Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Rutland Water

Family trip out today to spend an afternoon sitting in some pleasant weather at the Whitwell area of Rutland Water - no trip to the reserve further down the lake alas. Not much bird or wildlife though, and not a butterfly to be seen! Swallows, crisp loving and amusingly squabbling mallards, a few black headed gulls and a cormorant looking for trout on the water.

Sadly, no sign of any of the famous Rutland Ospreys this far up the lake. And on a week day, not many pretty boats and I forgot to buy ice cream. Luckily I had already bought a huge tub at home!

Yesterday had an 8 mile run, along the cycle path where a male orange tip seemed to be being pursued by four pure white females; and back into Balderton along the lane at the back of Flowserve, the one with the lovely eggs for sale! Hawthorn in bloom, sparrows and chaffinches in the hedges. And here I saw my first Specked Wood of the year along here, and there's some Birds Foot Trefoil around now.

 London Road lake has its lonely Grebe, I'm sure it had a mate a couple of years ago! No ducklings on view.

Beacon Hill park is quiet, the flowers late, not many butterflies on view yet here. No Sand Martins on the river, nor many swallows, but screeching swifts are ever present.

And ever beautiful.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Madness of Running in this Heat

So yes, two consecutive days I dragged myself out in the heat of the afternoon, and did two seven or so mile runs, sweating like a pig, struggling to breathe, drinking desperately from a plastic bottle of Morrisons "Isotonic" Cherry drink.

It is probably as much use as licking a block of concrete in fitness terms, but it does taste rather nice.

Most life is keeping in the shade apart from Swifts, which are just full of happiness at the moment, making me more envious than any other bird that I cannot fly; that I am an earthbound clodhopper. Butterflies about are mainly various whites and orange tips, with the odd Brimstone still around.

Clay Line is now passable and full of blooming Hawthorn, and Beacon Hill reserve is now dry too. It's the time of year for taking a picnic up there.

The nices things I've seen though, well those 6 little fledgling Great Tits being fed by their parents in my Holly Tree. Heaven knows where they get these endless green caterpillars from that I never see.

And my folks garden has some tiny fledgling Coal Tits in it! Schlurping up aphids, feathers barely out of pin and calling for their parents with a piercing "tsee-tsee-tssee-TSEEE-TSEEE" cry, gradually raising in volume and pitch.

So pretty!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Hot Day at RSPB Langford Lowfields

Today, I got on my bicycle and headed out for Langford Lowfields on what I knew would be a beautiful day.

At last!

And old chap with a biycle told me that he had seen a couple of buzzards overhead shortly before, but typically I missed the raptors as I always do, so I thought.

Reed Buntings were in evidence by what I think is referred to as Phase 2

Arrived at the hide, settled in, and had a look round. The feeders were quiter than my march visit, but during my time today, Greenfinch, Goldfinch - beautiful in my 10x50s - Chaffinch and Blue and Great Tits all paid a visit.

At all times, the hedgerows, Hawthorn bloom rampant, were alive with birdsong. The most distinctive was a throaty, crackling rasp - god only knows what that is.

Out on the very sparse looking reedbed, it didn't look like whole lot was happening at first, but close inspection and patience was rewarded. The most obvious residents are the big Canada and Greylag Geese, the obligatory mallards and a large population of Cootes. But in the distance, behind a pair of swans, a Shelduck, the first I have seen here, was crusing the waters.

Black and White flashes in the sky seen naked eye, revealed themselves to be a number of lapwings with their distinctive broad wings and tumbling flight. The two buzzards eventually appeared flying towards the river at the north end of the site, and flocks of sand martins continually worked the reed bed south to north.

But the most exciting sight gave itself away when a bug immature herring gull came over. As I followed it in the 10x50s, a black and white sleepy bird I had assumed to be ye olde Tufted Duck suddenly erupted off a sandbank, and went for it making a furious piping alarm call. It was joined by another, and plain as day, the giveaway angled black and white wings and long red bill of a pair of oystercatchers.

They are fierce!!! A black headed gull got savaged a little later, and as that Herring Gull found out, they will take on anything no matter how much bigger.

I figured that there must be a nest with eggs, and could see where one oystercatcher was carefully sitting. Eventually it went probing in the mud, dirtying it's scarlet beak in the process, and yes, I could see a chick!

A lovely visit, although not so for the young rabbit on the path with it's throat torn out.

Tonight the swifts are all over Newark, screeching with the joy of flying

Poplar Woods, Hawton

Yesterday, I ran out to Hawton Village and into the Forestry Commision site at Poplar Woods, Hawton;

And basically tried to run round the whole thing! It's huge, a bit boggy, evidently well churned up by horses, and didn't really find very much to look at apart from a Buzzard circling the regimented rows of Poplars. But it felt a little bleak. The signs of life came when you got away from the wood, running alongside the fields of rape where the Yellowhammers erupt from hedges.

The fishing lakes at Cotham end were alive with Swallows, flocking above the water or swooping low above the yellow flowers. Pretty.

Pretty knackered, was I when I finished this Eleven Mile run. But, Cream Crackered Nature is what this blog is called, and getting cream crackered is what I do to bring you content, dear readers.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Swifts and Twittering things

Couple of nights ago, headed out for another 830pm twilight run, and though I was going like the Fire Stallions of the movie Krull, I was still able to see that the evenings are bringing out more and more Swifts in town at the moment, especially where there is water.

They have been over the cycling path at the bottom end of London Road lake, as always effortlessly carving the air into strips a molecule wide. There was a small flock over the river too, eating the midges that tormented me as I thundered along past the barges I wished I had, swooping low over the water.

The sun sank beneath the horizon, painting the sky cordial orange, and venus twinkled upon me and the swifts as I ran back home.

And then at work, a new bird seems to be paying a visit. There are small flocks on the wastelands by the A1 of finch sized birds, that like to fly about making a high tweeting sound as they fly, flocks about 10-15 birds.

Caught a glimpse of one on a fence post, a brief sighting of a black face and a reddy orange breast. In flight I noticed a pronounced white stripe along each side of the tail. Am I seeing Stonechats?

Might well have been! That would be a first round here in Newark!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Willow Holt via Horse

Having seen the Countryfile report last night on horse neglect, was rather supset to see a piebald mummy horse standing motionless over her dead foal. Never so much as moved its head as I ran along the old A46 Farndon Road.

I was out looking for butterflies and dragonflies at Willow Holt. Of the latter I saw neither, but as soon as I turned into Farndon, I saw whites and Peacocks taking in the decent, and rarely decent at that, weather. Willow Holt entrance was a bit boggy, and the Meadow Browns that live in are not about yet. But along the river stretch, I saw more Peacocks, Whites and a few Orange Tips.

Orange Tips by the way are a lot less numerous than last year.

On the river stretch of the Holt, I saw a Blackcap sat on a stumpy looking tree and I think a Sedge Warbler dived into a waterside bush as I went by. The power station stretch seemed very bleak, a couple of herons kept an eye on me as I went by.

As I ran back along Farndon Road, I noticed a public footpath leading to the river I've never been on before. And it was a boggy field leading to your typically barren river bank maintained by a fishing club. The only fisherman around though was a Cormorant...

A few Swifts, House Martins and a single swallow were seen on route. Swifts were swifting by my home too. They are so fast in the air.

Fast and beautiful.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Woodpecker Cider Astronomy

Just back from a trip to Lincoln to watch the Lincoln Grand Prix Cycle race. On the way, a couple of kestrels demonstrated their amazing hovering technique. And on the way home, I saw my first swifts of the year flocking over the A46 as if they'd just arrived in the area.

And then, I watched one swooping over the roofs by my home, a lonely single swift in town, flying like a knife through melted cobalt.

Last night, went for a run by twilight, venus still bright but sinking back into the twilight ready for its transit next month. Many things were flying on this lovely evening, but alas not feathered but small insectoidal and very bitey things!

And very late, when all nice proper english gentlemen are in bed, I was outside on a chilly evening with a can of Woodpecker Cider for fortification. The sky was clear, and the moon not yet risen.

I'd not been able to do this for a while, and how the sky has changed! Arcturus starting to sink, tree leaves blocking the south and east. Red Antares blinks scraping rooftops. With binoculars, I picked up Messier 13, Messier 5 and Messier 3 really quickly, the prime globular clusters of spring, and probably the whole northern sky. I had a look for Messier 51 again, the Whirlpool Galaxy, trying to relax my twitching eyes. Perhaps there was a quick ghostly glimpse of a galactic disk and a starlike satellite.

I observed Ophiuchus, picking up IC4665 again, but none of the globulars which at the moment are a bit faint for me 10x50s from town. Further east, I think there was another open cluster, trees hindering navigation. Wonder if I've found Messier 11? 

I jumped across to Lyra, and observed the diamond blue vega, which looks fantastic in binoculars, and the Epsilon Lyrae double double, which in my 10x50s is a mere attractive single double! Messier 57, forget it, and I lost my bearings for Messier 56.

Messier 39 in Cygnus was easy to find, among many attractive milky way starfields, and then although I cannot see the companion, I drank in the sight of the golden star Albireo, Beta Cygnae.

Finally, I found Sagitta and picked up Messier 71, but not as easily as I thought I would. The loose globular was still low over the roof of the building next to me though, maybe it will be easier as it rises.

By now, my god I was cold. It was time for indoors, but it had been a good little observing session.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bicycle Nature

So today, I've been off the running and cycling exclusively... far. The day is not yet done...

But anyway, I headed off through Balderton and over the A1 to Hollowdyke Lane. No butterflies to be seen along here though, in past years there have been many many orange tips along here, today, as I cycled past fields of rape in bloom, nothing.

The building work at Fernwood has hacked some of the curious derelict charm of the old mental hospital site, and although the iconic tower remains, it is swamped amongst characterless boxes, and ugly piles of soil splotch the landscape. And the iconic Lightning is gone, making all that scrapyard area devoid of any redeeming feature.

Barnby Lane, swallows! A beautiful  specimen sat obligingly on a telegraph wire for me to sit and have a chat to; on behalf of the town I welcomed him to the area. In a fallow field nearby, a lapwing seemed to be doing a "Wounded Flight"  - taking off and sort of plummeting erratically. Nesting bird startled by a falcon? Or even my bike?

Still no swifts or martins in town, and aside from a couple of fluttering small whites spiralling around each other, no butterflies.

The river and castle looked stunning on my evening ride, but not sand martins or swifts to be seen.

Now about that run...shall I go?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Swallows and Hospitals

Went running at noon, not for any great weather or wildlife purposes, but actually to see the local "Hug a Hospital"  campaign in action.

I ran past the hospital three times, folk doing the hugging thought I'd gone crazy. First time round saw a couple of swallows fly overhead at the bottom of Boundary Road - the first I'd seen in town. Awkward head craning revealed still no swifts, and still no nesting Sand Martins - they are late by the towns standards.

By my second visit, the huggers had linked hands around the bits of the hospital I suspect they were actually allowed to link hands around, accompanied by BBC cameramen and local photographers. But 20 minutes later, they were all gone, point made, stakes pulled up, vanished into the night. But my mother was treated for heart failure there, and I'm glad they did what they did.

Wildlife not about so much today, saw three coromorants in formation from the museum cafe window though, an unusual sight. I wonder if the fishing was good?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

A Semblance of Spring

Sun was out this morning, and it was still out an hour later when I managed to put my book down and I get out of bed.

It may be bright, but it isn't very warm, and spring can't be bothered to be sprung with all this rain around. However, as I ran past a very empty looking Balderton lake, a couple of House Martins flew over the cycle path, my first of the year.

And so far, only ones.

Around the path and British Gypsum, where I turned off onto the road past the open cast mines back into Balderton, were my next first for the year - Orange Tip Butterflies! Plenty of other folk have seen them very early this year, and they were everywhere this time last year, but butterflies are very sparse at the moment. Saw a couple of Whites of some kind, but that's about it.

Long tail Tits were also about today, and Chaffinches, but London Road lake was empty. A nervous looking lady mallard with three drakes! Everything else must be nesting in the reeds I think.

No swallows or Sand Martins at the river, no swifts overhead anywhere.

The town is short of non human life at the moment!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

IDENITFY - What is this flower

Grows almost like a Gorsey kind of hedge in my postage stamp garden. The House Sparrows love it, they spend endless hours squabbling and mating within it.