Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Creatures of the Newark Night

I'm sure I've written in the past few days of an increasing autumnal chill, and certainly the clear nights have been very cold, and the Saturday morning Parkrun had a bitterly cold start.

But the last couple of nights the cloud has drawn in, and the conditions have been stifling. Sleeping has been difficult, and for some, the thought of Daddy Long Legs flapping around their faces in the dark - this is their peak season - must have made sleeping rather tricky.

But what these warm conditions have meant is that after a quiet couple weeks, there are moths back on the scene again. it would appear. Of course, the hawk moths are long gone, and the large yellow underwings so common a month ago also seem to have taken their leave. Now, more autumnal species are on patrol, and making excellent photographic subjects.

Also present too, rather late in the year, are lacewings, the handy aphid eater of urban gardens.

Common marbled carpet

Willow beauty in the bathroom

Pale brown apple moth in the kitchen

Late season lacewing

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Willie Wagtail Welcomes Winter

The mornings are and evenings are now dark for me; not quite the black of night yet, rather a deep indigo twilight. The dawn chorus is active although the blackbirds are no longer singing their beautiful songs of spring, and in the very dim light of pre-dawn, you can see them hopping all over the South Parade gardens looking for breakfast.

There are still a few hirundines around, indeed I saw a couple of immature looking swallows sat on a post on the road to Barnby a couple of days ago, with others flying south over the school for autistic kids, but their time is sadly done. The nights are already cold, and perhaps with the next chill northern wind, redwing shall be heard tweeting overhead as they fly in from Scandinavia.

It is the time of year of the pied wagtail.

Of course, Willie Wagtail is a common bird at any time of year, a familiar sight in Newark marketplace, or walking (not hopping, like most songbirds) along the walls next to the Trent, bobbing its long slender tail in the fashion that gives the family its name. But is when the sun passes through the autumnal equinox, that the pied wagtail really comes into its own.

In a week or two, when I arrive at work at 630AM or so, the sky will be alive with their odd little double peeping whistle, and I will look up and see literally hundreds of the birds circling in the lights that illuminate the metal building. These are the wagtails forming up in their winter roosts, and a spectacular sight it is too. In the evening when I ride home, the birds will be visible wandering around the car park, avoiding car and cycle tire with ease, before making their way to the stand of three or four trees they roost in.

Quite naturally, when colder nights draw in, the pied wagtails form larger roosts to huddle for warmth in suitable locations. Our car park is relatively free of predators, and the large amount of bright lighting must make it feel warmer still. As I pass about 50 metres distant, the birds can be seen like feathery berries dotting the branches.

However the best wagtail winter roost I have seen can be found outside the famous Bell Pub in Slab Square in Nottingham. For Christmas, the trees outside the pub are decorated with coloured bulbs, and also with illuminated, luridly coloured wagtails, a hundred plus birds to a tree, like the most fabulous baubles you ever saw.

Truly the Willie Wagtail is a bird of winter, and always a charming sight.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Another Glorious Newark Photographic Miscellania

Sights and, er, sights from running over the last few days. The weather goes from freezing in the morning to warm in the afternoon, and makes dressing for jogging awfully tricky. Birds, of course, have no such problems.

Brown argus and small copper, Sconce and Devon Park

Brown argus close up, revealing that despite its brown upperwing, its close relationship to the blue butterflies

Small copper, suddenly abundant at the Sconce

Small copper again

Cygnet, London Road Pond

Like a Jurassic Park vegesauraus

Coots, moorhens and mallards

Drakes now out of eclipse at London Road

Rosebay willowherb past its sell by date

Like a DNA helix

The unknown yellow weeds are out at Beacon Hill Park again

Someone left these conkers on a wall for a passing urchin

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

First Trip to North Muskham Lake

Been planning this adventure for a couple of days, a Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust reserve that is actually nearer than RSPB Langford Lowfields, but has a lot lower profile; for example, I never see any birding reports from there.

The journey out is an unattractive, into the wind slog alongside the old Great North Road, past the suplhuric and sulphidic odours of the now "on campaign" sugar factory and its slurry lakes, past the caravan park, past the bleak fishing lake that was once studded with colourful yachts and under the noisy A1.

(Note to self - always use the more attractive route through South Muskham you found on the way back.)

The lake is at the far end of the river, next to the Trent, and was full of life the moment I went through the gate. The scrubby grass was alive with grasshoppers and middle sized toadlets. Wildflowers brought flashes of colour and even even in the wind the water was like a mirror.

And on that water, there were some ducks (and grebes). Most were the typical mallards and tufted ducks, but with my 16x50s on duty today, I noticed some rather different ducks - glorious golden headed males with scarlet beaks, smart females with black and grey heads. I had no idea what these were, but a quick fiddle with a bird app made me think the only ducks with such a scarlet beak were red crested pochards. Later at home, I confirmed this.

Officially they are quite uncommon, but it seems there are plenty of escapees and feral descendants about, and these 7 or 8 ducks were probably of that nature.

Walking further round, I saw black sheep grazing, and plenty of speckled wood butterflies enjoying the sun.

It is a nice little site, easy to find, and I shall try and wigeon and goosander spot over the winter, I think. It was well worth the 25 minute bike ride.

First view through the trees

white campion type flower

side view

A very late poppy!


Buttercups too!

Pretty but no idea

Viewing platform

Migrant hawker at the water's edge


Monday, 22 September 2014

Imprisoned in the Warehouse

As I write this, I am sat at a no doubt bacteria infested communal computer at work. A banana peel sits discarded in front of me, a plastic bag containing a sandwich box and bicycle lights is at my feet, and behind me the company fridge is humming and vibrating.

Outside, through thick, dirty windows, sits the trappings of industry - fuel tanks, water silos and the like - outlined against a partially blue sky in which geographic looking white and pale grey clouds float in cotton bliss.

Beyond the site are fields of kale, a couple of small streams, and a disused airfield. My dreams of escape soar like the buzzards I often see here, but unlike me the raptors are not confined by steel and glass, the rise in helixes upon the early autumn thermals. Pigeons fly about, presumably watching the buzzards with a wary eye.

Crows sit on the metal work outside the window, occasionally collared doves snuggle too. This time of year, there are pied wagtails everywhere, soon to move into their bustling winter roost in the lorry park, illuminated in the HGV lights like polluted little baubles in the shrubbery.

As the sun begins to set, barn owls quarter the waste ground with an eye to snaffling a young rabbit, who twitchy noses and all are found in great numbers here, undisturbed as they are by cat and dog. Linnets sit on the chain link fences, breeding red breasts beginning to fade. Soon the starlings will be murmurating over the stench of fast food outlets.

An egret struts the drainage ditch under the last large white butterflies of the year. It is never flushed aloft by the endless passing cars, but I find that merely looking at it from fifty metres away causes it to take to the air and laze off over the farmland.

How I envy it, and how I would go with it, if I were not trapped here in the land of daydreams.

Copyright cream crackered nature 22.09.14

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Colour on a Troubled Sconce

So, today was a walk with a double purpose in mind.

Yesterday, as I was out running to Farndon and back along the river, I noticed that travellers had moved onto the lower Sconce Park field, the same group (recogniseable from the woodchipper they have with them) that has been seen in various locations around Newark; Hawton Lane, Clay Lane, Yorke Drive etc etc.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the lifestyle, of the fact that there is a reported lack of provision of caravan sites for them, the fact that the travellers had been allowed to colonise a Heritage site within spitting distance of two nature reserves made me rather angry.

As the did the fact that although they only stayed on site for less than 24 hours, they left the field a total mess, with a bit of spiteful vandalism, thrown in. I only saw pictures of the worst of it, a great job by the ever unheralded council staff had cleared up all the litter and hopefully not human excrement that had been a characteristic of their occupation of the old BMX track.

It's been an issue all summer.

Luckily, the damage isn't as bad as first feared, and there was still welcome colour around as autumn and its shorter days commence.

On one side of the field...

...and the other


Destroyed fence

Interesting hybrid duck

The path through the oak wood

Harebells on the earthwork

Final flourish from campion (?)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Steampunk Gadgets of Lincoln Asylum 2014

Here, just a final round up of some of the weird and wonderful gizmos and mechanical fancies on view at Lincoln Asylum 2014. The amount of time and creativity, and bits of household appliances Matt Irvine style, that go into the "accessories" is fantastic, and makes my clutzy dyspraxic hands feel very jealous.

Here endeth my coverage of Asylum 2014, hopefully the event, and myself, will return in 2015 and I can spare three days to really get more involved.

*rushes off to write more science fiction*

Let go on steep hill,  and a 100mph wreck might have been in prospect

Hats and goggles. The esentials

Guns large and small

Charity shop ephemera

Steampunk dragonfly

On a larger scale, a horse and carriage

I think that's a vegetable strainer at the bottom there

Rocket ships

Once again, the musical hat

The horny box of curiosities

The antique shops wanted in on the action

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lincoln Asylum 2014 - Wacky Race Fun

Note, I am now able to decorate the title with the correct name, but this is more Lincoln Steam punk fun, coming now from the Castle grounds. The highlight of the afternoon's programme was the Wacky Races at 2pm, which involved two penny farthings versus a tricked out Steampunk trike and boy in a roadster. I suspect a little non-malicious cheating went on resulting in the little boy winning, but from my vantage point I had no idea.

The next major task was getting hold of a cup of tea, which turned out to be a very lengthy process for the overstretched staff at the stand as they nursemaided a temperamental coffee machine that sounded more Steampunk than anything else I'd heard up to that point. Frankly, with so many of the participants wearing more brass and copper than the Titanic, I'm surprises that they couldn't have whipped up rudimentary boiler or kettle in the time it took me to get a cuppa.

I then did a tour of the stalls, surrounded by these fantastic looking folk wearing get up that must have cost the veritable astronomicals in terms of cash and man hours. I so wanted to hunt down some nice jackets and waistcoats, alas no joy with my cashflow so I restricted myself to buying some prints.

I was disappointed not to find more literature or artwork, but this is more due to the fact I had to hurry for the train and didn't know where to look rather than the fault of the event, I suspect. I would have happily stayed into the evening and attempted to chat to a few of the folk in the pubs and tea shops of Lincoln, and next year, I will try and get over for more than one day.

Overly baggy trousers, perchance?

Meta 2 - More Steampunk on Steampunks photography

Mega blaster thing

Wacky and highly unstable trike

Junior roadster

Tour de Retro

Looks a mite unsteady to me, Sir!

There couldn't have been a pheasant or peacock with an intact tail within fifty miles of the event

More hattery


Can you spot the nautical hat this time

Dark doings

Magnum time

Beards and civility

A study in scarlet

Orange and tweed

In case of laughter, remove mask

A whiff of danger

Taking the pith

Girl has cannon

A most striking pair

What shall she say when she's older?

Steampunk high tea

Back is turned

Ninja punk