Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Guilt of Not Running

I was supposed to be up with the larks this morning - if there were any around - in order to take myself to Parkrun and do my 5km Saturday morning penance prior to a welcome cup of tea at Rumbles.

Of course, it wasn't to be. My body gets exhausted after the 545am starts for work, and often my second day off is the one where the need for sleep catches back up with me. If you combine that with the fact that if was freezing cold, sleety and a slicing northern wind was blowing, well, it was easy to stay in bed, catch up with the dreaded "zzzzzzzzs" and read David Lindo's excellent book on his urban birding.

After a morning of hiding away from the weather, however, you begin to feel guilty about not getting your exercise in. I didn't feel up to running, but I could certainly go for a long walk instead. And I did so, well wrapped up against the cold and wind, and hoping pretties would descend out of the dusk, or leap out of the ground. They did do initially, when a pair of "seeeeping" and "zupppping" long tailed tits entertained me in the sycamore tree.

You get a very different feel when walking at dusk, as I ended up doing. The soft, fading light as the sun drops ever ever lower behind the Victorian townscape. The birds giving up for the day and flying home. The gladness that this exercise has overcome the guilt of not running.

At least partially.


Berries by the church

Garden oddity

Life at the base of a streetside tree

Dusk ducks

Gorse in flower

Sunset over the defunct nature reserve

Beautiful aconite

The aconite bed

The old, and then taken from the same spot...

...the new

Long tailed tit

Friday, 30 January 2015

Running the Owl Road into a Blazing Sun

Today the sky was cloudless when I hit the road early evening, and so blue you felt you could wrap it around the earth and render it an ocean entire.

My running shoes are dying. I need a replacement, but am internally discussing whether I need runners, hybrids or trails. My runs are both on and off road. I've confused myself unto the ends of the earth, but whatever the case, I need something better than these.

As ever, the owl road starts in the cemetery, where I scope out all the emerging spring flowers. Primroses have now appeared, far too early like the crocuses, squill and lesser celandine I've seen. I've got a commission to write about the perils of an early spring.

The snowdrops are present and correct for the time of year, and are getting more numerous seemingly with every passing minute. I find tracking spring through the cemetery a beautiful experience.

After the cemetery, the Sustrans 64 cycle path, sometimes bleak, sometimes beautiful in itself, but safe and a useful route to many places I explore.

I explored the small stand of trees where the homeless man had been living in a tent, horribly muddy and thickly carpeted with moisture loving moss, lushly green. I wasn't unhappy with the chap living here per se, but did he have to leave such a horrendous mess.

And now on to the Owl Road itself, the route slashing through post insutrial and agrarian landscapes, a rough track leading to tarmac, all lit gold by the falling sun. But no damn owls as ever, in fact very little bird life on any kind. Wasn't even wearing my scary hi-viz.

From the Owl Road, turn right into Hawton, past pigeons making merry with farm crops, and past the church where a kestrel flew off the tower just before I took the picture.

From here, it's back into Newark, and across the Sconce Park and the Civil War earthwork that guarded the approaches to the south of the town.

From here, it is but a short hop the hot hot bath!


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Blogger Photography Woes

As you may or may not have noticed, I've had a lot of trouble in the last few months with how my photographs appear on the blog. Although they look great if you click on them, until you do that they appear rather blurred and fuzzy. 

This is posting using the "Bloggeroid" app; All my photographs are taken with my mobile phone, and are uploaded straight from the gallery into the app. The official Blogger app by the way, is utterly hopeless and refuses to upload photographs as anything other than a black square, and crashes when you try. 

I have just tried sharing a gallery photo via Blogger, and although it seemed to work on the phone, when I check on my little linux notebook, the whole post has failed. 

Yet when I try to  upload a photograph using Blogger on the web in the chrome browser on my mobile phone, I seem to have a full resolution image, see below;

However, there is no mobile website for Blogger, and using the full website is incredibly difficult to upload just the one picture, let alone the numbers I normally put up from my travels. From where I'm sitting, the photograph is oversized as well, despite the image size CSS script I fixed the blog with.

This is all incredibly frustrating to me. I don't have any great equipment, but feel I take some pretty darn decent images with my mobile phone, and once upon a time they displayed perfectly. For all sorts of reasons, most of them perfectly natural, I need this blog to appear fantastic, and it at the moment, it just doesn't.

I understand that there might be some kind of issue with Google chopping back on image quality to save bandwidth, and many people are complaining about the official app. I wish they would fix it, these blurry images are a real pain.

Especially if I've been lying down trying to photograph butterflies in the nettles!


Monday, 26 January 2015

Comet Lovejoy and the Triangle

Mananged to get a sneaky peak, as they say, at Comet Lovejoy after I arrived home from work.  It is easy to find despite the near first quarter moon, lurking in the same binocular field of view as Gamma Triangulum, the star that marks the eastern point of the base of the celestial triangle.

Again, there seems to be less structure around the nucleus; it may be because of the moon but the comet seems to be sporting a rather rounder, more evenly bright look than before. Perhaps it is because Lovejoy is getting further away.

I'd certainly recommend trying to get a look tonight or perhaps tomorrow night, because with the moon getting brighter, and the comet fading, it may get quite difficult to observe with binoculars.

Ah Triangulum, that most romatically named of constellations. The most does-what-it-says-on-the-tin constellation. It looks like a triangle, so they called it the Triangle. The Babylonians tried to be interesting and call it "The Plough" thousands of years ago, but the Greeks called it "Deltoton", because it looked like the Greek letter delta, which is triangle shaped. Since then, it has been "The Triangle" to Ptolemy and everyone else into the modern era. A boring name for a boring, three cornered little group of stars.

The actuality is that it is an interesting little patch of the sky, with Messier 33 the Triangulum spiral, also visible in binoculars; 3C 48, the first quasar to be observed, and various other nearby galaxies observable in moderate telescopes.

There are plenty of other dull constellations that could be called "Square", "Circle" or "Squiggly Line" but poor old Triangulum gets the bullet. Presumably a triangular one.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Little of Newark's Housing Heritage

I took an early ramble this morning, away past the London Road Pond - with a magnificent heron hiding in the trees - but instead following the track, I turned off onto Barnby Gate.

Barnby Gate is a long drag, leading from the very edge of town on its eastern side, right to the very centre. Predominantly it consists of Victorian terraces, built for the workers of the railways, the breweries, and the makers of bearings and boilers. They are uniform and yet characterful, the views of them in their long lines heading downhill from London Road, through Barnby Gate and down to the railway line, is a fabulous sight from a clear vantage point.

Occasionally butting in along the walk are the modern housing developments, erected on the graves of demolished schools and factories; horrendous, boxy and jaundiced. This town, as does so many, needs affordable housing, but the hideous cop-out modernity of these new homes. In the year 2015, we should be doing better and providing modern designs that are cheap to buy or rent, efficient to run, and look like someting actually of this century.

Then, as you get nearer town, you leave Victoriana behind, and find yourself in Georgia. Tall, symmetrical, houses with the occasional bricked in window for 18th century tax reasons. The most impressive Georgian buildings in town are of course on London Road, or Millgate, but at least you can see the change in style.

In the Market Square of course, you are in real mixed territory. Victorian, Georgian, with the addition of Tudor and even Plantaganet in fragments. But none of the fancy stuff on Barnby Gate.

It's a working street, for working people!


Barnby Gate, leading to the church

Victoriana down the hill

Ghost signs on a ghost pub

The hideous shock of the new

Three storey here

And now, we go Georgian

The church grounds and its impressive house at the corner
posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, 24 January 2015

After a Comet Lovejoy Holiday...

It's been a while since I've been able to observe the comet - put that down to cloudy skies, work schedules, and I'm afraid on one night a total inability to withstand the cold.

I thought it would be a rather more difficult object to find, having seen reports on twitter that it was now fading, but it was easily observable in my 10x50s despite the presence of a waxing crescent moon not too far away. It has now moved away from the Pleiades in a North Western path, and is now in the vicinity of Aries and Triangulum.

In fact the two stars that for the base of the narrow Triangulum triangle are almost pointing to it.

It has faded somewhat, but is still an easy object in binoculars and looks rather similar to the Andromeda galaxy at the moment. The condensation of the nucleus seems less apparent, but the teardrop shape is still present, although I can't get any hints of a tail. The magnitude is probably around 4.5 or so now, having dropped from the peak of 3.7-3.9 it seemed to reach at perigee.

If you wish to observe it, it is now an early evening object, culminating due south at 6-7pm.

Good luck spotting it!


Little Willie Wagtails

I'm no photographer, or rather, I have no means of taking nice action photographs at the moment, and one of the most photogenic and characterful birds of the winter is the pied wagail.

Unmissable in market squares, supermarket car parks and similar urban locations during the day, and roosting in some sites in their hundreds by night. Their tail strutting little walk is umistakable for anything else, but it is their buoyant undulating flight that always gets my attention.

Flying is an energy burning necessity to birds, one that especially small passerines would not do for mere pleasure. But there is something about the pied wagtail that makes you think the bird takes some enjoyment in it. It takes off with a piping little "peep!" and then as it reaches the top of each "wave" in its flight emits a cheerful "Peep-peep!" It flies like a paper toy being pulled on a string, a child's streamer with a long tail bobbing in the breeze.

With no camera up to the job, I characterise its flight through the medium of interpretive art.


posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, 23 January 2015

Bows to Inevitable, Buys Bird Feeder

It seems so strange to me that in all my life, I have never owned a bird feeding device. Largely down to the fact that I've always lived with cats; putting one up always felt like ringing a dinner gong for our Fennel and Rosie, or the more expert savages next door.

Well, sadly, my folks no longer have a cat, and in my flat, the local cat population seems less active. So today, on the market, I spontaneously decided to buy such a bird feeding device. Or "feeder" as they seem to be called by the pros.

I ended up with an experimental halfcoconut stuffed with suet and oddments...not the most amazing choice but initially I just wanted to see where best to put it, and if indeed any birds would show up at all. far none have. But I'm told not to be despondent, it will take a little while for the birds to overcome their caution at the sight of an unfamiliar source of food. I left them to it, and headed off on a run. The birds would be happier without an impatient fidget lurking in the window.


The future is coconut

Snowdrop grave

Snowdrops in close up

Blurry pochard

Gulls massing on the ice
posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Kissing Skulls at the Masonic Lodge

It was Bergerac where I first saw Freemasons, a creepy episode where at the beginning Jim Bergerac's posh but faintly shady pal Charlie Hungerford was being inducted at a lodge on sunny Jersey. The ritual involved kissing skulls and other dire threats, while the resident lodge murderer killed people on the strength of coin tosses.

Most recently  - to me - it showed up in "From Hell" which portrayed Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline, investigating the Whitechapel Murders in a film that took Alan Moore's graphic novel and showed the murders as having been concocted by Queen Victoria's Doctor William Gull, with the knowledge of the freemasons and police members thereof to cover up the naughtinesses of Prince Albert Victor.

In other words, the usual portrayal of Masons as a sinister, and corrupting influence.

The town lodge herer in Newark has always intrigued me, located on a darkly lit private road, but making no secret of its presence, as can be seen below. It's a stylistically unique building in this town, tall and blocky, and looking slightly tired. What lies in is intriguing, but I doubt it's very much more than local business folk doing a sort of souped up Rotary Club thing but in aprons.

However, I bet there are some fascinating pieces of design in there, murals, flooring and the like.  But will I ever know? I doubt it.


posted from Bloggeroid

Went for Walk, Goat Ate Trousers

First thing, if you could call 11am "first thing", I headed out on a walk. Not just any walk, a proper full blown contemplative Nature Walk, one I could write richly and deeply about.

After all, that's what proper nature writers do, the sort that appeared in the excellent Wildlife Trusts compilation I read, or in the RSPB magazine, or in the newspaper columns. "I'll never get a job at a charity unless I can write like them" I always think. "I really must try and be a proper nature writer."

So as I headed down the cycle track, I tried to think of grand themes on the relationship between human and wildlife, between person and plant, as I tried to fix my eyes on every single point in the visible world at the same time. I thought of major concepts; perhaps the definite role walking in an outdoor environment has on good mental wellbeing.

And then I met the goat.

The goat had clearly escaped from the little urban farm on Clay Lane. Camera at the ready as ever, or rather mobile phone, I awaited the goat to come into range to get a really good shot of its face and especially its eyes, curiously reminiscent of  - geek klaxon - Species 8742 from Star Trek Voyager.

The goat however had other ideas. It didn't stop and obligingly pose like an animal pro, instead it barrelled towards me and tried to stick its snout down my jeans pocket, rather forcibly, before giving up and ambling off to feed in the verge.

I don't know why it did this, perhaps it is used to getting treats given to it from the pocket. But it went straight for my hip like a very smelly missile - I hate that goaty reek - and put me right off any kind of philosophical musings altogether.

For it is hard to be a Wordsworth or a Wainwright when you've just been molested by a goat.


More gulls on ice

School fence gulls

Hazel catkins

In close up

Clay Lane horse

Goat avoids camera, heads straight for trousers

The culprit

Smelly goat

Distant Victorian townscape


Aconite up close

Squill in the cemetery
posted from Bloggeroid