Sunday, 29 March 2009

Trills spilling from the foliage

White Coppice was full of trills and yaffles this bright, frost-melt morning and more birds are pairing. The dippers on Black Brook are still together and there was another pair on The Goit. A couple of curlew flew over burbling in the spring and the linnet have arrived back in their usual patch. Wrens were stuttering from all over the bracken, robin, stonechat and reed bunting were all chirping too and a pair of dunnock were also flitting through last year's brittle bracken. And on my way back, I'm sure I heard a chiffchaff.

Up on the moors a single skylark was pouring out his sing from high in the sky. Many pipits were also singing on the wing then lifting their tails to near-vertical to accomplish sheer drops back into the heather. What a difference a tail makes....

Green woodpecker photo by Rick Spence of Chorley.
Meadow pipit by Alex Auer - paste this link into your address bar to find more amazing photos:

Rapturous Leighton

The raptors at Leighton Moss certainly held us in rapture yesterday. A splendid female was displaying well as she hunted over the reeds and later, at Warton Cragg, we were treated to watching a peregrine fly past and rest on a narrow ledge.

Other favourite moments were watching flocks of black-tailed godwits circle and settle, half of the time being shooed off by a lone coot (who was most certainly in a mood that morning!) and watching waders from Allen Pool which included half a dozen avocet.

We neither heard nor saw the bittern and the bearded tits were keeping hidden in the reeds (well it was a windy day) but it was still a very enjoyable morning. 'We' by the way was Chorley NATS.

The photos of the bearded tit (Titchwell) and bittern (Minsmere) are by Mike Greenhalgh. Use the link in sidebar to view more of his photos.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Busy, Busy

As I was drinking breakfast coffee, it was obvious that the garden birds had been up way before me and were well into their daily activities.
The nuthatches only appear one at a time now instead of in pairs - is this a good sign? I hope so. And I noticed a blue tit carefully tugging up the softest moss from my wall and carrying it the nest box in our next door neighbours' tree. I look forward to watching its progress.
Meanwhile a squirrel has widened the entrance hole to the great tit box in our garden and is living / hiding in it. It must be a bit cramped!

This photo is by Mike Atkinson. One of the aspects I enjoy about his site is that he includes spectacular shots of our common birds (of course has has rarities too). It seems a lot of photographers overlook the commonplace but I think we should celebrate and value it - while it's still here.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Dipper update

I might have lost my voice this week but the birds haven't. One or two green peckers were yaffling, wrens' songs were shooting out from the bracken undergrowth, and half a dozen crows were noisily mobbing a buzzard over White Coppice. Not to mention all the chaffinches, robins and tits. But as for the song thrush, it took one look at me and shut up!

And guess what - the dippers are now working together, flying in and out the water pipe - nest building. I hope the little dippers don't try to leave the nest before they can fly though - a perilous plummet to unforgiving rocks awaits them.

The grey wagtails are still looking very settled together, always within a few metres of each other, and a male stonechat has found his partner. I wonder if it's the same pair that successfully raised up to three fledglings last year in the same area.

Further along the path two pairs of reed buntings were busy flying round their patches and further still a pair of goldfinch.

On the lodge a pair of great crested grebes and a pair of goldeneye with another female nearby - I wonder what will happen there?

Dipper photo copied from
Male goldeneye by Mike Attkinson

A Single Swallow

Yesterday's Telegraph Magazine has printed a chapter from Horatio Clare's new book, A Single Swallow. It's an absorbing read both about the writer and the people he meets as he journeys overland from South Africa to Wales following migrating swallows. I'm seriously interested in buying this book. (Chatto & Windus ISBN: 9780701183127 /0701183128 )

Monday, 16 March 2009

Influential Writers / Books

Crafty Green Poet recently asked me to list twenty five writers who have influenced me. I haven't completed the list but have made a start. I'm not sure whether I should restrict myself to writing or whether attitudes and values can also be included. Anyway below is the list.

Kahill Gibran - The Prophet. (I've also read the Bible cover to cover and that has influenced me to differing degrees over the years.)
There's a whole raft of female poets I admire and am happy to be influenced by. They include Polly Clark, Pascale Petit, Penelope Shuttle & Jo Shapcott.
I have a copy of Waiting for H5N1 by Jane Routh which I wouldn't want to loose and there's a lot to be admired in Susan Richardson's Creatures of the Intertidal Zone.
As for male writers: Hopkins for the way he distorts words to bring out multiple meanings. Heaney for the way he creates layers of meaning by using lexical groupings. Hughes and Pound for selecting words for their associations. Cris Cheek and others for their positioning of words on the page. And Hughes (again) for remembering to place creatures in their habitats.

I also admire Colin Simms for his precise images of wildlife movement, innovative use of language, his joy of sound and the sheer excitement and enthusiasm which pervades his work. Idris Caffrey has influenced me so much I could put a collection together called The Idris Effect.

I'm always influenced by the novel I'm currently reading although how much stays with me afterwards varies. I do unashamedly confess to thoroughly enjoying all of Jane Austen's novels although I'm not aware of any direct influence.

And let's not forget Sam Smith who provided immense encouragement by being instrumental in getting From The Field Book published.

So who has influenced you?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Coy Mistress Dipper

The dippers were still 'together' today on Black Brook. Not singing, not feeding, not preening - just sitting. One on a rock by the water's edge staring at the other on a rock in the middle of the stream. The latter was blissfully ignoring the stares, or was she? I did notice a couple of sly sideways glances.... The grey wagtails were much more together, flying around as a pair.

Up on the moor the birds were keeping undercover sheltering from the wind and snow. But I enjoyed the exhilaration of the elements.
And what a treat on my return to White Coppice: several very clear views of a good-sized weasel carrying a small rodent. It's long, upright neck was constantly looking out for me. I had to hide several times so I could see it.

Photo of dipper copied from
Weasel copied from

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Crossbills at Mere Sands Woods

I visited Mere Sands Wood today to, hopefully, cross off an item from my expanding 'Fings to do before I'm Fifty' list - see a crossbill.

The best way to find one, I think, is to take a blanket and lie down - it saves an aching neck but unfortunately causes too much attention from passing humans!

Thanks to friend, I knew exactly where to look so decided to risk the aching neck. I thought I saw some movement high in the pine canopy but couldn't be sure ... then I met another birder also looking for the crossbills. Two pairs of eyes being better than one, we walked and chatted ... and an hour later he spotted some movement and found a male crossbill, then we saw another, and another... then a male that was showing well began stripping a cone so we were able to watch the whole procedure. A minute later a male and female were spotted preening at the top of a pine - again great views. We saw movement below so thought there was another one there but after a sudden noise they all flew off - all six of them.

Photo of male crossbill by Neil Smith see

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Love is in the air?

This morning I went to White Coppice and was greeted by the sound of the many birds now singing. Not sure how much love was in the air though...

I saw a pair of dippers by the nesting site they used last year; one was proudly presenting nesting material to a very unimpressed partner! Over Stronstrey Bank the ravens were showing solidarity when mobbing a buzzard. Up on Heapey Moor two skylarks were singing and displaying; a couple of male stonechat were perching on top of last years bracken, claiming terrotiry; and a curlew flew off as I approached to his patch;

This photo of a dipper is by Mike Atkinson - follow the link in the sidebar to many more great shots.

from the field book

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