Sunday, 31 May 2009

A Listening Walk

This time of year birdwatchers need to use their ears. The birds are there but often hidden behind the foliage so recognising bird calls and songs is a key skill. I'm no expert in this area although I am getting better.Walking down the wooded Eyes Lane I managed to pick out a blackcap (and saw it too so knew I was right!), chaffinch, robin, mistle thrush (but no song thrush I'm sad to say), blue and great tits and pheasants. Looking into a field opening, I saw a grey partridge take flight. There were also a couple of swallows swooping around and a kestrel disappearing over the treeline.

I decided to take the path over the fields and saw reed buntings. The farmer had wisely flattened the path with his tractor so walkers don't stray and disturb the birds so much. But what a cacophony when I crossed the bridge into a field of bare ground and low weeds! I was surrounded by ten lapwings wheeping at me and then a pair of redshanks started circling me with their piercing piping calls and just as I was reaching the end of the field a lark trilled up. I'll certainly remember not to upset them again until the breeding season is over.

More larks and pipits started up as I walked along the embankment of the Mean High Water and I'm almost sure I heard sedge warblers. Back Lane rewarded me with tree sparrows (red status) and red-legged partridges.

A lovely Sunday morning.

Reed Bunting photo by Dave F Barker. Grey Partridge and Sedge Warbler by Richard Spencer - thanks guys.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

About varnishing doors

Yesterday I was varnishing doors and skirting boards. I couldn't help notice that the process of sanding, varnishing, sanding, varnishing etc until it's 'right' is not unlike the editing process. Before all that, I took my youngest to Preston and wrote this whilst waiting for him. It's had it's first sanding and coat of varnish and awaits the next sanding to smooth the rhythm in places and remove a few splinters.

It's like anything else, I suppose:
you have to get to know it, learn it,
hear the cool lull of cobbled courtyards,
see the majesty of the Corn Exchange,
let your eyes stroke the curves of the ristorante glass
and rough rust marble set into polished black,
accept the Meccano offices as fashions like Rubki's cubes,
return to Fishergate at nightfall
when its glamour dances across windows,
and shimmers in puddles of afterthoughts.
Be startled - as a sudden flock of waxwings
pluck amber berries from ornamental rowans
- here in Victoria Street, a quiet place
that has become a stage for shutters and clicks.
Don't think of the rats in the cavity walls
and the labyrinth beneath your feet, but
with the newness of a child kicking leaves,
see the smile of the Mohican youth,
the tilt of hips in jeans as she crosses the street
her traditional headscarf tugged by the breeze, trying
to fly where clouds feign indifference as they gather the fumes
and push to the pastures beyond,
where the Ribble remembers to ebb each day
so the heron can wrestle with eels,
and watch the city encroach on more fields
as it keeps re-inventing itself.

Photo of Preston Corn Exchange by Tony Worrall

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Annual Mass Fledging

The annual mass fledging of starlings seems to have happened on Saturday so if you haven't already seen them make a point of greeting the latest noisy generation.

The cacophony around Anglezarke this morning, however, wasn't so much starlings as chaffinch, willow warblers, robins and cuckoo. A friend and I were were looking for pied flycatchers but instead found ourselves watching spotted flycatchers delicately dancing in the air and hovering like humming birds. The area seems to have more than have previously been recorded so that's encouraging.

Starling photo copied from and the spotted flycatcher was photographed by Richard Spencer.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

What a difference the rain makes....

Today was one of those morning when I really had to work hard to spot anything. The White Coppice dippers were out of sight (Rick saw a fledging dipper yesterday). I could hear a stonechat but could I see it.... A couple of us could hear a grasshopper warbler but it too remained illusive. And there was neither sight nor sound of the redstart which I've missed on every visit.... But gradually things got better, with the help of another birder I saw a blackcap and a newly arrived spotted flycatcher.

Then up over the Nab and on to Heapey where I spotted hedge sparrows, a pied wagtail carrying food and swifts. After a chat to the lodge keeper the rain began. I sheltered under a tree and noticed a blue tit's nest and my first house martins of the year. They moved on and I followed. And as the rain increased so did the martins: 10 ... 20 ... 30 ... and finally almost 40 house martins along with some swallows were busily scooping up flies. Some flying within three feet of me. And as I reached the road, I couldn't believe it - two more (or the same two?) spotted flycatchers also making the most of the sudden abundance of flies. A song thrush, a pair of mistle thrush. Well worth staying out in the rain for.

Photo of spotted flycatcher used by kind permission of Phil Kirk, Chorley NATS. Click on it to enlarge.

Little Owl

Croston Finney is often a rewarding place to visit in the evening and yesterday was no exception. The lapwings were busy guarding their different fields, whitethroat singing in the hedgerows, yellow hammers on the overhead cables, a kestrel being mobbed, a heron crouched by a ditch, 3 hares each in a different field, a short shower ended with larks soaring to sing the last drops away, a rainbow, 3 pairs of red-legged partridges and the star of the day - a little owl arching its white brows as I nosily stared at it through my bins.

Click on the image to enlarge and get a good view of the little owl. Image used by the kind permission of Richard Spencer - follow the link to his blog.

Little owl in the snow by Phil Kirk of Chorley NATS. Thanks Phil.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Hiking Sandals

Readers, do any of you wear hiking sandals? It seems a strange phenomena... I mean, can a sandal really be suitable for hill or fell walking? And what happens when you walk through mud or it starts to rain?

I can see the appeal being lightweight and cool. Some have soles that provide good traction. Some have toe bumpers but surprisingly a lot don't. So how likely is one to stub a toe? (I suspect the way I walk it's very likely!) Can the straps provide adequate support? And are they soft enough to prevent chaffing even if your feet get wet?

If anyone of you have tried them, do let us know what you think.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Evening Rewards

With sunset at 9pm, there was time for an evening stroll. So, after a tip-off about whimbrel, I paused by a local field and found one. Very pleasing.

Then off to Eyes Lane, Bretherton for a quick stroll. Rather chillier than expected but worth it. I saw a kestrel out hunting late, a pair of red legged partridge running across a field and a hare in no hurry at all. (How do they keep warm, lying on in open fields all night?) Best sighting was a barn owl silently quartering the fields and I'm sure I heard a tawny owl calling from the woods.

Photo of red-legged partridge is by Mike Atkinson. Use the link in the side bar to view more of his photos.



whole-bodied launch
from top of hawthorn spike,
tail flicking,
head cresting,
throat back wide,
unashamedly, unhamperedly
true to himself

Photo of whitethroat used by kind permission of Phil Kirk.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Get outta my patch

We're two weeks into rewiring; half way there. Can't complain since the guy who's doing it is very organised so the disruption is as minimal as possible. I can't wait to do all the subsequent redecorating though.... Hmmm

But onto a happier subject...

Between errands yesterday, I took time out for a walk around Croston Finney. The most striking additions since my last visit were whitethroat calls which emanated from all the hedgerows. I was also struck by how well the lapwings were defending their territories against the much larger black-backed gulls. Well, all except one pair who looked on in despondency as two dozen crows, assorted gulls, pigeons and magpies were feeding all over 'their' field.
I was pleased to see a kingfisher flying over a field - it's not often I see one there.

Photos of lapwing and whitethroat are by Frank Whitney. Click on photos to see images enlarged and follow the link in the sidebar to his blog.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

A short evening stroll around Rake Brook and Roddlesworth reservoirs was enhanced by open-mouthed swallows sweeping over grassy banks and flat waters. The woods were filled with song thrush repeating their calls, along with chaffinch and robin. House sparrows by the keeper's cottage were very vociferous and every so often the trees were startled by a corrrrking pheasant.

A sudden movement and I saw a roe deer darting between the trees, given away by its white rump. And following it was another, smaller roe. Just as the three quarter moon was beginning to reflect itself in the pathway puddles, and the robins were starting to tic, a brown hare, resting on the track, was startled by our presence and bounded down the bank.
Overhead a kestrel looked down for a late evening meal.
Roe deer photo copied from Wikipedia.


Yesterday we enjoyed a walk with friends around Hurst Green. We passed Stonyhurst College where JRR Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings. It's a beautiful old building surrounded by picturesque rolling hills. Most of the boarders seemed to be outside enjoying cricket in the sun - a lovely day for it.

Part of the route follows the River Ribble and I was delighted to find a busy colony of sand martins in a bank where the Calder joins the Ribble. They were flying around catching invertebrates and occasionally returning to their burrows.
They typically nest in sandy banks, quarries or cliffs near water where they burrow out holes. Their population is prone to crashing due to droughts in their African wintering grounds so I was heartened to see them here. I wonder how safe their nests are being so close to potential flooding.... Let's hope they enjoy a successful breeding season.

And a little further along, I saw my first swift this year, two in fact. The only Hirundinidae I haven't seen so far this year is house martin - maybe tomorrow?

The photo of Stonyhurst College was copied from their website:

The sand martin photo has been used by kind permission of Andy Bright See the links in the side bar to more of his photos - well worth a visit.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

from the field book

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