Saturday, 31 October 2015

Macro Raid at RSPB Langford Lowfields

After two good days running, my left buttock decided to punish me for it today by being rather sore; ideas of a long run thus went way out the window and it was a bike riding day instead. Especially as the sun decided to appear in the early afternoon, and the idea of photography became attractive too.

It was my middle length route to Langford, the one via Stapleford Woods, and I was fair flying along the quiet roads, enjoying the trip out and feeling rather relieved I wasn't having to flog my legs on muddy tracks.

I wasn't alone at Langford, a couple were doing the whole flask and binoculars thing down on the viewing platform, so I left them to it while exploring the waterside margins - there wasn't much out on the water in any case. It was rewarding; the sun had brought out male common darters, still flying like the witches this Halloween, and a grasshopper hopped into view for a sunbathe too.

Fungi were plentiful, and there were some bright pink flowers in surprising full bloom. The sun shone upon the water and everything seemed pretty much OK with the world at that moment.

It was a nice ride back in too, racing my shadow as the sun began to set and paint the sky salmon pink.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 31.10.15

Cormorant and swan impersonating Loch Ness Monster

Common darter on the organic bike rack

Those eyes

The best behaved dragonfly species for photography

Lovely detail in the wings, as a photobomber appears

Ducks on a distant shore



Clump of toadstools

Brackets in the bike rack

Grasshopper alone


The reed bed as the sun sets

Friday, 30 October 2015

Those Pesky Grebes Again!

These pictures were taken while out on my run yesterday, but I decided you might like to see the muddy bottom of an empty river first. Which stats suggest you didn't actually want to see, so that was a bit of a fail on my part.

The great crested grebes of Balderton Lake, known to locals as The Blue Lake for some sort of rather colour blind reason, were a photography target yesterday, but just as at London Road Lake, they weren't keen on being shot. When they get going, they work up a pretty impressive head of steam and are hard to keep in focus as they carve through the waters, leaving impressive wakes.

Then of course, there is the diving, perfectly timed to coincide with getting the blasted bird in focus.  And when they surface, they are invariably further away from you.

I managed to photograph two grebes, an immature specimen just losing the cute zebra stripes they have as chicks, and an adult, probably the parent as they started swimming along together eventually.

They are such beautiful birds, I would love to capture some lovely shots of them, but it still isn't happening for me. But I will keep trying.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.10.15

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Cycles in the Sludge

My back is aching less today, so I risked a gentle run about in the rain. Needed to burn the calories from yet another excellent tin of Baxter's soup for lunch.

Baxters and Barrs - the two greatest UK food and drink companies!

What I really wanted to do during this little trot-about was visit the stretch of the Newark Trent that has been drained to enable the town lock gates to be replaced. Last time they did this, in the late 1980s, all sorts of stuff was discovered in the mud, including reputedly an automatic handgun.

No such excitement this year; the riverine bounty this time around seems to consist mainly of bicycles, shopping trolleys and car exhaust pipes. There is an umistakable iodine smell of tainted mud, amid the waft of which the ghosts of those the river has taken are liberated to make mischief this All Hallows Eve.


All text and images are copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.10.15

Dredgers sucking up the water and mud

Inspecting the walls. Or "refilling" the canal

Marooned barge

River bounty

This is where some of the stolen bikes end up

Barge aground

Looking towards the castle

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Kirkcudbright White House

A return now to Scotland, and a visit to a local landmark that was recently featured on "Great Houses of the Coast" or some such More 4 type propertygasm show, although thankfully not one of the ones where someone gawps at a house and says "I never thought THIS would as cheap as six hundred thousand!"

At least I'll never have hateful hipster yuppies being shown round my flat by Amanda Lamb.

I'm not sure what the inspiration for the design is; there is something slightly naval and militaristic about the three turret design, like a Victorian battleship with its white upperworks. I believe the building is owned by a Russian sculptress or something rather exotic like that, although I hadn't realised sculpture was ever that financially rewarding unless you were Anthony Gormley.

Reaction to the building from the rather conservative local community  - OK,  the one person that I spoke to about it - is not positive. Said person said it was a monstrosity and added with satisfaction that its foundations were sinking.

Situated as it is, right next to one of the estuary lochs with its very boggy, muddy shore, I wouldn't find this too surprising.

The building certainly stands out among the deep red sandstone and pebble dash of town, and seems to be a popular spot for teenagers to visit. This is because it would appear that it marks the only spot in town you can get mobile phone reception on certain networks.

No wonder Kirkcudbright can't hold on to its younger population.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 28.10.15

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Bear Terror of it

I was reading about how the state legislature in Florida had decided to allow a cull of 900 of the local bear population, officially because hungry bears were coming into town and leaping out of the shadows to attack garbage men; unofficially, well, perhaps some maniacs with rifles fancied a new rug or two.

Of course, local environmentalists were up in arms about it, saying that better control of access to food supplies and suppressing the ursine attracting smell of rubbish was the answer. Me, I've no wish to argue either with bears or everglade dwellers with guns, but there was a little bit of advice at the end of this BBC news story that made me chuckle.

"If you are confronted by a bear, the best thing to do is to speak gently and assertively to the bear, while backing slowly away."

How I loved this! How I envisaged some poor tourist saying "Nice bear! Friendly bear!" in a quavering voice, backing away as some grizzly prepares to disembowel them with frying pan sized paws. There's also the idea that a bear could understand that it was being spoken to in the prescribed polite manner, as opposed to "Hey bear! I'm going to rip your eyes out then go and firebomb your den!"

I wonder if there are classes where you can learn how to speak assertively to bears? They aren't like bloody Paddington!

Well, today has been a work day, and I did a good thing. Someone found a ladybird on their desk, and I was delighted to see that it was a native two-spot ladybird, the first I've seen in years. So determined was I to preserve it, I walked miles and miles through the complex at work in order to let it out into fresh air.

Gods of karma, that surely deserves a reward.

As a final bonus, here are some pictures of the autumnal cycle path, where everything, including sciatic me, has gone to seed.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 26.10.15

Not sure what has left these behind

These remind me of alder cones!

Suddenly a buddleia has reflowered in odd colours. Cream...

...and orange


Weather front over the sugar factory

What was a rich brownfield nature habitat now being built on

Sunset flares

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Starling Hangout

This off shift has been a bit of a wipe out really. I was tired during the day, then in the evening had a tic that brought on a mild attack of sciatica from my backside all down my left leg and made me hobble in a slightly comic fashion.

It's better today, but as a precaution realised I couldn't go running again, so instead I took my camera out for a walk down to London Road Pond and then along the river, enjoying the rain given opportunity to wear my hiking trousers and monstrous yellow kag-in-a-bag and thus look very stupid.

After drawing a blank yesterday, today was mission grebe and sure enough I found an adult on patrol on the pond.


Everytime I got the wretched avian in focus, it dived. Again and again and again. Repeatedly. Repeatedly and repeatedly. I followed it up and down the bank like a neon clad idiot, getting some strange looks from some kids trying to illegally pike fish in the lake, and getting no usable shots of the bird whatsoever.

Darn bird.

However, I got some nice shots of some juvenile moorhens, and when I went to the marina bridge, I was able to shoot the starlings that gather there before the evening murmuration. Think these turned out well.

But that's just my opinion.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 25.10.15

"Fancy a swim"
"Because I'm going in"
"Best go in after him"
Best of my rubbish grebe shots
Macro snail
The starlings on the bridge
Preparing for murmuration
Admiring the sunset
Taking in the view

Friday, 23 October 2015

Mission: Photography

Oh I'm such a lazy boy. The plan was to have a really good long run today, out to 20km or beyond, and after a bright start to the day, I ended up so tired in the afternoon that I ended up dozing for a couple of hours in front of a DVD.

This was not acceptable.

When I did get going, I just didn't feel like running at all and was looking for any excuse. Not a good attitude when one is trying to drop a bit of holiday weight I'm afraid, but I didn't waste the day. I headed to the park with the new camera to see if I could get any good bird shots.

The answer was, no, not really. Aside from a lovely "seeeeep"-ing flock of long tailed tits, which were bar too busy for me to get a shot of, the large number of dogs being walked had probably driven the birds way into the tree tops, and there were no kestrels hunting above the pasture.

The muntjac deer that, unbelievably, visit the park were obviously not going to show themselves, being barely larger than a dog themselves. No-one seems to know where they have come from, but they've been popping up in people's gardens here from time to time.

The waterfowl on Balderton Lake were a better target, although there were no great crested grebes to shoot, but I'm still not happy with my pictures. I'm getting better, but any motion at all seems to blur the image, and I'm far too shaky to maintain a good focus point when on the zoom.

Still, it is only a basic bridge camera and I'm only a far more basic photographer. My bird shots are still better than any I've got before, and my squirrel even looks like a squirrel!

Hope you like them.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 23.10.15

Sconce old wood


Macro flower

Another late lasting flower on the Sconce

Squirrel in the old wood tree

Going down!

Tufted duck