Tuesday, 28 March 2023

The Mandarin

 Long term readers may remember me writing of the male mandarin duck that used to spend time at the Blue Lake; one of the odd birds that perhaps found its way there from a collection like the pink footed goose that used to visit, or the Jurassic looking muscovy drake that used to creak around on massively clawed webbed feet.

This bird, however, has not been seen on the Blue Lake for a while. 

There have been reports of it down on the Trent from time to time, but I've not seen it down there...no wait I have. Once, amidst the roots of the willow by the castle wall. But that was pre-pandemic times, I'm sure. 

Which of course begs the question - was the beautiful mandarin drake with golden sails I saw further down the river by the locks yesterday the same bird? I've no idea. 

But it feels rather more romantic, so to speak, to believe that it is. It's not as if there's loads of mandarin ducks round here.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 28.03.23

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

First Bee for a Hot Minute

 We've had milder temperatures - I'm sure I don't need to tell you that! - and even a bit of sunshine, but nature's calendar has been rather slow to catch up after the two frozen weeks we had. I've seen a glimpse of a small tortoiseshell on the wing, and the queen bumbles are on the move again, but the chiff chaffs aren't singing yet, nor have I seen a beautiful lemon yellow brimstone butterfly on the wing yet. 

Indeed, I've only just seen another honeybee on the wing, a very skittish individual feeding off glory of the snows in Friary Garden, which is well carpeted in blue with them at the moment. 

I hope things are getting more spring like where you all are!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 22.03.23

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Late Night Sketching

 Just dropping my first attempt to do an oil pastel of a natural subject.

I think you could just about tell what it is, even if I hadn't labelled this.

I make no claim on having any talent whatsoever.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 16.03.23

Monday, 13 March 2023


 After the freezing weather of the last fortnight, my hands have only now sufficiently warmed up enough for me to type again.

We had two days of snow, one more or less continuous and a day in which I had to cycle to work in blizzard conditions, which was every bit as much fun as it sounds. Thankfully, unlike the big freeze of 2010, I never had hard ice to contend with, just the inability to see as my eyes were filled with the driving snow as I rode in.

It didn't create particularly attractive snowscapes to look at, but it did make the meadow pipits easier to see.

They merge perfectly into the long grass at work!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 13.03.23

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Blossom is Out!

 It doesn't look good, because the weather has been so flat and battleship grey, but blossom is out everywhere in town.

Perhaps not 100% yet, some trees still have the flowers in tight white buds while others have opened out, stamen reaching out towards a sun that just hasn't been there yet this spring.

Their blooms wait for the pollinators, but they aren't yet there, hiding away after a nice end to winter, as a freezing front sweeps down upon us. 

Plum, blackthorn, and cherry all - braced for the frost and snow.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 07.03.23

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

A Noble Guest

 So I've long had suspicions about a couple of 8 legged guests I've seen around my flat, but it was only the other day that it suddenly occurred to me that I could google lens them to find out if I was right.

So I photographed the chap who has taken up residence in my bathroom, and quickly confirmed that my hypothesis was indeed correct.

Steodata Nobilis, the noble false widow spider. 

I'm sure that once upon a time, I would have gone half mad with panic and instituted a campaign of "KILL IT WITH FIRE", for after all, maybe as recently as ten years ago, these spiders were seen as a terrifying plague brought to our shores by climate change. Schools were closed down. People sprayed their garden sheds with agent orange and anything small with 8 legs met a sticky end under size ten Doc Martens. 

Nowadays, I'm like - "gosh, that's interesting, he's doing no harm, I'll let him be." 

A state of affairs that will probably last only as long as it doesn't land on my nose on a gossamer thread while I'm brushing my teeth. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 01.03.23

Friday, 24 February 2023

A Most Spectacular Display

 There is little I can say about the unbelievable display of crocuses in the cemetery that photographs can't say better.

Suffice to say, it's amazing every year, but this year, it seems especially spectacular. And as ever, its ephemeral beauty will last barely more than a week.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.02.23

Monday, 20 February 2023

First Bumbley Bumble of 2023

 I took myself off for a walk this afternoon, on what has surely been the mildest day of the year so far with sun lighting up up the beautiful purple and white crocuses in the cemetery, of which more anon...

Always this is is my favourite time of the year, as regular readers of this blog over the years will know, and at the risk of posting repetitive content, I love to show you the nature landmarks of late winter and spring. 

I'm now getting used to seeing honeybees on the crocuses this February; they seem to have been up and about for a couple of weeks now. But I had not yet seen a bumblebee, and figured the lush crocus crop of the cemetery would be the best place to find one. 

I was frustrated at first, wondering why on earth there wouldn't be a bumble about on a day like this. I had to walk through about three quarters of the cemetery, eyes glued to the ground and being watched quizzically by a number of very chubby squirrels who seem to have wintered extremely well.

And then, lifting its fuzzy body out of a flower cup, was a big buff-tailed bumblebee queen so covered in pollen I initially thought it was a different species. I followed it as it dived into another crocus, and managed to get some photographs as it fed, almost ecstatically. 

Such a cheering sight. I hope you too are starting to see buzzy things on the wing!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.02.23

Saturday, 18 February 2023

Feathery Friend

 I've recently noticed that I've got a new resident blackbird around my garden.

I think it's a first winter male; his feathers are not totally black yet, and his beak is still a slightly dirty orange colour, rather than the gleaming sunset colour of a mature male. 

He seems to have a girlfriend, but potentially also a love rival who I've seen in the trees over the back wall, and who also is a mean songster too at sunset. 

We've had a little rain recently, and rain has collected in a couple of little seedling containers I haven't found a use for yet. This week I noticed the young male blackbird came down into my little garden for a drink, and a quick if rather inefficient bath. Sadly it was twilight, so not a great photo. 

He's a very confiding bird, and doesn't seem to spook at me easily; I've often seen him sat on my wall when I open the door. 

I've resolved to see if I can find a suitable bird bath for him!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 18.02.23

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Garden Stirrings

 The gloom of winter is starting to lift, there are still faint shreds on light in the sky at 6pm now, and as well as the emergences of colour I've shown you from around the town, I've noticed that things are stirring in my crocus planters too.

If anything, they are ahead of this time last year, I don't recall the flower heads appearing by mid February in 2022. 

I don't know about you - although I doubt any of you would disagree - but I'm glad the days are starting to lengthen, and I won't be cycling home in the dark for much linger, and I'll be able to go for walks in the evening, and that the frosts will hopefully soon be gone for another year.

Cycling in the lowest temperatures we've had for a fair few years was no fun at all. 

Obviously there still might be a sting in the tail to come this season, but as I do every year, I feel this tremendous relief when March begins to get closer on the calendar, and my mental health takes a bit of a boost.

I hope it does for you as well.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 14.02.23

Thursday, 9 February 2023

Just Some Quick Sketches

 I've been gifted some more art supplies, and bought some myself to add to my ever growing collection of random A6 sketchbooks. I have pencils, graphite sticks, oil pastels and also some very gothic black paper to use them on. 

But none of the fancy stuff today.

I've knocked up a couple of bird sketches, using one hardbound sketchbook and a rather limited pallete of felt tip pens I had to hand. 

I work quickly, and with all the skill and dexterity of a five year old. Nonetheless I rather enjoy doing them, thinking - stupidly - that they are like Bill Bailey's sketches in his excellent bird guide I got a couple of Christmases ago.

I present them to you now for your "enjoyment".


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 09.02.23

Sunday, 5 February 2023

The Buzzers are Out and Very Much About!

 I've had a decent stroll today, taking in Sconce Park, the Cemetery and the Blue Lake. But what I'm here to talk about today is what I found in the Castle Gardens. 

It was markedly cooler, but much brighter, than the weather we have been having recently, feeling quite pleasant if you could find a sunny spot. I'd gone to the gardens merely to photograph the golden crocuses that grow there every year, but as soon as I got to them, it was clear that they had other visitors enjoying the weather. 

It's February 5th. And the honeybees were out earlier than I can ever remember seeing them before. 

It wasn't just a single, brae pioneer either. It was quite the gathering in the welcoming orange pollen cups! 

I've read that the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has indicated that there has been a lot of nest building and early courtship happening amongst our feathered friends - indeed I've got blackbirds paired up in the area of my garden - and it seems that apian has followed avian. The question is how they will all withstand the coldish snap that is happening this week. 

That aside, I was glad to see them, even if it just for today.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 05.02.23

Monday, 30 January 2023

Lakeside Bimbling

 A day where pictures speak louder than words, where the sun shone and a butterfly flew over my garden.

Many more flowers are out - blooming crocuses, lesser celandine in a place where photographing it would have meant falling in a lake, and balkan anemones in the cemetery.

Crows gathered for a social chat in the tree tops, and a fat squirrel ran away from me in surprise, and probably, horror. 

The lake was beautifully lit by a low sun, silhouetting waterfowl as they went quietly about their aquatic business. 

Me, I walked around and through it all, as Paul Gambaccini asked questions about Bruckner on Radio 4.

Very pleasant. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.01.23