Sunday, 29 April 2012

Out on the roads

So, a couple of excursions in the last few days. Tuesday was the nicest afternoon I've seen in about 3 weeks, so I headed out on the bicycle for ten miles doing the "Tour De Rubbish Tip", out on the cycle path, back in through Hawton.

It was a nice ride, past the big solar energy farm, and past fields now fully resplendent in ripe oilseed rape. Greenfinches are about in larger numbers, goldfinches too. Pigeons are loving each other, cooing lovebirds atop the telegraph poles and lamp-posts. Still no swallows, house or sand martins. And swifts are non existent, according to an article I read in the Times yesterday.

Ran yesterday for 7 or so miles, out to British Gypsum and then through Balderton, the nature reserves are very boggy at the moment so I'm sticking clear - last time I was at Beacon Hill there was a very large lake at the industrial estate entrance, surprised not to see ducks on it!

I can't wait for fine weather so I can head out to Langford Lowfields again. I want to see butterflies. I want to see Dragonflies. I want to be outside.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Ungracious Racer

The sight of a friends running route and time on his facebook page was far too much of a challenge for the occasionally unhealthily competitive author to resist today. He had the fancy app on his mobile phone, I have old wonky trainers...

So I headed out along Hawton Road, seeing my first butterly in weeks, a large white fluttering towards the cloying fields of rape. I was in a determined mood - the only reason I saw it because I was looking up tracking the position of a coal black cloud laden with wet stuff.

As I reached the turn off to Farndon in Hawton village, as usual looking terribly pretty, I reckoned I was going well. A kestrel greeted me coming out of the trees near the Thorpe turn off, another was soaring as I crested the bridge over the A46, laughing no doubt in a keening manner at the lumbering slow humanoid.

On Farndon Road, there were Greenfinches again. A most pleasing sight. They are not numerous, but for a couple of years I hadn't seen any at all.

By now I was feeling the pressure, face set, driving the pavements, paying little note to the swollen River Devon, and turning onto the final stretch...I checked my watch.

I had beaten him. By just over a minute.

Alas I lose. In the pathetic person stakes!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

On Ilkley Moor Again

Didn't really go out walking very much, as the whole of what I suppose you'd call the Aire valley was suffused in a grey cloud so thick you'd expect seaweed clad leprous sailors to emerge from it and stick meathooks in you. First up we perched in the car, eating downhill at a sharp angle, enjoying the sight of happy dogs with wet tummies dragging their slightly less enthusiastic owners about on the boggy ground.

It was rather like eating a Waitrose cooked chicken in a crashing aeroplane.

Then we moved across to nearer the excellent-fish-and-chip-serving Cow and Calf pub, and sat in the car park of the little stone cafe. We forgot the milk, so we had to pay for a paper cup full of it from the cafe, and we watched the jackdaws bright eyed looking around for any scraps.

I thought my stepfather throwing them a crushed belgian chocolate biscuit thing was a bit uncouth, but no, they cackled and stuffed their beaks as full of chunks of biccie as they could, no doubt cackling at their own cleverness.

I couldn't hear them over the wind.

And then, a pretty little Meadow Pipit came over for a look too. I was wondering if we'd see any with their beloved bracken in abeyance, but there he was, striped and striated, tail fringed with white, olive green hints on his brown back. Compared to the delicate beak, the bits of biscuit looked far too big, but it daintily shook them into manageable, all but microscopic particles.

And it paid no heed to the rain pelting the rocks the cooing woodpigeon huddled among

Saturday, 21 April 2012

All Hail Hail

As you can see from the picture, we've had some interesting weather the last few days. I think we've had 15 or 16 days on the bounce with rain at some point. Or so it feels anyway.

The weather gods the last two days have upped their game however, and sent down heavy rain, thunder, chunky hailstones and bright sun, often within the space of twenty minutes.

Needless to say, whenever I've chosen to run, I've been pelted. And nature has kept a low profile, apart from the cormorant who is always sat atop the posts at the Aldi bridge, or the heron that sits on a tall hedge near me, emptying the pond below of goldfish as the water brings them closer!

First ducklings of the year have been seen - a mummy duck on Balderton Lake had 5 little ones in tow, not long out of the egg by the look of them. But sadly today, I saw two ducklings being swept down a strong running Newark dyke by the Aldi bridge, mum nowhere in sight.

Cruel nature eh?

There's more Greenfinches about this year, I'm seeing them in my garden area for the first time in a couple of years! Plenty of Goldfinch too these days, saw a lovely little flock of them in a hedgerow on the lane where British Gypsum is.

But most importantly, I'm in the open air!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Damp Joy

Ha! It's a grim day, a grim morning, a grim week, a grim month, but one has to keep running through all this. And today I did, grateful I was not in the same condition as a slightly flattened Frog I found on the road near Balderton Lake.

Happier things than dead amphibians were afloat - the first ducklings, 5 of them, I've seen this year were out swimming on the lake, convoying behind their mother, and as I ran by I wondered if mummy ducks feel proud of their offspring.

They always look as if they do to me!

Other things enjoying the rotten weather, well a cormorant was looking chipper hunting on the river by the Aldi bridge, as was a blackbird on the path, splashing widly, joyfully, in a deep puddle on the riverside path.

And me. Yes it was chilly, but the rain just about stayed off me and I felt very very refreshed. Despite the 7 mile run past lonely looking Grebes and hissing Canada Geese. It was worth it to be out there.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


I've just come inside after watching a brilliant, near overhead pass by the International Space Station. I may not be quite sad enough to wave, but it is tempting.

Luckily, the local bird of prey population is making sure that it is not the only beautiful thing to see in the sky. I've already written, and tweeted, about the Peregrine Falcon(s) at Newark Church, the birds of prey I see overhead on Millgate, the falcons above my garden or off Clay Lane; now they are distracting me at work.

The smaller pretend canteen is normally not a place to see anything remotely attractive, unless backsides poking out of safety trousers is your bag. But these windy, wet days, out over the showground I have been treated to sights!

Normally up earlier in the day is the Kestrel, hovering above the water tanks, barely needing to flap it's sickle wings into the strong breezes we've been having; like a bird having a wind tunnel test, occasionally steadying itself with its wedge shaped tail. When it got fed up of being effortlessly motionless into a breeze, it raises it's wing and cuts the air to burning shreds with its winds as it swoops downwind.

At other times, you can see it in the classical hovering position, spying the hedgerows and verges for prey.

Later in the day, the big Buzzard, ragged winds untidily splotched with white underneath, normally makes his appearance, lifting himself slowly into the air before splaying his feathery fingers, and easing into a spiralling soar. If it's his day, he won't immediately get set upon buy a gang of crows looking to ruin his day.

I wish the crows would leave him alone. And also that anyone who would shoot or poison him or his friends would leave him alone too!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Peregrine Hunt!

A couple of weeks ago I was sat outside Lilys Tea Rooms - beware the clashing china - on a glorious afternoon, when I heard a sudden sharp keening and looked up just in time to see I think two swiftly moving falcon shapes frightening the pigeons and skimming low over and behind the roof of the building housing Starbucks.

I tweeted about them, and wondered if we had a Peregrine Falcon or two visiting our church. I always envy building that have Peregrines on, when the church here doesn't!

Well, I saw an article in the Advertiser saying a Peregrine had taken up residence on the church roof, complete with a picture of said keen eyed bird, seemingly up on the ledge of one of the steeple windows.

I felt I ought to see if I coould spot the bird myself, so I set off on a pleasant run that would finish with a loop around the church. It took me out on Barnby lane, then up the hill into Coddington and a diversion through the nature reserve into town. Barnby Lane I watched a lapwing, broad ragged wings charecteristic, struggling against a cold wind that a Buzzard, a little further away, was making look easy.

Hawthorns are in bloom everywhere. Coddington verges well decorated with Daffodils. Always think it's a pretty little stretch of road, along past the windmill into the village. Would love to live in the windmill!

But the church itself in town was bare. Ran round all four sides of it, and peered hopefully at the spire, but no sign. There were plenty of pigeons though.

And if I were a pigeon, would I want to be sharing a ledge with a Peregrine Falcon?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

New exploration

Today, having noticed a "Public Footpath" sign out in Hawton village while cycling through it the other day, I decided to run out there today and find out where it led.

I'd kind of forgotten where it was, it's beyond the Farndon turn off, rather than the near side of it, so it could have gone anywhere. But to find it was pleasant-  the rape is out and is turning the filed that beautiful yellow colour, although I could do without that thick cloying smell they give off. Still no swallows to be seen! Plenty of finches about though - Chaffinches have been numerous these last few months.

Found the path by the church and turned right onto it just as another sharp shower had ended. I thought it might lead to the Thorpe village road, but it seemed to meander southwards alongside farmers fields and over a style - in an entirely "oh my god this is going to be a miles too far run" direction. It never turned towards Thorpe or Farndon, instead it turned muddy, weaved through a copse, and finally emerged over a stream in front of a sign that announced it as "Poplar Woods" or something - another large beauty spot I had no idea existed, it seems to extend to not far short of Cotham village.

I though a path headed West, but this just ended by the river Devon with no clear route. So, I have resolved to explore this area another time, and instead retraced my steps so I could run across the flyover to Farndon. Which I did, with a no doubt Ming the Merciless caused hailstorm suddenly blowing up straight into my face and giving my skin a perhaps healthy, perhaps not, sandblasted feeling. A Heron was fishing in the Devon as I went over the bridge, but he flew off as I approached.

I don't blame him.

Ran through Willow Holt, pretty, but nothing much seen, although at the Boathouse a couple of Cormorants were working the river with the current.

So reckon I went about ten miles during todays run, oocasionally drenched, occasionally warmed. But it was outside. And it was FREE! So there!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Knees going, sun gone

After the burst of beautiful weather, April is now indeed bringing showers and grey skies, blocking out any stars at night, and making bird spotting during the day a trial in horrble flat grey light. Made it out running on Easter Sunday...

...oh the dedication... anticipation of a chocolate overload that never really happened. All the butterflies have gone back to bed, and all the tufted ducks seem to have left London Road Lake. But the hawthorn is now out everywhere, bluebells, forget me knot and a glimpse of red campion perchance in my garden. A swan has built a platform nest in the lake, and today, a couple of bedraggled collared doves were scouting nest locations in the oak and sycamores overlooked by my kitchen windows.

Like me, Collared Doves are hopeless at picking and constructing a home. Wherever these two nest, it will be in a gutter that will be washed away in the rain, on a branch far too flimsy to nest on, or in the bole of a tree at a daft angle, or on top of a too small chimney pot.

How Collared Doves are so successful given their hopless choices of nest locations, sometimes that is beyond me!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Just Love Being Outside!!!!

The title says it all folks. The outside is free. Quite a lot of the outside either doesn't belong to anyone, or you are allowed to go on it. The outside has sun in it that makes plants grow and birds happy, and seems to help my excema. The outside has rain in it, which is cooling, and wet, and makes birds and plants happy, although it makes running a mite difficult for me.

And while cycling, my mudguard-less bicyclee sends plumes of dirty dampness up the back of my jeans and T shirt. Oh dear. But it's a crappy world for many people, so even on these days, I smile and remember all the ghastly places I could be and the awful things that could be happening to me.

So, on a day like today, where I ran 9 miles and didn't perhaps see a lot of interest, and was a little chesty and suffering a bit, I thought, well, I'm still free to do this, and it is still free to do this, and there's a little flock of Great Tits there and all the Hawthorn is in bloom. So things aren't too bad.

They can try and take the outside away from you, but it's all yours.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Cormorant Fail

Weather is beyond terrible for running...much needed rain, but nasty rain nonetheless, rain that liquifies my country running routes into thick gloop, rain that chills me, rain that fills my eyes with aciding spray, sulfur dioxide contamination, power station and suga factory sky effluent.

So, my nature watching has been out of windows. The museum cafe window mainly. Er, only.

But that's not to say I haven't seen some interesting things. Yesterday, I was reading Excession by Ian Banks and sipping tea, and onto the glorious rusty dredger barge on the opposite side of the river landed a bedraggled, but still magnificent Heron, symbol of the rugby club, eyes full of malice for fish.

Although it looked like a frog he caught today, struggling hopelessly in its sharp beak.

Today there was a cormorant, stubby, neck outstretched and wings flapping mightily. It was trying to fly upwind, into this freezing breeze, and making no headway as its wings beat the air frantically and its head seemed to be drawing its neck further out from its spine. But it was going nowhere.

It gave up, turned downwind and in two seconds was a hundred yards away. It turned back into the wind, wings beating the air frantically, head drawing its neck further out from its spine.

Still nowhere. And still nowhere everytime it tried it.

I know how it felt.