Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A day of curlews, magnolias, anemones and and a secret island

We had the feeling that somebody was telling us to go to the beach this morning!

As the 50mph winds were back we decided to go somewhere a little more sheltered for the morning, then we'd brave the beach later when it was a bit warmer. We headed off to Staunton Country Park for a look around their gardens, maze and children's farm. We were going to get there before it opened, so stopped off at the Oysterbeds again for 10 minutes. It was absolutely freezing in the wind, so we didn't stay long, but managed to see an oystercatcher, a curlew and what I think is a shelduck. I took some very shaky photos, mainly because the wind was blowing me sideways!

Curlew - a very handy beak for poking into the mud, but you'd think
 it'd get in the way the rest of the time!


Then we went to the country park, which was really lovely. The kids fed some of the animals in the farm and we saw some really cute baby piglets and baby goats.

Feeding one of the alpacas

Baby goats

6 day old piglets

Tiny ponies

Feeding the sheep was a lot of fun
Then we had a look around the rest of the grounds and admired the immaculate gardens. They had a beautiful walled garden with tropical greenhouses and a large lily house. We found our way through the maze and made it back out again and the kids had a great time exploring the playground.
The walled garden and greenhouses
Tropical greenhouses
The honey bees had found their way into the greenhouses
A lovely old lily house - no lily pads yet, but I liked the way the roof
structure reflected in the water
A stunning magnolia hung over the wall
Magnolia buds

A camelia

The library

Playing nicely (for once!)
Just as we were leaving we noticed these jackdaws nesting in a gutter right next to the children's farmyard. Not the quietest place to pick, but I imagine they can steal lots of the animal feed.

The lack of rock pooling on the island had been causing Bug Mad Girl a bit of angst, so after lunch we decided to make the most of the low tide and see if any rocks were exposed. When we got there, a long, thin strip of sand was showing ... only the seagulls could get to it, so BMG couldn't resist trying to reach it...

A secret island had appeared in the sea

The seagulls were enjoying it out there
How to get to the island ... what's a girl to do?

Take your shoes off, roll your trousers up and wade out to it of course!

Bug Mad Island was claimed - unable to walk on the stones,
she ended up coming straight back though!
Then we walked down to the large rocks that protect the beach from erosion. The low tide had left them exposed and provided somewhere to rock pool - just enough to keep BMG happy for a while!
Limpets and barnacles
Beadlet anemones

BMG found a fossil - the rock was too big to fit in my pocket though!
I managed to end up with a pocket full of treasure again (our collection is rapidly growing), so we headed home to take a look at our finds.

Thick oyster shells that seem to be made up of flaky layers.
I wonder if these are fossilized shells?

More lovely shells for our collection

Pullet carpet shell
There has been quite a lot of this washed up on the beach. It looks like
seaweed, but is actually hornwrack, which is a type of bryozoan, which is a
 colony of thousands of tiny animals

Look closely and it looks like a piece of material

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Oysterbeds at Langstone Harbour

We woke up this morning and everything looked so different. The gale had blown through and the skies were clear, so we sat outside and watched the sun come up while a thrush sang its heart out in a bush next to us. Lovely start to a morning!

We were out and about early to make the most of the sun and decided to go to the Oysterbeds at Langstone Harbour. Man made beds were originally dug to farm oysters, then when they were later abandoned, the wildlife moved in. They provide a rare salt water lagoon habitat that's home to thousands of black-headed gulls, brent geese, lots of different waders, saltwater invertebrates and many unusual plants. It's also home to one of the UK's largest colonies of little turns between May and July.  The islands in the harbor are almost all managed by the RSPB and are off limits, but you can walk all around the edge of the harbor the oysterbeds and get a really good look at the birds.

There were lots of brent geese and Bug Mad Girl discovered that if you jump up and down with excitement they all fly away! Fancy that!


We rounded the corner and a couple of islands were completely covered in black-headed gulls, making a terrible racket. I suspect they make that noise all the time, but they seemed to turn the volume up a notch as we got closer.
One of the islands, with Portsmouth and the Spinnaker tower in the distance

There were just a few black-headed gulls there!
The number of gulls was a little overwhelming (and noisy), but we managed to see a few other things, including a curlew, several redshanks, 2 egrets, 2 oystercatchers and some dinky little turnstones.
One of the egrets
A pair of oystercatchers


Several turnstones were on the edge of the water, but they are so well
camouflaged that you only see them when they move
Then back at the car, a kestrel was hovering overhead. What a great morning!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Gale force beach combing (updated)

Yesterday may have been bracing, but today the wind was actually gale force! It was so strong that you could lean forward into the wind and it would hold you upright. We had to hang on to Little Brother to stop him blowing away!

We headed out to the beach to see if any treasures were washed up and weren't disappointed. Our most exciting find was a starfish, which has always been near the top of BMG's wish list. Unfortunately it was dead, but it was still a great find. We also found another shark egg case and a spine, probably from a fish.

There were lots of bits of edible crab, including this whole one. We also found another crab shell, which we think is the body of a spider crab.

Edible crab

Edible crab

Body of a spider crab
We found a giant fir cone, that we think was washed all the way here from the Caribbean (or more likely the Isle of Wight!)
Where did this come from?

We found lots more shells

Two different types of sponge - the yellow one may be a
breadcrumb sponge and the white one may be a purse sponge
Bug Mad Girl couldn't resist the waves and managed to fill her wellies with water - she didn't seem to care though!


After being blown around the beach, we headed to the marina for lunch, then got blown back to the house. Outdoor play has been abandoned for the day, but I think we did quite well getting out there at all. The forecast looks better for tomorrow, so hopefully we can get out and about a bit more easily.

Update: The wind suddenly dropped (slightly) about 4pm and the sun came out, so we had another quick stroll along the beach. We found a second common starfish that looked a bit 'fresher' than the one from this morning. Two in one day! I wonder whether that's just the storm washing them up on the beach, or whether they are always found here?

The sun, at last!

Common starfish