Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Making the most...

Long daylight means that it's not too late, even at 9pm, to go for a walk. Yesterday I went to Kem Mill, followed the stream listening to song thrushes, then joined Dawson Lane where I watched farmers, working late, baling silage. Their machines are amazing: gathering the grass, wrapping it and then laying bales in the field like huge, shiny, black eggs.

Tonight I followed the stream behind our house. The song thrushes were again welcoming the evening and somewhere someone was playing bagpipes. Wild honeysuckle sweetened the air, a single swift rushed by, wrens were busy competingwith calls, the last swallow flew into the stables and as the moon brightened, the first noctule flit towards the trees. What better way to end the day?

Kem Mill by Jon Burslam
Noctule bat by Mnolf http://www.thinkoholic.com

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Front Door

How much do you value your front door?

It's the place where people are welcomed into our homes and sometimes the first impression people get of us. It's also our contribution to the street we live, a chance to add something pleasant to the environment to be seen and so shared by all. Due to the many calls on my time, I admit that my garden has to be low maintenance but even so it's possible to make it welcoming.

The hydrangea by my door used to grow in my mother-in-law's garden so every time I see it I'm reminded of her. The first year it flowered blue, then pink for several subsequent years. What a surprise then that this year it is pink, blue and in some places purple. I haven't added anything to the soil so I wonder what's going on?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Titchwell Marsh

Whilst on the north Norfolk coast I visited the RSPB's Titchwell Marsh. Sightings included a pair of marsh harriers showing well, several pairs of copulating demoiselles, dragonflies and some chasers. I watched avocets defend their tiny islets from the larger black-headed gulls and wondered how they manage to protect their chicks on such small strips of bare shingle.

I enjoyed listening to sedge and reed warblers and trying to spot them. There were also several whitethroat to be enjoyed. But the find of the day for me was a ruff still in breeding plumage.

Avocet photo by Dave J Slater, sedge warbler by Andy Bright follow the links to their sites from the sidebar.

Coasting Norfolk

Just back from the Norfolk coast where we took a trip to Blakeney Head. Whilst waiting for the tide to quickly fill the creeks, I was entertained by larks throwing their long songs across the salt marsh from somewhere in a big, blue sky. I also saw a little egret probing the silt. How do they keep themselves so white when constantly in the mud?

Blakeney Head is a breeding place for several species of terns; I managed to spot Arctic, common and sandwich terns. They were bringing back single sand eels for their youngsters and dipping them in the sea before feeding them.

Right on the point were seals; mostly common but there were a couple of greys amongst them. You can tell them apart by the shape of their heads: grey seals have long, angular heads whereas common seals are rounded. Also the greys are much larger creatures.

The following morning I was pleased to meet up with poet Wendy Webb - a warm and friendly lady. Here we are at Cromer.

Arctic tern photo by David J Slater, s
eals photo by Jeremy Burton - follow the links in the sidebar to their sites.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Time for a poem

Thinking about being outside...

so we decided to
take the risk, stay out
and wait for night to arch its back,
stray from the path
and hide, like roe deer, in the woods,
pile bracken high,
unpeel ourselves,
feel the moonlight,
out of ourselves

Sunday, 14 June 2009


I wonder what you readers think about high wire adventure parks. GoApe has recently opened in Rivington and not without a lot of opposition from local environmental groups not least because some trees were felled to make room for it. I took a walk there last night.

I couldn't tell where the felled trees had been because there were no obvious open spaces and the zip wires ran close between the trees. (That said, felling is very undesirable unless absolutely necessary.)

I was first introduced to aerial adventures parks about ten years ago in France - and had a great time! The courses were mentally and physically challenging but also rewarding to complete.

I think they encourage young people to leave their PCs and enjoy the great outdoors - surely that can't be all bad? Also once you're up high in a tree you begin to realise just how wonderful, majestic and tall trees are. I suppose some might object to wildlife disturbance but the reality is that participants can't go anywhere following the defined courses. What do you think?
Apols for image not being very good; it was taken with a mobile phone in the gloaming.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Two-timing male?

Further to yesterday's post, a fellow birder went to check out the place I'd seen the redstarts and sure enough found them. He also went to the spot a pair are more frequently seen and saw a female only. So - are there two pairs or is one male dividing his time between two girls? I wonder.... Here's to seeing lots of juveniles soon.

If you haven't been reading the comments, you'll know that this week is the RSPB's Make Nature Count Week. To find out more or take part in the garden survey go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/naturecount You've got until Sunday to complete the survey.

I've copied this photo of a female redstart from the RSPB's website. If you go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/r/redstart/index.asp you can hear one too (a male, that is).

Thursday, 11 June 2009

... and finally - the redstart.

I visited White Coppice after work to try find the redstarts. I've been told where to see them but were they there - no. Well, not exactly.

On my way back I heard some unfamiliar warbling - and saw a female redstart sitting on top of a bracken spire flicking her red tail. Yes! A first for me. (But the warbling wouldn't have come from her.) Next I glanced what could have been a male stonechat sitting on top of another bracken spire, as stonechat do, but... it wasn't behaving like a stonechat; it was flicking around more and... with binoculars up I saw it was the male redstart - and what a handsome chap he was!
And, right on cue, he started singing again, then flew into the oak tree a few feet from me... he flitted around for some flies, landed in the tree again, flit some more, then back to the tree, to the ground, to the tree, through the tree and then away again. Finding them has really made my day.

This redstart photo was taken by Richard Spencer who found the male weeks before I did!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Tetrad Visit

I thought I'd better get my late final tetrad visit done this weekend (much easier to do when the birds are all still singing). I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive knowing that I had a field of horses and a field of donkeys to cross but I managed on my own. In fact most of the donkeys didn't seem to be there (perhaps they're in Blackpool now?); all that remained were a mother and three identical foals - all thickly coated in creamy-white fur. Cute, very cute - until they started trotting towards me!
One of the advantages of volunteering to survey a tetrad is that you often get to know an unfamiliar patch and watch it change as the seasons progress. (You are asked to make 4 visits during the year.) Some species, such as woodpigeon, collared dove, lapwings, garden birds and raptors have been present all year. Others, such as fieldfare, redwing and jackdaws have now gone. Others such as rooks and black-headed gulls are less numerous during the summer. And the spring brought passing migrants such as whimbrel and others, such as curlew and chiffchaff, swallows, swifts and house martins have come to breed.

Today's special moments were walking through fields dense with buttercups, sorrel, red clover and vetch to name but a few. Watching swallows, swifts and martins zooming low over almost every field. How do they manage not to collide? Listening to curlew burble round their fields and hearing wrens stuttering from just about everywhere. Suddenly spotting a so-low buzzard that was quickly seen-off by a pair of crow. The sparrowhawk and kestrel were also having a tough time elsewhere today. Seeing two grey partridge toddling down the road ahead and a couple of red-legged on a barn roof. Heartening, too, to see fledglings : pied wagtail, blue & great tits and seeing lots of adult birds carrying food.

Oh, I also saw a stoat running along the bank of the River Lostock, rabbits in most fields, lots of mole holes and two young lads very pleased at catching four chub.

Photos of collared dove, curlew and common buzzard are all by Mike Atkinson http://www.mikeatkinson.net/index.htm Pay him a visit - well worth it.

from the field book

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