Wednesday, 31 August 2011

No no swallows do not an autumn make

Ran out to Hawton today then across to Farndon and through Willow Holt before the river.

Was delighted to see that although there's none in town, there's still a few swallows out in the country - a few at Hawton, a few more eating midges on the river by the power station as a Cormorant sat atop a post watching all the old gents fishing.

I was glad to see the swallows, in this cool summer it gives you hope you might have a last couple of warm days before the thermals come out!

Willow Holt has had a haircut, and as I was surprised to find as I ran in through the Wyke Lane end, a herd of brown cows have moved in to that field. They were surprised as hell too and went running off, before pausing to regroup and take a few unfrightened steps towards me.

Being a coward, I figured a quick burst of speed would avoid a savage  harge by these terrifying beasts...I think I could have rested easy though.

In the wood by the river, a couple of biggish dragonflies still about, and by the river, I saw a peacock as well as plenty of whites. The cropped meadows mean no more gatekeeper or meadow brown though in the Holt.

Overall, a good run, but it was another drab grey green day and gives me unhappy thoughts of the days to come.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Poor Tufty

Today's run was a weird route I've only done once before - to Balderton and then along the length of Lowfield Lane. It's a curious spot, pretty open fields and sewage works. Ubiquitous Sloe and Hawthorn berries everywhere, and Robins are becoming more prominent as Summer ends. Their red breasts show up more as the colours fade.

No swallows to be seen anywhere.

Was delighted to find a place selling eggs along here with an honesty box outside! Have promised to go and get some for my mother, lovely big free range hen eggs, or maybe duck eggs if we're lucky.

Just love to see that sort of thing.

After running a long way back along the cycling path, Grebe and chum on the lake, more out eclipse Mallards (I make them sound like Pink Floyd fans with all this 'eclipse' business) on the lake, I came to the river to find a couple fishing on a barge - man I love barges, I so want one - returning a very large eel to the depths. Whoah, had to double take at that. Have never seen one of these taken before although I imagine it happens often enough. I doubt anyone fancies eating anything taken in Newark waters! I notice the authorities at the lake even took down the "Do Not Eat the Swans" signs. The polish folk found it hilarious to be branded as swan eaters!

Later, saw a Squirrel killed on the road. One second a happy quicksilver ball of fur, the next it just ran straight onto the busy road. Like I fool I cried out as two cars hit it. Upsetting. Poor thing.

A grey end to a grey grey day. It's like running through a Husker Du song.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Martins are Massing

Today's run went out to the British Gypsum site today, up a distinctly autumnal feeling Sustrans 64 cycle path, berried rather than flowered, the field harvests all in and everything cut to stubble.

No dragonflies by the little fishing pond by the ID whatever it is site. Still WOrthington Simpsons in my brain. IDK is it?

So ran along the rather nothing road back into town, then the long slog into a headwind along Grange Road, having nasty perfume on women wafted up my nose while they were still thirty yards away.

On Sconce Hills park, noticed in the distance that a lot of birds were massing. Thought initially it might be swallows ready to "Fly to EEEEEGGGYYYPT" - how I love that phrase - but as I dragged myself along, I realised that they were little characteristically chubby and stubby House Martins, plumper than swallows but just as capable of carving the air to filament with their wings.

There were two big flocks - one at the Valley Prospect end of the park, and another over the river where they have the picnic tables. Maybe 50 plus birds or more in each flock. Very active, swooping around, sometimes quite close, little white rumps showing against a grey and green backdrop of trees dull sky and a depressed looking fottie pitch.

Don't know whether this was a stuffing themselves exercise, or whether this is them massing prior to heading south, I don't know. But it made the trip for me.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Cricket and white flowers

Another bright, but thin, brittle day with a cold old breeze seemingly blowing in your face no matter in which direction you are running.

Did the two lakes (and missed out Beacon Hill, figured it would be as muddy as hell up there) but did a strategic few laps of a cricket match at Elm Field, the old RHP ground. God, that leg spinner, reckon I could have panned him out the park. And I was a hopeless batsman.

Not much action on the two lakes - Mallards and Coots mainly, but as I set off down the cycle path to the railway station, noticed a few White and Peacock butterflies around what's left of the buddleiah. Also noticed this new plant that seems to have flowered late, clinging to the depressing and creaky chicken wire fence that separates the path from the cheap and scratchy looking East Coast Trains hammering up North and down South.  It has these feathery looking, trailing white flowers that could easily belong on mars.

Not a clue what it is, as usual.

I apologise for this blog being written by the most idiotic botanist ever to walk the earth. The prisoners in Plato's cave would identify plants better. I just have no idea where to go - the world of the green leafy and flowery things is just so huge!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

All feels like shutting down

Only a shorter 5 mile route today or so, noticed again that aa few of the mallard drakes seem to be coming out of eclipse and getting their bottle green heads again. The Great Crested Grebe was back on London Road Lake after some sort of holiday, the Tufted Ducks still seem to be on theirs.

All the Blackberries have been eaten by the birds. And irritating children.

Beacon Hill is losing its colour, Buddleiah's fading fast. Only have dim memories of seeing a few White butterflies about. EVerything feels bleached out blanched out, summer colour washing away on a bright, sunny yet 'thin' feeling sort of day.

I've ttried to make the most of it, but it doesn't seem like there's been a really proper summer this year. What will I be able to look for at Langford or Beacon Hill or Willow Holt as the autumn blows in on a flow of golden leaves?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Too tired to look about me

I was feeling fat yesterday - thyis time off work has drawbacks you know! - and so decided to run a half marathon on the course used by the town for the race a couple of weeks ago.

4 and a half miles in after the unscenic slog around Hawtonville, decided that this was damn stupid and figured that doing a tour of the two lakes and Beacon Hill would be better. Who needs to go out in the bleak vastnesses beyond British Gypsum?

So theoretically I should have loads to report, but as I ended up running for over two hours and probably half marathon distance anyway, looping up and down London Road and out along Clay Lane, I don't. Apart from the fact that my legs aren't as sore as I expected. There are still a few red admirals about, and on Clay Lane a flock of Long Tail Tits were "zupping" in the Hawthorns and Elderberries; as ever a most pretty sight. Seems to be spring and autumn when you see these little flocks the most, I say without anything really to back this up bar a wonky memory.

Weather foul today, so may not get out at all. Lazy lazy boy.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Aerial Killers

Today, I spent hours outside.

But they were mainly lazy hours. I've been running for five straight days and my legs are sore, my ankles ache, my back creaks...yeah, and what I really wanted to do was just sit in the sun all damn day!

And mostly I did.

But, you must get out and do something more positive on a glorious day like this, in a summer where we've had so few of them, so I figured I could combine a bit of a sunbathe with a bike trip to Willow Holt and that's what I did, risking the nasty roadworks and the A46.

So, parked up by the river at the back end of Willow Holt, I lazed around, keeping my eyes open of course, but just generally feeling good. In contrast with what I've read, still seemed to be a few of the little Sedge Warblers flitting about the willows on the water and swallows swooped about the river.

But as I trotted around, frighteningly shirtless and jeans rolled up to reveal odd socks, every so often, a menacing shape would cast a cold shadow across my face...

You'd think only a largish bird would do that, but as I turned, I found that it was a large dragonfly. As ever maddeningly never settling so I can get a proper look at it let alone photograph it, it hummed past my head, another, more frightening steampunk little war machine (see what I wrote about ladybirds) flying in a spiky series of straight lines. 

It wasn't alone either, there was a fair few of them about on this little stretch of riverbank. And they were hungry too - they were flying high, and as I watched, they were effortlessly taking smaller insects on the wing; just sailing up behind them and plucking them out of the sky. You could almost hear the chomping. What beautiful and staggeringly effective pocket Spitfires they are. They are even painted up like a particularly flash airfix model.

For eventually a few of them came close enough to me to get a decent view of the colour scheme. They were all of the same species - bronzey looking wings, a large head and thorax patterned in yellow and an abdomen of greeney-blue. Not solid coloured so not an Emperor, I'm pretty sure now that these Dragonfly, which I see more of than any other round here, are Common Hawkers.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Steampunk Ladybirds

Ran 6-7 miles today, the back way from Clay Lane to Beacon Hill, past yet another fly tip halfway up, past the fallen tree. Horrendous. I've notified the council to keep an eye on the area, no idea if they are doing so or not.

It was warm, but the sun was only intermittently out. Good job, as I didn't have one of my low cost and probably useless isotonic drinks with me and was feeling a bit overheated. Stupid boy.

Still the odd Gatekeeper to be seen in Beacon Hill at the Nursery End, but Butterfly Park, well the Buddleiahs are over, and all the peacocks and red admirals. As in spring we counted them in, now one by one we count them gone. The Birds Foot Trefoil is over as well, those lovely little yellow carpets.

Suddenly the House Sparrows have come back from their holidays, and are screeching about in little flocks on the industrial estate, and back on my drive.

Been wanting to write about ladybirds again. There's a lot of 7 spotters around in my garden - and a yellow and black one turned up on my arm the other day - and I love watching them fly about. They are like dinky little steampunk airships, little buzzing wings, opened up carapace and dangling legs. You could see them in Alan Moore, League of Extraordinary Gentleman or some other piece of victorian dystopia, piloted by a beggogled waistcoat wearing type. Airborne steampunk disco!

Man, how I'd love that!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Hobby - Today's Big Attraction

And what came out to feast on the dragonflies? While taking in the sun and scanning the trees behind the hide I noticed a falcon rising up from seemingly the farmers field - where there had been a lot of clanking and whirring from some sort of baler or harvester - and then disappear out of my view as it headed out behind the tall hedge onto the river end of the reed bed.

Ach, probably another Kestrel, I thought to myself.

But then looking out from the hide, it suddenly veered into view high from the right, not hovering like a kestrel and with I think a slimmer body shape with narrower tail and wings, sickle like wings in fact.

Very evidently it was hunting for prey on the water, until as it made its way round to where the RSPB hut was, it suddenly stooped, dropping like a stone almost onto the water, a process it repeated a couple of more times as it followed the water course away to the left.

I've read about it often enough, it would appear that finally I've seen the Langford Lowfields Hobby.

And not before time, it can't be long before it scuds off down south for the winter and was presumably stuffing itself with dragonflies by way of preparation, which are very numerous at the moment.

It wasn't done with me, as I cycled back up the path it was working over Lake 1 before heading into the wood. Excited, its a magnificent fast flier, it seems to be barely moving and then you realise its another hundred metres further away!

Late Summer at Langford Lowfields

A beautiful morning clouded over the second I climbed on my bike, which is typical. As soon as the sun came out when I arrived on site, I took my shirt off in the heat and immediately attracted every biting insect within 132 miles. This is also typical.

What was not typical was seeing lots of interesting things before I even got to the hide. The air was alive with damsel and dragon flies, in particular some very vivid red specimens. Not so many butterflies now, but a peacock was on the path, unusual for me to see one here.

And on Lake 2, an Egret was settled on the bank, had a good watch through my field glasses at this pure white elegant little heron, sinuously striding about looking for fish and frogs.

It would have had more chance there than on the main reed bed by the hide, because the water level there is really low. A rather landlocked swan was just about visible behind the hedge, and no herons anywhere - water level must be too low. But another Egret was visible in the middle of the bed, and a little later another one was stalking in front of where the RSPB hut used to be! They've moved it!

One thing I've learned to do, is now pay attention to the ground and the hedges behind me, as well as the reed bed. Well worth it too, as today lots of Small Blue Butterflies, these little flying parma violets were feeding on the birds foot trefoil. Far too wary little things to let me get near enough to photograph them though!

Again there was a Common Blue Damselfly, but a short time later, I spotted an unfamiliar specimen of similar size but with a mainly blue black abdomen with a neon blue tip at the end. Research indicates that this was a blue tailed damselfly.

They are all blue somethings, aren't they?

And back on the path on the way back up, I was able to get a decent look at the red dragonflies that were so numerously out today. One landed nearby, wings spread, not folded. Definitely a dragonfly then. I vaguely remembered about certain darter species being this vivid red colour, and indeed I believe it to  have been a Common Darter. I think I saw a broad bodied chaser as well, despite the RSPB reckoning they aren't common at Langford, and there a few of the big ones that look like WW1 Albatros D5 german biplanes. Emperors?

All these dragonflies about must have been the reason I finally got a chance to see today's main attraction...

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Tonight I fly for Eeeeeeeggggpyt

7 mile run today, full length off Clay Lane route. The Sloes are starting to appear, making my mother slaver at the prospect of me finally making some Sloe gin for her.

Same slavering as every year! It'll never happen. I will endeavour to collect some though when they are ready, and must get at the Blackberries before they are over as well. Always a bit nervous about picking berries in the wild though. Orgo warned me about this on He Man when I was a child, and I still heed his words about berry picking!

LOL, should be ok with Sloes and Blackberries though. They are pretty distinctive, no?

Ringlets seems to have gone at Beacon Hill, still Speckled Woods about, and plenty of Gatekeepers.

The swallows are still continuing to mass, sitting on telegraph wires or making confetti of the air with their wings as they feed for their lives. No idea how much longer we will have them; the swifts are already gone, it would appear.

Migrating swallows - I always think of Oscar Wilde and his story The Happy Prince. I mention this every year I'm sure, somewhere. The animated version of this I still cannot watch, even now. Like Born Free, brings me out in tears every time.

Friday, 19 August 2011

From the river to the lake

Today's run took me out to Kelham, across along the country lane to Muskham, and then back into town along the Great North Road.

It is, by no means a pretty road. It's busy roads, lorries, badly driven vans and bland farmscapes with all possible lanes blocked off with heavy tree trunks and gates to prevent fly tipping.

And on the lane to Muskham,risk of being taken out by a car. Shan't run along here, I declare.

Not much to see then, but I fancied a change. Plenty of Goldfinch and other finchy looking flocks in the hedges though. Because of the roads, I ducked out onto a footpath that led through a field along the Trent, again a rather unattractive stretch, but a Banded Demoiselle greeted me, and another big yellow brown dragonfly, similar to the ones I most commonly see at Langford Lowfields. A fair few white butterflies about too.

I found that the fences under the bridge to the Muskham lake had been vandalised, could easily have run round the lake. But fishermen were about and no doubt some rod wielder or other would have kicked up a fuss. So I just ran home along the road.

As usual, the lake was sterile, devoid of life, barely even a bush in sight. Really dislike that place. If the restricted access preserved wildlife, I wouldn't be bothered.

But there is barely nothing living to see.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

speckled wood

bracket fungus

Willow Holt bike trip

Before talking about that, had a run of absoloutely no value yesterday round and about Sconce and the River Devon - nothing to see! I saw more in my garden when I gapeling Blackbird - with fully grown tail though - rustled through the first fallen leaves and turned them over hither with vigorous hakes of its head. Tried to photograph it as it let me get quite close, obligingly it waited until the split nanosecond before my cameraphone was focussed, then jumped off onto another twig.

Just back, via Morrisons, from a trip on my Bike to Willow Holt reserve. It's a fine brightish day, but not exactly warm and when I got to my little stamping ground by the river end of the reserve on a park bench it seemed all the little birdies had gone to bed for the day. It was beautiful and peaceful, but not a mere twitter of birdsong to be heard. No waterfowl either, the Trent is usually well populated with Mallards and Canade Geese, but not today either. One thing I did notice is that the Black Headed gulls seem to have lost their heads already! Seems very early, wonder if the rubbish summer has done this. Come to think about it, I'm sure we are getting the first falling leaves early as well.

But I might be imagining it. My imagination can run riot somedays!

After fruitlessly scanning the canopy with my 10 x 25s and finding nothing, I wandered around the woodland a little and found a couple of photographic subjects - a little Speckled Wood, and a fantastic bracket fungus on a tree. Will put those up later, I'm not staying on this library computer a second longer, the hamsters aren't spinning the internet wheel quick enough.

And then, as I was leaving and the sneaky little fellows had spotted me doing so, the birds started singing.

In celebration no doubt.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Oh sweet lil' rodent thing

Got some time off work so plan to be active.

Did tour of the two lakes today, ran about 9 miles or so in quite warm humid conditions. As ever the big Balderton lake was pretty boring, the only noteworthy sight being a couple of white domestic ducks that seem to have moved in - lot of hybrid mallards on this lake and the London Road lake.

London Road Lake - quiet

Clay Lane - quiet, still lots of fly tipping evidence about, Whites, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers still about. The corn paints a warming cast on the fields. I felt like collapsing into it and leaving a creamcrackered man shape kind of corn circle. I was hot by then.

Beacon Hill reserve is getting very tangly and overgrown with late summer plants, I guess, saw a skipper amongst the thistles.

All the ringlets seem to have disappeared.

The novel sight of the day was actually running alongside London Road lake. About 5 metres in front of me (does google prefer me to be metric?) a wee dinky little rodent scuttled across the path in front of me. No idea what it was, didn't seem to have much of a tail tail and looked a little big to be a mouse. Bank Vole? No idea. But I've never seen such  a sight before in all my runs along the cycle track.

Goes to show, really, that there is always something new to see, even in the most familiar of places.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

My photography tips and techniques

As I'm walking through the streets, or minding my own business while busy at work, people often come up and ask me the secrets of how I take my photographs of wildlife.

It's a fairly simple technique, and the equipment I use is well within the compass of the casual amateur. I use a Samsung Mobile Phone with a 5 mp camera on it, and use a stalking technique for getting near the subject matter. I lie on the ground and wriggle towards my quarry before pointing the camera at it and hoping it doesn't fly / run off before the slightly slow mobile camera responds. A range of about 9 inches seems to be optimum.

Or, you can use the well tried "stand over it and hope while not breathing" method. Works somtimes.

Butterflies seem to be often best photographed by leaping about like a stupid person from Buddleiah plant to plant, firing off shot after shot and hoping you get a clear one!

My lighting rig consists of the sun when it's out, preferably at the right sort of angle to not leave everything dazzled out.

Editing - well I can crop pics on the phone, but no photoshopping or dreamweaving!

LOL seriously I would love to get hold of a decent camera and try some decent bird and wildlife stuff; it would also be handy for my sci fi work and ideas I have for 80s style photostories.

But for now, just with a mobile phone camera, I get the odd really nice pic.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Megabites to report

So, after yesterdays trip to Langford followed by a long run and walk in the evening, today I've got some terrific itches on my arms, face, and stomach!

These insects who so intrigues me yesterday, appear to have decided to repay me by biting the hell out of me! They don't feel exactly like standard mossie bites either, hotter, more painful, so maybe it was the big bugger horseflies or the funny flies wih red eyes and camouflaged wings like a vulcan bomber that got me.

By the way, I'm sure mosquitoes seem much larger these days, so large in fact I'm surprised folk don't haemorrhage to death when bitten.

Didn't see much on todays run, the west end of Beacon Hill is still yellow with ragwort, with a bit of purple thistle thrown in, and the Buddleiah are still just about in bloom - didn't do a butterfly check though.

I was on a running mission - I felt very lazy!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

hoverfly species 2

hoverfly species 1

common blue damselfly

Insects at RSPB Langford Lowfields

Golly gee. Got some lovely pictures for you in a bit.

Today headed off for Langford Lowfields, as usual when I choose to do this it was windy as hell, and one of those special winds that is always blowing hard in your face no matter which way you are travelling.

Noticed all the way across from Winthorpe that after the swallows and the martins, the finches are gathering in flocks - saw separate flocks of chaffinch, goldfinch and greenfinch, but no metal detectorists this time. Everyone is feeding themselves up on insects before winter I guess. There's certainly plenty of them around.

As I found out when heading down the path to the hide. Dragonfly were everywhere, and lots of different species. Erm, really big ones; not quite so big as the really big ones, metallic looking yellow brown ones, ruddy brown looking ones that also look a bit furry, and, um, some quite smaller ones.

I really need dragonfly lessons! To be less facetious, reckon I saw an Emperor and a Common Hawker, but nowhere near certain, as for the others, well *scratches head*.

And when I reached the hide on this warm day, I was being treated as a mobile drinking fountain by every buzzy thing in the known universe. I was a little irritated, and a bit disappointed to see that the reed bed was seemingly devoid of life. And the water level was low too.

But it was a nice day, I decided to be patient.

Sure enough, eventually a whitethroat appeared on a nearby bush before making it's way off down the bed towards the river. But then a bright flash of white was seen in the distance. That bright, even I know there's only one thing it could be, and sure enough, through my field glasses a snow white Egret made its way down the sort of valley that forms the reed bed, right across in front of the hide, before seeming to settle out of sight at the river end of the bed.

Turned around, and a  vivid fuscia pink Bullfinch was sat on top of the hedgerow. But it was down amongst the grass and the Ransome (?) that I managed to score my biggest prizes. Lying down, like a fool but warm in the sun, I managed to wriggle in close enough to get some nice pics of two different species of hoverfly on my Samsung mobile phone.

And then, spotted a Common Blue Damselfly - I think, I couldn't tell this apart from an Azure - and sneaked up and managed to get a pic of that.

And it came out fantastic. So, the insects are not so annoying...

You'll see the pics in a minute.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Whitwell, Eglestone and Rutland Water

Well, the folks decided to go to Rutland Water today, and asked if I wanted to come with. After their reports about the visitor centre at Eglestone, I was eager to come and see what birds I could see in these lagoons of the main body of Rutland Water, and also because I really wanted to spend some time looking at folk in beautiful boats and being made to feel really envious!

So we lunched al fresco at Whitwell watching aforesaid nice boats and listening to the upper class accents, and reflecting on how wetsuits are not flattering to anyone's backside.

Unless you are Jessica Alba.

The only birds were overfed mallards and crows stuffed with overpriced leftovers from the cafe. Well, this was no good, so this was the time to get dropped off at Eglestone reserve for a look around.

I look around, I'm afraid it was more of a "Look out at." For there is a charge to get down amongst the hides and stuff, and I am far from flush. 6 quid for an hour and a halfs birdwatching seemed very steep to me. And I'm an RSPB, not Wildlife Trusts, member. I know these places have a hell of an upkeep, but while it is probably excellent value for a full on near pro birdwatcher with a telescope and flash camera - and there were lots of these folk about, with an almost military feel about them - it's really off putting for the more casual, philosophic observer.

Luckily though, there were open windows to look through with my binoculars that weren't mine as I forgot them, and were far worse! Bought for a song from the AA by stepdad! But the telescope set up for casual viewers was a real treat, and I got superb views of cormorants, egrets, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, and a few terns effortlessly riding the breeze before dropping like missiles into the waters.

Still needed a walk though, as I felt guilty as hell for not getting out for a run in the morning. So I walked through the village, stopping to photograph a Gatekeeper butterfly and get my mother some honesty box Duck Eggs from the roadside, and then out through the deep golden cornfields and past a horse that clearly expected any human to be carrying sugarcubes and polo mints!

A nice day. But I still want a boat. And a hat for daywear!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Wagtails on the Wasteland

As I cycled out of work yesterday, the unattractive scrubby patch next to the cycle path that makes Paris - Roubaix cobbles seem as smooth as J-Lo's legs was busy with Wagtails twittering away amongst the ragwort and thistles.

Seemed to be both Pied and Yellow present, a rather prettier sight than the rather tatty crows you normally see here. A Pied Wagtail actually managed to get into work the other day and spent the whole day trying to get out through the skylights, peeping away with the stress.

"Go on, that way" I said, pointing away towards the outside. No-one else notticed the little feathered stray, it was a rather upsetting sight actually, the bird fooled by every skylight as it flitted up and down like a piece of origami rather than a living thing. It wasn't around the next day, so I presume it got out in the end, which is more than I can say for me.

For I too stare at the skylights and wish of a way out.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ladybird Ladybird

Too hot to do anything much but sit outside and read...

...although I still managed to go for a four or so mile run along the cycleway, as with yesterday most living things are not as stupid as I am.

What have been around in large numbers today have been ladybirds - everywhere you look you could see them floating around, looking oddly like a miniature version of the cute spiral flying lizards in the movie Avatar! Most of them were of the 6 spot variety, or what I though was the 6 spot variety until looking here;

And thus I see they are 7 spot ladybirds! There was another one, much smaller, with a series of blotches rather than spots. Doesn't seem to be on that list, although I will look again later.

Seeing as there are virtually no birds in my garden at the moment, they are probably living it up!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Small Blue or Common Blue?

Thanks to being bought a handy pocket butterfly guide with decent illustrations - thanks folks for getting me that on your trip to the RSPB site at Rutland Water - I can now tell Small Blue and Common Blue butterflies apart.

I know, it's probably not earth shattering news to the hot shot naturalists out there! But I'm pleased. I can now say I've seen both around my house.

The small blue is darker, and I as I remember thinking when I saw one out just as I was starting on my run yesterday, almost looked like a flying parma violet sweetie! The Common Blue is slightly larger, and a much truer, purer blue. Two of these were about the only butterflies I saw today, as I cut my grass with a pair of comially blunt shears.

In addition to this, might

The RSPB are right, everyone's gone!

Yep, just as they said online and in the latest edition of "Birds" all the garden birds have tripped out into the country for an all you can eat pre winter buffet.

The endless squabbling sparrows in my shrubs, the local raggedy robin, the thrushes, the blackbird impersonating a ringing telephone; all have gone. All that's left are a few Woodpigeon and Collared Doves - I'm sure these haven't been so numerous this year.

Today has been stupifyingly hot and humid without there actually being any sun, and most living things apart from me have been sensible and not done any flapping or fluttering. Me, I ran 6 miles and felt like I was dying, and there was nothing much to see today apart from the sweat streaming down my corneas.

It hurts! It stings! Owwwww!