Thursday 29 December 2022

Robin Says "Seasons Greetings"

 Hello everyone, I'm back from my sister's place in Bristol - more of that in the next few days - and I'm re-adjusting to being on my own again after being with my family for a lovely spell. 

I'm starting to cycle locally again when weather allows, hunting snowdrops and aconite and relishing the outside world. At least when it isn't hammering down. Goosander aren't on the Blue Lake at the moment, which is surprising and indeed when I went today the usual geese weren't there either. 

I'm still enjoying doing my little sketches, so I thought I'd drop you off this seasonal little robin artwork for now, and I'll see you soon.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.12.22

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Constellations and the March of Time

 After an intense period of trying to organise a children's party - lots of walking, lots of cycling in the rain, getting locked in a venue - I've not had much time to write for you this last week, and the freezing weather has prevented any expeditions on the bike. 

Ugh, how fat winter makes me feel. 

-7 nights however have proved to be a blessing, with infinite skies diamond strewn with stars. Mars shines red among them, and I got some ok photos with my Pixel 6A of Gemini, Auriga, Taurus and Orion, the great winter constellations.

The universe is crazy to think about, how these balls of firey fusion energy of varying luminosities and colours randomly scattered in the cosmos, form these patterns that are immediately familiar - I've known the form of Orion since I was a small child. 

It will still look the same when I'm a very old man, but at a universal scale this is nothing. Eons from now, these patterns will have been destroyed by the march of space time.

Almost too much to think about.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.12.22

Tuesday 13 December 2022

My Tree is Up

 Living alone as I do, I never really put much effort into Christmas.

Frankly I get Christmass-ed out, as my entire life at work is devoted to nothing but during December; parties, events, competitions. Even organising a hoopla contest. Hence I can't really be bothered to do much at home. 

I haven't got enough room for a tree in any case.

However, this year I decided to be not so much of a Grinch, and bought a tree ideally suited to my accomodation. It's a 20 centimetre high mini tree, in a highly festive little pot, which is now parked on the top of my bookshelf. Hopefully it will be quite happy there for a nice long time, parked between a drooping lily and a crazy swiss cheese plant.

Ha, not so much of a misery guts after all.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 13.12.22

Wednesday 7 December 2022

The Latest from the Library Gardens

 Having heard that work had now properly commenced on the "Stop the Chop" library garden, I went over for a look to see what was going on there.

I'd seen the plans, and thought they were rather overkill - I would have just created a path down the middle and sown the rest with pollinators, with a few of the seats constructed from the downed tree trunk. But evidently they have decided to go further, to create a rainwater driven brook going through the site to attract dragonflies and a few more birds. 

They've landscaped a couple of mounds - which I think look a bit rough at the moment to say the least but we will see how they bed in, and have planted a large number of bulbs. 

The most eye-catching feature is the beautifully painted container, used to store equipment and which also doubles as a big planting rack for herbs. The goldfinch is stunning!

So, now we wait to see how things progress. Hopefully in the spring, the first flowers will start to emerge and we will see how natural the whole thing ends up looking in the fullness of time. 

I look forward to taking a book there and whiling away the time under a shady tree.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 07.12.22

Sunday 4 December 2022

Bee-ing an Artist

 I keep inheriting little notebooks and felt tip pens in various places, and so when I get the chance it is fun to do a little sketching here and there.

My latest ones were done with no visual reference, and golly gee it shows! I couldn't remember how the stripes on a red admiral went, what actual colour a tawny mining bee was, and didn't have a purple pen to "illustrate" a buddleia. 

Still, I kind of like the results, and feel like I've upgraded my work to about seven year old levels, which is nice. 

I also guess drawing them makes up for not actually seeing them, these dark cold months.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 04.12.22

Monday 28 November 2022


 Despite various rehab exercises I've been doing, and also sitting like a lemon with a freeze pack wrapped round my ankle, the tendonitis isn't settling down much and I'm getting frustrated with having to rest the tendon all the time. 

It's not good for my mental health, and it isn't good for you, dear readers, as it means I haven't got anything to show you. 

So, fed up after a mix up at the chemist with my repeat prescription, I just went home, got and my bike, and headed off to first take a look at the lake, and then journeyed up the N64 cycle path to Cotham.

An unpleasant vision in a bright red waterproof - that I had to stuff in my rucksack as I got far too warm - I flushed all the redwing from the hawthorn bushes along the track. The crows were far more composed, cawing in disdain. 

It was a grey day, with flat light, but I was just relieved to be properly active outside. It wasn't a long ride, only 15km, and it is clear that my fitness is suffering, but I intened to try and keep getting on the bike for short rides when the weather allows. 

I owe it to my brain and to you.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 28.11.22

Monday 21 November 2022

Gentle Meanderings

 I'm still not doing a lot of walking; I am now doing rehabbing exercises for my ankle - including a lurid orange foam roller with medieval torture instrument vibes - and wearing an ice pack when I remember.

I therefore apologise for the lack of riveting content, it is very frustrating for me to be not outside and also the weather is too atrocious for bike riding. The rain seems unrelenting, but I'm guessing our reservoirs need it so I'm not complaining about that. 

I can at least do my best to get outside, and just enjoy the sights and sounds. The harsh honking of the geese at the marina is rendered almost melodic by distance, and there is usually a robin to be heard singing somewhere.

There's a new noise too, one I've only recently discovered. The little sculpture outside Rumbles cafe, which I thought was actually a pretty little piece of polished metal, is actually a sort of steel drum as I found when I heard kids tapping it in their mittened hands, a soft "bonging" rather less tinny than a steel drum in actual fact.

It's a sound oddly out of place under skies of battleship grey. 


Monday 14 November 2022

Why are you Guys Still Out?

 Been off work for three days. Two of those have been misty, mizzley, cold and grey, weather to hide from. Get the TV on, pull the fleece blanket up round your neck on the sofa and stay as cozy as you can.

Saturday, however, was just glorious. Mid November, and it was shirt sleeves weather. I went to Rumbles cafe at the park, and watched a red admiral - always the last butterfly on the wing each autumn - flutter over my head as I sipped on my tea. 

Because of this warm November, there's still some flowers in bloom in the lovingly cultivated beds outside Rumbles, and unbelievably there's still some other pollinators on the wing. 

A hoverfly and a honeybee, still awake and feeding! 

It's an absolutely beautiful thing to see and a privilege to photograph it. But really, is this what we should be seeing so deep into the autumn? Flowers in bloom and insects feeding off them? 

I know that a lot of nature lovers are worried about this too. They wonder why there are trees in bud, orchids sprouting in meadows and other manifestations you would expect in March, not November. It feels wrong to them. It feels wrong to me. 

Something isn't right out there.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 14.11.22

Sunday 6 November 2022

Now, Trying with Coloured Pencils

 This weekend has been so utterly grey and wet, there's been barely anything of note to see.

That being the case, I bought some coloured pencils and decided to have another go at sketching. Using pencils is rather more time consuming than doing big toddlerish swipes of felt tip pen, and produces a rather more subtle result - hardly a surprise!

So, I present to you a honey bee, drawn from a photo in a blog post from a couple of weeks ago. 

Looks about the standard of a ten year old, I'd say.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 06.11.22

Monday 31 October 2022

Nature Sketching

 I've some how ended up having a flu shot and a covid shot at the same time today when I wasn't expecting it, so I'm sat here with a rather sore arm sneezing and feeling a bit rough. 

I suspect tomorrow may be worse!

I was feeling bored, so decided to do something I've been procrastinating over for a while - trying my hand at doing colour sketches of some of my nature photos in my childlike style, using a packet of ten felt tip pens and a dinky sketchbook. 

So, here's what I spent 5 minutes doing earlier, a sketch of one of my ivy mining bee photos.

Don't be harsh on me.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 31.10.22

Saturday 29 October 2022

The Mighty Hunter

 My new phone, a Google Pixel 6A (and no they aren't paying for me to write this article!) has a night shooting mode on it, the first phone I've had that can do this.

To my delight, I've found that this has enabled me to dabble in some very basic astrophotography now that I can record brighter stars in the results. 

There is one constellation that is an obvious target because of this, because it has a number of bright stars in a small area, and that is of course the mighty hunter, Orion. 

The most magnificent constellation visible to Northern Hemisphere viewers, it really is one of the few constellations that can be said to resemble what it is meant to represent. The main group of seven stars you can imagine forming his belted tunic, with a smaller group to the right resembling perhaps an arm raising a shield, while a group to the left could be an arm raising a sword or club. 

The stars you can see in this photo represent some of the largest and most luminous stars that can be seen in the night sky, most remarkable of them being the famous Betelgeuse, seen here at the top left. It is a red hypergiant star that is expected to go supernova in some point in the near future in cosmological terms - in other words, within a few thousand years. When it does go bang, it will be bright enough to see in daylight, and to read by at night. 

You can just about make out the orange tint in this photo. 

Rigel, at the opposite corner is brighter and a rather different star - it is a blue supergiant that also may go supernova, but much further into history. Between them is the belt, Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka, all very luminous too. Amazingly, beneath them you can just make out a faint fuzz that marks Orion's sword, the nebula Messier 43 where new stars are being formed. 

If you get a clear night, do take a look, although you might have to stay up late at the moment - I took this photo at about 4am!


All text and images copyright CreamCRackeredNature 29.10.22

Monday 24 October 2022

The Kitten Rescuer

 So, as the sun was going down last night, I was out in my postage stamp sized garden pottering about with, er, garden things, when the sound of mewling reached my ears.

I thought it was a bird at first, then when it continued I realised it was probably a cat. I just assumed it was a local feral passing through, as I've seen feral cats in the vicinity of my flat before. 

Later on, I went out in the rain to put some rubbish out, I heard the mewling again, coming from somewhere over my back wall. Thinking there might be an injured cat out there, I put on a head torch and headed into the overgrown yard of the beauty salon next door, who own the land over my wall. 

The high pitched little meows got louder, and it seemed clear to me I was in the right place. And it didn't take long to locate the source of the sound. I looked to the right, and my torch beam swung round to reveal a tiny tabby kitten sitting shivering in the rain in a forked tree trunk looking straight at me.

It wasn't this kitten that was making the sound though. The mewing was coming from a second jet black kitten that I only saw when it moved. 

I was utterly stunned.

I grabbed the two of them - they made no attempt to run or hiss at me - and took them into my kitchen, while scrabbling around for a box to put them in and grabbing the oldest towel I have as a sacrifice to get them dry and give them something to lie on and get warm. Sitting however was the last thing on their minds, as they kept climbing out, with the tabby kitten especially keen to follow me around. 

Their then followed a frantic period of researching and phone calls and messages with a vet nurse I know to find out what to do. I've never rescued kittens before after all! 

The advice is actually rather counter intuitive to what you actually want to do, which is give them a hot water bottle and snuggle with them all night making baby noises. If you are assuming they are feral, which I was, the advice is actually to put them back where you found them so mum could come back for them. 

So I rigged up the box as a shelter for them, and put them back, although if it got cold or started raining again I would have fetched them straight back in. It was about 11pm by now, and I resolved to check on them in the morning. 

So, Monday morning I go into the beauty salon, explain what I'd found, and asked for permission to go out back in the yard and see if they were still there.

They were exactly as I'd left them. 

So, after a colossal amount of fuss from the staff next door, who gave me a bigger box they couldn't climb out of and an extra blanket, I brought them back into my yard where again, mum could find them if she was around. It was clear now that the tabby was much the more active of the two, desperate to climb out and explore, while the black kitten was quieter and less active, although seemingly just as healthy. 

The ladies from the beauty salon now brought kitten food, which they totally scarfed down indicating they were weaned and older than the 6 weeks I had initially thought, while I phoned a cat rescue I know through work. It was becoming blatantly obvious to all of us that these poor little mites were not feral, rather they had been dumped. They were too healthy and tame to be feral kitties, and they could not have been in the yard for long as I would have heard them. 

The rescue called me and said they'd pick them up from a local vet practice, so I prepared to walk with a box of kittens through town. Thankfully the staff at the estate agents out front who run my flat offered me a lift, after about an hour of fussing with the kittens and wanting to take them home with them. 

The staff at the vet practice were exactly the same too, although they also sexed the kittens - black kitty was a boy and tabby kitty was a girl. 

The last I saw of them was them being taken for a checkover by the vet, after which they would go to a cat foster home. 

I was very sad to see them go.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.10.22

Friday 21 October 2022

The Buzzy Coralberry

 As I've alluded too in other posts - well at least I think I have - the tiny flowers of the workplace coralberry bushes are proving to be a vital source of late season nourishment for the honeybees still on the wing. 

Even in the rain, the bees visit, dangling upside down from the tiny pink drooping flowers, not stopping for long, hard to photograph. Where their colony is, who knows? How many colonies do they come from? How far have they flown to get here?

Questions questions questions.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 22.10.22

Sunday 16 October 2022

Late Season Bumbling

 I'm not doing very much walking, trying to rest my irritating tendonitis ridden ankle, and so consequently I'm not getting to see very much!

It is a frustrating time, to be sure. I need the outdoor exercise for my mental health, but I'm only taking short walks to the park for a cup of tea and to stare angrily at my ankle brace I'm wearing. 

At work, I'm not takingmy usual lunchtime hacks around the campus, instead just trotting down to the entrance gate and back. However, there's still a little to see, on the dandelions and coralberry, and flitting in the trees. 

We have a resident robin, that sings loudly from the fence outside the entrance, and the goldfinches are now forming their tweepy winter flocks. Buzzards are aloft on bright days, and one of our kestrels is back on site having been presumably off breeding during high summer. 

There are still insects on the wing, and indeed, I got this late sighting of a buff tailed bumblebee at work on dandelion. Into mid October, it is a joy to still see them flying around in these rather bleak months. 

I await December, the time when I can start snowdrop and aconite hunting.

Ankle allowing.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 16.10.22