Thursday 29 July 2021

Moar Butterflies

 I've not really seen much to photograph this week, work is picking up the pace big time, and the weather has been a little bit too meh really.

However, I did get an enjoyable walk in through the park to Hawton, and then into Farndon to see what was happening in Cottage Lane reserve.

Walking and listening to the radio is such a delight to me, although my increasing middle aged-ness means I listen to Radio 4 more than 6 Music these days; I rather lost interest after Radcliffe and Maconie lost the afternoon show. I like being spoken to when out on my long walks without the hassle of having to say anything in return. It keeps me calm, and the spoken word means I can still pick out interesting sounds to investigate further.

I also like to see how many of the contestants I can beat on "Brain of Britain". I reckon I would have come second in the final once. Or rather my ego does. 

So, butterflies. To say it is the longest flying of all our UK species in my experience, I'm amazed I haven't been able to to get a decent photograph of a speckled wood until now, in its classic pose settled on a leaf waiting for another speckled wood to come close to attack it. 

Other butterflies fed off clustertop verbena in Farndon, while Cottage Lane reserve is full of purple and yellow loostrife, patrolled by brown hawker dragonflies. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.07.21

Saturday 24 July 2021

Many Many Butterflies

 No cricket match for me today, due to lack of ability and a sore shoulder, so I took myself out for a walk along the river this afternoon to watch the second team at Winthorpe.

The weather has cooled a little bit, and indeed got rather chilly later on when the wind veered to the north. But this didn't seem to deter the butterflies, that were about in large numbers on the riverside flowers, especially the ragwort. 

The dominant species out and about seemed to be the vivid orange gatekeepers, a meadow brown that their creators decided to neaten up and give a nicer paint job. But there were commas, skippers and the various white species too, although I was surprised not to see any small tortoiseshells around. 

Over the river, swallows, sand martins and house martins were busy feeding themselves up for their migration. It seems that the swifts, bless them, have started to leave.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.07.21

Friday 23 July 2021

A Deer Friend

 My lunchtime walks I take outside at work are so important to me - it gives me a chance to clear my head, burn off some of the energy my hyperactivity and tourettes send coursing through my body and brain and on our wildlife rich campus, give me a chance to see what is around.

I wasn't expecting to see what I saw trotting across the road at the roundabout at the site entrance.

It was a small brown deer, barely the size of a border collie, and it ambled onto some grass and started munching away under some trees next to the lorry park.

I hid behind a hedge, readied my cameraphone and tried to sneak up on the little creature. I rounded the corner, saw it about 20 metres away, and then it looked up and saw me.

It didn't hang around to see if I was friendly. It took off like the proverbial scaleded cat, ran back across the roundabout, across another road and found its way off campus through the wooden fence behind the wildflower meadow while I tried to take photographs. 

I knew from the size, bodyshape, lack of a powder puff tail and the absence of antlers that I was almost certainly a female muntjac deer - they have been spotted around town before - but I did a little research to check and indeed that's what it was. 

They are not native to the UK, they were introduced to Woburn Park from China in 1838, and after various escapes became established in the south of England. They have obviously decided to make their way north if they are being seen here.

I've seen roe deer in Newark, and indeed at work, before, but this little muntjac was a new one to me!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 23.07.21

Monday 19 July 2021

Boiled in the Cricketing Heat

 Sunday was a friendly game against Wellow, a team that we have several connections with thanks to players who have played for both clubs. It was sure to be another very hot day, although a featherweight breeze made it a little more bearable. 

Once again, the buzzards were riding the thermals overhead, and bees were feeding off the last of the bramble flowers. I was trundling around trying to loosen up before the game, hoping that my ankle would stand up to some more bowling after Saturday's efforts. I was thinking I might have to bowl off a short run.

Some might say I'd be better off not bowling at all, lol!

So, we batted first and with our regular umpires away, this meant I had a chance to take to the middle and do some flamboyant arm waving when a boundary was hit, which as I was umpiring at the end where the less good bowlers seemed to be bowling from was a lot more fun than my umpire colleague, who barely had to move while the opening bowler was on at his end.

Have I said that the Wellow team looked suspiciously young and good when they turned up? That always alarms me, as I am old and rubbish these days.

Anyway, our opening bats both recorded 50s before retiring, one rather faster than the other, but after a bright start we got a bit bogged down by the Wellow spinners for about 10 overs, which as it was only a 30 over game was a problem, although some late hitting by the third team captain, thankfully not wearing a long sleeved jumper like he had done on Saturday in the 32 degree heat, got us up to a reasonably competitive total of 143.

Or so we thought.

The opening bat for Wellow, apparently a player on Saturdays for Cuckney in the higher divisions of the Bassetlaw league, made mincemeat of our bowling, and raced to 50 in about 8 overs. It's so easy to spot a top level batsman, the speed of foot movement is so much faster. So much for the theory that friendly Sunday cricket would be a genteel knockabout!

However, he retired on 50 as both teams agreed, which meant I didn't have to bowl at him. Oh dear.

Indeed I did bowl, off a full run too, and ended up bowling better than I've done all year. The accuracy was there, I beat the bat, and as usual HAD NO LUCK AT ALL. I just can't buy a wicket this year, although on a dead slow wicket with no seam movement, and a ball that doesn't swing I've got no chance at my pace. 

I only bowled one bad ball, but despite flogging myself to death in the heat, I just couldn't break through. 5 overs for 17, but no wides or no balls. I fielded ok again too. 

At 120 odd for 3, the game looked dead and buried, but there was a late twist thanks to some aggressive bowling from our skipper, and some mystery left arm wrist spin too. A flurry of bowleds and stumpings followed, and a first time wicket too for one of our players who came to cricket late, but Wellow's last pair saw them over the line.

A fun and enjoyable game, in all. One day I'll bat again though, and add as many as one run to our total.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 19.07.21

Saturday 17 July 2021

A Covid Draft up to the Seconds

 Was expecting to play for the third team today, after C19 caused a few gaps in the Saturday line-ups, but a late "ping" to one of our players on Saturday morning saw me moved up into the second team to play Hoveringham 2s on what was a blisteringly hot day.

Today sporting a cap, as opposed to my usual headband this year, was a very good move. My brain would have been fried to a crisp otherwise. Spray on factor 50 was slathered all over my face and neck. I had enough water in my cricket bag to fill the hump of a camel. And it still wasn't enough.

I had kind of resigned myself to a no bowling or batting day, as opposed to just no batting, as the second team have proved to be incredibly strong this year, riding high second in their division. So I tried to do the best I could in the field, and luckily I was actually quite sharp and made no cock ups whatsoever which is staggeringly rare for me. That was fielding in the "Jonty Rhodes" position at cover point as well!

Hoveringham too had struggled with C19 related issues, and could only play 10 men in the end, and it was, shall we say, an experienced squad. This combined with the heat and some extremely accurate bowling from our lads up front led to some very slow progress, with regular wickets keeping Hoveringham in check. 

This was all watched, probably with little interest, by three buzzards circling on thermals and making regular keening calls. Looks like the resident birds from the stand of trees at one end of the ground have successfully raised another little raptor!

After 25 overs with Hoveringham 4 down for about 90, I was slightly surprised to be called into the bowling attack after the Sunday skipper was hoiked off for bowling too many beamers. And it went pretty well, all things considered. I didn't bowl anything short, only bowled the one wide when I stumbled in delivery, and best of all - lol - forced the keeper not to stand up to the stumps as I was getting ball to zip through reasonably sharply by my pitiful standards. 

And yet, I took no wickets despite beating the bat a few times, and every so often I got spanked for four by Hoveringham's resident cow corner hacker because I look to bowl the ball full to get it to swing. 

"Never be upset by being hit for 4 on the drive" is often the club bowler's mantra, but I was still annoyed. "Grrrrrr". That's how annoyed I was. 

Our opening bowler then returned, and in combination with our "mystery spinner" at the other end, made short work of the remaining sloggers to bowl Hoveringham out for 132. 

Unbelievably our opening bats knocked off the runs in less than 20 overs to win by 10 wickets, while I tried to increase my step count by walking round both grounds on my shonky ankle. Racked up over 20,000 steps in the end. 

As the third team went down to a heavy defeat that I would have done nothing to change, I probably had a decent deal out of the day, although my ankle is telling me otherwise.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 17.06.21

Wednesday 14 July 2021

More Small Skipper Funs

 Small skippers! They are hard to avoid at work at the moment, skittish little orange dart flight butterflies taking to the air whenever a clod hopping human like me seems to get within a hundred yards of them.

That being said, I managed to catch one with its tongue out, feeding off ragwort. Sadly, a wretched tuft of grass got in the way, ruining the shots.

No Countryfile Calendar for me then.

When I get home from work, the swifts are providing frenetic screeching entertainment over my garden. As ever, they know when I have my camera and retreat to the heights, only coming down to make their death defying strafing runs when I don't have it. 

The fledglings are clearly up and amongst the adult birds now, judging by the increase in numbers, it always amazes me that they complete their breeding and growing up cycles so fast. A young swift seems to have about 6 weeks to prepare itself for the small matter of a flight to Africa - in about two weeks they will be starting to leave.

They always leave a sort of 9 month emptiness in the sky.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 14.07.21

Saturday 10 July 2021

A Dinky Small Skipper

 The wildflowers growing in the wild campus fields are proving to be so attractive to pollinators this summer. There's thistles, knapweed, still some birds foot trefoil, and above all ragwort which is a plant deadly to horses, but vital to virtually anything with wings.

Rosebay willow herb is now in flower too in its usual clusters along the bank of earth along the roadside. Honey bees are loving it.

When you walk besides, or even through, the long grasses that the wildflowers live among, it's currently impossible not to flush out lots of meadow brown, ringlet and tiny orange skipper butterflies. I've been barely able to get a decent photograph of a skipper this year, they are just so skittish and flitty, but I found a specimen willing to play ball for the camera.

Its wing markings were barely visible, which ruled it out from being a large skipper, but was it a small or essex skipper? Well, a close up examination of its antennae revealed the tips to be brown which means it's a small skipper. 

Essex skippers have black antennae tips. 

I'm getting my lunchtime walks in at work, which are absolutely vital, and at weekends when not playing cricket I'm able to get longer ones in - two hours today on a warm and humid day. 

Currently the outside world is both beautiful, and scary at the same time. I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 10.07.21

Monday 5 July 2021

Faerie Moths

 All of a suddent, 5 spot burnet moths have now appeared in numbers on our work campus, loving the ragwort at the moment. Later in the summer they will cluster round globe thistles and teasel in great numbers, turning these plants into black and red spotted little balls.

I've said it probably every year they appear, but with their spotty mothy plumage and long curly antennae they really are creatures from the faerie realm, belonging in children's books along with mice talking under toadstools. They tend to appear when the cinnabars disappear, making sure we keep up our red and black moth quota up as the summer goes on. 

No cricket for me this weekend; I did get a late call into the second team to play Lambley but we got rained off, meaning I technically played in a match without leaving the house. 

Which is great, as it meant I bowled no wides or no balls, and dropped no catches.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 06.07.21

Friday 2 July 2021

Yellow, Black and Long of Horn

 I've found some goodies on my lunchtime walks at work, in what has been generally a warm, grey and very humid week, with the odd bit of yellow sun poking through the haze, especially in the evenings.

Gentle breezes have brought the smell of the chicken hatching factory over campus, a sickly sweet and slightly rubbery miasma.

Campus is a mass of ragwort and st johns wort, our wildflower meadow now has musk mallow, ladies bedstraw and hedge bedstraw in flower but has lost most of its colour. Ringlets and meadow brown butterflies skulk deep in the long grass, while small skippers fleetingly feed of the ragwort, waiting until just before your camera comes into focus before skittishly flying off. 

At home my flat is being strafed by swifts every evening, blasting me with their screeches as they scythe around the buildings. 

Best find of the week has to be the pair of longhorn beetles I found mating on an ox eye daisy. Their yellow and black stripey antennae are so long and irresistible!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 02.07.21