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

Monday 10 October 2022

My Autumn Oasis

 I still have colour in my postage stamp yard, my little container garden, my little project in attracting pollinators to the yard.

To be honest, the main attractors have been the buddleia and the clematis which grow entirely of their own volition without any input by me, but I could say I have done a good job by not removing them. Besides my own plants have had their moments too, the presence of caterpillars would indicate that butterflies have paid more than a fleeting visit. 

There are still sunflowers, zinnia and cosmos coming into flower, but I've done no more work on the plating front. I'm assuming my crocus and allium bulbs will do for another year, although I did gather allium seeds and plant them too. I suppose right now I ought to be collecting the old flower heads to gather seeds from them too. 

It's all a learning experience.

I turned 50 over the weekend. My main present should be treating myself better and enjoying myself more. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 10.09.22

Monday 3 October 2022

Studies in Bees

 We are now into October, the middle month of autumn and it is true that the nights are chilly even if the odd day has a bit of warmth when the sun shines, 

You know the cold is coming when late into the night you see the stars of Orion peeping over the rooftops. 

Nonetheless, there are still pollinators about; large white butterflies to watch while I have my tea at Rumbles cafe, and bees and wasps upon ivy flowers, sedum and - at my workplace - coral berry flowers which are a major attraction for both bees and bumbles alike in this late season. 

I always find joy in their autumn flight, it takes my mind off the "dead months" until the snowdrops appear in December. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 03.10.22