Thursday 27 December 2012

Happy Christmas! But I'm Still Walking and Running

So, after a muddy pre xmas eve with the pretty mystery birds I'm told were probably Bramblings, xmas eve itself was a day off.

Christmas Day I walked for an hour first thing in the morning to look for interesting things at London Road lake and to have a look at the floods. Well London Road Lake was full of folk feeding the ducks - a fair few Tufteds in evidence and that odd domestic duck that has settled in with the mallards.

The floods were, well, floody. The path across Riverside Park was blocked completely by water a good 8 feet over its normal level at least. No interesting life forms about, but it was a beautiful feeling to be out walking on Christmas Day, on a crisp, grey morning and nothing to do AND THUS NO STRESS!

Boxing Day was a proper 7 plus miles, round and abouts, usually through thick mud. Balderton Lake was quiet, with a solitary and rather black looking Great Crested Grebe cruising the East side of the lake. I headed past London Road Lake with all the usual suspects, then found some pretty glorious mud as I headed up to Beacon Hill and onto the reserve, where an unhelpful middle oldster told me not to go on. "You can't go there it's full of mud". Well, I was on a mission to find those bramblings again, and as I squelched along I was hoping to flush them out again. No joy however, and all was quiet apart from a few Great Tits in the copse past the nursery.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Aha, a little mystery bird on Beacon Hill Reserve

Today, as a premature penance for xmas overeating, I bolted out into a nice sunny afteroon on a mild day spolit only by a pretty fearsome wind.

Sadly heavy waterlogging has taken Clay Lane out, so after watching a robin carry out a vicious mugging on one of his fellows at a birdtable next to the London Road lake cycle path, I had to take the rather boring Beacon Hill Road route to the nature reserve.

T'was worth it though, for as I ran along a rather muddy path wondering if I should see anything of note, a flock of birds suddenly erupted out of the scrubby cover that is covering the oil seed rape field section of the reserve at the moment.

I saw a lot of pale to white undersides, so my first instinct was "Oooh, flock of Fieldfares. Nice" - then I realised that they were far too small, and far too finchlike. Indeed the impression I had as they flew up into the top of the trees, was of a flock of about 50-60 very slimline finches with longish tails, and an impression of white wing and tail bars like a chaffinch.

Damn the fading light - it was 330pm by this time. The birds were pale underneath, with an orange-pink breast, but couldn't get a good view of much else.

Was thinking about them as I completed my route, along a very bank bursted Newark Dyke where the Barge pub is yards offshore and The Sonning pleasure cruiser appears to be parked up on the bank. The Moorings has booms and an emergency pump in manned by orange Hi Vizzes. The island is about a third it's normal size, the weir has no drop, just a brown foaming torrent.

Still thought about the birds as I tweeted about them, and wiki'd possible candidates. And wrote this article. My current feeling is 70:30 Whinchat:Brambling. But, as I know only too well, I know very little...

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Through boggy marshy fields and not beyond

<p>Two days ago went on a very satisfying, very wet trip to willow holt and back along the river. My feet got a soaking and my reeboks were caked in mud, but I was outside, listening to radio 4 and I was happy.</p>
<p>Also very happy were the swans munching on the farmers crops opposite the power station. Unlike mr goose who copped it a couple of weeks ago these oddly landlocked mute swans are immune from the gun, beloved as they are of the queen.

A cormorant was coasting along by the power station weir, not hunting, not diving, just showing like a carved from wet jet relic.

A kestrel swooped past the river section of the holt. There might have been a buzzard sat in a tree, never got a clear look at it.

Yesterday saw another cormorant in action this time, on the nottingham canal. Flocks of all sorts visible from the train, fieldfares by the railway station, and then right by my home, a handsome redwing in a berry tree. A decent antidote to frantic christmas shopping!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Geminids, chockabloke, checking in!

As with the Perseids, bad weather on the night of maximum has been a bit of a blow this Geminid season. But, braving freezing weather I managed to get out and have short sessions with my neck achily cranked towards Gemini high in the South, and meteors have been around!

The thing I've noticed this year is that the slow moving, yellow orange beauties that are bright and leave a smoky trail as they meander somewhat across the sky, have not been around! The first Geminid I saw this year was like that, but the rest have been mainly short trailers in the vicinity of the radiant, and not many approaching mag 1.

The best night was the 12th. The skies cleared late on, and in what went on to be a -7 degree night in Grnatham nearby - car thermometers in town were reporting -5, I saw 9 Geminids in a 25 minute session before my hands (in two pairs of gloves) threatened to drop off.

And then, the skies went a murky sulfur street light orange on the night of maximum itself, while I had to endure 3 meteors a minute reports from 'Oop Naaaarth. Lucky so and sos!

Last night saw three Geminids in half an hour, but I did have binoculars clamped on my eyes a fair bit of the time as I took in Messier 41, Kembles Cascade and hunted for La Superba against horrible reflected streetlight glow in my eyes. But The Beehive M44 was visible as a prominient naked eye blur, and seemingly one of the Auriga clusters seemed to be naked eye visible. Unless I'm mistaking a patch of milky way for this.

That had me hmming, I can tell you! But who caresa about a little perplexment, when you can VIEW THE STARS FOR FREE

Monday 10 December 2012

Who taught me the stars?

I've been away for a few days. The weather has been bad, and clear skies have been dominated by a harsh moon. I've just been outside looking for geminids in the worsening cold, and saw a couple in five minutes before I got driven back in, badly dressed for the chill.

The Geminids, yellow orange, smoky trails, slow moving in a slightly sinuous flight. The best shower of the year. And without two men, I'd never have known what they are.

I was sad to hear of Sir Patrick Moore's death...many years ago I sat with the little dark blue "Observers guide to the Stars" reading it until the spine fell off and the hard covers disintegrated, the picture of the dwarf galaxy in Sextans that scared me. Through Sir Patrick, I learned about the stars, and the classical myths behind the constellations. Eventually, as a tennager in a fogeyish jumper, I visited my home and looked at his observatories while my sister nearly broke his Noel Edmonds Golden Egg awards and ate the Jaffa Cakes supplied by Woody, his very formidable housekeeper.

She asked my parents if they were communists!

So yes, I learned the planets and constellations. But it was Donald Rudd who got me looking in the first place. He was an eccentric Scottish sailor and painter, who used to terrorise the Dee Estuary in his smoky boat "Fourness", and paint impressionistic nature scenes of the Stewartry; one of them is on the wall behind me. Never made any money out of them. He had a car with moss growing in the engine, a dog called Speedy who's saliva was so toxic I had to be hospitalised after Speedy bit my arm as a reward for pulling his ears, no doubt.

Later in life, he brewed this weakly alcoholic fruit punch in endless 2 litre lemonade bottles, and ran a fast food joint called "Rudds Spudds" that didn't set the catering world of South West Scotland alight.

But crucially, he had been a navigator on HMS Warspite, and he had a star chart, again bound in blue, that he used to show me as I sat by his knee and admired his sideburns and never unlit pipe. And I looked at the book, and revelled in these strange yet beautiful constellations I saw. What on earth was "Bootes"???!!! It fascinated me, it was always my favourite, especially compared to Libra, which seemed very boring - small stars, no spiky edges in the chart - and I hated having as a star sign.

It was Donald who encouraged my love of Astronomy. And Patrick who nurtured it. I shall miss them both, the world needs good old fashioned eccentrics who give of their time to anyone who asks. Without them, it is a bland bland world getting blander by the second.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Home Town Floods

I understand large amounts of Willow Holt and my favourite run along the Fanrdon reach of the river trent are underwater; similarly RSPB Langford Lowfields has suffered badly. I guess it is better it happens now rather than in Spring and Summer when birds are nesting, but you wonder about the effect on mammals and any reptiles about.

I ran today round the Coddington Route - a bright, sunny and cold day. Somewhere over Banrbygate, a Buzzard was struggling to find a thermal in a very urban location Ive never seen a Buzzard in before!

But the purpose of the run, other than not becoming a repulsive fat oinker as normal, was to take some photographs of the floods in the town centre and along the castle and weir reach. This is about four feet down on peak level, which apparently was 4.8m above the usual Trent level! Yikes!

The Barge pub not attracting many drinkers

Newark Castle and Soggy Riverside Park

The Weir and The Island

Rose Hips and Fluffy Stuff

No idea what the fluffy stuff is, the berries looks nice though! No little birdies eating them though. This is near the gas substation thing on Beacon Hill Reserve

Sunday 25 November 2012

The Creeping Terror of Mars...

It's not there to be seen at the moment, it's crimson brilliance hidden away until it next approaches opposition in a year or so's time. Jupiter entertains all night, Venus glitters in the frozen mornings and soon Saturn will be shaking off his duvet just before the dawn.

But not planet Mars, not for now.

And in some ways, this suits me fine.

To see Mars, late at night, in silence, on your own, is to be reminded of the tentacled terrors that we know DON'T, but REALLY DO, wait for their chance to cross the gulf of space between us and devour our living blood. I go inside after observing Mars, and every hanging coat, every shadow, every shadow cast by a streetlight, becomes an animate creature of terrifying, horrifying, scareifying Martian origin waiting to put a clawed finger on your shoulder the moment your eyes close.

You wake in Sleep Paralysis, and just beyond your frozen visual periphary, an upright bipedal grey martian prepares his probes and samplers for journeys into unmentionable parts. They control the horizontal, they control the vertical. They control the speed with which they open up your stomach and eat your intestines while you watch.

Observing with a telescope at 2am, as I have done, is worse. The green flash of launching cylinders is an imagined nightmare only a heartbeat away, the collapse of civilization under piles of mouldering, mutating red weed.

I shiver with fear every time I look at it. I bet many of you do too, as you stand alone surrounded my menacing whispering trees. But we all come back for more to see the God of War gaze contemptuously down at us, seeding our mind with fears...

Friday 23 November 2012

Waxwings Bloody Waxwings!

So, I've been on a couple of pretty long runs, 10-12 kilometres, the last couple of days and every berry laden bush or tree my neck roates like an owl as I strive to see any interesting feathered contents as I walked past. For it is winter, and I've been telling readers I don't have yet where best to see Redwing, Fieldfare and Waxwings.

Only, I haven't seen many myself yet. I caught a few Redwing in Beacon Hill reserve in the trees between the nursery and the open grassland yesterday, but the Waxwings are eluding me, despite a flock of them being reported a couple of hundred yards from my home, and all over Nottingham. In fact there is a lot of them being reported all over the country, sweeping south.

But not in my line of vision!

Of course, my running isn't just about the top birds, I like to see the flocks of Long Tailed Tits. Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches you see this time of year, and out in the sticks round Barnby Lane and the Coddington Road there are Goldfinch a Yellowhammer about.

But I do feel like I'm missing something. And meanwhile The Waxwings laugh at me, concealed in the hedges I run past, the trees I cycle past, their crests jiggling with every chuckle...

Thursday 22 November 2012

Moores Winter Marathon

After horrendous rain that had ruined all of our damn days here, evening brought on a clear weather front (which I got a nice picture of) advancing overhead at sunset and clearing the skies.

Of course I didn't take advantage of this until I got home after a couple of nice pints of Reverend James at The Prince Rupert and had then obtained a small tipple of something or other to keep the cold out.

Tonights main objectives were a couple of objects on Moores Winter Marathon list, and I figured I was in with a good chance as it was cold and clearenough to see Lepus, the hare leaping around his apppointed spot below Orion's feet.

First up, after some shuffling about to get a good sight line amogst the trees was Messier 41 in Canis Major. A bit of help from my wonky Google Sky Maps - it has never worked that well on my phone - I tracked it down as a small but faint patch of nebulosity south of Sirius. I'm never going to have a good view from my garden due to streetlights alas, but it was there.

Shifting back to Sirius, I headed North East as guided by wonky sky maps, and found Messier 50 as a larger and brighter, but still unresolved in my 10x50s, nebulous patch. Neither terribly exciting, but I'm glad I've seen them. Staying in the area, I took in the much more prominent Messier 35 in Gemini, before noticing a dim haze hovering above the rooftop.

Messier 44, The Beehive, is back in business and very good it looked too!

The final thing that caught my eye, was a very orangey red looking star lurking in a vey dim patch of the sky between the Great Bear's paws, and Gemini. Very red 4th mag star. REsearch indicates this could be alpha lyncis. Some sources have this as spectral class K, it's way too red for that surely!

Monday 19 November 2012

Crisp evenings, frozen mornings

As I said before, the sight of Arcturus rising in the sky is giving me hope that eventually, as ever, winter will be over, and I will no longer have to worry about cycling through ice and snow on dangerous roads filled with dangerous drivers.

All the while, my hands are hands turning purple and making me scream with agony despite the fact I'm wearing two pairs of gloves.

I've now more or less confirmed Kemble's Cascade, the colours of the stars are elusive with my 10x50s. At midnight, it's directly overhead and a real neck strainer to see! In the mornings, Venus is still dazzling but is sinking horizon-wards rapidly now, and Leo is poised across the South, in the gap between the Sycamores and The Oak.

As I sat in the work canteen today, head full of a story I was writing, I watched a couple of dazzlingly white shapes tumble across the backdrop of the Showground runway; white indeed above but seemingly dark underneath. I swigged my dishwater tea and wished I had my 10x50s or even my little field glasses with me. Curses!

My runs (athletic, not diarrhoea) have yielded little life lately, mainly as I seem to have been heading out in twilight slash dusk as the nights draw in - MUST CHANGE! But as I ran over the A1 on Barnby Lane a few days ago, Long Tail tits purred and zupped in the hedgerow, a kestrel sliced the sky, and a Lapwing slowly beat the air overhead with its ragged, broad wings.

I'm planning a winter trip to Langford Lowfields in the next few days. THEY HAVE WAXWINGS! NEWARK HAS WAXWINGS! I MUST SEE ONE!!!

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Tough luck goose!

Went for a run through Willow Holt today, which was boggy, attractive, and quiet! The Eponymous Willows sport a few yellow leaves and look rather sorry for themselves. A Dunnock flew low across my path, and sat in a hawthorn next to the river.

I carried on my run, along the muddy path heading for the power station reach, and noticed a large flock of Mute Swans standing around in the wheat field (I think). A loud bang went off - the swans didn't move - and I saw a couple of characters in countryish looking jackets carrying a long pointy thing. A shotgun.

As I turned East, they picked up something big, and began to carry it back to a pick up. I waited to see what it was, thought it was a Pheasant at first. It turned out to be a Canada Goose. I think the farmers were worried I was going to report them for illegal persecution.

"Swans, they're protected. But these Canadians, well they've got to go."

Checking up, I now see they are regarded as vermin now and it is legal to shoot them. Still felt uncomfortable to see it done though. Tender hearted fool that I am! I hope they don't extend this cull to human Canadians, though I'm told they will probably taste infintely better than the geese themselves.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Kemble's Cascade

Last night managed to have favourable sharp skies and Mr Moon taking his waning crescent self out of the picture for a while. Also however, I had work today - what a thrill! what a joy! and thus couldn't spend much time taking in the delights of the sky in a leisurely fashion.

No, last night I had a target, and I meant business.

So, I warmed up, professionally, like a trained astronomical assassin, by taking in Messier 35 - which never quite resolves in my 10x50s, Messier 42, and a trip through the star rich fields of Monoceros, still a little low at midnight. The two open clusters I pick up here are The Rosette NGC 2244 and North of this the Christmas Tree, I think of NGC2264.

Messier 50, it turned out, was behind a roof.

Job done, eyes warmed up. Looking straight up, I used to the two end stars of Cassiopeia, and swooped across to the zenith. There I was hoping to find Kemble's Cascade...

...and so I did. I think. Twice. I think! I found two curved lines of stars, both slightly longer than the field of view in my 10x50s. I figured the northernmost one for the Cascade, as there seemed to be a fuzzy nebulous patch indicating cluster NGC1502 at one end, only it wasn't at one end like it's supposed to be!

Sky at Night winter marathon spot, although further confirmation is needed under darker skies - yeah like I can manage that in my yard! It may be the actual cascade is shorter than I thought, and the further stars are not part of the already unofficial grouping - rather charmingly I believe it was coined by an astronomer monk a few years ago!

Next time, I'll have rum. To improve my eyes, of course.

Monday 5 November 2012

The View from the Library Window

A writing exercise to staty mentally sharp, this is! I'm sat here, writing e-mails, thinking about my screenplay, and looking for career inspiration and life improving things while thinking of the tea and cake I shall have later, once I have trecked the lightly frosted pavements looking for DVDs.

Twenty feet to my right is a the one set of windows I can see that aren't blocked by bookshelves. The slanting uppers are streaked with dirt, tree sap and the like probably infused with a heedy brew of pigeon droppings. The main tree outside is a silver birch just outside is a Silver Birch, many of its leaves still green, it's boughs looking a little damp and shivery. At its base are a couple of shrubs, probably well watered by the street drinkers that use the civial war sculpture I can't see as a meeting place. A female blackbird roots around in the leaf litter with frenetic tosses of its feathered head.

Beyond is a tree I can't identify, again hanging on to its leaves but these are the colour of polished brass - how instense the colours are this autumn, exacerbated by today's harsh light issuing out of a slightly washed out looking blue sky. This tree obscures most of the millenium arch, one metallic column stands in modern contrast to the original Beaumond Cross whch stands behind it, curiously off the vertical.

In the furthest part of the view, tall trees stand around a large house, multiple chimney stacks signalling old money.

There are a thousand greens outside, all beautiful.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Spring hopes as Jupiter kisses the moon

Sorrow again.

The cold deepens and the winds rise. The waning moon is reaching across to kiss Jupiter in the Eastern sky, but never quite reaches it; celestial love denied.

Haloes around the moon show the gathering frost; high snowly looking clouds feather the firmanent.

These are the miserable months, the months of riskily cycling to work on icey roads being sworn at by flatbed truck drivers as my hands freeze purple even within two pairs of gloves. Work is no warmer, there is nothing to huddle against as you try and warm your insides with gestapo ersatz coffee.

Yes there is hope. 615am, the skies are clear, the temperature glacial. But up there are the signs of spring that show that winter will not last forever. Leo the lion rests with Venus below his paws. The bowl of Virgo rises with all its galaxies I've never seen.

And brightest of all, Arcturus the orange harbringer of spring hauls itself into the sky above the streetlights.

Monday 29 October 2012

A Grey Day, a Sad Day

Yesterday was my first free one after my shift, and I celebrated by getting up early, faffing about for two hours with bits and bobs in my flat, and finally heading out on the Coddington route. Few goldfinches about, and on the way up beacon hill, a lot of starlings on the farmland at the top, decorating the power lines like gothic baubles.

I'm not seeing many Yellowhammers in 2012 - normally they are all over the hedges when you go out onto the country, but this year have only seen the odd one. Still seeing plenty of Goldfinches in small flocks.

No sign of flocking Chaffinches yet. They are a common winter sight up at Beacon Hill park.

In the afternoon was a rather sad occasion, my last visit to the Millgate Museum cafe before it's permanent closure at 4.30pm - I rather fancied staying to the grim end but I had other stuff to do. It's been a wonderful place, nice cheap and generous pots of tea with two colour lollipops; little polystyrene bird or butterfly gliders to buy and sit upon my dusty mantlepiece amongst the Quiz League trophies wioth the decals falling off and endless flat batteries.

Everyday I'd sit and watch the river go by, dream of owning a houseboat, and watch the swans, mallards and wagtails - Pied in winter, Grey in spring. The big rusting barge fascinated me, its cloak of many oxidies colours, its collection of plants growing in the bilges. Dragonflies bluely glittered over the island.

And I sat with my tea, amidst the olde worlde toys and games that always fascinated me, sometimes talking to the excellent staff, or usually just reading and learning and dreaming of many many different escapes.

It's a terrible shame to lose a facility such as this. Sadly, I never saw it busier than on its last day.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

War in the Air

I've been out running three days out of the last four, mainly by London Road lake where the Mallards are gathering, the Grebes watch but the Tufted Ducks are on holiday, and through Beacon Hill Reserve where I saw no woodpecker, or none of the flocks of Chaffinches I associate with the reserve in the colder months.

Today I ran out to Coddington the back way via Barnby Lane, and back into town along the main road. Like most of the last few days it has been so grey and drizzle misty the sky is about 5 feet above your head and the church spire is sliced off by cloud.

Had a good sight today as I ran over the bridge over the A1 on Barnby Lane, although it happened so fast it wasn't a sight you could imprint on your mind at leisure. A small bird was all but in the talons of what I think was probably a Sparrowhawk from the length of the tail, wings folded all over as it made an impossibly tight turn in its quest for its prey. It disappeared behind the trees, as I disappeared over the brow of the hill before turning onto the tractor muddied road up to Coddington.

Shaggy Ink Cap in clover

Fungi loving the endless damp

Monday 15 October 2012

Nose scythed off by Woodpecker

Having had a few days in Leeds where to an occasional visitor like me doesn't know where the city centre green spaces are, birds and wildlife have been in short supply.

So today I took a 7 mile trip past London Road lake - where the totally out of eclipse mallards have gathered, including the pure white domestic interloper that has been lurking a few weeks, but no Tufteds. Young Moorhens are growing up, and plenty of white headed Black Headed Gulls were there too.

The bushes are red with berries, but the Buddleiah by Barnby Lane Bridge is still in purple bloom, unlike mine. No butterflies though, the frosts have seen to that I think.

Ran the length of Clay Lane hoping for a glimpse of Bullfinches, Yellowhammers or the newly arriving fleets of Fieldfares I've read about, but nothing doing. However, as I ran through the nursery in Beacon Hill Reserve, a flash of black and white erupted from one of the low Hawthorns so close to my face I could just about feel its wings beating on my face.

I just thought "oh, magpie" but as it flew away and I carried on running, I could see it had no tail. And then it sat in a tree, high up, but the flash of red at the base of the tail stuck out like a wound.

A Greater Spotted Woodpecker! A first for me here, even though the Wildlife Trust info boards mention them as something to look for. But then they are probably easily spooked by me crasing about. This one wouldn't let me get close to  it.

A lovely spot, on a bright, crisp day.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

More mushrooms

In the garden on a tree stump, these sulphur yellow beauties

Willy Wagtails and UFO Geese

Now that there is a distinct chill in the air, never more noticeable than when I cycle to work at 6am, the Pied Wagtails have descended in large numbers to brighten up a gloomy writer.

My mother calls them Willy Wagtails, no idea why, or if this is a generally accepted common name for these twitching, black and white smart little birds. But it suits them rather admirably I'd say, a polite little bird with dress and manners out of another century.

The best time to see them at the moment is 630pm, when I leave the Warehouse after another eleven and a half hours of daydreaming of not being there. The piping whistle gives them away before you look up and see them massing over the warehouse roof against a darkening indigo sky, long tails like tiny black comets; flight undulating like a sine wave. And then as you cycle away, you see them massing on the ground expertly dodging the cars, sitting on the fences, and swooping in little groups Starling like before pulling away at the last minute from the bushes by the lorry park where they seem to have a mass roost.

There is beauty to be found in every brown field wasteland or macadamised car park. If you are strolling by The Bell pub in Slab Square in Nottingham, take a look at the trees outside, especially when they have the christmas tree lights up. There's hundreds of Wagtails in there!

The other fun thing I've been noticing during my late night astronomy sessions - sadly misted out last night before midnight - are fleets of mysterious grey UFOs coming over, eerily lit in the moonlight. Flying in V shaped echelons, their engines emit a mysterious gentle honking noise- my god, what kind of propulsion systems are they using???!!! - and they have a long cockpit section and a chubby fuselage.

Things look different indeed by night. A woodpigeon went by the other night that looked like a giant Vampire Bat by the full moon.

Friday 5 October 2012

Willow Holt in a Low Sun

I did a naughty gate clamber to take this, I'm sorry! But it was a glorious day

Himalayan Balsam

It's pretty, but it's a pest. Not so much of it in Willow Holt proper this year, but it's spread further down the river bank, this was taken  past the Power Station reach where the river turns South for a bit

Comma Butterfly

Plenty of Commas appeared in September, they've been looking really orange too in the low sun

Red Admiral on Buddleiah

This was taken on The Beacon Hill Reserve "Butterfly Park" on one of the last few good days of the year. Now the flowers are brown. But the greens this time of year are fantastic.

Saturday 29 September 2012

Kestrel on the Hunt

Two good running days yesterday and today.

Alas yesterday, after running out to Hawton then across to Farndon, I found that Willow Holt was closed for Haymaking and cleaning up Dog Mess - ugh, bloody nature reserve and still folk can't clean up after their dogs. I saw a few Dragonflies about on the cut across to Farndon, but strangely none by the river, which seemed to be being readied for some exciting World Team Cup of fishing.

Haven't seen any sign of the opening ceremony on television though! On the reach opposite the Power Station, someone was catching a beautiful 5 pound or so Barbel, greeny silver sides, vermillion fins. I'm not massively keen on coarse fishing, but it was a pleasure to see such an attractive fish. On the whole it was a good run along the river, about 8 miles, and the sun shone and the fields glistened.

Today, not long back from a run out to Beacon Hill park, the clay lane, back of estate way. First sight of a flock of Long Tailed Tits on the cycling path, not seen any of those for a while, and a Comma butterfly obligingly allowed itself to be photographed at the entrace.

 Someone put on a real star show for me today, as I ran along the main grassland of Beacon Hill reserve; a Kestrel was hunting low down, barely 10 feet off the ground and no more than twenty metres away. Never seen one so close, hovering in that characteristic fashion, occasionally dropping to the ground before flying up again, empty taloned. Have never seen one working the reserve before, and was very glad to see it today, working East to West across the plateau. Wonder what lives in the grass up there - voles and field mice I guess. No rabbits to be seen at the moment, which is very unusual.

A Southern Hawker (I'll keep calling them that) flew alongside me as I ran, looking rather a sad, dull blue in the grey cloud that came over at that point. I wasn't sad though, it was a lovely early afternoon to go running.

I know so many nice places round here. And you don't!

Thursday 27 September 2012

All Is Not Yet Lost

For there are still Dragonflies about today, lit beautifully in a bright low sun and patrolling the river. I was running along the path opposite the castle when a flash of brilliant yellow green darted out of a bush, and then the turqoise-green abdomen hoops of what I always take to be a Southern Hawker revealed itself.

I ran round the Island by the weir, sadly the blackberries are al but over - I'm rubbish at working out the best time to forage them, I only remember them when they are stomach rottingly underripe or a dog urine coated bird pecked dying mess. But attractive Hips, Haws and Elderberries and other winter fruit are decorating woodland and hedgerow. The young Moorhens skate the banks on their comedy feet.

Grebes are about on both London Road and Balderton lakes, but not many Tufted Ducks at the moment. Mallards are coming out of eclipse, they always show finest in October, green heads sheened in blue.

Up on Beacon Hill, the grasses are wild, aforementioned berries paint the hedgerows in spots of black and red; but butterfly park is closed for another year. The Buddleiahs are all but over, purple and white flowers gone to brown till early summer, although there are still Commas, Peacocks and Red Admirals to be seen on the wing, riding the savage winds we've had the last few days.

Friday 21 September 2012

The Berries are Upon Us!

I'm no forager, but I wish I was.

Unfortunately, I think I would be the sort of forager who manages to pick some juicy Deadly Nightshade in Newark, where none has ever been seen before; or stumble upon Britain's only example of the death-within-two-hours-causing False Blackberry.

Incidentally, the only place I can ever remember coming across Deadly Nightshade was on a school trip to Bradgate Park in 1983. I think it was a sharp metal axe thing that Lady Jane Grey found a greater hazard back in the day. But I digress.

This time of year, the Haws, the Hips, The Edlerberries and The Blackberries are all out in large numbers in my usual running haunts. I wish I could collect big bags of them, along the cycle path, in Willow Holt, up on Beacon Hill Reserve. A dear friend told me of all the things you could do with them, jams, wines, preserves and heaven knows what.

If I collected them, I wouldn't know what to do. It would be a sad waste. Red and black berries mushing in a plastic bag, a tupperware sandwich box if they were really lucky. How I wish I knew what to do with things; how I wish if I went looking for mushrooms I would end up not poisoning myself!

But I'm sure you folk can. The weather is colder, the wind is blowing. But it is still great, and free out there. Go take a look.

And if you do make any Elderberry wine, save me a bottle.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

First run of The Autumn

There is an official start date for autumn, I guess several of them. 1st September. Date of Autumnal Equinox, that sort of thing.

To me however, there are several more unofficial ones that are actually more meaningful. For example, as I left work yesterday, cycling along towards the scrubby patch of ground, a familiar flutey piping double whistle pinpricked my eardrums.

The first flock of Pied Wagtails of the cold months. You see them in ones or twos throughout the year, but flocks, well, that is a sign of autumn.

An even more certain indicator as the one I had when I went running this morning. It was bloody freezing, and the blue skies that had tricked me from my living room window suddenly disappeared as heavy rain came down, blown on an icey wind from the west.

But even then, there are still things hanging on in. A lovely vivid orange Comma butterfly fed off my butterfly; red admirals still show black and red against the grey. And at night, the summer triangle is still visible.

Hold on to them as long as possibe, just hold on.

Friday 14 September 2012

Triangulum Joy

Night before last, all was chilly and clear. Autumn has decided to start suddenly and early, as summer started suddenly and late. I came back from a quiet and short pint at a comfortable hostelry knowing it was a 10x50s night, so I grabbed a drink of sadly unmulled cider and headed outside.

It was a profitable little observation session. I worked my away over from West to East - M15, M71 in pretty little Sagitta, the Fox's curious Coathanger - Messier 39 looking more and more to me (and wrongly) like a miniature Pleides at the end of a long trail of beautifully myriad stars along the back of The Swan before you jump across the see faintly the two NGC clusters at the head of Lacerta the Lizard.

I took in a few coloured stars too, Scheat, the star Elenin is it? In Draco's head? Enif, the Beta and Gamma Andromedae pair. I then had to switch position and scare any awake neighbours, before catching the usual Perseus suspects and the two Cass clusters, and The Pleides for real, and the Hyades. Even in my shaky hands Jupiter's moon Ganymede was visible.

A sure sign  of winter approaching, a couple of the Auriga open clusters were visible, although it was smoggy lower down - can never remember off hand which Auriga cluster is which.

The Andromeda Galaxy was plain, but it was in Triangulum below my special goal lay. Starting at the bright orange star in Aries, I starhopped up to the point of the Triangle before heading off towards two o'clock and the corner of the square of Pegasus.

Sure enough, a surprisingly large but very faint hazy smudge was visible, at this sort of orientation it seemed \\\\\\\\\ - it was the Traingulum spiral, Messier 33. The third main galazy of our local group, and at 3 million light years away, supposedly the furthest object visible with the naked eye.

No chance of seeing it with the naked eye, and looking at how low its surface brightness is compared to Messier 31, I'm amazed you can; but it's the furthest object I've picked up in my 10x50s - I had a look for Messier 81 in Ursa Major and failed, and I've never really picked up Messier 51, so, that record may stand for a while!

Unless I ever go to a deep sky park!

Thursday 13 September 2012

Swallows make me less bereft

Ran out to Coddington and back today, out the back way, back along the Sleaford road. And up on the top of the back of Beacon Hill, on Balderton Lane (by the converted Windmill that sits there insulting me knowing I'll never be able to afford to live somewhere cool like that) I saw some swallows swooping low over the fields.

Higher up, some House Martins were about too.

I was very glad to see them, it made me feel less miserable about the end of my little holiday from work, and the summer of 2012 in general. I'd seen some in Norfolk by the coast the the other day, lining up on power lines, teasing me knowing they will soon be off for warmer climes. But they didn;t count. Not seen any in town for a few weeks.

But in a week or two, I'm guessing they will be gone, and gloom descends, early morning starts and stars in cold winds, no sun, Orion blazing out of a freezing sky.

Also saw a blue hooped dragonfly out my living room window, buzzing round my Holly Tree. He'll be goners too, soon, whatever kind of Hawker he was.

The time of year makes me sad. In every way.

Monday 10 September 2012

Trip to Holkham Beach!!!

THis is a new one for me; In fact I haven't been in Norfolk since a school trip to Hunstanton when I was 10  - three nights in Le Strange Hotel, rampaging around the beach and garden; finding a nest of baby Plovers on the beach as the parent did the wounded walk away from me...

Holkham is a bit further round from Hunstanton, and in fact the park up for food and Iain M. Banks reading pre walk session was at Burnham on Sea - where a narrow tide out creek provided peoplewatching amusement as yummy mummies carried babies in ridiculous pappooses; dogs gambolled in the shallows, and paddleboarders and canoeists tried to make headway in ankle deep water.

I got some provisions - multiple diet coke cans - and headed out on the path, this red ironstone path (if such a thing exists!) that I remember forming a layer at the cliffs at Hunstanton all those years ago. All seemed a bit drab at first; a few gulls, endless cormorants, some dull old coots on a pond, but soon I saw a V shaped flock of Geese overhead and as I learned later they weren't borinhg old Greylag or Canada-Drooping-Machines-Geese, but were Pink Footed Geese on the move to and from Wells.

Pausing at a corner on the path where the creek heads for the sea and a large area of Salt Marsh begin, I scanned the area with my 10x50s and saw a low lying group of little birdie heads in the mid length grasses behind a bored looking gull. Dark faces, specly bodies. I figured them for some sort of Plover, and a kindly typical old twitcher type I asked told me they were Golden Plovers just down from their breeding season in the hills. Big new spot for a rubbish birder like me!!! He got me excited with tales of a Marsh Harrier, but I never saw it.

A couple of Egrets were also doing their snow white work in the little ponds and creeks. Had a good look at the these most elegant of birds.

After what seemed like an age, walking along the track, wondering what these small flocks of birds were occasionally flitting across in front of me - I guessed almost certainly wrongly they were some kind of pipit - I got to the beach and wandered around, taking in the sight of an endless carpet of razer shells marking the High Water line, pink crab shells interspersed within.

No little terns nesting in the protected area and only a few gulls to see, and turned round for home. On the way back, found large flock of waders probing the mudflats. As I half guessed right at the time, another new spot for me - Redshank, with the fine black and white striping on their tails. Not Godwit, you fool! *punches self*

Back at the car park, more Vs of Pink Footed Geese came the other way - could see the pink feet in the binoculars - and eventually stopping off at Brancaster, spotted a Turnstone rapid dancing the creek edge. A skittery and very pretty little bird, that.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Egg case from holcomb beach

Watching Day and Night

Two stage day yesterday - the afternoon took me out to Willow Holt, where the meadow dwelling butterflies are all gone, but there are still a few Peacocks and Red Admirals and Whites about. I chased a cabin cruiser along the riverbank, waiting for jeers from the beer swilling crew that never came, and saw a few Hawkers about - I've all but given up trying to identify them as I scad along.

Condiditions were hard, rough baked mud tracks, strong winds; the heat sapping what passes for my endurance. But I made the 8 miles, and enjoyed the open air as ever, the beautiful river, listening to Radio 4 and trying to be clever; the overall happiness being outside gives me.

And then, 2am, I was outside with a drink and my 10x50s looking at a waning past half moon; unsteady hands - not caused by booze! - making it hard to see clearly but I could pick out Clavius near the terminator, and the dark grey floor of Grimaldi.

Spectacularly, there seemed to be a crater rim picked out right in the nightside of the terminator - perhaps it was a mountain. A shine in the dark.

Other things to see, even in the moonlight - Messier 15; The Mini Pleides of Messier 39, The Pleides themselves, the Hyades, Mirfak cluster with it's red interloper. And finally, Mu Cepheii, the Garnet star - which I think is still the reddest star up there, sorry La Superba. Even with the naked eye, it's like an ember on a dying fire. Lovely.

Thursday 6 September 2012

The skies of Leeds

The skies of Leeds? What skies of Leeds?

Sad, but hardly unexpected, is the fact that in the centre of Leeds where my sister lives, in an otherwise great city that appeals very much to me, the only things you can see in the sky are the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus. Everything else is dazzled out by a twenty four hour cictyscape, orange hazes, streetlights painting the sky with a murky glow.

Makes me wonder how I would carry out any astronomy at all if I were to move there!

The night skies are about the most beautiful free thing that anyone can see. It seems sad that it is permanently unavilable to some folk, living in flats in city centres; the penalty paid for having easy access to good bars and jobs. It's not great here, but at least I can take a drink out and have some great views of the great beyond.

You see the success of the great dark sky parks in Kielder and Galloway, and wonder if you could have small scale little dark(ish) reserves of city open space where lights can be turned off just to give folk a small chance of seeing the milky way or a few meteors, or the wonderful colour tints of stars I enjoy so much.

"Crime magnets" I suppose some would say, many in fact. Human nature screws us up again?

Friday 31 August 2012

Fighting Dragonflies at Willow Holt

Ran today, a long one after night time - 3am - trips to Asda for snacking purposes have made me feel chubby and guilty.

So it was a punishment run today, radio 4 in my ears, and I headed out along the Hawton Road, a few white butterflies in the air and not much else. I turned onto the Hawton  - Farndon Road and noted that a few Swallows and Martins were about, it was a nice day, and there was a lot of insect life about as I dragged myself over the bypass; there was a rich smell of cheese in the air, a camembert effect drifting on the wind that although strange sounding was rather more pleasant than the manure vomit smell that wafts in from the rubbish tip when the wind journeys from that corner.

Entered Farndon, along Wyke Lane, past smiling folk with dogs - you get a better class of dog owner in Farndon I reckon - and into a boggy Willow Holt, the meadows rather bereft of life, sad autumnal signs despite a shining sun.

A solitary Meadow Brown was flushed by my clanky gate openings. THe fields at ground level quiet. But then, as I went through the next gate, a shower of Common Darters erupted out of the elderberries, a couple of them taking time to study me with insectoid compund eyes. The females are a dullish yellow green, the males a vermillion of rare beauty.

But that wasn't the whole of it, no.

As I went over the marina bridge, past the barge pub that torments me as I pass it yet again without going for a drink there, along the quay, a vivid green dragonfly shot past me, no idea what it was but the green really stood out! And around it, big Hawkers, Southern or Common, buzzed each other aggressively in the air and arched their bodies into this bent mating position. Another bright blue dragonfly went by, like the big boss.

They never ever let me get a close look! Ever!

A few banded demoiselles were about on the water, but their activity peak seems to have been a couple of weeks ago. As the path wended its way towards the power station, more and more dragonflies silently criss crossed and backtracked from the bushes across the path; the meaning behind their movements a mystery to me.

Occasionally they look like Aces High footage of fighting biplanes! Sopwitch Camels of the Trent bankside fighting, as the pleasure barges and cabin cruisers see me wave, but suspect not the war in the air raging but a few metres away.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Red Star dallyings

Had a couple of pleasant night's observings, the low moon not a major hassle but wiping out the slim as paper chance of observing Messier 33 in Triangulum, which is the latest

Messier 15, Messier 31, Messier 39, Messier 34, Perseus Double Cluster, Mirfak Cluster, One of the Cass Clusters, and milky way stars dripping off the obsidian background.

What I have particularly enjoyed looking at in my 10x50s are the various red and orange stars you can see this time of year - Enif and Scheat in Pegasus, Kocab, Alpha Aries, the soft gold Albireo, and harsher orange to be found not far away in the head of the dragon.

The two orange Andromeda stars are a contrast - Beta is a real red head, a stellar Rita Hayworth, whereas Gamma along the way is the lady with auburn hair, a pastel by Renoir I saw in the Burrell in Glasgow and have never forgotten.

The star that interested me the most however lay over in the Mirfak Cluster in Perseus. An interloper, perhaps, compared to the blue white stars around Mirfak itself, but a real deep, near garnet star red cuckoo in the nest, about Mag 5-6. Can't find any kind of name for it, but it's not my imagination, I've seen pictures of it. For once.

I wish I knew it's designation.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Baby Moorhens

They always seem to have a late brood, the local moorhen population. A few days ago, I saw a family of these black feathery pom poms with comedy feet by the windmill on the Trent coming back in from Farndon.

And again on the London Road lake, there's a late family of four moorhen chicks, who are bloody difficult to photograph, I ran past them today, and the Great Crested Grebe family too, diving away as the rain turned to sun and back again in the space of ten minutes.

Other latecomers are The Red Admirals - always the last butterfly to show their antennad faces, there are now plenty on the wing, to go with the last throes of the dragonflies, as summer ends and the berries decorate the bushes warning of colder weather

Thursday 23 August 2012

I Urge You to Visit Butterfly Park

If you happen to be up on Beacon Hill ways, perhaps having just had a refreshing fight round the pub, or an encounter with ghosts in a town centre cellar and are looking for something different to do, just have a little wander into Beacon Hill Nature Reserve (one entrace just after Playschool om Beacon Hill, another a mile further along, one off industrial estate opposite Everyday and go and have a look at the butterflies.

Yes, it's that odd time of the year when for some reason the Buddleiahs by the funny steampunk gas substation have just the right amount of nectar, sugar, or whatever it is, to attract butterflies in huge numbers. A week ago there was barely a butterfly on the flowers, a couple of days ago there were large numers of Peacocks and Red Admirals drinking from the purple, and white blossoms, trying hard to ignore the sweating jogging idiot showing a mobile phone camera up their backsides.

The Buddleiahs were alive with wings of coloured velvet, and for some reason even the ground was busy with Meadow Browns - in a part of the reserve you don't normally see them, with their varied orange brown through mouse to dark wings with a little dark eyes on them. There's all manner of little day flying moths here too, and the Birds Foot Trefoil still just about hangs on low to the ground, yellow and gold.

Just have a little look! A nature reserve next to the industrial estate, and most of you have no damn idea! And soon there might be lots of blackberries too!

Sunday 19 August 2012

Good weather for Dragonflies

Running last three days, first day the full length of Clay Lane route on a dull day, the second was out to Willow Holt and back all along the river, and today was a few laps of a cricket pitch then along the river.

Willow Holt was a great trip. It was really really hot, so progress was slow, but before I even got there spotted a lovely Comma on a Buddlieah, however it didn't oblige me for a photograph. Lots of Peacocks and Whites about as well. Not so much in the Holt meadows though, as previously noted the Ringlets are over. There's still a few meadow browns about, and Peacocks are becoming more and more numerous as summer goes on.

Blackberries are coming through...I vow I will collect some for my folks this year. Got to be quick to get the juiciest, cleanest, non peed on ones though!

All along the river, which as ever this time of year looks cool and inviting, and enlivened by the narrowboats and cabin cruisers that I wish I had.

And the dragonflies are about in great numbers. Down by the water, the Banded Demoiselles dance, choreographed in metallic blue. In the woods, a rather non descript smallish brown dragonfly sat upon a leaf and let me have a really good look - female Common Darter came to mind, but I'm sure they are yellowier.

And the hawkers buzz you all the way along the river path. Never got a good close look at any of them, but I'm guessing it was the Southerns, Browns and Commons that I think comprise the majority of the big dragonfly population round here.

I wish I was better a spotting them and photographing them - the small damsels are often quite obliging, but the Hawkers, no chance! They hardly ever seem to settle! I love them though, these steampunk bio machines of the warm blue skies...

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Hello young bird

Found you in the cemetery - not sure if was a young Woodpigeon or a young Collared Dove. The stupidity of sitting none too discretely says Dove to me, I never regard them as the brightest of our feathered friends; one would think the advice spoonfed to young birds of "Sit still and don't move" would work better in a hedge, not the middle of a well cropped lawn.

Monday 13 August 2012

Mating Bumble Bees

Came across these two loving bumble bees on my wall. Curiously they look like they are off different species, but probably aren't. I like this pic.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Bitten to Death in Langford Lowfields

So, yesterday, tired because of aforementioned late night meteor and rum sessions, got upon my bicycle and headed out for RSPB Langford Lowfields in my denim cutoffs and on my non Wiggins issue mountain bike.

Out at Langford Lowfields, the weather was beautiful...and the reed bed was deserted! Aside from a Swan, an Egret and a Great Crested Grebe.

The Egret however must have known I was there though, and put on a great show for me as I watched through my 10x50s...strutting elegantly through the reed bed, crest drooping right down its neck, and obligingly spearing a small fish as I watched its Max Wall stylee perambulations.

An Egret's plumage by the way, is the whitest thing I've ever seen in the Bird kingdom, and among the whitest things I've ever seen ever!

A Common Tern - think clean seagull that doesn't steal your Rick Stein Fish and Chips in Padstow - then turned up and had a little mosey round.

The Langford bods have refilled the feeders, and flocks of Tree Sparrows and Greenfinches were having a munch, in the non BDSM sense of the word. And also having a munch, on me, were the Vulcan bombers of the insect world, these camo winged flies that take great delight in biting me - I watched one actually make my arm bleed.

Research at home indicates that they are Twin Lobed Deer Flies, and yes they are vicious biters! Today, my arms and legs are starting to come up with the familiar big hot hard lumps. Why can't insects all be like the lovely Common Darters, Common Blue Damselflies and a big Southern Hawker that buzzed me, it's body hooped in turquoise.

Way out over the water, in my 10x50s, I even saw an Emperor, it's body big enough to be seen at 75 plus meters, and glowing blue over the water!

So the bites don't spoil it that much!

Perseids and Alcohol

Hopefully, all being well, tonight will be my fourth night of Perseid watching in a row here in Notts.

The pattern has always been the same. A social drink at the pub along with a read of the lightish but excellent Stuart Maconie book, and then home to what I as always laughably refer to as my garden, get a bottle of cider or a glass of rum and coke, then curse the sycamore tree that hides a big chunk of my western sky as I look up.

Results, well Wednesday saw 7 meteors in about half an hour, at least one of which was a sporadic, and ditto Thursday! Last night, a bright Perseid streaked through Aquila, and then horrible suplhurous yellow clouds rolled in and obscured me completely.

Perseids are not as good a shower as the Geminids at the moment, in my view. The meteors may perhaps be more numerous - debatable - but they are fainter and much faster moving. They are also viewable at more sociable hours.

However, with the Perseids, it's summer, and its nice to be outside, and you can have a drink! And also, revel in the peace and quiet of the dead of night at 2am.

Most of all, I get a big kick of the fact that this is citizen science you can do while tippling, while all the boring people are in bed!

Friday 10 August 2012

Hot Weather! Ha, it worries me not!

Ran to Willow Holt 09/08/12, the long way, heading through Hawton village first on a glorious hot morning. As I arrived in Willow Holt, going through the fields from Wyke Lane, I noticed there weren't any Butteflies in the meadows.

Sad. Must mean summer is coming to an end! Ringlets are gone, I've noticed in general.

However, along the river, many dragonflies were in view. Brown Hawker, well I'd already photographed one of these squashed on the road near Hawton, but live ones with glittering Bronze Wings were seen in large numbers. Few Southern Hawkers, and I think I copped a sighting of a Common Hawker at one point! Broad bodied chasers were also about, and Banded Demoiselles were everywhere.

Beautiful things. I'd rather have a beautiful Damsel, but a Demoiselle runs it close, glittering metallic blue bodies, ultra marine splotches on their wings. Three of them were given the dowdier female a long chase along the calm river.

A lovely day, ruined by me being stupid enough to run ten miles in it.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Naughty Bumble Bees

Today's run was a total washout. The sun was out when I started and hardly a cloud in the sky; within 5 minutes I was getting pelted with rain and hail.

On my wall, a Queen Bumble Bee was being mated by a small male. He was taking his time, for which I hardly blame him as the end of sexual activity results in his own death. The thing that intrigued me, was that the Queen was a big black bee with a red tail, and the male was the standard buff tailed model.

I photographed them. I presume they are actually of the same species, but it did look odd. Wonder if interspecies mating does take place?

The weather was so atrocious, didn't see a single other living thing. A dead toad on clay lane doesn't count.

Friday 3 August 2012

Another tour of the Two Lakes

My shoulder hurts with tourette twitching, but I did 10k round the two lakes today.

Balderton Lake, which has lost it's swans due to fishing line and RSPB removals according to the Newark Advertiser - the article mentioned that poaching has also been taking place - was busy with Canada Geese and I think a few of their goslings. A couple of swallows were skimming the water surface, they are such expert and daring low level flyers.

Soon they will be "Fllllyyyyying for Eeeeeeeggggpyt"

Solitary Great Crested Grebe. Few mallards and hybrids. Nothing earth shattering, oh no.

London Road lake, a GC Grebe chick seemed to have gone missing, but in its stead a few coot chicks seem to have appeared. The banks are lush, you can barely see the water. It's a lovely spot really, but there has been poaching here too. Overnight fishing lines left in. Ah well.

River covered in boats to die for. Damn I wish I had one. Then this would be a mobile blog. I'd be like Rosie and Jim without the bloody puppets. And a lot less creepy too.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Today in Butterfly Land

Today's run took me past London Road Lake, where the Grebe family lookss like it's lost a member alas and huge swan droppings still have to be avoided by the dilligent runner.

Clay Lane is overgrown to hell, still very boggy, and brambles snagging your legs everywhere. Machete job in some places. Speckled Wood butterfly, and a few gatekeepers, looking as ever like Dart Flights.

But Beacon Hill park was filled with butterflies, chiefly Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers amongst the thistles and groundselly stuff in the nursery area. An awful lot of them! An awful load of them. Every step I took seemed to scare up two or three butterflies!

But not in the butterfly park, where the Buddleiahs are in full bloom but the Peacocks, Admirals, Commas and Painted Ladies are not. Lots of honeybees and bumble bees feeding. Watched them rubbing the pollen on their legs. Trying to take pictures.

And then I carried on along the river, loving more boats, and watching a rather chubby looking black headed gull by the locks. Lovely run. Lovely day.

Long Run to Willow Holt

Thought I'd written Logan'sRun in that header. Must be going mad.

Headed out to Hawton first, and watched the swallows carving the air millimetres above the ripening wheat on the road to Farndon, and a kestrel launching from a tree next to the road.

I love Willow Holt. I'd love it even more if I was walking through it or sitting in it with a bottle of wine and a pretty girl, rather than as scudding through it as part of a ten and a half mile run or so. The Notts Wildlife Trust folk have gotten rid of a lot of the Himalayan Balsam pest, but the orchidy, triffidy pink flowers are still evident along the river, as are a fair few chaffinches. It was a dull day, but a few Banded Demoiselles were about, and another couple of the dull bronzey looking big dragonflies, maybe Brown Hawkers.

Lots of  little brown birds caught glimpse of in the corn fields.

I love the river runs. I love looking at the river's peaceful surface, disturbed only by the weir patrolled by herons and cormorants.

I always make a point of waving at the boats. Always.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Nature Update much to write about!

Tuesday, did Langford in the morning - the reed bed hot and sultry and quiet  - Lapwing colonies and a lot of Common Terns about too. A songbird was making a hell of a froggish rasping noise behind me at  one point, saw a warblerish looking bird with a very pale underside seemingly responsible - some sort of Whitethroat?

Many Common Blue and Blue Tailed damselflies on site, not so many dragonflies though. But as I left, there were a couple of large browny looking specimens about, maybe brown hawkers, no idea!

I've done a lot of running through Willow Holt and Beacon Hill, many Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Gatekeeper butterflies, Swifts still about, often screeching about down Millgate. Not many swallows compared to other years.

The weather is gorgeous. Will probably head to Langford again if it holds.

Astronomical Observations

Oh my poor blog, how I have neglected thee. Well, I've been a busy boy.

The weather has been superb this week, I have been out all of the days, and outside a lot of the nights. The milky way has been visible from my little urban "observatory" - I bet you can't take rum up Mount Palomar, and although not quite good enough to see the Cygnus Rift well, I've had lovely views of Messier 39, The Perseus Double Cluster, Messier 31, Messier 15, Messier 34 - I know, winter sights are back with us - The Mirfak Cluster, Messier 71, possibly Messier 56, Messier 13, possibly Messier 52 and the other in Cassiopeia. Messier 11 and other clusters unknown in Scutum. Ophiuchus Clusters

And the Milyway from Aquila to Auriga! More stars dripping off the surface of the sky, filling every bit of binocular field of view with glitter. Patti Smith sang in a song "It seemed that the sky was made of butter as the stars started to slip." I could see what she meant.

But the news is I confirmed La Superba on one of these clear nights! It is indeed such a deep red it is actually a pinky crimson under our sulphurous skies, and yes I had seen it before but not under good enough skies to get a real sense of colour.

Still think Mu Cepheii the garnet star is more dramatic though!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Butterflies in Willow Holt

Busy writing today!

Went running out to Willow Holt today, on a half sunny, half cloudy but warm and humid day. I was figuring after seeing a Southern Hawker by London Road lake there might be a bit more interesting life about with the warmer temperatures, and so it proved.

The meadows at the entrance to Willow Holt, especially at the Bramble bushes round the second gate, was busy with Butterflies - mainly Ringlets, but a few Meadow Browns and lurking close to the long grass and the bramble leaves, these citrus yellow moths - possibly looking at google Brimstone Moths, were very numerous.

On the part of the Holt next to the river, a large dark dragonfly whipped over my shoulder, no idea what and I never got near enough for a good look. It was Hawker sized, might have been a Brown Hawker I suppose. But further round, by the corner of the river near the power station, lots of Banded Demoiselles were flapping about, looking like insect X wing fighters actually, very erratic wingbeats compared to other Dragons and Damsels, they fly more like Butterflies.

And on the private path past the Bypass bridge, a Common Tern, tail deeply forked, was working the river, another great sight after a very pleasant run!

Auroras, Cuba Libras

Well, we had a lot of excitement with the KP (whatever that means) Aurora storm projections of 8-9, leading to the possibility of the Aurora being visible from England.

And so it transpired! Great stuff! Only from my garden, "The North" is across town and across an industrial estate, so it would have had to have been a mega Aurora of fluorescent pink and blue spots, there was no chance of seeing it. Unlike March 13th 1989, which I'll always remember for the sky looking like sunset was taking place overhead.

However, in  between clouds, on a crisp night, and in between clouds, the starfields in 10x50s were amazing. Cygnus and Cassiopeia were universe deep in glittering stars. Had a go at finding Messier 52 but I think this is too small, and at mag 8.0 too much of a challenge for my 10x50s. M39 was as clear as day though, as was Messier 31 the Andromeda Galaxy, Messier 13, and over in Ophicuchus IC4665 and NGC6678.

I had another look for La Superba, once again finding a rather pinky looking star. It's quite a sparse patch of sky, I must have seen it by now!!! I'm just not certain!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Butterfly Park

Yesterdays run was a Hawton - Farndon - Home route. The Devon looks swollen, the sky was a threatening battleship grey. It didn't perturb the swallows though, which were skimming the big fields of unripe wheat on the Hawton-Fardon road in largish numbers - to me they seem to like following the tractor paths that flatten the stalks.

The chestnut back of a kestrel settled low in a tree just in front of me, but I couldn't get a closer look. Perhaps it had a portal to Bill Oddie's head in the trunk, hence its disappearance.

Today went out to RHP cricket ground, then down along the cycle path past London Road. A solitary large white was the only butterfly I saw.

Passed London Road lake escaped across Clay Lane and entered Beacon Hill Reserve at the lower end, watched by a smaller number of rabbits than usual - about a thousand. As has been my habit the last few days, I stopped and had a look at what you may have seem me refer to as "Butterfly Park".

This is a scrubby corner of a scrubby hardcore wasteground - not really soil, sentried by this sort of diesel punk gas substation, and at the moment covered at a high level by Buddleiah - in flower again at the moment, mainly purple with a few white ones thrown in, mixed in with flowering thistle and this tall yellow flower I've never been able to identify.

At the moment, it's beautifully carpeted with buttercuppy looking small yellow flowers, and these purple almost heathery looking plants that I photographed a lovely Cinnabar Moth on a few days ago.

It's such an unconventionally attractive spot, the ground is littered with the evidence of fly tipping and underage drinkers, yet the straggling, blown where they want plants and rugged locale make it attractive - a concrete factory stands nearby. Yet, in late Summer, this is the best spot for finding and photographing butterflies I've seen in this whole area. 3 years ago every flower was covered by painted ladies, more recently I've found and sometimes photographed Peacocks, Commas, Brown Argus, Cinnabars, 6 Spot Burnets (yes, moths I know I know) Red Admirals, Tortoisehells and Painted LAdies, and various other flying things.

And sometimes, I think no-one knows about this place apart from me, and a few flytippers and teenage drunks!

Monday 9 July 2012

Hot chicks

Yes, it's another shameless search engine fishing title.

But there are chicks about. My runs past London Road lake have revealed a family of Great Crested Grebes, some young Coots, and a swan family that seem to take any oppurtunity to block the cycling path or leave huge green defecations everywhere.

They have been hiding in the reeds a fair old while!

The weather is very very sticky, hence the hot part, I come back from my runs dripping like a kebab rotating in a takeaway. Moths are about - a lot of Cinnabars, photographed one of these in Butterfly Park on Beacon Hill Reserve yesterday, and also the lovely picture on the blog below of an obliging Swallo Tailed Moth I let into the house.

Seeing a very few Meadow Browns on the wing at the moment, still not dragonflies anywhere round here and I imagine Willow Holt is very boggy at the moment. But as ever, I'm just loving being outside!

And so should all of you!

Friday 6 July 2012

Swallow Tailed Moth

Noticed this handsome fellow banging on the door two nights ago, so I decided I'd let him in, at the cost of giving me a decent photo op.

Didn't know what it was at the time, research reveals it to be a Swallow Tailed Moth. Beautiful, and released unharmed and un cat molested.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Coddington Mystery Spider!

Well it probably isn't much of a mystery to nature experts, but it was to me. Came across this egg carrying beauty sitting in a flower next to a wheat field on the way into Coddington Village. I stupidly followed a public footpath sign that I thought might be going somewhere.

Anyone know what it is?

La Superba

Recently I've become obsessed with a star.

This is just as unhealthy as being obsessed with a woman, and likewise takes place mainly at night, after the pubs have shut. But ever since I read about it - and to be honest for some reason this star has not shown up on my radar until very recently, La Superba has become a nightly target for my atronomical observations.

It is a rare C-J spectral class Carbon star in the constellation of Canes Venatici, The Hunting Dogs, that sits beneath the Great Bears Tail not doing a whole lot apart from being faint.

It is said to be the reddest star in the sky, and in my town sky site, rum and coke to hand to keep the cold out, it's a tricky one to find! But find it I have, I think, roughly halfway between Cor Caroli and Megrez.

But it doesn't look very red to me! It looks pink in my 10x50s, I was so gutted! Mu Cepheii, the famous Garnet Star in Cepheus, is far redder, a real bloody ruby of a star. I keep looking at it, and it still looks pink.

Now a pink star is rare enough! But it is not quite what I was hoping for. My explanations are...

1) I'm looking at the wrong star - very possible, knowing me, but it is not a part of the sky rich in stars, I'm pretty sure I've been looking at it.

2) At the moment it's too faint for me to make out much colour in my 10x50s.

3) It's lowish at the moment and the haze and light pollution is ruining the colour.

Any ideas, I'll take them! But to see a star the colour of real blood, not child's wax crayon blood, is something I want to see.

Saturday 30 June 2012

Ringlets and Skippers

Earlier today I was out on my bike and came across a couple of sand martins opposite their usual nesting site in the castle wall.

First I've seen this year, seems a bit late for them to be nesting if they are thinking about doing that. Never mind, whatever they are there for they can eat all the horrible midges for me.

Went for a run, and headed South down the cycle path. Lots of pretty blue and purple wildflowers about, and, lo! Some butterflies. A few Ringlets have made an appearance, and also there was a Small Skipper - or a Large one, I can't tell the damn things apart when I am running past them - a few Large Whites, and a flash of brown, if you can have such a thing as a flash of brown, which might have been a speckled wood.

The path to Cotham has attractive life in the verges, before you get to the rubbish tip at least. But I didn't go so far, I turned off at British Gypsum and ran along Bowbridge Lane. A single Kestrel flew up, as I ran alongside the dyke that always intrigues me, but as I rounded the corner where the substation is, three more seemed to be in the air! A couple of them went and sat on a pylon.

Wonder if that was a little Kestrel family I saw! "Ahhhh" say the sentimental types!

Friday 29 June 2012

Lance Armstrong Birding

Cycling home after a miserable, sticky day in no-aircon work decided to detour on the lovely evening along the river. An unfamiliar bird suddenly shot above my heads as I passed the lock - a brief glimpse of black and white wings, a wader shape rather than duck shape I reckoned, and emitting a furious "peeping" noise as it went overhead.

I'll punt at Oystercatcher, never seen any by the river, but they are certainly at Langford Lowfields, these feistiest of waders.

Later was out on the bike again, Hawton, Farndon, then home. Many swifts out and about in Farndon, many of them over a paddock, screeing away presumably horses attract large amounts of insect life.

Wanted to have a look along the Devon for Dragons, but a bunch of ne-er do wells were in the way! A bit further on a drug deal was taking place in some parked cars. Charming what you can find out in the country!

But it was a lovely evening for a cycle!

Monday 25 June 2012

Observing Report

A bit brief, as it is late and I have work tomorrow, but last night, 1230am, was a great little night. After initially getting rather lost, reacquired Messier 13, 5 and 3, the great Globulars of the Northern Hemisphere.

Still no joy in Ophiuchus for the globulars though, although I did pick up IC 4665 and NGC 6632 easily enough.

Lyra revealed to me Messier 57 for the first time! Messier 71 was seen in Sagitta, and the Vulpecula coathanger. Messier 39 looked great, easily resolved, and the stars around Cygnus and Lacerta were glorious in the 10x50s. Picked up two open clusters in Lacerta I think, NGC 7423 and one other.

And then, just rised above the roof, Messier 31. The Andromeda galaxy is back with us.

Sunday 24 June 2012

There be Damsels Here

Just back from a pleasant little bike ride while all this soccerball stuff goes on - I'm rather more a summer sport man - cricket, cycling, athletics - and on a chilly but blue of sky evening, the swifts and House Martins were out over the river, sadly trying but failing to eat every single blasted midge in existence.

On Balderton Lake, Mummy and Daddy swan had four cygnets out for the first time I've seen.

Earlier, went running out to Willow Holt in Farndon and back along the river, and at last, in the fields at the far end, signs of more interesting life.

As soon as I came through the gate, I spotted a Common Blue Damselfly amongst the blooming brambles and other plants  - the entrance is very boggy and overgrown.

And then every so often through the meadow - grass rather long at the moment, I seemed to scare up a few Ringlets out of the grass. But they were tiny! Little flying Velvet - Black-Grey butterflies  - someone I  know is reporting tiny Skippers about too? Is this a consequence of bad weather hindering development? Or are they smaller when they first emerge?

Then, by the next gate, saw another damsel atop some elderflower. Couldn't get a clear view in the flat light, but it seemed dary - might have a been a blue tailed damselfly.

I was proud of my run, windy though it was and very boggy the river paths. I just love being outside, and as I passed the windmill, swallows swooped past my head and made me think that any and every day is a nice day, in some way.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Swallows and Martins

Got out for a run today in gaps between unpleasant sqaully blattery rain. Decided to go out to Coddington on the Barnby Lane Route, slightly tight chested but alive!

The fields of green wheat on Barnby Road and Balderton Lane were busy with Yellowhammers trying but failing to glint in the occasional sliver of watery sun that made it through the grey. Roses? Or things that very much like pink roses, decorated the hedges as I hauled myself up the hill into Coddington past the windmill house I love. But nothing much was going on. No ringlets or meadow browns that I would be expecting to have emerged by now. It's too cold.

On Beacon Hill Reserve I did get to see a pretty sight though. The rape field, fallow this year although plenty of rape and poppies in it, obviously was supporting an insect population that attracted Hirundids - as I've seen them called - for a nosh. About 10 House Martins, and given away by its deeply forked tail, a solitary swallow. Fascinating to compare how they fligh - the Martins have flappy, stuttery wingbeats like your bog standard garden bird - although they are better flyers - but the Swallow takes much more powerful pulls on the air, its wings reaching forward before scooping back like a falcon. A much more slender bird do than the stubby Martins.

The House Martins are Hurricanes, the Swallows are Spitfires.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Bleak Prospects

I've been for a couple of runs this week, and really have seen so very little of note! The Daily Express, which has replaced its Diana fixation with one for the weather, has delighted in saying that Summer will not start until September. 4 seasons in one day? More like 4 in an hour, as high winds blatt rain into your face, before the sun comes out and turns everything  into a steaming mire of humidity.

Insect life, apart from midges, is in short supply - I haven't seen a dragonfly all year and butterflies are in pitifully short supply. I saw my first Speckled Wood on Clay Lane a couple of weeks ago, and since then I've been more likely to see winged demons than butterflies.

Without butterflies and dragonlies, summer is a grey grey thing.

At least in town there are plenty of Swifts to keep things pretty, screeching the air blue in bird swear! The RSPB tell me there aren't many about in some places - typically here I'm seeing flocks of up to 6, in several places round town - one near my home, another by the river, another in the town centre. They are nesting on a chinese take away near me, they seem to be able to fly straight into their  nests at 60 miles an hour without splattering themselves on the wall.

Wonderful birds.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Watership Down Apocalypse

I've just come back from a very very pleasant evening run, the low sinking sun even deigned to make an appearance, that bright yellow thing about as rare to the eye as it was in April.

The owner slash leaseholder of London Road lake has been complaining in the local newspaper that waterfowl and fish have been poached from the lake - this is the same guy who put up "Don't Eat the Swans" signs a few years ago aimed at the local Eastern Europeans - and I have to say the lake has been bereft of its usual mallard populations. But I'm not seeing many Coots, Moorhens and Canada Geese either, it could be poaching, it could be a lot of birds are nesting in the reeds.

A few swifts about, not many swallows. House Martins have a few nests on the Chinese Restaurant at Beaumond Cross!

What is about, on Beacon Hill Reserve, are rabbits. Huge numbers of rabbits, more than I've ever seen. Most of them clocked me a long way off, and suddenly 50-60 white backsides were high-tailing it for the copses on the reserve boundary. Many are very young kittens.

I'm very surprised not to see more raptors hovering overhead, or startled a prowling fox. Because there are a lot of pies running about out there!

Monday 4 June 2012

Beautiful Buzzard

Work is a miserable place, a place of cardboard dust, despondent faces and the mental stench of the willfully ignorant.

But today, as I sneaked into the reserve canteen for a stupid paper cone or three full of water, I saw the familiar fuzzy "Y" shape of a Buzzard soaring.

Only it wasn't soaring, it was too damn cold to find a thermal, the air kept seeming to give way under its wings, so it had to repoint its wings, and turn head on into the wind and actually flap and hover like a kestrel until it tried soaring again, flying in wide spirals but barely gaining any height before going back to hover into the wind.

Eventually, after five minutes, the sun started to come out, and the bird was now repeating this routine much closer to my window. It flew downwind, and I get a fantastic view as it turned and swooped close to the window, white blaze on it's chest and under its wings. And then, it found the thermal, and it spiralled up like a glider.

The only thing that has been worthwhile about the day!

Saturday 2 June 2012

I bore the Serpent and tamed the Wild Duck

My runs lately have not produced much in the way of excitement apart from beautiful clouds of swifts and the odd butterfly - my broken bicycle (now fixed) prevented hoped for excursions to Langford, and Rutland Water at Whitwell is a bit sterile.

Dragonflies just not showing around here at all! Broad Bodied Chasers in swarms down south by the sound of things, nothing at all here yet!

Two nights ago, had a great nights astronomy observing when arriving home at 2am and finding a decently starry night in progress - the first quarter moon low, and the twilight not yet disturbing the North-West. Out with the 10x50s and a cider.

Despite this, the moon prevented sightings of Messier 5 and Messier 3 - there was a little bit of high cloud about, and a bit of general smoggy town haze too. However, Ophiuchus occupied the gap between the Oak and the Sycamore, and I was able to pick up IC4665 faintly near Beta - Cebalrai. But further East, near a quadrilateral of I guess 6th magnitude stars, was a more compressed looking hazy unresolved open cluster. Later investigation revealed this to be NGC 6633 near the border with Serpens Caput.

I thought I picked up another cluster further east, a fainter smudge. There is an IC cluster around there, may have been that but need darker skies to confirm.

Having another look for Messier 5 I didn't find it, but came across a very orange red star that kept catching my attention, maybe the K class Alpha.

Had another doomed look for Messier 57 and 56 in Lyra, but just about got Messier 71 in Sagitta with averted vision. A treat here was the coathanger in nearby Vulpecula - so prominent! and strangely cute! It's a bit of an upside down coathanger.

Finally, getting a bloody tree out of the way, got a glimpse of Messier 11 The Wild Duck in Scutum! Low, so not as impressive as I expected, although I wasn't expecting wonders. The glorious milky way down south, which I have seen in 7x50s in the South of France, is never going to show well from my house, nor the things in it.

But I still enjoyed looking, and always will.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Rutland Water

Family trip out today to spend an afternoon sitting in some pleasant weather at the Whitwell area of Rutland Water - no trip to the reserve further down the lake alas. Not much bird or wildlife though, and not a butterfly to be seen! Swallows, crisp loving and amusingly squabbling mallards, a few black headed gulls and a cormorant looking for trout on the water.

Sadly, no sign of any of the famous Rutland Ospreys this far up the lake. And on a week day, not many pretty boats and I forgot to buy ice cream. Luckily I had already bought a huge tub at home!

Yesterday had an 8 mile run, along the cycle path where a male orange tip seemed to be being pursued by four pure white females; and back into Balderton along the lane at the back of Flowserve, the one with the lovely eggs for sale! Hawthorn in bloom, sparrows and chaffinches in the hedges. And here I saw my first Specked Wood of the year along here, and there's some Birds Foot Trefoil around now.

 London Road lake has its lonely Grebe, I'm sure it had a mate a couple of years ago! No ducklings on view.

Beacon Hill park is quiet, the flowers late, not many butterflies on view yet here. No Sand Martins on the river, nor many swallows, but screeching swifts are ever present.

And ever beautiful.

Friday 25 May 2012

The Madness of Running in this Heat

So yes, two consecutive days I dragged myself out in the heat of the afternoon, and did two seven or so mile runs, sweating like a pig, struggling to breathe, drinking desperately from a plastic bottle of Morrisons "Isotonic" Cherry drink.

It is probably as much use as licking a block of concrete in fitness terms, but it does taste rather nice.

Most life is keeping in the shade apart from Swifts, which are just full of happiness at the moment, making me more envious than any other bird that I cannot fly; that I am an earthbound clodhopper. Butterflies about are mainly various whites and orange tips, with the odd Brimstone still around.

Clay Line is now passable and full of blooming Hawthorn, and Beacon Hill reserve is now dry too. It's the time of year for taking a picnic up there.

The nices things I've seen though, well those 6 little fledgling Great Tits being fed by their parents in my Holly Tree. Heaven knows where they get these endless green caterpillars from that I never see.

And my folks garden has some tiny fledgling Coal Tits in it! Schlurping up aphids, feathers barely out of pin and calling for their parents with a piercing "tsee-tsee-tssee-TSEEE-TSEEE" cry, gradually raising in volume and pitch.

So pretty!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

A Hot Day at RSPB Langford Lowfields

Today, I got on my bicycle and headed out for Langford Lowfields on what I knew would be a beautiful day.

At last!

And old chap with a biycle told me that he had seen a couple of buzzards overhead shortly before, but typically I missed the raptors as I always do, so I thought.

Reed Buntings were in evidence by what I think is referred to as Phase 2

Arrived at the hide, settled in, and had a look round. The feeders were quiter than my march visit, but during my time today, Greenfinch, Goldfinch - beautiful in my 10x50s - Chaffinch and Blue and Great Tits all paid a visit.

At all times, the hedgerows, Hawthorn bloom rampant, were alive with birdsong. The most distinctive was a throaty, crackling rasp - god only knows what that is.

Out on the very sparse looking reedbed, it didn't look like whole lot was happening at first, but close inspection and patience was rewarded. The most obvious residents are the big Canada and Greylag Geese, the obligatory mallards and a large population of Cootes. But in the distance, behind a pair of swans, a Shelduck, the first I have seen here, was crusing the waters.

Black and White flashes in the sky seen naked eye, revealed themselves to be a number of lapwings with their distinctive broad wings and tumbling flight. The two buzzards eventually appeared flying towards the river at the north end of the site, and flocks of sand martins continually worked the reed bed south to north.

But the most exciting sight gave itself away when a bug immature herring gull came over. As I followed it in the 10x50s, a black and white sleepy bird I had assumed to be ye olde Tufted Duck suddenly erupted off a sandbank, and went for it making a furious piping alarm call. It was joined by another, and plain as day, the giveaway angled black and white wings and long red bill of a pair of oystercatchers.

They are fierce!!! A black headed gull got savaged a little later, and as that Herring Gull found out, they will take on anything no matter how much bigger.

I figured that there must be a nest with eggs, and could see where one oystercatcher was carefully sitting. Eventually it went probing in the mud, dirtying it's scarlet beak in the process, and yes, I could see a chick!

A lovely visit, although not so for the young rabbit on the path with it's throat torn out.

Tonight the swifts are all over Newark, screeching with the joy of flying

Poplar Woods, Hawton

Yesterday, I ran out to Hawton Village and into the Forestry Commision site at Poplar Woods, Hawton;

And basically tried to run round the whole thing! It's huge, a bit boggy, evidently well churned up by horses, and didn't really find very much to look at apart from a Buzzard circling the regimented rows of Poplars. But it felt a little bleak. The signs of life came when you got away from the wood, running alongside the fields of rape where the Yellowhammers erupt from hedges.

The fishing lakes at Cotham end were alive with Swallows, flocking above the water or swooping low above the yellow flowers. Pretty.

Pretty knackered, was I when I finished this Eleven Mile run. But, Cream Crackered Nature is what this blog is called, and getting cream crackered is what I do to bring you content, dear readers.