Friday 30 May 2014

The Newark By Election Pictorial

It is a nature and natural history blog of course, but given the amount of attention the town is getting at the moment, to ignore the by-election brou-ha-ha seems a little churlish.

Sadly I keep missing all the endless political big hitters who have suddenly realised this town exists in the last couple of weeks, but I will try and catch up with them next week on wednesday and thursday.

After that of course, we will return to being a Midlands backwater, with no more ministers and shadow ministers turning up to pretend to be interested in the workings of our small businesses, or looking like they give a monkeys about the concerns of the people of the town.

A window full of truths?
Hospital Independent Paul Baggaley at his office on Baldertongate, who may well beat Lib Dems into 6th
Young Tory canvassers, Lime Grove
UKIP's latest dread weapon - The UKIP hipster
Dick Rodgers (apparently) - an independent anti banking candidate
Roger Helmer MEP in Alan Partridge attire
A truly modern, diverse, bunch of modern thinkers
Dick again, hopefully not getting too achey
UKIP to make Simon Cowell trousers compulsory

More and More and More Newark Bumblebees

The buzzers are all over the ceonothus, honeybees as well as the usual tree bumblebees, and the noise can be heard all over the folks' garden, which despite their endless moaning otherwise, is a beautiful little spot.

It isn't perfect for wildlife by any means, it could do with some more wildflower areas, especially to attract butterflies, but it does pretty well. As well as an incubating blackbird sat in the ivy, I was delighted to find that great tits had nested in an old outside toilet.

Every two minutes, an adult great tit arrives with a mouthful of green caterpillars, and feeds the youngsters located under the wooden eaves.

Later on, I went running, and paused in the library gardens, where bumblebees are busy on the various special flowers, the blue ones in particular. Whatever they are, I'm not bloody Monty Don. They were really fast moving today, spending barely more than a second on each bloom, so getting clear photographs with my smartphone was a real challenge.

So, without further ado, let me again give you...BEES!

Honey bee in flight
Look at all that pollen!
Mail red tail at work
Tree bumblebee getting well stuck in
Tree bumblebee amidst the blue
Whose bottom is this?
SAdly out of focus, is this an early bumblebee?
And another!

Wednesday 28 May 2014

The Flowery Wasteland of Newark

Running today, I wasn't expecting to see anything after all, as after all I was only going to have a quick blast along the cycle path.

Pleasantly surprised!

Balderton lake, the mallards aren't yet in eclipse but seem rather crotchety in their duck like fashion, I got quacked at. Moorhen chicks have grown up and are pottering about in the drain, even one with a damaged foot.

The cowslips have been replaced by ox eye daisies on the embankment, and there are now foxgloves and poppies in flower too.

It is further down that the surprise came. On the opposite side of the cycle path to the railway line is the wasteland where the old X2 Connect building was demolished to (probably) make way for more uninspiring modern box housing. There isn't even any soil, the ground is covered with oversized pointy stones, like railway line foundations.

And it is alive with flowers.

At ground level ox eye daisies and a red-pink flower (some kind of avens?) are growing. A tired, cold bee was sheltering from the rain in one of these flowers, oblivious to my presence. As you look up, the pink forms of what I take to be dog roses dominate, their pale pink flowers standing out against a drizzly sky, and the long low buildings of light industry. I wish the sun had been out, to see what butterflies and bees would have been around.

It is interesting, although not so surprising when you think about it, that attractive things should have their beauty magnified when placed in a grim setting.

And think also of the life that can be destroyed when even the ugliest brownfield site is developed upon.

Foxglove skyline
Ox eye daisies on waste ground
Dog roses overlooking the railway line
Dog rose close up
Teasel, a favourite food of goldfinches
Who is hiding in here?
Stay warm, bumble - no visible pollen sac, lemon yellow flashes by tail, might be another vestal

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Newark Cemetery; The Fading of the Blooms

Rain is falling, and in the cemetery, the blooms are over. For five months, I have detailed and photgraphed the rise and fall of snowdrop, aconite, crocus, daffodil, squill, buttercup, wood anemone and the beautiful bluebells. Now the council men have gone in with their mowers and cutters, and a time of renewal begins.

In the farmers fields alongside Grange Road, the last of the oilseed rape is still clinging on, tired mini suns setting as the poppies rise. Barley has formed its ears, and above the bristling green grain, swallows skim for insects, plentiful even on a drizzling day.

Bees and butterflies have mainly stayed at home however.

The world is cool, and refreshed. The wind was blowing from the North-East. Honeysuckle smells sweet on the breeze.

Newark cemetery, until recently alive with bluebells
The wildflowers have been cut back.
Chapel avenue
Poppy blooming, Grange Road fields
Wood anemone
Meadow cranesbill?
Honeysuckle blooms
Ears of barley

Saturday 24 May 2014

A Word about my mobile phone nature Photography

Looking back at that last post I had a bit of a wince, as I realised that some of those images really didn't turn out as I'd hoped, and then got paranoid wondering what you, the reader would think.

"What a load of out of focus rubbish!"... the thought that crossed my mind. So I would like to stress that the vast majority of photgraphs on this blog have been taken by myself with various mobile phone cameras I've used over the last few years. They haven't Iphone 5s or Samsing Galaxy S5s either, in fact much lower end £15 a months cameraphones.

So I'd like to apologise initially for the poor image quality by even decent amateur standards. However I am pleased with myself for lying silently on the floor, wriggling along the ground closer and closer to my target, praying the darn thing doesn't fly off, and finally getting an image with my shakey hands that doesn't look like it was taken a blancmanche. My close ups are taken by getting very close up to my target without breathing, and my action pics are pure flukes.

But I enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph nature with a mobile phone, and will continue to do so, no matter what.

A Miscellany of Newark Images

A variety of pictures taken by run, bike, or beer!

Tree bumblebee queen on ceonothus
Pollen collecting
Female muslin moth at Prince Rupert! The males are dark, and hermaphrodites half and half!
Elusive red tailed bumblebee queen rummaging at sunset
Vestal cuckoo bumblebee, washing itself on ivy on the driveway
Bee on flower by the library
Interesting ladybird

Thursday 22 May 2014

Devon Pastures, Newark

I thought I’d give a little shout out for our town park, which probably doesn’t get much of a look in for nature afficianados round here, but is a fantastic little site. Perhaps you aren’t going to see anything super exotic, but as a place to perhaps take less outdoorsy folk to hear a chiff chaff for the first time, or see huge numbers of banded demoiselle damselflies, or take in the lovely water irises or see a charming little fleet of Moorhen chicks, it’s great.

I’ve taken to visiting any sunny day I can, perhaps en route of one of my long ten mile runs, or specifically on my bicycle to see what I can see and get a cup of tea at Rumbles cafĂ© afterwards. Very soon now, I will be able to see the pretty small copper and common blue butterflies feeding and mating on the Devon-side flowers, and the big hawker dragonflies will emerge to rule like mini steampunk spaceships their patches of sky.

In the oak woods a treecreeper, with its broad clawed tail, is nesting, but I haven’t seen it yet. Orange tip and small white butterflies make their way along the flowered margins, teasing would be photographers by settling on a plant for a second before heading out of your just focussed camera frame before you hit the shutter. Try and spy how many different species of bumblebee you can see.

What has been done with the park, and what is still being done as Hawton Holt develops further, is fantastic, and it is so worth a visit from anyone.

Copyright Simon Hodgson / Cream Crackered Nature 22.05.14

Tuesday 20 May 2014

House Martins have a Home in Newark

As I set out for my long run yesterday, a long ten mile run in silly heat with only a bottle of limeade Panda Pops for sustenance, I heard the screaming of swifts - a sound I’ve been trying to replicate myself in all manner of unsuccessful ways – and looked up to see their familiar sickle shape in the air above me.

Only it wasn’t familiar. It was the much stockier, stubbier shape of a flock of house martins.

When I was a child, house martins were almost the commonest bird you would see in summer. I saw my first one when I was at Oliver Quibell infants school and already interested in birds. They built their mud nest at the end of the “big kids” block – “big” meaning “seven” – and flew in and out until predictably some rough young chap brought the nest down with a tennis ball, revealing broken eggs and broken young on the rough tarmac of the playground.

Huge colonies used to live under the ornate eves of the main town centre buildings; the Natwest Bank would have twenty plus nests muddily plastered along the roof edge. It was rare to see a gable end of any house in town that didn’t have a nest there, with their black and white visitors dropping in and out.

But since then, the numbers of nest sites in town has declined hugely. Anti pigeon measures have probably been the cause of this in the town centre, whereas new build homes probably aren’t as attractive to the birds’ own new build developments. Numbers of house martins too have probably declined. The Mandarin Chinese restaurant was about the only place they seemed to be nesting.
It was thus with great joy that I found this flock of house martins wheeling around by the Magnus School, the first I have seen this year, and noticed nesting going along under the eaves of the houses opposite. Here they have found a place to call home, or shrilly whistle home, at any rate.

Copyright Cream Crackered Nature 20.05.14

Friday 16 May 2014

Musing on Places to Write in Newark

If the sun is out the grass will be dry, and hopefully the wind will kiss me only the gentlest of greetings.

My notebook pages will thus be stilled, and not be blown over and over like a dove somersaulting down a slope, and the pen will be as accurate as arrows upon the page.

Outside the library the gardens will be welcoming; flower beds a-buzz and a-flutter and the civil war statue will be watching me, swords drawn to protect my speech. Many good words could flow from there and I'll pay no attention to the jibes of park drinkers and young cinemagoers.

Or how about the Castle, or opposite the Castle on the park, envying the boat owners as they cruise along the river? Lords of their gin palaces all, they are equally despised and adored by me, “if only I had their money, with my grace and taste.” What I write shall reflect this, a bitter dissolute version of the little match girl face pressed against the glass of the opulent restaurant window. Behind me families will throw frisbees and play football and drink wine as I leave my usual man shaped outline in the long grass. Daisies are crushed but day dreams aren't.

Perhaps I shall head to the Sconce and have a cup of tea at Rumbles; the Parisian intellectual transported to the Civil War Earthwork, enjoying the view and the bees and butterflies as I drink my tea. Is there a chiff chaff? Is there a whitethroat? Listen idly to the radio, doesn't really matter on a clear cobalt day if the words appear or not.

By the church? In the cafes that yawn tables out upon the market square as the town awakes from sleep? On a bench inspecting the architecture for yet more things I've never seen before?

Or home in my garden under the trees, occasionally flicking the greenfly off the sycamore leaves, and watching the swifts carve up the sky with their wild screams of joy?

Copyright CreamCrackeredNature 16.05.14

Thursday 15 May 2014

The Buttercup Meadows of Farndon

I don't just photograph bees, I do have a non-apid life, I need to stress. It's just that they are such a rewarding, and varied, target.

In the leafy cover of Willow Holt, the sharply pointed white stars of wild garlic flowers are currently the most prominent flora, with the stems of red campion rising to tower amongst these blooms. But further round the river, yellow is the colour that dominates, and it is not oilseed rape either.

The buttercup meadows have come into flower.

On a sunny day, there can be few finer sights than these wonderful golden fields, a warmer gold than the harsh yellow of oilseed rape and without the cloying smell. To run alongside these meadows, bordered by the river along which small tortoiseshells, peacocks and orange tips flitter and flutter, is a joy.

Soon the damselflies - the common blue and metallically glinting banded demoiselle will join them in the air, but none in sight here yet. In winter owls patrol the hedgelines as the early dusks settle in, but on a day like this, Hedwig and his friends are staying well out of sight.

The sun casts crisp shadows on the paths, and a gentle breeze blows me home.

The fields are softly aglow
Buttercups into the distance
Female orange tip fail
Red clover
Spot the two cormorants. Blowed if I can.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

All the Bees!

Out came the sun, off a running went mr crackered, and on my trusty mobile phone camera, I pictured all the bees! These pictures were taken mainly in the library park and also South Parade park, and I post this mixture of honey bees and bumbles with no further comment, for your apid pleasure!