Thursday 31 December 2015

The Unseasonal Season

If you look at my blog entries from exactly 12 months ago, you will see photographs of glittering snowfields and closeups of ice crystals looking like jewels.

This winter has been characterised by howling winds, driving rain, and T-Shirt temperatures. Everything is fooled. Crocuses are now appearing to go with the snowdrops, and daffodils are spearing out of the sodden ground, yellow trumpets not yet ready to unfurl.

The ground has no winter crispness about it a frost brings. Everything is muddy, thank heaven for my excellent £12 Decathlon trail runners but even they don't prevent your feet getting soaked when you suddenly find yourself in an ankle deep puddle.

The main blessing of this winter has been the fact that might cycle commutes to work have not yet been made hazardous by ice and snow.


All yext and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 31.12.15

Cemetery crocuses

Snowdrops too

Bracket fungi

Not sure what this is, but it's out!

Magnolia flowers budding

Also nettles flowering

River Devon just starting to flood

Trent nearly over at the lock

Muddy running

Even muddier running

Muddy owl land

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Pub Quiz Funs

Up until 8 years ago (!!!) I ran I weekly pubquiz at the much missed Mailcoach Inn here in Newark, but when that place eventually turned into a Sicilian mobster's den - truly! - my Thursday nights ended up being my own again.

However, David and Leslie, who used to run The Coach, got me to do a new quiz at Oscar's, the pub they have now taken over. So, after a lot of research and struggles with busted internets, I took my black book of doom down to the bar last night, with much trepidation.

An empty room is the quizmasters dread.

Luckily, the room was absolutely stuffed with competitors, including to my delight top local birder Nick Crouch, and many friends I hadn't seen for years. Within seconds I was sweating with nerves, and that was without the presence of Irene from Home and Away, who is appearing locally in Panto and drops into Oscars from time to time.

People were expecting questions about nature, astronomy, and of course, Christmas questions. What they got were a musical round where I played Christmas songs I didn't know how to play on my guitar, dodgy 70s sitcoms like Love Thy Neighbour, and unspeakable euphemisms from Star Wars.

Naturally, as with all my quizzes, it turned out to be murderously difficult and 21 / 40 ended up being the winning score. But that was kind of irrelevant, as it was all a hell of a lot of fun and everyone ended up rather merry.

Thanks then to Dave and Leslie, and all who played.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.12.15

Tuesday 29 December 2015

The Birds of the Blue Lake - The Tufted Duck

After mallards, tufties are probably the next most common duck species in the UK that your average town dweller will come across. Out in the sticks in winter teal and wigeon may be far more numerous; but they don't seem to visit urban bodies of water.

I've never ever seen a tufted duck chick, and in summer they tend to disappear to breed I know not where. But with their yellow eyes, drooping crest, and precision plumage that makes them look like models, they are very characterful little ducks indeed!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.12.15

Sunday 27 December 2015

The Birds of the Blue Lake - Great Crested Grebe

"The Birds of the Blue Lake" sounds like a title of a terribly exotic Attenborough wildlife extravaganza, a glowing technicolour feast of filtering flamingoes and birds of paradise swooping through the surrounding canopy.

Is is actually what the locals seem to call what I've been referring to as "Balderton Lake", the largest body of freshwater in the urban area of Newark, a lake used mainly for fishing, and also as an impromptu swimming pool by Eastern European folk which doesn't really bother me, but hacks off the anglers like mad.

Luckily for my photography yesterday, there were no swimmers to disturb the birds, and perhaps because it was a quiet day around the water, the great crested grebes came in much closer and I was able to get better shots of them.

Their seems to be three distinct generations on the water; full adults, juveniles, and younger chicks still sporting their black and white stripes. However old they are, they move very quickly across the water and are tricky for a slower camera to focus on.

But, I partially got there!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.12.15

Saturday 26 December 2015

Willie Wagtail out on the Run

Had a lovely 10km run out today, no sense of urgency, no need to be anywhere, plenty of time to stop and take some photographs. Snowdrops are out, crocuses are sprouting, and the leaves of winter aconite are spread upon the cemetery like miniature lily pads.

Lots of the usual waterfowl were out today on the two lakes, no sign yet of any visiting goosander or pochard, and I got some useful photographs of a great crested grebe at last. But further round my route, on the stretch of river between the Malt Shovel and Barge pubs I came across a bird I've been wanting to photograph ever since I got my camera, but have been mysteriously absent whenever I've been out.

It was a pied wagtail, a bird that without camera in hand, I've always found to be quite a tame little bird when it comes to human contact. But at last, I found an amenable one when I had my S8650 with me.

It was feeding from the moss and loose soil where the path met the concrete river banking. It was a very busy little bird, wagging its long tail away, finding worms, and keeping a wary eye on me every time I approached too close. But I had a good 15 minutes with the bird, and took a lot of shots, most of which fell victim to high winds and low light as usual.

But, I think I've got some decent ones.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 26.12.15

This is the pimp shot, right here!

Friday 25 December 2015

Mr Bear and Cheetah Cat Wishing you all the Best

I'm too hungry to do it, the folks are arguing about how to do the ham, and my sister is busy admiring the T-Shirt I designed and made for her band.

So, I leave it to Mr Bear and Cheetah Cat to wish you happy Christmas, and to encourage you to enjoy the world around you more, no matter where.

Si xxx

Thursday 24 December 2015

Sunset on the Season

The solstice has just passed, the sun has set on Christmas Eve, and then Lincs FM will take all of their Christmas songs of the annual rotation.

I hope you all get some of what you ask for, but not all; for if that were the case, what would you have to hope for yourselves!

I've had a lovely run this evening, and fully intend to have one before I eat my Christmas dinner!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.12.15 - even at Xmas

Tuesday 22 December 2015

A Flash of Winter Colour

There's still a lot of plants in flower in the folks' garden, and others that have come back into flower, confused by the mild weather. Either way it is very welcome, as normally we are in the bleakest time of the year, before early in the new year when I can start hunting for snowdrops, aconite then crocuses.

Only, it's not been like that this winter!


Sunday 20 December 2015

Low Light Waterfowl

Just got some unadulterated shots to show you from my walk yesterday afternoon, on a day where the strong breeze and sky bound duvet of grey cloud made it tricky for photography. I've not been running for a couple of days as I've bruised the very base of my spine ticcing, so after two good runs, I've had two blank days really.

Walking is no substitute unless you walk a heck of a long way.

Anyway, I was off to hunt down some photo opps with my bridge camera, and headed briskly off down to London Road Lake to see what birds were out to play as the sun began to sink towards the horizon. Assuming you were in a plane high above the cloudbase and could see that damned elusive yellow orb.

So, it was another rotten day for photography. Flat grey light and a strong wind. But hey, it was warm, and dry, and I was outside, and you never know what you might see.

As it happened, it was just the usual squadron of mallards with some coot and moorhen, but they were relaxed, and at a distance I was able to get some decent shots. The grebes however, those damn grebes, refused to co-operate as ever. I present the shots uncropped and edited, just so you can get an idea of how my camera is in lowish light.


Copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.12.15

General mooching

Near full bred mallards - note the specula

Cootish antics

Distant grebe

Are these two in breeding colours?

Saturday 19 December 2015

Owl-ay Maria

Today was a very busy market day, with many choral attractions both inside and out around town.

Asda had a very curiously sited brass band, playing carols with folks going up and down the travelator in front of them, which looked rather odd. There was a choir in the market place, various other buskers, and a gentleman singing "World in Union" through a very loud PA.

The music wasn't to my taste, but this wasn't a problem. What wasn't so smart was the locating of the owls of Kilton Raptor Rescue right next to him. Because, you know, the birds with the most sensitive hearing in the world, must love being sat next to a man blasting out "Ireland's Call" five metres away.

Certainly the barn owls, which were the nearest, were rather unsettled, and a long eared owl kept turning to look, and had a fearsome scowl on its face as the singer clambered into "Ave Maria". The big eagle owl they had though was happier, and was overjoyed to be stroked by a customer. I hope it's not the same eagle owl they've had before however, because this one only had one eye.

At one point, it stretched out its wings, and the wingspan, a bit less than two metres I'd say, was so impressive. It also has the most amazing furry talons, quite capable of going straight through your arm and out the other side.

As ever though, it was the scopps owl, smaller than a blackbird, that had the most admirers. Such a cute little bird, but deadly too!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 19.12.15

Next to the singer

Barn owls

Confidential chat

Scopps owl

Young eagle owl

This expression is priceless! Scowl owl.

Tawny owl

Beautiful plumage


Eagle face