Wednesday 31 January 2018

A Weekend Miscellania

I love the word miscellania. It creates a feel of sophistication over my blog it probably doesn't deserve...

These pictures were taken on Monday, after I'd done my RSPB Birdwatch and headed out for a trot slash walk around the lakes, where I saw the goosander and the egret but had killed the battery on my bridge camera and missed the chance to take a really good shot.

It's too strong to be Murphy's, this is a case of Sod's Law.

But you must always love the aconite and the sun across the water.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 31.01.18

Monday 29 January 2018

The Not So Big Garden Birdwatch

Well, today was the day, my first RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, and golly, did I ever pick the wrong day.

While yesterday was warm and dry, today dawned with an absolute downpour that persisted up until about midday. "Bugger" thought the potential birdwatcher, and headed off into town to buy chicken tikka pasties for a fuddle at work later in the week. High living or what. But by the time I got back and had some lunch however, it was dry, and I felt that it was time to do some counting.

Those avian characters had other ideas, and even as the some came out, they stayed out of sight. Even the house sparrows that are normally squabbling in their under eaves penthouses next door to me. You often see flocks of chaffinch, goldfinch and long tailed tit passing through the garden; not today.

There were no canopy dwellers at all. I saw some blackbirds, a wren and three robins, the most dominant of which saw off the other two in various little squabbles that took place by my shed.

A woodpigeon appeared, and as I tried to take a shot of it, the probable reason that birds were in short supply became apparent. My woodpigeons eyes bulged in fright and it took off in a hurry; I lowered the camera in time to see the trim form of a sparrowhawk slam the brakes on, and abort its attack run before flap flap gliding off to look for a new vantage point among the gardens.

I'm guessing that hawky featherface there might have kept the birds out of view, if they suspected a raptor was about. Or am I crediting songbirds with too much intelligence?

As if a raptor doing raptor things wasn't enough, a burst of scolding "chucks" from a male blackbird indicated the arrival of a new problem; the one friendly local cat, a lovely tabby that day or night always comes to see me if she knows I'm outside. Well, I'm a sucker for cats, so I didn't mind that too much! But it didn't help the bird count.

I hope yours went better.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.01.18

Sunday 28 January 2018

The Insects were up Today

I knew I'd see insects today, it was just too warm and occasionally bright not to. It was a case of when and where, and the reflection that all these honey and bumblebee reports I've seen on twitter are just so early in the year.

I've never seen a bee in January. Until today.

It was when I was walking to the park for a cup of tea. I was too warm in a hoodie and jacket; it was evidently thus warm enough for the honey bee I saw feeding off someones aconite in their garden, sadly too far off to photograph. While I was having my cup of tea, insects were drifting by with nothing to feed on - the pansies in the baskets are no use to anyone - and then when I went past the sheltered accomodation a queen buff tailed bumblebee was trundling bulkily through the grass.

I was so tempted to jump over the low wall and run around on the lawn chasing after it to take pictures, but fear of the old folk police prevented me from doing so. They are well known for their brutality.

I knew where I might have a chance however - the sunlit castle grounds, and the crocuses therupon. And I was right, but how I thought. There were no bees here, but there were hoverflies about, feeding on the crocuses and a very early dwarf iris that was peeking up under a tree. One was a drone fly I think, the other a much smaller character.

Spring is on us. For now. And how early it is!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 28.01.18

Saturday 27 January 2018

The Mild Front Passes Over

The day started freezing cold as I went to see the aconites in Friary Gardens - now nearly at their maximum spread, but not yet completely opened out. I supermarketed, disappointed to find the impossibility of buying stuff without plastic packaging.

Even on the market, fruit and veg is sold in plastic bags. Or indeed, fat balls for my feeder which I'm restocking ready to do big garden birdwatch in Monday. Horrible, flimsy, blue plastic bags. I have a feeling paper ones are going to come back into fashion rather soon.

After lunch, I got out for a run just after sunset, and the temperature was much warmer, as were the colours - the clouds had cleared apart from a few that allowed themselves to be lit beautifully by the hiding sun. A flock of long tailed tits flew in time with me as I ran along the side of Balderton Blue Lake, where the ducks and geese had gone to bed on the stretches of bank where people don't go.

Runningwise, by the way, I'm very out of form after the lay off. I did 6km tonight and it as a struggle and I've been left fairly stiff again. Hopefully I will improve, and so will my irritating ankle.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.01.18

Thursday 25 January 2018

Death by Pie

Have really not felt well today, poleaxed by a pie, a chicken pie that looked like slurry with pastry on top. I shouldn't have eaten it really, but I struggle not to eat food - lol - and down it went.

Suffice to say, if it looks bad, it probably won't do your body any good, and so it proved. I'm still not 100% now, but I've still done 45 minutes on the exercise bike, if feeling a bit weak.

Yesterday I was lucky. I got to work a few minutes before Storm Georgina or whatever her name is passed through. 15 minutes later, the most powerful wind and rain burst slashed through our campus, and the poor people still cycling to work in it. My colleague Kat came in like she'd been through a car wash, and had to borrow a load of gentleman clothes for the rest of the day. The wind just howled and wouldn't let up, driving huge raindrops sideways.

Never seen anything like it.

However, the rain did eventually stop so I could get out and about on our campus, and I found myself having a lovely 5 minute close encounter with a goldcrest. The little bird approached me to about a metre, "seeeeeping" about as it combed the lichen with its beak, totally unafraid, as they always are, of my human presence.

Ah well, one always has to pay for a joyful moment. Bleurgh.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 25.01.18

Monday 22 January 2018

Risking Another Gentle Run

I've been out twice today, visiting the park WHERE THE CAFE WAS SHUT and a TV crew were filming out of a VW camper for some reason, and then in the afternoon I had a gentle - in reality laboured and heavy legged - 6km because I'm fed up of all the little niggles that are stopping me keeping fit outside, an indoor bike is no substitute.

I suppose if I fished, fitness wouldn't be a problem, but I doubt I'd burn many calories. The three guys angling on the Castle stretch of the Trent didn't seem to be exercising their arms lifting any fish out, or indeed move at all. They sat motionless, looking at their motionless float on a motionless flat calm river.

I bet the fish were torpid, hanging out in their fishy beds and doing absolutely nothing.

My run was the tour of the two lakes, and I didn't really see anything interesting on the water - no goosander, no pochard, although the male great crested grebes are now in their full breeding get up. The trees next to the main path were lively with redwing again - beautiful birds that have are continuing to ground feed after stripping the berry trees bare.

For some reason, London Road Pond has become the go to place for all manner of weird hybrid and farmyard ducks to visit. I wonder what's brought them all into town - are the farms not up to their exacting standards this time of year?


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 22.01.18

Sunday 21 January 2018

Obligatory Snow Shots

Knowing that it was going to set hard and freeze for my cycling commutes later in the week, I was rather looking forward to there being a bit of snow today to go walking in and get some shots.

However, when I looked out the window at 9am, I was disappointed - it looked like the promised snow had already gone through and been replaced by heavy rain. By 11am, the forecast snow did manage to appear, and it snowed quite heavily here for about 90 minutes, enough to settle but not enough to survive the rain that came afterwards.

I figured the park might be a good place to visit, as it isn't too far away and I didn't want to be struggling to walk on any icy stuff; I nearly went over three or four times on black ice last night. Even as it was I found it quite awkward going, and sort of baby giraffed my way down to the sconce.

As ever, I was hoping to see redpolls on the alder trees by the River Devon; as ever I didn't. But just up the slope from the bank, those naughty redwing were prowling again as they have seemingly cleaned out every berry laden tree in town and now need to ground feed, except of course when they see me and head for the branches again. At the same time and in the same trees, a noisy flock of long tailed tits moved through. Two of the most lovely sights of winter, there.

As ever when there is even a nano-metre of snow, the sledges appear, and the park was full of kids having a go. One child was even going down the steep slopes of the sconce on what looked like a neon green dustbin lid. Other children were more conventional on that inevitable form of snowy transport - the Asda plastic sledge.

It snows so little these days, that the Asda sledge should be described as a single use plastic, and banned.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 21.01.18

Saturday 20 January 2018

Reed Buntings, Leeks and Mushrooms

Two walks today, a late morning and afternoon one. 18,000 steps in the bank. A floor workout to come.

It was raining this morning, but that didn't bother me, as I've said before if it isn't torrential I find it rather refreshing. It certainly made the plants look almost appetising, with big shiny droplets on their leaves. Red campion, daisy and red dead nettle have joined the blooming party now.

A raiding party of redwing made their way in the cemetery today; with berries now hard to come by, they were hacking amongst the leaf litter at ground level. There must have been about 30 birds or more, but they never let you get too close, compared with their less timorous blackbird cousins. The white eye stripe however is distinctive quite a way off, more so than your actual red wing.

A real surprise was encountering a flock of reed buntings on the muddy path behind Grange Road. I saw a number of birds a way off, but couldn't get close for a while until I came across a solitary bird that was hanging back behind the others. From behind, they look rather like house sparrows, but the black head and moustache rather gave it away. Pleased to see it, obviously doesn't like reeds in winter though!

I've cooked tonight, a sort of throw it in the pan concoction of leeks, mushrooms and bacon. Could only get the leeks without plastic. This is going to be very hard indeed.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.01.18