Snakes of England

A few years ago I was talking to a keen birder who told me there was a local spot I might find Adders. So over the last few years I have managed to get some nice pictures.

 

Grass snake

3

 

The following are all Adders (Vipera Berus)

1AddAdd1Adder_1Adder_2Adder_3Adder_4Adder_5AdderSnake 2Snake_1Snake_2Snake_3Snake_FlickrSnake_Flickr1SnakeSnake1Snake2Snake3Snake4Snake5

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Storm Chase 2017

 

This year I am flying out to Dallas on Saturday 27th May returning to Blighty 13/14th June. I will be chasing with the Netweather team on their Tour from 31st May to 11 June.

So I have a few days before and after the tours when I plan to potter basically. Any nearby (within 700 miles) storms will be chased else I will mostly be pootling looking for Texan wildlife and trying not to get shot.

 

Day 1 (28th May)

On Sunday I visited the home of Gilbert and Melanie Morrow who live in Azle, TX. They live in a house that Gilbert built himself on family land that has been farmed in the past.

Here are a few pictures of the birds that frequent the house and are obviously a joy for the family.

 

Day 2 (29th May)

Drove south of Dallas/Fort Worth past Austin and stayed the night in Waco. There aren’t any storms to chase so just pottering about driving.

Day 3 (30th May)

On the advice of Tom Lynch I visited Wonder Cave in Waco in the morning. Was rather nice to be in the relative cool of the cave.

 

Day 4 (31st May)

Dropped my hire car at Dallas (I used Alamo) and was picked up by Tom Lynch.

The full team is as follows:-

Netweather Driving: Paul Michaelwaite (Owner of Netweather), Tom Lynch and Nicholas Lee. Forecaster/Chaser: Paul Sherman (Botten).

Tour guests: Stevie Grant, Jamie Croucher, David Ostrowski, Chris Webster, Tom Redford,  Jeremy Silver, Marco, Stephen Barnett

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Day 5 (1st June)

Timelapse.gif

 

Day 6 (2nd June)

We weren’t chasing today. Just positioning for the very low risk later on. Drove through Lubbock, TX where Buddy Holly was born. Ended up in Lamar, CO.

Train.gif

 

 

Day 7 (3rd June)

Another non chase day. Drove past Denver, got our first views of the majestic snow capped Rockies. We drove up into the Rockies to Berthoud Pass. Spent the night in Cheyenne, WY.

 

Day 8 (4th June)

Started in Cheyenne, WY and ended up in Limon, CO via Garden of the Gods, CO which is a simply stunning place with jagged rocks and in the shadow of the Rockies.

We ended the day taking star photos in the hope of capturing the Milky Way but the moon was so bright it was impossible.

 

I do have to share one of the unsatisfactory star shots:-

Stars

Day 9 (5th June)

Started off in Limon, CO and ended up in Tucumcari, NM. This was a chase day and we managed to experience some excellent CG lightning. I used my lightning trigger and managed to get some pretty good shots.

 

Here are the lightning pictures which I am really pleased with:-

Lightning

The GIF below is five sequential shots taken by my trigger (Not the same image cycled). So I actually captured 3 of the up and down strokes which, as you see, followed the exact same path!

Lightning

Lightning_1Lightning_2Lightning_3Lightning_4Lightning_5Lightning-Big

Here they are stacked

Stacked Lightning copy

Day 10 (6th June)

Limon, CO to SE CO (Lamar) via Hugo, Eads, Springfield and Campo; Boise City, OK; overnight in Tucumcari, NM

 

Day 11 (7th June)

North from Tucumcari, NM via Mosquero, NM. Roy, NM. Storm in Puebleo, CO. Overnight in Burlington, CO. The storm we intercepted West of Burlington became tornado warned and dropped at least one tornado but we started too far back. As we were positioning a cracking rainbow formed and we got out of the car to take pictures. This is when we became aware of the hail roar. I have uploaded a video where you can make out the hail roar over the wind (filter out the wind noise on the mic).

 

Video of he rainbow and hail roar:-

Day 12 (8th June)

Burlington, CO to Cheynne Wells, CO. Towner, CO. Tribune, KS. Syracuse, KS. Rolla, KS. Guymon, OK, storms south of Guymon, OK; LP supercell North of Stinnett, TX; 2nd LP in Amarillo, TX.

Chased all the way to Amarillo and were rewarded with a lovely LP Supercell but we chased the HP/Classic which didn’t disappoint with shotgun lightning to round off the day.

 

The lightning was so numerous that at the end of the chase I took 150 pictures of 5 seconds exposure time. There was a visible bolt of lightning on ALL but 1 frame! Firstly I present some large stills and then I made a GIF of the whole thing to give you a flavour of the frequency of lightning.

Lightning_1Lightning_2Lightning_3Lightning_4LightningSelfie

 

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Day 13 (9th June)

8 June was our last chase day. On Friday night we went to a club in Oklahoma City called Cowboys. Line dancing with lots of cowgirls, cowboys and dancing. There was a mechanical bull AND a real bull where people competed to stay on the longest.

 

I moved my flight back to Sunday and flew home.

No tornado. But that doesn’t bother me as a great time was had.

 

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We like boobies, oh yes we do!

On Wednesday 2 March I took a day off work as I had watched the mighty Canaries (Norwich City Football Club) being robbed of a result against Chelsea the previous evening.

So after a nice lie in I pottered about doing not a lot when I glanced out of my front window to be confronted by the most remarkable display of mammatus I had ever seen, and I’ve been to the USA storm chasing at least 7 times.

I put my wide angle lens on my Nikon and rushed outside. I didn’t need to go far to take some corking pictures. I also bumped into a number of dog walkers who were gob smacked and I was pleased to be able to tell them the name of the clouds.

The BBC had been plugging their “Weather Watchers” web site so I thought I would register and upload a picture which is what I did.

I uploaded these pictures to Facebook and they were very popular as was the thread I started on the UKWeatherworld photography forum.

Imagine my surprise when I was watching TV that evening and switched over to watch the local BBC news when I caught the end of the National BBC weather broadcast on BBC1 and I saw the mammatus clouds I had seen earlier. I paused the transmission, re-wound and realised  that Tomasz had used MY picture!

Weather

Notice that I am credited as “Weather Watcher”, I realised later with the help of Dan Holley that my “handle” (Stuart_W) had not been used as my account had only been activated that afternoon and there needs to be, apparently, an approval of user names to make sure they are appropriate so the general term “Weather Watcher” is used until the username is approved. But I don’t care! This weather broadcast is watched by several million viewers and my picture had been on screen for a few seconds!

I later found out that the picture had also been tweeted by Tomasz through the BBC Weather account:- https://twitter.com/bbcweather/status/705070138614226944

Tweet

99 Likes, and 40 re-tweets is pretty good I’d say! But have you noticed that Tomasz has misspelt  mammatus? Back to cloud school for you!

Here is the video of the weather forecast with Tomasz. My picture can be seen at 28secs in.

Here is he link to the UKweatherworld thread

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Storm Chase 2015

From May 17 to May 30 2015 I chased storms with Cloud9 tours (http://www.cloud9tours.com/).

I flew into Will Rogers airport, Oklahoma City, OK on Saturday 16 May meeting Ian and Mark Rees at Newark airport during the stop-over. We then bumped into Paul Harvey at Will Rogers, we took a taxi to the Days Inn at Norman, OK.

There was a nice storm that had been going on for a while when we arrived at the motel – in fact it disrupted the travel of several of the guests.

17 May

May 17 was a travel day as we had to ensure the departing tour 1 guests reached the airport and consequently couldn’t start early enough after induction to reach any severe weather. We spent the night in Childress, TX.

Here are a few shots from the orientation and travel to Childress.

Damage Orientation TWN Vehicle

Our travel route for 17 May. 2015May17 - Sun

18 May

First chase day! We targeted SW New Mexico for this day but did not quite make it. We settled onto our storm, sheltered from the hail and then began the chase. We experienced some impressive hail drifts and some even more impressive flash flooding seeing a number of abandoned vehicles nearly completed submerged off the sides of the road. Here are a few pictures from the day:

Long RoadMural Honey Wagon Chase On Thad Jade Hail Hail Drift Hail Drift_1 Dani_Selfie Klipsi Storm Power Lines Flash Flood Flash Flood_1 Flash Flood_2 Flash Flood_3 Flash Flood_4

Short video of the flash flooding:

Our travel route for 18 May. 2015May18 - Mon

19 May

Started off in Odessa, TX ending up in Childress, TX (again!). We did chase a nice little storm but apart from some nice gust front and lightning (and yet more heavy rain) that was it. Here are a few pics from the day:-

Pano Pileus Brad Klipsi

Our travel map for the day 2015May19 - Tue

20 May Travel day to Amarillo, TX

Had supper at The Big Texan (didn’t take my camera!). Andrew Kirby made a brave attempt at the 72 Oz steak, just as his future wife Cristy had done in 2008.

21 May

Down Day – Some of the group went shopping whilst the rest of us wandered around the Palo Duro, TX. Rather scenic it was too.

1

2015May21 - Thu

22 May

We chased up into Colorado, ending up in Burlington, CO. I took a few pictuers but none worth sharing!

2015May22 - Fri

23 May

Another travel day – Ended up in Wichita Falls, TX.

I had to share at least 1 picture of a lorry snapped through the windscreen – I have many of these pictures from this trip alone.Lorry Turbine Annie Dino

Travel Map for May 232015May23 - Sat

24 May

This was either a travel day or a chase with “no cigar”, I can’t remember which! Either way here a couple of pictures:-

Storm Wakey Donuts

Travel map for May 24. 2015May24 - Sun

25 May

Not a lot today:

Storm

Travel map from May 25. 2015May25 - Mon

26 May

Chase day. Lots of lightning and on a tornado warned storm. Caught a brief glimpse of a distant tornado. Some nice structure.

Storm 1RadarThadStormStorm 4Storm 3Storm 2

Travel map for May 26. 2015May26 - Tue

27 May

Today started off very badly. Jade Vee missed or slipped on the last step of the stairs at our Motel 6 in Abilene. It left her with an obviously fractured left ankle. We called an ambulance which took her off to the local hospital for treatment. This delayed our departure by over an hour making our initial target unattainable. But as it turned out this meant we were able to sneak up on the storm of the day. We bagged 3 tornadoes and then I snapped some nice lightning later that night. Just look at these pictures and videos!

Jade Stretcher

Caught this lightning from inside the car on the way to the storm

 

Day Lightning Neha Storm Storm 1StormStorm 2  Storm 3

Just North of Canadian, TX. We had just jumped back into the vans to reposition when we heard over the radio, “Tornado behind us!”. Sure enough there it was. We screeched to a halt alongside the old bridge we had driven over only days before and enjoyed this tornado for nearly 10 minutes:

 

Here is the first video:-

Tornado 1a

Another video here:-

And another showing the wider view:-

 

Tornado 1b Tornado 1c Tornado 1d

Video of the tornado as it ropes out:-

Tornado 1e

You can see how happy Dani is to see her first tornado.

Tornado Dani

Brad Riley, our driver, looks thrilled. This is not his first tornado!

Tornado Brad Tornado 2 Tornado 2a

Video with the tornado sirens (turn up your sound!):-

WatchingLightning   Lightning 1 Lightning 2

Chase map for 27 May. 2015May27 - Wed

8 May

Got some nice structure, big hail and some blowing dust. Also check out a funky little “time-lapse” video.

Storm

Photoshop “messed” this up somewhat, but I think it’s funny

Distorted Storm

Ok, this is better, even if we have 2 Jos’s.

Pano_Small

Used my lightning trigger to snap some lightning shots. I had around 300 shots and got lightning on 4 frames. So I made it into a pseudo time-apse. Quite cool really.

Later, whilst we drove to the motel we had some nice dust blowing, check out the video below:-

Chase map for 28 May. 2015May28 - Thu

29 May

Checked off another State today – New Mexico. Great scenery and a little storm.

Pileus Storm Train Vultures Duster 1 Duster

Chase map for 29 May. 2015May29 - Fri

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Friday night lightning

Following a couple of days of hot weather we were promised a thundery breakdown and the sky Gods didn’t let us down. Storms formed across the Channel in the middle of the afternoon and slowly made their way to England in a NNW direction. I noticed some flashing about 10:30pm and went to have a look in the garden. I quickly made the decision to take a walk into the country from my house (a few glasses of wine precluded use of the car). So I loaded the camera onto my tripod, checked the batteries, packed my remote trigger and torch.

I took a 2 minute walk to the edge of the village, passing a car full of youngsters enjoying the lightning to the South West and found a spot affording good views over a field.

I focused on a far light, set the camera to manual focus, shutter priority at 25 seconds and started to align the camera. Inevitably a cracking IC arced across the sky as I did this.

Soon enough though I had the camera clicking away by itself. There was I, in my t-shirt and shorts slowly getting wet.

As the lightning was rather distant I decided to change to Manual and open up a wide aperture.

Sure enough an amazing bolt across the whole sky flashed away. I must have caught it!!

Imagine my horror when this is what I saw on the preview screen

Orig

But! Hang on. I shoot in RAW. So a couple of tweeks later:-

Lightning

It’s still blown out where the lightning has jumped to ground but I’m still pretty happy with this one.

There’s a chance for more severe storms later this evening, fingers crossed!

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The cats do what cats do

My two Norwegian Forest Cats, Fernie and Tiree have really embraced the outdoor life. Having moved house in July 2013 I had a chip activated cat flap installed into my double glazed back door and they can now come and go as they please (excepting once it gets dark the flap is locked shut). Whilst they are adorable fluffy fur balls they are in reality 6.5 kg of killing machines with deadly claws and teeth. I regularly come home to various dead creatures or the remains thereof. In this blog I will document the death toll.

11 October 2013. I came home to this scene – what could be a Blackbird has been partially eaten and feathers strewn everywhere. Dead_Bird 2 Dead_Bird 1

April 2014 (There were many more in between but I haven’t documented them). This is a vole Fernie has caught. Towards the end her sister comes to investigate. (10 April 2014)

Fernie has caught a mouse and now it is no more; Tiree decides it’s great fun to play with it in the house – just look how she flips it!

Tiree Mouse  4 July 2014 Grass snake caught by Tiree – happily the little chap seemed to be ok, played dead but slithered away in the flower bed. Grass Snake Sadly, on Sunday I found a dead grass snake (juvenile) in the kitchen.

19 August 2014. Came home to find Tiree interested in something on the floor and was somewhat surprised to find this amazing creature. Fortunately it was unharmed and I released it back into the garden. Hopefully it will become a beautiful moth. Moth 30 August 2014 Fernie has caught a little shrew. Poor little blighter didn’t stand a chance.

Vole

Short video:

5 October 2014 Came home to this. IMG_0483

12/12/2016. Tiree is very naughty

tiree

Date Animal Which cat Notes
11/10/2013 Blackbird Tiree Well dead
10/04/2014 Vole Fernie Dead
14/04/2014 Mouse Tiree Dead
28/06/2014 Young bird Tiree Injured
29/06/2014 Young bird Tiree Injured
04/07/2014 Grass Snake Tiree Alive
06/07/2014 Grass Snake ? Dead
08/07/2014 Vole Fernie Dead
08/07/2014 Vole Fernie Dead
21/07/2014 Mouse ? Dead
23/07/2014 Vole ? Dead
28/07/2014 Mouse Tiree Mostly dead
19/08/2014 Elephant Hawkshead moth larva Tiree Alive
21/08/2014 Mouse Tiree Alive
22/08/2014 Bird Tiree Alive
23/08/2014 Mouse Tiree Alive
25/08/2014 Mouse Tiree Injured alive
29/08/2014 Pigeon ? Dead (Not sure cats got it)
30/08/2014 Vole Fernie Alive – then killed
31/08/2014 Elephant Hawkshead moth larva Tiree Alive
01/09/2014 Mouse Tiree Dead
17/09/2014 Vole ? Dead
21/09/2014 Bird Tiree Dead
21/09/2014 Mouse Fernie Dead
05/10/2014 Bird ? Just feathers
15/10/2014 Mouse Fernie Live
28/10/2014 Thrush Tiree Live
28/04/2015 Mouse Fernie Live
13/04/2015 Mouse Tiree Dead
03/06/2015 Vole ? Dead
14/06/2015 2 x vole ? Dead
19/06/2015 Mouse/vole Tiree Alive – brought into bedroom at 5:30am
20/06/2015 Vole ? Dead
21/06/2015 Vole Fernie Alive – being chased
23/06/2015 Vole Tiree Dead
23/06/2015 Thrush ? Dead
22/06/2015 Small frog ? Dead (Not sure cats got it)
02/07/2015 Vole ? Alive then dead
06/07/2015 Vole Fernie Dead
10/07/2015 Sparrow Tiree Alive – chased around the house. Saved by me.
17/07/2015 Darkling Beetle Fernie Live – rescued
20/07/2015 Vole Tiree Dead
25/07/2015 Vole ? Dead
10/08/2015 Sparrow Fernie Injured
12/08/2015 Vole ? Dead
17/08/2015 Mouse Fernie Alive
23/08/2015 Vole ? Dead
03/09/2015 Thrush ? Dead
12/09/2015 Vole ? Dead
13/09/2015 Dragonfly Fernie Alive – soon to be dead
19/09/2015 Mouse Fernie Alive – Rescued
20/09/2015 Bird Tiree Dead
14/10/2015 Vole ? Dead
14/10/2015 Thrush Tiree Dead
26/10/2015 Bird ? Just feathers left
02/11/2015 Bird ? Dead
27/11/2015 Vole ? Dead
23/03/2016 Vole ? Dead
26/03/2016 Vole ? Dead
07/04/2016 Vole ? Dead
07/04/2016 Vole Fernie (Prob) Alive (Dead next day)
08/04/2016 Vole Tiree Alive
14/05/2016 Bird ? Dead
07/06/2016 Mouse ? Dead
14/05/2016 Bird ? Dead
21/06/2016 Vole Tiree Dead
22/06/2016 Vole Tiree Dead (All eaten)
04/07/2016 Mouse Fernie Dead
14/07/2016 Fledgling bird Fernie Live (saved I hope. Sadly later caught and killed)
17/07/2016 Bird ? Just a pile of feathers
23/07/2016 Baby Mouse Fernie Hurt. Chased around kitchen by both cats. Eaten by Tiree
23/07/2016 Baby Mouse Fernie Released outdoors
23/07/2016 Adult mouse Fernie Escaped but died
1 – 10/8/2016 2 x Birds ? Dead in garden
14/08/2016 Bird ? Just feathers
24/08/2016 Vole Fernie Dead. Brought up to bathroom at 7am
27/08/2016 Adult mouse ? Dead
29/08/2016 Baby Vole Fernie Played with and killed
16/09/2016 Baby grass snake ? Dead
18/09/2016 Dragon fly Ferni Dead
20/09/2016 Mouse Tiree Eaten
01/10/2016 Mouse Tiree Escaped
02/10/2016 Mouse Tiree Eaten
02/10/2016 Baby mouse Fernie Dead
02/10/2016 Mouse Tiree (?) Live
09/10/2016 Mouse Tiree Eaten in front of me.
21/10/2016 Robin ? Dead
28/10/2016 Vole ? Dead
12/11/2016 Mouse ? Dead
19/11/2016 Sparrow ? Dead
12/12/2016 Thrush Tiree Dead
07/01/2017 Shrew ? Dead
13/01/2017 Bird Tiree Dead
09/04/2017 Shrew ? Dead
17/04/2017 Shrew ? Dead
12/05/2017 Blackbird ? Dead
16/05/2017 Mouse Tiree Eaten
20/05/2017 Mouse Fernie Dead
20/05/2017 Mouse Fernie Alive
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Who let the cats out.

So I’ve been in my new house for 3 weeks now and the time came to finally allow my two Norwegian Forest Cats, Fernie and Tiree out into the garden for the first time.

They had spent the previous 3 weeks getting to know the outside from the comforts of the conservatory and being tormented by pigeons, butterflies and other lovely things flitting about outside.

This is the moment they take their first, slightly ginger, steps into the outside world in their new garden:

Soon they were both covered in seeds, grass and leaves.

It didn’t take long for both of them to jump over the fence next door although Fernie did manage to fall off the fence face first into a bush – bloody hilarious!

They delighted the 2 and 4 year olds next door though Fernie cried to come back over before gathering the courage to jump back over.

Here are a few pictures of the little blighters enjoying their new space.

Fernie_3 Tiree Jump Tiree Tiree_1 Tiree_2 Tiree_3 Tiree_4  Tiree_6 Cats Fernie Pond Fernie Fernie_1

The moment Tiree jumps over the fence into the neighbour’s garden. Fernie follows her but seconds later falls back into the foliage (face first!).

Fernie_2

Coming back. Fernie had more trouble spending a good few minutes crying on the other side. Abbie, the lady of the house, offered to pass her over.

Tiree_5

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