Friday, 31 October 2008

Rambling after Redwing

Yesterday 8am I set off in search of redwing around Withnell Fold nature reserve and scrapes and all I found were stripped hawthorns.... But I did spot a kingfisher hurtling down the Leeds-Liverpool canal - you never know what you're going to find.

This morning I explored Bagganley Lane and Healey Lodges. First up was an electric blue kingfisher poised on a branch over Black Brook - stunning colours in the sunlight.

Next, flocks overhead - and a chance to practise identifying them in flight. I think I've got it now: fieldfare have black tails and pale rumps from the back, pale underwings from the side. Redwing - more difficult - generally have a pale belly. Hmm need more practise with these.

And then walking the path back from the lodges to the car - flocks sooo close! Redwing flitting in the hawthorns, pale eye patched giving them away. And fieldfare at the top of the ash, the sun blending their heads and backs with the grey/brown bark, and their buff chests the same colour as ash keys. What a stunning morning.

Now, back to the redwing. How do you identify flocks in flight?
Photos of kingfisher and redwing are by Mike Atkinson. See link from this page. Well worth a visit.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Rain-rich colour of the day

It was well worth delaying today's walk until late afternoon, when we were rewarded by powder blue skies and rain-rich autumn leaves - just like freshly washed pebbles in a stream.

We climbed up to Rivington Pike (see below), then ambled back through Lever Gardens (right)

Photos copied from

Monday, 27 October 2008

Where daws fly into rainbows

I did a recce of my new BTO tetrad today SD51E: fields - with so much cow-hoof-mud I'd need a crane to haul me out!
But persistence found a couple of passable field sections. There are single track roads with gaps in the hedges. No parking spots and a long way to carry the scope I don't possess. I'm wondering whether I should borrow one and strap it to my bicycle - on dry, windless days!

It's a place of corvids. I saw a flock of C200 rising - the jackdaws settling on top of a line of still-leafy oaks; the bald-beaked rooks gathered like old men on a skeleton tree; several crows flew to the fields beyond. Flocks too of starlings, collard doves, woodpigeon and mistle thrush.
It's a place of grey sky and bright rainbows, where buzzard and kestrel incise the air. And where a lone wigeon sought rest.

Today's photos have been copied from the RSPB's website:

Sunday, 26 October 2008

What Makes An Effective Review? Why Do It?

I suppose it depends who you ask. Do editors prefer entertaining reviews to help sell issues? Certainly authors and publishers hope for fair reviews - and reviews that promote the book rather than the reviewer. And readers - what do they want? An indication about the content, quality and value for money.
And what about the reviewers? What do they want? Well, my top priority is being able to sleep at night. So fairness and honesty-without-unkindness are my major concerns. And if the book has a pronounced style, I might emulate that in the tone of the review.

Over to you. What do you think?


As I was enjoying a pocket of sunshine by walking around Croston Finney and Moss and others were clay pigeon shooting, some residents in Croston were once again having to cope with flooded homes.
This is a photo of the River Yarrow which flows through picturesque Croston. This morning the water level was very high up the wall. A few metres upstream, it had overflowed and flooded Grape Lane. A short distance downstream and it was spilling over the wall into Back Drink House Lane. And the dykes criss-crossing the Moss and Finney, although not overflowing, were becoming alarmingly full.

Sightings included four fieldfares, eight red legged partridges and a common buzzard.
Image of Croston copied from

Sunday, 19 October 2008

In search of fieldfares

I've been searching for fieldfares this weekend. I saw a possible fleeting glimpse of a couple of these colourful winter visitors on Croston Finney yesterday. This morning, my colleagues humoured me by digressing slightly from our duck count route to take in areas of hawthorn where they are usually seen - but not today! Thanks anyway....
But all's not lost. We did see a pochard and a goldeneye (unusual for or area) and also a stoat dashing across the road.
And it didn't rain until we got home - can't be bad!

Photo copied from Follow the link to some amazing photos.

The trouble with English

The trouble with English is that it doesn't have enough words to describe tastes and sounds - or does it? That was the issue raised in a recent class. It certainly seems difficult to record tastes and smells without actually naming the 'thing' being described. Referring to texture and the eating precess helps.

But we did find another powerful link. It seems that taste and smell evoke memories. (I can't walk through woodsmoke without being transported back to my days as a Guide leader.) So maybe we should record these associations to lead readers to similar sensory sensations.
What do you think?

Sunday, 12 October 2008

I like Crane Flies too....

Yes it's true, as well as slugs I quite like crane flies. A first draft being re-written as I type. Well, I ask learners to share what they've just written in a 5 minute exercise so I should be prepared to do the same sometimes....

Cradled - its every moment,
its months of squirming through dank earth,
its gangly climb up grass heads,
its spindly flight,
its yearning for brightness,
its lampshade patter.
This autumnstrosity
flumbering in my palms
until I release it
to take its chance
and fly towards the moon.

photo of crane fly copied from

A Morning full of Merlin

This morning Drink House Lane was twitching with lots of garden birds. Two mistlethrushes clackered - ready to guard their bursting hawthorn lane. House sparrows whirred-as-one from hedge-to-field-to-hedge-and-back every time a jogger passed. The only stillness in the field was a lone grey partridge (a rarity round here) trusting its camouflage.

Robin calls were piercing the thin mist and peeling it back so by the time I'd reached Croston Finney the sky was powder blue. 60+ lapwings broadly flapping to my right, a grey heron's lollopping flight to my left and then-
A merlin chases two tiny birds, finds itself mobbed by three crows and then, seizing their advantage, the two tiny birds fly down on it and mob it too! What a sight chipping in! The five of them forcing the merlin down.
And later as I tread a tractor path - the merlin four feet from me - glides elegant and low, less that two feet above the stubble. Scanning the field's length to flush more-nervous creatures out.

And on towards Croston Moss where four red-legged partridges stand motionless, heads thrust high, peeping over the stubble as a flock a goldfinch jingle by.

Then homeward bound to rescue a rosemary leg of lamb, roast parsnips and spuds from the oven. Mmmmmmmmm.
photos of grey partridge and merlin copied from

Friday, 10 October 2008

Slugs Glorious Slugs

One of my classes this week seemed quite horrified that I like slugs. Yes I pick them up and rescue them from shrivelling in the sun. Ok, so they are a bit of a nuisance when they eat young plants - but they are also our friends! They munch garden debris and process it back to minerals - soil. So you see, without our dear molluscs we might not have any soil. There's a thought....
if we
listen deep, we
will hear slugs sing as
they compose silvered moonlit notes:

grounded for a
season, giving up their
bodies for the replenishment
of Earth

photo copied from

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Afternoon Abundance

White Coppice - a swathe of swollen green and undisturbed spellbinding blue. The Goit rushes with thick brown silt and Dean Black Brook is in a clear amber rush awash with blinding brightness. Too joyful to diverge round rocks, it chooses to spring over them in a mass of impromptu fountains. Lovers sit and watch it, sharing flasks - but I will not feel alone. Three buzzards circle Stronstrey Bank - small against the enormous blue. Then one swoops, revealing the magnificence of each black primary - size and colour so relative to our point of view.

My legs spring easily up Great Heights Wood, on and up to Healey Nab and the quarry top. Blackpool, Barrow and Kirkcudbright are easily in view as tiny goldcrest pick their way through the pines just above my head. Four ravens re-establish bonds over Rough Lee, each pair crrronking space in this sun-filled sky.
A pair of cormorants sheer over Heapey Reservoirs, sixty rooks claim the field beyond and I dream of the kingfisher, perching on my arm, scattering turquoise dust through a perfect afternoon.

Photos of commin buzzard and goldcrest by Mike Atkinson - follow the link to his website.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Diaries and Memoirs

My thoughts are turning to diaries and memoirs. I wrote daily dairies from the age of 13 to 24. About 10 years ago I threw those same diaries into the tip. Eleven years of life dumped in a council tip - why indeed?

I might regret losing the vivacity and immediacy of that period, especially since my memory isn't what I'd like it to be. But there is a responsibility for committing thoughts to paper. Who might read it and how might it affect them?

Memoirs might have to acknowledge (but never wallow in) some negative but they must always splurge in positives: show how we hold onto hope or how some trial has helped us in the greater scheme of life.

It's my birthday today and I'm wondering whether to start another diary in case my memory forgets how good this life of mine is.

from the field book

from the field book
An inspiring gift for anyone who enjoys watching nature.