Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

He who would be a Leader, let him be a Bridge

Crown Copyright: The Royal Maalie Court

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring arrives in Burgenland

Just a few weeks ago....

Burgenland was in the grip of an icy winter - Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl) frozen over.
What wildlife that remained was hibernating or surviving
by scratching up buried seeds from the previous summer

By the end of March the only ice in sight is the 2076m alpine Schneeberg, the highest mountain in Lower Austria. A pair of Shelduck dabble for the aquatic molluscs proliferating after the big freeze.

Almond trees are in bloom...

...and at dawn a Purple Heron arrives from its wintering quarters in Africa

A pair of newly-arrived White Storks commence their synchronised courtship
on a nearby village rooftop

A colourful Stonechat proclaims ownership of his territory
by means of a chirpy song from his lofty perch

A grass snake has emerged from hibernation and warms his blood in the sunshine...

...and "sniffs" the air with its forked tongue to discover if there are any tasty frogs on the menu.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ostara at Offa's Dyke

Ostara is the Pagan festival that celebrates the Spring Equinox, on or about 21st March. This year I felt privileged to share it with a gang of super-fit cycling and walking friends at a hostel in Clun, Shropshire, from which we explored the vicinity of Offa's Dyke. Offa's Dyke is a massive linear earthwork, roughly following some of the current border between England and Wales. In the 8th century it formed some kind of delineation between the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys, constructed by Offa, King of Mercia from 757 to 796. To this extent is analogous to Hadrian's Wall that roughly divides England and Scotland.

Some of the boys have breakfast outside
where the day's activities (cycling or hiking) are planned.

For the hikers, it was a long march to the ridge where we joined the Offa's Dyke path,.....

.....and then it was a matter of following the waymarks

A Yellowhammer opens his bill to sing us on our way

As we reach the top of the ridge, the enormity of the construction becomes apparant

I wonder how many people Offa employed (or press-ganged) to construct
this 177 mile (280 km) ridge and adjacent ditch.

Magnificent views out over the Shropshire countryside

A group of migrating Golden Plover fly past

The hikers going down pass the cyclists coming up

All in all it was a strenuous but rewarding weekend, concluded with an opportunity to relax and partake of the local ales on the final evening. My thanks to those responsible for organising the weekend.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The High Pyrennees

Our final morning's treat was a drive up to the border with France at the ski-resort of Astón in the High Pyrenees where we were on the lookout for alpine species. We did not have to search for long!

A pair of Alpine Choughs circled around calling and came down to look for something to eat

An Alpine Accentor all fluffed up like a little ball
to create an insulating layer of air under its feathers

And, for me, the "bird of the trip" was the Snow Finch,
the only species of the trip I have never seen before!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day of the Griffon

After the Aragón steppes, Alberto promised us "mountains and vultures." Were were not to be disappointed. We arrived at the rocky crags of the start of the Pyrenees, in high expectation.

We were driven somewhere up there, to a ridge on Mount St. Miguel

"Follow me", said Alberto. Well, a couple of us did...

There is a vertical rock face of thousands of feet just beyond that crazy man...

Ooops, no nearer that edge, please...

The arrow shows the ledge where we were perched...

And the Griffons came to see what idiots had invaded their realm

I thought this one was going to pick me up and fly off with me...

Eye to eye with a Griffon Vulture

Off he goes, maybe we didn't look appetising after all

On the glide path in to land

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Four days in Aragón

For four days in March (9-12) I participated in an birding expedition to Aragón, northern Spain with three other members, under the guidance of the wildlife tour company Boletas, expertly led by Alberto Bueno.

Spectacular views of the snow-capped Pyrenees mountains
as we descended into Barcelona airport

Our first destination was the semi-desert plains of the Zaragoza steppes, habitat of Bustards, Sandgrouse and various Larks. Our base was near the village of Belchite where ruins from a battle in the Spanish Civil War are maintained as a monument.

The bomb-blasted ruins of the church of Belchite,
preserved as a monument among the almond trees to the Battle of Belchite

The almond trees looked gorgeous in full bloom

Isolated farm buildings with characteristic construction

Our transport frequently took us "off road" in the steppe country

Dawn over the desolate steppes of Aragón

The Great Bustard was one of the birds of the area that we were delighted to find

In the villages, White Storks were commencing their springtime courtship

Happy naturalists pose with the snowy Pyrenees as a backdrop
Alberto (Guide), Pam, Ken, Steve and Maalie

Next stop - the Pyrenees, to be the subject of another post!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A day out with Pam - what a Bore!

This week the relative positions of the Earth, Moon and Sun resulted in the highest tides predicted for this year. Under such conditions, the surge of the rising tide when funnelled into narrowing river estuaries can give rise to a frontal wave known as a "bore". The best known bore in Britain is that associated with the River Severn.

The rising tide funnelling into the Bristol Channel and up into the rapidly constricting
River Severn is responsible for the Severn Bore

The tidal bore on the River Severn can be large enough to provide an opportunity for surfers
(For source please click on the picture)

Nearer to my home, Morecambe Bay provides a wide enough "mouth" to funnel the rising tide into the River Kent to create an observable Bore. So Pam and I visited a viewing spot by the River Kent at Arnside to witness the spectacle.

Morecambe Bay, showing the funnelling effect up into the River Kent (top right). The red arrow indicates our viewing position; the green arrow shows the approximate position of Arnside Knott hill and the direction of the picture below.
The location of Maalie Court is shown in the top left.

Southerly view from Arnside Knott into Morcambe Bay

Spectators gather on the pier waiting for the Bore
with snow on the Cumbrian fells in the background

Pam (left) cannot contain her excitement as she breaks away from the crowd
to look for the approach of the bore...

Here it comes!

And off it goes on its way upstream!

Well, on this occasion the bore was not as dramatic a spectacle as has been known in the past. Local people said that there was too much water in the river from the melting snow in the mountains, which tends to flatten out the bore wave. Nevertheless it was fun to see, and not a bad way to mark Pam's birthday!