Tuesday 31 May 2011

Televisions are better than binoculars...

...but not as much fun.

Seriously when it comes to birdspotting on the TV, I'm an ace. I'm the red baron, I'm superfly TNT, I'm the Guns of the Navarone. Tony Soper would wilt at my lightnig fast ability to recognise Redstarts, Redshanks, Greenshanks and...um...Longshanks before reminding me that I used to think he looked like Imran Khan and is thus miles better looking than I am.

Like my ability at Only Connect on BBC4, this is about as much use as a plutonium birdbox. In reality, in the harsh grey wilds I am a complete faecal sac at birdspotting. But I aim to get better. Surely I will get to Langford Lowfields this week and not confuse a white plastic sack with an egret or a magpie with an avocet. And surely there won't be a headwind so it takes me less than three years to get back.

More proper reports soon. And photos, I promise.

Monday 30 May 2011

I suffered as they suffered

Thought I'd try something different today. Not really out of choice, but because I was fat and lazy yesterday, slobbering about all day reading and watching Scott Pilgrim over and over again.

Of course, today it rained like hell. All day. So, I decided to make the best out of it, and see who would be mad enough to be out, like me, on a rain jagging grey miserable damn bank holiday. If the wildlife was getting soaked, then so would I.

Today's route was London Road Lake - Field and Copse off Clay Lane - Beacon Hill Reserve - River. London Road Lake, the Grebes and Coots were out with their chicks, and the cute Moorhen was splashing about in the little dyke where the froggies and toadies live. But once again no Tufted Ducks, there's usually plenty of them gadding about. Wonder where they went.

Behind Clay Lane, I love this little patch of land, would be a good little reserve in its own right, nice little mixed habitat of grassland and copses. Still a bit of Hawthorn Bloom out, and a tree with some pink bloom on that was a bit too far away for the slightly off colour Si to investigate. But I will. Assuming I don't get flattened by a kid on one of those oversize off road skateboard things.

Beacon Hill, well there's a lot of rubbish been dumped in various places by kids, and all the rabbits were down in their various warrens. The nursery looks pretty with the dog daisies out, and there's a lot of Greater (White?) and Field (pink and white) Bindweed. No birdies though, and deffo no butterflies.

On the river, if there were any cormorants or herons or boring old mallards about, by now they wouldn't have been as soaked as I was.

But when I got home, after this 1 hour 10k or so route, someone was happy with the weather. A collared dove - not seen so many of these yet this year - was happily splashing and having a drink in a puddle on my drive - it's elegant form screeched at by a line of House Sparrows watching from a garage roof, gabbling away with all the delicacy for which they are famed.

PS - if I get decent weather, want to take a few photos by bike. So you don't get fed up with my words, y'all.

Saturday 28 May 2011

All was a blur

Today I ran, but feeling a bit blown out by yesterday's efforts and yesterday's headache, I just went for a 5k time trial.

I was pleased! I was able to get round my route in 20.35, two minutes faster than my record for this Tour De Northgate Railway Station and Beer Festival. Wanted to try and get some speed in my legs, rather than endlessly plodding over 7 to 10 miles. Alas it was a less than scenic route covered at high speed, any wildlife or interesting sights would have passed in a blur of fur and feather. I would imagine a lot of critters were in hiding waiting for the beer festival crowd to thin out and disappear so they could stuff themselves with fallen hot dogs.

However, when I got home I watched two Great Tits - one adult one immature I think - cavorting on the Sycamore hoovering up aphids upside down and all around as they flitted from here to there, seemingly as weightless as I wish I was.

Friday 27 May 2011

You! You can nark off the fishermen all you want

Today's run was ten mile or so affair, run with a headache and pretty knackered feeling as it was the first day back at work after my shift. The rape is nearly over, it only slight tinges the fields yellow between Hawton and Farndon which is where I ran today.

Barley fills many of the fields along the Hawton Road, and a swallow seemed to be almost flying along the tractor tracks in the fields. But otherwise, life really seemed to be in short supply on a cool, windy day - few birds, no butterflies, no dragonflies. In Willow Holt there was a flash of black and white as I ran through the wooded area near the river where the catkins still litter the ground if not choking the air. I think it was a Bullfinch but never got a close look.

The Holt proper looked very pretty, with buttercups and elegant Dog Daisies in abundance. Further round the river, the yellow buttercup field I mentioned before now has a ruddy tint too from the flowers on some species of grass or other - surprisingly vivid at a distance, it tricks my idiotic eye into thinking they are poppies.

Today's highlight was a really good view of a Cormorant flying along the river near the cottages by the bypass bridge. They aren't popular with fishermen, but today as it scudded along it looked like a low level torpedo bomber heading in to sink the Bismark or something, I'm sure if the sun was out it would have looked even better,  glowing irridescent green and purple. But as it was, it still looked sleek and lethal.

Everytime I see a cormorant they are usually up to something interesting - flying, fishing, drying their great bat like wings, and they can have all the fish they want as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

All the action was on my doorstep again

Last night did another mid shift run - 4 miles including a long stretch along the cycle path by a quiet London Road Lake - the Grebes were out but the Greylags had decided they didn't find Newark salubrious enough and have  scarpered.

Swifts were out too, and Swallows and Martins - the riverside was thick with midges and I'm sure I ate as many of the damn things as the birds did. But the real action was in my (laughable) what-I-call-a-garden-but-is-actually-a-drive.

As I arrived home, panting, I heard the familiar sharp 'chucking' of a blackbird being hacked off by a cat. I remember it well from when our demon of a cat a few years ago, so cuddly in other ways, used to skewer thrush and blackbird chicks no matter how many times he was scolded for it.

Luckily my mother's current cat is a boss eyed sort of Maine Coon who lives indoors and can't catch a ping pong ball shoved under its nose. But I digress...

Sure enough there was a cat, a rather dirty white tortie, sitting there being ripped into by mummy and daddy blackbird in a sycamore tree; the sole chick (one from five seems to be about the mean survival rate of these things)  was sat in a higher branch. Figuring for all the din they were making they needed a hand, I joined in (what A HERO!) and Mrs Cat slinked off.

But not before every other bird in the garden joined in for a quick look and a taunt! A Great Tit dropped by, inquisitive. A sort of spotted looking Dunnocky thing which in my usual idiot overestimations I decided at first glance was a spotted flycatcher (LOL) but was more probably a palish Dunnock, and most attractive of all a couple of Robins, one of which was missing a tail - another immature adult?

The Robins are friendly, fun to watch, and infinitely better for you than flogging dead legs around a midge filled dirty grey dusk. And I'm sure they hate the guts of cats too.

Sunday 22 May 2011

I saw nothing...but on my doorstep

My eyes were watering so much because of the gale I was idiotically trying to run into, across Sonce Park and around Millgate. Any sane bird or animal would have been sat at home with it's claws up watching Back to the Future 3, unless it wanted to be blown to Zeebrugge.

It wasn't a very long run either. Hey! I did 11 miles the other day. Slacking is allowed.

So really, all I saw was one I got home. On my driveway, a young blackbird was sitting, stump tailed and gaped, before it flew off on catching sight of me (I don't feel aggrieved), and then right on my doorstep, a blackbird egg (or was it a song thrush - it was turquoise and speckled) broken. Either the blackbird chick was a superfast growing mutant, or I've got blackbirds slash thrushes nesting under my eaves as well as the endlessly scolding and chattering sparrows.

Saturday 21 May 2011

A swift bonus

OK, you folk are lucky, bonus update as I just decided to head out on the bike again for 30 minutes as I was paranoid I'd been too lazy tonight. And I wanted too see if there were any pretty girls promenading. Some hope.

Anyway, coming along Millgate saw a flock of swifts scything through the air, pretty low down as well, just carving the air up amongst the attractive old Georgian buildings and the awful looking new flats, outflying everything else in the air. First ones I've seen this year.

The Yellowest of Hammers

Legs aren't up to running today - after 18 miles in two days they are a bit stiff, so just headed out on my wonky bicycle. Original intention was to head to Langford Lowfields but wind was really strong and figured it would be a pain getting back. Plus the fact I wanted to get to watch the Zoncolan mountain stage of the Giro D'Italia, so we had a slightly shorter ride through Winthorpe and Langford village.

I was just enjoying the ride really. The A1113 is a wee bit busy so I wasn't really scanning the hedgerows for signs of life as cars, and horseboxes, came thundering by at 60mph, but once I'd turned off onto Holme Lane was able to take things easier and look around me more.

No choice really. The wind was right in my face so I was doing about no miles per hour, and it was a struggle. But as I turned on the road back in towards Winthorpe, past a hungry looking Staffie off the lead and unmuzzled (gave the beast plenty of room lol) I saw a fellow traveller with the same problem.

A yellowhammer, virtually three feet in front of me as I chugged along. For once, got a really good view as opposed to a quick browny yellow flash as our relative speeds were the same.

You really don't appreciate how yellow they are until you can see them this close. The back is brown with the yellow neck and rump showing, but when you get to see the neck and chest and face, they are scorchingly yellow, a hot yellow, yellower than a canry. Really really striking as it sat in a hedge watching me as I watched it, so yellow it stood out easily against a backdrop of oilseed rape.

I wished that I had bloody wings, as I manfully continued my struggle into the wind.

Friday 20 May 2011

Down to the lake

Well, it's been a pleasant day on and off. Cancelled the mornings cycle ride though, man I was just far too lazy and attached to my bed, reading away my Eurovision Nul Points book - ahem. But I did get to go to the doc's and have medication for my ankle. Lovely.

Ran 7 miles this afternoon and after today and yesterday feel bloody stiff. Today's route was by the lake and then the full length of clay lane, before coming back through Beacon Hill reserve and along the river. The major thing I noticed that instead of the solitary Greylag I reported before, now we have a mini flock of greylags on London Road lake - I hadn't seen one until recently, now a few of them have decided our glorious town is the best place to spend the summer.

Dumb avian airheads!

A coot seemed to have 4 chicks in tow, which seems a lot to me maybe? Ach, I know so little! That's why you lot have to bear with me! Actually, all was pretty quiet today, maybe as everything was a bit off, weatherwise, somehow windy and claggy all at the same time, if that's possible, which it isn't.

Thursday 19 May 2011

A new route

Today was a cycle and a rub, so be impressed pitiful earthlings! Or, more likely, not.

Cycle ride took me past the old sailing club lake. It used to be a pretty sight on weekends, with the colourful boats swishing about and the admittedly rather rah-ish folk having fun. Then the fishing club turfed them out and turned it into a big sterile watery hole, with a few mallards and greylag geese pootling about. Really sad, I always think, there was room for both.

So that was 7 miles on the bike in the morning, and then in the afternoon decided to run out to this footpath to apparently nowhere I see from work.

I've always wondered where it goes...

Well, I'll tell you bloody where. Having risked my neck running by the side of the quiet and peaceful A17, the nice friendly brown sign saying "Public Footpath" led to no footpath, or anything that could be called a foot track, or foot route not thigh deep in bloody nettles. In the opposite direction to the sign there was some some sort of farm track  next to a very stagnant drain from which I startled a heron - god only knows what kind of fish it was trying to catch in there.

The track was next to a field of rape, and added into that nasty cloying stink was some sort of muck spreading nausea stew going on. This path was nay beauty, as my mother would say, leading to an old airstrip by the air museum and piles of landfill rubble, but there were some lapwings about.

Lapwings! I'm sure when I was a kid they were everywhere out in the fields, but you never see many these days I reckon, so I was pretty chuffed to see those familar broad wings and psych magpie colour schemes presumably disturbed by my clod hopping running up into the miasmic air.

I ran eleven miles, close to, and really didn't see a lot - apart from a few green veined white by that ditch, not a lot to be seen, beacon hill reserve was quiet and after 7-8 miles I was pretty cracked by then. If weather holds, a trip to Langford Lowfields beckons, or at least to the hide on the perimeter.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Golly lolly gee

Well, not only am I thrilled to now be an RSPB member, I made it up onto their daily news report with this here blog. Stick with it chaps and chappeses I'm still learning to be a writer of this nature on nature.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

So let's try the evening on Watership Down

Setting aside some of the very limited time I have during my twelve hour a day shifts, I went out for a run yesterday evening past London Road lake and across the western half of Beacon Hill reserve to see what my very tired self might see.

I was hoping for a warm, pleasant sunny evening where as an added bonus I might meet the woman of my dreams sitting waterside somewhere like a pre raphaelite painting. But no, it was cold and grey and windy and the only girls around would have to have been wearing unflattering woolen survival suits or something.

So, what did we see? Well, there seem two Great Crested Grebe chicks on london road lake, sailing along in the wake of what I guess is the female - but not a massive amount of interest. My first sighting of mallard chicks on the trent further along, but they were frankly already rather past the cute stage - surprised I haven't seen them sooner.

The standout sight of the evening, if a a fairly unexotic one, was on Beacon Hill reserve, where there was an absoloute army of rabbits more the sufficient to wipe out the combined forces of Hazel and Bigwig, and General Woundwort combined. Flashing white tails disappearing from the jogging predator in huge numbers, right down to kittens barely larger than my clenched first, it seemed. No need to get any volunteers to crop the grass up there, Notts Wildlife trust. These little blighters must be doing it for you!

And they are everywhere, greater numbers every year - outside my work, on Riverside Park, the sides of the roads. The foxes must be getting lazy...

Friday 13 May 2011

baby oak tree in my garden

hot chicks

Yesterday was the traditional "Route 1" kind of route with a daft diversion to look at the remote controlled aeroplane shop on the industrial estate, a place I always find fascinating for the great big flying machines - so fascinating I got strange looks from the woman working in the place as she saw my sweaty face pressed up against the glass.

Wildlife stuff - well the pair of Great Crested Grebes were out on london road lake with a chick in tow, and I think also a tufted duck chick was there too.

The really cute ones, of course, are the moorhen and coot chicks with their comedy big feet. But they aren't about yet, and no Mallard chicks around either.

Today, in the little reserve created by the council, two drakes and a duck were circling around the dinky little pond that there is in there. It's a very overgrown and dark little spot, might be quite creepy at night that little place! 

Wednesday 11 May 2011

In which I display botanical ignorance - Willow Holt

Today's run was a real ambitious biggy, one to make me worry about my twingeing calf muscles and rickety achilles. As the sun came out and the wind dropped a bit, I headed out to Willow Holt, in Farndon, for a bit of a jolly old job along the river.

Sorry, no pics yet, all my running means my trackies end up round my ankles due to weight loss, and the emergency subsitute shorts are full of holes in the pocket area. I've lost too many sets of house keys this way, not losing my cameraphone!

The Holt, the entrance to which is down a winding lane at the pub end of Farndown, is an attractive area of marshy water meadow and willow tree plantation. Today, as I ran through, it was chock full of pink flowers in bloom, and catkin seed things from the willow trees filling the air with a cottom mist and covering the path on the path by the river.

I know, I'm not very good with the old plants and things that grow, am I? I can do Forget-me-nots. I can do Foxgloves, and thanks to my mum I know what the Hawthorns are, at least when in full bloom. But when I met David Bellamy at St Martins pond in 2006, well, it never rubbed off on me. If I ever have green fingers, it will because of gangrene, not gardening.

But I guess I'm out there to run, and so run I did so, on this cotton catkin carpet and past the tempting sight of three pubs, and on past the marina, where I saw my first banded demoiselle of the year.

That one I do know! This years challenge shall be getting better at dragon and damsel flies, I think.

And falcons too. Further round the river, past the power station where a couple of herons where striding around deliberately on the weir and past a meadow that was yellow with buttercups a falcon flew out of the tree on the far side of the river, used a thermal to gain a bit of height, and then coasted across the river to a tree on my side without a single beat of its beautifully sickle shaped wings.

As I've said before, I always get over excited about seeing things like this, and it was in almost total likelihood a kestrel. However it seemed larger than a kestrel somehow, with long pointed wings, a big wedge shaped tail like a raven, and seeming a very pale grey underneath with a lot of white on the underwing.

"It's a kestrel" yell my readers, no doubt correctly.

After this I got back into town, but the birds weren't done with me yet. By the town lock, I thought I was hallucinating with knackeredness when I saw a small bird apparently flying into the post holding up a set of traffic lights for boats. But as I got nearer, I saw a second bird, now identifiable as a great tit fly in, and the lock-keeper confirmed to me that they were nesting in there.

Oh yep, a dinky toad was waiting on my doorstep when I got back.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

After the rain comes sun

Not a run, just a little walk after work as the sun came out.

I had been drenched on the way in to work, 5am, and was surprised not to have Blackbirds looking for worms in my fleece, heads cocked to one side. But no, avoided that, just slopped about the floor like a jellyfish on a stick.

So after a trying day, I needed to feel the sun on my back. And so, as I came to riverside park opposite the castle, did a magnificent heron, slow wing beats coming along the river from the east.

He cast a long shadow as he landed - well, herons are always he to me - and didn't have time to settle before two crows pounced on him out of a tree for a spot of mobbing, before being left alone to...er...stand there not fishing. He stared rapt at a patch of soil.

He must have been looking for worms too I guess! Or maybe frogs and toads, more likely!

Friday 6 May 2011

Today's report

Standard route today, more or less, the seven miles or so past London Road Lake, and then up the hill on Clay Lane to the pack of Beacon Heights before going through the reserve.

Weather was warm and very very sultry, the orange tip butterflies seem to be inside having a cold drink leaving the various whites and Speckled Woods to play on their own. On London Road lake, a greylag goose was sat waterside on its own - never seen one here before, normally it's just the Canada Geese depositing their slimy green turds everywhere. The Greylags are normally to be found out of town at the old sailing club lake.

At Beacon Hill reserve, noticing a large amount of butterflies about, went to Butterfly Corner. The flowers aren't out yet, so no huge numbers of painted ladies and peacocks, but a flash of red revealed a Cinnabar Moth


amongst the plants at low level. I then noticed another rather plain looking pair of wings down amongst the weeds, a small butterfly with rather dowdy brown underwings. These opened to reveal dark/black uppers edged with red spots - ALERT flashed my brain, new species! Research at home seems to indicate this was a Brown Argus.

Yep, I know I'm not very good at this, I'm fairly recent to the butterfly spotting game, ok!

Sad news though - the fly tippers have been up here - always seems to be old CD and DVD cases I see for some reason, and evidence of two fires being lit. Maybe just kids messing, but I doubt the nottswildlife folk will be thrilled about the idea of having another local reserve going up in flames, ditto myself.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

No butterflies in the corner

Just a quick report as I will be offline for a couple of days at my place due to folk digging up the wires nearby or something.

Trotted out for 5 miles today, had a look in butterfly corner at Beacon Hill but nothing to be seen though - the Buddleiahs (I think) the peacocks love are not out yet, and neither are the tall yellow weeds the Painted Ladies enjoy. Some Teazel is growing there, hadn't noticed that before, but there were no butterflies out playing apart from a few whites and a common blue I saw en route.

There was no evidence of fly tipping though in Butterfly Corner, as I saw there about a month ago.

Monday 2 May 2011

The proudest of finches

Running today, on a route out towards Barnby (A heron majestically cruised above me) before heading into Coddington village before back to town through the Beacon Hill reserve before a little trot along the river. About 7 and a half miles in all.

Everywhere, in either hedgerow, or stand alone tree form, Hawthorns are in bloom - May Blossom as my mother refers to it. There's a few gorse bushes about as well on the way up to Coddington, again in flower. Due to high winds and not terribly warm temperatures all the butterflies must have been indoors reading Heat magazine - the wind also played havoc with my ear phones and frankly seemed to be making my trackies nearly fall down - ah the joys of weight loss...

Like I said, not a lot going on, swallows around but no swifts yet, I took the time to look, which is stupid really while running on a potholed road enjoyed by middle aged boy racers in Mazda MX5s. What I did see a fair few of though, was goldfinches.

When I was a little boy, I always thought they were as rare as anything and a sighting was something to get really excited about. Nowadays they are regarded as quite common I think, but always for me there is a thrill about seeing one of what is for me our most attractive garden bird.

As Mike Skinner would put it - "They are fit and don't they know it!"

Whereas most of the finches and similar I see out on foot or wheel are sighting of flashing white tailbars erupting briefly in and out of hedges, or yellowhammers flushed out of hiding by my plodding approach, coy linnets briefly seen amongst the leaves. The Goldfinch however sits bold as very shiny brass on tree branch and telegraph wire and never flinches as I "steam" past, red face a mark of pride not embarassment. They probably laugh at other finches for being so plain.

No wonder so money of the poor damn things used to end up in cages.