Sunday, 30 October 2011

Park Life

(A one day delay on this report)

Decided to avoid running by the lake and through Beacon Hill reserve, and decided on a fine bright and pretty mild day, to head through Sconce Hills park and see what the people, and any wildlife might be doing.

I remembered sadly how not too long before I had seen swallows buzzing the football pitches, and another time seen massed groups of House Martins feeding themselves up before heading south. On this day the main life was provided by greater and lesser striped footballers - adults taking place in a casual training session it seemed, and then a bunch of young kids taking part in a proper match on the pitch next door.

I have to say, I love to see public spaces being used. That's why I love Brighton Lawns and promenade so much.

Was hoping to see if any birds were after any berries, but there didn't seem to be much of either in the orchard apart from a little vole I spotted running off from the base of a tree into the long grass!

I think the chilly near frosty night a few days ago has probably done for the dragonflies and red admirals.The dark is upon us.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Chris Packham is lying!!!

I went running through my local Waitrose car park today, as part of my 7 mile plus little trot, just running round a not terribly big car park looking for birds when there's lots of countryside around would be stupid!

And in this not terribly big car park, there weren't that many trees with berries on them, rather more a few low bushes; and in these not very many very berried trees, no Waxwings, Fieldfares or Redwings or indeed anything could be spotted.

I think the nature researcher pixies must glue pretty birds by their feet to trees when they hear that Chris is going out for a walk so he has lots of things to see and report.

Luckily, I love running outside, and so the absence of Waxwings didn't lead to suicide. There were flocks of Chaffinch again, seemingly very plentiful this autumn, and I saw a very pretty yellowhammer on the hedge by the wheat field at the end of Clay Lane, and the varying colours of the leaves everywhere as the fall continues, like a warmly coloured packet of fruit pastles, lots of pale yellows and fresh fruity greens darkening to blackcurrenty but probably overlychewy reds and browns and even purples.

Lovely out there today. Spend every moment outside you can! No doubt these "minus 20" temperatures the tabloids have mentioned will be upon us with clouds of white death snow anytime soon.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Red Admiral Patrol

Inspired by the BBCAutumnwatch twitter feed having an impromptu little survey, I decided to head out and hit the roads and tracks in Newark to see if I could see any. In the warmer weather of ten to fourteen days ago I saw a few here, even in my garden area, and a few being blown about on Brighton Seafront, and blog readers will spot that I've been reckoning them to be the hardiest of our butterflies this year.

Well alas, I didn't see any, nor any whites desperately hanging on in. But it was a lovely afternoon, and I enjoyed my 7 mile trek through a brown and green Beacon Hill reserve, the little trees in the nursery being various shades of ochre through to cherry red in the leaf department, and still plenty of berries for the birds of which flocks of Chaffinch and a zupping flock of Long Tailed Tits by the Aldi bridge were most noticeable.

As I was running by at just before 5pm, the Starlings were gathering on TV aerials and as I ran along the far bank of the river the eager beavers were just aking to the air for the evening promenade by KFC and McDonalds. What Jonathan Livngstone Seagull would call Breakfast Flock, it it was morning and not evening, was also taking to the sky.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

My berries are not yet being pillaged

Every chance I get, I have a little look at my Holly Tree and see if any glorious Redwings or Fieldfares have decided to come and get stuck into what's on offer - that'll be berries then - but at the moment I'm not managing to catch any visitors, not even the boring but temptingly plump Woodpigeons that treated the tree like Macdonalds last year.

Bit disappointing. I'm hoping to get some feeders up this winter and see what I can attract.

Missed the Orionid meteors, sky was cloudy last night although not this morning which was a wonderfully transparent black through which the stars shone. I'm aiming to do one meteorwatch in freezing temperatures in my garden chair in a sleeping bag, hat, and half a bottle of strong rum or something equally warming, if sadly inanimate.

And then brag about it on here, to make my look like a real hard case!

Monday, 17 October 2011

More Vignettes of Doom

There's that word again...

First one was at work today. Sipping at my plastic cappucino, I watched as a Buzzard lazily took flight from a tree, and then hovered motionless in the breeze for the longest time I have ever seen a bird stay still, this brutal bird of play splaying delicate wingtips in the wind. Eventually it spiralled upwards without so much a twitch of wing.

Two second ones, while cycling home. Initially it was the rooks heading home after a days squabbling somewhere, presumably rooks heading for the rookery. Or possibly sewage farm judging by the direction. And then, my first proper flock of starlings on the autumn by the railbridge. About a hundred birds or so, but rapidly being joined by other smaller flocks arrowing out of the bushes like a cartoon flock of bees...gradually swelling and swolling until the skies are black with beating wings. Starlings from all over the world block out the sun, and a starling winter begins forever!


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Fireballs and Partridges

Two little vignettes for you. BTW I like the word "vignette" - and I like vignettes. And paragraphs that have the word "vignette" in four times.

First up was 11pm last night, as I stood by my door feeling depressed at the prospect of a finger freezing 545am bike ride to work, and indeed work full stop. As I looked north, a brilliant almost a fireball meteor swept by from East to West, travelling through Ursa Minor parallel with the orange star Kocab and the nearby Gamma. It had a brightness in the range of maybe 0 to -1, and left a very noticeable wake of smoke, like a celestical powerboat splitting the fabric of the sky apart.

I've seen brighter ones, but the smoke trail was unusual.

And then as I arrived at work this morning, cycling along chasing but never catching the dismal pool of light cast by my front bike light, I cycled straight past 3 plump and no doubt tasty partridges sitting in the car park!

Some of the more feral specimens at work would eat them feathers and all!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Starlings in Brighton be Damned!

Or no Starlings in Brighton, as the case may be.

These days, I have reasons to be in Brighton, and although running 11 miles along the seafront and through the attractively obscure parts of town is very enjoyable, the wildlife as perhaps mentioned before, is a bit disappointing.

It's Herring Gulls, Herrling Gulls, Immature Herring Gulls and more Herring Gulls. Hovering into the wind. Mobbing each other for food. Mobbing innocent passers by for food, although without the savage and brazen intelligence of the gulls of Padstow that poach the 12 quid fish suppers bought from Rick Stein's posh chippy.

But I'm told that the Starlings of the seafront are a real spectacle. Every day, they gather in Hove in increasingly large flocks before making their way to the pier to roost as the twilight darkens. I believe they might even have been on a SomethingWatch programme a couple of years ago.

Well, wherever they may have been, I never saw them! Everynight before I arrived they were about. And then as soon as I left, they were back. But every night I was there, no bloody Starlings. Irridescent white spotted swine, I curse them.

In other news, I am hoping for Fieldfares and Redwing in my Holly tree now that autumn is here and I have a fine crop of berries, and spotted a large mixed flock of Pied and Yellow Wagtails I think on the wasteground by work. I wonder what my Autumn runs will bring me?

Friday, 7 October 2011

Nature in the cold before dawn

Now I am back working after my holiday I am faced with the nasty prospect of cycling to work at 5am with the sun a long way off about stretching, making tea and toast and generally shedding some damn light on this miserable world.

Guess you have to try and make the best of it!

The evenings are not yet dark enough to see the clouds of starlings  - starting small but gradually merging until they form bigger and bigger flocks - going about their blackly psychedelic way above the attractive KFC / McDonalds landscape as the nauseating vapours from the sewage farm waft in on a northerly breeze.

But in the mornings, as I cross the lime cycle path that makes a geisha out of my bicycle, I get to see all manner of things. Even as I leave home, I see the weird shadowy  woodpigeons alighting in the sycamore, how sinister they look at night.

As I near work, I see ghostly flashing white tails streaking away in terror at my approach, as the uncountable rabbits that live up on this windswept plateau are started by my grinding bicycle. I always see Wagtails at this time of the morning, the white flashes on their tales undulating in the glow of my wonky bike lights, making that plaintive little whistle of theirs.

But the most spectacular sight was maybe a week or two later this time last year. As I parked my bike up, I could hear twitterings up above. In the glow of the lights that illuminate the signs on the walls, a huge flock of small songbirds was circling. No idea what they were, but there were hundreds of them, spiralling...and it was only that one morning, about 545am. Migrants of soe kind, incoming or outgoing, but a beautiful sight.

And as the cold weather closes in, I wonder if the Wagtails are roosting in the tree outside The Bell pub in Nottingham slab square yet? Sometimes you see hundreds around there.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

ash keys on a hot day

Gooses! Geeses!

Didn't run yesterday, instead had a pleasant little cycle ride round and a bout for a few m before settling in Riverside Park to catch the last decent weather of the year propped up against that obelisk thing.

Didn't really see very much, a lot of folk about in the warm weather and had to concentrate hard on not wiping them out. Hot days mean overexcited children with a tendency to leap out in front of you from trees and other unexpected directions.

I did notice on Lakeside Lake that a huge flock of Canada Geese have arrived. I'm never really a big fan of these birds, not their fault I guess, but I tend now to think of them somewhat as messy foreign pests. I have no idea if this is harsh or not, but I do sometimes wonder if they are good for the pot. We seem to be being encouraged to eat Signal Crayfish, so why not Canada Geese?

I'm guessing it's because anything that produces huge slimy bogey oyster droppings like that must taste totally hideous!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Last of the warmth at Langford Lowfields

So, I was a good boy and did indeed make it out of bed early enough.

The trip out was pleasant, not too hot, bit of sun, and a beautiful big flock of goldfinches on the sustrans 64 corner where the field of sand is.

Was that where the excavation was? Major Roman remains have been found on this site, well we are near the old Fosseway, and there is a villa at Brough village a mile or two away.

On site, the first two lakes were well populated with Tufted Ducks, back from breeding wherever - I have never seen a Tufted Duck family. As ever, there was a good opportunity to lie on the ground and try and stalk Common Darter dragonflies for a picture. Looking a fool comes easy to me.

As easy as flying away just as I'm about to take a picture is to the Common Darters, who I think are all sworn to drive me mad. Still, I had two long close up views of these prettty insects. The warm red abdomen really stands out from the grass, and there seemed to be all sorts of interesting structures on the back of the thorax.

At various times I noticed cheeky red eyes turning to glance at me, obviously calculating the most irritating time to fly away.

Lot of activity at the hide, a guided party walking round the reedbed and a few unattached visitors came to the hide with their big telescopes and 200mm lenses overpowering my puny little 10x25 field glasses. They were spotting kestrels miles off, I felt rather pathetic. But with all the work on the bed there was very little to see, apart from birdwatchers and rangers clearing reeds and burning stuff.

The great tits were in the hedges behind me in, presumablyly munching the large amount of haws and sloes around the site.

So I had a nice trip out, but it did seem strange for there to be so many people there!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Love those clear skies

Been back on shift, boo hoo, so no expeiditions or anything. I have been getting up at 445am or better in order to cycle to work.

This is miserable, but has its attractions. Like clear skies in pleasanter weather without summer twilight getting in the way. As soon as I open my door, Orion is dominating the southern aspect, his sword rampant and his faithful great dog sat to his right, its eye Sirius twinkling blazingly.

Leo the lion, his sickle tail cutting a swathe through the western sky, is rising.

And this morning, a fluttering dark shape circled my garden a couple of times before alighting in my sycamore tree. A woodpigeon I think, although at first I stupidly thought it was a very large bat!

Large bat! You really are a dunderhead of a naturalist. But, it was early...