Wednesday, 30 December 2009

2009 - Blogroll review

Since I started this blog in April this year, I've become more interested in what other bloggers have to say and thought I'd take the opportunity to list some of blog posts have caught my attention:

#5 Street Art on 'Oxford Daily Photo':
As the title says, this is a photo taken daily of Oxford and its always good to see pictures that aren't typical of Oxford, like this fantastic picture of the a large mural in Temple Road, I especially like the power drill:

#4:  Birds in the back garden on 'Gullivers Travels':
I am always envious of the pictures Martin takes and aim and often fail to reach his standard.  I particularly like this post, especially the pheasant, which I thought was plastic when I first saw it.

#3 Periitricha Cillate on 'Life on an Oxfordshire Lawn'
The sheer amount of work Henry Walloon puts into his extraordinary blog is incredible and the level of research would not go amiss in  an academic paper.
This post shows what life can be found in a puddle in a back garden in England - simply incredible:

#2 Vole after my bag in 'About a Brook'
Kate's blog discussing the ups and downs of water voles in Shropshire is the inspiration behind this blog and for the two years or so I've been reading it I have enjoyed many interesting posts.  But my favourite post is a wonderful story of a water vole trying to escape with her bag - an utter joy and I'm most envious

Kate's blog would have been number one, until I read this post:

#1 Vietnam bears on 'Terry Whittaker photo blog':
Terry Whittaker is freelance photographer and I first encountered his blog when searching for water vole blogs on Google during a wet lunch time (Terry's blog is 103, I'm now number 2 and Kate is number 1) and was first drawn to his blog with wonderful photos of water voles taken during a photography course he runs.
But it's this post - which could have been a magazine article - on bear bile which has stuck in my mind.

What could have been an emotive post is balanced and certainly changed my mind on bear bile - what I thought was quack medicine, actually contains Ursodeoxycholic acid which is used for treating gallstones.  

In reflection, there have been a myriad of posts that have entertained, interested and educated me and I'd like to thank all blog posters that posted on my blog or who I have stumbled across.
As I start to follow more blogs, like Dr Jeremy Biggs pond blog:
and Bretton Birders bird blog: 
I will encounter more fascinating posts in 2010

Monday, 28 December 2009

2009 - A review

As the year draws to an end it seems there is an endless list of reviews of the year - best songs; most popular films and even the most annoying people of the year and as it's a cold time in Oxfordshire.  As there is the possibility of more snow I thought I'd have a large cup of tea and reflect on the past 12 months (well 8 actually) of writing of this blog and list the top 5 highlights:

#5: Woodpecker
I really like this picture I took back in April when I first started this blog. I saw it swoop over and it started banging it's territorial noise.

The original post:

#4: Water shrew
There maybe Water shrews along the river Ock or tributaries - in fact there are almost certainly are. But I saw this water shrew on Radley Brook in North Abingdon, a small stream that runs behind the Barton Fields nature reserve and eventually joins the river Thames via the Abbey Stream - where I first saw my first water vole.
I was lucky enough to be entertained by it for about two weeks over the summer and eventually managed to get a good picture:

It was hard to get a good photograph as it's hectic lifestyle - continuously searching for food meant it disappeared from sight whenever I got my camera ready. But I was rewarded with a few pictures including the one above

#3 Badger:
Maybe it should have been number one, especially as it took three months of late nights and dark evenings before I eventually got a picture:

Although I have been out a few times since, mainly for a walk rather than to specifically look for badgers, I haven't seen any.

#2 Water voles:
The reason this blog exists is because of the water voles that live in about a 100m stretch from new cut mill  along the Ock meadow and inspired by the excellent 'About a brook' blog to document them and about 25% of my blog posts are on water voles.  So I've several posts to choose from, but my favourite is the film taken along the ditch running through the meadow:

The wobble after 20 seconds is actually caused by me laughing as it runs up to eat.  I've chosen this as it's the first evidence I have of water voles living elsewhere in the vicinity and inspired by it, I have discovered feeding signs elsewhere in the meadow.

The original post is at:

And several other water vole posts:

#1 Bumblebees:
If I'm patient and lucky I will probably see more water voles and badgers in 2010, but a sight I may never see again is 'Early Bumblebees' mating.  The Bumblebeee Conservation Trust says "One of the mysterious about bumblees is why they are rarely seen mating...photographs are quite unusual".  In fact, when I contacted the BCT they identified the bee and asked me if they could use the picture in their newsletters.

As I review this post I'm disappointed and sad that I didn't spend longer studying what was happening d taking a better picture - instead I rushed in and searched the internet trying to work out what was happening and I'm unlikely to get another opportunity to study it again.

The original, somewhat confused, post is:

In reflection...
Although I've always been interested in nature, since starting this blog I've not only become more interested in what can be found in and around this small and insignificant (except when it floods) tributary of the England's second longest river but I've also started to become more involved with the research.

I'd also like to thank everyone who has passed comments on my blog and It will be interesting to see what comes along in 2010.....

Friday, 18 December 2009


I've been using a new piece of software to stitch together a series of photos to produce one big panorama and a walk to work on Friday provided an ideal opportunity to try it out...
The Ock valley walk, produced from three landscape pictures, the first snow of the winter on the footpath between the upper and lower ock:

The Thames, viewed from St. Helens Wharf, produced from four potrait pictures, with burford bridge to the left:

The view south from Abingdon weir - towards burford and Abingdon bridges (not pictured), produced from four landscape photographs.

And the view of the Abbey stream from the footbridge next to the weir.  

If the weather is good and time is kind, I may try and get some pictures from the Ock meadow at the weekend and maybe I could get a good picture of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford - something I always struggle with.
The software is ArcSoft Panorama, a trial version is available from:

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Collective names....

There are many collective names for birds - a host of sparrows; a murmuration of starling and my favourite - a charm of goldfinches:

Apparently, it is the 14th centaury writer Juliana Bernes who is credited with most of these:

She coined the term 'a siege of herons', but I've only seen solitary ones - like this one (x40 zoom) on longmead lake:

And there is no collective name for my favourite small bird - the long tailed tit.  These endearing little birds in their chirping their  flocks can raise a smile on the most melancholic day - even if they are rather frustrating to photograph - perhaps it should be 'a chirruping of long tailed tits?'

Now the trees have shed their leaves, the flocks of woodpigeons are also more evident, maybe this should be 'a sulk of woodpigeons'? 

Sunday, 6 December 2009


Friday's frost was a good opportunity to use the compact settings on my compact camera (and then to crop them using photoshop):

Ice crystals have formed on the hand rail on the bridge along the ock valley walk:

Frozen moss on the bridge spanning the abbey stream

And frozen lichen on the same bridge


Friday, 4 December 2009


What are the first signs of winter - The start of December? Christmas decorations? The dark mornings? Or the now traditional breaking of the thermocouple on our boiler?

Certainly frosts have started to appear and provided a rather picturesque walk to work this morning.  Ladygrove meadow had a white cover:

The trees on the Ock valley walk are finally devoid of leaves (nearly):

And the Barton Fields nature reserve is, as always, an ideal opportunity for a photograph: