For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Monday 25 January 2016

Yellow-legged gulls & a Harris's hawk in Madeira

The yellow-legged gull has only recently been recognised as a species in its own right, having previously been considered to be a race of herring gull.

Here are lots of these gulls in Madeira, photographed from the Cliff Bay Hotel  -- an outstanding hotel, where customers come back year after year.
 Reid's hotel is in the picture above, which is a little closer to Funchal.  However, the nearer you are to Funchal harbour, the greater the risk of choking pollution from the regularly visiting cruise liners.

Above, an immature gull flying in an updraft.

Unlike British seaside resorts you will not be pestered by gulls in the grounds of the Cliff Bay Hotel.  A Harris's hawk is regularly flown around the garden and is rather spectacular to watch.
 According to Carlos, the falconer, gulls are not a problem here because they get plenty of food from the fishing boats.

 And that would appear to be the case.

Firecrests in Madeira on Levada dos tornos

The levadas (water channels) that wind around and through the mountains of Madeira provide some great walking and refreshing cold showers in the middle of the c. 300m tunnel below.  You need a torch as it is almost pitch black away from the ends with low roofs and jutting out rocks.

 A head for heights is a sine qua non to walk these paths, which are often narrow, with precipitous  drops and frequently no handrail.

 What a joy on this day to see a pair of Firecrests just a few meters from the path, seemingly unfazed by our presence.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Goldcrest at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex, UK

 It was lovely to see this tiny Goldcrest flitting around in a conifer in Bloomers valley at Wakehurst Place today.

Friday 8 January 2016

Join the volunteers conserving our beautiful South Downs for fun, exercise and sheer enjoyment.

If you love the South Downs and would enjoy getting involved with their conservation, the attached video shows "The Friends of Wolstonbury Hill" at work today under the direction of National Trust Ranger Mike Botterill.  All tools are provided, plus gloves and hot tea and coffee.  

See also  New members are most welcomed to join the existing ladies and gentlemen, most of whom, like me are enthusiastic retired pensioners.

Friday 1 January 2016

Garden plants blooming on New Year's Day in West Sussex, UK.

 After record rainfall and mild weather the plants think that it Spring: and the birds are singing away as well.
The Common Dog-violet usually flowers from March to May.

 Osteospermum in flower but closed due to the cloudy weather.
 Camelia sp. in flower.
 Geranium sp.

 Snowdrops about to open.
 Daphne bhuola exquisitely fragrant and visited by Honey bees a couple of days ago.
 Daffodils almost in flower.
Winter flowering Jasmine.  This is a strange winter weather-wise.

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