Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My Last Bumblebee Bothering of the Year

I'm off work at the moment, and thus spending a lot of time being able to wander around and point my mobile phone camera at anything that catches me eye. Whether it wants to be photographed or not.

I suppose this is the dilemma of the low rent nature photographer like myself, who has absolutely no equipment whatsoever. Not for me the huge long lenses I see advertised in my RSPB magazine, to be worn by proper naturalists in expensive breathables. No, for me it is Tresspass, a T shirt and a mobile phone. I have to be close.

Witness this queen tree bumblebee, probably that last one I shall see all year. It was energetically making its way up the lavender flowers still in bloom in the library park, and showing no irritation at all with the giant creature waving an enormous flashing tombstone in its antennae. If you were someone engaged in a desperate struggle to stock up on calories for hibernation, how would you react to having a giant squid's eye rammed into your face as you went about your business?

"Oh bloody hell, here comes that pratt in the sunnies again, waggling his rubbish phone right in my face while I'm trying to eat. I've got a winter to survive, he looks well padded enough to not need to worry about the colder months! Sheesh, I've just banged my proboscis on that thing! Will he ever just leave me alone?"

Hopefully, there are worse nuisances than me around.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Dragonflies of Langford Lowfields

You'll have to bear with me. I'm running a day behind with my post, because after posting my bone chilling eclipse vigil yesterday, I felt that maybe a double dose of me in one day might be a bit much for readers with sensitive stomachs.

Yesterday, I cycled 30km around the back lanes of Stapleford Wood and Collingham on what was a glorious day for cycling; light winds and pleasant warmth, and quiet roads to enjoy them on. Once again, I resolved to break my journey at Langford, to have a little sit and a drink, and to see what was going on nature wise.

Once again, I found myself on unknown roads, including a slightly unnerving encounter with a level crossing where I had to operate the gates myself. Luckily pretty coloured lights helped me decided when there was no chance of getting walloped by a train.

Langford was wonderfully still and quiet, with only one other visitor, an older chap who had headed out there on an electric bike. There weren't many birds to be seen on the water however; the autumn arrivals obviously haven't made their way over yet, and the bittern and marsh harrier were keeping a low profile in the reeds somewhere.

What there were in abundance were dragonflies. All the damsels may have now gone, but common darters are still numerous, low level flyers often flushed up from basking on the paths. They do like to settle on posts or bushes however, and so do present a photo opportunity for the cameraman with any degree of subtlety whatsoever, like I haven't got. Luckily, they were kindly disposed yesterday.

No chance of that with the other species present however. The migrant hawkers operate rather higher off the ground, flying in relentless angular patrols and chewing up smaller insects in flight with ease. Less curious of humans than the larger southern hawkers, they nevertheless will give you a close flyby from time to time, a very audible rustling flutter from their wings as they do so.

I've seen migrant hawkers at rest a couple of times, and a couple of years ago managed to get a really up close film of one on my old mobile, accompanied by some awful cod wildlife commentary from the writer. But today, with the sun warm in the sky, all they wanted to do was fly.

Because there aren't many flying days left for them.


All pictures and images copyriht CreamCrackeredNature 29.09.15

Lovely sight upon arrival

Warm shone the sun

Lovely Langford greens

CLose up greens on a baby oak tree

These are irridescent water beetles or larvae of some kind. 


Harder to hide here!

Monday, 28 September 2015

My Lunar Eclipse Vigil

Well, everything went pretty much as I'd planned for my "Super-Blood-Moon-Hype-Hype" eclipse watching session. I got home at 1am, spent an hour getting some warm food inside in me, and then took my garden lounger outside into the dark.

It was very, very cold, and very very clear. The moon already had a small bite taken out of if as I got outside at 0215, and over the next hour I watched the black shadow eat more and more of the moons glittering body. All the while I listened to an excellent radio documentary about a photographer who operated in the brothels of Weimar Berlin in the late 1920s.

It rather fit the mood actually, smoky champagne soaked artistic tales told as the moon's bright disc was gradually more and more obscured by the Earth's shadow, and as it's dazzling glare was reduced you could see the blood red refracted light painting the moon with a burlesque club's ambience.

Totality was reached about 0315, and at that point I found myself too chilly to continue, and took myself off to bed as the moon had now come round to the bedroom side of my flat with that documentary still ongoing.

I kept dozing, and found more and more of the moon revealed as it began to free itself of the Earth's dark shadow, rebirth finding its way into my dreams of running, I think.

I took some photographs, just so you get an idea of what mobile phone pictures of an eclipse look like compared with all those super ones you'll have seen on the web and in the press today.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 28.09.15

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Red Admiral Studies

Glorious days are few and far between these days, and although the morning nipped chillily into unprotected fingers, if you could find any suntraps then it was obligatory to be outside.

So as soon as it was warm enough, I was off to Rumbles cafe for my morning-ish-nearly-afternoon-by-now tea, where kids played football on the grass or rather grown up looking kids dug huge holes in the sandpit. Me, I just sat and red and let the sun heat up my reptilian blood.

In the afternoon, I decided to have a gentle, very gentle indeed run, thinking all the while about what kind of new CV I should create for myself, career prospects in general, and just why Scotland were being so hopeless against the USA in the first half of the rugby.

It was towards the end of this run, 10km to Beacon Hill Reserve and along the river, that I decided to inspect the last bastion of flora on the local small park for butterflies basking in the sunshine. I was immediately rewarded with the sight of a large white nectaring off a purple bloom, but it was too skittish to be photographed. A big tree bumblebee queen, the first bumble I have seen for a little while, was also busy, but the prize of best model of the day goes to the red admiral that obligingly posed for the photographs you see below.

They are the hardiest of our butterflies I would say, and tend to last longest in the year. I've probably mentioned before I've photographed one on boxing day.

Enjoy the lunar eclipse tonight. 2AM BST is when the moon will start to darken.


all text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.09.15

I see you!

Sun on your back
Beautiful markings, ugly focus

Edge on
Spotlit for glory

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Messing About on the Water

I've always loved the idea of living in a narrowboat.

It just seems the right sort of environment for a nature loving writer to live in, painting a picture of properly bohemian - NOTE NOT "BOHO" - living with a tin cup of hot tea on the go, sailing from pretty riverside pub to pretty riverside pub, having adventures and then tying up in a city marina when you want a spot of more exciting living.

They are far cheaper than house. I'm looking at a lovely little dinky 32 foot narrowboat for £23,000, which is less than the cost of a deposit in many parts of the UK. A lot less, in the South. Scoot it along the water, plug it in to services, put some flower pots on the roof, and you're ready to rock...

...Once you've installed the essential crudely lashed on rickety TV aerial. Which all barges seem to have by law round here.

Alas, it's not as simple as that. Now it's caught on, mooring costs are rocketing up and restrictions increasing, someone as klutzy as me should not be out in charge on anything with an engine, the fear of late night break in by drunken thugs from those riverside pubs, cost of regular maintenance. The fact that at 6 foot 1 I'll probably end up looking like Mr Bump.

Then there is the toilet. It's all getting a bit Alan Partridge and his Dundee cake now. Toilets are fine in themselves, but for Mr OCD extreme, having to do all the, ahem, emptying like a 1970s IRA prisoner is a bit distasteful to say the least.

The Thetford Cassette toilet? What on earth could that be? I don't see an old fashioned C90 being all that absorbent. And as for what I see referred to as a "Mactator toilet", this creates a frankly terrifying image of some kind of satanic chewing maw taking place mere inches below your nether regions.

I don't want all that going on every time I wish to visit the little boys room!!!

So, maybe, the idea of a life on the water should just be regarded as an idle fantasy. But when you see all the lovely boats around here, it does make you wonder.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 26.09.15

Canary yellow

Yuppies at sea

Merlot aboard the Merlot sounds a nice idea

A Dutch barge

A baby barge

Rickety cruiser for sale

Steptoe and Son at sea

Friday, 25 September 2015

A Donald Rudd Refresher

I'm going to be heading up back to my Scottish hometown in a couple of weeks time.

Kirkcudbright is famous for three things; how you pronounce its name, the Wicker Man movie connection - more of that later on - and its artists.

One of these artists was Donald Rudd. He wasn't anywhere near as famous as a Hornel, largely because as an online bio said he was rather given to "improving" his paintings after a long evening at one of the local hostelries. But I never knew Hornel, although he painted my Auntie Bella for a few bananas, while Donald was a good friend, a great bear of a sailor who taught me about The Great Bear in the sky.

I wrote about him here last year, before many of you followed this blog.

My friend Donald


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Whinging Towards Glory

With my 42km (26 miles, 385 yards, 6 tanks of oxygen, 50kg of traction) marathon upcoming in late November, I'm really struggling with my training. It is getting my down just a tiny bit.

Before May, I was running really well in the main. 51 minute 10km up hill and down, er, hill. Hitting the cross country, loving my nature, and being able to keep pace with butterflies racing me along the hedgerow.

That was before my return to cricket in May.

My first match, before I had even bowled, I gave myself a double groin strain running between the wickets. The next day, a big "n" shape of pain wrapped its way from thigh to thigh across my stomach. Everytime I coughed or sneezed, it was agony.

Being the sort of person blessed with reasonable determination, and a higher amount of stupidity, I've battled through the summer, in various twinges of pain, and by August thought I'd worked my way through the worst of it. My running pace was still off, but I was reasonably pain free and able to do a 15 mile run at one point.

Then I played the last cricket match of the season, and despite all the stretches, all the warm ups, hurt myself again. Rested up, went running the other day, and am now spotrting a sore achilles, sore thighs, and that swine of a groin and stomach pain again. Whinge whinge whine whine limp limp.

If I was in "Animal Farm" I would have beaten Boxer to the glue factory by months.

The marathon looms. I think I might have to trim it back to a half on the day, much to my frustration. I keep forgetting I'm middle aged.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.09.15

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

I Dream of Butterflies

I was afflicted by one of my butterfly dreams again last night.

It's an odd sort of thing to be afflicted with, but it is true to say that these days, I have recurring dreams involving flutterers. I swear to god, I've seen more of them while resting in the Halls of Morpheus than I have when I'm awake this year. Butterflies. Glorious butterflies.

The pattern is always the same. The dream will be wending it's often rather mundanely surreal course through my brain, when unrelated to any of the action at all, I'll see a butterfly somewhere.

Last night, it was in the clothes department of a John Lewis type store. For some reason, after every rail of clothing, there would be a sort of wooded alcove - !!! - and within one of these alcoves, there was the largest speckled wood butterfly I'd ever seen, sat there, wings half open with an smaller, extra set poised at a steeper angle.

Next to it, sat an even larger one, motionless as statues of dryads, unaffected by the Inception projections parading around the shop floor. Except when I tried to take a photograph, at which point they waited until just before the camera came into focus before fluttering off into the pink flowered hedge.

Then there were red admirals the size of my hand, outstretched, beautiful, painted like icons onto a tree stump. Neon green brimstones. A swallow tail basking in the sun mysteriously shining as the scene shifted to a Byron-esque river bank overlooking waters full of silvery glinting trout.

That was just the ordinary species. My dreamscape created exotics too, butterflies the like of the birds of paradise of Borneo and Sumatra. Purple forktails with streamers a foot long, golden peacocks, emerald fancies, fancied starstreaks.

None of them would allow me to take a photograph. The only way I can prove to you these species exist is to tell you about them.

But it was a more non-descript species that was the oddes. Violet-grey in colour, wren sized and furry of body and wing, it decided that the best thing to do everytime I raised my camera was to fly into my face, and settle upon my lips, fluttering its wings against my face.

What nectar, pray tell me, would it find there?

Enjoy the nature of your dreams.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 23.09.15

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Escape from the Rain

Today was mainly pretty darn miserable. It was the sound of rain battering down my window from my slightly leaky guttering that woke me up, and it was this same persistent scudding sound that dogged my entire day as I tried to read.

Iain M. Banks Culture novels are tricky enough without a tropical rainstorm hammering down outside.

I was fretful and prowling, too much energy needing burning off. But eventually the rain relented, and a magic weather front of blue sky made its way over from the South West, and I was able to get out on the bike, new Trespass trousers aboard my legs.

I wasn't meaning to go that far, but eventually ended up going 25 or so km on a foray over the border into Lincolnshire. First I went to Claypole, where the willow tree hung greenly over the River Witham as it has done for many years.

Next up, I was cycling through the village when a sign marking a "Solar Park" caught my attention, and soon I could see the glittering solar panels in the far distance. This was the new, and still under construction, Copley Solar Farm, which at 30MW has way more capacity than the Hawton one you cycle past on the Sustrans 64. Evidently the farmers who own the land don't think beef and arable farming are any longer sustainable there.

A legbreaker of a climb - luckily a short one - brought me into Dry Doddington village on my trip on what were all new roads to me. The major landmark here is the church of St James, with it's noticeably leaning 14th century tower.

From here it was across to Stubton, where I found myself entranced by a rainbow like hedge, before dragging my stiff legs home into the breeze. Luckily the sight of a few swallows and martins still around in the villages kept me going.

I'd certainly burnt my energy off. I was indeed CreamCrackered at the end of the ride!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 21.09.15

First thing; a glittery spider web

Good weather front approaches! Time to be out.

The Witham at Claypole

Copley Solar Farm

The leaning tower of Dry Doddington

St James' tower, complete with jackdaw

The far off flatlands of Lincolnshire

Illuminated streetsign - I love these olde worlde ones

Golden hedge, and dark knight

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Life on the Railway Line

Well not on the railway line, rather by it, as I trotted slowly along the Sustrans 64 cycle path, snuffling all the while like a hedgehog, throwing in the odd cough like a moose. I really am a silly boy sometimes, but I get cross if I can't get out there.

You'd think everything would be as dead as doornails along there this time of year, unless you were a fan of berries, but there was a surprising amount of wildflowers in recent bloom, as well as a fair few buddleias hanging on in.

It was noticeable that the buddleias seemed to have lost of their cloying scent, however. They were a godsend for a few vigorously fluttering red admirals, however the peacocks you'd expect to see were not evident at all. They have really had a dreadful year, especially in the second flight.

There seems to be a lot of toadflax around this year, a species I've not really noticed along here before with its bright yellow snapdragon flowers. Ox eye daisies are still in bloom, and bizarrely there was some bramble blossom out in places. Heaven knows why. Certainly the brambles were a major problem today, I twice got my leg ripped as I went butterfly stalking off the track.

I'm examining the 6 inch long scratch now.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.09.15

I got my legs ripped for this rubbish shot

Thick fluff

Horse tails

Ox eye daisies. A pleasure.

Hoverfly on ragwort

Blackberries in the fence

Red admiral

Took a while for it to open its wings


Newark Northgate station

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Snuffling Hunter of Hoverflies

Your writer is a rather sick boy today, heavily bunged up with cold and coughing like a two legged sanitorium. It hasn't stopped me getting out of course, this morning I was at Rumbles cafe perusing the dying marigolds before nearly buying women's hiking trousers at Tresspass, and then in the afternoon I managed to get an 11km run in.

It was a fine day in the main, although I missed the beginning of it through being exhausted after my shift. I hate wasting daylight especially when it was as pleasant as this. However, must be grateful for what I did get in this nothing of a summer.

Apart from a few carders, bumbles and honeybees were really not on view today. However, wherever there were flowering blooms, there were hoverflies. Not just the usual marmalade ones either, most of them seemed to be large bee emulating flies that I believe may be of the bombuylans species.

I don't ever recall seeing so many of these large hoverflies, and wonder if, as seems to be the case with many other species these days, they are moving North.

Speaking of which, I had a good look for ivy mining bees today, and although the strange and powerfully scented ivy flowers were attracting a lot of customers, there were none of these new southern invaders up here yet.


All images and text copyright CreamCrackeredNature 19.09.15

Rare sighting of a native ladybird, possibly a 7 spot.

Feeding carder bee

This time of year, they are the dominant bumble about

The marigolds just hanging on

So, here's a big hoverfly

Otter rock

Pleasure boating

On the flowering ivy

And another one!

Failing to hide from me

Very dark markings, this species

These yellow flowers on the small park near my home

Lovely wing detail

Big eyed beastie