy, yes therapy for my mind body and soul!
A later count shows my morning stroll producing eight butterfly species, six hoverfly, five bee and three dragonfly species as well as numerous birds and of course that dear little Vole! Not a bad collection on a September morning and only minutes away from home! So next time you need some therapy remember the simple things that we are so fortunate to have right on our own doorsteps and many of them are thanks to the hard work that so many people do in their own time for the benefit of both nature and the local community a like!.

For more information about Cadbury Hill and the habitat management visit YACWAG's website here

A few more pictures taken on the day....





Thank you for reading my blog I do hope that you have found it interesting or at least entertaining? This blog is very much intended to be light hearted and a place where I can share some of my thoughts and experiences whilst out watching wildlife. Please do feel free to comment or contact me direct with your thoughts and suggestions as I'm always keen to hear from you.

Best regards


2016 A New Year with New Intentions.....

Having not posted on here for a long, long time I thought that it was about time that I resurrected this blog and started to try and find some time to write about my adventures whilst out watching and photographing wildlife in North Somerset and of course the slightly wider county of Somerset that North Somerset sits within.

The last couple of years have been quite difficult as I have been waiting for a much needed hip replacement which was being delayed due to my young age.

In September 2015 I at last had my hip replacement and mostly, it has to be said, due to the fact that I was struggling to walk than anything else!

Leading up to the operation I was off work for several weeks and used the time out walking as much as I could to try and prepare for the op and it was hoped to aid my recovery afterwards. The time after the operation recuperating has proved difficult and generally a slow process with a few complications thrown in just to add a few extra challenges to the process!

This time away from the stresses of work and the world in general has given me time to reassess a few areas of my life and certainly cemented my true love for wildlife and particularly the wildlife and countryside on my own doorstep in this beautiful part of the country.

Whilst laid up I have also done a fair amount of voluntary tasks for my local wildlife group such as building a website and writing a few reports and short stories for our newsletter. It is whilst doing these tasks that I felt getting this blog back up and running and sharing some of my writing and of course adventures whilst out and about would be a good idea and I hope of interest to few.

In the posts following this one I will try to keep you up to date with trips out that have be significant or a bit of fun whilst sharing some of the postings written for the newsletter. I hope that you enjoy them......