A Corralejo Escape

‘Here we are now at your hotel in Corra-lechhhho’ the rep’s voice boomed around the coach as we arrived at the Riu Oliva Beach Hotel on the island of Fuerteventura.  Very nice it was too set in the middle of the Correlego National Park, miles away from the resort town. We had fallen on our feet once again despite booking a room we got an apartment with a separate bedroom too. No kitchen though as the Riu was all-inclusive and we were just in time to catch the last servings of dinner, before crashing out for the night.

 

Image

The following morning we took off down the beach. There’s an awful lot of it.

Beach Taxi

Beach Taxi

It shelves out for a long way into the Atlantic and beyond a certain point no swimming costumes are required.

The island of Los Lobos and beyond that Lanzarote

The island of Los Lobos and beyond that Lanzarote

Back at the hotel the pool areas were teaming with families in Deutchland/Engerland (delete as appropriate) shirts. As a rule the Deutchland shirts had snaffled all the best sun loungers at some unearthly hour, only for the hotel’s cats to enjoy shedding fleas on their nice comfy towels while the ‘Chermans’ were at breakfast or back in bed. Our own countrymen tended to sit around the bar area drinking all-inc lager from opening time, so they were nice and pissed up by the time the footy started.  I’d also fondly imagined that there would be no rugrats there as the school holidays hadn’t started, but there were loads of them getting under your feet when carrying boiling hot water in the restaurants and generally grizzling all the time. Since the beach was such a pleasant refuge we didn’t hang about the hotel too much.

Hoopoe

Hoopoe

We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and drink at the Riu, after our Riu experience in the Cape Verde Islands I was prepared for dreadful wine and staff who couldn’t mix a Bloody Mary without adding Soy sauce, but the Oliva Beach was great. The on tap wine wasn’t exactly premier cru, but it was perfectly drinkable and the spirits didn’t rip out your stomach lining. All the staff were very pleasant and helpful and the Canarian restaurant in particular was excellent, especially the pimento de Padron!

Little Venice

We took a trip to Bristol last week and London Underground got us to Paddington with time not only for breakfast, but a brief walk along the Regents Canal before our train left.

Image

The smog full of dust from North Africa imposed a hazy kind of light, but I was delighted to find a couple of red headed pochard dabbling in the murky depths.

Image

They are pretty little ducks and not that common. Even their eyes are red.

Image

It had been a long time since I was here last and the area has had a bit of a makeover with some nice looking bars and restaurants, not to mention the odd sculpture.

Image

This one is called Standing Man by Sean Henry.

However we couldn’t hang about, a really tasty breakfast at the Sloe Bar in Paddington Station beckoned, £8.75 for full English with black pudding and a cafe late included, knocks spots of airport rip off joints.

White Egret

Down by the water’s edge there was a flurry of whiteImage

It was a white egret and he had caught something.

 

ImageImage

We were not the only people with a fish supper in Playa Blanca that night.

 

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Egrets and Wagtails – River Roding, Essex

Out by the River Roding on Monday evening we spotted a snowy egret. Unfortunately it also spotted us and took to the wing before we could get a snap. This is the first time I have seen one of these visitors to the UK so close to home although I did spot one up in Walton-on-the-Naze in 2009.

Snowy Egret - Walton-on-the-Naze

Snowy Egret – Walton-on-the-Naze (shot in 2009)

While the egret eluded us I did get a snap of a pied wagtail fledgling, which I was quite pleased with as these are normally quite busy little birds who rarely stand still,

Pied Wagtail Fledgeling

Pied Wagtail fledgling

Other birds spotted included: mute swans, Canada geese, mallard, moorhen, coot, great crested grebe, jackdaw, magpie and wood pigeon.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Ducklings, Thistles and Fledglings

The mallard ducklings at Earl’s Path Pond in Epping Forest are still going strong.

Mallard ducklings

Mallard ducklings

There are at least eight of them and they are quite bold, even when mum isn’t about.

Mallard ducklings

Mallard ducklings

In the forest the thistles have finished flowering  and now the seeds are waiting for a draft of wind to see them on their way.

Thistles

Thistles

We have a new visitor to our garden., excuse the quality of the shot, it was sneaked through the kitchen window as I was hiding behind the chilli plants.

Scraggy

Scraggy

This is Scraggy and he’s a recently fledged magpie. I put some breadcrumbs out for him most days, but he is very nervous and spooks easily.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

A Hard Act to Swallow at Walton-on-the-Naze

We took a trip to the Essex seaside today for a slap up haddock and chips at Whites and a walk by the Naze. Up on the Naze itself some swallows have made a nest in the public loos and I was lucky enough to get this shot of one of them perched on the tree outside having a bit of a stretch.

Swallow

Swallow

Sadly the tide was in for most of the afternoon, so I only managed to get a few pictures of some seabirds including this group of juvenile herring gulls on a breakwater down by the pier in the town,

Juvenile herring gulls

Juvenile herring gulls

and a cormorant having a scratch down by the Naze,

Cormorant

Cormorant

although we did also spot some black headed gulls, wood pigeons, jackdaws and a couple of rabbits which were flushed out of the undergrowth on the red cliffs by an idiot who didn’t have his dog under control. Fortunately the bunny got away with only a fright.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Epping Forest’s Silent Killer

There is a killer lurking in the rushes at Strawberry Hill Pond

Silent KillerSilent Killer

It’s a grey heron and I have seen him every day this week. Last night I think he was hunting for the fish predating upon the tiny froglets that are starting to emerge from the ponds at last.

Froglet

Froglet

You can just about see one in the picture above, they are very well camouflaged and we did get a bit worried about squashing them underfoot so we left them to it. Of course this seasonal bonanza of tadpoles and froglets explains why these chaps are so well fed.

Terrapin

Terrapin

I caught a flotilla of three of them leaving the rushes at Strawberry Hill on Monday, although they were too widely spaced to get them all into a single frame.

Up periscope

Up periscope

They reminded me a bit of that old newsreel footage of U-Boat wolf packs leaving harbour to hunt for allied shipping. This wasn’t going to end well for some baby frogs. Now I think they must have started emerging on Tuesday because on Monday the heron was fishing at the nearby Earl’s Path Pond.

Hunting heron

Hunting heron

Earl’s Path Pond is quite different to Strawberry Hill, it’s smaller and covered by water lilies.

Water Lilly

Water Lily

The water lilies provide a nice bit of shade for the fish and a great place for herons to stalk them.

Look out below!

Look out below!

Sadly when the heron struck he was off before I could bring the Nikon to bear, but the fish he took (a carp by the look of it) was surprisingly large.

All photos taken by me except for the little froggy snapped by Mab

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Mandarin Mum – Epping Forest

I took a walk through Epping Forest around lunchtime and was pleased to encounter Mummy Mandarin and her brood at one of the ponds.

Mandarin Mum

Mandarin Mum

The ducklings are getting quite large now and there are another two who were just out of shot. I’m glad to see that she has moved the family while their little legs are still vulnerable to the non-native predators at Strawberry Hill pond.

There be dragons

There be dragons

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Baby Birds at Verulamium Park, St Albans

We had lunch at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans on Saturday, it was a very good lunch too, but one of the greatest pleasures of lunch at one of the oldest pubs in the UK is the walk from the car park to the pub through Verulamium Park.  This is because of the huge numbers of water fowl that live around the lake.

Cananda Goose Goslings

Canada Goose Goslings

Most of the birds have broods of young right now, including the coots,

Cootlings

Cootlings

and the Canada geese.

Canada Goose goslings having a wash and brush up

Canada Goose goslings having a wash and brush up

Some families are more grown up than others, as I was shooting the two little guys above this mob came bearing down on us like a pack of velociraptors.

Like a bunch of dinosaurs

Like a bunch of dinosaurs

I’m intrigued by water rails like moorhens

Moorhen

Moorhen

and coots, I think its their big feet.

Coot

Coot

you see both of them are good swimmers, but unlike ducks or gulls that don’t have webbed feet. Instead they have fleshy lobes on their toes that they use to propel them through the water. you can see them quite well on the photo of the coot above.

Unfortunately we didn’t see any baby herons, perhaps the strange weather we have been having this year has messed up their breeding season. We did see some swans, greylag geese, lots of mallards and some handsome tufted ducks though.

Tufted ducks - drake on the right

Tufted ducks – drake on the right

Verulamium was the name given to the town by the Romans. It was one of the first to be settled by them in the south of England following the invasion in AD43. In AD60 the British Queen Boudicca burnt it down along with London and Colchester. Us Brits like to celebrate such heroics while calmly brushing the following 350 years of Roman domination under the carpet!

Chuffin Puffins at Planet Gannet – The Return to Bass Rock

Just off the east coast of Scotland and only a few miles from the centre of Edinburgh is the largest breeding colony of Atlantic Gannets in the world.

Bass Rock

Bass Rock

Bass Rock is one of a group of volcanic islands  off the coast of North Berwick that also include Fidra and Craigleith and during the spring they are host to 300,000 pairs of nesting seabirds. On a previous visit I joined the Scottish Sea Bird Centre’s RIB boat excursion out to the island (read about it here), which was pretty exciting, but now the RIB has been joined by a high-speed catamaran which gets you as close to the birds as the RIB, but in much more comfort and with no need for those alluring oilskins! It’s also cheaper at £16 per adult.

It only took a few minutes to speed out to Craigleith where the puffins were perched along the heights, just like Red Indians in a Western movie,

Puffins

Puffins

while out on the sea rafts of puffins were fishing for sand eels

Puffins all at sea

Puffins all at sea

to take back to their island burrows and feed their young.

Puffins Craigleith

Puffins Craigleith

Further down the rock face guillemots were nesting upon the precarious cliff face,

Guillimots Craigleith

Gillemotts, Craigleith

along with kittiwakes, fulmar, cormarants, eider ducks and shags.

Shag, Craigleith

Shag, Craigleith

From Craigleith it was about ten minutes to Bass Rock.

Bass Rock

Bass Rock

As I’ve said before there is something pretty primal about Bass Rock. Every space on the rock surface is occupied by these majestic seabirds.

Gannets Bass Roak

Gannets Bass Rock

The noise of 300,000 birds is incredible, (as is the smell of their fishy poo).

Nice bit od seaweed for the home

Nice bit of seaweed for the home

The catamaran was soon surrounded by birds searching for nesting material and fishing. Gannets are Britain’s largest seabird with an eight foot wingspan and you really get to appreciate the size of these birds as they take to the air around you.

Gannets Bass rock

Gannets Bass Rock

As we rounded the island a small voice piped up ‘seals’ and there in a cave were a group of around five or six grey seals bobbing around in the water.

Seal

Seal

It was the icing on the cake for our trip and to think it was only half an hour from the centre of Edinburgh. (off peak Scotrail Day Return from Edinburgh Waverley £6.80)

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse