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.