Friday 28 February 2014

A Prize! I was out before 8

And here's what I saw...

Crocus lined cemetery path
Evasive moorhen
Balderton lake in the mist
Coming for a swim? (love the accidental composition here)
Mallards amongst the rubbish
Early spanish bluebells?
Sleeping peacock on shop doorstep

Saturday 22 February 2014

The Gulls at the Tip

Have not long returned from a 15 mile bike ride, in pleasant if windy conditions, out to Cotham and then back to town along the country lanes and through Thorpe. It was good to see so many people out on the N64 cycling and walking, and the excellent cycling roads towards Elston were also busy with folk in luminous tops, occasionally pausing to eat a banana.

As I reached the rubbish tip, I could see a fellow inspecting the gulls through a very impressive looking spotting scope. I correctly guessed this was the guy who reports on exotic iceland and glaucous gulls on the notts birding twitter hashtag. I enjoyed a pleasant conversation - he pointed me in the direction of some short eared owls spotted north of the Cotham Flash. He also told that a few greater black backed gulls are often seen at the tip, and they really are spectacular birds.

Sadly, it made me realise how thin my birdwatching experience is. Really envied him!

So, this made me doubly determined to keep my eyes open as I cycled around. Sometimes I've seen a kingfisher by the Devon bridge on the Elston road, but not today, and really disappointingly there were no big flocks of redwing about either. I suspect the promised high pressure for early March might send them and the fieldfares home.

I did see a cuple of beautiful kestrels heading west into Elston, hovering above me head on into the wind, lit up all manner of colours by a strong sun.

Friday 21 February 2014

Langford in a Hurricane

The sky was blue, no rain in the air. My bicycle tire was laboriously pumped up, all the air I strained to get in it escaping as soon as I began to disconnect the pump.

But it was worth it, for it was going to be lovely cycling weather to head out to RSPB Langford Lowfields for the first visit of 2014. I'd been excited about the possibility of seeing a brimstone butterfly, or a smew, and thought the lovely mild weather would improve my chances.

Only of course, it wasn't mild. The blue sky was lying, and the wind seemed to have come all the way from Antarctica with malice on its mind.

The sun lit up a beautiful kestrel as I turned off the Holme road onto the N64 route along, its back looking almost like a seed heavy strawberry as it flew off. As I arrived on site, I listened out for the chiff chaff the reserve had reported singing, but no, the tiny warbler was silent. I looked for the smew on lagoon 3, but they were on holiday. I was too late for the whooper swans, and the wind was howling down the reserve, a chill banshee almost ripping the binoculars from my hand.

So what did I see?

Well, tufted duck were present in numbers on most of the waters, and on the reedbed in front of the screen, around 50-60 lapwings were standing in the shallows. A fairytale white little egret, crest blowing in the wind, was looking beautiful patrolling the shallows on its elegant legs.

If there is a more beautiful bird than a little egret in the country, well, do let me know.

I had a good look at the feeders, and the greenfinches were being right little finchy bullies, chasing off any goldfinches or great tits daring to feed when they wanted to. I never see greenfinches in town any more, perhaps tthis is for the best. Perhaps I wouldn't be able to eat my dinner without a feathery interloper coming in through the letter box and chasing me away.

RSPB Langford Snowdrops
Sunlit snowdrops
Crocuses, Newark cemetery

Friday 14 February 2014

Who is Afraid of the Wind?

Well, it seems I am. I was going to head South along the Sustrans N64 to Cotham, and see where I went from there - Elston way? Or the Cotham Flash? As it happened, as soon as I hit an exposed part of the cycle path, and the head on wind and drizzle entered battle with my un-aerodynamic frame, I bailed at British Gypsum and turned with the wind. With a sense of relief.

Above me a kestrel took to the air, and sat motionless in the airstream, looking like the weapon of a superhero.

I decided to head for Hollowdyke Lane, and visit the little community hide at the back of Fernwood estate, an enjoyable and well looked after little "almost" nature reserve. A very chubby squirrel was busy launching an upside down raid on one of the feeders, and chaffinch, great tits and blue tits watched from the trees. I listened for the drumming of a woodpecker, as recorded on a little sheet in the hide, but no luck today.

I love this sort of small scale nature provision.

Back on my bicycle, I headed up the hill into Coddington, and stopped at the farmer's field by the converted windmill. It must be stuffed with goodies, because there are always birds here, and today there was a large number of handsome fieldfares, with their slate grey heads, pale belly and sturdy build, with a sprinkling of slenderer redwing and some blackbirds and starling too.

Then, I saw the sky going an even iller looking shade of grey, and raced home before it spewed its contents upon me.

Breakfast blue tit on the buddleiah outside my kitchen window
The attractive hide at Fernwood, Hollowdyke Lane

Thursday 13 February 2014

Redwing in the Mud

I managed to fit in a double dose of outside goodness today.

First up, I had a morning walk along the cycle path, and then across Grange Road to Sconce Park. The wind was howling, but in the oak wood next to the flooded River Devon, all was sheltered and calm, and the great and blue tits were going about their agile business on the twigs and branches. Once specimen was even checking out the nest box there, toes grasping the wood as it peered inside. Another sign of spring, even if the daffodils in the wood aren't out yet.

Blackbirds were crashing about in the leaf litter, keeping a wary eye on me as I crept quietly along on the dreaded bark path used on the Parkrun course. No treecreeper for me today, and no long tailed tits either.

In the afternoon, I headed the other way, a gentle half jog and walk to Clay Lane and Beacon Hill Park. There was a beautiful little flock of redwing in the horse pastures next to the lane, looking for food amidst the mud and large puddles of standing rainwater. At a distance, in my little field glasses, the pale eye stripe is the standout feature, much more prominent than the crimson "wound" upon their flanks.

After a tricky and sludgy walk up the hill to Beacon Hill, as blue tits flitted among the hip bushes, I found myself on the nature reserve, and a little way along the path,  I observed a chubby female bullfinch in the tree above me. The main meadow had a large impromptu meeting of the magpie committee in one corner, and a solitary rabbit looked at me nervously in the opposite corner.

But I have no intention of bunny hunting, so cotton-tail was quite safe, as I headed home for a much needed hot cup of tea!

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Nature in a Hurricane

Various pictures from last few days, as I recover from my pulled muscles and tooth fillings, and have had highly enjoyable walks in the wind, which have reached their strongest today. Only the hardy great crested grebes were at large on the main body of water at Baderton Lake today. The wind was so strong the lake actually had significant waves on it, and most bird life was sheltering, like a fleet of Trafalgar era gunboats, in the sheltered waters close to shore.

Finding a warm spot on my lampshade!
A pair of mallards, not wanting to be photographed
Why not have another pic like this? Snowdrops and graves always look good.
Purple veined crocus emerges
Mysterious cotton-like substances in the trees, Beacon Hill Park
Bright berries
Hazel catkins?
View across from Beacon Hill towards Balderton, and Claypole beyond
Sacred space around a tree, back of Beacon Hill

Saturday 8 February 2014

My Friendly Urban Fox

It had been a while since I'd seen a fox.

There always used to be at least one highly visible one in Newark down the years. The specimen that used to patrol Balderton Gate, running away from your post pub footsteps into the gardens of the sheltered accomodation. The family that used to live on Lime Grove, a vixen and her three cubs I once saw peering at me round a gatepost, heads above each other like a Disney tableau.

Another fox family I saw fleetingly on Middlegate once, feasting off the detritus of a Friday night, and even at work in Nottingham there was a friendly vixen who used to sit outside the canteen and take bits of breakfast cob from your hand.

But I'd not seen one for a while, and had contended myself with hedgehogs, frogs, toads, and the 24.7 tuneful warbling of robins as I transported myself by night.

Until recently.

There is a new fox in town.

I'd say, judging by the brush, it's a male, and it is a very handsome chap. It appears out of the church gardens, and comes to feed off whatever has overflowed from the bins by the...Fox and Crown Pub, where else! I'd love to photograph it, but Fantastic Mr Fox is far too canny for that, although he seems to be quite calm around people.

I love the fact he's busy scoffing away, three feet outside the door of an oblivious pub full of drinkers, and only I can see him!