Thursday, July 24, 2014

Settling in

Having moved to Cornwall it's time to get out and explore, which we have now started doing.  Our most recent trip took us to the walk from Mylor Bridge, a small village towards the South Coast of Cornwall, on an (apparently) atypically beautiful day:

The walk was initially very pleasant taking the path alongside the river and with farmland on the other side.

The path led on to some rougher areas with gorse and wildlife, including the Linnet:

And at this time of year abundant insects and butterflies, here a Peacock shows its colour:

The circular walk soon became a narrow path between walls and then a trudge through farm lanes and on a road, so not one we'll be doing again, but good to be out and exploring.

Prior to this excursion we also visited Windmill Farm which is a nature reserve owned and managed by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.  This trip was more of a recce ahead of better birding days ahead in Autumn and Spring.

The site was alive with insects, some pretty like this one:

Others biting like horse flies, so insect repellent required for future visits!

The trees very loosely reminded me of those in the Hoh Rainforest (see a few posts below) in Washington State:

And of course more butterflies:

Another trip out, this time with a friend on a flying visit to Cornwall, was Men-an-Tol, I think this was the best day in terms of the weather:

Gorgeous light, an interesting place of abandoned buildings:

Together with some ancient monuments, this the remaining nine standing stones of an original twenty one, the so called Nine Maidens (joined here by two more, Helen and Celia):

There's the ubiquitous abandoned mine shaft and building too:

And Men-an-Tol itself, a 'circle of rebirth':

Our very first walk in Cornwall having relocated here was around and indeed up to Carn Brea as part of the The Great Flat Lode Trail close to Redruth, which in turn is close to our new home.

On the way up the Carn a tall mine shaft:

And more abandoned mine buildings:

These are eclipsed though by the Basset monument to himself, erected by the industrialist who owned and managed all of the mines in the area:

The trail itself goes past a large number of disused mining buildings, most of them now have very secure covers on the mineshafts, which is I gather a notable improvement :)

And everywhere you go in Cornwall you can hear the calls of the Herring Gull, although the species is red listed and in a fast population decline, in Cornwall they do feel like they are everywhere, especially on bin days (Cornwall has the archaic practice of unlimited bin bags out every Friday, so it's feast day, and also why the county has huge numbers of rats too):

We've a huge amount of Cornwall yet to explore and are both very much looking forward to it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

USA 2014 - Dungeness River Audubon and John Wayne Marina

Our first stop as we turned and headed for home was the Dungeness River Audubon Sanctuary, which on arrival proved to be closed, which was a major disappointment.  On the roof a Steller's Jay:

We walked the bridge across the swollen river:

Encountering Fox Sparrows:

Spotted Towhees singing in the morning sunlight:

White-crowned Sparrows:

We didn't really know where we were or what to do though so turned and headed back.  On the way a noisy group of birds drew out attention to a Barred Owl, just off the trail:

It was being harassed by Robins, Hummingbirds and Towhees, all dive bombing and scolding it, but it remained unmoved, just waiting for dark again...

From the Audubon we pulled into the John Wayne Marina and watched a young Glaucous-winged Gull take apart, rather expertly, a limpet:

We had planned another stop on the way to our last hotel at Seattle airport but the rain set in properly so we drove on and squeezed in some last minute shopping before an early night, early start and the trip home.

We thoroughly enjoyed this visit to the USA, with Utah being the highlight, it's an amazing landscape, quite spectacular and breathtaking.  We didn't add that many more lifers but then we have birded this country extensively now and probably therefore won't be back this way for a good long while.

USA 2014 - Hoh Rainforest and Cape Flattery

On Sunday morning we headed straight for the Hoh Rainforest, for me the iconic image I've always associated with The Olympic National Park.   Another early start saw us driving through rain and low clouds:

The rainforest however was unusually dry, if overcast, and well worth a visit, the moss hanging from the trees is is surprisingly dry to the touch and everywhere is green, multivariate shades of green:

Helen took this picture of me at the base of a Cedar tree to give you an idea of the scale:

Loggers are pushing to have access to this ancient forest, to destroy it for a quick buck, the Federal Government is standing firm and should be applauded, this is irreplaceable forest:

Properly beautiful:

At one point we encountered a small family of recently fledged Winter Wrens with the mother scolding the fledglings who clumsily tried to avoid us, luckily we don't eat birds:

As we headed out of Hoh and on to our next destination, Cape Flattery, the clouds had cleared:

We stopped off at a public beach area and enjoyed seeing Wilson's Warblers, and an American Robin gathering food for a nest:

On the approach to Cape Flattery you drive through a number of small Indian Reservations, it's quite shocking how poor they are in comparison to the settled lands outside, and it was raining lending a dark pall to the area.  Lots of signs had been put up by locals about drug taking, alcohol abuse, and general messages around hope and wellbeing, giving you a sense of a community under huge pressure.

At Cape Flattery itself it was thankfully not raining so we took the short hike to the Northwestern tip of the continental United States and enjoyed the view:

We were lucky enough to meet a native American lady with a couple of children, she was explaining to them the local names and uses of the land and shared this with us too, for which we were grateful.  She explained she was a desert girl who had married into the local tribe and was bringing her child and the child of a friend to the Cape to help teach them about their identity.

Glaucous-winged Gulls provided the backdrop of sound in an otherwise silent landscape:

Back at the car park some people who had driven the long drive to the Cape turned around and headed back when they saw it required a short-ish walk to reach the point!  We were gobsmacked!

Anyway from Cape Flattery it was time to head back to the hotel and to pack as on the morrow the return journey home started.

USA 2014 - The Olympic Peninsula and Hurricane Ridge

Saturday morning started with a very early alarm, followed by collecting and dropping off family at Bellingham Airport, before then driving down to the State Ferry across to the Olympic Peninsula, via an IHOP for breakfast, which is one of my favourites.

From the ferry we watched Pigeon Guillemots, with their distinctive bright-orange feet, paddle around the boat:

As we crossed to the peninsula a Rhinoceros Auklet flew past:

The Olympic Peninsula approached, as did the paper mill on the shoreline:

We had an outline plan for the three days remaining of our holiday, as usual centered around pre-booked accommodation, and as usual we changed it there and then.  With the skies mostly clear it made sense to head straight for Hurricane Ridge, our first stop in the Olympic National Park, and with heart in mouth I drove us to the top:

Helen took these pictures, it was all I could do to stand-up by the time we reached the summit.

We bought some souvenir t-shirts, which we have subsequently both chucked, they have narrow necks and huge bodies, so both mine and hers proved ill-fitting and therefore wasted.  Note to self, avoid buying t-shirts and other clothes made to fit the average tourist in future!

The views on our descent (equally white-knuckled for me), were just as stunning:

We examined a few pull-outs for birds and were delighted to see another Gray Jay:

And this Golden-crowned Kinglet:

Just before the park entrance we pulled into an as-yet half open campground which was a delight:

We saw a number of birds in here, fleetingly but really enjoyed the calm and quiet of the place, if you like camping it would have to be a lovely place to stay.

From Hurricane Ridge we drove on to the shoreline, through the papermill grounds and along the harbour spit, however there was not much to see beyond Glaucous-winged Gulls that day:

We had an explore of Port Angeles, where we stayed and then enjoyed dinner, which surprisingly our hotel didn't offer, ahead of another early night.