Thursday, 30 June 2011

To Besthorpe Reserve by broken bicycle

The sun was shining through my window at 9am, a treacherous, lying view that told me that hey, today was a day to be ambitious and head for Besthorpe Notts Wildlife reserve by bike, especially seeing how I'd looked up the night before how to find it and all...

The good weather began to look not so good by the time I rocked the Sustrans 64 past the turn in for Langford Lowfields, the butterflies again fleeing my even more rattletrappy approach. As the evil clouds darkened approaching Besthorpe, rattetrap bicycle became rather more grinding and crunchy until, heading onto Trent Lane, the rear wheel bearing seemed to give way competely and turning the pedal resulted in clanking noise but no actual motion.


But, I was there, and figured I may as well enjoy the trip. Worth it too, it was, after walking down to the reserve through a field full of wildflowers and erupting with the now ubiquitious Meadow Brown and Ringlets - thought i saw a Brown Argus too at one point and the guide confirms they can be found there - I arrived at the lake, to be confronted with a sort of acquatic Jurassic Park.

The Mons Pool, overlooked by a screen, was a mass of cormorants. More than I've ever seen in my life, sitting drying their wings like pterasaurs, diving for fish, flying about like stubby World War 2 bombers, or just sitting around in the distance, socialising. Had a great view with my 10x25s, examined a flock of geese on the water which turned out to be greylags, lots of coots scuttling about making their little cornet calls. But, next to a rather disinterested looking cormorant in a tree, what's that white thing? Is it a plastic bag?

No, it was an Egret, gently preening itself on a branch! Pretty excited to get a first decent look at one of these pure pure white birds, although I'd seen one from a moving train before. Watched it for a while, before heading off to the next part of the site and there was about another 8 or so of them on the sand flats, stalking about like the 2/3 sized herons they are, or just standing elegantly. So beautiful. They don't seem like they hunt like herons, they don't have that statuesque intensity. They almost bring a touch of Egypt to Nottinghamshire (oh, pseuds corner does await you) - my folks tell me they line the banks of the Nile there.

As a bonus, scanning the water revealed a pair of Shelducks, with two chicks in tow - difficult to say at a distance but the chicks seem more silvery than mallard ones.

Time to go, I'd arranged a lift home with my fantastic stepfather, and had coincidentally arranged the pick up to be the Lord Nelson pub. Heading back on my bike as if it were an 1760 pedalless boneshaker, pausing to take a picture of these attractive purple flowers and seeing a mustellid prance across my path, I got to the pub... find it was shut, and it was now raining hard. Thank god for porches eh, for shivering tyro nature bloggers!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

At last - Langford Lowfields

Bicycle trip today - I was too damn lazy and kneesore to run, so figured on a mild day with not too much wind and lightly grey skies, the much mooted not cooted trip to RSPB Langford Lowfields could take place.

This means a 6 or so mile bike ride out of town, along the Sustrans 64 bike route along Winthorpe Road and through the awkward tunnels to Winthorpe Village. You have a choice of two routes here - on the quiet road by the river and lake, or on the Gainsboro road - I fancy the latter is a bit quicker. Take the turn off to Holme, and just after the railway crossing you rejoin the off road 64 as it pleasantly switchbacks through some fields and industrial sandheaps. Meadowbrown, Ringlet, White and the odd Small Tortoisehell were disturbed out of the hedgerows by my second rand rattletrap. A buzzard, talongs dangling, was circling low overhead.

Eventually you cross over the works entrance road, and go for another half mile or so skirting a wood - as the 64 heads right to Collingham, take a left into a wood and follow the path through the wood until you get to the various lakes and reedbeds that mark the site.

This path is a bit awkward for a mountain bike, but ok if its not too overgrown. All sorts of flapping things launch themselves out of the trees and hedges far too fast for me to identify (not difficult) and eventually I paused to photograph a pretty pink flower - pic later! - and take a little bit of stock. I'll admit to being naughty and jumping the fence to try and get a better look at the reedbeds last year, but I got sent off with a flea in my ear by the volunteers and now I'm a responsible RSPB member, I would never contemplate doing such a thing ever again, oh no. Instead, I bike down to the sort of hide further down the path that overlooks the reedbed.

I think to the newcomer to the nature game when they arrive at a reserve, I guess there is a feeling that the birds should come flying out of the vegetation to greet you personally, emitting coloured smoke like the red arrows and trailing a placard telling you what it is. The reedbed just looks so inpenetratable, you think you are never going to see a damn thing, and the little laminated note telling you that a Purple Heron was seen from here twice seems like a kick in the teeth from the proper birdwatchers!

But, I decided to be quiet, and patient, and all those other things that don't come easily to me, and scan with my little 10x25 field glasses. OK, the mute swans are boring! Where are the Avocets? Where are the Egrets? I think noisily - but it isn't so easy as that and lets be honest it wouldn't be fun if it were. Eventually, a hunting heron revealed itself a couple of hundred meters away, stalking through the water like Max Wall, and large red brown dragonfly buzzed over my head. And then, a little nearer, but a lot smaller, a small bird danced upon a reed stem, swaying in the wind. A black head, a black bib, pale front and a sort of black and white striped tail. After the usual exagerrations, I figured this for a Reed Bunting on my way home and a little wiki proves me right I reckon!

As I watched this little reed dweller, the heron in the background suddenly lunged, and caught a silverly flashing fish which it seemed to struggle to swallow, taking a few backwards tilts of its head to do so.

Then a small group of Common Terns, 5 or 6 strong, came across the reed beds, working them left to right before heading riverwards, I guess. Now, as the afternoon wore on, I was mooting not cooting again, a visit to Besthorpe reserve, so lay on the ground to take one of my idiot photos of a nice group of clover, birds foot trefoil and another yellow flowering plant, and headed back up the path.

On the way back up, another mousy little bird passed before me into a tree, and I figured I'd try and see if I could eyeball it properly and stopped. Once the bike had stopped its deathly creaks, another sound could be heard, that of a broken down rattlesnake, or a wonky band saw grinding through metal. I immediately thought "Grasshopper Warbler" but on getting home and listening to the call, that doesn't sound deep enough. At the same time, another warbler could be seen flitting in the tree, one of the prettier, yellower ones - and not a grasshopper warbler. As I tweeted, I decided this was a Woody Willow Warbler Chaff, but the Lowfields website says there are a lot of Garden Warblers in these hedges and trees by the path, so maybe it was one of them. Or another of these pesky avian jokesters put there to fool me.

After being accosted by another flock of preening, knowing gorgeous Goldfinches, I did indeed head to Collingham and an attempt to find Besthorpe reserve, but abandoned this when I realised just pleasantly cycling around wasn't going to find the reserve, which, ya know, is called a reserve because it isn't in the car park of the village bloody One Stop!

Anyway, after a light soaking on the trip home, here I am having learned two things. 1) Patience on a trip to an RSPB reserve will be rewarded and 2) Trying to write a blog post while playing air guitar to "The Queen is Dead" by the Smiths takes forever.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Nature is good for the soul

When your employer has cut your hours, life is becoming an even greater, now less than minimum wage, struggle, and you still don't know how to go about actually finishing your script, then it is always good to know that outside the door there is fresh air, and a world to explore no matter where you are.

So yep, saddled up, grabbed my isotonic (ha!) drinks bottle and my falling apart old mobile phone I use as a radio, and ran past the lake and the whole length of clay lane, before cutting through Beacon Hill Reserve and along the river.

So yep, just the getting out was the important thing today. It was a grey grey day, and apart from the currently inevitable ringlet butterflies and elderflower in bloom, there wasn't a lot to see or interest you, you far better amateur nature lovers than me, you ace hot proper photographers who produce such enviable work. But just being out there so makes things better, sometimes!

Even when it hurts *rubs right knee*

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Quick bike trip

Scuttled along the cycle path by the lake 730pm - noticed a very drab, very brown looking duck, which I figured for a drake Mallard in eclipse. Poor old think, imagining going bald for the summer every year!

Beacon Hill, well as usual the bike down the shale path was rather hairy when I tried to stop, but it was a glorious evening to just stand and hang out here in the sun for a little while - whites and meadow browns in large numbers, as ever denying me the easy shot! Some sort of moth was out early too, a typically shy looking grey brown creation. Incidentally, late at night by my place, there are some really big ones wafting about, haven't seen a bat take one yet. Really hoping though...

Saturday, 25 June 2011

flaxy plant thing up the moor

Ilkley Moor Alien Abductions

I guess I feel I didn't do the magnificent Ilkely Moor justice when I wrote about it a couple of days ago. Maybe I feel guilty about having referred to it as bleak, afraid that vengeful moorland spirits or elves will come after me.

Well it is bleak, but in a beautiful, lush and wet sense of the word. It is a hard place to live, although plenty does, treeless and damp and mulchy underfoot. Look closely and small white flowers grow everywhere, and all manner of interesting plants I can't dream  of identifying. As well as the everywhere Meadow Pipits, gulls and jackdaws scratch at the blustery air and on a clear day the sky stretches as far as the furthest of galaxies.

Which reminds me of today reading once again the story of how a police officer came across an alien up here.

It's not that isolated up here! But at night...well, I could believe all manner of strangenesses taking place then...and I would never try and cross the moor against the advice of the strange locals in the strange local pub!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

On Ilkley Moor Bar 'tat

Beautiful! Was up there yesterday, and having had a piece of fish the size of Moby Dick's father at the Cow and Calf near the top of the moor, me and my sister headed out for a walk to see what we could find amongst the ferns and the rocks.

It's lovely, but in some ways rather bleak under grey skies with a hundred mile an hour wind blowing - no butterflies to be seen up here! The Cow and Calf rocks are near a little rock amphitheatre, where a pigeon was testing out the acoustics by making booming coo - ey noises from 30 feet up, and my sister tested out my nerves by attempting to climb the less shear sides of the bowl. I'd love to out on a Pink Floyd type gig!

We retraced our steps and headed up the side of this formation, nearer the top of the moor, finding all manner of plants including a sort of cotton flax plant thing growing near the boggier parts - photos later - and everywhere meadow pipits would fly out of the ferns, with a charecteristic "peep peep" double whistle, and arrow back down again. Had a really good look at a couple of these little brown birds, which are cute despite their unshowy plumage.

Didn't stay long, as bad weather seemed to be closing in, and we had a few beers to consume back in the city! But it is a spectacular place up there, I really envied the group of kids camping in the shelter of a stand of trees. I wanted to be young again.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

birdsfoot trefoil

ringlet and insects

beacon hill nursery

Photo expedition to Beacon Hill reserve

It is, off course, rather laughable to entitle my post this, as the term "photo expedition" I think implies a well equipped naturalist type in camouflage gear festooned with pockets, and carrying sophisticated photographic equipment and perhaps even wearing a floppy hat.

The expedition of course, will be a Steve Backshall style extravaganza, deep into the heart of Headhunter country on the island of Sumatra, and you can almost hear the breathy reverential voiceover.

Me of course, was just off on my rickety pushbike to Notts Wildlife's Beacon Hill reserve, with the daft intention of taking picture of butterflies on my mobile phone. My digital camera is so old it doesn't even have the resoloution of my Samsung, plus the fact there is a 5 second lag after you've pressed the button.

With the sun out, Beacon Hill is a very pretty proposition, especially if you can get the industrial estate out of your eyeline! I picked the top end of the nursery, by the copse that the path from the oilseed rape field goes through, as I figure this is where the butterflies go these days.

I wasn't disappointed. The Ringlets are now out on large numbers, although I didn't see any Speckled Woods today which have been around earlier in the year. Some species of white was relentlessly flying among the bramble flowers, having had a good look at the various species, I'm leaning towards to the Small White as being the species due to the small black spots on the wing - they never ever settle, it seems!

For photography of this sort, having the patience of a saint doesn't even remotely cut it. Because, with living, breathing and especially moving, creatures, it is impossible! St Francis of the iPhone wouldn't be able to do it - everything just flies off as soon as you get within any kind of shooting distance - i.e. less than a foot. A folded up Ringlet let me get a shot, but the Large Skipper I was very keen on shooting just was far too quicksilverish, even though there were a few about.

I did get a shot of a couple of funny looking insects in some sort of mating ritual though, and I got a very pretty shot of Birds Foot Trefoil though the bumble bees who clearly love them like everything else, just wouldn't stay put. They were too busy filling their pollen sacs, which were so large and bulging with pollen I was amazed they could fly! Although I'm sure they could still laugh at the giant intruder lying on the ground trying badly to photograph them.

So, it was still a nice hour in the best sun we had all day. Although I could have done without the guy thrashing around on his motorbike like it was his own personal "Junior Kick Start".

Monday, 20 June 2011

I was dreading this

I can't describe how much I wasn't wanting to write this blog entry. I was dreading it, I've been pottering about on youtube or rearranging my MP3 drawer to get out of it.

Reason being, today was my longest run. Longest run ever. 2 1/2 hours. About 15-16 miles. Over a half marathon, and I saw a hell of a lot. I thought this blog post would go on forever. So, I'll try and do a zip file job on this and compress it a bit, for your sake and mine.

It was a beautiful day, and I headed initially up the 4 and a 1/2 miles or so out to Cotham on the sustrans 64. Lots of wildflowers, lots of butterflies! Lots and lots! Including the first Ringlets I've seen this year, lots of Meadow Browns and Whatever Whites, and a few Peacocks too. Lots of flowers, honeysuckle, some sweet pea violet looking things, and near the not as nice as Liz Bonnin's rubbish tip, something new growing in the fields.

Solar Panels. We now have a Solar Energy farm out here! Pity it won't take the smell out of the tip though.

Heading from Cotham to Hawton, still a few butterflies in the verges, but I saw a lot of Yellowhammers and Goldfinches sitting proudly on their various vantage points as usual. One male yellowhammer sat on the road with a duller female / juvie by way of contrast was so yellow I thought it was a discarded crisp packet!

Across now the bleak bleak road to Farndon, never very much to see along here, although the views from the top of the new road construct were great!

In Farndon Willow Holt, the meadows are lovely and so were the Meadow Browns, out here in great abundance. Further along around the river where I got hacked off by midges and my knees began to creak, small tortoiseshells about, and also (yay!) a few banded demoiselles. A heron flapped slowly across my path, like some sort of steampunk aircraft, but it's a pity the buttercup meadows have been taken out.

By the time I got back to town, I was hitting the wall a bit, and was so stiff I was running like one of the Shaun of the Dead, Dead. And there wasn't a lot to see, well it's town, and it's THIS town so what do you expect. Man, I just wanted to survive by this point as Lincs FM pumped "Don't Dream Its Over" tauntingly in my ear.

PS some upsetting and frankly bizarre fly tipping about. A graffitied fridge at the exit of the 64 at Cotham, a disused vivarium near Farndon. And a couple of dodgy looking tyoes seemed to be asking me to help them nick some chainlink fence they were struggling with. I think.

I had my headphones on, so I could have been wrong.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Life in the hellhole of work

Just a quick one really, as today I've spent 12 hours on the last day of my shift, daydreaming stories while indeed making script notes in a naughty dark corner, thinking about Bafta accceptance speeches and whether I should write under (yet another) pseudonym.

How wants to be their own boring everyday selves, anyway?

Digress digress, fails to I was having a sneaky little water break at work today where if you spin out the supping, you can get as long as 60 seconds looking at the same bloody old episode of Top Gear on the Dave channel all the blobby engineers insist on watching all the blobby bloody day.

Today though, in the normally lifeless (even when full) canteen, a large moth was flapping like mad against the unopenable window. Life! Proper life! Showing some fight, not anaethetized into cortex death by Jeremy Clarkson. It flapped, it buzzed, it flew until exhausted, then after twitching its long pair of antennae, it began again, ignored by all the stem dead but me. I don't know moths at all, it was largish, unshowily marked in various browns and rather furry, but I was very glad I saw it, although I could do little for the poor fellow. I wonder if it ever found a way out?

We have had Pied Wagtails in the building before, but today there was a flock  of them outside as I cycled home. I'm seeing either females or a lot of juveniles about at the moment, I'm guessing, rather rather boring grey heads. A flock of starlings chattered on a high fence, and everywhere there were rabbits, taking in a watery evening's sun before charging off away from my menacing presence into scraggy fields of grass and ragwort.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Life in the silver birch

I wonder where the little goldcrest goes that spends late winter / early summer eating the leaf buds on a silver birch tree outside the window here. It is always a cute little sight, a feathered ping pong ball with a golden mohican stuffing its little beak. In summer, not a sign of it, I suppose they do really boring stuff like going off and breeding and things!

I'd never seen one in my life until about three years ago, and now they are regular visitors to this council bugging tree that every local artisan with a chainsaw thinks should be hacked down, according to the number of often rather misspelt flyers that get stuffed through the letter box. Well, if the goldcrests like it, it stays!

Coal Tits like it too, in winter they like to root around in the bark on the trunk for insects of some kind while the more PR savvy Blue Tits get on with hanging upside down and posing for xmas card pics with the robins.

It's a cracking tree, and it damn well stays! For me, the goldcrests and everyone!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Fair few butterflies day

First up, as usual, a correction. Notts Wildlife Trust reckon it was Sedge Warblers I saw in Willow Holt yesterday. Cetti's still rare in the county apparently, although they report them at Langford Lowfields. Looking at a pic, the size fits, as does the dark stripes round they eyes. Don't remember the backs being that streaked though! Told you I always misidentified things. At least it was a bloody warbler though.

Today ran a shade under 10k on the usual route past the lake and up to Beacon Hill. It was a strange day, warm, muggy, and alternately hot hazy sun, then prickling light-ish rain. Didn't think much would be out, but on Beacon Hill reserve, well the butterflies were out and pretty abundant.

The place to see them this year, rather than the "butterfly park" which is still a fly tipped mess, is the path from the oilseed rape (ugh) field down to the nursery. As I entered the nursery, a pair of Speckled Woods were spiralling around each other in front of me - courtship behaviour? Agression display? - and then as the nuresery opened out, I paused and saw various species about on the wildflowers and flowering grasses. Brown Argus were visible, but not close enough to be absoloutely certain. Meadow Browns were also about, the variation in colour in this species is very marked - saw one today that was nearly all dark grey apart from the almost golden area around the spot.

Some large white butterflies were in flight - don't ask me which white though, could be Large, Wood or Green veined I guess. A small blue butterfly was also around, most likely a common blue I guess. I do wonder at home though, are the blues I see round my holly tree Holly Blues which are supposedly very numerous this year, I never see them close enough!!! To go with the Large Skipper I saw yesterday, doing pretty well on the butterfly front.

Still wonder where all the Brimstones went, and now Ringlets too.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

red tailed bumble bee in bramble

Shirtless Willow Holt Warbling

It was a double date with nature on this really nice day.

Morning took me out to Willow Holt by bike, for a quiet sit in the sun to see what I might see. Everything looked pretty pretty - flowers were out, river quiet and teeming with ducks and geese, and sadly for you all, the author shamelessly shirtlessly sunbathing while poking around the river end of the holt taking photos - of which more later when my phone is charged.

Lots of birds at their usual "A-ha, you can't see me properly if I'm over here peasant!" distance, but I was hoping that being you know, all quiet and still and stuff would get rewarded and so it proved.

In a Willowy shrubby thing next to the river, some flitting, jerky movements caught my attention while I was photographing a bumblebee in a bramble flower. And there they were, a small flock of very slender little brown birds, long tails constantly twitching. At first I almost thought they were Goldcrests, so small they were in the body. But the understated beige underside and darker grey upper, plus what looked like a pale stripe through the eye with darker edging. I've ummed and ahhed all day - habitat and picture, well Cetti's Warbler seems to be possible, I know there are some round here. But do they go in small flocks? Please help, if anyone reads this.

After this enjoyable sunbathe (putting my shirt back on when any middle aged women passers by appeared with their dogs!) headed back to town along the river. Butterflies out in greater numbers, tortoiseshells and I think a few peacocks, but also more Common Blue Damselflies, possibly courting. Bloody neaon teases, I could never get my cameraphone close enough to photograph them. BUT I WILL KEEP TRYING!!!

This afternoon, I ran about 10k along london road lake and up the hill to Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill I scared up a fair few speckled woods, and saw another of those skipper butterflies - black tipped antennae, I was nerdy enough to look this time, this I believe indicates a large skipper. Lots of bramble blossom, and in the nursery these flowers like blue dandelions - cornflowers? By the river, a splendidly jurassic looking cormorant was hanging out its wings to dry.

And after this very sweaty run, I earned my drying off session  - in the sun, on a recliner, reading about Jeff Buckley, a man who's good looks I envied intensely!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Were you a warbler, twitchy bird

Now the weather has greatly improved, spent a bit of time in my garden and drive this morning and spotted the two now enormous Blackbird chicks sitting in the Buddleiah on their own and frankly looking rather stupid. Then a smart black white and grey bird joined them, which I realised was probably an immature great tit. Young sparrows about as well, clattering about on my fence with the adults, amid endless avian sparrowonic yackety yak that starts at morning twilight and never stops all day.

In the afternoon ran out to Willow Holt, where the sun was intermittently out and the meadows were looking splendid. Thought the warmer weather might bring out a few butterflies, and flitting amidst the long grass was a butterfly that wouldn't let me get anywhere near it for ages - it proved in the end to be my first Meadowbrown of the year. Saw a white of some kind at a distance, and also a small tortoisehell too, not very numerous this year compared to others, I reckon. Further round the river, in a patch of bramble and bindweed a Common Blue Damselfly was about, only the second damsel I've seen all year! I think the damsels and dragons have had a bad winter, I run a lot by water and see loads of them - no Banded Demoiselles in a spot I usually see plenty by the weir in town.

Finally, your incompetent, useless birdspotter in action. As I ran along the river bank as I exited Willow Holt, a small bird flew across my path and went into the trees, teasing me by staying just that crucial too many meters away to be seen clearly. I think it was a warbler of some kind - a slim elegant bird with a long tail that seemed to be consequently twitching, and a pale off white underside. I think I could make out brown on the head, so figured it for a female blackcap. I think.

Willow Holt is a lovely little spot for birds, and I really want to spend an hour or two quietly watching them and make a really good job of misidentifying them!

groundsel? ragwort? and not daisies

forget me nots and pink things in my very wild garden

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Collared, rather than Cerebral, Doves

Well my dear readers (whoever you may be, maybe I should only address you in the singular) adventures in running and wildlife have been scuppered by weather. And my awful job. Although in the warehouse I've seen Pied Wagtails on a few occasions trotting along the floor amidst the spare parts. How they are getting in, who knows. You can't smuggle a malterser out...

Did have a midshift run along london road lake a couple of nights ago, but it was chucking it down so nothing much to see apart from streams of dirty water cascading off my forehead. I had planned to do my RSPB hour of wildlife watching today after a run, but again it has been bucketing down. Looking out the window even the sparrows had shut and decided to stay in and quietly watch Morse.

All this rain reminds me of Collared Doves - the fact that this is the sort of weather that their nests seem to get invariably washed away in. Which may be why I haven't seen so many of them around this year. Normally near my folks house somewhere, there would be at least one pair of these elegant but not terribly bright birds nesting in the middle of someone's guttering. There they would be, all settled in, when the first heavy rain of spring would cause a huge dam of water to form on the edge of the roof, heavily splattering anyone putting the bins out, before in an avian disaster movie scenario the nest would give way and splatter sticks, twigs and eggs in front of someone's door.

Last year, in mum's garden, they more sensibly picked a silver birch tree to reside in. Only, the nest was in a fork of bough allowing a nest with an approximate load bearing area about the size about a 50p coin to be built. If the bird was laying M and Ms they might have had a chance, but as it happened the bird looked comically oversized sitting on a flimsy bundle of kindling. Eventually the thing ended up tilted to one side like a frenchman's beret and even the dove least likely to  win bird brain of britain gave it up as a bad job.

This year, not seen so many Collared Doves about. Perhaps they are getting fed up with all the coverage the Turtle Dove is getting these days and have gone on strike. In any event, in their tilting, precarious flood causing nests, I wish them well.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Prompted by Springwatch on farmland birds

I remember when virtually every field round here was full of lapwings at certain times of the year, flying along with their big chunky squared off wings or trotting along the ground in their Beau Brummel irridescent green coats and rampnant crest.

Then I barely saw one for years but now in the fields on the outskirts of Newark you do see a few now, in small flocks less than ten or so, or on their own.

I also remember the local Clay Lane Park, as well as being populated by rough kids who would throw cricket stumps at your head (believe me it leaves a nasty old bruise) was also loaded Skylarks; they would launch themselves straight into the sky like rockets with a great skirl of song, before falling back to earth in the long grass. Although as you see from this blog plenty lives in and around this park, the park itself doesn't have a lot happening. Apart from me running across it; no chance of getting a stump in the head these days. Or a skylark, I haven't seen one since those days, 25 plus years ago.

IN OTHER NEWS - Chris Packham has been mainly rocking The Manic Street Preachers in his quotes this year, although I got the Beck referencing "Devil's Haircut" and the even more obscure "You CAn't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" by Johnny Thunders. I've asked his poodles via twitter if more daring references from perhaps The Stooges or The Dead Kennedys could be thrown in..."Chemical Warfare on our farms has reduced the number of birds found there" for example...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A new butterfly!

Today's run took in the full length of Clay Lane, and after noting the increased number of Greylag Geese on London Road lake, found my way onto the lane with the hope of seeing something interesting.

The full length of the lane is a fun place - there's usually something to see flapping out of bushes or fluttering about the Cow Parsley that is absoloutely everywhere at the moment. A goldfinch posed on a hedge for me; a swallow cut through the air just over my head as I ran through the green wheat field at the end of the lane. Most trips I'll see a Bullfinch somewhere. Not today though.

Today, I thought I would take a detour through the hedge, near the rape and poppy field I talked about yesterday and had a close look at today - and found myself on a swiftly running out path in a pretty non descript field. Nothing to see. Nowhere to run. Turned around.

As I did so, I noticed a couple of Speckeld Woods settling on some long grass - they settle with wings spread so you can get a bloody good look, and was able to contrast the size and patterns of the two specimens - quite a noticeable difference, the base colour was a rather lighter brown on the smaller one too. But as I looked, a third set of a-fluttering wings flitted through my view, and settled on another stalk, wings closed this time.

I knew immediately this was a different butterfly family from the ones I'm used to seeing - the wings were a delta shape, the four of the grouped rather like the flight of a dart. The butterfly itself was a lovely golden brown-orange colour, with a dark edging to the wings. I had a feeling it was some kind of skipper, and sure enough when I got to this creaky little linux laptop, I found out that my best bet was...

A Large Skipper! Or...a Small Skipper! Essex Skipper! I am ashamed to report, in all my cretinous stupidity, that I failed to note the colour of the antennae tips, which is apparently about the easiest way of telling these butterflies apart. I will give myself a de-merit mark for ignorance. The wiki picture of the Large Skipper looks nearest, so I'll go with that.

The rest of the run was a squally drenching, leaving my khaki not very good or sensible running shorts nearly see through - nasty. Saw that the beds of Birds Foot Trefoil are out at Beacon Hill now.

NB 1 - I'm garbage and a half at botany - took ages of me (or my mother when I visited!) researching in the ancient Observers book of Wildflowers too remember what bloody Cow bloody Parsley is! Like the big droopy yellow Lily's of some kind I'm seeing in the water at the mo though. I promise I will beef up on my plants and post more pictures.

NB 2 - When I got home later on from a banana buying trip, daddy blackbird was feeding two well fledged, but still gaped and miles larger than he was blackbird chicks on my drive. They were really giving him the runaround too!

Monday, 6 June 2011

The psychedelic patchwork

Today's run was a midday 5 1/2 - 6 mile trot on the usual route - London Road Lake, Clay Lane Hill, Beacon Hill. Feeling a shade de-hydrated because of a couple of drinks I'd had the night before while discussing classic 30s horror films, and I'd forgotten to buy my energizing, hydrating, isotonically enhancing orange gunk from Morrisons. Although how it does all this amazing stuff for 45p a bottle is beyond me.

What there was to see, well it was drab and grey and no-one in the furry feathery kingdoms seemed all that up for action, apart from I think a Kestrel which was spiralling up over the Beacon Hill nursery. But, the plants were looking great! Bramble blossom is out everywhere (which White Admirals and some Fritillary or other likes according to Chris Packham), and the Honeysuckle is flowering by London Road Lake. Wish there was some next to the Oilseed Rape field at the entrance to Beacon Hill reserve, to negate the horrible cloying sickly smell of those yellow flowers.

When you are running, it is really really gloopily noticeable, and seems to almost start to clog your lungs! No-one seems to harvest the stuff round here, it just seems to sit there in the fields until it fades out. Although how it is harvested, I'm not sure. Do you just combine it up? Who reapeth the rape?

But although to me it is a pretty but athletically hindering sight, it did produce today's most striking sight. When I'd dragged myself up the attractive path from Clay Lane to the middle of Beacon Hill estate, I looked back out towards Balderton and further afield, Claypole aand between Clay Lane and Barnby Lane there was this stunning stunning field.

A field of rape was starting to fade a little, and amongst the sea of pale yellow, huge clumps of poppies had come out. From a distance it looked like a red and yellow psych out freak out 60s album cover; a flag of a small central African Country that Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol had got at.

Totally gorgeous, and I wish I had the means of taking a decent picture of it. As with so many things.

IN OTHER NEWS - for some strange reason, I have corresponded with Chris Packham's poodles Itchy and Scratchy, who laughed and scoffed at my liking for Talk Talk ("Life's What You Make It" is the most Springwatchy music video ever in my view) but thought I was an ok guy for liking Husker Du.

Never knew Poodles were into classic 80s melodic hardcore!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Well that was annoying

Was doing a really good post about todays 15k run, around London Road Lake and Balderton Lake and beyond. Unfortunately my bloody Firefox crashed that tab and now I can't recover it! Bugger.

So to recap in note form.

1) London Road Lake is fairly bland although years ago I saw a white throated diver (or similar) here before the camo wearing camera wielding twitchers descended. I didn't realise what it was.

2) Pretty moorhen chick on the bank of London Road lake, like a black pom pom with comedy huge feet. Mummy likes nesting by the dyke at the Barnbygate end of the lake.

3) Bullfinches on clay lane, they seem to like it here amongst the hawthorns.

4) Butterflies out again, a few speckled woods in the nursery on Beacon Hill reserve. Was interested to note that Springwatch confirmed my own observations that Orange Tips have done very well this year.

5) I was thinking about my two hot as sci fi feature scripts I want to write as well as trying to see the pretty birdies and animals. I write all sorts you see!

So, bloody firefox wiped the better writing I did, although for all I know most of you think I'm rubbish and can't write for jack and should write no more than a sentence a day. I love writing, the achievement of it, but as I find it murderously hard to concentrate, it does not come easily to me. I just so want to be liked....*laughs*

Writing needs to be my life!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Trip to Willow Holt

Was hoping for better weather last night, but didn't get it so my Willow Holt trip was a little cooler and duller than I though. And shorter!

But when I got there, just for a sparse few minutes, it was worth it to not waste a summers evening, even after a twelve hour shift in a dump of a warehouse with another twelve to follow. Without music in my ears, in the low of an evening rather than a high afternoon, the area of the holt nearest the river became mysterious, and alive with sights and sounds.

Where did those goats come from?

What are these wildflowers I photographed below reasonably badly?

What are those pretty birds with longish tails and a pale underside dancing avianly on that tree, just too far away to see clearly?

What are those other sounds, chirps cheeps churrs and zzzzurrs I can hear beneath the penetratingly sweet song of the blackbird? Is there an owl in that nest box? What about the smaller one? Questions I had no time to resolve, but wish to visit again on a brighter evening with some educatably attractive company and a bottle of wine in order to do so. And all the time in the world.

I can imagine the atmosphere increasing as a lazy and part clothed in haze sun sinks lower above the river - all manner of new things to see and hear parading themselves in front of the ignorant fool on a bicycle as he gazes at more plants wondering what they were - yes, laugh creatures furred and feathered at the figure trying desperately to see you!

But I will get better at it, I swear!

more willow holt flowers

willow holt - useless botanist alert blue flowers

willow holt