Monday 31 May 2021

The Snake and the Dragonfly

 I've got a lot of steps in this weekend, Friday saw my bimbling out to Winthorpe Lake of which more later - there wasn't a lot to see to be honest - and today took me out to Hawton and Farndon, two nearby villages which are both very attractive.

The house at valrerian corner is a highlight for me at Hawton, although there were no hummingbird hawk moths as I've sometimes seen here, and the pastures around Farndon are painted yellow with buttercups at the moment.

But today saw a couple of really exciting firsts for me.

The first came on the road halfway between Hawton and Farndon. Whenever I cross a stream of water, I always take a look down on the off chance of seeing a fish, or perhaps a little egret on the hunt, but when I looked down into a small beck, I saw stunned to see a sinuous black shape swimming along.

For a split second I thought it might be an eel, then spotted a head with a collar of gold around the neck. It was of course a grass snake, swimming along happy as larry before slithering out when it came across a branch in the water.

I was too shocked to even reach for my phone to take a picture.

It's the first snake I've ever seen in the wild.

I know we get grass snakes in the area, I've seen photos, but never thought I'd be lucky enough to see one myself. What a find!

Slightly less dramatically but no less interesting, I encountered a 4 spotted chaser dragonfly on a tree near Fanrdon Ponds. This was my first dragonfly of the year, and the first of this species I've managed to photograph, although it took about 20 attempts to get one in focus!

All in all, 20,000 very worthwhile steps today!

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 31.05.21

Saturday 29 May 2021

My Best Ever Bee Photo

 The capture of the heavily laden flying bee below is probably the best photo of a bee I've ever taken, and it was completely by accident!

I was photographing it nectaring, when suddenly it took off. It ended up at the other end of the frame from where I was pointing my mobile phone so how the shot was in such good focus I have no idea!

I hope you like it.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.05.21

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Just a Single Shot...

 Was walking in the old oak wood at Sconce and Devon Park when I came across this beautiful lady.

A female orange tip upon cow parsley.

Pictures speak louder than words today. 

Or even "picture".


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 26.05.21

Monday 24 May 2021

Better than Last Week Anyway

 So, Sunday saw us taking on Travellers with our "Sunday Legends" side, well Legends apart from me anyway. 

I was in a bit of a hurry to get to the game as I'd been unsuccessfully hunting for my white long sleeved base layer, it was that cold. Thus I was in a bit of a tizzy and walked onto the field of play with a black undertop on, which made me look very village, and also my cycling helmet, which made me look very village idiot.

We were fielding first, so no chance of a relaxing first couple of of hours walking around the ground taking photographs. We were straight out there, with me fielding in the Jonty Rhodes position at point, which would be great if I could field a thousandth as well as him.

As it happened I was feeling pretty good, and was able to field sharply and energetically, not that anything really difficult came my why. It may not sound much, but it is important for me to field well, it seems to give me more confidence for my bowling later on. 

Indeed I had to do quite a lot of fielding initially, and to get praise for what I was doing was rather helpful. Even though my throwing in from the boundary is terrible; my throwing arm being so gone it would be quicker to call a taxi to get the ball to the wicket keeper.

Travellers, as it turned out, had some good batters if thankfully not on the standard of Woodborough last week, and it took us a long time to make a breakthrough. But when it came, it happened quickly, as our opening bat took three quick wickets with his medium pace stuff. 

At the other end one of our very young bowlers was taking wickets too, using the shock tactic of aiming beamers at the batsman's head before cleaning them up with a length ball. Our catching was good as well.

I came on to bowl in the 20th over, nervous I'd be rubbish again. But as it turned out, I was good, if luckless apart from the one bad ball I bowled that was smacked into a hawthorn tree 100 yards away. I beat the bat, had edges go through the vacant slip cordon, and shaved the stumps several times for no reward. 

Typically all the action at the other end, where my fellow Sunday specialist went through Travellers lower order like a dose of salts to take 4 for 7.

That's the way cricket goes! Although there was a comedy tun out off my last ball. I ended with 5 overs for 24, with most of those runs in singles as the field was pushed back on the boundary as I was bowling the death overs again. We had bowled them out for 133.

So, batting time. Although not for me as I was back down the order in my rightful place. As it was so wretchedly cold I ended up spending a lot of time walking around, and as we started safely but rather steadily, there didn't seem to be any need to panic. It was so chilly however that outside of the cricket there wasn't a whole lot to see.

However, panic mode seemed to set in, as the opponent's canny medium pacer suddenly took a hat trick to devastate our middle order and leave us 5 down for not many. 

However, our opening bat and our skipper now settled in, and began to take the game away from the Travellers, who weren't helped by having a couple of fielders who made me look like Usain Bolt when it came to mobility. They gradually reduced the deficit down, until our opener sportingly retired at 50 and his son went in with us needing 25 off 5 or so.

This is when the skipper took control. The young chap was never going to monster the big hits, so his job was to keep the ball out and run like hell to try and keep the skipper on strike. No doubt the sight of me padded up waiting to come in helped focus their thoughts, as I knew I'd struggled to score against the fast bowlers who were on at the time.

Luckily the skipper is in a rich vein of form, and he saw up home. With a ball to spare!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.05.21

Friday 21 May 2021

Yellow Legs and a Small Heath

 I have another interesting pair of finds for you from our work campus, one of them a first timer on campus, the other a completely brand new species!

The new kid on the block was a tiny small heath butterfly. This is a dead giveaway that the sun is shining, because they never fly unless it is bright, and they never fly more than about a metre above the ground. They are very difficult to photograph however, as they spook very easily - it took ten minutes of chasing this one around a patch of grassland before it let me get anywhere near enough to take a photograph.

The brand new species for me was a yellow legged mining bee. It makes sense that they are around, because we have plenty of nomad cuckoo bees at work and this is the species they parasitise. The yellow hairs on the leg made it easy to recognise, especially as I'd seen a picture of one on twitter the day before!

All the anxiety of Indian variants. I have a month to go before my second shot.


All text and images copyright CreamCRackeredNature 21.05.21

Thursday 20 May 2021

A Red Mason Bee

 The weather has been staggeringly dreadful today - seriously I can't remember a spring as dreary as this for years - but luckily we had a couple of warmer days at the beginning of the week.

This means that there's been plenty to see on the hawthorn blossom, and I've been happy to see that my wildflower meadows are now full of buttercups, while birds foot trefoil and ox eye daisy are now starting to emerge.

The red tailed bumblebees are already starting to zone in on the trefoil, they love feeding off that. 

A new species at work, although I've seen them investigating my garden brickwork and ignoring my bee hotel, is the red mason bee. I came across it feeding off the blossom, recognisable because of its hairy body with firey ginger colouring. 

This one was a little bedraggled from earlier wet weather I think, but it was really so vivid and a very pleasing find.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.05.21

Sunday 16 May 2021

From "Hero" to a Literal Zero

 Today for me was what they call "A Fresh Air Game."

We were lucky to get the game in. There were so much pregnantly heavy black clouds all around the ground most of the day that we were expecting a catastrophic downpour at any moment. It was raining at the start of the match. We had a hailstorm after about an hour, and then after that we had to go off the field because lightning was seen around the ground. But as it turned out, we only lost about 20 minutes play which was no problem as we were only playing 30 overs.

We batted first, and the skipper must have seen my blog post last week about not having batted because he asked me to bat at number 6. I had said we needed to get some lads in who hadn't batted yet, but I wasn't referring to myself, especially after having been so terrible at nets on Thursday. 

I have to say I was quite pleased, especially as the bowling of our Woodborough opponents seemed to be accurate, but slow on a wicket that although quicker than the wet plasticine of last week, was hardly Sabina Park with Curtley Ambrose bowling. 

Speaking of slow, because the bowling was accurate, so was our scoring initially, and we did lose a few early wickets. Our opening bat stayed strong and patient however, and when the bowling loosened up, so did he, playing some fantastically powerful shots. He did find a partner that could stay with him, and they began to rattle on the score quite nicely until the latter scooped a catch to the keeper.

Thus I strode out to wicket, heltmetless, looking to score a few runs off some of the rather less good bowling that was going on.

I lasted 3 balls, edging behind to the one good ball the guy who got me out bowled. He was lobbing full tosses at the other guy to be spanked to the boundary, but no not me, I got the full length ball that just moved a way a tiny bit. 

I walked off, wanting to throw myself into the hedge. 

"You never took your chance Simon" said the skipper, rather sternly I thought. Anyway, he is a much better bat than me, so it was probably better for us he was in and not me. And he actually gave the ball some very meaty thwacks indeed to take us up to 136  for 6 off our 30 overs. 

Now, for the bowling.

I'd been feeling quite optimistic about that because in nets I had sorted my action out so I wasn't falling away and bowling wides, and was bowling with a bit more snap and pace, if it a little short. But when our two best bowlers opened up, it was clear that Woodborough bats, led by a 68 year old no less, were rather too good. We did take an early wicket and they weren't thrashing us, but numbers 1 and 3 didn't really look in any bother after the wicket. 

And even less so when I bowled. 

Depressed that these days I'm so slow the wicket keeper stands up to the stumps for me, I did manage to produce an ok first over while the bats got their eyes in. But after that, while my reworked approach did indeed mean I was bowling pretty straight and was swinging the ball in a little, I'd bowl 4 good ones an over, and two short ones. 

And the two short ones would be massacred into the fields, every time.

I think I had a nick behind dropped, and beat the bat a few other times, but the bad balls were so badly punished that I was making the cut-throat signal to the skipper to take me off after three overs. Not that his mind wasn't made up already. 

To be fair, other than our opening bat whose medium pace they struggled to get away, all our other bowlers suffered the same fate as me to a greater or lesser extent. 

The nadir of my day was yet to come however. 

I was fielding on the boundary at long off, when the ball was struck high and hard in my direction. I was determined to make a good effort to catch it, moved in line, put my hands up ready...and watched the ball miss them about by at least 2 yards. I had utterly utterly foozled it. 

Our young opening bowler looked at me in total disgust. I threw the ball back in and wanted to die. 

After that, I was banished as usual to where the ball wasn't going to go. It wasn't really time to explain to the skipper that my neurological conditions lead me to have co-morbidities of dyspraxia and bad spatial awareness amongst other things. No, it is easier just to admit to being crap. 

We ended up losing by 9 wickets in about 24 overs. 

Me, I just have to keep practicing. And hoping.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 16.05.21

Thursday 13 May 2021

A Female Orange Tip

 Warmish day today, in so much as this spring we are conditioned to regard 15C as "warm" and consequently a few butterflies were out an about at work today.

Well, to be strictly accurate, 3 butterflies.

The first I saw was a slightly battered looking peacock that I couldn't get near as I had to cast it in shadow as I moved towards it as it rested on the hawthorn blossom, which is just so lavish at the moment. 

Another was a male orange tip, which I was happy to see as I think they've had a hard time during this rather rotten spring, but it never settled.

What I did manage to capture was a female orange tip, which parked itself on some cranesbill and allowed me to photograph it half decently for a change.

I also think I've found my cricket bowling mojo again after practice tonight.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 13.05.21