5 Nov 2010

Harty and Elmley 1.11.2010

Monday was a pleasant day, the tide was wrong and well out so hence the waders were feeding and were absent from the Wellmarsh scrape. It was quite strange that there was not a car in the car park and I had the reserve completely to myself, its never happened before, birders perhaps knew something that we didn't. However we did have a good morning out, the fish n chips made it worthwhile, we went home via Allhallows we pulled off the road to view the Thames and search the shoreline for waders with the scope, not a thing, however I did manage a shot of the MV Marco Polo enroute to Tilbury she is a bit dated as she was commissioned in the sixties but recently had a full refit. Below are the fruits of my morning out and I believe that the Heron is a current years juvenile.

The MV Marco Polo Cruiseliner

A view looking east up the fleet at Harty, I checked out all of the swans they were all mute.
There were quite a few Canada Geese around the Elmley reserve, but at a good distance

20 Oct 2010

Elmley 18.10.2010

Another visit to Elmley as the tides were about right, one kestrel was seen on the way in a few meadow pipits at distance The road has been repaired in places and is much improved although work is still needed. Arrived Wellmarsh Hide with great expectations , entered the hide and low and behold "nothing" a few coot and a few resting Teal was the sum total, although at great distance a common buzzard was sitting on a fence post Dozens of sheep were all around the fenced enclosure in front of the hide and walked past us in single file made me feel quite sleepy. The pic's below represent my total encounters with wildlife, the sheep pic is not quite like the Countryfile winning entry but there is always next year.

19 Oct 2010

15 Oct 2010

Elmley Wednesday 13.10.2010

Trip to Elmley was very unproductive and was made worse by the fact that my drive to Wellmarsh was hampered on the stretch from the farm, by reparations to the road metaling, piles of material was being dumped at intervals for spreading, I managed to pass a couple of piles and on the third managed to get my offside wheels over the edge of bank very frightening but I did resolve the situation and managed to turn round although this action was a bit heart stopping involving a 25 point turn. The saving grace was several groups of wild mushrooms pictured below the smaller group I had with bacon on my return home.

12 Oct 2010

Trip to Oare 11.10.2010

Yesterday I took a drive down to Oare, it was a very blustery day with the wind coming out of the NE, as the tide rose and pushed off the local waders, who then took shelter on the scrape, the water level seems to appear very high, thus not allowing roosting in the water, so the islands were packed with waders, Godwits, quite a few Redshank and an amazing number of Ringed Plover who came in small numbers at a terific rate of knots and seemed to enjoy the strong wind. An Egret took off from across the scrape and flew towards me and passed overhead, I saw its feet were black and not yellow, I thought immediately Great Egret but then it dawned on me that it was a case of muddy feet. As you can see by my picture of the Swale and the rather grand yacht that sailed into the Swale the wind was very high and can only imagine that the Skipper and crew were glad to drop anchor in the lee of the island after an obvious encounter with larger and more uncomfortable seas further out.

Entering the Swale

Ringed Plover

A not so common example of a juvenile ringed Plover in foreground with two adults.

Little Grebe

Little Egret

26 Sep 2010

Hope Bourne a women of my time.

Hope Bourne was born at Hartland in North Devon. She claims to have lost her birth certificate and not to know her age but one can guess that her birth was in 1920. Her mother was headmistress at the village school in Elmscott. Hope left school at the age of 14 and, as an asthmatic and the only child of a widowed mother, she was expected to stay at home. She was in her 30s when her mother died. All income then stopped and the house had to be sold to pay off debts. Hope was left with no home, little money, no income, no qualifications and no training. She decided to become as self sufficient as possible. Hope moved to Exmoor, to a succession of remote and primitive cottages, including one near Nutscale Reservoir. She lived off the land, growing her own vegetables, gathering wood for fuel and shooting for the pot. She earned a small income through helping farming friends by tending stock. In the 1950s and 1960s she claimed to live on £5 per month. She earned about £100 per Annam and saved nearly half. Hope relied heavily on friendships. She would call in at farms when she was out and about, and people would call in and see her. Neighbours, even if they were ten miles away, would always come and help out if there was any trouble. She spent 30 Christmases at Broomstreet Farm, owned in those days by Mary Richards, who was her oldest and best Exmoor friend. In the 1950s she spent a year on a sheep station in New South Wales; in the 1970s she spent three months in Canada with friends. She taught herself to paint and draw and kept a diary from which she wrote and published articles. She sent her first book, written in pencil, to Anthony Dent. He returned it neatly typed and visited in person shortly afterwards. The book, Living on Exmoor, published in 1963, is a month by month diary of her activities and is illustrated by her pen and ink drawings. Her next book, A Little History of Exmoor (1968), was also published by Dent. This is a good account of Exmoor from prehistoric times to the 20th century and concentrates on the history of farming. It is brought to life by her imaginative drawings of farmsteads through the ages. Her third and fourth books, Wild Harvest (1978) and My Moorland Year (1993), have a similar style to her first, being a collection of experiences of farming, local lore, encounters with neighbours and vivid descriptions of the seasons. It is perhaps in the latter that she has her finest, almost poetic writing. From 1970 until the early 1990s she occupied a tiny, old and leaky touring caravan in the burnt out ruins of Ferny Ball Farm above Sherdon Water. There she kept her bantams in the ruins and helped out on neighbouring farms at busy times such as lambing and winter feeding. Getting up at 5am she'd do the farmer's stock, write her journal, and then go for a 20 mile walk with her sketch pad, mapless, guided by an inner compass. She followed the hunt on foot, shot and fished, never washed up, ate 1lb of meat a day, some of which was none too fresh, and drank from a stream. She believes that hunting and farming are the backbone of Exmoor. She wrote a weekly, thousand word column for the local paper, the West Somerset Free Press, which she picked up every Friday, when she went into Withypool to collect her mail and bread. At the same time she would post her next article, handwritten in pencil. The column was always popular and generated considerable correspondence. She also contributed articles and drawings to the Exmoor Review, with an emphasis on local farms and their history. In the 1970s Hope became famous through newspaper articles, then two television documentaries about her and her lifestyle: About Britain: Hope Bourne Alone on Exmoor (1978) and Hope Bourne – Woman of Exmoor (1981). In 1979 Daniel Farson interviewed her for a feature in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. She told him: “I have never taken a penny from public money. Friends tell me I could live better on National Assistance, or whatever they call it now. Over my dead body! Anyway, I’ve never been able to afford the stamps. I’ve told them this would be more than my entire income! It’s a good life but it’s a tough life. You’ve got to be 100% physically fit to live as I do. You’ve got to be tough, body and soul. Whatever happens at Ferny Ball, I’ve got to cope with it alone.” In the Exmoor Oral History Archive she gives a vivid account of how she dealt with accidents and extreme weather at Ferny Ball. In the late 1980s she was eventually persuaded to have a telephone put in for emergencies. Her asthma became worse and concerned friends managed to find her a new house at a community housing scheme in Withypool. Although on the edge of Withypool Common, she finds this like living in a city. She has all modern conveniences but rarely uses the electricity, sleeps on the living room floor in front of the open fire and leaves the rest of the house to her bantams. She is not able to go shooting now and, having sold her guns, gets her meat from the butchers. Hope’s last publication was a booklet about former weights and measures and had no Exmoor connection. She is very concerned about the future of Exmoor, its farming and wildlife. She thinks there is too much 'taming down' of Exmoor by both the National Park Authority and the National Trust, even though both have done good work by preserving large chunks of moorland that otherwise might have gone under the plough. She believes that the wildness of Exmoor teaches self-reliance and that there are too many paths, signs and interpretation boards. People can learn better by finding things out for themselves.

18 Sep 2010

Hope Bourne dedicated to nature.

Hope Bourne sadly passed away on August the 22nd 2010 aged 91, rest in peace.
Exmoor will miss you.
I took these pictures in the late 60's please respect their copyright.

HOPE L.BOURNE, an extraordinary lady.

Three pictures I took in the early seventies she is seen here with her winchester at Ferny Ball Farm.
please respect the copyright.

HOPE BOURNE an extraordinary lady.

I count myself fortunate to have first met with this lady in the late 60’s early 70’s and passed most agreeable time in her presence, walking the moor and gazing at vistas I would never have found myself, and when she gazed across the moor that wild, lonely, beautiful, place possessing an almost primeval atmosphere. she was looking at something entirely different to me you could almost see and feel the love she had for this place she had made home for so long, I would even go so far as to say that she was the only person to have tamed this place by solely living on the resources the moor could provide and living at onement with nature, her neighbours allowed her free reign to hunt and fish on their land. Hope, when I knew her was living at Ferny Ball Farm, about three miles from Withypool across the moor which was a derelict farm which she utilised by having her small but functional caravan half in the farmhouse and half out but was in the lee of the winds that funnelled through the coombes at high velocity, she had a very functional garden which she would keep well stocked with seasonal veg and the usual salad items, I remember one particular veg she would never be without and that was perpetual spinach and seasonal spinach, her bantams supplied her with meat and eggs, collecting pheasant eggs in season along with fungi which she used fresh and dried the excess, blackberries and bilberries she really relished and it was amazing what she could cook on her limited cooking appliances. she was a very good shot with both .22 and her 20 bore she said that she preferred the 20 bore as it was less scathing on game at close quarters, her basic meat diet was rabbit which were in those days abundant which accounted for the large buzzard populous being there staple diet on the moor I recount that several years later myxomatosis ravaged the rabbit numbers and almost wiped out the buzzard population. She would from time to time take a young buck red deer of which she wasted nothing, making thumb sticks from hazel and mounting a thumb prong of antler the hide which she would sell, to purchase art materials, she would cure and fashion rabbit skins into various garments, the winters are extremely cold on the moor. Fuel was gathered and stored in readiness for the winter months there was a lot of fallen dead wood in the wooded coombes , she also dug peat which she dried for fuel, water was collected from a nearby stream. Food storage was a problem to be overcome having no electric supply so, potatoes were clamped as were other root vegetables she would smoke meat hang it and also dry it, commonly “Jerky.” Hope was also a proficient fly fisherwomen, and she loved her fish, back in the sixties and seventies salmon were coming up the River Barle to spawn and Hope certainly had her share, her expertise included Trout Tickling. She had taught herself to sketch and paint, and in a few strokes could capture the moors moods, her sketches when viewed almost seem to come alive and her paintings were charged with the colours of the season she was portraying, making them even more animated. Her time on the moor was never wasted, painting, sketching, writing columns for papers, and writing books, she followed the hunt which she loved, and then writing about it, she lived and breathed the moor and indeed still is in the moor, albeit in sheltered accommodation at Withypool a little village in the heart of Exmoor, she still writes, although she is now very frail, she has been an inspiration to me and to many others, her ability to recognise plants , birds and animals by sight and sound, predict the weather, and be perfectly in tune with nature, on this plane the ground she walked almost seemed hallowed. Hope Bourne was never in receipt of any benefits, she was self sufficient in every way even down to herbal medicines she knew all the beneficial plants and would tend sick and injured animals and birds which she would sketch over and over till their release. I will close this brief article on a very special person, Hope L. Bourne, in your twilight years nature is with you in every way. If any of my visitors get the chance, you will be able to borrow her books on Moor Life at most libraries, well worth the read. Dave J

16 Sep 2010

The Birding Days are getting better

  • Yesterday Wed 15th we went to Oare fist nothing of any real note except the usual clustered Black Tailed Godwits, seven Ruff feeding quite close to the road a couple of Seals were apparent on the Horse Sands and a Dutch two masted barge was aground in the Columbine Channel. Decided to give Elmley a try, we encountered good numbers of Swallow flying very close to the ground, so close in fact that I thought they were flying under the car.
  • At the farm on the short grass there were eight or so Pied Wagtails and at the end of the orchard I managed a shot of a very well turned out Yellow Wagtail. Arrived Wellmarsh Hide four people inside offered a greeting which was returned sat down and opened a window, glancing out and scanning round sprang to mind, not much about, closer inspection yielded three Little Stint, one Ringed Plover, three Snipe a Marsh Harrier which was intent on giving a Greylag a hard time I have never seen this behaviour before, we all witnessed the event and ended up having quite a chat which is unusual in my experience. I managed a few shots which I have published below.

Landing Snipe

Ringed Plover in Flight

Little Stint

Yellow Wagtail

Male Marsh Harrier in attack mode

A Ruff at Oare.

15 Sep 2010

Doreen and Peter

Was nice to have met you, I took 171 pictures so will take a bit of time sorting but I will publish some tomorrow. The episode of the male adult Marsh Harrier and the Greylag was amazing, I did manage a couple of shots of the occurrence. Hope to see you again. Regards Dave and Joyce

8 Sep 2010

Maybe of Interest, gleaned from the web.

  • Pectoral sandpipers are scarce passage migrants from America and Siberia. It is the most common North American wading bird to occur here and has even started to breed in Scotland very recently. Its brown breastband (which gives the species its name) and white belly are its most distinctive features.
  • Where to see them Almost any wetland area in the UK could attract a pectoral sandpiper, though freshwater locations are preferred.
  • When to see them A few are seen in spring, but the vast majority appear in late summer and autumn. Young pectoral sandpipers from the eastern coast of North America can be blown over the Atlantic by areas of low pressure.

7 Sep 2010


Yesterday 6.9.2010 I took off to Oare, a great number of BT Godwits were in attendance, resting until the tide drops but not much else of note. So on to Elmley and Wellmarsh Hide, the scrape yielded several hundred teal again at rest, a good number of Avocets, two Shoveler a Little ringed Plover, one juvenile Shelduck, six Spotted Redshanks, several Ruff, and then came the spot of the year, A Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, and a new entry in my life list, the pictures of it are not academy class but they do serve as record shots. What a great day, I have not had one like this for a couple of years.



Two Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank


Greylag in Flight

Avocets and Teal

Syncronised Feeding

Avocet and Teal at rest

Ringed Avocet